Todd & A Series On CI – (Part 4): Forms Of Input – Linguistic |Extralinguistic

Imagine that you have the opportunity to host a foreign exchange student in your home.

Foreign-Exchange-Student-

It’s meal time.  Since your exchange student barely speaks any English, you speak as slowly and clearly as possible.

“Please pass me a fork,” you say to her.

She looks confused and doesn’t respond.

In order to help her understand the English word for “fork” you touch (or hold up) a fork and say…

fork

“…Fork.  Fork.  This is a fork.”

In the precise moment that you hold up a fork and say, “Fork.  Fork.  This is a fork,” there are two different forms of input that your exchange student is processing.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

The linguistic form of input is the English words you are saying to her: “Fork.  Fork.  This is a fork.”

The extralinguistic form of input is the combination of all the gestures, pointing, and facial expressions you use in an attempt to communicate comprehensibly what your English words have failed to comprehensibly communicate.


Later in the evening you spend some time trying to get to know your foreign exchange student.  You decide to talk about her life in China.

You ask her, “Have you ever been to the Great Wall Of China?”

She looks confused and doesn’t respond.

In an attempt to help her understand your question, you flip through one of your National Geographic magazine issues to a picture of the Great Wall Of China.  You show her the picture and say…

Great-Wall-of-China

…Here it is.  The Great Wall Of China.  Have you been here?”

In the precise moment that you show the picture and say, “Here it is.  The Great Wall Of China.  Have you been here?” your exchange student is processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

The linguistic form of input is the English words you are saying to her: “Here it is.  The Great Wall Of China.  Have you been here?”

The extralinguistic form of input is the combination of the National Geographic picture and all the gestures, pointing, and facial expressions you use in an attempt to communicate comprehensibly what your English words have failed to comprehensibly communicate.


I do this all the time in my class.  In fact I try to do it as much as possible.  In fact…it’s pretty much all I do during my 40 minute instructional sessions.

Example #1: When my next class walks down the hall to my room, I meet them at the door.  As they are approaching I make eye contact with the line leader and say the following phrase in the target language, “Stand right here.”  While I say those words (which are incomprehensible to the students) I:

  • tap my foot 3 times in the spot I want them to stop.
  • hold my hand up, motioning for them to stop.
  • point (with my finger) to the spot on the floor that I want them to stop.
  • get my whole body in the way so they have no option but to stop.

In the precise moment that I tapped my foot, held up my hand, and said, “Stand right here,” the students were processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

Example #2: When every student has lined up quietly at my door (in the hallway), I make sure everyone’s eyes are watching me…usually without using any words.  Then, I look at the line leader and say (in the target language), “Enter.  Go in.”  While I say those words (which are incomprehensible to the students) I:

  • gesture for the line leader to start walking into the room.
  • give a head nod as if to say, “Yes, you can go in now.”
  • walk over to where all the students are walking in and motion with my hands for them to walk in and stand in their “spots.”

In the precise moment that I gave a head nod, gestured for the line leader to enter, and said, “Enter.  Go in,” the students were processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

Example #3: When the students are quietly lined up at the back of the room, I make sure everyone’s eyes are watching me and the projection screen.  Then, in the target language, I ask the class, “How are you?  Well? or not well?  Well? or just “okay?”  Well?  or tired?  Well? or excited?”  While I say those words/phrases (which are incomprehensible to the students) I:

In the precise moment that I flash pictures onto the screen and say, “How are you?  Well? or not well?  Well? or just “okay?”  Well?  or tired?  Well? or excited?” the students were processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

These are just 3 examples out of over a hundred examples that may occur during any given 40 minute class session that I spend with my students.

Summed up in one sentence, read below what I want my novice L2 students to experience (as much as possible):

Repeated and meaningful opportunities wherein a piece of incomprehensible linguistic input is joined to a corresponding piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input.

It’s so exciting to see the results!

The students are acquiring the first parts of a foreign language without even realizing it.

  • 2nd graders are looking at ClassDojo.com data and telling me L2 sentences like, “Aiden has more points.”  “No, Isabella AND Aiden have the most points.”  “Isabella has 18 points and Aiden has 18 points.”
  • Kindergarteners the other day (without me speaking a word of English) were pointing to the classmate that had accumulated the most ClassDojo.com points for the month after I said, “The pencil is for…who?” in the TL.
  • 4th graders laugh when I call myself Superman and say (in the TL), “Sr. Howard you’re not Superman.  You are Queen Elsa.”
  • 5th graders examine Turning Technologies test question data and say, “Answer ‘A’ is incorrect and answer “C” is correct.”
  • When I ask a 1st grader to pass the laser pointer to another classmate named ____, he/she says, “I already passed it,” or “I already have it.”

