Friday, September 19, 2014

Action Research - Krashen's Hypotheses and AIM Language Learning

For the first thirteen years of my career, I did not know what the difference between language acquisition and language learning was. In fact, I’d dare say that I didn’t really even know that there was a thing called “language acquisition” and I certainly had never heard of Dr. Stephen Krashen. I taught my students Spanish and French in a way where acquisition was unheard of. I used the textbook and taught long lists of thematic vocabulary. They were successful, yes. However, I’m afraid that most of them are destined to become one of those people who say “I forgot everything I learned in language class.” I have heard this statement from dozens, possibly a hundred or more people who usually say this once they learn I’m a language teacher.
When I started tweeting, I met Sylvia Duckworth on twitter and she told me about AIM Language Learning. I saw her students and how they could speak and I just knew that I had to figure out how to promote acquisition for my students, and not learning.

Sylvia Duckworth and I became fast friends.
Here we are at AIM's Summer Institute East, July 2014.
Picture by Richard Smith
Last year, I discussed how can language educators effectively transition students from language “learning” to language “acquisition” through the use of the research-based methodology called AIM Language Learning. You can review that article in the 2013 Teacher to Teacher Project Share or by viewing this blog post.
This year I will start by sharing more about who is Dr. Stephen Krashen and I will explain what is the Accelerative Integrative Methodology (AIM). Then I will take a closer look at language “acquisition” and how acquisition trumps learning. I will share five of Stephen Krashen’s hypotheses. Then I’ll give personal conjectures from my experience teaching with AIM Language Learning and I will add comments made by my students who studied French I with AIM for the past school year. Additionally, I will explain how AIM has a very special kind of supported and scaffolded output that is often misunderstood by educators who have not witnessed AIM.

When I first learned about AIM, I was so intrigued by the students’ ability to understand and speak with ease. I simply could not wrap my brain around it! Within one month I travelled to Toronto to witness AIM first hand. I have been teaching for fifteen years and I am confident I have chosen a solid methodology that prepares learners for real-world experiences in their second language. In the future, I hope to research AIM in a more formal manner, implementing a study with a control group and data. I look forward to seeing how using AIM can improve students overall abilities, not just in second language, but across the curriculum.
Dr. Stephen Krashen delivered the keynote at AIM's summer 
institute and afterward I had the pleasure of speaking with 
him at length regarding his hypotheses.
Stephen Krashen is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California who moved from the linguistics department to the faculty of the School of Education in 1994. He is a linguist, educational researcher, and activist.


Dr. Krashen has published more than 350 papers and books, contributing to the fields of second-language acquisition, bilingual education, and reading. He is credited with introducing various influential concepts and terms in the study of second-language acquisition, including the acquisition-learning hypothesis, the input hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the affective filter, and the natural order hypothesis.  Most recently, Krashen promotes the use of free voluntary reading during second-language acquisition, which he says "is the most powerful tool we have in language education, first and second." -Wikipedia

