Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Voces Digital Spring Conference 2024

I want to encourage you to register for Voces Digital virtual Spring Conference, which will be next week March 5-7, 2024. It will be held via Zoom and will run 5:15pm ET to around 7:00pm ET each evening, with a variety of sessions and speakers (many over whom I still fanboy!) each evening and is dedicated to "deepen(ing) your understanding of Comprehensible Input and Acquisition-Driven Instruction, learn(ing) new techniques and tools, and be(ing) inspired to engage your students in new ways." Best part - it is FREE!

I attended Voces Digital Spring Conference last year, but since I really did not know much about it, I did not have much in terms of expectations. I will definitely say that I got SO much from it, and I loved the fact that it was online so I could attend from my kitchen table! Here is my write up about last year's conference

This is the time of the year where we all need our CI/ADI cups refilled. All of us teachers and students are dragging along trying to get through - the name of the game right now is survival! Last year, after attending the Voces Digital Spring Conference I walked away with a renewed spirit which got me through Spring Break. Plus, so many of the presenters at that virtual conference were also at last summer's Voces Digital CI Summit, so it was a great preview!

Here is the link to information and registration for the Voces Digital Spring Conference - I hope that you will be joining me online!

Monday, February 19, 2024

Monsterbox - Movie Talk

While cleaning out my Google Docs files, I came across this Movie Talk which I had done YEARS ago and had completely forgotten about - I had facilitated this Movie Talk pre-Covid, and my sense of time and memories of that time are very fuzzy! The animated short is called Monsterbox and in looking over the script, I see that I was focusing on some very specific target words: craftsman, makes (various forms of the word), house, big, small, medium-sized (and it also looks like I was using future infinitives in indirect statements as part of prediction questions).


Latin script


Observations
  1. Like most animated shorts, there is a ton of repeated action which allows for continued exposure to the language. In this animated short, I like that with each repeated action, there is a slight difference. This allows for the repetition of language but also for the introduction of a new target word in that repeated context.
  2. Honestly, I have little memory of doing this Movie Talk (blame the Covid years), but apparently, I centered a whole week's lesson plans around it lol. However, now that I have discovered this, I think that I will use it again.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Guided Written Translation

When it comes to our language classrooms, we tend to rush into the 90% target language usage "rule" (and I use that word "rule" loosely, because no one seems to be able to find anything official which states that it must be 90% or why 90% was even picked as the number). As a result, we think that L1 has no place in our language classrooms. I wholeheartedly disagree with this, because L1 translation does play a part in the language acquisition process:

  1. Translation into L1 is a necessary part of the language acquisition process. When the brain is confronted with new L2, it will do everything it can to make some type of meaning into L1. That L2 which the brain understands, it latches onto and adds/creates to its existing mental representation of that L2. That L2 which the brain cannot understand, it throws out.
  2. Translation into L1 in and of itself is not wrong, because it establishes meaning for learners. However, translation is at the lowest level of Bloom's taxonomy, so where the issue is when we stay there in L1, only focus on L1, and do not progress towards the eventual understanding and creation of new meaning in L2.

Choral reading/translation is one way to establish meaning into L1. Another way to help establish meaning is through a guided written translation. Students will receive a two-column worksheet with L2 in the first column, and their task is to translate it into L1 in the other column by filling in the blank with the correct meaning. I learned this from a Cambridge Latin Course workshop years ago, and I have found that this is a good tool to aid in translating an inflected language like Latin where the word order does not resemble English.

Example:

Observations

  1. This can be done either on a Word document or a spreadsheet. It does involve creating tables or cells, so use the web app resource with which you are most familiar.
  2. I would scaffold this very early in a unit lesson (possibly after a choral reading), since this focuses on establishing meaning into L1, i.e., by no means is this a culminating activity.
  3. I like that this allows for the establishing of meaning in a different modality (writing), thus reinforcing the L1 meaning in a different way.
  4. I do not do this too often, but when I do, it is to focus on meaning of words and not necessarily grammar per se, although I suppose it could be adapted to a specific focus on correct translation of tenses.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

More Thoughts Again about Sheltering Vocabulary, not Grammar - Student Comments

This past semester was the first year where my department split the Latin 2 classes into Honors and College Prep levels. Previously in the past, although we usually had around eight Latin 2 classes, we kept all of our students together. Although I do understand the ramifications of "tracking" students/splitting them into "tracks," however post-hybrid, I also saw that the learning makeup of my classes was changing - the adage of "teaching to the middle" was no longer truly working, because the middle itself was disappearing. Instead, I saw that a much larger gap/chasm was developing between those who were understanding the material and ready to move on and those who were not and were falling further behind. Therefore, as a department head (and after consulting with teachers in my department), I made the decision to divide the Spanish 2 and Latin 2 courses into Honors and College Prep tracks to see what would happen.

I am teaching two Latin 2 Honors and two Latin 2 College Prep classes this year. I did not teach these students for Latin 1, so I will admit that in the two levels, it has been quite a challenge trying to differentiate and to deal with the differing levels of motivation and attitudes. Last semester, however, I decided to create two different curricula and readings for Honors vs College Prep, with each of the different levels receiving the level of instruction which was appropriate for the Latin 1 knowledge which they were bringing to the classroom. In each level, I still focused on sheltering vocabulary, not grammar. Specifically with the College Prep classes, even the grammar was sheltered to a degree. I intentionally did this, because I found that there were significant gaps in knowledge from Latin 1 which needed to be filled with these students, while the Honors classes seemed to have already demonstrated proficiency in those areas and were ready to move on.

