A key difference between Compelling Comprehensible Input and other similar approaches lies in the use of language and targeting/circling.
Language chunks can be described as WHAT is taught and are defined as “groups of words that can be found together in a language” (SOURCE). Than can take various forms, but the rule of thumb is that they should communicate meaning rather than exist as an isolated word or word segment. Occasionally all you will need to make communication meaningful is a single word, but teachers should make an effort to contextualize the words within a meaningful chunk. Collocations (words that are often found together) expressions, idioms, and phrases that illustrate grammatical patterns are all examples of chunks.
The language chunks introduced in a class usually come from two sources: the curriculum (established chunks) and the students (emergent chunks). Traditionally, the language to be learned has been established by a pre-determined curriculum. While this may allow for comprehensible input, focusing on a particular chunk at the sacrifice of student interests will likely inhibit learning in two ways. First, it focuses student attention on the language to be learned rather than simply comprehending the messages. Second, it focuses teacher attention on using the chunk rather than catering to student interests and ensuring that the input is compelling. While many talented teachers can use established chunks to provide Compelling Comprehensible Input, these chunks are unnecessary and many other teachers are restricted and feel pressure to artificially infuse them into a lesson that would otherwise be focused on using the language that would be naturally compelling for students. Emergent chunks are the slices of language that emerge from a compelling context as necessary to communicate meaning within that context. These are solely focused on student interest and needs and have no hidden agenda behind them, although much, if not all, of the vocabulary and grammar that students will eventually need to acquire is present in them.
Targeting (or a lack thereof) involves HOW the language is used and can be described as using a particular language chunk repeatedly in order for students to acquire that chunk at a certain level. Circling is a specific type of targeting where a teacher asks a series of questions using the language being targeted. There are multiple types of targeting that can be differentiated based on the intent behind repeating the language chunk. Only one type of targeting is fully compatible with Compelling Comprehensible Input.
Targeting for Meaning
This is the only type of targeting that Compelling Comprehensible Input encourages. Essentially, the teacher repeats the language chunk as necessary in order for students to comprehend the message. They might repeat the chunk while pausing and pointing to the board, recycle the chunk as they build context around it, use the chunk in different contexts, do TPR (Total Physical Response) by adding actions and having students do the appropriate actions the words they hear, use gestures or images, ask the students to chorally translate, etc. As soon as the students understand the language chunk, the teacher moves on. This process might have to be repeated each time the chunk comes up, but the sole intent behind targeting the word is simply to ensure that all students understand what is being communicated.
Targeting for Repetitions
Students often need to hear language chunks used numerous times before they can acquire it. Thus, teachers sometimes attempt to maximize the number of repetitions that students hear and read within a given lesson or series of lessons, especially when the chunks are pre-established by a curriculum that teachers feel obligated to address through the language they use. Whether the language chunks are established or emergent, intentionally getting as many repetitions as necessary focuses teacher and student attention on the language being used rather than comprehending meaningful messages. It also inhibits the level to which he messages are compelling. Some chunks are more “sticky” than others and require few if any repetitions for students to understand them. Additionally, students will acquire the chunks at different rates, so intentional repetitions of a particular chunk will likely become boring and students may disengage as a teacher attempts to use the chunk enough times for all of the students to acquire it. Not only is this undesirable, but it is unnecessary. By putting Compelling Comprehensible Input first and focusing on simply communicating compelling and comprehensible messages using the language chunks necessary when they are necessary, the teacher quickly establishes and clarifies meaning where needed. Over time, students will get the input and repetitions necessary to fully acquire the language.
Targeting for Mastering Grammar
Finally, some teachers target with the intention to help students master the grammatical patterns associated with a given chunk, usually associated with verb conjugations. They repeat the chunk in different forms, often various conjugations, in order for students to hear the different grammar patterns. The idea is that by using the different forms, students will acquire the grammatical patterns and be able to apply them when using the particular chunk and eventually to similar or related chunks. Again, this diverts attention away from communicating and understanding compelling and comprehensible messages, can become boring, and focuses students and teachers on conscious learning rather than subconscious acquisition. While teachers should ensure that all of the grammar is contained in the language used, they should do so through using rich language rather than intentional repetitions of specific language chunks various forms.