Saturday, August 30, 2014

CI Goals for 2014-2015

I have been in school now for a month - here in GA, we start school the first week of August (it is all relative, because we also get out before Memorial Day). So even though I have one month under my belt, I feel like I should list out my Comprehensible Input goals for the year - this way, I have a record of what I hope to accomplish and can refer back to this list throughout the school year:
  1. Leave the textbook behind - this can be absolutely scary for WL teachers. The textbook is "safe and familiar," and we probably have TONS of worksheets and lesson plans which support the book. But just because the textbook is "safe and familiar" for you as the teacher, does that mean it is the best learning tool for every student in your classroom? Or rather, is it best just for certain types of students and for you? Now since I have two other colleagues at my school who use the textbook, I will follow the "spirit" of the textbook, i.e. I will make sure that I cover X topics by the end of the semester but I will do it MY way. Check out the following link from Carrie Toth's blog about Leaving Behind the Textbook.
  2. Deliver understandable, comprehensible and compelling language to students in word and on paper - this is just a CI/TPRS given. 
  3. Limit vocabulary - Why the heck do textbooks give lists of 20-25 words for students to learn? We all know that students simply memorize them for a quiz but do not retain those words. So far these past four weeks, I think that I have been doing a good job at limiting vocabulary, as I have been introducing only 4-5 new target vocabulary words a week. The first week had about 10 words, because it was necessary, but since then I have been cutting back. I have been throwing in a number of incidental words (e.g. elephantus, dulciolum, crustulum, lightsaber, displodit) for the purpose of stories, but I am not holding students accountable to those words just yet. And it is completely possible to write a COMPELLING 60-word story with only 14 distinct vocabulary words!
  4. Hit the high frequency words first - I do not know why we as WL teachers naturally do not do this and rather rely on the textbook - if these are the words which are going to keep coming up over and over again, we should be teaching those right away! So after just a month, I have already taught the high frequency words est, it, ad, non, habet, amat, dat (in teaching this word, i left out the dative - it is much easier for students to learn this word as pure vocabulary before jumping into the dative at the same time), vult, videt and capit. Believe me, you can get A LOT of mileage out these words in a story.
  5. Incorporate a Word Wall in my classroom - I already have set one up with 21 words. Such a great way to review words and to keep them constantly in the eyes of students!
  6. "Point and Pause" more - this is a Blaine Ray TPRS technique. When establishing meaning of new words in TPRS, write the target words on the board in both the target language and English. Whenever a particular target word is used, point to that word and pause for a few seconds in order to let the word sink into the minds of students and for them to process it. Most of the times when I do a TPRS story, I point to the word but I do not pause. I need to slow down.  
  7. Vary things up -  If you have ever heard noted TPRS/CI presenter Carol Gaab, you know that her mantra is "The brain CRAVES novelty." She was the first TPRS/CI presenter whom I ever heard say "Just doing circling questions and PQAs gets REALLY OLD, REALLY QUICKLY for students." I wanted to run up to her and to give her a giant hug when I heard her say this at NTPRS, because that is how I felt too, but as I had never heard anyone else say the same thing, I kept that to myself and thought that maybe I was the problem. Now I do believe that learning to circle and to do PQAs are necessary and foundational TPRS/CI skills, but students catch on VERY quickly to the method. My goal is to incorporate as many different, deliberately scaffolded CI activities and strategies as I can this year.
  8. Focus on student reading and re-reading of material -  One of Krashen's main tenets is the importance of reading in second language acquisition. I plan to incorporate more level-appropriate embedded readings and by assigning already-seen classroom stories for students to re-read on my teacher website. 
  9. Read more CI/TPRS blogs - there are some really good ones out there!
  10. Attend CI/TPRS presentations at conferences - sorry, Latinists, but I will not be attending your presentations, unless they further my use of CI/TPRS in the classroom. 
  11. Teach fearlessly - I owe this phrase to Jason Fritze, another noted TPRS/CI teacher. At the 2013 Pedagogy Rusticatio (the topic that year was TPRS/CI), Jason was our main presenter. Wow, he is absolutely phenomenal! Jason had to leave very early in the morning on his last day, but he wrote these words as a goodbye message for us on a whiteboard by the door. I typed up this phrase and have it taped on my classroom desk. I am seeing incredible student results in using CI/TPRS which I have not seen before - why should I be afraid, apologetic or ashamed of what administrators, parents and other Latin teachers may say?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

