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Comprehensible input

All the time I hear from teachers the same question over and over again; “How do I teach vocabulary to my EL’s?” And every time I walk into their classroom, check out their materials, methods, and strategies, I notice that it isn’t vocabulary that they are missing. In fact, they usually have that part down fairly well. What they are really missing is comprehensible input.

So, just what is Comprehensible Input? In a nutshell comprehensible input is any language that can be understood by the listener. And to better help you understand just what that means, take a look at this short video from one of the greatest children’s shows of all time. Don’t watch the whole thing (unless you want to) but go to the 2 minute mark. What do you notice?

What was his rate of speech? Did he have any props? Was he using gestures to guide children toward better understanding of meaning?

Looking back, Fred Rogers did such a great job of adding meaning to his communication, so that all children could understand. It’s no wonder why he was so popular.

Now I know some upper grade level teachers are giggling at the idea of teaching like Mr. Rogers. Honestly, if you taught a 12 – 18 year old like this, I’d laugh at you too. But the basic principals are the same. Purposeful gestures, emphasis on key vocabulary through tone, and props or pictures where ever you can accommodate them.

So a parting question. How could adding these principals of comprehensible input into your teaching benefit all children?

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