AIM is short for the Accelerative Integrative Methodology and is also known as AIM Language Learning. This comprehensive methodology was created by Canadian educator and linguist, Wendy Maxwell. AIM is a literacy and drama-based methodology that has revolutionized the way educators think about language instruction. AIM takes ACTFL’s 90+ percent target language guideline even further. Expert AIM teachers use at between 95 and 100% target language in the classroom! Since AIM uses comprehensible input, students acquire the language as oppose to learn the language. Here is an overview of AIM from
“In just 100 hours of classroom instruction, the Accelerative Integrated Methodology (AIM) will enable your students to develop a working proficiency in the target language.
“AIM brings true transformation to the experience of teaching and learning a second language by using these key strategies:
●   “Gestures are used to introduce and reinforce vocabulary and enable a target-language only environment. These visual and kinesthetic props allow new words and associated grammar to pass directly to meaning, so there is no need to translate back into the first language.
●  “Useful, key words are taught first. The most useful and highest-frequency words have been carefully selected and are introduced within the first few hours of instruction, giving students the tools they need to communicate from the very first class.
●   “Content-based instruction has been carefully designed to create an Immersion-like experience where students focus on task-based activities relating to dramatic arts and literacy. Each kit culminates in activities that synthesize all that has been acquired through the kit.
●  “An inductive, contextualized approach to grammar ensures abstract grammar concepts are taught in a meaningful way. Grammar raps help students understand language patterns. Students are amazed to discover that grammar can be both cool and fun!
●  “Cooperative learning activities get students working with each other, speaking and writing creatively in the target language.
“The highly participatory and active learning environment in an AIM classroom ensures students of all abilities and learning styles are supported.”
Stephen Krashen is the single most important researcher for language acquisition of our time. He has provided language educators with the most important ingredient to language acquisition: The Comprehension Hypothesis. Through extensive research, Krashen has concluded that “comprehensible input is the true cause of language acquisition.” (Source)
Krashen also states that:
“…subconscious acquisition appears to be far more important….” (than learning). (Source
“...language learning... has a limited role in language performance…” (Krashen, 2003). (Source
The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis
According to Krashen, language learning is a conscious process and language acquisition is a subconscious process. When we are learning a language, we are aware that we are learning. We are talking about the language, its rules and its grammar. On the other hand, acquisition occurs without us knowing.
Language acquisition occurs subconsciously. While it is happening, we are not aware that it is happening. We think we are having a conversation, reading a book, watching a movie. Of course, we are, but at the same time, we might be acquiring language. Also, once we have acquired something, we are not usually aware that anything has happened; the knowledge is stored in our brains subconsciously.
“Language learning is a conscious process: When we are learning, we know we are learning and we are trying to learn. Language learning is what we did in school; in everyday language, when we talk about ‘rules’ and ‘grammar,’ we are talking about ‘learning.’”  (Source
Children raised in bilingual environments tend to pick up the language with no effort. This is an example of language acquisition. My own children are picking up French in this fashion. They have been listening to me speak, sing and read to them in French since their birth. They understand basic French and can answer comprehension questions during story time in French. As we will learn later, if we provide comprehensible input to learners, they are forced to acquire the language. I can attest to that as a mother raising bilingual children and as a teacher using AIM Language Learning.
The Natural Order Hypothesis
According to Krashen, when it comes to language acquisition only (not language learning), we can “acquire the parts of a language in a predictable order.” People will vary only slightly in the order of ability to acquire. People do not necessarily learn the simple rules or words first.
“Research has come up with some surprising facts about the natural order. First, it is not true that ‘simple’ rules are acquired early and complicated rules are acquired later. Some rules that look simple… are acquired late. Others that appear to linguists to be complex are acquired early. This presents a problem to curriculum designers, who present rules to language students from ‘simple’ to ‘complex.’ A rule may look very simple to a grammarian, but may actually be late-acquired.
“Second, the natural order cannot be changed. We cannot alter the order in which students acquire language by providing explanations, drills, and exercises…. (A rule) will not be acquired until the acquirer is ready for it. This explains a great deal of the frustration that language teachers and students experience.” (Source
The natural order seems important to remember when using comprehensible input which we will explore soon. I have some questions for Krashen on this matter that I hope to ask him this summer when I meet him at AIM’s Summer Institute, where he will giving the Keynote. I’d like to know how the Natural Order Hypothesis works across languages. For example, are there any studies to indicate that the natural order is the same among different languages? More specifically, I’d like to better understand how this hypothesis applies to French and Spanish. I’d also like to discuss with Krashen how AIM’s system of Pared-Down Language applies to his hypothesis.
When providing learners with comprehensible input, we must understand that the order in which language is acquired does not necessarily start with simple rules first. I feel that AIM’s Pared-Down Language (PDL) approach effectively navigates learners through the natural order of rule acquisition. PDL is an integral part to AIM’s unique methodology that gives teachers carefully selected high-frequency vocabulary to teach first. Through the use of PDL, learners are able to start communicating from day one with the support of gestures. For more on this topic please see AIM and Output. AIM’s use of PDL is key as it helps us teach the words that are “the most essential for communication, which are the most important to keep in mind when designing curriculum.” (Wendy Maxwell) I will speak more about PDL in the section on Comprehension Hypothesis.
The Monitor Hypothesis
The Monitor Hypothesis is how one thinks about the form and grammar of the language they produce to ensure accuracy. It deals only with language we learn, as opposed to language we acquire.
“While the acquisition-learning distinction claims that two separate processes coexist in the adult, it does not state how they are used in second language performance. The Monitor hypothesis posits that acquisition and learning are used in very specific ways. Normally, acquisition ‘initiates’ our utterances in a second language and is responsible for our fluency. Learning has only one function, and that is as a Monitor, or editor. Learning comes into play only to make changes in the form of our utterance, after is [sic] has been ‘produced’ by the acquired system. This can happen before we speak or write, or after (self-correction).” “The Monitor hypothesis implies that formal rules, or conscious learning, play only a limited role in second language performance.” (Source)

