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ginlindzey

August 2017

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OK so I have a confession to make. I have been stuck in a rut all summer. I've been unable to move my "great ideas" forward, to finish fleshing them out. Admittedly I have been depressed and whether it was caused from my inability to move forward or that inability caused it, I'm not sure. But there's only a week or two left of summer and I've had to kick myself to get moving.

Last year upon reflection it seemed as if I had been playing with Comprehensible Input. Well, that's not really a fair assessment. I was really trying and way out of my comfort zone, at least the first semester and even the beginning of the second, prepping madly, making Google Slides for every talking point, scripting things to say and do, etc. But then as I saw holes in student progress (as in, some students were falling through the holes, not things missing in their learning--but a bit of that too), I pulled back. I take the blame; in great measure it was me. Try as I might, I could not converse well for long lengths of time AND maintain good student interaction and control. Too many would tune out, even if I were doing everything in my power to make what I was doing interesting and comprehensible and even compelling (although sometimes things would end up less compelling than I had planned). And as much as is said about the importance of being compelling, it has to be addressed that it is difficult to be compelling if your own conversational ability is stilted. I don't do small talk well. I can't just wing-it on students likes and dislikes, on their hobbies and interests. I can't take the time to look everything up because in that 30 seconds I've lost someone's attention. (In fairness to myself, the A/B students were engaged, did seem to be enjoying it, did seem to be benefiting from what I was doing.)

I've always had really high engagement levels with my students--even students with learning disabilities. I must be the only teacher who used CI who had student engagement drop... drop noticeably.  (At least to me--I'm used to 95-100% engaged.)  

I really didn't like the assessments. I didn't like the structure or lack of structure. I didn't like the mixed messages from experts in the field in certain areas. And I absolutely HATED the feeling of not advancing. Finally I realized that what I had envisioned and what was happening were two different things, very different things. For all the years I attended Rusticatio, and before that the sessions at conferences presented by Nancy Llewellyn, what I always imagined was a way to use spoken Latin to add to and enhance learning, not take over what I do, expelling or at least demoting the rest. I feel very deeply and passionately about the reading methodologies I've developed over the years and their benefits to students, especially those who continue to take Latin in college. What I've always wanted to incorporate was more conversational Latin in a meaningful, engaging way AND extensive reading opportunities. Block schedule gave me longer class periods to incorporate sustained silent reading (which I really enjoyed being able to do); the changing TEKS and pedagogy the opportunity to break the pace I had been keeping in teaching from CLC.  But there's a big difference between modifying the pace and totally going off the tracks and into the wilderness.

I guess when I say it feels like I was playing with Comprehensible Input it is because I was test driving it without the feeling that it was totally tied into my overall internal view of the curriculum. That's about me. So, when things started tanking spring semester for a variety of reasons, I began my usual internal problem solving for preventing the same problems next year.  And I had good ideas. I think I had good ideas.  I do have good ideas.....

As for all the conversational stuff, and trying to assess students on interpersonal / interpretive / presentational communication skills, I realized that in great measure things fell apart last year because there was no goal, no direction, no buy-in. So I hatched a plan.

The plan is to have students in Latin 1 this year become TIME TRAVELERS. They will have to learn enough conversational Latin to go through a PASSPORT INTERVIEW with partners who fill out the forms after asking the questions. They will have to become a member of Pompeian society--a merchant of some sort in the Roman world--and by early spring participate in a market day, buying and selling (and bargaining for) goods from each other. They will earn "money" to spend via stamps from conversational activities throughout the year. And before the year is out, they will leave Pompeii and travel to Roman Britain...  I have it fleshed out with more detail, especially for most of the different projects / performance assessments and needed "can-do's" specific for each. It's not entirely complete, but at least 80%.

The thing is, I don't just want them to learn Latin for Latin's sake. I want them to deeply involve themselves in the Roman world and to understand the culture and way of life. The language and the people are intricately tied together. (Last year it I felt like we totally and utterly lost the connection.)  I don't think student centered learning has to mean that everything we do is about their lives. I think the comparisons between the two cultures are important but the class is about the ancient world. And if I can't bring it to them, maybe I can bring them to it.

I've also been trying to write in an over-arching essential theme for Latin 1, which will be about the individual in Pompeian society, the importance of connections and networks, etc., (except that it will sound cooler than that). We will be "walking" in their shoes. There will be more specific themes/questions for each 6 weeks, hopefully proposed in as interesting a way as possible. Mind you, I will mainly be teaching Freshmen, who are often not really ready to think about the bigger picture of where they fit in communities, but maybe this will get them thinking about the importance of their connections and community at the school. Well, it's a thought. 

And then I've been trying to align everything to the standards: the general ACTFL standards, the Standards for Classical Learning draft (because the final draft is behind a pay wall), and the new TEKS which go into effect this year.  And I've been writing can-do statements that tie it all together specifically. (There are general can-do statements out there.)  Some of these I was able to write easily; others have me flustered.

In many ways this has been a big undertaking. But I feel that I'm at a time when I have to justify our curriculum. I have to justify why I still believe in teaching from the Cambridge Latin Course. I have to justify why I still believe that the most important aspect of my teaching is teaching students to read in word order. Not the comprehensible input--although I do definitely believe that CI is important and that I will continue to strive to do more and more Latin in class, incorporating as much CI as I think I can effectively manage. But that's the key: as much as I can EFFECTIVELY manage. I will readily confess that in great measure it may be what I consider my own failings and inabilities with spoken Latin, because without that level of fluency that I lack, I couldn't keep up the engagement with all students. I couldn't compete against the distractors, the rowdy kids, the ones who unless you have them engaged will find something else to do that isn't on task. 

So... how come I've found this so stressful and so depressing all summer?  So difficult to complete?

I think the simplest answer is because it is still significant change; it is still an unknown. 

It used to be that I would spend the summer simply improving material or how I taught specific things. For instance, one summer I decided to pour through CLC to see if I could make a comprehensive list of different types of ablatives, really more because I had noticed that the reason why some ablative absolutes didn't translate naturally as "after X had been done" was because they were really ablative of descriptions with participles. This wasn't about grammar; this was about comprehension and admittedly translation--especially since at that time I was still teaching AP Latin and translation was important. I was searching for patterns, patterns that really gifted people pick up on, but us regular joes need help seeing. I'm good at teaching those sorts of things so that everyone in the room can keep advancing, not just the best and brightest students.

Alternatively in the summer I like creative projects, design projects. Problems that have clear endings. I've made several google slides and a few posters this summer, mainly to combat frustrations over not having all of the answers for this project. And I guess I need to give myself permission to not have all the answers as well as to not worry about all the details. It will work itself out as the year unfolds. I need to remind myself that there's no need to be depressed and stressed, especially when I do have a fair amount to show for the summer.

