Saturday, May 24, 2014

The End of the School Year Reflections

School ended for students this past Thursday, with the graduation ceremony taking place that evening. Yesterday was my one day of post-planning. The gradebooks have all been finalized. Textbooks have all been stored. My classroom is all packed up for the summer, awaiting my eventual return the last week of July. I am officially now on summer vacation.

So with the school year still fresh in my mind, I wanted to devote this post to my thoughts on my first true year of creating a Comprehensible Input based classroom. 

On the one hand, I see my drastic failures: 
  1. still treating Latin as if it were simply re-translated English and not as a communicative language
  2. days where students did not hear a word of spoken Latin from me because I was focusing on culture, grammar, etc or just did not feel like speaking Latin
  3. rushing through material in order to catch up on lost time due to missing seven days on account of snow
  4. not getting enough student interaction with Latin through comprehensible repetitions, circling types of questions, PQAs, etc
  5. times where I could have done a TPRS story with students but chose not to because I was tired or burned out
  6. times where I ended up doing grammar-translation lessons because they seemed easier for me than doing a CI lesson
  7. at times not really having a true goal of where I was going with CI
  8. times where I could have better engaged students and drawn them in through comprehensible, compelling material
  9. still sheltering grammar but not vocabulary
  10. focusing on intensive readings which had way too much vocabulary and language
But at the same time, I made it through an entire school year of trying to incorporate Comprehensible Input into my Latin classroom! For me, that is a tremendous victory. And quite honestly, this was no small task.

I see so many small victories throughout the year. This past year was quite an interesting one. I was in a situation where the majority of my students had never had me as their Latin teacher (there are 2 other teachers at my school who do not use CI), so these students had little to no experience with oral Latin/CI. I was also not teaching Latin 1 this year, where teaching Latin using CI would not have been a big deal for them since they would not known anything different, but how was this going to fly with students who already had 1-2 years of non-CI Latin under their belts? My major concern was my Latin 3s, because as they did not know me, I knew that I would be viewed as the “evil stepparent.” I was concerned about how to implement anything related to CI with them – these students were great Latin translators, could parse the heck out of words, knew their forms and charts, but in their minds, that was what Latin was. Therefore, my plan for them was simply this: to love them exactly where they were at. This meant making them feel successful with what they already know (even if meant parsing!) and introducing CI to them gradually, lest they rebel against me. And quite honestly, it worked, because many of them began to warm up BIG TIME to CI. I remember once while doing a TPRS story with them, they kept coming up with idea after idea for where the story should go. When playing the Word Chunk game and using vocabulary and language structures which I had used in a dicatio and TPRS a few days prior, I recall being absolutely floored that they had no problem translating “heard-Latin” into English. I recall a number of students saying to me, “Hearing Latin is really not that hard. I thought it was going to be really difficult.” I responded to them, “Well, good then, that means that I am doing my job of making Latin understandable to you.” When I was observed in one of these Latin 3 classes where I was telling a TPRS story, the observer said to me afterwards, “Wow, your students really like you.” All of these small victories translate into one great one for me.

I am reminded of something which I wrote in my second post "Getting Started with CI" about celebrity environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., who, whenever he is asked about ways in which folks can be more "green," always responds, "Pick the low hanging fruit first...Once you master those activities (which are easy to do) and they become part of your daily habit, then move onto bigger things." I realize how true that statement is, because "picking the low hanging fruit" is exactly what I did this year. Through making a concerted effort of incorporating dictationes, embedded readings, TPRS, timed writes, One Word Pictures, free writes, limiting vocabulary, Read/Draw, word chunk game and so many other CI techniques into my curriculum, they actually do seem like habit to me now. In other words, as I now have a year's worth of CI foundation on which to build and as those activities have now become engrained in my teaching routine, next year I can better address my "failures" listed above and add so many more new techniques to my arsenal in addition to what I was already doing. Also, my mindset has changed, as I am really starting to view my teaching from a CI perspective. 

So I am grateful for these next two months away from the classroom as I regroup and recoup, but at the same time, I am excited for where I will go with CI next year. 

I will continue to post here throughout the summer. After only 6 months of this blog, I already have 7300 page views. Who the heck is reading this? I am grateful to all of you who read this and hope that we can support each other in our journey into a Comprehensible Input based classroom.

1 comment:

  1. Who's reading this? People that are curious about TCI and feel safe investigating it by reading blogs and people like me that have been using TCI and enjoy reading about the experiences of other TCI teachers.
    Enjoy your summer vacation. (Mine doesn't start until June 10 at 3 pm.) We all need that time to reflect, relax, rejuvenate, and then prepare for the upcoming school year.