This picks up on Jake’s comment:
We cannot state enough that comprehension-based teaching is 100% different from other ways of teaching languages. It is different from what form-focused language teaching does.
Focusing on form exercises our brains. It is conscious learning, much like memorizing vocabulary or conducting an experiment in science class or learning the reasons for the American Revolution in social studies.
Focusing on meaning via NTCI (non-targeted input) using artwork to express that meaning happens best in what is more like a workshop setting, such as in a drama or a music or an art class.
In such a class, the teacher’s job is to channel the energies of the group into a common product, to blend their personalities into a means of production, of creative expression. In a comprehension classroom based on student images, students’ lives and interests, and stories, our job is much more like that of a drama, art, or music teacher and less like science or history.
Nothing could be more different, in fact, than asking a class to drop their focus on the structural/mechanical aspects of a language and to put it on a story or an image. To have such a shift happen within one academic field in a short amount of time is understandably more than most professional language educators could accept. No blame. How can one shift one’s thinking after teaching a number of years in one way, to researching, embracing and adapting a new paradigm in a few short years?
The idea that people actually learn languages by focusing their minds on a story or an image and not on the language itself might even appear completely wrong to some. But the research is there, and has been for some forty years now, and so the idea that comprehensible input is the only way that a person can learn a language (Mason, Krashen, Wong, VanPatten, etc.) is fully accepted by our profession’s national parent organization, ACTFL and by every state level parent organization as well.
The textbook companies are trying their best to keep up, but their very design of “imparting knowledge in an analytical way about the language” cannot possibly succeed, no more than a machine can laugh.
We have moved from being a science to being an artistic discipline in a few short years! Again, no blame! This is radical stuff, but no less true because of it. All professionals in our field must now bite the bullet to align with the research no matter how long they have been off track up until this point, if they want to keep their jobs.
Haven’t the kids been telling us for decades, in the only way that they can, via their body language and disinterested gazes, that what we have been doing hasn’t been working for them? Haven’t our class enrollment sizes at the upper levels proven it as well now for decades?
And now, as if the shift from traditional language teaching to aligning with the research about comprehensible input is not enough, there is a shift within the CI camps! One says that the best way for kids to learn the language is to start a class by focusing on words or groups of words repeated a massive number of times during the class, while the other embraces starting classes from images drawn by children (which is the premise of the Invisibles/One Word Images approach).
Of course, if you didn’t already know this you wouldn’t be in our little community here. You are the brave ones.