Thursday, July 31, 2014

Embedded Reading, part 2

This is part 2 of a series on Embedded Reading.

An earlier post ended with a dilemma regarding Embedded Reading. During the 6th week of 1st semester, in one of my Latin III classes, we had just finished reading version #1 of a story from the textbook and now I was ready for the class to read version #2 of that embedded reading, a slightly more difficult version but still readable and comprehensible. When I told the class this, one of my students yelled out, "Again? It really was not that interesting the first time we read it!'

And he was 100% correct. Though the reading was comprehensible and understandable, one incredibly necessary factor had been left out: the story itself was not compelling, i.e. the plot was not interesting enough to keep students' attention. Noted CI/TPRS writer and presenter Carol Gaab says, "COMPELLING input is just as important as COMPREHENSIBLE input." So I found myself in a dilemma: I wanted students to read in a scaffolded manner, but what to do since, even though the stories were now easier to read, students found the stories themselves boring? 

Meanwhile, at the same time, I found that students really liked the short stories which I had written as dictationes (I will admit, I have a weird sense of humor. And since in a dictatio, I am trying to force rather random vocabulary words in a story for the purpose of previewing those words in a context, the story itself seems rather random yet compelling). A number of students truly began to ask for the "back story" and wanted me to "fill in the gaps" about some of the characters and plot, and quite honestly, I had never thought of doing anything further with the plots in dictationes. Plus, with a dictatio, I was bound by keeoing the plot to 8-9 sentences - what if I were to expand the dictatio into a form of embedded reading?

So there began my own experiment with embedded readings - what if the dictatio itself served as version #1 of the story, and version #2 expanded upon the dictatio, with the actual sentences of the dictatio embedded in it, and the final version had version #2 embedded in it? if this were the case, then the compelling factor would have to be the new parts of the plot which students hopefully were anticipating?

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, what I was wanting to do was actually part of what Embedded Readings are! New details are added in subsequent versions, because 
  1. students are ready to read longer versions after reading shorter versions and 
  2. the new information is what keeps the various versions compelling. 
Even though I had come to this conclusion on my own, I felt so much better when I learned this and that I was not going "rogue" by doing this experiment. So Laurie Clarcq and Michelle Whaley (co-developers of this strategy), embedded readings have been verified by an outside independent source!

Essentially, there are two different types of Embedded Reading: 

From the Top Down - this is taking a longer, more complex reading and "whittling" it down to a base version, which is easier to read (grammatically, number of sentences, superfluous details are left out), and then building from that base version to a more complex version and so on until students are ready to read the original unadapted version.

From the Bottom Up - this is creating a base story of a few sentences or so and then building upon that version by adding more details and language structures and so on until students come to the final version of the story.

My first attempts at embedded readings were From the Top Down, and my students did not seem to enjoy those because of the lack of compelling plot. What I began to do instead were From the Bottom Up, which allowed for me to control the structures and to create a compelling plot.

Here is an excerpt of a From the Bottom Up embedded reading which I created:

Version #1
olim Abby pessimum morbum habebat, sed non remedium habebat. Abby nunc maximos oculos et maximas aures habebat. Merlena erat crudelis puella et semper Abbyem deridebat. 

Version #2
olim Abby pessimum morbum habebat sed non remedium habebat. Abby non pecuniam habebat. Abby nunc maximos oculos et maximas aures habebat. Abby temptavit celare suos maximos oculos et maximas aures. Merlena, quae erat crudelis puella, semper Abbyem deridebat. Merlena Abbyem derisit, dicens, “tuae aures sunt maximae, sicut aures elephanti! tui oculi sunt maximae."

