What is CI? – 4

This is a series of emails between our Denver Public Schools World Language Coordinator and Grant Boulanger, who is at the center of the change in St. Paul, MN. In it, what CI actually is comes up and fits into many of our recent discussion. I publish those emails here with both Diana and Grant’s permission:


Hi Diana,

I’m now preparing for a meeting in which people will be asked to respond to “what comprehensible input means to you”. Does DPS have a definition you use for TCI or is there one that is commonly accepted and already defined in the profession? Bryce Hedstrom has done a good job breaking it down in section 7 of Understanding TPRS, Understanding the Core Precepts of TCI (attached), but I need something more succinct.


Hi Grant,

Here is what Krashen said in “Foreign Language Education, The Easy Way”:

Current language acquisition theory claims that we acquire language in only one way (italics are mine), when we understand messages, that is, when we obtain “comprehensible input”. Thus, we acquire when we understand what people tell us or what we read, when we are absorbed in the message. More precisely, we acquire when we understand messages containing aspects of the language that we are developmentally ready to acquire but have not yet acquired.

Teaching with CI means that we understand how vocabulary needs to be sheltered in order to make the language we are using and teaching in the classroom “comprehensible”. We want our students to understand the messages, to be absorbed in the message, thereby acquiring the vocabulary and structures we deem to be the best for gaining fluency.  (My words here.) We choose to use the top 100-200 high frequency words for fluency because they are the most useful to us as teachers when teaching for acquisition.

Krashen goes on:

An aspect of the input hypothesis that is extremely important in discussing its application is that given enough comprehensible input, structures students are “ready” to acquire are invariably present in the input.

Note that the actual relationship between the amount of CI obtained and individual progress depends on whether the CI contains aspects of the target language that the acquirer has not yet acquired, but is developmentally ready to acquire.

CI = I+1

The +1 refers to the developmentally ready part of this statement.

Let me know how your meeting goes.



Grant: Diana thank you for taking the time to reply. I know you are busy and I assumed you were at the conference. No worries.

The meeting Monday went well. We’re reaching critical mass and those who needed to speak spoke. Others were quite silent. There is considerable angst among some about 90%, as you’d expect. There is a genuine effort on the part of the curriculum coordinator (your peer) about developing a professional development plan moving us toward our goal over the next several years.

She’s not scared to say 8-10 year plan either, to give you an idea. She realizes it’ll be a major shift for some people and wants to be respectful.

I agree. That’s really great.

I’ve asked permission to introduce you to her via email. This is the first step. You have valuable experience planning multi-faceted training opportunities for your staff. Also, DPS could provide TCI training. It’s critical to convey the importance of admin receiving  training. Also, I think with this group there are some poeple who could be brought into the fold if they experience mandarin via TCI _over time_.   We’ve outlined 4 essential practices to lead us toward a TCI Dept: Reading and FVR of comprehensible texts (novels, etc), 90% use of TL per ACTFL, Use of natural language (past, present and simple future) at all levels, and a focus on Core high-freq vocab. Each of these deserves distinct training and time for implementaiton. If we have an initial, positive experience with Annik and followed it up 6 mos later with her reviewing and  extending the learning and making connections to these practices and then again later… and again… how powerful that could be for us all.

We both know the best way is through learning a language this way yourself.



1 thought on “What is CI? – 4”

  1. May I post this on the Foreign Language Association of Maine yahoo list? I think I would like to leave out Krashen’s name and say “guess who”? at the end…

    I really trying to get a conversation going about CI….


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