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.

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