(Previous post in this series: The Affective Filter Hypothesis)

The next post in this series (#8/9), Other Krashen Hypotheses, is found here.

Focus on the Students like a MANIAC

C: The Compelling Input Hypothesis (2011)

“When the input is compelling you acquire whether you are interested in improving or not.”



This hypothesis asserts that compelling input trumps everything else in language acquisition. It emphasizes the role of subconscious acquisition while attention is focused elsewhere. Language comes along for the ride when students are engrossed in a topic. The goal is to find material and topics that captivate students. These are things that not just merely amuse them or that they find mildly interesting. This hypothesis is sometimes titled by Krashen as “The Compelling (Not Just Interesting) Input Hypothesis.”



• Make the input so interesting they cannot help but get involved. Search for ways to make the input so enchanting that students cannot look away. Keep in mind that low level language does not always require low level thinking. Memorization and drill get old, but those are not necessary, even in lower level classes. Even beginning students can engage in activities that require higher level thinking. The New Bloom’s Taxonomy (see it here) can be adapted to create high level, engaging lessons that all levels of language learners can do.

• Let them choose. Provide students with plenty of materials that are likely to be compelling to them and allow them to chose what is interesting and challenging to them.

• Allow self-selected reading. When possible, allow students to choose their own topics and materials. Self-Selected Reading and Free Voluntary Reading, where students choose what they want to read and how long they want to read it, is a more effective practice for acquisition than expecting all students to read the same material at the same time (although there can be valid reasons for the whole class to read together at times, such as establishing class control, forging class unity, and for curricular requirements).

• Engage the social life of students. Talk about students and allow them to talk to one another—just do it in an organized way and in the target language. An organized way to do this is with regular “Special Person” student interviews. Much recent brain research corroborates the importance of engaging the social life of students in our instruction. See the last chapter of the book Social, by Matthew Lieberman for brain-based justification of this practice.

• Adjust your curriculum. Choose topics that fit with your curriculum and are likely to be compelling to your students. Present them in varied ways to keep student interest. Figure out ways to use humor and music, even at beginning levels, to make the input compelling.

The next post in this series (#8/9), Other Krashen Hypotheses, is found here.


NOTE: This is a series on Stephen Krashen’s main hypotheses of language acquisition presented in a simple form. I teach these ideas in this same way to my high school students. We even have quizzes on each of the hypotheses. It helps students to know something about linguistics so that they understand WHY certain methods are being used in class—that the teacher is not just making up activities, that what is being done in the classroom has a basis in theory, research, and successful practice. I also want to prepare them to be able to identify best practices in language courses they may take later.
We use the acronym MANIAC to remember the hypotheses and because a teacher needs to focus like a maniac in order not to be swayed by inertia in education and tradition in schools. Don’t worry about the “maniac” moniker, you’ll get maniacal energy from your engaged and acquiring students once you learn how to put these hypotheses into action.