Ah, the wonderful first days of schools when setting class rules and expectations, routines and even rituals while at the same time getting to know all your students, and taking care of administrative paperwork are a necessity but often times feel chaotic!


During the first couple of weeks (even months and still throughout the year right before any input) I do the best I can to emphasize the importance on rule number 1: which is LISTENING – not just listening but listening with the intent to understand. Genius! I think I first heard that expression in Stephen Covey’s book: 7 habits of highly effective people and then later on in the CI world; I believe I read it somewhere in Grant Boulanger’s website and blog.

Here is my little secret: I lead my students to create this rule 1 (listen with the intent to understand) through discussions and examples.  The best part of this is students own it; they “come up” with that rule all by themselves, class after class, and year after year 😉! Sure, I could just tell them here is rule 1 and that’s that. But the tone of our class would be much different, when I imagine myself just telling my kids this is rule 1 and they just need to follow it, I can already see them rebelling and breaking that rule on a daily basis; their behavior towards me would also be much different as they would see me as the “rule setter” and “them” the students whom don’t have a say about their own education.

During those first couple of weeks, months, and even throughout the year 🙂 I also do the best I can to create a positive environment where trust and respect of self and others are emphasized daily; in such environment students feel valued; the affective filters (Dr. Krasen’s hypothesis)  are lowered – which is crucial in order to “listen with the intent to understand”.  Students also feel important in class because they have essential classroom jobs for example 🙂 (seriously I can’t live without those jobs), because their feedback and ideas and themselves as individuals are greatly valued as well and connections are created between the teacher and the students; also because clear routines and expectations have been or are in the process of being set. So when they “create” rule 1, I make a really BIG deal about it – because, truly, it IS a big deal. My goal then, is to be consistent with the rule for the rest of the school year!

As soon as my students “create” rule number 1: LISTENING – we then conclude as a class that it is the MOST important rule in a Comprehensible Input class; not just listening but rather listening with the intent to understand. I teach high school levels, even with them I still feel that it is important to model as a class through examples, non-examples, acting, reflections, and discussions such as:

  • What does it MEAN when we say listen with the intent to understand? How can we define this for our class? The definition and drawings are also posted on the wall.
  • What does it LOOK like? (we practice posture, leaning in to the conversation, hands cleared on desk, and following – looking where the action is => I’m pointing at the board, showing text in L1 but speaking in L2, pointing at pictures, gesturing, listeners are nodding when agreeing or understanding, shaking head or frowning when it is not understood – or any other action you’d like to teach students this would be a great start to come up with gestures such as what to do when they need to show you when  to stop, slow down, repeat, move on, got it, write on board, totally lost, etc.).
  • What does it SOUND like? (student are getting lots of input but it is OK for my students to react – in fact I want them to react (they are not robots after all); I expect them to blurt out to show some understanding – but I make it clear that I want them to react in French they could use our French rejoinders and not in English unless I specifically ask them to translate what I just said to check for comprehension.
  • What does it FEEL like? what does it feel like when you are trying to figure things out for yourself first? Can you summarize what was just said? It certainly isn’t a simple task; it takes a lot of practice and brain effort!
  • What would happen if the rule is broken? What logical  consequences can be set in place if one or two students break the rule?  What if it becomes a habit of breaking the rule for those same students? Now what consequences should be put in place if it is more than half of the class that breaks the rule? etc.

I go over those discussions in L1 and not in L2 because I want everything about rule 1 to be 100% clear and understood in class. We find time to practice what it means, looks like, sounds like, feels like daily for a week or two – with variations.  After those first couple of weeks, I make it my goal to mention the rule prior to giving input to students; trust me, I mention it every single time prior to giving input – I’ve learned my lesson!!! When in the past I forgot that step or simply skipped it because kids were being good – it  became chaotic (maybe not that very first time but the few next times I tried to give input) because I had failed in giving them clear expectations of what is acceptable and not; that’s when the chatting, side conversations, texting, etc. begins. The longer I waited because “they were good kids after all” the more difficult it got to get back on track, and the more painful those input activities were getting and a clear class re-set had to be put in place – which as far as I remember was no easy task: there were lots of whining from students ending with me losing my cool 😦

It is easier for me (for my own sanity) to be proactive by giving clear expectations prior to starting an activity rather than reactive when it might be too late just because there is this grey area,  a fine line being crossed where kids weren’t so sure of.  So for example, right when I get ready to give some input through Story Listening, Picture Talk, Movie Talk, etc. I will clearly state what the expectations are and are not, what they look like and don’t look like, by stating what is okay and what isn’t – and again being consistent.