Krashen states that “formal rules, or conscious learning, play only a limited role in second language performance.” Therefore, to improve language abilities, we should always favor acquisition methods (like AIM) over the teaching of formal rules or conscious learning. The more traditional approach of teaching formal rules allows for learning, not acquisition, and learning plays only a limited role in performance. I believe that AIM is aligned with this position as it focuses on acquisition and not learning. In fact, as I have been raising my children in a bilingual environment and learning AIM simultaneously, I have noticed many parallels between AIM and my own natural way of raising bilingual children which may some day constitute another action research project!
AIM provides learners with an inductive approach to grammar which mimics the way we come to understand our first language. This is achieved through pleasant repetition in a wide variety of contexts provided in an immersion-like environment. Students in an AIM classroom acquire grammar through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic input and come to internalize language patterns, much like we do in our first language. Students therefore are able to hear what sounds right rather than having to analyze the language and “monitor” their speech. With AIM, grammar is not separated from language acquisition. Instead, it is embedded and highly resembles the way a first language acquirer internalizes language. Just as I correct my children by modelling back for them proper grammar, in both their first and second language, AIM teachers and classmates do the same for students who make errors. It is an on-going process that is done in a caring and non-threatening environment, and therefore does not raise the Affective Filter (see Krashen’s fifth hypothesis for more on the Affective Filter).
AIM does make modifications for older students who have already acquired language. AIM has grammar raps for older students who have acquired the grammar in the rich immersion-like setting of the AIM classroom and who have gained a certain level of proficiency. I’ve noticed this year that my middle school students really appreciate the grammar raps. I introduced the raps to my students once they were ready to refine and correct their output. The grammar raps highlight language patterns and therefore become very useful in day to day speaking and writing. Once the grammar raps are introduced, when a student makes an error, the entire class is trained how to politely correct each other. Usually, one person will say something like: “No, it isn’t ___! It’s ___because…” and then the whole class starts saying the rap that highlights the rule. With AIM, we also use a correction code that includes a unique code for each grammar rap. When AIM teachers correct student writing, they will underline the error and put a code above the error, allowing the student the chance to correct the error using their knowledge of the grammar rap. I personally feel I would have learned language much better given the chance to acquire the rules before talking about the actual formal rules themselves. I know that my students need just be reminded of a grammar rap and they then automatically correct themselves. It truly is amazing. Wendy Maxwell has created something special with AIM, and the way grammar is acquired is very unique.
Related Resource: To view an example of how verbs and grammar are taught inductively with AIM in French, please visit this video of expert AIM teacher, Richard Smith, on the basics of grammar in AIM.
The Comprehension Hypothesis
As I stated before, Krashen’s research has provided language educators with the single most important ingredient to success in language acquisition. The Comprehension Hypothesis states that “we acquire language when we understand messages.” (Source)
“How do we acquire language? The answer is simple: We acquire language when we understand what people tell us or when we understand what we read. And there is no other way it can happen. While people differ in many important ways, they do not differ in the way they acquire language...Here are two amazing facts about language acquisition: First, it is effortless; it involves no energy, no work. All that is necessary is to understand messages. Second, language acquisition is involuntary. Given comprehensible input, you must acquire - you have no choice.” (Source
When Wendy Maxwell created AIM, she incorporated Pared-Down Language (PDL) to promote acquisition. PDL is simplified, high-frequency vocabulary. The use of PDL is the first strategy Maxwell set out to use and in my opinion, it is the most important strategy that AIM offers. In the AIM classroom, we use PDL whenever speaking to our students. This ensures that the vocabulary has been taught previously and allows for pleasant repetition of words to ensure acquisition.
In my opinion, there is no better way to provide comprehensible input than by narrating what is happening at that moment. I often find myself narrating the here and now. For example, whenever there is a routine in my home or classroom, I speak about what is going on. This makes the meaning obvious. In the AIM classroom, I take it a step further. Instead of simply narrating the process of the routine, I gesture for the class to speak for me or with me (depending on their level of ability). This AIM technique is called Teacher-Led Self Expression. If students have acquired enough vocabulary to speak on their own, I will gesture silently, with my mouth closed and the class will speak for me. If they get stuck on one of the gestures, I will either give them the initial sound of the word or mouth the word for them. If they still cannot come up with the word, I’ll say it with them. The students are not required to gesture, only the teacher.
The gestural approach to language acquisition that AIM offers is yet another very unique way that AIM provides comprehensible input. Each and every word in the list of PDL is associated with a gesture. The beauty of it is that the gestures are very intuitive, they look like the word they represent and they also incorporate grammar. For instance, the gesture for feminine adjectives looks different than the same word in the masculine form. The same happens for singular and plural. Even some verb conjugations change when gestured. When asked about the gestures, here’s what my students said:
“Most of the action words look like the action itself, so that made it really easy to learn those words.”
“The gestures really helped with the singular/plural and masculine/feminine forms.”
“The gestures helped because when I’m studying for a test, I imagine the hand signs in my mind and it helps me recall the meaning of the word or phrase.”
“I’m a visual learner and the gestures really helped me learn the words.”
What really helps AIM provide comprehensible input is the AIM play around which each AIM kit is centered. An AIM kit is a 50 hour unit of instruction that revolves around one main story which is eventually presented in theatrical form for other students or parents and family members during the “café-thèâtre” event at the end of each kit. This story gives a starting block for a multitude of spontaneous interactions, discussions, and dramatic play in the target language. Given that the play is a comprehensible topic, interactions that stem from the play naturally tend to be comprehensible. The use of the PDL in conjunction with spontaneous discussions based around the comprehensible play is a powerful combination for acquisition.

