Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Technology in a CI Classroom

The following post is part of an ongoing series.

Last summer, I completed my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology. For five semesters, balancing a full-time job and completing coursework was my life. At times, I still go through withdrawals of grad school and quite honestly, I constantly have to remind myself that I now have more than my Master's degree. I am very grateful for what I learned, because the program greatly opened my eyes to proper instructional technology implementation.

Now that some view me as a classroom technology "expert" (note the quotation marks implying large doubt on my end), one of the questions which I get asked is "What is the best technology to use in a CI classroom?" To be honest, I find myself struggling to respond, because although I am very aware of and well-versed in instructional technology use for the world language classroom, quite honestly, there is not much out there for the CI classroom. The problem lies in that most world language instructional technology implementation:
  1. focuses on delivery of incomprehensible input.
  2. focuses on forced output/production of language without the proper scaffolding needed.
  3. operates at a very low level of critical thinking. 
  4. serves more as a tool for student entertainment, rather than for student engagement.
  5. is merely acting as a substitution for the same activity which can be achieved identically without technology.
Another problem with proper instructional technology implementation is that so many times administrators and teachers place technology usage first (think 1:1 schools) and then as a result, curriculum and pedagogical knowledge must line up with the technology. The diagram below illustrates this:

In reality, technology implementation should be the complete opposite: One's pedagogical knowledge should serve as the standard, with curriculum and technology aligning with the pedagogy itself, as illustrated in the diagram below:

In other words, for a CI classroom, Comprehensible Input should drive our classrooms, not technology; technology should only be used to support the delivery of understandable messages.

Another problem with a reliance on placing technology implementation before both curriculum and pedagogical knowledge is that if one is not careful, technology has a very short shelf life. When focusing on technology as either substitution or entertainment and not as a tool for creating and engaging students in higher order thinking, then the novelty of that technology will wear off very quickly. Students will want to move onto the next new piece of technology for amusement. And why should they not, since this is how the teacher has modeled technology usage for them?  

In upcoming posts, I will address some various ways to implement technology in a CI classroom. I have already posted about Movie Talks and EdPuzzle, two wonderful tools to use for the delivery of understandable messages.

P.S. A few weeks ago, Krashen, Wang, and Lee published an article called The Potential of Technology in Language Acquisition. I highly recommend that you read it. In the article, the authors recommend the use of podcasts; implementing narrow listening activities; and using Movie Talks and the web tool Voice Thread as means for delivering understandable messages. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Top 5 of 2016

With the first semester of school coming to an end and with my winter break soon to begin, I am going on hiatus for the next few weeks. Below, however, are my top-5 viewed posts from this year:
  1. The Perils of Comparing and Despairing
  2. One Word at a Time (OWAT)
  3. Seeing Your Students
  4. The "Sex" Game
  5. Memory Card Game
I am amazed at how quickly this year has gone by, because I can vividly remember writing my top 5 post of 2015 one year ago, but somehow everything between that point and now is a blur. Professionally, it has been quite a year: I left my school after having taught there for 17 years to begin teaching at a new school, completed my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology, delivered numerous presentations and in-services on CI, attended IFLT for the first time and served as an apprentice coach there, joined a very pro-CI Latin department, and began teaching a CI novel for the first time. 

Since I posted weekly on my blog, it also appears that I did not run out of topics to discuss. Thanks to all who read this - I am deeply humbled that you feel like I have something significant to say on the matter. Whenever I go to conferences, I am floored (and rather embarrassed) to meet folks in person who tell me that they read this blog. I also have to laugh when these folks say that I come across a lot different "physically" both on my blog and Twitter. To quote a Twitter follower, "Glad to see you in person. You are much shorter than I envisioned you." I like to think that I make up for it with my charm and good looks...  

See you in 2017!


Monday, December 12, 2016

How Do The Characters Respond?

If you have a reading which has a lot of dialogue in it, here is a post-reading activity which can be used. I have no idea from whom I got this idea (or if I even got this idea from someone), but it is definitely a good quick activity which can be used to reinforce the reading. Plus, it does involve a degree of higher-order thinking.

Currently, Bob Patrick and I are reading Brando Brown Canem Vult in our classes. As it is the first time going through this novel, I have been going rather slow (maybe too slow), taking my time to preview vocabulary through various means. When we began Chapter 2, as the chapter is a dialogue between Brandon and his mother, we started with an 8-sentence dictation. From there, we did a number of different activities based on that dictation dialogue. 

