Tag Archives: krashen

Effective Strategies for Checking Comprehension in Language Learning

We increasingly understand the central role of students’ understanding of language as they move up in proficiency and acquire language.  This makes comprehension checks a vital part of the process.

Effective Strategies for Checking Comprehension in Language Learning (French, Spanish)

The Role of Comprehensible Input

The importance of comprehensible input cannot be overstated. It’s the foundation on which students build their linguistic abilities. Krashen’s Input Hypothesis emphasizes the significance of comprehensible input as the key to acquiring language.  It is, therefor, crucial to ensure that the language input is just a step above the students’ current understanding level.

Make Sure the Input is Comprehensible

Use techniques such as visual cues, body language, cognates, and examples of common associations to make input more comprehensible.  Slow down the pace, and simplify complex language structures to facilitate better understanding.

Regular Comprehension Checks

Frequent comprehension checks are essential to gauge student engagement and understanding. Effective comprehension checks provide insights into students’ learning progress and allow teachers to make informed instructional adjustments.

What to Do with What We Learn From the Comprehension Check

Insights from comprehension checks allow teachers to tailor instruction to meet individual student needs effectively. Identifying students’ readiness levels helps in providing appropriate learning support and ensuring no student is left behind.

Strategies for Effective Comprehension Checks

  • Use targeted questions that require thoughtful responses, aligning with the students’ proficiency levels.
  • Integrate formative assessments such as exit tickets, quizzes, and short surveys to gauge student understanding at different stages of the lesson.
  • Organize group discussions or peer-to-peer interactions that encourage students to articulate their understanding of the language material.
  • Introduce interactive activities that require students to apply the language knowledge gained, such as role-plays, debates, or problem-solving tasks.
  • Incorporate visual representations like diagrams, infographics, and concept maps to reinforce language comprehension and facilitate visual learning.
  • Promote the use of reflective journals or learning logs where students can express their understanding of the language content and any areas where they need further clarification.

Total Participation Techniques

In addition to the effective comprehension checks, consider incorporating specific Total Participation Techniques outlined in the book Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner by Prsida Himmele and William Himmele. Some of the techniques highlighted in the book that could be particularly beneficial for formative comprehension checks include:

  • Think-Pair-Share: Encourage students to think about a question or prompt, discuss their thoughts with a partner, and then share their ideas with the entire class.
  • Four Corners: Use the Four Corners technique to prompt students to choose a corner of the classroom that aligns with their response to a specific question or statement.
  • Implement the RallyRobin technique, which allows students to work in pairs and take turns sharing ideas or responses.
  • Assign short writing exercises where students can express their understanding of the material.
  • Encourage students to review and provide constructive feedback on each other’s work.
  • Jigsaw Activities: Implement jigsaw activities that require students to work collaboratively in groups, with each student responsible for a specific aspect of a larger concept.

Questions to Reflect On

  • Are you integrating regular comprehension checks into your teaching practice?
  • How can you ensure that students are demonstrating their comprehension at the desired proficiency level?
  • What adjustments can you make based on the insights gathered from your comprehension checks?

Checking for comprehension in the language learning process is a crucial step in fostering a robust linguistic foundation for students. By incorporating effective comprehension checks and implementing the strategies above, you can ensure that your students are not only engaging with the material but are also comprehending and internalizing the language input effectively.  These checks also provide essential formative information for moving ahead.


Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching

Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching (CCLT) is a teaching approach that encourages teachers to embrace the essential role of comprehension and understanding as a first step in acquiring language. I’d like to dive into CCLT, taking inspiration from the incredible work of Claudia Fernandez, who writes about this topic in the book “Honing Our Craft.

Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching (French, Spanish)

What is Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching?

CCLT is a teaching approach that redefines the role of comprehension in language acquisition. To understand the significance of CCLT, we must first look at its roots in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), which emphasized the importance of communication. CLT introduced the concept of Communicative Competence (Canale and Swain, 1980), highlighting the role of interaction and production in language learning. However, it was Krashen’s Input Hypothesis (1985) that shifted the spotlight towards comprehension, suggesting that understanding messages is essential and sufficient for language acquisition.

What is Communication…Really?

One common misconception in language teaching is equating communication solely with oral production. This misconception has led to a disproportionate emphasis on production within current teaching practices, often relegating comprehension to a secondary role. CCLT aims to dispel this notion and place input (comprehension) at the center of the curriculum. While production is not neglected, it’s the understanding of messages that takes precedence.

How Do We DO CCLT?

In a CCLT classroom, remember to speak the target language for most of the class time. Make input activities meaningful and engaging, fostering an environment where students naturally strive for comprehension.

Don’t forget that accuracy in language is developed gradually, and comprehension is, in fact, a form of communication. Avoid planning classes solely around grammar points—grammar is a tool, not the ultimate goal of language learning.

