Question on Elementary

I got this question today, and provided a makeshift answer, since the problem won’t be resolved until our Alisa writes her book:
Daniel Salinero wrote:
I’m really enjoying your book. On page 32 you mentioned that most of us only have three or four hours per week with our students. This book is probably geared more towards middle and high school teachers. I’m an elementary school teacher in an international baccalaureate school where we offer foreign language studies. At this time, I meet with my students between 30 and 40 minutes each week. This frequency and time may increase next year, but I was wondering do you know of any classes that have successfully used CI with this small amount of time? Any suggestions? Right now my classes have been mostly an introduction to language with lots of games and activities exploring culture as well in grades 2-5 (7-11 year olds).
My makeshift answer:
Hi Daniel the games and activities will eventually burn you out. We can’t just keep collecting them. I know of one teacher who invented 200 games over her career and it was a formula for disaster, as she realized later on. A teacher cannot just keep inventing games up! We don’t need games but a “system” of creating exciting new CI every day. Then the work for us drops by 100%, literally.
The current problem in our field is that there are few elementary teachers who are doing what is being done more readily now at the middle and high school levels. It is a complex topic, too complex to get deeply into here.
I hope that Alisa will one day write “the book” on elementary CI but she hasn’t had the time. So it is all a work in progress. I certainly can’t write it bc my background is AP.
Please feel free to contact me anytime.



6 thoughts on “Question on Elementary”

  1. It all depends what you (or your bosses) interpret as success. For me, CI is the way we acquire languages. Also due the infrequent nature of your schedule, any method will allow the language to be retained much better than trying to teach them via direct instructions, games etc… Songs can look good though but here they will just parrot you. If you want acquisition, I would do invisibles and even Story Listening. Remember children have such a low affective filter–that’s a major advantage

  2. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Hi, It’s Alisa.
    I see my 1st through 4th graders for 90 min e/week. The lowest # of minutes I’ve had in my public school is 60-75/week, but I’ve also taught at a supplementary (after) school program with minutes similar to yours, Daniel.
    I echo Ben 100% about the games. I teach around 8 classes per day and the bits and pieces in keeping track of games is maddening. Plus, one usu has to give instructions in English. Also, there are other hidden headaches at every turn – an odd # of students; someone who comes in late from the nurse’s office or violin lesson… It’s just not worth it, because you can’t get a decent return on the investment of time and energy.
    What we are after in CI/elem works beautifully: asking and telling great stories. Not literary prizewinning for their insights and beauty, but beloved by kids because they created it. A story that arises from the group-think, with some lovely and powerful community-building along the way.
    So this means you can start with existing stories, fairly n folk tales, etc and modify the plot but definitely the ‘language in use’ to meet the linguistic needs of your novices (some of us call this process ‘comprehensifying’ the text). Alternatively (a different week or month) OWI/ Invisibles; an ‘in the style of’ story – which elementary kids really dig – take an existing collaborative or classic story and trade out the details of character, place, objects, etc, keeping some of the plot language constant; Movie Talks, Look, Listen & Draw – and all the usual strategies that young kids find compelling.
    If you have any specific questions please ask. I continue to tinker and learn, but I’m CI all the way, and a lot of it is non-targeted.
    Start by dramatically asking/telling a story; exercise the heck out of that narrow language; culminate in a reading (starting middle of 2nd grade – kept very simple) with some drama whenever possible. Comprehensible Input strategies are perfect for elementary!

  3. I echo the above and I always use some TPR with the wee ones bc they love to be active and it’s pure CI. I also use the sandwich-technique in order to speak lots of common English (their L2) -works fine for me.

    1. Yes,definitely!
      And when I do SL I have large pictures to support the story and the next lesson I hang up those pictures in random order and describe them in L2 and the kids have to find the right picture of course and in the end we put the pics in the right sequence – lots of buy-in from the kids!

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