For instance, I made a Google Slides presentation about Accenting Latin words:

And then I made one on Dividing Latin words:

And I made a few posters from my trip to Italy: House of Fabius Amandus, Via Stabiana, Herculaneum public fountain, and the Lararium from the thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus

And I set up some magnets upon request at my shop too.

And designed a new O TEMPORA  t-shirt, plus one which will be our club shirt

Yes, I confess I thought I wasn't ready for the summer to end. But I guess what I really need is for the school year to just start and to get on with it. Then, if nothing else, I will be too busy to be stressed and depressed. 

comfort zones

Apr. 16th, 2017 05:19 pm
ginlindzey: At ACL (Default)
Fresco of a Theater Mask of a Woman from Pompeii

I have been thinking a lot about comfort zones of late.

The first teacher I had that paid any attention to comfort zones was Nancy Llewellyn at Rusticatio http://latin.org/wordpress/event/rusticatio-tironum-2017/. At my first Rusticatio it was nothing more than a mid week conversation in English to find out how I was doing. Over the next 4-5 years that I attended Rusticatio, she continued to focus ways to refine monitoring of comfort zones for participants, including the "full check" from Where Are Your Keys https://whereareyourkeys.org/technique-glossary/. She spoke about participants who went home early because of the stress of being in the target language 24/7. Nancy was ever mindful of the teacher or student who has done nothing but read Latin and identify grammar and maybe structured composition. The stress comes from being used to being the smartest person in the room to nearly completely tongue-tied for lack of vocabulary for everyday conversation and thus feeling like the stupidest person in the room.

When Nancy checked on me during my first Rusticatio, I was ok. Yes of course I was having all of the tongue-tied issues of your average tiro, but I was surviving. In retrospect one of the reasons why I wasn't as stressed as I could have been was because I would take nature walks on the property and think. Of course the thinking was in English. In WAYK terms I was putting myself "In the Meadow" to lower my fullness level, but I was doing myself a serious disservice by not constantly forcing myself to engage in the language. In retrospect, it was less to do with the stress of being in the language 24/7 but more to do with complications in my home life between my special needs son and a rebelious teenager (both thankfully into their 20s now). The last year I attended Rusticatio, I made myself talk to myself out loud in Latin when I went on walks through the woods, sometimes practicing drills we had done in one of the sessions--like changing direct statements to indirect statements or questions. It's work to be in the target language 24/7 and it can be rewarding. And while it may come naturally to some, for others of us it is work, and work stretches our comfort zones.

Anyway, I am mindful of comfort zones of my students, though admittedly for the students who aren't engaged it's less about comfort zones and more about a willingness to engage. For instance, there were certain aspects to doing Discipulus Illustris activities earlier in the year that really made some student's eyes glaze over. I do intend to work in some Discipulus Illustris activities next year, but I have to figure out a better angle that keeps the interest and engagement higher, especially when it is NOT that particular student's turn.

But really what I wanted to talk about here was comfort zones of TEACHERS. Several colleagues knew I was pushing off into trying Comprehensible Input this year, and were very interested in my experience (hence my previous post). As I have said before, but perhaps not too clearly, is that my experiences from teaching in previous years as well as this year are MINE, and may not be like yours or anyone else's. I can't give you the answer for what is right for YOU, whoever you are. (And I think saying that doing JCL or Comprehensible Input or whatever will increase your enrollment is also kinda specious; good teaching in whatever form that takes--whatever works for YOU and your students--is probably the only thing that truly makes a program strong.)

One very wise practitioner of Comprehensible Input has said that one shouldn't try to make the shift to CI all in one year--not to overdo it. But perhaps you need a year of many things not going well (in one's own mind) in order to see how to make certain things work better the next time around. I was out of my comfort zone a lot this year--doing things I had never done before, trying to maintain conversations with students when I didn't have the vocabulary for it (especially with some of the Discipulus Illustris and other things I was trying earlier in the year). I gave up early in the year on timing how long we stayed in Latin (especially in one of my classes where there were just too many freshman boys totally not interested and refusing to try). Perhaps if I had given a doughnut party reward or something to motivate them. But in all honesty, it was also really draining on me. That's not to say that I won't keep trying to up my in-class Latin but being "on" all the time when you are not used to it is difficult. And admittedly always in the back of my mind on days where things were particularly unsuccessful or off-task was the thought of different reading-based activities that I knew would engage more students but were not CI related.

There are things which help, which many people who promote CI will talk about. First and foremost is scripting in advance of class. One teacher even talked about how during his first year of employing CI he had little scripts taped up all around the room where he knew he'd be standing. For me, it was scripting out little dialogues to work certain vocabulary that I had in Google Slides. It helped me to get used to having the little mini-conversations to work vocab and forms as well as helping students to understand what I was asking them to do. It made it easier to redirect off-task students as well as keeping myself from misspeaking as much. I don't mind making mistakes in front of students. We just all say "mirabile!" (Another WAYK thing) and keep going.

For Texans (and I'm sure many others out there) new standards will be in place in 2017. There will be speaking proficiencies as well as writing proficiencies, not to mention of course reading proficiencies. You do not need to go whole hog Comprehensible Input to address these things. You may want to, and it may be what's right for you, or it may be the absolute wrong thing for you. I have seen the stress of just considering a CI approach make people think about quitting teaching altogether. And it goes back to comfort zones. For me, it's significantly less about comfort zones and more about students lacking the reading skills I want them to have by this time of year. (Some have interpreted this more about my wanting to cover chapters and not develop proficiencies, but it really isn't.)

For some people, their Latin education never once involved doing much in the way of speaking Latin let alone even reading it aloud. (Professors, what the hell? Not even reading aloud?! I'm just saying....) For these teachers not only is conversational Latin out of their comfort zone, it's not even in their interest zone. And the prospect of teaching effectively without trying to be conversational versus the fear of continual stress and possible failure coupled with ineffective teaching makes it a non-starter for a conversation. And not everyone who teaches Latin effectively has Latin as their 24/7 passion. (Some of us are freaks, and we know it.) Some people have a broad range of interests not remotely tied to Latin. To force a teacher who falls into this category suddenly to do CI is wrong.

As teachers we should always be striving to help each other improve. Part of that is understanding the comfort zones of all those around us, including other teachers and not just our students. We need to understand that what might be easy for us might be very difficult for another for a variety of reasons. Some of us don't mind being pushed a good distance out of our comfort zones; others need to take things more slowly. And while I have believed since my high school days that Latin is meant to be read aloud and heard, conversational Latin still never came easily to me at Rusticatio. Sure, I could participate well in the sessions, but I just never got into the chitchat on the back porch. (Part of being an extroverted introvert, I suppose. If I ever get back to Rusticatio, I will force myself to stay out there and participate!)

