Comprehension-based classrooms often offer what Alphie Kohn calls “pseudo-choice.” Real choices have to allow children autonomy. They may need guidance at first, but quickly they control what they read and how they respond to text. Then, they self-identify as readers.
Krashen’s Stages Hypothesis slowly takes students from less to more choice…without the need for superficial choices.
1. shared stories -little choice
1.5 Guided Self-Selected Reading – some choice
2. FVR – choice!
3. Specialized Reading : total choice; the world is your oyster
Choice only grows over time.
I used sheltered instruction (sometimes mistakenly associated with “CALP” in the CI community) for the first several years of my career. After I started using FVR, I had to leave it behind. Once choice in books is a part of your class culture, there’s no going back to teacher-selected reading passages.
to teach word lists; “Teaching vocabulary lists is not efficient” (Krashen, 2004, p. 19).
to make words or targets “100% comprehensible, with students being able to understand, and translate, every word” …but the goal is rather to make “the input appear to be fully comprehensible” (Krashen, 2013, p. 3).
“full mastery of the rule or vocabulary in a short time frame” (Krashen, 2016) Note: weekly tests of targets create pressure to master targets.
The purpose of the Toolkit is:
“partial acquisition, enough to understand the text. Full acquisition of the targeted item develops gradually.” (Krashen, 2016)
to provide rich input : “the best input for acquisition is input that contains maximum richness but remains comprehensible.” (Krashen, 2013, 4).
to “Just enjoy the story” (Mason, 2016). Enjoying shared stories builds interest in reading.
Mason, B. (October 13, 2016). COFLT conference presentation: Story Listening.
Krashen, S. D. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Recycling is allowing words and phrases to repeat naturally in a story or text. Sometimes we can apply a little intentionality to the stories and words we choose to use recycling to our advantage.
Recycling targets is appropriate for beginners but should be done with caution. Do not test students on targets and never pressure yourself to “teach” recycled targets for mastery (targeting 1).
Here is an example of the first two weeks of stories for true beginners. Very quickly, I found this level of planning was unnecessary. With each story, cast an increasingly wider “net” and let recycling happen more and more naturally.
Nontargeted recycling occurs naturally through narrow listening and reading.
Use students’ interests to find one type of story or book and stick with it for a while. Spend a few weeks telling Greek myths and the words “god,” “causes,” “earth,” and “sky” will recycle. Then, move on to “prince,” “princess,” “spell,” and “castle.” Operas/tragic love, knight’s quests, creation stories, Aesop fables, trickster stories, tall tales, etc. each have a set of words that naturally recycle. Academic language will be naturally included in narrow reading (Krashen 2004, 4).
One important consideration for shared oral stories is that when students can not simply put a book down, the teacher should be ready to abandon any story or type of story if interest wanes.
Dr. Beniko Mason tells her students to “just enjoy the story” to provide low-affective-filter, low-accountability comprehensible input. Most students won’t need convincing to “just enjoy stories” and books. But how do you convince that rare skeptic teen, or the studious, over-achiever to keep an open mind when they hear their first story? How do you convince students accustomed to a textbook to simply read for pleasure?
The answer is to empower them with what they crave: knowledge.
Inform students about the SLA process. Beniko Mason has created this great resource explaining SLA for parents, but you can explain the same ideas to students too.
Use books and stories that give students special world knowledge. Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. are just as engaging for adults as for the very young. These stories never lose their charm. But stories like Prometheus Brings Man Fire or Pandora’s Box (especially if told as a series) may catch the attention of those students who are reluctant to enjoy less “academic” stories. Similarly, students who turn their nose up at Diary of a Wimpy Kid may enjoy high-interest nonfiction or historical fiction. My favorite are Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales or the I Survived series.
Offer feedback on their growth. Periodically show students the assessments you have done and how you are monitoring their progress. This kind of student may want to know how many words per minute they are reading.
Give in a little. If “practicing language” really makes them feel better, let them. Dr. Beniko Mason suggests allowing students to take notes in class if they want; or send home a prompter or word list with them to “practice” on their own time.
Free Voluntary Web-surfing is great source of comprehensible input (Krashen 2011, 64; Krashen 2005). There are many ways to adapt this to suit your classroom, but use these guidelines to protect children.
Surf with a plan. Conference with students to create small group or individual web-surfing plans. Use student interests to offer a list of safe sites and resources. The American Library Association has over 800 amazing kid-friendly sites, or you can talk to your school librarian.
Monitor use of social media and online interaction and neverallow students to give identifying information (their name, their school, etc.).
Use settings to block inappropriate content. Make sure your school filters block inappropriate content, use safe search, and consider blocking images for very young students.
Two simple approaches to Free Voluntary Web-surfing
1. Read in a content-area or genre.
Shared reading and discussion about text in a genre or content-area can provide background knowledge, as well as set a purpose for Free Voluntary Web-surfing. For example, to enhance a Sheltered Literature study in lyrics, my students surfed the web for lyrics and contributed to a class’s blog of their favorite songs.
2. Create a Digital Magazine
Web-surfing and then contributing to a class magazine allows students to share enthusiasm for reading and creates a finished product students take pride in. Instapaper allows students to bookmark articles they love with one click. Their bookmarks compile to create a beautifully visual “magazine” of articles, blog posts, and websites.
I allow students to sign up for roles like “sports editor,” “fashion columnist,” or “celebrity news reporter.” Students familiarize themselves with online resources and then read narrowly in an area of personal interest.
I once made the mistake of mentioning my love for comics in the classroom at a job interview. I got the job… and an eye-roll.
Comics have an undeserved stigma. While students should eventually move on to academic text, Krashen notes “that comic book reading and other forms of light reading can serve as a conduit to ‘heavier’ reading” (3).
Comics lure the most reluctant of readers into a reading habit. Artwork that allows them to actually see thoughts, faces, and feelings helps make connections with characters (so says my comic-fanatic son with ASD).
When talking with administrators, it is important to explain why ESL classrooms have more teacher talk than mainstream classes. Teacher talk is an important source of comprehensible input for language learners (Krashen, 1982, 59). The majority of English Language Learners report that teacher talk with enhanced visual clues, body language, and simplified speech helps them understand and feel engaged (Matsumoto).
Many native speakers or advanced ELLs are ready for “student talk” and may choose to speak spontaneously. Forcing student talk, however, may raise the affective filter.
Proponents of forced student talk argue “Talk plays a noticing role; it triggers a consciousness-raising function” (Boyd, 448). However, language practice and noticing promotes conscious learning, not unconscious acquisition (Truscott; Krashen 2004, 1982). Student talk is the result, not cause of comprehensible input. Autonomous, student-initiated responses will happen if students receive enough comprehensible input (Krashen 2004, 1982).
Boyd, M. & Reuben, D. (May 2002). Elaborated Student Talk in an Elementary ESOL Classroom. Research in the Teaching of English, 36(4): 495-530.
Gharbavi, A. & Iravani, H. (May 2014). Is Teacher Talk Pernicious to Students? A Discourse Analysis of Teacher Talk. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98: 552 – 561.
Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.
Long, M. H. (1983). Linguistic and conversational adjustments to non-native speakers. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 5(2): 177-193.
Matsumoto, H. (2010). Students’ Perceptions About Teacher Talk In Japanese-as-a-Second-Language Classes. Arizona Working Papers in SLA & Teaching, 17: 53-74.
Truscott, J. (1998). Noticing in second language acquisition: a critical review. Second language Research,14(2), 103-135.