I was thinking today about how learning a language can be very simple. Unfortunately it is sliced and diced into analytical parts of measurement and goals. I don’t think that goals are bad, they are good and can help people have focus. But is there a point when the standards are a little OCD?
Language is one of those topics that pretty much everyone can learn. When I say pretty much everyone, the people that might have more difficulty are those that do not have full use of their mental faculties. In other words, brain damage or a birth deficiency. When my kids come to class all of them can speak English. This means that they can learn a language. So why do we make it so difficult when it can be so simple?
When I taught at Bellevue West I had a student that was a senior in my first year class. I am not sure if he had taken Spanish before, but my guess was that he had. He had missed a couple of classes and I asked him to come in to do some make up. We had been getting along in class and he knew that I cared about him. So he came in and I worked with him on ver/to see. We had just read Oso pardo, Oso pardo. In about 5 minutes he got it and it was easy for him. He looked at me and expressed, “I get it. I finally get it. Spanish was so hard for me, but this is easy.” He was an example of a student who had been through a Spanish class that made it hard. He was more than capable of learning the language, but he was an example of a student who was not a 4 percenter.
Am I harvesting 4 percenters in my class or am I reaching everyone? If I want to reach everyone I have to keep it simple by using comprehensible input. I have found that when I use CI, the class will pay attention and acquire some. When I use CI + P, they pay attention and acquire a lot. When students have CI + P, they start to experience gains that meet all the “objectives.” But if I am trying to teach to the objectives all the time, they have this thing inside of them that tells them what is going on. They know that the class is not about the language or them, but about meeting an objective.
Simplicity in teaching is CI + P as a fundamental base. In terms of practicality it means that we tell stories, read interesting material, circle, establish meaning in a personal way, teach to the eyes, enforce the rules, and establish a web of connection. This is what help kids to learn and use a language.