Back when I lived in Busan, South Korea, Stephen Krashen came there! It was kind of a big deal and there was certainly a buzz around town.
I went to his presentation on extensive reading and was inspired enough to start doing it in my classes. Here are the details about it!
Krashen Comprehensible Input Introduction
Stephen Krashen thinks that comprehensible input is the most important factor, in learning a language. He says that our brains have an LAD (language acquisition device) and that the teacher’s job is to provide input to it, in a low anxiety situation, where student’s affective filters are low.
Classrooms or Real World: Neither are Perfect for Useful Comprehensible Input
Classrooms can give input in a comprehensible way but it’s often not interesting. The real world gives interesting input, but it’s often not comprehensible for language learners.
So, classrooms and teachers still have a place in language learning, especially for the beginner and a big part of our job is to provide interesting and engaging input that is at, or just slightly above the level of the students. If it’s above, we can help the students to understand, which fits in nicely with Vgotsky’s ZPD theory.
Extensive Reading is the Ultimate Comprehensible Input Activity
Krashen says that comprehensible input can offer language learners a good start, but it’s not really appropriate for academic English, or ESP (English for Specific Purposes). Language learners have to acquire this language in the same way that a Native Speaker would (naturally) because it is actually too complicated to teach it directly. This language is naturally acquired through extensive, free reading.
An example of how to do with this would be: starting with comic books, easy novels, progressing to sci-fi books, up to journal articles and then serious textbooks in an area of particular interest. There are different paths to fluency but all involve reading texts on increasing difficulty, for pleasure.
The Power of Reading: Learn More
Check out this short video and find out why Krashen loves reading so much!
Classroom Implications of Comprehensible Input Theory
A few thoughts of how this can apply to my own teaching life:
1. I need to encourage students to read extensively. Many (99%) have never read a single novel, comic book or newspaper article in English, for fun.
I haven’t really figured out how to actually make this happen in my classroom though. Some teachers buy some books (usually with their own money!) and students can borrow them for the first 10-15 minutes of class for free-reading time. I like the idea, but haven’t gone down that road yet.
Another option is to have students select a book and read it on their own time. Will this actually happen? For most students, probably not.
2. I need to provide interesting input for my students in the classroom. This involves taking stuff from the real-world and making it a bit easier by grading the language in it. Some of my best classes have been when I based them on something happening in the world at that time.
3. I need to ensure that I provide a classroom environment with low anxiety. This means cooperation instead of competition. I’ve definitely been guilty over the years of this, but in past years, I’ve been trying to decrease stress levels and increase fun and relaxation.
Books by Stephen Krashen
Here are some of the most popular Stephen Krashen books:
What Do You Think about Extensive Reading and Comprehensible Input?
Do you use extensive reading in your ESL/EFL classrooms or Stephen Krashen? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. It’ll help other busy English teachers, like yourself find this useful resource.
Last update on 2020-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API