The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

I’ve repeated myself a lot, so far in this post, in an attempt to make the following, simple points that have huge implications for language acquisition:

  1. An individual can receive input.
  2. The form of the input that an individual receives can vary.
  3. An individual can receive multiple forms of input simultaneously.
  4. It can be helpful to categorize forms of input into LINGUISTIC input and EXTRALINGUISTIC input.
  5. If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.

Take Todd, for instance, who is a stick figure that is helping us in this series on comprehensible input and input theory.

Todd - Comprehensible Input


1- Todd can receive input.

input


2- The form of input that Todd receives can vary.

Spoken Linguistic Input

Spoken Linguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input

Gesticulated Extralinguistic Input

Written Linguistic Input

Written Linguistic Input


3- Todd can receive multiple forms of input simultaneously.

 

Todd input


4-  It can be helpful to categorize forms of input into LINGUISTIC input and EXTRALINGUISTIC input.

Linguistic Input

Linguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input


5-  If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to Todd, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.

image


 

I’ve learned an important distinction:

Recently I’ve been learning what the term “making input comprehensible” IS and what “making input comprehensible” IS NOT.

Previously I thought making input comprehensible meant holding up a picture or performing a gesture.  I thought that if I spoke L2 and could still manage to get a student to find meaning by using extralinguistic input…that I would be “making input comprehensible.

I’m realizing that that’s not a clear understanding of “making input comprehensible.”

I’m realizing that students can do what I want them to do but still find ZERO meaning in the L2 that I’m speaking to them.

I’m realizing that students can perform the daily performance objective while I’m speaking L2 and still find ZERO meaning in the L2 words that I’m speaking to them.

I’m realizing that as long as the L2 phrases and sentences that I’m using sound like unfamiliar, jumbled utterances, they are INCOMPREHENSIBLE phrases even if the students are successfully doing what I want them to be doing.

L2 input only becomes comprehensible when a student makes sense of, or finds meaning in, the L2 linguistic input apart from the aid/crutch of extralinguistic cues.

This doesn’t mean that extralinguistic input keeps a student from acquiring L2.  NO!!  In fact, it would be very difficult for a novice L2 student to acquire L2 naturally without it.  It just means that a student needs repeated, frequent opportunities to hear the target L2 phrases with their extralinguistic “crutches” in order for the L2 phrase(s) to finally become comprehensible.

Notice this distinction in point #5 below.  In all of the examples at the beginning of this post the following things happened:

  1. …the student (whether it be the exchange student or one of the learners in my L2 classroom) was a novice L2 speaker.
  2. …the student received two different forms of input at one time.
  3. …the linguistic form of input was incomprehensible to the student (because they were novice L2 students).
  4. …the language teacher used a simultaneous, extralinguistic form of input to try to communicate comprehensibly what his/her L2 words/phrases failed to comprehensibly communicate.
  5. …by introducing simultaneous, extralinguistic input to the student, the teacher hoped to either A) make the L2 input comprehensible to the student or B) provide a secondary way for the student to find meaning since, at that moment, the L2 input cannot be comprehensible to him/her.

Language Acquisition Theory Statements:

  • A person can receive different forms of input.
  • It’s helpful to categorize the different forms of input into “linguistic forms of input” and “extralinguistic forms of input”

The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones above) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

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3 thoughts on “Todd & A Series On CI – (Part 4): Forms Of Input – Linguistic |Extralinguistic

  1. Pingback: Todd & A Series On CI (Part 5): Forms Of Input: Representational Input | Tuesday's Tips For Staying in The Target Language

  2. Pingback: A Common Teaching In The Target Language Mistake | Tuesday's Tips For Staying in The Target Language

  3. Thank you so much for sharing all your ideas and techniques.

    I have a question about making powerpoint presentation.
    At the following paragraph, you introduced your project screen “flash up onto the projection screen pictures that correspond to each of the words I’m saying. (Click here to see the pictures that I use and how they appear to the students.)”
    Do you have any post talking about making effective power point? Yours is just so great.

    Thank you for your sharing again.

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