In Conclusion

Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching offers a fresh perspective on language education. It shifts the focus from rote production to meaningful comprehension, aligning with how language is acquired in the real world. By embracing CCLT, you empower your students to not just speak the language but truly understand and communicate with confidence—a goal at the heart of language education.


Claudia Fernandez (2024) “Chapter 4: What is and What is Not Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching? (CCLT) ” in Henshaw, Florencia G., et al. Honing Our Craft: World Language Teaching Today. Klett World Languages, 2024.

Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1-47.

Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. New York: Longman.

Evidence-Based Language Teaching

Have you ever found looking  for strategies that are not just trendy but grounded in solid empirical evidence? As we guide our students toward proficiency and communicative and cultural competence, the importance of evidence-based teaching cannot be overstated. But how can we integrate these evidence-based approaches efficiently, given our time constraints and the often lengthy research materials?

 Evidence-Based Language Teaching (French, Spanish)

Let’s take a look at the crucial role of evidence-based teaching with some ideas for navigating the sea of research.  Along with this you’ll also see concrete examples of how to easily integrate research-backed strategies into your language classroom.

Why Evidence-Based Teaching

  1. Maximizing Impact: Evidence-based teaching is like a well-illuminated path in the dense forest of language education. It ensures that the strategies we employ are not just a shot in the dark but are grounded in empirical evidence. Embracing evidence-based approaches enables us to make the most significant impact on our students’ language proficiency.
  2. Time Efficiency: In the busy lives of educators, time is an invaluable resource. Evidence-based teaching allows us to make informed decisions swiftly. Instead of wading through an overwhelming sea of teaching methods, we can focus on what research shows to be effective. 

Where can we access this valuable research without getting lost in a time-consuming quest for evidence? The good news is that there are accessible avenues. Consider attending conferences, workshops, webinars, or tuning into the World Language Classroom Podcast. Engaging with social media can also provide insights, but be sure to vet your sources. Trust content that is grounded in research and empirical findings rather than anecdotes of personal experience, which, while honest, may not be universally applicable to teaching practice.

Examples For Implementing Evidence-Based Teaching

Grammar and Structures

  • Ellis’s (2002) research suggests that grammar instruction is more effective when it is meaningful, contextual, and communicative. Rather than rote memorization, students benefit from grammar lessons that connect to real-life language use.
  • Implementation: Provide students with texts or conversations that naturally feature the target grammar point. This aligns with Ellis’s research and fosters a deeper understanding of the grammar point within authentic language use.

Comprehensible Input

  • Krashen’s Input Hypothesis (1985) serves as a foundation in language acquisition research. It underscores that language learners progress when they understand input slightly more advanced than their current level.
  • Implementation: Tailor your lessons to provide students with comprehensible input. Utilize context, visuals, and scaffolding to ensure their understanding and engagement with the language while maintaining a focus on meaning and communication. 

As we navigate language education evidence-based approaches serve as our guide toward proficiency growth with efficiency and purpose.


Ellis, R. (2002). The Place of Grammar Instruction in the Second/Foreign Language Curriculum. In E. Hinkel & S. Fotos New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms (pages 14-34). Routledge: London

Krashen, S. D. (1985). The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implications. Longman.


72: What Does it Mean to “Teach” a Language?

What does it mean to “teach” a language? In this episode I look at this question, particularly considering the shifts in language teaching and learning over the past 10 years or so. My approach to this question is grounded in a quote from Larson-Freeman and Long that a professor shared with me in graduate school. It continues to guide my approach to teaching.

“[It is not] because some plants will grow in a desert, [that] watering the ones in your garden is a waste of time. In fact, of course, while the desert may provide the minimum conditions for a plant to grow, watering it may help it grow faster, bigger, and stronger, that is to realize its full potential.”    [Diane Larsen-Freeman, Michael H. Long; An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research (1990)]

Links mentioned in this episode

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67: Checking for Understanding

In this episode I’m taking the idea of input a little further.  Most of us are on board and understand the importance of making input comprehensible for students.  But, how can we check that the language is actually being understood by students? Because if they’re not understanding they’re not acquiring. I’ll share tips for checking for understanding and what to do with the info we get.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • The quick rundown on input and why it’s beneficial
  • The role of comprehensible input
  • How to make input comprehensible
  • Why check for understanding
  • Why the checks are useful and what to do with what we learn
  • How to check for understanding
  • Strategies for checking for understanding

Podcast episodes referenced in this episode:

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Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me on the podcast.
We record conversations remotely, so you can be anywhere.

