I have noticed a general tendency on the part of CI teachers to focus too much on output in the first few years. It’s a natural thing to do as a language teacher, because we want to guide our kids along in the ways of writing and speech.
But nothing good happens fast. My caution, therefore, is to do this only with upper levels, since the younger kids are according to the research just not ready to output naturally at the lower levels.
Of course, some kids will try it at the lower levels and that is great and we don’t want to impede that, but the idea here is for the kids to wait until the speech output almost naturally “falls out of their mouths”, to quote my mentor Susan Gross.
The key thing in all output is that there has to have been massive amounts of (listening and reading) comprehensible input before any form of (writing and speaking) output can (naturally) occur. Most teachers, esp. those new to CI, don’t appreciate how profound that statement is.
When Krashen means natural, he literally means no thinking. When we goad – and that is the right term – our students to speak and write at the lower levels, we are not aligning with the research. Let it go. If they want to speak in classes without being goaded, of course let that happen. Just no goading.
Do we goad flowers to emit their smells before they are ready to do so? Do we drive cars before they are completely built, with all four tires on? Our current world hasn’t always been this way.
Think of the country whose language you teach 500 years ago. Was there an obsession with testing and learning it all as fast as we could? It’s a different time, y’all.