I got this email question with my response below:
Q. [On the topic of creating a CI based curriculum]…I just sat down and asked myself what students would need in Level I if we were just concentrating on them. So I came up with the personal interview questions online, and from there, wrote a list of grammar items that we would naturally deal with as far as possessive adjectives, etc. are concerned in the focus on them personally. And now I am going to do the same thing for the other levels. So in a way it is topic-based , but hopefully in a way that seems natural to them.
A. The only thing is to realize that those kids are not ready to provide responses to any interview questions. Now, if they have had CI since their first year, yes they can respond but not until, really speaking, level 3. So the mistake and this is just my own opinion based on my own experience and my own reading of the research is that those interview questions should not be used until level 3 or higher.
You can check that with level 1 and level 2 kids by looking at their eyes. If after hearing the question they look up and to the left, it means that they are searching their conscious knowledge data basis for the right answer but they will not be able to answer it (very frustrating for them) because the response is not in the part of the brain they are looking in, but rather in the unconscious mind.
So, unless the answer is provided without their thinking, automatically, which is how it works with our first languages, your students will be unable to provide you with an answer . This statement is based on the research that says that there must be thousands of hours of input before there can be input. In two full years of language instruction they can only realistically get about 20 hours at the most of input.
So it is best to just keep providing input and not think about teaching what they would need in terms of grammar in order to be able to speak, bc it is not likely to work. They need those thousands of hours first (8-10 years of language classes at least) before speech or writing output can occur.
There are other posts on this topic here on the PLC in the “output” or “speech output” category. So I recommend trying to find ways to provide nothing but input for them in those first two years.
The MAIN THING you want to avoid, and you are doing that, is memorization of dialogues. But do take into consideration some of the points I made above. I can’t be sure they’re right, but they are right for me based on my own time in the classroom struggling with these same issues.