63: Input and Output

In this episode we look at input and output. These two simple words can appear simple, but there is a lot to explore when it comes to what they actually look like in the classroom. This is the fourth of 5 episodes dedicated to the book Common Ground: Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom by Florencia Henshaw and Maris Hawkins. In two weeks you will hear the final episode of the series that will be a conversation with the authors.  For now, we’ll spend some time with input and output guided by Henshaw and Hawkins in Common Ground..so, let’s jump in.

Topics in the episode:

  • Recap of Guiding Principles: Acquisition and Communication
  • The Role of Input
  • What effective input is and is not
  • Comprehensible Input and Krashen’s Monitor Model
  • Authentic Resources
  • The Role of Output
  • Swain’s Output Hypothesis
  • Input or Output?  What builds the linguistic system?
  • Making the discussion interactive on Twitter with Joshua (@wlcalssoom), Florencia Henshaw (@Prof_F_Henshaw) and Maris Hawkins (@Marishawkins).

Other Podcast episodes referenced in this episode:

Get your own copy of Common Ground.  Hackett Publishing is generously offering a 25% discount when you use the code WLC2022.  [Available through December 31, 2022].

**The 25% off discount code can be used for any book through the end of December, 2022.  Hackett publishes several intermediate language-learning textbooks in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, and Classical Greek. New releases include Cinema for French Conversation, Cinema for Spanish Conversation, and Les Français.


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51: Revisit Krashen’s Input Hypothesis & Teaching with CI

In this episode of the Summer Headspace series I revisit episode 32 on Krashen’s Input Hypothesis and episode 13 on teaching with Comprehensible Input.

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32: The Origins of CI: Krashen’s Input Hypothesis

Where does the whole concept and idea behind Comprehensible Input (CI) come from?  In this episode I walk you through Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis that is part of his theory of second language acquisition that he calls the Monitor Model.  Krashen’s Input Hypothesis is the origin of what what we are doing with Comprehensible Input today.

What Is Comprehensible Input?

  • Comprehensible input means that students should be able to understand the essence of what is being said or presented to them.
  • This does not mean, however, that teachers must use only words students understand. In fact, instruction can be incomprehensible even when students know all of the words. 
  • Students learn a new language best when they receive input that is just a bit more difficult than they can easily understand. In other words, students may understand most, but not all, words the teacher is using. (i+1)

Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Model (late 1970’s, early 1980’s):

5 individual, yet somewhat interrelated theories and comprehensible input is just one.

  • Acquisition-Learning hypothesis
  • Input hypothesis
  • Affective Filter hypothesis
  • Natural Order hypothesis
  • Monitor hypothesis


  • Brown (2000): Krashen’s theory of SLA is oversimplified and the claims he made are overstated.
  • McLaughlin (1987): Krashen does not provide evidence in any real sense of the term, but simply argues that certain phenomena can be viewed from the perspective of his theory.
  • Gregg (1984): bypasses counter-evidence


Lichtman and VanPatten (2021): Was Krashen right? Forty years later

Ideas have evolved and are still driving SLA research today often unacknowledged and under new terminology.

  • The Acquisition-Learning Distinction
    implicit versus explicit learning
  • The Natural Order Hypothesis
    ordered development
  • The Input Hypothesis.
    communicatively embedded input

Motivated Classroom Podcast (Liam Printer) : Episode 50
Translating second language acquisition research into motivational practice with Dr. Karen Lichtman & Dr. Bill VanPatten

Where does this leave us?

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Tips for Teaching in the Target Language

Teachers are teaching more and more in the target language.  The first step is to commit to using the target language at least 90% of class time.  This is the ACTFL recommendation.  The second step is to acquire some strategies.  Here is a simple system that I follow that helps me to teach in the target language.

Tips for Teaching in the Target Language (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comRoutine:

  • Use routines in class as much as possible so that students are not constantly trying to decipher language.  Routines provide context to the language and students are better able to comprehend what they hear when it is in an expected context.  They will also begin to pick up on language as they associate it with the actions that they see.  Routines can also include Functional Chunks of Language, which are expressions, phrases or words that students learn as a chunk without necessarily understanding the grammatical structure.  These Functional Chunks of Language help to keep the target language the dominant language in the classroom by both the students and the teacher.

13Comprehensible Input (CI):

  • Comprehensible input is language that students understand.  The teacher can help students comprehend by providing visuals, making gestures and using language that is familiar to students.  Another great way to make input comprehensible is through circumlocation. (You can read more about circumlocution HERE.)

i+1 (Input Hypothesis):

  • i represents a student’s current level of language  (Krashen).  i+1 represents language that is just beyond the current level of students.  i+1 is a way of advancing students in language proficiency by having students rely on the language that they understand to make sense of new language.

Context is the most important thing t keep in mind when teaching in the target language.  When a familiar context is used students are better able to use their understanding of a situation to understand language that they are hearing.