A fun AIM play that my advanced French I students
really enjoyed. Find it at
The Affective Filter Hypothesis
I first learned about the Affective Filter three years ago when studying acquisition under the direction of LeMoyne’s Dr. Singh. She explained to me that when a child is apprehensive about what is happening in the language learning classroom, they will shut down and will not be able to learn. She called this the affective filter. Krashen states:
“The Affective Filter Hypothesis claims that affective variables do not impact language acquisition directly but prevent input from reaching what Chomsky has called the ‘language acquisition device,’ the part of the brain responsible for language acquisition. If the acquirer is anxious, has low self-esteem, does not consider himself or herself to be a potential member of the group that speaks the language, he or she may understand the input, but it will not reach the language acquisition device. A block - the affective filter - will keep it out.”  (Source
For more on how AIM works carefully to keep the affective filter low, please continue reading about AIM and output below.
AIM and Output
Output usually takes the form of speech. Krashen states that output is a result of input and acquisition. His research (and that of Lenneberg, 1962) show that acquisition can occur without output taking place. For example, a child with disabilities can acquire language without ever speaking it. Krashen goes on to state that output does have an indirect effect on learning. Basically, the more you speak, the more chances you have to be spoken to by others. Through conversation with others, we are provided with more opportunities for error correction which can aid us in acquiring new language rules.(Source
One of the things that AIM offers that cannot truly be understood without experiencing it first hand, is the way AIM learners produce output that does not raise the affective filter. People who do not understand AIM may mistake this as being “forced output.” Forced output would indeed raise the affective filter, which would not be beneficial to acquisition as it would, in fact, halt acquisition. AIM does not force output. In fact, I am wondering if AIM’s very unique speech production can even be considered output. Here is more on AIM’s special type of language production written by the creator of AIM, Wendy Maxwell:
AIM allows for a very unique style of output that is unlike any seen previously. In whole-class activities, from the very first day, spontaneous output is elicited by the teacher (by gesturing), rather than produced by the student. This is a very important distinction, because the output that current researchers describe also requires students’ independent thinking processes, which is not the case here.
Oral output is indeed the result of acquisition, and AIM provides students with hours of guided practice through oral output. In an AIM classroom, students are supported by teacher and peers until they are comfortable speaking in the target language. By this time, students have been active participants in the creation of language, and through this extensive practice, gain a great deal of confidence and investment in the language, as well as a good accent—all key factors that lead to eventual success.
Unlike other methodologies, AIM has no limitations on the acquisition of grammar. The Gesture Approach allows teachers to naturally embed grammar concepts into the gestures themselves, thus ensuring a multi-modal acquisition of grammar concepts that resembles first language acquisition. Students see, hear, and kinesthetically embed aspects of grammar.
Due to the extensive oral/visual/kinesthetic practice with the language, AIM students naturally gain a feeling for “what sounds right” and when they are ready, AIM introduces the second phase, where we extract and highlight language patterns. First language learners naturally extract patterns, which is evident when we see a young child make an error such as “I runned.” Since AIM follows a very natural approach to language acquisition, it can work highly effectively with students as young as five or six years of age! We do not analyze the language until students have a cognitive ability and proficiency, which is developed to the point that language analysis is absolutely meaningful and desired on the part of the student!
