Adventures in Comprehension

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 April 2021, 

I was able to convince my school to sign me up for a 1- relevant and 2 – interesting professional development through the Comprehensible Classroom this month. If you aren’t familiar with the Comprehensible Classroom by name, you might be familiar with its work: The SOMOS and Nous Sommes and Sumus curriculums on TeachersPayTeachers. These curriculums and the rest of Martina Bex’s materials are designed to be comprehensible. But what does comprehensible mean? 

“What is comprehension?” was one of the first big questions in this PD (Acquisition Boot Camp) from The Comprehensible Classroom. If we start simply, we might ask, what does the word comprehension mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines “comprehension” like this:the action or capability of understanding something” And I love this definition. Not just the ability, but the capability. Capability requires the necessary elements to be present for a task to be accomplished. In other words, the action can’t take place without the proper elements in place FOR the action to be able to take place. Phew. 

What does all of this mean? Well, I’m not a CI scholar by any means, but I like to think I’ve learned a few things along my journey. For me this means that as a teacher I have a responsibility to ensure that my students have access to the materials and supporting materials necessary for comprehension to have the ability to take place. I need to ensure that my students have access to things like: readings that are scaffolded and on level, targeting specific structures repetitively. I need to make sure that my students have access to “fill in the gaps” with things like a glossary or Spanish/English signs for reference. I need to make sure that my students have the access to repetition and reflection as they process and ultimately comprehend material. That’s quite a list! 

The amazing thing is that these things are not THAT hard to provide to my students. Here are some ways that I have been, and plan to continue to, implementing these things for my students:

1- Curriculum. I primarily use the SOMOS curriculum and Garbanzo for my classes. I supplement with stories that I write and create as well. These both provide leveled, structured stories that are glossed for my students. These are stories that are designed to be repetitive in nature and focus on specific verbs with minimal extra vocab. The extra vocab is supported by pictures and a glossary (typically)

2- Signs. I have an extensive word wall in my room (Read more here). These posters provide access to many common words for my students at all times. 

3- Glossing high frequency vocab. I keep signs at the front of my room with our current unit’s structures on them in both Spanish and English. This is so I can reference them and so students have access to them. Language shouldn’t be a secret. 

Resources that I have found helpful: 

1- Lots and lots and lots of stories (and follow up activities)

2- Sweet 16 / Super 7 Word Wall

3- Glossed target structures (I make these as I teach a unit and keep them, super quick and easy!)

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