Let’s commit to providing CI from Day One

Some of us local Chattanooga teachers decided to keep the IFLT16 momentum going and met to talk about how to incorporate Comprehensible Input from Day One, while establishing our class culture. We had a very productive share-out and of course these three CI activities kept popping-up in our conversation:

These engaging CI activities have been well documented/blogged about and I hope you will consider using them in your first days/weeks of class!

The next day, my friend Laura Sexton tweeted:  MY_first_day

In 8 years of teaching, I have had 8 different “Day One” and while last school year felt like the best Day One ever, I am sure Day One will keep evolving. But if you think it might be helpful to you, then I am happy to share:


After viewing and quickly debriefing a very short video explaining how students will understand me if I only speak French, I jumped right into my favorite activity of the day, the warm-up we will run every single day even if we only have 15 min of class due to snow delay, the warm-up that earned me the feed-back of “you should be a counselor, you know us so well” by my 7th graders, the warm-up that was one of my biggest aha moments at my first TPRS conference in Agen, 2014: How do you feel?


Subliminal objective: I care about how you feel. 

On Day One, I simply share how I feel and ask my students how they feel, CI style.

  • Rubbing my chest for “je me sens”, I say: “Classe, je me sens heureuse (pause and point), effrayée (pause and point), et (raise my finger) exténuée (pause and point)”).
  • I know my students feel at least one of these emotions today.
  • I restate using: “Do I feel happy?’, “Who feels happy”?, “Who feels scared?”, “Who feels exhausted?”,”Nathalie feels happy, yes or no?” “Yes class, Nathalie feels happy”, etc.
  • I don’t offer a “either or” because come on it is Day One, let’s take things slowly. 
  • Last year, a student blurted out in English that he was mad about the first day of school (this is an emotion I will introduce later on), so I played with him a little and seized the opportunity to teach the first rejoinder of the year “Pauvre Sam!”, which my students loved saying chorally!


Subliminal objectives: I am the teacher, I orchestrate the fun but the magic only happens if we work together.

After checking that my students comprehended the “How do you feel” objective, I move on to show casing a few story characters. This allows me to establish my role as the teacher and start involving students.

  • I write on the board “Je suis – I am “, “Je ne suis pas –  I am not”, and “C’est – it is”. I am aware these are not typical Day One CI structures but again my goal is to establish to 7th graders that I am in charge while introducing some story characters.
  • I open my costume box, put on the fuchsia boa and say “Classe, je suis une diva?” Of course the students answer “oui” and I can say “Non classe, je ne suis pas une diva!”, and so I put on the next costume. All my costumes have been carefully selected to be cognates.
    • pirate
    • cowboy
    • fan des Reds (Cincinnati baseball team)
    • fan des Bengals (Cincinnati Football team)
    • diva
    • sorcière
    • mignon
    • explorateur
    • criminel 
  • After I have gone through all the costumes and got a bunch of repetition of “je suis / je ne suis pas”, I finally break it to them: “Classe, je suis la prof.” This simple statement will come very handy when students try to take control, I can gently remind them in French who the teacher is. 
  • Now it is time for me to call for volunteers (another routine we will use often in class) and put costumes on them.
  • I am now lightly circling “C’est une diva? “, “C’est un cowboy?”, “Qui est un explorateur?” C’est un cowboy ou un mignon?”, etc.
  • Big applause for my volunteers and a quick photo to send to the parents (market your program from Day One!)


Subliminal objective: Getting to know you is incredibly important to me.

After checking that my students comprehended the “Profession” objective, I move on to the last part of class: Ben Slavic’s circling with balls (without the balls). We will do this activity every day until I have hit every student in the class.

  • On the students’ desks, I have a marker, a piece of construction paper, and a hair pin.
  • I give students 4-5 min to write their name and draw their hobby or musical instrument. Then they pin their paper to their shirt.
  • I walk around, looking for students I can do PQA with (Personalized Questions & Answers). I am not at the point in my CI journey where I can spontaneously PQA anything, so on Day One I choose students’ hobbies I know I can lightly circle with in a fun way using gestures and adverbs like quick/slow and well/not well such as “swimming”, “dancing”, or “running”.
  • Using Ben’s approach, I PQA with 2-3 students, teaching others to “oooh” when I make a statement about their classmate.
  • Last year, after lightly circling “nage” (swims) in one of my classes, I asked a student who had put swimming as his hobby “Mason, tu nages vite (quickly)?”. To my surprise, the student answered “non”. I spontaneously broke into a jazzy chant “Mason, tu nages dou-ce-ment?” and the whole class chanted after me. Honestly it was a bit of a risk because I did not know this student, would he like the attention? I was going off on a hunch based on his energy and smile. It was a hit and that chant stayed with us for a long time.

There is no one right way to manage your Day One. I think choosing your subliminal objectives carefully is key and to quote the author of “Teach Like A Pirate”, the amazing Dave Burgess:

“Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.”

I truly believe CI does just that. 


  1. I love this idea. I have been doing similar intro type lessons for a long time, without knowing what I was doing had a name, or a method to the madness. Now that I know it’s a real thing (lol!) I can work at getting even better at it. Thanks!

    • Hello Charlotte! This was a period of 45 min with 7th graders who had never had French before. I hope this help, don’t hesitate if you have more questions!

      • Thanks. I am a high school teacher looking to make the switch to elementary/middle. I have a demo lesson for 50 minutes on Wednesday for 3rd graders. They have never had French before. Any helpful hints? I definitely am going to incorporate this lesson into what I plan. Oh, and I can’t rely on technology. Making my word wall chart papers at the moment .

      • You are going to love Elementary! For third graders, I would keep the prop idea and the PQA with their favorite hobby, but ditch the “How are you feeling” (more of a Middle School thing). Because you have 50 min, I would also do TPR, so that they can to move around.

  2. Bonjour Cécile! I know this is an old post, but I hope you will see my questions. I am doing a demo lesson for a new job next week, and I want to incorporate your daily check-in at the beginning of the lesson. This is kind of a basic question but… I was wondering why you chose heureux / heureuse instead of content(e) which I usually teach first because it’s more of a cognate; same question for exténué instead of fatigué. Since I’m not a native speaker I thought I would check in with you. After the check-in, I plan to do card talk with favorite activities which I’m good at and have confidence in. Thanks for your help!

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