If anybody is in a fight in their building over pacing guides, it may help to print this out:
The differences in philosophy between Comprehensible Input Instruction (CI) and traditional language education are:
• CI is a student-driven methodology. It responds to the linguistic needs of the students at any given time. This makes it free-flowing curricularly.
• CI believes that grammar should be defined as “properly spoken speech” and is learned over long periods – years worth – of listening to and reading the language first. We all know how traditional teachers define grammar.
• CI believes that linguistic features are acquired in a natural order and that the brain cannot be forced to acquire a feature out of sequence or before it is ready.
• CI believes that each learner acquires knowledge at his/her own pace – that no two students are at the same point in learning at the same time.
• In CI we believe that student output cannot be forced. Students need hundreds of hours of repetitive input before they are ready for unrehearsed, spontaneous output. Much like a baby hears his/her first language for thousands of hours before being able to produce meaningful language. We believe that activities practicing output before students have reached this point is counter-productive and leads only to short-term learning goals, not to long-term acquisition.
• CI adheres to the Monitor Theory – we believe that direct instruction of grammatical rules in not helpful until upper levels of instruction, after students have acquired these grammatical features through context. At such a time students can use the analytical rules to polish their understanding, and to become truly literate in the language. Prior to this, overly strong focus on the rules inhibits student production and acquisition – students focus on rules rather than on meaning.
• CI believes that language instruction should be practical and focused on communication in areas that interest students.
• The Pacing Guide assumes that instruction and pacing are based on the curriculum, that they are not student-driven. This leads to a curriculum that is not especially responsive to student needs.
• The Pacing Guide does not shelter vocabulary. It shelters grammar (properly spoken language). Students are expected to learn copious amounts of vocabulary for each chapter. Yet, students are exposed to one discrete feature of grammar at a time.
• By sheltering grammar the Pacing Guide does not allow for the Natural Order of Acquisition. It does not provide adequate exposure to late acquired features early on and expects mastery of some late acquired features in beginning stages.
• The Pacing Guide exists to make learning uniform across the district. Every student in the district is expected to learn the same material at the same time.
• The Pacing Guide and accompanying benchmark exams are filled with output- oriented activities. The philosophy is that practice with output rather than time of input produces accurate spontaneous output in students.
• The Pacing Guide, benchmark exams, and department teachers assume direct instruction in grammatical rules. They assume that students will care about technical terminology and will be able to discuss the grammatical features in a metacognitive fashion.
• The Pacing Guide etc. assumes that language acquisition is an academic activity that will result in preparation for college and perhaps eventual communication in the language. Areas that currently interest students are not covered if they do not fit into the long-term goals of academic study.
In a way, the pacing guide is like the old practice in manufacturing of ordering and stockpiling a bunch of materials on a rigid and pre-set schedule – it might sit there for a long time without being used. CI is like the more modern practice of ordering “on demand”. As something is needed, it is ordered and used. The second way is simpler, more efficient, and more economical. The pacing guide is an attempt to recreate the old style factory production line. Why try to do that when factories don’t even do it anymore? It is no wonder that students find much of their school experience boring, irrelevant, mystifying and unengaging; it is almost diametrically opposed to how they learn on their own. Early 20th-century methods in a 21st-century world leave everyone behind.