One of our goals as CI teachers is to establish community in our classes; if students feel like they are a part of the class, their affective filters will lower, and as a result, they will be more apt to participate and to be more engaged in what is going on in the class. We try to do this through telling stories, doing PQAs, personalizing stories - anything which will get the message across to students "I see you, and I value you."

In many ways, those activities are just teacher-to-student. What about student-to-student? How can we make students feel comfortable with each other so that they will even want to participate in front of their peers?

Let me also say that by nature, I am not a touchy-feely emotions kind of guy. While I am incredibly social and gregarious, I am also not one who naturally dwells on feelings. I am your typical guy - if you were to ask me how I am feeling, I would probably respond either "Tired" or "Hungry".

When I was at NTPRS this summer, in my group's 5-hour session of learning Japanese with Betsy Paskvan, one of the activities was to do a paired translation of a story in Japanese. This was the first day of the conference, and quite honestly, I only knew one other person in the room (because we had shared an airport shuttle coming over). While we could have done a ping pong/volleyball translation activity, instead Betsy asked us questions in English such as "Between you and your partner, who has the longest hair? That person will read aloud the next two sentences in Japanese, and the other person will translate into English." Other questions included "Who has traveled to the most countries?" "Who has the darkest eyes?" "Who traveled the furthest to get to Chicago?" etc. It actually was a lot of fun, because I got to share and to learn information from others in my group that probably would not have come up in a conversation, and it certainly kept things from getting boring and repetitive.

What we did with Betsy was an example of Social Emotional Learning (thanks to Bess Hayles and her blog - Bess was in my group at NTPRS - for pointing out what we were doing and that Betsy was being intentional in doing this). Social Emotional Learning is the idea that students learn/acquire better and more quickly when they are emotionally engaged with each other in a low pressure atmosphere. Examples can be group projects, team-building exercises and even partner activities. Social Emotional Learning helps develop trust within the community of students. If students want to be in your class because of others there, then they will more likely to be engaged in your class.

Examples of CI-based SEL activities:
1) Circling with Balls
2) Word Chunk game
3) Running Dictation
4) Betsy's take on partner translation activity
5) PQAs

This year, I am teaching three Latin 1 classes and 2 AP classes. For the most part, my classes are pretty social: the AP classes know each other from having taken Latin together over the past few years, and two of my Latin 1 classes seem to enjoy each other and cannot get enough of each other and of me. THEN...I have another Latin 1 class which is very quiet. By no means is this a bad, disruptive class, but rather the opposite, I do not know if these students are just naturally quiet and are primarily introverts or if it is that they are not comfortable with each other enough to participate vocally or if it is the time of the day or if they are reacting to me or if it is a combination of all of the above. For these past three opening weeks of school, this is the class which has baffled me the most in using CI, because they seem so non-responsive. Doing Circling with Balls is almost painful to do with them! Quite honestly, they are the class which I dread teaching sometimes, because I cannot read them emotionally.

So three days ago, in doing a partner translation activity with my Latin 1 classes, instead of doing a ping pong/volleyball reading, I decided to do a SEL activity much like Betsy did with my group at NTPRS. During the activity, I asked five different questions in English - "Between you and your partner, ___________? That person will read the next 3 sentences in Latin, and your partner will translate into English.":
  1. who has the latest lunch period?
  2. whose locker is furthest away from my classroom?
  3. who ate dinner the latest last night?
  4. who has the longest hair?  
  5. who has the most siblings?
As I expected, the two social Latin 1 classes really enjoyed it, but what I did not expect was that this particular quiet Latin 1 class started to open up some! After each of the partners had completed their sentence translations, I asked the class to tell me some of the responses which they got from their partners. I was surprised both by how many students volunteered to tell what their partner had said and by how much the class actually wanted to hear what others had said. It was almost as if the actual partner translation was incidental, and the activity was more about community building than reading (and in some ways it was, because the class was actually re-reading something which they had chorally translated the day before). 

