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Stephen Krashen and comprehensible input

Claire introduces Week 2

Watch Claire introducing this week.

In a recent webinar (see Find out more, below), linguist and researcher Stephen Krashen talked about language acquisition, language learning and the importance of stories and reading.

Comprehensible input

We acquire language when we understand it. It happens subconsciously. Acquisition of language through comprehension is effortless.
If we make reading possible, our job of education is so much easier.
Krashen says that people acquire language through comprehensible input in a low anxiety environment. Comprehensible input means exposure to compelling reading and listening texts that are above a learner’s current language ability.

What do parents and teachers say?

As you read, think about how this relates to Krashen’s idea of comprehensible input.
He reads a great deal in English for pleasure. He enjoys story books and the Lego magazine. He also listens to books on Audible. For repetition of the times tables YouTube is often used to find a light-hearted song in English, to break things up a little!
Jane, whose son is 7
I find some podcasts in English on YouTube suitable for the level of my children.
Yuliya, mother of an 11 year old and a 12 year old
She is starting to read longer books (children’s literature). I let her choose her own books and she is motivated to read the books because she has chosen them.
Tracey, child’s age: 9
Creating interest is the first step to encouraging learners read and listen in English. So exposing them to texts that interest them, that are graded (for lower levels) and which give them pleasure to engage with are essential to making this a regular habit i.e. Using picture books with primary learners is an excellent way to build interest which can then develop into a habit. Taking steps to make reading/listening a habit is crucial in the long run, so if it means beginning with very little language it’s still a good first step.
Primary teacher
Project-based learning is also useful. If they are working towards a final outcome there may be the need to carry out research so they are motivated to read or listen to something which will help them complete the task better.
Secondary teacher
Encouraging learners to read and listen for enjoyment rather than just for study is key. I always try to link my recommended reading and audio lists to topics and themes that will appear throughout the course….I find that selecting a variety of modern, age-relatable texts that are currently trending, helps hook the student into making a real-world connection to the language, theme, and context giving them a purpose to study and apply it.
Billy, Singapore, primary and secondary teacher

Over to you

  • What’s your view on Krashen’s theories?
  • How do you encourage your learners to read and listen in English?

Find out more

Click on ‘More ideas from teachers’ below to download further suggestions for reading and listening.

Watch Krashen’s May 2020 webinar where he discusses comprehensible input and exposure in detail (1 hour 10 minutes).

Watch a 15 minute video of Krashen explaining comprehensible input

Read a short article discussing how Krashen’s theories relate to second language teaching and learning

Read more of Krashen’s work, articles and downloadable books on his official website

This article is from the free online

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