Research shows* that in order for students to acquire a language, teachers must speak it with them nearly all of the time. This means in the classroom, in the hallways, in the cafeteria… Teachers must mimic the immersion experience — most students aren’t getting that authentic linguistic input anywhere else.
However, when a student does not understand the linguistic input, she quickly becomes frustrated and discouraged. The teacher's job is to ensure that the linguisticinput is comprehensible.
Making the input comprehensible does not mean “dumbing it down” (i.e. limiting language to specific grammatical structures or tenses, altering natural pronunciation, using "Spanglish", etc.). Making linguistic input comprehensible means making sure the gist - the main idea - of the message is understood. There are many ways to do this. Some of the most effective techniques I've found include:
1. Using lots of gestures and acting, incorporating students whenever possible. 2. Using lots of visuals, including high-frequency words & expressions posted all around the classroom. 3. Taking care to tailor my language to each individual's proficiency level, speaking very clearly, using as many cognates and familiar words as possible. 4. Talking about student-generated/embellished topics --things that they are interested in and are naturally curious about. 5. Using humor! Students will be drawn in and want to understand what's being said when it's something funny.
Making the target language authentic and comprehensible can be tricky at first. The most important step is simply to jump in and try it. You won’t have 100% success each day, but you will be amazed at how quickly you start to figure it out and see results.
Here are a few ways you can start providing authentic, comprehensible input:
Teach classroom routines and procedures in the target language.
Teach important high-frequency phrases and use them consistently.