My Latin 1s recently did presentations in Latin. They were simple in many respects and I wasn't really sure what would happen. The projects were on Brando Brown Canem Vult, and they were to make a promotional product or educational materials and then present it to the class. (I should really be home grading those right now, but such is life.) I knew this would put some people really out of their comfort zones, but most did fine. A few kids didn't follow instructions or take advice and resorted to Google translate (ugh--who could understand that?), but most were ok, more or less. Here's what I learned: they all started off fine totally in their comfort zone. Why? They began with "Same Conversation" (another WAYK term; see link above). They started with something we did every day and they knew really well. With greetings and introductions. Now, we didn't exactly do greetings and introductions each day BUT it was part of one of the rotating "jobs" at the beginning of class that I have in my room. Everyone was so used to that "same conversation" that it was well within their comfort zone. (More about jobs in a later post because thinking about this has made me revise and improve these jobs.) The most impressive presentations successfully mined every conversational script I built into the Google Slides I used with each chapter of Brando Brown Canem Vult. The students that choked the hardest were also the ones that I was least able to engage. I will need to find a way to address that next year.

Anyway, next year's presentations will be totally backward designed so that whatever phrasing might be needed to present will be prebuilt into activities or tasks that occur earlier in the year. I'm kind of excited at the thought.

So yes, while my last post was all about my "return to reading" which really meant my return to putting my focus back onto developing reading skills and keeping CLC as my leading tool, it's not that I'm dumping everything I've learned this year. There are some great folks leading the way with CI, and as I have said before, my hat's off to them. Just as there are all sorts of ways to be a good parent, I believe that there all sorts of ways to be a good teacher. It is up to you to determine what truly works for you, your students, and your program.
Image from Herculaneum
I have taken the dive into Comprehensible Input this year, diving off of the textbook into the murky water of the unknown. It's been interesting and fun, but a little rocky at times. Most recently we spent practically two months of our block schedule (ABABC) reading Brando Brown Canem Vult. Let me state here that I like the book, I'm glad our school owns a class set, and I want to keep them for SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), BUT I felt like we were stuck in a ditch spinning our wheels the whole time and I couldn't wait to be done. Not only that, the students couldn't wait to be done.

I have been told that teaching the way I was teaching before (though the person did not fully understand nor appreciate the years of developing the reading approach that I use and the methods I employ) was ineffective and that my problem is that I'm just not willing to do something new, to change, etc. And that if we just did it his way and trusted *his* judgment, that we would see our student retention increase. At the time I admittedly burst out laughing--not to insult him, but that in our case (and because of my style of teaching) retention has never been our problem. (He is our 3rd Latin teacher.) Competition with AP courses is the problem. Scheduling is the problem. There is no fighting to keep a small program from closing here. People who often contact me regarding how I manage to have such a robust program with no JCL ask me what kind of promotional materials I hand out or speeches I give. I don't. I let student success speak for itself; I let students tell each other whether what I do is quality teaching.

Somehow my well-meaning colleague (and he truly is) seems to be blind to the investment of time I've made this year to make CI work in my room, from making numerous Google Slides for the chapters in Brando Brown Canem Vult to provide us with talking points, to using WAYK signs, movie talks, and many other materials designed to help us succeed, designed to support conversation and personal input. It may not have been perfect (most probably far from it!), but I have worked hard to help myself succeed in conversational aspects as well as my students. *I have been out of my comfort zone ALL YEAR.* And while many of these things were engaging, what I was seeing from my average students and my SPED (special ed) students was confusion more than anything else. These are the kids I have EXCELLED with in the past. These are the kids I WANT in my room. But at the moment, they are becoming the seriously disruptive students because they are feeling lost. Too many different endings have been flying; too little has been consolidated; everything is too confusing. And returning to take a quick dip back into Stage 6 (gawd, only stage 6!) after 2 months has made a few of them balk. And I knew it would. And I'm ok with that. They will come around as I help them to consolidate so much of what we have seen and heard.

Let me state that I *do* understand that in using a CI approach that it does take TIME for students to begin to develop a MENTAL REPRESENTATION which will then shape more productively their output. I get that, I do. I've attended 4-5 Rusticationes (Latin Camp), been a supporter of SALVI for ages before that, follow folks doing total CI, etc etc. I do get it. But I also take into consideration several other things. First and foremost, we don't have that kind of time. There is no middle school program in our district even though I have fought for it for years. (I miss teaching middle school.) There's no hope of getting anything at the elementaries. The students don't have that kind of time to work on Latin skills outside of class--most are carrying crazy full loads of PreAP and AP coursework. Their desire to take Latin is often based on purely academic reasons. For most, they want and need language credits ticked off their list. That I can get a significant number to continue for 3 years (and a few into Latin 4) WITHOUT using promotional gimmicks is a testament to the confidence they feel in my ability to teach them and help them to progress noticeably in their own eyes. This is not fluff. And my Latin 4s are NOT always my top students, but they want to continue learning and reading Latin.

I do not teach grammar in isolation. I do teach it in context, though not as formally as some teachers. I teach students how to see the endings and the tense indicators, how to read in word order, how to develop a Latin BRAIN, as a colleague at Randolph College once said. If what I teach are reading coping mechanisms and not true language acquisition skills, I'm fine with that. I'm fine with that because I have 11 years teaching at the high school level of developing READERS of Latin who go on to become highly successful in college Latin courses, most of which are dry read & translate sort of courses. I don't want students of mine who have had three years of Latin with me to end up having to take a beginning level Wheelocks Latin course when they go to college. And I don't want them memorizing translations of passages of Vergil or Caesar for tests and then not to be able to read more at college and demonstrate an understanding of the structure and syntax. Real reading.

And while I'm thinking about it, I'd like to talk about embedded readings. I've been playing with embedded readings with the Latin 4s for the last 6 weeks. I have nothing against embedded readings. They are useful and my students like them. I like them. I liked making them; it's an interesting process. We've been reading the new CLC 5th ed. Stage 46 Pliny selections (as well as the original Pliny, since this selection is slightly modified in places). But because we were using embedded readings, we were not working our reading skills in the same way (via Dexter Hoyos's rules for reading, etc). It was a bigger coping mechanism, a bigger crutch than anything I do. And it is doubtful that professors will be creating such things for students. How does that help prepare them for college Latin or reading real Latin on their own?

Last summer when I was binge-listening to Tea with BVP, I was pleased to hear an episode that talked about focusing on form. One of the many examples he gave was having a particular grammatical structure highlighted throughout a passage to help students focus on that new structure. I smiled and thought that many of the activities I used to do in my warm-ups helped students to focus on form, e.g., when we would have metaphrasing practice contrasting nominatives and accusatives. As students progress in Latin (in previous years I've taught Latin 2, 3, 4; this year it's 1, 3, 4), feedback has always been positive on its helpfulness once students got used to it and understood what I was asking for and why. (The full appreciation usually developed in Latin 2 when metaphrasing full participial phrases and learning to see Latin in chunks and not word for word.) While I might work with words in isolation in the warm-ups, they are almost always coming from the CLC story to be read that day, and thus heighten awareness of those forms when they appear in the context of the story. (And, I might add, that almost all of my quia material is designed to work forms in context--which students greatly appreciate.)