One of the activities which we did was "How Do the Characters Respond?" where I started with Brandon's first statement and then gave students a choice of responses from the dictation dialogue. Here is what I did:

  1. We did this activity two days after the dictation. This was the 5th time in which students had reviewed this story (but 5th different way). By this point, students were very familiar with the dialogue and what each sentence was communicating. Students told me that it was not very difficult to pick the correct response.
  2. Even if students did not remember how each character exactly responded, many students told me that they were able to pick the correct answer based on context and what "made sense."
  3. This was another quick way for students to receive understandable messages and repetitions in a meaningful context. Students were also getting a review of all of the sentences from the dialogue.
  4. It is important to go over a reading multiple times in multiple ways, as students need to receive these messages in different ways (think differentiated learning). As Carol Gaab says, "The brain craves novelty."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Grammar "Errors" in a CI Classroom

Today, in my study hall, four of my Latin 1 students began to converse in Latin with each other. I was rather surprised to hear them doing this, because three of them had NEVER demonstrated any interest during class to converse in the language (outside of scaffolded output). What transpired between the four of them was a rather spontaneous 10-minute conversation in Latin, using language which we had been going over this semester. Now to be honest, it was not a high-level dialogue about anything in particular, and their language usage was FAR from correct - it was messy, full of "errors," and would have hurt the ears of many Latinists - but all I could think was "Oh my gosh, these students are communicating IN LATIN!" I cannot tell how happy I was to hear them conversing in simple Latin, errors and all. I just sat back and let them talk, not even trying to correct them and only giving them corrections when they asked. 

What transpired today reminded me of something which I had seen on Twitter not too long ago:

Which teacher are you - the one on the left or on the right? I can honestly say that I once was the teacher on the left for the longest time, because isn't error correction what we are supposed to do as language teachers? I think, however, that we as world language teachers forget just how difficult it is to for language to come out of the mouths of our students for the purpose of communication, let alone correctly.

How do I know this? Because I myself have been there when it comes to speaking Latin. To understand my situation, you need to understand that I learned Latin in high school, college, and graduate school with the grammar-translation method - quite honestly, I had no idea that any other method existed. Why should there be if our goal was simply to translate classical works into English and to discuss them in English, in addition to parsing the heck out of every word? Yes, being a 4%er, I really liked that (and still do to a degree now)...

So going into my first Rusticatio in 2010, even though I knew that I would struggle some since I had never had spoken Latin before, in my opinion, as I had both my B.A. and M.A. in Latin, and since I "knew" grammar, speaking should not be too difficult. Boy, was I wrong. Yes, although I had a brain full of grammar knowledge, I had never used it for communicative purposes. When it came to speaking Latin, I had no clue what I was doing. I remember how absolutely difficult it was to SAY ANYTHING in Latin, let alone communicate in a conversation in the language. For me, just to get ANY language to come out of my mouth was a major victory. I found myself making TONS of grammar errors, and I was absolutely frustrated that I was making what seemed to be very basic mistakes.

Luckily, Nancy Llewellyn, the leader of Rusticatio that summer, had warned us on the opening night that making grammar errors in the language was part of the process. In what I always call her "red pen" talk, she said,

You are going to make the same kinds of grammar errors that if your own students were to make them, you would skin your knees running to grab a red pen to correct them.
Rusticatio even has a rule about grammar correction: it is to only occur when the delivered message is incomprehensible and not understandable. This is a rule which I believe that we need to apply in our classrooms. But even at that, I think that we need to exercise a degree of caution, because in its speaking proficiency guidelines, ACTFL itself states that even "Intermediate Low speakers can generally be understood by sympathetic interlocutors, particularly by those accustomed to dealing with non-natives." The key word is sympathetic - even if what my students say is horribly wrong grammatically, can I still understand what they are trying to say? At my first Rusticatio, I remember saying "ego cena parat," and even though that is so grammatically wrong on so many levels, I remember as a beginning speaker how difficult it was for me to get that to come out of my mouth, but at the same, those around me knew what I was attempting to say.

I have even heard a number of CI teachers say that in many ways, there is no such thing as "conscious errors" for speakers, since they are applying their known knowledge of the language at that particular moment. Someone once told me that even recasting (the act of restating the speaker's error with the corrected form) is not always effective unless the corrected speaker actively knows that he/she is being corrected. 

So while we can make overt grammar correction for beginning speakers, in many ways, I firmly believe that these speakers simply need more input. If we as world language teachers believe that all students learn at their own pace, then we must also believe that students will produce correct language at their own pace. I believe Michelle Kindt says it best in this tweet regarding language acquisition:

Some random observations based on my students today
  1. Even though I am nowhere speaking anywhere near the 90% target language goal in class, whatever I am speaking and having students read in the target language is still effective, as these students were able to produce language on their own without being forced. That makes me feel good that I am doing something right!
  2. At the end of study hall, I told these students that I was impressed by their spontaneous dialogue in Latin. I told them, "You do realize that I never once made you make flash cards to learn those words." One student responded, "That is really weird. Somehow I just know these words inside me." That is proof to me of subconscious input and acquisition!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Culture Lesson Plan - Roman Pets

As part of our Brandon Brown Canem Vult -1st Chapter Lesson Plan, Bob Patrick and I introduced animalia domestica Romana (Roman pets) as our culture topic. Since our goal was to introduce culture in the target language through a comprehensible reading (see here for a previous post on this topic), this is the lesson plan which we used. Bob wrote the original reading which we then embedded in different ways:

Day 1
  1. Warm up - project ppt slide of various animals and ask questions in Latin about "which animal .....?" (powerpoint, script)
  2. Dictatio - short version of the original passage (dictatio script, dictatio ppt to project)
Day 2
  1. Complete dictatio as needed
  2. Review dictatio passage through choral reading
  3. Play multiple rounds of Socrative review (Space Race) of dictatio passage - directions:
    a) importing quiz into your own list of Socrative quizzes - the SOC code # is SOC-25027325
Day 3
  1. Read/Draw/Discuss of the dictatio passage
Day 4
  1. Complete Read/Draw/Discuss as needed
  2. Timed write using Read/Draw
Day 5
  1. Read full Animalia Domestica reading
  2. Draw 1-2-3 of one paragraph from the full reading
  1. I really liked this passage which Bob wrote, because it gave students an understanding of why particular pets were more favorable to the Romans than others.I actually learned a lot from the passage.
  2. When doing the dictatio, due to the constant repetitions of phrases, I actually had students predicting aloud what the next words/phrases were going to be as I was reading it aloud. Yep, CI works!
  3. By the time students got to the full reading, most found it to be quite easy to read due to having the foundation of the earlier embedded reading.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thank You

Just recently, my blog passed over 150,000 page views. My blog has been around for only three years, and I am absolutely blown away by this. As I have written before here, when I first started this blog in December 2013, I would have been happy if I were to get around 100-200 views a month. Lately, I have been averaging over 12,000 page views a month. I do not say this to brag, but rather to say, "Who is reading my blog?" What started out as a blog purely for CI Latin teachers (and at that time three years ago, I would have said there was just a handful) is now being read by teachers of all languages who are wanting to learn about CI. I am absolutely in awe of the number of Latin teachers now wanting to incorporate CI into their classrooms. I am incredibly grateful if I have played any type of role in this movement in the Latin community.

I can honestly say that there is nothing special about me as a CI teacher. I am not that skilled as a speaker of Latin - I am probably a strong Intermediate Mid/High speaker. If you were to observe my classroom, I am certain that you would walk away scratching your head, thinking bewildered, "Really?", because I do not think that I am that exciting of a teacher. I know that my own students would agree with me (a prophet is without honor in his own country). I am certainly not in the target language anywhere near 90% of the time . There are other CI Latin teachers out there who know so much more about Comprehensible Input than I do, can talk in great depth about it, and whose students are the prime results of what a CI classroom can produce. Whenever I have been asked to deliver CI presentations, so many times I want to respond, "Are you sure you don't want to ask __________? That person really knows what it is all about." I feel like I am the perfect example of "those who cannot do, blog." I do not say this to fish for compliments or to put on false humility. I just do not think that there is anything special about me as a teacher. I am simply a teacher trying his best to implement CI.

But somehow whenever I blog, the words seem to come out. Put me in front of an audience, and I am 100% comfortable talking about my experiences with CI (as a whole, I am actually more relaxed talking in front of large audiences than I am one-on-one). Whenever I do give CI presentations, there is a large part of me that is always amazed that I seem to know what I am talking about!

I am so appreciative of the CI community as a whole, because those teachers are ones from whom I am learning all of this, and the community has been so gracious in receiving me into its fold. This past weekend, it was so nice to receive some "Why aren't you here in ACTFL with us?" tweets from a number of these teachers. It is nice to have these people in my corner.  

So as long as you all think that I have something to say, I will continue to blog. Both what I write and how I write appear to resonate with people. I so appreciate the comments which people leave - I cannot tell you how uplifting it is to know that folks find value in what I am writing. 

I am grateful that you all are continuing to join me in my CI journey. Here is to getting 200,000 page views!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Movie Talk script - The Present

In trying to pre-teach vocabulary for the 2nd chapter of Brando Brown Canem Vult, I wanted to do a Movie Talk which incorporated the words birthday, birthday party, bring, gift/present. Quite honestly, I could find NOTHING on the Movie Talk database relating to these words. I was shocked, because I thought for sure that there would be an animated short about a children's birthday party. 

On Vimeo, I did, however, come across this animated short called The Present (I have now added it to the Movie Talk database). Although it does not have a birthday party in it, I could pre-teach words like gift and brings. It is only about 3 1/2 minutes, but wow, it is really good! At IFLT this past summer, Katya Paukova said that the best movie talks are those which engage the emotions - I saw Katya demonstrate one involving a one-minute Budweiser commercial which totally drew me in due to its emotional content. The Present is definitely one which will hold students' attention (much like Bear Story, although my students have made me swear never to show anything that sad again!).

Below are scripts in Latin and in English. Hope you can find them useful!

English script

Latin script.

1) Even though The Present is only 3 1/2 minutes, it allows for lots of repetitions and some great opportunities for circling. I was able to get a lot out of this movie short.

2) Stop at 2:33, and then go back to the beginning to watch it again all the way through uninterrupted. I did not want to ruin the impact of the ending with me interspersing circling questions.

3) I actually had a number of students show this movie short to their parents that evening!