For the College Prep classes, the curriculum was based on an adapted reading of Emma Vanderpool's novella Incitatus. What I like most about Emma's novella is that because each chapter is based on various characters' reflections on the same events, a lot of the sentences and vocabulary are repeated but from different perspectives, which allows for some great higher order thinking among students. 

My goal for each level was that I wanted these students to feel successful with readings which met them where they were at and could progress at a knowlege-appropriate pace which allowed for acquisition. At the end of the semester, on their written Performance Exam, one of the questions which I asked was for students to reflect on how the semester compared to their experience in Latin 1. Let me share some of the comments specifically which some of my College Prep students wrote - a lot of them allude to "shelting vocabulary, not grammar" even if they do not "name" it:

"I see that I have gained alot [sic] more words in my Latin vocabulary since last year. Last year I felt lost because there were so many words thrown at us. I never knew what was important to know. I did not have time to learn them because then we switched to a new story."

"(My) Writings are more in detail then [sic] latin 1. I can remember my writings in Latin 1 were very brief and dry because there was too much vocabulary to remember." 

"I think I’ve improved way more [in Latin 2] because the stories this year were easier for me to understand. Lots of the same words were used."

"I didn't want to take Latin 2 because Latin 1 was so hard. I actually feel like I understand Latin now because I know the words." 

I am not writing this blog post in any way to place any blame on these students' Latin 1 teachers. However, the purpose is again to call attention to the need for sheltering vocabulary, not grammar. Even though my students have not called it by its name in the above comments, I can say that my students are in favor of it!

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

"Grafted Writing" by Eric Richards

I think that one of the most difficult skills for students when it comes to language acquisition is writing in L2, especially if these students already struggle with writing in their own L1. So often we tell our students to "write," and then we are not pleased with the results. In my opinion, there are a number of reasons:

  • we have not properly prepared students for the task which involves writing.
  • we ourselves are not managing our own expectations properly for what students are able to accomplish at their specific proficiency level (level of output, grammatical accuracy, topics, etc.).
  • the task is either too broad with little parameters or too narrow in scope.
  • we have not properly scaffolded lessons nor properly built up students' foundations towards writing.
Well, look no further - let me highly recommend Eric Richards' book Grafted Writing! I had not formally met Eric until last summer at the CI Summit (although I knew of his name professionally) where both of us were coaches/team members in the same cohort. At the end of the conference, he did a short workshop on getting students to write in the target language based on this book, and for me, this was the best part of the CI Summit.

One of the things which I like about this book is how sensible so many of Eric's activities are - namely that many writing activities focus on implementing readings which you as a teacher are already doing with your classes. I like how this allows me to have students do some type of writing 1-2 times a week based on our current reading in different ways and with different goals. As a result, every writing activity does not have to be a free/timed write. And yet many of his "free write" activities are scaffolded in such a way that you as a teacher are not just throwing students into a "sink or swim" writing situation.

Eric's book is firmly grounded in CI/ADI pedagogy, namely that students cannot output without sufficient comprehensible input and that output is the result/overflow of bathing students with understandable messages. While some may view a few of his writing activities as students simply copying down text and calling that "writing," that still falls in line with Comprehensible Input theory. Although "copying" itself is found on the lowest end of Bloom's taxonomy, if the messages which students are copying down are 100% understandable to them, then students are receiving repetitions of those messages through both re-reading those messages and then understanding them as they copy them down - double input, if not triple! Thus, subconscious language acquisition is occurring! And even within those activities, there is a degree of higher order thinking happening within students based on the task!

Each of Eric's activities in this book are broken down into the following sections:
  1. directions/explanation of activity
  2. sample text in English with which to work
  3. suggestions for extension activities
  4. tips and variations
  5. teacher talk
If you have ever met Eric or have attended one of his presentations, you know how practical his communication style is - this definitely carries over into his writing. This book is very easy to read, his directions are not difficult to understand and to picture, and his reflections are very incisive. I have already written about his activity Treasure Hunt - Writing on this blog.

So I highly recommend Grafted Writing as a resource for your CI/ADI classroom, and if Eric is ever presenting at a conference which you are attending, attend his session - you will learn so much!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Character "Has/Wants/Is/Does not Want/..." Warm Up

Here is a warmup, post-reading writing activity which you can do with your students if you are dealing with a reading/novella for which there are a number of characters and descriptions. I got this idea from Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It - although the book was published in 2009, there are still a lot of issues which are still pertinent over a decade later.

Essentially, you create a chart in the target language with characters and verbs (I stick with high frequency words), and you ask students to fill out the chart with information which they know to be true about that character. 

Example (in English):

Observations

  1. Since this is a warmup, I like that it does not require students to write in complete sentences in the target language (unless they want to), so it allows them to respond in words/phrases to finish the sentence.
  2. I also like that this warm up does involve higher order thinking, because students are having to distinguish characteristics and actions which are specific to certain characters or to show commonalities between characters. 
  3. It is a great quick way to focus on character development and motivation of characters.
  4. This is also a great graphic organizer for students!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Top 5 of 2023

It is time for my holiday sabbatical from blogging, so as is tradition, I wish to share with you my annual "Top 5 Most Read Blog Posts" from this past year. I certainly do appreciate all of you who read my blog and have been able to glean something from it. I hope that you are able to rest and recuperate during your holidays and will return refreshed in 2024!

  1. Variety in a First Read-Through
  2. The Necessity for i-1 in Reading
  3. Treasure Hunt - Writing
  4. CI Summit 2023 Report
  5. Voces Digital - My Continued Need for Professional Development