Version #3
olim Abby pessimum habebat, sed non remedium habebat. Abby non multam pecuniam habebat, quod autoraedam emerat. propter pessimum morbum, Abby nunc maximos oculos et maximas aures habebat. propter maximas aures, Abby temptavit gerere petasum, sed aures erant maximi. propter maximos oculos, Abby temptavit gerere perspicilla, sed oculi erant maximi. propter maximas aures et oculos, Abby discedere domum noluit. Merlena, quae erat crudelis puella, semper Abbyem deridebat. Merlena Abbyem deridere solebat, dicens, “tuae aures sunt maximae, sicut aures elephanti, sicut Dumbo! tui oculi sunt maximi, sicut plena luna! nemo te amat!"

  1. The addition of new bits of the plot and personalizing the story by making students the characters for each version definitely made it more compelling for students to read.
  2. Because the original versions were embedded in the final version, the final version was much easier to read, and students read it at a much faster pace. Even though the story appeared to be longer, the length of the story due to its apparent "ease" did not deter students.
  3. Even though my stories were embedded, I need to do a MUCH better job at limiting the amount of vocabulary in the stories. Although the reading is embedded, in many ways, it is still an intensive reading (too much vocabulary and language structures) instead of an extensive reading (limited vocabulary and language structures with much repetition)
  4. The embedding allowed for more meaningful repetitions of the language
So how does one create a From the Bottom Up embedded reading? As Laurie Clarcq and Michelle Whaley presented last week in their workshop:
  1. Pick 3 language structures/vocabulary words on which you want to focus.
  2. Write a short story of 3-4 sentences involving them - that will serve as your base story
  3. Now WITHIN your base story, add 3-4 more sentences with new details. Do not just add the new details to the very end, because then students will not read the beginning, and the purpose is for students to re-read the story in order to get in more repetitions of the language. Try to repeat those language structures. Also, change the wording some of your first sentence so that students think it is a new version/story.
  4. Now with the new version, add 3-4 more sentences with new details. You can start combining sentences/varying up the already existing sentences with new structures, as students are already familiar with the vocabulary, but again try to repeat those 3 language structures in the new details.
  5. Continue until you feel the version which you have is complete. In my opinion, four versions are enough.
So give embedded readings a try - they actually do work! So what are some ways to get students to read them? I'll save that for future posts.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

NTPRS 2014 Report (LONG)

This post is long, so take a seat if you wish to read this to the end...

I have returned from my first NTPRS (National Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) Conference in Chicago. I had a wonderful experience, and whew, my brain is absolutely full from everything which I learned. 

Quite honestly, I was kind of tentative about attending NTPRS, because although I use TPRS in my classroom, it is not my primary CI method of teaching, as I implement many other CI strategies/techniques as well; folks had cautioned me that NTPRS was directed specifically at TPRS and not other CI strategies. I had wanted to attend the iFLT Conference in Denver the week before, but it conflicted with SALVI's Pedagogy Rusticatio which I was attending, so I decided to attend NTPRS and to glean whatever I could for my TPRS usage. Wow, was I wrong! Yes, TPRS strategies were addressed, but that seemed to be only a part of the entire conference, as CI was the overall theme.

Now going into the conference, I had felt that I already possessed a pretty good knowledge about teaching CI, but gosh, this was like a full-week of graduate school on CI. I have a MUCH fuller and deeper view now on CI and how to use it more effectively in my classes. 

What I enjoyed most was how friendly everyone was but more importantly that I was with other world language teachers who shared the SAME pedagogical view as I did. I did not have to defend my use of CI/TPRS to anyone, because all of us were on the same page! I could openly discuss what I was doing in my classroom, ask others how to do something specific and encourage folks who were just beginning to use CI/TPRS.