Today I wanted to begin to consolidate what we had seen of the imperfect and perfect tenses. Brando Brown Canem Vult was mainly present tense with some perfect tenses and a smattering of imperfect (I think) and futures. I had all this time (the last two months) avoided teaching mnemonic devices regarding the tenses (the imperfect sheep with three legs going ba ba ba and XLSUV "extra long [vowel] SUV" with a picture of a stretch SUV limo), trying to work the tenses with different tasks or activities. However, today I started the warm-up with images of the two mnemonic devices, discussing them, and then had students circling tense indicators and endings and translating a select group of verbs. This would have been a no brainer in previous years, but there were complaints all around--especially from today's class that has so many low performing, needy students. They will come around; they will realize how much they know once they start to consolidate.

So where does all of this leave me?

I am glad I had this experience though feel badly for the Latin 1 students because there are so many reading skills they lack, not to mention so many great stories set in Pompeii which we haven't read. However, not for the first time have I begun to wonder at some friends who have been practicing CI successfully for a few years now (and more power to them) whether their problem with CLC was more not knowing how to really teach a reading based approach--how to teach your average student (not the 4%ers) how to read Latin in word order, how to help your brain to slow down, to taste the words, to see the endings, to register the phrasing, the structures, the shape of it all. How to retrain the brain to accept Latin. I never had to scaffold or embed a CLC story before with my students. And I have had students move from other schools into my Latin 3 classes and exclaim with delight that they understand so much more now, and can read more, and feel far more confident than they ever did with their previous teacher.

With all of that said, I have been trying to figure out for years how to work in more oral/aural work because I had in my mind's eye the time scale/pacing we needed to keep. I never had the guts to just say to myself that it would be ok to slow it down. I've always been too conscientious about where surrounding schools are in the curriculum in case one of my students changes schools. But now...

Now I see possibilities of enhancing what I've been doing with more oral/aural activities. I can see providing the framework as I have done before with reading in context & activities to help students see and focus on forms. Then, much like I feel so many of the activities at Rusticatio did for me, build upon and broaden and develop more fully that mental representation with a variety of meaningful tasks both small and large. Having class sets of the new novellas makes for great SSR material to help build that mental representation. Studies show that the most critical thing for language learning is indeed READING. True reading for understanding and not just the gist of a storyline. (See http://indwellinglanguage.com/the-inescapable-case-for-extensive-reading/ for a great video/article on the topic.)

While I can understand the reasoning for a full CI approach and not consolidating until 3 or 4 years later, that is not right for my program nor for my personal goals. I do intend to develop proficiency goals based on the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for Latin, at the core will be reading proficiency. Will I continue to try to teach more in the target language? Absolutely. I force myself to use more every year. We learn by doing. Will I be having my students write in Latin? Yes, I definitely plan to. Will we have any PBLs? I've been working on plans for a couple for next year, and how to supplement and prepare for them from early on in the year.

I can't give you the answer for what is right for you. I can say that I've been at this for a decent number of years, have never struggled with program numbers, and have anecdotal evidence to support what I do. No posts implying that I'm teaching grammar explicitly in isolation will change my knowing and seeing and experiencing what works in my classroom to teach students to read Latin, in word order, with attention to detail, with absolutely no need to consult Google Translate. Students like *understanding* structure. No posts implying I don't understand about form and function will change what I do with metaphrasing, Rassias transformation/substitution drills, etc. I'm not a frightened person, set in my ways. I am always willing to put myself out there and try. But I am a serious student of Latin, of teaching Latin, and of students. For me, my refrigerator covered with notes and letters from grateful students for filling their heads with Latin and their hearts with love will stand as evidence that what I am doing is working.
This has been a very full year for me and I haven't been able to write here like I wanted to. It would mainly be about struggles and work and the insecurities of leaving what you know worked (up to a point) for something that seems to take too long. It's hard to think "if I were doing things the old way, we'd be on that chapter by now."  It would be easy to go back to doing things the old way. More comforting. More secure. A lot less risky.

But I have a Growth Mindset.  I am creative and clever, I know.  But I am not the fastest learner. If I were, then I would be a more fluent speaker of Latin by now considering all the Rusticatios I have been to (4 or 5). But I'm not. I would come home excited, do a little of what I learned at the beginning of the year and add tiny bits of spoken Latin here or there and then....go back to the old way of teaching things because I knew that I was creating solid readers of Latin, and that the methods I use--methods that I spent YEARS developing and writing about and speaking about, methods that I have wished that my professors had used so I could have been a better reader in college.

But I have a Growth Mindset and I WANT to change, I WANT to grow, I WANT to be better.  To that end I have listened and relistened to Tea with BVP, as well as Quomodo Dicitur.  I have read CI Latin blogs, participated in #langchat discussions, etc. And I have let go of many things that I do. However, I have only really timed how long we have stayed in Latin a couple of times this year because it was so disappointing. At best, only a 1/3 of the class time, if that. Some days not even close. BUT I keep trying.

Although being a participant at Rusticatio means that I have experienced most all of what I am trying to do first hand as a "student" as well as analyzed how the activities worked, I have only been able to replicate some of them. Asking a story, for instance, was something I hadn't tried but knew I needed to master. I finally purchased Fluency through TPR Storytelling by Blaine Ray and Contee Seely. When all else fails, seek the masters.


So this past Monday I tried to ask a story. It started great but bombed pretty quickly. In fairness I knew I hadn't prepared well for it--I hadn't mapped it out because I had been busy prepping other things for other classes. But because I was determined to LEARN and wasn't afraid of failure, I tried it not only in my Latin 1s but also in my Latin 3s. It was in one of my Latin 3 classes that I finally figured out with their help (I asked the to help me figure it out) how to get the story going. (* nota bene: I am not afraid of failure, but I don't like it, I don't like the way it makes me feel like a loser, I don't like the way it makes me feel less than--especially at my age. But we learn through failure. ad astra per aspera and all that.)

Today (Wednesday--we're on block) I tried again. I did several things differently including getting desks out of the way for better attention from students. I had a scribe write out the story. I wrote words on the board (but I had done that before). I had notes on an index card mapping out the direction of the story and questions to ask. My security blanket. It went pretty well--I was very pleased. Afterwards I did a delta/plus (things to change/things that were great) with the students. They liked it, they understood the story, they liked providing the input, etc. .And because I made part of the story line similar to the next story in the book, I'm going to have them do a compare and contrast discussion--in Latin--next Monday. (I only see them three days a week.) This Friday... well, Friday is going to be saved for movie talk using Pixar's "Alma." Creeeeepy.

Anyway: my point is don't give up the struggle, don't get discouraged. Fight through the frustration of failure and keep going. If you are new to CI like I am, I just want to say YOU CAN DO THIS.  *WE* can do this.
This will be a short entry because I feel like I don't have time to post at all but I MUST MUST MUST start posting some things about what I am doing.

