When teachers start on the CI journey, there will be an alphabet soup of acronyms that many people struggle to remember. These acronyms stand for many methods that take place in the classroom, but maybe you don’t want to ask questions or think that you are the only one who doesn’t know. (Hint – You are not the only one.)

Fear not—you are not the only one who doesn’t know or remember what these letters and phrases mean. I can help you with all these letters and phrases. The ones I am covering today are

CI – Comprehensible Input

TPR – Total Physical Response

TPRS – Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling

PQA – Personalized Questions and Answers

SSR – Silent Sustained Reading or FVR – Free and Voluntary Reading.

While these provide you with the meaning of each letter, let’s talk about what each of them is in a classroom environment.

CI – Comprehensible Input

So this is the BIG one. CI stands for Comprehensible Input which is a part of Dr. Stephen Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition. (quoted below) This means TCI (Teaching with Comprehensible Input) is focusing instruction on students listening and reading comprehensible and compelling language. This is called INPUT. Input is the ONLY way students learn new language. And that INPUT is best if it is compelling and a part of context where the MEANING of the message is more important that the WAY the message is put together. Check out this article for more information by Ellevation Education

Classroom Poster mentioned in the video by Grant Boulanger – http://www.grantboulanger.com/products/

“Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.” Stephen Krashen

“The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are ‘ready’, recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.”

Stephen Krashen


TPR – Total Physical Response

Dr. James Asher developed this method so that students can experience the language rather than just hearing or reading about it. This allows the students to experience multiple types of input. The class is usually quiet during the TPR learning process. They listen to the word, you could even project it on the board, and they act it out. Some words or phrases are more difficult to learn in this manner because the physical action is so challenging. Want, love, need, hate, and similar words have no concrete action. However, you can encourage your children to perform other words like run, sit, stand, hop, shake, smile, and hug.

For more information about TPR, check out this article by the Teacher Toolkit.

TPRS – Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling

This acronym has gone through many changes throughout its use. The first definition for this was Total Physical Response through Storytelling. This acronym still holds that meaning in many ways, but it is more than just the physical response. Blaine Ray extended the TPR concept that James Asher developed to tell stories that are created by the class. Essentially, you are “asking a story” As the class increases their proficiency and comprehension, the stories, too, increase in complexity.

There are very specific steps to a TPRS lesson/unit.

Establish Meaning – Translate the target structures (usually 3 structures) into the student’s native language. In a curriculum like SOMOS which is built on this TPRS sequence, you might have students add words to their personal dictionary, translate basic sentences using the new target structures, and answer personalized questions and answers (PQA -see below)

Ask a Story – The teacher leads the class in “creating” a story (the teacher usually has a basic skeleton script) that uses the target structures repetitively. The teacher asks questions to have the student’s input for the story. It really is a process that you have to see to understand. Check out this video by Martina Bex from her Somos Unit 3 script. and this blog post by Martina Bex on how to “ask a story”

Read – Reading is so very important. It is the third and final step of TPRS. You help your class read the story and other materials using the target structures. There are many reading strategies to read with your class. Check some of Tina’s Reading Options from CI Liftoff.

Here is an article about all three steps of TPRS by Martina Bex too.

PQA – Personalized Questions and Answers

Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA) is all about connecting the language to student’s personal opinions and experiences. For instance, if there are pets in the story, you might choose to stop and ask a student, “Suzie, do you have a pet?” Then I would continue the conversation by asking things like, “What kind of pet? How many pets? What color is your dog? What is your dog’s name? How many fish do you have?” and others. However, keep in mind that you are asking these questions in the target language. While I am a Spanish teacher, this will work in any language. Your student may still need English, or the first language prompts to help them remember how to respond. Then, you would continue reading the story or book to the class. Remember, you can stop frequently and engage other readers through the PQA.

Card Talk is an activity where students draw/write about themselves. You may have them draw their pets, where they went on vacation, their favorite hobbies etc. Then the content of class becomes the language needed to express what is on each card. Here is a blog post on Card Talk by Martina Bex from Comprehensible Classroom and the Somos curriculum. And here is a post on La personal personal by Bryce Hedstrom.

 SSR – Silent Sustained Reading/ FVR – Free and Voluntary Reading

These two acronyms are often used simultaneously, though they are slightly different. In Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), students will read in the target language for a sustained time. This could be ten minutes or thirty.

For Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), is very similar but some people make the distinction that FVR has to be the students choice to chose reading over other things. This is the goal of most language teachers, that students chose to read because they have fallen in love with it.

Reading in the second language is so vital to language proficiency, that this has become a vital part of may CI teacher’s curriculum. Novels, like the ones from Fluency Matters, are becoming more readily available. Having content that is comprehensible and compelling for novice, intermediate, and advanced language students has grown exponentially over the years. Websites like Garbanzo that is a part fo the Somos curriculum and the brand new E-Lit app that is a part of the Stepping Stones Curriculum by CI liftoff.

Here is a page from Byrce Hedstrom on the important of reading and how to set it up in your classroom.

Final Thoughts

Make no mistake, you cannot do all of these things all of the time. Some teachers are fantastic with TPRS, and others use it less frequently. However, you may choose to incorporate many of these things into language acquisition and development in your classroom. It is a journey. ¡Adios!

Below you will find the links to the websites mentioned in the video.

CI theory by Dr. Stephen Krashen – http://www.sdkrashen.com/

Grant Boulanger – http://www.grantboulanger.com/products/

TPR created by Dr. James Asher – https://www.tpr-world.com/

TPRS by Blaine Ray – https://www.tprsbooks.com/what-is-tprs/

Somos Spanish TPRS based curriculum (French version available) – https://www.somoscurriculum.com/

PQA “La persona especial” – https://www.brycehedstrom.com/2013/la-persona-especial-process

Bryce Hedstrom – https://www.brycehedstrom.com/free-stuff

Pleasure Reading in the World Language Classroom Book by Mike Peto https://www.teachersdiscovery.com/product/pleasure-reading-in-the-world-language-classroom-book/sp-comprehensible-input

Fluency Matters novels for world language classrooms – https://fluencymatters.com/

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