From John Hattie’s impressive work of study, “Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement,” we can find some interesting information that I feel applies to AIM’s unique form of output practice. Basically, students are interacting in the target language through speaking, listening, reading or writing for virtually the entire duration of the class. That gives students 40 minutes of meaningful practice every day of the week. What Hattie states in his book is that practice must take on certain qualities in order to have a positive effect on learning and that learners need multiple exposures in order to retain new content.
“More important is that practice needs to be deliberate; particularly when first learning new material. Van Gog, Ericsson, Rikers, and Paas (2005) argued that it was not the amount of experience or practice in a domain that is relevant, but rather the amount of deliberate effort to improve performance. Deliberate practice refers to the relevant practice activities aimed to improve performance; it needs to be at ‘an appropriate, challenging level of difficulty, and enable successive refinement by allowing for repetition, giving room to make and correct errors, and providing informative feedback to the learner.’” (p.75)
“Deliberative practice increases opportunities to not only enhance mastery but also fluency (the core of precision teaching). This is not ‘drill and practice’, which so often can be: dull and repetitive; involve minimal feedback; not extend or provide multiple different experiences; not provide sufficient contextual variability to facilitate transfer of learning; and not be embedded in the context of the deeper and conceptual understandings that are part of the more total learning experience, and which so often aims at the surface knowledge. Deliberative practice can involve specific skills and complex performances, and the attainment of success criteria can be motivating and certainly lead to longer retention of sometimes over-learned surface and deep knowing (Péladeau, Forget, & Gagné, 2003).”
“Nuthall (2005) claimed that students often needed three to four exposures to the learning-usually over several days-before there was a reasonable probability they would learn.” Hattie, 185.
Wendy Maxwell has successfully created a methodology where all these aspects are present. AIM learners are continually putting forth effort to improve upon what they have already learned. Each day, AIM takes what was learned before and builds upon it. This way, learners are always being exposed to previous learning in a way that promotes retention. Old words are repeated and new words are always added into every sequenced activity so that each lesson is at the “appropriate, challenging level of difficulty.” Additionally, this allows for a good amount of pleasant repetition that can be tailored to student interests. Experienced AIM teachers are encouraged to use at least 50% spontaneous interactions to ensure and promote student engagement. Moreover, the unique gestures that AIM incorporates allows for continual, non-threatening error correction. For example, when the class makes an error, AIM provides the teacher with several non-threatening ways to help student correct themselves. The teacher can do this through the use of the grammar raps, by gesturing, and by providing options or simply by asking if the phrase is correct and waiting to see if anyone can find and fix the error themselves. AIM learners are continually receiving informative feedback with this gestured approach to language acquisition. There is a constant feedback loop providing “assessment for learning.” The teacher gestures, the students respond and the teacher assesses where they are currently. Then the teacher gestures either to extend student sentences or to probe for further understanding. The assessment for learning is a continued practice by AIM teachers that meets students where they are and brings them further in their acquisition by pushing them past their current level of knowledge.