1) We are on block schedule this year, and I like it.  I like that after a day of busting my butt planning for the next day's classes that I can then relax a day.  Sort of. Well, I should have graded last night but I took care of me instead. Our block schedule is A B A B C, with C being a flex day of seeing all classes for only 41 minutes.  Otherwise we have 92 minutes per class.

2) I have been able to work in Rassias substitution/transformation drills in Latin 3 and Latin 4 because I had time!  And instead of just using some target sentence from the story as is, I will change out names to be people in the class.  Talk about increased engagement!  They want to know what they are doing in the sentence!!!  So that's been good.

3) I have been working in using basic WAYK symbols with the Latin 1s to make sure they can stop me or ask questions while staying in Latin. Of course even I'm not very good at forcing the issue of staying in Latin because I've been dealing with a few behavior issues (in my last class) and some learning disabilities and I want to make sure EVERYONE is feeling ok before pushing high percentages of Latin.

4) I have been working on making myself do two things: 1st, to pause for a count of three before allowing answers, and 2nd, to actually call on people by name for questions. Boy, let me tell you, that was eye-opening, especially with my last class.  From group responses it sounded like most people were getting the hand of UBI and QUID FACIT, but, sheesh, individually proved something else!

And here's the question: Why?  I think it was two-fold. I think there were engagement issues in that class AND I think I should have given them a brain break instead of racing to the finish line. I didn't get to the finish line because of all the interruptions, so I should have just had a brain break. By not having the brain break I wasted time.

I also gave my first quiz and I'm feeling like it was harder than I meant it to be.  I mean, I think it was very, very easy for some.  However, for students who have processing/analytical issues, it may have been tricky.  That is, I had a fill in the blank conversation over basics of quid nomen tibi est, mihi nomen est, salve/vale, tibi gratias ago, libenter, mihi placet, quid agis hodie, etc--all of which were in a word bank. If you followed the conversation, it was pretty easy. But if you weren't use to solving puzzles by seeing what comes next, it was tricky.  Well, for some. I should grade them next but I have a stack of Latin 3 quizzes to grade first.

So, I dunno.

5) OH OH OH!  We have been having 5 minutes of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in Latin on A & B days. So far this is only in Latin 3 and Latin 4, but they are liking it.

6) I have been working on masting Google Forms, Google Sheets, Google Slides, etc.  Just not Google Docs because it doesn't allow me to script keys to type macrons, so Word is still my go-to for that.  I have done some cool slides, made a rubric in a Google Form which then feeds into a Google Sheet and calculates the grade--which was great until I realized that you can't give students feedback that way. I'm researching writing a script (ok, copying the script) to automate emails from the data sheet. I used it for scoring simple (scripted) presentations on Latin names and bullas.  By the way, some of the bullas have been gorgeous this year!  Look at these:





So it's been a busy start to the year for me.

Tomorrow I'm going to have students write about this picture after we discuss it. I combined two pictures so hopefully there will be enough to write about.  We'll see how it goes.  That's all for now.

 
There was a big twitter discussion about Latin pronunciation today, to use macrons or not to use macrons, whether to teach pronunciation to students or let them pick it up by listening to you and other input (trusting the quality you provide), etc. I felt the discussion beginning to spiral in its usual fashion of pros and cons. Back when the Latinteach list was active, this discussion came up numerous times. And often if I replied, I also posted a copy of my reply on this blog. I just read through them, and in some I was quite passionate--one, even a bit out of line. If you would like to read those older posts just click on the PRONUNCIATION tag in the right margin.

So in many ways, there's no need for me to repeat what I've said before, except for the fact that we have a couple more issues now that we didn't really have then. First, there are a LOT of people (well, a room full of 50 at ACL--that's 1/6 of the participents) who are interested in trying to use more techniques to make their class a Comprehensible Input classroom. That requires a LOT of oral work. It is the idea that you can get in more repetitions and in a more engaging and compelling way orally. Yes, reading still plays a strong role but there is a LOT of emphasis on the oral part.

Second, it is less likely that a new teacher will have had formal instruction in accentuation and syllabification if they learned Latin in high school using a reading based text like the Cambridge Latin Course (which I do love) because it does not include a pronunciation guide. From this point, as I've stated elsewhere, the discussion begins to go round and round on who to blame--that is, who should have taught pronunciation (high school teacher/first teacher) or who should have polished pronunciation (professors/person in charge of methods of teaching Latin course)? And that's all mute. Finger pointing never got anything done.

In 2005 I even had proposed initially via the CAMWS Newsletter something called "Fluent Latin 101". The title of the article was "Teacher Prep: New Ideas, New Approach" (page 9). This was way before the Comprehensible Input surge in Latin circles, but at a time when I was really frustrated by the lack of quality pronunciation among fellow teachers at Certamen events. I was also trying to address in the article issues that some teachers had brought up about not having studied AP authors during their undergraduate career and thus not being properly prepared to teach.  But that's another story. I published this article in the CAMWS Newsletter because I was hoping to reach the professors who could have some influence on addressing these problems which future teachers faced. Naturally it fell on deaf ears.

Last year I discovered on a blog post entitled Driving with Dido on the Indwelling Language blog. It is mainly a post--and a good one--on reading extensively in Latin, and how the author, Justin Sloacum Bailey, went on a quest to develop fluency in Latin, even though he began with a grammar first text book (Wheelock's). Anyway, at some point in the post, he gives a list of things to help with fluency, and one of them is to "record yourself reading Latin and listen to your recordings in the car, while doing chores, while shopping, etc."

This has stuck with me even though admittedly I have yet to do it. The idea was to record yourself reading a passage that you have interpreted/translated so you know what it's about, and then work on developing your own listening skills.  As I see it, the way to ensure this works well is to be extremely conscientious about your pronunciation as you read that Latin. This is not only about making sure you are pronouncing long and short vowels correctly, but that you are dividing and accenting words correctly. You are creating your source of INPUT. That is the key.

To develop your sense of quality pronunciation you need lots of INPUT, but if you aren't around speakers of Latin, you don't get the input you need. In addition, if your own teacher/instructor was apathetic with regards to the pronunciation of Latin, you need enough quality input to unteach incorrect pronunciation.

So... I guess the first thing you need to do is to decide that you need to improve your pronunciation if you know you need to. If you cannot write sentences/vocabulary from the textbook you use (assuming you are using a textbook) complete with macrons without double checking 98% of the time, then you probably need to work on pronunciation. Because, really, what we are talking about is not "pronunciation" but whether you have internalized the SOUND of the words, whether you truly OWN the words.

Why is this so important? If you are going to be telling stories orally, you have to OWN your own Latin. And if you want your students to pick up their pronunciation mainly through input, your OUTPUT must be excellent.