I was surprised by how well run the conference was. Participants pre-self rated themselves based on their familiarity/usage of TPRS, so there were three tracks: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced - I was on the Advanced track. For the first three days, the morning/afternoon sessions were dedicated to one's particular track, and participants had the chance to learn and to be coached according to their levels. Following that, there were elective sessions which folks could attend based on specific CI topics. I will address much of what I learned in later posts, but here are the basics:
  • Learning Japanese with Betsy Paskvan - My first day's morning/afternoon sessions were with Betsy, where she taught us Japanese using only CI. Because I am of Japanese descent, I think that most folks in my group (and the instructor too) thought that I already knew Japanese or at least some other Asian language, but the the truth is besides English, I can only speak Latin - I know absolutely no Japanese. In the beginning of Betsy's session, I was lost, because Japanese is such a technically specific language (Latin seems like a cakewalk compared to Japanese), and it took me awhile to get accustomed to the sounds of Japanese, but Betsy patiently brought us along slowly through LOTS of repetitions and of meaningful interactions with the language through listening, questioning and reading. Suddenly, somehow, during those 5 hours, it began to all click and by the end, I was able to speak Japanese (albeit it was limited) and to read/write Japanese (using English letters). It has been 5 days since I had that session, and I have still retained ALL of that Japanese, which I acquired subconsciously through CI. Because I got to experience learning another language via CI, now I know how my own students must feel and just how important it is that I implement these CI strategies both to aid in language acquisition and to keep the affective filter low. I want to move to Alaska so that i can learn more Japanese from Betsy!
  • Session with Blaine and Von Ray - Wow, what could be better than 5 hours with the developer of TPRS and his son? Too much to discuss, so I'll leave that for a future post, but I have definitely added a lot more to my TPRS arsenal.
  • Embedded Reading - I attended two elective sessions on Embedded Reading led by Laurie Clarcq and Michelle Whaley, the developers of this CI strategy. When I entered their first session, Laurie saw my nametag and immediately said to me, "Keith Toda, can I have permission to use your blog post about embedded reading on my website?" I was absolutely floored that Laurie even knew who I was; that she knew I had a blog post about embedded reading, which I had just written last week; and that she wanted to use it as a link on her blog! I was on Cloud Nine after that! Anyhow, I can listen to Laurie and Michelle present on embedded readings for hours, because first off, they are a hoot to see present in person but more importantly, this strategy addresses so many issues. Even Blaine Ray is a huge believer now in embedded readings! I do not know why English/Language Arts teachers do not use this strategy, since it addresses literacy.
  • Research on TPRS - This was an important session to me, because as data now drives our schools, we as CI/TPRS need actual statistical results to validate our methodology; anecdotal evidence (such as student enthusiasm, fewer failures and higher student retention in the upper levels) is nice but that does not prove anything big picture. The presenter, who is a professor at North Indiana University, presented current statistical research which compared results of TPRS students vs. traditional-methods students on standardized language tests and how the TPRS students fared much better. Although this presenter only focused on TPRS and not on other CI strategies, the statistical data showed that this form of CI truly had an impact on learning.
  • Reading Strategies with Carol Gaab - Wow, this 5-hour session alone was worth the price of the entire conference. I cannot put into words what I learned from Carol,  because she gave us all such a incredible treasure trove of CI reading strategies/techniques and presented it all with an incredible amount of energy, humor and humility. Carol had me fully engaged during those 5 hours. She gave us reading strategies using excerpts from her CI-based novel Brandon Brown Wants a Dog (which is actually written in Spanish), and now I want to learn Spanish, purely so that I can read that book - I have a bunch of theories about the plot and how it ends, but since I do not know enough Spanish, I cannot read it! Most importantly, Carol imparted the following gem of CI wisdom which has now become one of my CI mantras:
The brain craves NOVELTY - Comprehension/circling questions can get old REALLY fast for you and your students, so change it up with a new activity every two minutes or every 4th question 

The downside of the conference: While it was absolutely wonderful to be surrounded by fellow teachers who were also pursuing a deeper knowledge and practical application of CI, at times, I felt like a total minority/bastard child at the conference; I was the sole Latin teacher there, so in some ways, I never felt like I "fit in" when it came to specific language discussion/sessions. 

