Walk Before You Talk – Pep Talk

When you are teaching a class using comprehensible input, new words or word chunks will naturally pop into your mind. The general rule of thumb is to resist saying those new words. If you say them just because they pop up into your mind without scaffolding them or supporting them in some way, your students won’t understand. What is worse in a CI classroom? Nothing, except not enforcing Rule #2.

You must always govern what you say in comprehensible input instruction and for that you need a “governor” (like the features on vehicles that keep them from going over a certain speed, for example a school bus, to ensure safety) on your mouth. Do not create such a flood of language that you lose your students.

This happens all the time in CI classes, especially with new teachers. It accounts for many new teachers giving up on CI when not having a working governor is the reason they go back to their old ways of teaching, or just quit the profession. When they are not governing their speech they are not scaffolding their speech. They are not able to govern (limit) their words and their students cannot handle ungoverned language.

So, you must be judicious about letting thoughts into your speech, (turning thoughts into words) because once it is out there yet not supported visually, it is too late – you are on the slippery slope to losing your class. This means cultivating the discipline to not say it if it is going to confuse your students. Your messages must always be clear and understandable.

SLOW is not enough. Pausing between the words is not enough. You must use those two skills, of course, but why not do it right and also govern your speech, making instant sage decision after sage instant decision about whether to allow new words into your speech as you teach. Walk Before You Talk is your biggest protection against confusing your students. To do Walk Before You Talk follow these steps:

(1) Decide if the word that popped into your mind is worth taking a digression from the already-established flow of understandable speech that you are delivering in that moment. It usually isn’t.

(2)  Decide if you want to teach it.

(3) If you do decide to teach it (if it is necessary to your message), then you have to instantly decide what you are going to use for visual support, because as stated above Walk Before You Talk is a skill that requires visual support.

(4) The most common kind of visual support, of course, is when you walk to the board and write it down and after that put your hand on it and pause and let it sink in and only then do you say it. That’s right, you say the word (sound) only after it is scaffolded in the WBYT way of walking, writing, putting hand on both words (visual) first.

That last sentence is worth repeating – you say the word (sound) only after it is scaffolded in the WBYT way of walking, writing, putting hand on both words (visual) first. Go practice it now. Teach your cat a word in this way. Practice at a bus stop. WBYT is a physical skill that must be practiced in the same way we practice using our hands to “sculpt” one word images.

(5) Other kinds of visual support include: (a) an image, or part of an image hanging somewhere in the classroom, (b) words on the board that are already written in L1 and L2, (c) the numbers/color charts, (d) some other chart or visual aid, etc.

(6) Here’s an interesting point. Use WBYT with Classroom Rule #2 in the first few weeks. This will be most students’ only teacher who enforces discipline silently, which is much more powerful.

(7) The point cannot be overstated: if you have decided to allow a new word into your speech, you must resign yourself to the fact that if you don’t WBTT it, then you will lose students who up to that point were understanding. Once the cat is out of the bag (i.e. the new/unfamilar word has escaped your mouth), it’s too late – you must scaffold it.

(7) Remember again that by far the most common visual support you use will take the form of you first (a) walking to the board, then (b) writing the new word down in both languages and finally (c) putting your hand on it before you say it. When you do this, you are visually scaffolding its meaning and guaranteeing that your students will understand. They may not show their appreciation, but it will be there.

Conclusion: Is there anything more important for a teacher who wants to successfully use comprehensible input than her supporting her speech ? Most CI teachers who forget to visually scaffold their speech pay the price for it. But it is a very awkward thing to remember to do. Remember to do it anyway. Remember to practice it every day. You actually need to practice it all the time, since it is physical. Your FEET are the leader in this. Love your feet. Ask your feet to help you. Tell your mouth to shut up until your feet have done their thing. Walk before you open the pie hole. If you don’t first WALK to whatever visual support you are offering before you TALK, then things won’t go so well as they will when you master Walk Before You Talk.



1 thought on “Walk Before You Talk – Pep Talk”

  1. What I noticed with really focused classes, is that you can start with the governor and right around winter break, you can start using more words because they will have internalized the routines of focusing on the message.

    I always ask whole class what a certain word means so as to slow my speech too. OR
    I ask “what is my question asking.” Though this break some flow, it allows me not to go overboard with a flood of incomprehenisble input.

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