OK, so now maybe you realize you need to "learn" your macrons.  Really, you are working on "owning" your Latin vocab by SOUND because the macrons merely represent sounds. First make sure you know your basic rules of dividing and accenting words (see the front of a Latin dictionary or my pronunciation guide for CLC), and then practicing dividing and accenting words that are three syllables or more, followed by saying those words aloud several times. You may find words you thought you knew are really pronounced differently. You may discover you are sloppy with o's and i's. You may discover which words are mispronounced due to related words in English. (Off the top of my head, novem, 9, is a SHORT o, not a long o like in November; toga is a short o as well, not long as it is in English.)

Once you feel like you can divide and accent anything, find a passage you like (could be from your textbook series or AP or whatever), divide & accent all the words in it just to make sure you really are saying all of the words correctly, and then record yourself reading it. Now put away the text away and get a clean sheet of paper. Use your recording for dictation and see whether you can write exactly what you read previously--macrons and all. If your pronunciation is clear and accurate, you should have little problem doing this. TRUST the sound that you hear. If you hear long, write it that way. Likewise, think about where the accent is on the word; sometimes that can help you with a short a versus a long a. Practice this a bit.

Now, try finding something that does NOT have macrons. If you were to trust your "ear", could you add macrons to most of the words? Try it to see. Do any of the missed macrons change the placement of the accent on the word? Or does where you KNOW the accent of the word goes help you with deciding whether you have a long or short vowel? I know, for instance, that I pronounce "they heard" as au-di-VE-runt, so that e has to be long.

The truth is that there is no magic fix. You have to work at it. You have to realize the importance not just to your own learning but to that of your students. You have to see the bigger picture of language acquisition. And you will find that the more you work at it, the more you realize you do know, and the easier it becomes. But it all starts with you having a crystal clear idea of pronunciation.

I often think about Spanish students who will complain that one of the Spanish teachers has lousy pronunciation. Students notice.  Students care.  Students will think less of you and your expertise if they see this deficiency. Your colleagues will think less of your expertise as well. (Yes, I have thought less of professors and teachers....)  And maybe that seems arrogant... But I'm also going to pick the Shakespeare instructor who tries to do restored pronunciation over the one that recites with a heavy Texan accent.

And finally, I do believe we need to teach our students the rules for dividing and accenting words. I've always made it extra credit on one of the types of quizzes I've used in the past. I reiterate the importance of knowing the rules so you can decide how a new word sounds without my being there, but I do not punish students for having difficulties with the concept. I do grade oral recitations which we practices because that is based on hearing/speaking and not artificial rules of dividing and accenting. Nevertheless, I want my students to be armed to read extensively, and to hear the Latin in their heads or to be able to say it aloud.

It's about the input. I can provide a lot of it, but some of it will need to be experienced on their own--and I just want it to be the best experience possible.

So I was listening to Tea with BVP, episode 2 I think, and a teacher was saying how she was having great success with a pure Comprehensible Input classroom with students she saw everyday but with the young children she only saw once a week it wasn't working. She felt like she had to do too much reteaching in order to be able to move forward.

Now, I haven't shifted to a Comprehensible Input classroom myself. I am still learning.  I do give a fair number of instructions in Latin, we read aloud a lot in Latin, and other activities.  Admittedly I am still pretty tied to my textbook, the Cambridge Latin Course, but I do try to work in a number of oral/aural activities. One that I like is "musical pairs." You need something students can read in pairs--like a dialogue between two people--and music.  You play the music while students mill about.  When the music stops they have to pair up and read the Latin dialogue. If they get to the end before others do, they start over.  When the music starts again, students stop reading and mill about again.  Repeat a few times.

I have used this with embedded (simplified) readings of dialogues coming up in the day's story to preview it. I make sure the Latin is simple enough with only a couple of glossed words at most. My best students (admittedly, this year's 1st period class) would become quite dramatic at reading these and even my lowest functioning class would get something out of this activity.

Doing these reminded me of a box stuffed in my storage cabinet from when I taught middle school students a decade ago.  The box contains class sets of little mini-dialogues. One was on introducing yourself, another on asking to go to the bathroom, another on answering questions starting with ubi or quis. I was looking at these last week, and thinking that they would be good to use as a mini-warm-up.  And in thinking about this teacher's question on BVP, it might have been a good solution for reviewing from the previous week before jumping into something new.

No question that if you only teach once a week you will HAVE to spiral and review.  And you will have to develop a VARIETY of ways to do this.  I'm not saying I would use these little dialogues for every class.  There would have to be other little things. Or other motivational tasks with a purpose for reviewing something learned for that one day, like "How many people can you introduce yourself to in Latin between now and next week?"  It could be a competition for a prize. Then, the next week, meet students at the door and they cannot enter until going through greetings. In that moment, before even seeing whether students took part in the little competition or not, you will be able to tell how much reviewing you will need to do. But don't make it blatant reviewing.

If numbers are learned, then find things to count. Do surveys the following class of how many people have dogs for pets or cats.  Each time everyone is counting the hands raised (thus reviewing from the previous class lesson on numbers), but maybe you are also adding, "Aemilia canem habet. tu canem habes? ego canem non habeo. ego felem habeo. feli nomen est Julia." That is, you might begin working in 1st, 2nd, 3rd person with a useful verb (without all the grammatical nonsense) plus a direct object/accusative.  Then add to that a little review on "mihi nomen est___" with a bit of a twist by providing the dative for dog or cat. (Remember, shelter vocabulary, not grammar!) Maybe by the 4th week you can tell a story TPRS style. A little one. But maybe a full story will be a few more weeks away.  Are you teaching something that interests the students, keeping it personal? (Yes, their pets, their names, how many.) Maybe it won't be story time until Halloween--and what a treat it could be by that time!

So, I guess what I would have liked to have heard on Tea with BVP would have been something more along the lines of learning how to spiral and how to tie in more closely whatever was learned in the previous lessons. It might seem like you would cover less material over time but in all likelihood it will be of a much better quality and better retained the more you spiral--and most importantly, students will have more joy in the class and stay excited about language learning.


I had a ballroom dance instructor, Richard, who reassured students in the class (all older adults) that we would likely retain only 10% of what he had taught that night over the length of the week, but that it was ok because he would thoroughly review before moving on. Which was true--and he was the best ballroom dance instructor I had. Sadly, he no longer teaches and the other instructors are just not equal to the task at all. The key is that Richard KNEW most people would forget and he taught NOT to the exceptionally talented individuals who would go home and practice but the whole class. He knew the importance of spiraling and building a solid foundation. He believed there was great joy in social dancing (as opposed to ballroom competitions) and that he could teach anyone how to lead and follow and enjoy the music. Other instructors which we have had since have expressed frustration at the amount people would forget... and yet even with their trying to push us farther, they taught us less. (They are not true teachers.)

So I guess the real question is, how realistic are your goals for what you want to accomplish with young children?  We should always be focused on not how much we "cover" but how much they can retain, not to mention how and why they do retain it.