At the beginning of my teaching career, I’ve changed my rule number 1 many times but one thing I quickly realized when giving any form of direction and especially when doing comprehensible input in class is that it is impossible – IMPOSSIBLE – to give input whatsoever if students aren’t listening – students must learn or re-learn to listen in order for the language to stick. I’ve learned that they need:   (1) to truly listen: not just pretend to listen, not the stare at the speaker while totally zoning out kind of listening. *Ben Slavic*      (2) to listen actively: to be engaged and deeply listen not to respond but rather to meaningfully understand what the speaker is sharing, by restating and paraphrasing what was shared (in L1), hopefully by empathizing as well. *Stephen Covey* (3) to listen effectively: this requires a lot of attention to the speaker and meaningful interpretation of what is shared with a clear visual in the mind. *John Kline* *Listening Effectively* Listening in a CI class is not a passive activity; on the contrary, it requires full engagement from the listeners and teaching that to students through those important discussions and reflections; through teaching them what listening sounds like, looks like, feels like are equally important. What a great service to our students to teach them to listen, what a great skill to (re-) learn in life – listening this way is also sometimes difficult for us as adults 😉  … thanks for listening ! (added on 7/2/18 and 7/5/18)

Throughout the years I have been inspired by some great teachers and have read many books on classroom management.  I don’t follow one book per se but I use different ideas from many different sources. One important factor is that those rules and consequences must make sense to me and my students and feel natural.  Here are a few of my favorite resources:

From the CI gurus:

(1) Bryce Hedstrom – website:

(2) Tina Hargaden – Tina has lots of videos on the CI liftoff channel on YouTube about classroom management! Tina has also developed an interpersonal communication rubric discussed in her book: a natural approach to stories

(3) Scott Benedict – Scott’s participation rewards in his website:

(4) Ben Slavic – offers great ideas on classroom jobs:

(5) Grant Boulanger – shares his classroom rules ideas and interpersonal communication rubric:

(6) Susan Gross – love the 3 R’s (which reminded me of my own 3 R’s rules) and resources on classroom management:

(7) Jon Cowart – shared a series of videos on classroom management and the importance of being consistent on the iFLT/ NTPRS/ CI Teaching Facebook Page.  He also wrote as a guest post on Martina Bex’s blog: the comprehensible classroom – about his experience on teaching with CI in the urban schools.

(8) Cecile Laine – in her blog post: Hard-learned lessons in classroom management – shares her experience with her 5th grade class on classroom management and having to do a “hard reset” that we can all relate to.


Here are some other sources:

(1) Michael Linsin – blog: and books: I have read 3 of them and love them equally! The happy teacher habits, the classroom management secret, and the dream class.

(2) Fred Jones – book: tools for teaching, here is the official website:

(3) Dave Burgess – book: teach like a Pirate, here is the official website:

(4) Chris Biffle – book: whole brain teaching, here is the official website:

(5) Marvin Marshall – book: discipline without stress, rewards, and tears, here is the official website:

(6) Harry Wong – book: first days of school, here is the official web course:

(7) Doug Lemov –  book: teach like a champion, here is the official website:

(8) Jim Fay & David Funkteaching with love and logic, here is the website:

What are some of your favorite sources for classroom management?




    1. Thanks Cecile! On the first day of school there is already so much going on but over the last few years I have ‘reserved’ the last few minutes of class for a small class meeting; where I tell (and truly believe it) my students the following: “how thrilled I am to have them in my class, how much fun we will have while acquiring the language (here I will not yet explain the difference between acquiring vs learning a language because I prefer them to experience the difference first hand and then discuss it in more details on day 5),how quickly they will notice that this class is different from their other classes – after all it is a world language class – it is a communicative based language class”. Followed by the questions and discussions on (high school students also share the academic text in L1 and then have discussions about the text in L1): what does the word communication mean? What does that imply? Some kids will say that it is an exchange between 2 or more people, some other will say: to speak (output), but there is always students who will say that it also involves listening (if no-one gives that answer, they can also be cued: ok so one person speaks what does the other person do?). I do make a big deal and I write LISTENING (input) on the board in big with stars around it 😉 As a ticket out the door students explain why listening is so important among other questions. The next day (day 2) I will share a few quotes from students (I love doing this) without mentioning any names. We continue our conversation about listening and collaborate with partners and small groups on creating a strong definition of the word listening, what it sounds/looks/feels like; after exploring various quotes (from Bill Van Patten – communication, Covey – active listening, Krashen- natural communicative input , Mason – , Boulanger’s poster on first we listen etc.) practicing (acting), and going over my students’ definitions on listening throughout the week I let my students know that listening by itself is not enough, what is our purpose in a WL class to listen? Some classes might need more help, but often by day 2 or 3 students should come up with the answer (not exactly as it is but with the same meaning). At that point we make “listening with the intent to understand” our FIRST weekly goal (even if we are already on day three, it’s ok), and discuss steps on how to reach our goal – this is where I also share an interpersonal communication rubric (but no grades are assigned on this – we use it to set our weekly goals). By Friday students reflect on their goals of the week by writing what they are proud of, what they did well and what they could improve on. I don’t want students to feel that I didn’t have any rules set in place and that kids came up entirely with the rules – I avoid saying: let’s make/create class rules to them. I do want them to feel that yes, this is part of the lesson plan and we are on the right track, the teacher is in full control. We will hold those discussions on communication and everything it involves that takes about 5 minutes – sometimes up to 20 😉 – each day. I hope this makes sense and answers your question.


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