An entry level play that my 8th graders adored!
Find it on

In addition to this constant feedback, students are also always working towards their play performance, which gives them a reason for deliberate practice of specific skills. The performance of the play, in my opinion, has been a highly motivational factor for student learning and retention. The methodology in and of itself, promotes retention of the content in ways I have never seen before in all my years teaching.
From my own experience in the classroom, I can attest that AIM’s unique methodology works with older students. I currently teach 7th and 8th grade, and they have flourished with AIM. I have taught with traditional methods for about 13 years, partially with AIM last year and almost completely with AIM this year. What I noticed most this year with AIM was the eventual willingness and ability of my students to write and speak in the target language independently. Their reading and listening skills are also very good and much better than I have ever seen in my previous years. In my personal experience with traditional methods, writing and speaking have always been the most daunting for beginners, whereas this year, students were producing with ease.
This year was the first year where my students were excited about writing and speaking. When students were asked to rewrite the AIM play in their own words, they easily produced pages and pages of writing. (See appendix for sample.) My students were in their first semester of French, and of course there were errors, but I was easily able to understand the writing and I was thoroughly impressed with their ability to rewrite the play in their own words. For the first time in my career, my students were very enthusiastic about the speaking interviews on their exam. After our first day doing sample speaking tasks in an inside-outside circle activity, a student exclaimed: “This was the best day ever!” The other students concurred that they really enjoyed the task of meeting up with several classmates to speak about random speaking tasks entirely in French. Never before have my students approached their final exam interviews with this level of confidence!
Here’s a little more information on output, the affective filter and grammar instruction from Wendy Maxwell:
The output requested with AIM is done so is a very unique way. We avoid what others consider as detrimental to language acquisition, that is, the monitoring and cognitive load that comes along with what normally must occur when students produce output independently. The beauty of AIM is that, from the first day, students receive constant visual, auditory (and sometimes kinesthetic) input as support for their output. Output is scaffolded, with a high level of support for production (TLSE and guided output on the part of the students) and gradually, as students become ready, they are provided with opportunities to produce independent output.

The monitor hypothesis is one of Krashen's five hypotheses with respect to language acquisition. When we speak, we monitor our output to ensure accuracy. This takes extra thinking power (increasing cognitive load). Beginning learners may focus too much on trying to be perfect - especially adults or those who are taught to be perfect – as in grammar based approaches where the focus is on accuracy.

In AIM we help reduce this by assisting and supporting through gestures – thus allowing acquisition to be possible without the high focus on grammar and accuracy – but still allowing at the same time a high level of output – it's very unique! (Maxwell, 2013)

I asked Wendy Maxwell just one last question on this matter, as it is largely misunderstood by people who have not experienced AIM first hand:
Is it really output if it’s supported with gestures and the whole class is speaking?
It depends on the definition of output. This is output that is entirely unique and most likely never seen before AIM, I believe. Typically, output would be described as student’s independent formation of meaningful utterances. In AIM’s case it is supported/guided output. Students most likely understand most/all of this output, due to the AIM’s careful scaffolding, however, the students are not doing the thinking and formulation of the output as one does when speaking independently. It is the teacher who is doing that work. Therefore, we are providing a highly secure environment for practice of output long before students are actually verbal. Pre-verbal students are practicing spontaneous speech with the support of the teacher. With this practice, they develop confidence, sense of success, security, and their accent develops well. The transition to their own spontaneous, independent production comes faster and with great ease and comfort as it is natural for them! It is almost as if we are proving the training wheels for students during TLSE (Teacher-led self-expression) and when students speak independently spontaneously, the training wheels are off and they are riding on their own! During the training wheel TLSE phases (and this happens throughout the kits as we keep pushing students further in each kit), they are experiencing higher levels of output than they can actually produce on their own (Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development – Krashen’s i plus 1). (Maxwell, June 2014)
AIM simply is unique and incorporates a system that provides learners with very carefully scaffolded activities that promote acquisition. The output is supported through gestures and is not independently produced until the acquirer is ready. But why not ask the students themselves about their first experience with French and AIM? I asked my eighth grade French I class how it felt in the beginning of the year speaking together as a group (speech elicited by the teacher through gestures) and this is what they said:
“If you didn’t know how to say something, you could be silent and listen to the rest of the group to hear what they said without anyone really knowing”
“In the beginning it was a little difficult because we were so new to it, but now I understand everything and I’m so happy that we had all that speaking practice. It has all paid off.”
“I feel so good now that we are speaking in helps so much that we aren’t taking breaks to speak in English”
“Hearing and speaking the words so many times really helped make reading easy.”
“All our speaking practice helps us learn more so now we have better responses to questions and easier conversations.”
“It helped me with pronunciation and word order and with which words to use in the sentence.”
“Speaking French made the language stick in my head. It also helped me read easier.”
“Reading came so easy! It reminded me of how we learned to read English. We had heard the words over and over again, so when it was time to read them, it was easy!”
“In the beginning, speaking together was good because we were able to learn from each other’s mistakes”
To comment on this last remark, when an AIM teacher hears an error, they will go back and elicit a correction to the error from the entire group. If the group cannot come up with the proper word/phrase, the teacher will gesture for the class or provide questions that guide the students to the answer. So whenever an error is made, all students learn from that error without anyone really knowing who specifically made the error as the class is speaking together as a whole group.