So, next year will mean changes for me one way or another.  My high school is going on block scheduling and I'm hoping to have the Latin 1s back... or... I'm hoping to be teaching exploratory Latin full time to 5th graders in a totally different school district.  Either way, I want to start moving into doing more Comprehensible Input. It's a tricky thing if I stay because I feel like it will also mean dismantling all I have built for the last 10 years--16 years if you count the 6 years I taught middle school Latin.  That was when I began my adventures with the Cambridge Latin Course, began building quia.com materials of detail and quality, and began developing my reading methodology. And if I begin using Comprehensible Input more than the textbook at my high school, it may mean going it alone... I'm not sure my colleague has any interest in it.

And maybe that will be a moot point because maybe I will get this other job teaching exploratory Latin.  And either way, I can continue to study everything I can about Comprehensible Input so that I will be ready.

So I've been listening to the Tea with BVP podcast http://www.teawithbvp.com/.  I only discovered it a couple of episodes before the end of the season, so now I'm starting over. This morning I listened to episodes 1 and 2.  At some point, I believe in episode 1, there was a question about whether to teach pronunciation. The basic answer was no because your students should be able to pick it up by hearing you speak or other native speakers, etc, in a natural way.

I, however, have always said that I can't just ask Cicero how to pronounce a word I have never come across before because he's dead. No one local to me seems interested in speaking Latin conversationally. (I have had to go off to SALVI events like Rusticatio to have quality exposure to spoken Latin in a large quantity--that is 24/7.) The authentic communication I have is in reading what the dead wrote in great measure. We do know how golden age Latin was pronounced (see Vox Latina), so that is not at issue. I have always felt it important to teach pronunciation, syllabification, and accentuation in Latin (but only to count it as extra credit on quizzes--not for a real grade) because students will at some point need to be able to read and hear words (at least in their heads) that no one has pronounced for them before. Perhaps I'm influenced by my phonetics education as a child. Perhaps this is just my own neurotic need that I shouldn't force on others. (Here is a pronunciation guide I created to go with the Cambridge Latin Course.)

In teaching high school, one of my goals with expressly teaching the dividing and accenting of words is so that when we hit poetry meter will be easy and not challenging. Another goal is simply that they can decide how to say a word without my having to say it for them.  And yet...  Have I been wasting a lot of time?

It's not that there aren't other ways in which my students are picking up good pronunciation.  First and foremost, I read everything aloud to them.  With gusto! With dramatics! Students read with me in unison as well.  We also have recitation passages--short snippets from an important story in the chapter/stage which we then use to practice pronunciation. (These are also used to target new grammar in the chapter/stage.) Later each student recites/reads this passage for a pronunciation grade. I would say 98% of students do this really well.

We also have "jobs" at the beginning of class that include reading the agenda which is mostly written in Latin, reading the date (which includes yesterday, today, and tomorrow), as well as being the daily weather person.



(I can't recall why it was foggy and dirty at the time I took this picture, but I believe there was either dust or ash from a fire in the air at that time for some reason that was making the fog weird in the mornings. And yes, it probably should have read decimo sexto for the date and not sedecimo!)

I don't correct too often when students are doing jobs; many self correct or just improve as the year goes on. Many are conscientious of macrons and the role they play in pronunciation, a few admittedly lack interest and are just getting through their job for the day. Most, however, really like doing the jobs. At an awards banquet the other night I overheard one student, when asked to say something in Latin, rattle off, "salvete omnes! vaticinatrix hodierna sum. mihi nomen est Octavia. sol lucet!"

I think... I think if I teach pronunciation in the future maybe I'll just let the students discuss and figure out from previous input and exposure what the difference is between short and long for each vowel, and maybe even accentuation rules. And syllabification is really only necessary for teaching poetry in all honesty, right? And even then, only if you have to expressly teach meter because of AP or IB.  The truth of the matter is that my expressly teaching the rules for pronunciation, syllabification, & accentuation aren't the real reasons why my students have good pronunciation and aren't afraid of reading Latin aloud.  They can do that because we read aloud all the time, because I make my class a place where Latin is heard. They get extra credit points on dividing and accenting words on stage quizzes because I expressly taught the rules.  Big whoop.

I'm not going to give up my personal obsession for macrons on all materials because I want to learn how to say a word the right way from my first encounter with it if possible. Can I read Latin well without macrons? Yes of course. I like picking up my copy of Harrius Potter and rattling on at a natural speed as if I'm reading English and not Latin. There are no macrons; there are often a lot of new vocabulary for words Caesar never new (he never had an automobile after all) and I can guess from experience what is the most likely pronunciation--but I can only do that because I put the demand on myself for careful pronunciation with macrons at all other times.

Perhaps that seems a bit much--but as I said before, Cicero is not here.  I can't just say to someone in the next room, "hey, how do you pronounce nihilominus?" So for Latin, especially when you get to a point when you are in total control of your input (which is often just print material), pronunciation is important. Understanding how it works is important. But maybe as a teacher--especially as a teacher of beginning students--it really isn't a critical topic.  Surely I can use that time better than spending the better part of a class going through my pronunciation sheet (see above)?!

Just another thing to consider when planning for next year.

OWL Workshop

Oct. 5th, 2015 08:13 pm
ginlindzey: magistra laeta (Ginny)
So today my LOTE department has a special trainer in doing a workshop.  OWL stands for Organic World Language.  It's tying into a lot of what I've learned at SALVI events (Rusticatio), where we use a mixture of comprehensible input, TPRS, and WAYK (Where Are Your Keys?).  This has been wonderfully high energy (except that I'm having serious problems with my Achilles tendons lately and all the activity is aggravating severely them).

There are many activities or means of grouping that I will steal and share with my SALVI peeps right away. So, with OWL you are always up and moving (at least in what we've seen so far) and either you are in a circle, or you are paired or grouped up in some way.  If she calls out 2, we get in pairs and play Rock, Paper, Scissors. The winner dances disco, the loser dances salsa. THEN the instructor actually gives the prompt for discussion. (Topics may be listed on the board.) If she calls out 3, you pose for Charlies Angels (three people, posing with finger guns). If you have a person left out, that person decides the topic (from the list). If she calls out 4, it's for Pirates--two prisoners with wrists crossed, two pirates standing behind doing pirate sort of things. If she calls out 5, it's for Zombies--two people lie on the ground, the other three act like they are eating the two that are down.



All of the goofy activities have a useful purpose besides simply being fun. Doing something goofy with your body lowers the affective filter and thus they don't stress as much over speaking. There's also this reassuring aspect that it's just all play--as all good learning should be.

