How to Make Input Comprehensible for Early Language Learners

How to make Input Comprehensible for Early Language Learners

We know we need to teach in the target language and use comprehensible input --- language at the level of our students so they understand most of what we say ... just enough so they can understand the message, but adding new words and structures to push them to expand their knowledge.

So how do we do that with our early language learners?

1. Use songs. Songs can be repeated daily and reinforce vocabulary and sentence structure. Write your own, or purchase from others

2. Play vocabulary learning games. Let the students have a silent period where they are just listening to the new language being repeated over and over, and then move on to games where the kids need to speak. Find some game ideas here.

3. Use visuals - photos, images, videos, puppets, the actual item you are talking about. Are your students learning the vocabulary for school objects? Use a real book, pen, pencil, notebook ... Hold up your visuals while you are speaking to help students understand.

4. Read or tell stories ... But they need to be linguistically appropriate. Remember that your students should understand what is going on. Make up silly stories - I like to use a puppet and be silly. Maybe the puppet has packed his backpack for the first day of school and the students and I tell the puppet what he will need. But of course when we open up the backpack it is filled with unnecessary things like a camera, a chocolate bar ... Empty out that backpack and have the students help you refill it with what the puppet needs for school.
Is writing linguistically appropriate stories not your forte? I can help!

Whatever we choose to use as the content of our lesson, we should:

  • Paraphrase - remember to make sure the message is understood. Use familiar structures and build on them.
  • Slow down our speech
  • Use our tone of voice to aid in getting the message across - in my silly puppet lesson I will use a tone of voice that says "Are you crazy?" when I pull the absurd things out of the backpack.
  • Use gestures
  • Use yes/no questioning to check for comprehension - I will ask in the target language "Is there a pencil in the backpack?"
  • Repeat, repeat, REPEAT!!! Re-read, re-watch, re-listen, re-tell over and over and over and over again. With each repeat, try pausing and allowing the students to finish your sentences or do the retelling of the story. As we add an item to the backpack, one at a time, I will say in the target language, "Now Mr. Puppet has a pencil in his backpack." "Now Mr. Puppet has a pencil and a book in his backpack." "Now Mr. Puppet has a ______ (pause and allow the class to say it) and a _____, and a _____ in his backpack."
What strategies do you use to help your students understand the language you use in the classroom? Comment below!