AIM Summer Institute East with Sarah Woodward-Jones, Wendy Maxwell, and Richard Ernst

When asked in general terms what worked best for them this year, the students replied anonymously:
“What helped me learn better this year was constantly speaking. Speaking a lot in French not only helped my pronunciation, but it also helped me memorize words. If we weren’t speaking all the time, I think my vocabulary would be very limited.”
“The plays I think really improved my speaking skills in French and the songs and raps helped me remember important phrases and conjugations. One thing that was hard for me was not getting many breaks from speaking but overall I think this improved my speaking.”
“The songs were very helpful and the point system was fun.”
“The points system helped encourage us.”
“The hand signs helped me a lot.”
“The raps and songs helped a lot with learning and remembering. I also liked doing the plays especially “Le garçon qui joue des tours” because they were a lot of fun and helped me learn.”
“Speaking only in French really worked for me. The hand signs (gestures) helped us remember the words. The plays and the vocabulary videos really helped, too.”
“The songs helped a lot!”
“This year the plays we learned really helped me and the vocabulary videos from Wendy Maxwell helped me also.”
“All of the songs helped me a lot with the final exam.”
“I think that learning rhymes, songs, and playing games really helped because I have a horrible memory, but if I can recall a melody, I can recall the words that go with that melody.”
“This year I loved the games we did and the acting out the plays. It was a good learning tool and I learned a lot of my first French words and phrases from the plays.”
From the replies of my students, I can tell that AIM has kept the affective filter low. From the scores my students received on the National French Exam (Le Grand Concours) this March, I’d also have to say that their acquisition has been high. Out of 12 students who participated, 9 of them scored in the top 20 regionally and 4 of them scored in the top 20 nationally. Therefore, AIM has given me the tools to provide comprehensible input for my students. What’s more, is that the input is compelling. The stories are fun and funny and the students really enjoy reading, writing, listening and speaking about them! Finally, as mentioned previously, the amount of spontaneous interaction that occurs in an AIM classroom is supposed to be 50% of the time. What this means is that an AIM teacher is able to maintain high levels of student interest by allowing and guiding spontaneous discussions about topics that interest the students most. This could look and sound different in every class! This is key for keeping acquisition high as Krashen states: “It may be the case that input needs to be not just interesting but compelling.” (SourceWendy Maxwell has literally thought of everything to ensure acquisition and to make it fun!
Appendix I:
Here is a writing sample from a student who had been studying French with AIM for four months.

Here is my AIM google document with various classroom videos, blog posts, and  more information.
Hattie, John. 2009. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. 185-186.
Krashen, Stephen. (June 2014). Case Histories and the Comprehension Hypothesis. Available at: 15.
Krashen, Stephen. The Compelling Input Hypothesis. (2011). Available at:
Krashen, Stephen. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Available at: 15-16, 60.
Krashen, Stephen. (1981). Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Available at: 1.
Krashen, Stephen. (2013) Second Language Acquisition: Theory, Applications and Some Conjectures. Available at: 2-3.
Maxwell, Wendy. Email. August 9, 2013.
Maxwell, Wendy. Email. June 5, 2014.
Maxwell, Wendy. Language Magazine: Reply on blog comments. Available at
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