At one point we were grouped into threes, and then did an activity called Microlab. Each person would have a chance to speak with NO interruption from the other two about whatever the topic was. A little monologue. If that person doesn't fill the whole time, that's ok. Transitions between turns happen when the teacher calls out (in the target language) to raise your hands (both), and then calls the number of the person who is to talk next.  Beforehand, the instructor had numbered each person in the group and then asked all the 1s to raise their hands, then the 2s, then the 3s.  After each person had their turn to monologue, we were given a new question. She assigned a new order (3s then 1s then 2s, for instance), once again asked all the 1s to raise hands, 2s, then 3s. And each transition between speakers was done with "raise your hands" (in the target language).

Any time we start to drift off topic, the instructor immediately gets us back by telling us in the target language to touch our heads, touch our elbows, raise our hands, etc. As the day wore on, we were more inclined to digress, so this was done a few times. :-)

There was a discussion on most learning happening as "brain sparks" at the beginning and end of class with a big sagging wave in the middle, and that by changing the class to a more kinesthetic environment that you create a bunch of little waves and thus more "brain sparks."

Another discussion was regarding vocabulary: FULL, PARTIAL, & CONCEPTUAL.  Vocabulary lists are kept on white boards for her classes, and as students move through and acquire vocab, old words are erased and new ones added.  FULL are words that are internalized. Partial are those that are in the process of being acquired. Conceptual are new words that have yet to work their way into active use.

There is a great emphasis on SOCIAL interaction, and social interaction creating the driving need for language acquisition.  We had discussed that we all experienced ownership of the language when in an immersion situation and had to be able to communicate.  Of course, there was lots of discussion about mistakes being made along the way and that that's how we learn.

I also liked the idea that it's necessary to DEUNITIZE. That is, we shouldn't keep topics separate. We should find ways to connect everything, because the more connections that are made with vocabulary and concepts, the quicker those words are internalized. She did a great word web example with CAT in the middle, surrounded by all sorts of related words; then started taking each of the related words out through their various connections. It was amazing to see all the digressions, and how some of those digressions actually ended up with similar vocab. I wish I had taken a picture.

We kept coming back to the theme that CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING. Hearing this repeated so many times made me feel very positive about the things I've done with the Phaedrus poems (see previous post). Having the time to set up context, to build upon previous knowledge, to understand the background--all those things I think have aided in our enjoyment of the Phaedrus poems. And it also emphasizes that language doesn't occur with lists of vocabulary in isolation.

Late in the afternoon we were working with ACTFL proficiencies and types of questioning. I really enjoyed the activities we did because if nothing else, it demonstrated to me that understanding exactly the level of questioning I use (novice, intermediate, advanced) is not as simple as it looks.  I was reassured when the instructor said that questioning is the hardest skill to master. Maybe this is why I balk at asking a story (something I know I want and need to do with my 4s at least).

OWL has five goals for students:

  1. to speak L2 exclusively

  2. to not be afraid of the L2 environment

  3. to take risks and break down affective filter

  4. to be able to infer and circumlocute

  5. to participate in and be part of a community.

Anyway, these are only the bare bones of what went on today. I'm afraid that if I don't take time to process all of this now that I will be too busy to do it later.

One thing that keeps going through my mind when I consider OWL, WAYK, TPRS, etc is that underlying realization that traditional methods of language instruction have failed this last century. The US in its paranoia at losing English as its "only" language has meant language study has just not been taken seriously. Our forefathers did not fear learning other languages--English, French, Latin, and Greek. Surely some Spanish too. But too many feel like everyone else should learn English instead of embracing opportunities to learn other languages.  And Latin's out-of-date focus on its benefits for SAT scores has killed us. That, and that it's the ideal language for people who are afraid of the oral aspect of modern languages.  My friend, John Kuhner, just today has published a wonderful article about Rusticatio and Latin's place in the spoken Latin world. The Latin Speakers of West Virginia. This last summer I couldn't afford to go to Rusticatio and I missed it desperately. It is a magical place. But I realized when I saw that list of 5 goals--I missed it because Rusticatio, for me, has been the only place where all five of those goals were in play for me.

When we were asked today at what point did we feel we really owned our language, I fudged it and said it was when I dreamed in Latin at Rusticatio. In truth, I still don't own this language. I can't pick up just anything in Latin and read with total fluency and comfort, though I am far closer now than I was when I got my degree.  To use a WAYK term, I have massive holes in my pocket.  Massive.  But I love this language. I can't tell you why, I just do.  My roommate asked me last summer what I would do if I could have my dream job.  I'd still teach, but significantly fewer hours, for higher pay so I could get out of debt.  LOL.  And I would find time to be a student.  I think in a past life I must have been a Roman. I can't explain any other reason for why I do what I do. Why I obsess over pronunciation, why I abandoned my moderately successful AP Latin program for level 4 to do what I'm doing now. And to constantly be questioning even now what I am doing.
OK.  This is just totally random but why not because this is my blog which needs full reviving and not just of really serious grammar stuff.

I have always loved the skit on Whose Line is it Anyway where they assign two lines and only two lines to two differenct actors (2 each, you understand), then a third person drives the scene with whatever the premise is.  Heck, look here to understand:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaFN2hhOHsQ

My question is whether there is a way to incorporate this in a language class.  Maybe target four idiomatic lines, and then have a some sort of storyline to play with.  The problem I foresee is that whoever the third person is would have to either be more fluent (Could I even manage it? Some days I don't feel very fluent at all...) OR they would have a story in hand that they are reading which they can stick with or digress from.  Not sure whether it is possible.

THIS IS WHEN I WISH I LIVED IN A LATIN COMMUNE so I could try it out with real people.  Like, could this be used to review a story already read?  While the main person is reading the story, he/she is constantly interrupted by the people who have their 2 lines?  The person reading would have to react to the lines, thus modify what he/she is reading or reiterate or explain, and then return to the story.

I dunno.  I would have to play with it a bit first.  It could work.... (This is all brainstorming out loud.)

What if instead each person in class got a single line.  Maybe one person doesn't get any lines so he/she can be score keeper.  I (as teacher) would begin to read the story and the interruptions would begin and I would react to them (and hopefully be able to reply to them).  Every time a person gets a line in, he/she gets a point.  Maybe if it gets big laughs that person gets double points.  This is what the scorekeeper would keep track of.  The person with the most points at the end of the story wins.

With luck, this would mean you could include:

1) a review of the story, (more repetitions of the target literature?)
2) the inclusion and repetition of idiomatic phrases that would either be useful for class (what time does the bell ring?) or for real discussion (What do you think the author meant by that?)
3) full active class involvement and listening
4) internalizing the language through active use
5) laughter

Wow. My head is spinning now.  I intend to go full CI/TPRS with my Latin 4s this year.  I think there will be a dozen kids in the class.  What 12 questions or phrases would be good to use early on?  Maybe I should have worked out in advance what my ANSWERS to those 12 questions might be too. And perhaps at the end of class I could provide the list of questions and answers or post them on a class website or something for reference.

OK.  I gotta figure out a way to make this work.  (Now back to pondering Objective Genitives....)