VF Spanish teacher uses new methods to engage students
February 11, 2019
by Amirah Shupe
Valley Forge High School
Sandra Fink, Spanish teacher at Valley Forge High School, has implemented a new, modern form of foreign language learning in her classroom.
“Comprehensible Input is providing language to students that they understand that’s just a little bit above their current level of comprehension,” Fink explained. “Our brains learn language by hearing it and understanding it or reading it and understanding it. Those are the two ways that we get input. It does not involve having students memorize vocabulary, and it’s not about grammar, because research has shown that memorization doesn’t work (when learning a language).”
There are many methods of teaching Comprehensible Input, or CI, with each one altered to suit the teacher’s needs. Some of those methods include teachers telling stories, students creating stories, teachers using short commercials or movie clips, and students acting things out.
“There are so many ways that people provide Comprehensible Input, so you can be very creative,” Fink shared.
CI may not be the best option for students looking to be an expert of grammar and verbs of a foreign language, but it is more effective for speech and comprehension.
“A student in a Comprehensible Input classroom would not look at a traditional test and be able to conjugate all the words correctly, because that's not the focus,” Fink described. “Actually, errors are expected in the beginning when someone is learning a language. It’s not expected that your language is perfect, but the whole purpose of a language is to communicate. If you can communicate your ideas, even if you have errors, that is okay.”
Fink is not the only educator gravitating toward this teaching method.
“One of the reasons why teachers are teaching this way is because you get very good results,” she expressed. “The students aren’t just learning words in isolation, they’re learning it in a holistic approach. It’s definitely a more enjoyable approach for students and for teachers.”
Fink said many people have noticed that the United States is not very successful at teaching foreign languages to students. CI might be able to help current and future students become more successful in mastering another language.
“I think that language learning is a subconscious process. Often times, there are students who will sit in my class and talk about how easy it is, while not realizing how much language they’re taking in,” she shared.
In the end, goal for students in her class is simple.
“Listen and try to figure it out,” Fink said. “That's the key really, listen with intent to understand.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Sandra Fink’s Spanish class at Valley Forge challenges students to learn the language using the CI method, or Comprehensible Input.