At the exhibitors' tables, all of the CI materials/readers were geared towards the modern languages - absolutely nothing for Latin. When I asked an exhibitor if there were future plans for any Latin materials, the person said, "Even if we were to publish readers in Latin, there just aren't enough Latin teachers out there using TPRS to make it cost effective." Well, buddy, maybe it is time for me to write some original TPRS readers in Latin and sell them myself!

So I write this not out of bitterness but more to say "Watch out, NTPRS. I plan to return next summer with a number of Latin teachers hungry for CI in tow, and we will make our presence known!" I really want there to be a Brandonus Fuscus Canem Vult novel! Any other Latin teachers want to join me next year ?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Embedded Reading, Part 1

The following is the first of a two-part series

One of Krashen's main tenets is the importance of reading and how that is a major contributor in language acquisition. Now in modern language classes, reading is not addressed enough, but in Latin classes, it seems like that is ALL WE DO!

I use CLC, which is a textbook based on reading methodology. I love the stories in stages 1-9, as they are fun passages and something which students can read easily. Students like the characters, and these particular readings are quite comprehensible and compelling. Somewhere, however, around stage 10, the readings suddenly become long and actually quite complex grammatically and vocabulary-wise for students, and what ends up happening is that students go from reading the stories to now translating/decoding them. Definitely by the time students reach the Unit 2 and 3 books, the readings are quite long, and students immediately become overwhelmed by the sheer length of them.

About a year ago, I learned about something called embedded readings, which are simply scaffolded versions of the same story, beginning with a simplified version, with progressively more difficult versions in between and eventually ending with the original text; in other words, in each of the versions, the previous text has been "embedded" in it. At ACTFL last November, I had the opportunity to see Laurie Clarcq, who has a website dedicated to embedded readings, present on this topic. 

Now prior to having a class read a passage, the understanding is that you as the teacher have already previewed any new vocabulary or structures so that nothing "new" pops up in the reading, thereby allowing students to read and not translate/decode.

Creating embedded readings is actually quite easy: 
  1. Take the original text, and create the most simplified version of it, grammatically, vocabulary, etc. Now it may be that you do not include every single point of the original version but what you want is a very comprehensible and understandable version of the original version. 
  2. Now create a version which is between the simplified version and the original text in terms of difficulty. The simplified text is "embedded" in this version but maybe now appears in a more complex grammatical construction or as part of a subordinate clause in a longer sentence.
  3. End with the original version of the story. It may be that another interim version is needed before having students read the original version depending on the complexity.
Here is an example of an embedded passage from stage 29 CLC (passive voice is the language structure being introduced):

Embedded Version #1
Erat nox. luna et stellae fulgebant (were shining) in caelo. homines quiescebant (were resting). sed erat non quies (quiet) in Roma; erat non silentium in Roma. dives (rich) homines habitabant in magnis domibus, et consumebant cenas splendidas. servi cibum sumptuosum offerebant. ancillae optimum vinum fundebant et cantabant carmina. sed in altis insulis (apartment buildings), homines non cenas splendidas consumebant. homines audiebant non carmina. 

Embedded Version #2
nox erat. luna et stellae fulgebant (were shining) in caelo. erat tempus quo (when) homines quiescere solent (are accustomed to rest). Romae (in Roma) tamen erat nulla (not any) quies, erat nulla silentium. in magnis domibus, dives (rich) homines habitabant: 
  • homines consumebant cenas splendidas; cenae splendidae consumebantur a (by) hominibus; 
  • servi offerebant cibum sumptuosum (sumptuous); cibus sumptuosus offerebatur a servis; 
  • servi fundebant optimum vinum; optimum vinum a servis fundebatur. 
  • homines cantabant carmina; carmina cantabantur ab hominibus
in altis insulis (apartment buildings): 
  • homines non consumebant cenas splendidas; nullae cenae splendidae consumebantur; 
  • nemo audiebat carmina; nulla carmina audiebantur. 
nox erat. luna stellaeque in caelo fulgebant. tempus erat quo homines quiescere solent. Romae (in Roma) tamen nulla erat quies, nulla silentium. magnis in domibus, ubi dives homines habitabant, cenae splendidae consumebantur. cibus sumptuosus a servis offerebatur. optimum vinum ab ancillis fundebatur. carmina cantabantur. in altis insulis (apartment buildings), nullae cenae splendidae consumebantur. nulla carmina audiebantur.

Another form of embedded reading is an enodatio (an untying of a knot), where the Latin passage is put back into an English word order. This is a technique which I learned from Nancy Llewellyn.

Embedded Version #1 of Aeneid, Book 1, lines 419-429, 437 
Aeneas miratur molem in Karthagō - molēs erant quondam magalia, sed nunc sunt moles. Aeneas quoque miratur portās, strepitum urbis et strata viārum. Tyriī sunt ardentēs, et instant: pars Tyriī ducunt murōs, pars Tyriī aedificant arcem, et pars Tyriī subvolvunt saxa manibus; pars Tyriī quaerunt locum domō, et concludunt locum sulcō. Tyriī legunt iura, magistratūs et sanctum senatum. Hic, aliī effodiunt portus. hic, aliī locant alta fundamenta theatrīs. Tyriī excidunt immanēs columnās e rupibus. columnae sunt alta decora scaenīs futurīs. Aeneas dicit, “O fortunatī sunt homines quorum moenia iam surgunt!”

Embedded Version #2 of Aeneid, Book 1, lines 419-429, 437
I. Aeneas miratur
A. molem (quondam magalia) et
B. portas et
C. strepitum(que)
D. et strata viarum

II. ardentes Tyrii instant

III. pars (Tyrii)
A. ducere muros
B. et moliri arcem et
C. subvolvere saxa manibus

IV. pars optare locum tecto et concludere sulco.            

V. (Tyrii) legunt
A. iura et
B. magistratus et
C. sanctum senatum

VI. hic, alii (Tyrii) effodiunt portus

VII. hic, (alii Tyrii) locant alta fundamenta theatris

VIII. (alii Tyrii) excidunt immanis columnas (e) rupibus scaenis decora alta futuris

IX. Aeneas ait, “O fortunati (homines), quorum moenia iam surgunt!”

Original version of Aeneid, Book 1, lines 419-429, 437
miratur molem Aeneas, magalia quondam,
miratur portas strepitumque et strata viarum.
Instant ardentes Tyrii: pars ducere muros,
molirique arcem et manibus subvolvere saxa,
pars optare locum tecto et concludere sulco.               5
iura magistratusque legunt sanctumque senatum;        
hic portus alii effodiunt; hic alta theatris
fundamenta locant alii, immanisque columnas
rupibus excidunt, scaenis decora alta futuris.
'O fortunati, quorum iam moenia surgunt!'...               10
Aeneas ait, et fastigia suspicit urbis

Now some may argue that I have destroyed the original Latin word order by forcing an English word order on it and that students need to learn how to read Latin from left to right - I will grant you that. BUT my primary concern is establishing meaning FIRST. Above all, that is of utmost importance.

  • Due to the scaffolding nature of the stories, it greatly lowers students' affective filters regarding the reading itself. Handing students the original text probably would overwhelm them if it were too difficult or too long.
  • Because students are reading multiple scaffolded versions of the same story, they are already familiar with what they are reading, thereby, they can anticipate vocabulary and language structures
  • Due to the re-reading, students are getting plenty of meaningful/contextual repetitions of the language
So this past year, I began doing embedded readings with my students. In one particular Latin III class, after they had read a simplified version of a story, I told them that they were now going to read the same story but the next version was just a bit more complex grammatically and longer in length. As soon as I said that, a student yelled out, "But the first version really wasn't that interesting the first time we read it!" As I thought about what he said, I realized that he was I began to put my own twist on embedded readings

What did I do? This will be addressed in my next posting.