The next day, however, that class reverted back to its normal quiet self, but for 20 minutes the day before, I saw glimmers of community begin to develop among those group of students. This semester, I will continue to do more SEL activities with that class and to chip away slowly at whatever is impeding them from feeling comfortable with each other. 

Post Scriptum: Yesterday, because it was a Friday, I played the Word Chunk game with my Latin 1 students. As expected, my two social Latin 1 classes absolutely latched onto this activity, but I also had a HUGE gnawing feeling in my stomach that the other Latin 1 class would not "enjoy" it as much as the others. Wow, to my amazement, that class really got into it! Hopefully, I can continue to ride this wave of community which has started in that class.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Read Dating

This CI reading strategy, which I got from friend and colleague Bob Patrick, is a variation of Ping Pong/Volleyball Reading  - my Rusticatio friend Justin Slocum Bailey calls it "Read Dating," and you will see why! This is a great reading activity, because it gets students moving around.
  1. Organize student desks in pairs facing each other in a circular fashion around the room. You as the teacher are in the center. If there is an odd number of students, still line up desks this way.
  2. The outer circle of students is labeled "A", while the inner circle folks are labeled "B". If there is an odd number of students, there will be one student who does not have a partner. Do not worry - it will all work out.
  3. Every student has his/her own copy of the reading. The reading should be either a re-reading of something already read, an embedded reading or something which students can easily read at sight due to familiarity with vocabulary and language structures.
  4. Like in ping pong/volleyball reading, "A" students read the first sentence aloud in Latin to their partner sitting across from them, and then immediately, "B" students translate the sentence into English
  5. If "B" student needs help, then "A" student can help out. If neither student knows, then they ask you.
  6. Once "B" student finishes translating, then he/she reads the next sentence in Latin aloud to his/her partner, and "A" student translates into English.
  7. Partners alternate back and forth for 2 minutes. If there is an odd number of students, one student will not participate in this activity for the round. Tell him/her to read the story quietly.
  8. At the end of 2 minutes, tell "A" students rotate one seat to the right. If you have a bell, ring it to signify that time is up - this make it really feel like speed dating!
  9. If there is an odd number of students, now there will be a new student who does not have a partner.
  10. Now that there is a new pair, the 2 students determine where they left off in the story, and they start up at the earlier of the two sentences. Yes, there is going to be repetition for one of the readers, but that is a good thing.
  11. After 2 minutes, tell "B" students rotate to the right, and start up again.
  12.  When students finish the story, they go back to the beginning and read/translate it again.
  13. The length of time for the activity depends on the length of the passage. You want students to go through a story at least 1 1/2- 2 times.
  1. As the teacher, I love this activity, because I am doing nothing but facilitating! Occasionally, I will be called upon to help with a sentence.
  2. Students are helping each other out if there is something which they do not understand
  3. It is a great way to to get students to move around and to interact with each other. If a student does not "prefer" his/her partner, he/she only has to spend two minutes with that person!
  4. If you want to mix things up some, tell students to move 3-4 seats instead of just 1.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ping Pong/Volleyball Reading

This is a great partner reading/translation activity, and it is a staple of the TPRS/CI classroom when it comes to reading. Ping pong/volleyball reading is easy to facilitate, and this works wonderful for a re-reading/post-reading of an embedded version or for a VERY easy sight passage (meaning, students are already familiar with all of the vocabulary/language structures):
  1. Group students into groups of four. Depending on the number of students in your classroom, it may be necessary to have a few groups of three or of five.
  2. Within each group, two students will be a #1 and two students will be a #2. If it is a group of three, you will not number the students. If it is a group of five students, there will be three students who are #1.
  3. Have a #1 student pair up with a #2 student in the group. Again, in the group of three, these students will not be numbered and in a group of five, there will be one group which has three students.
  4. Give each student a copy of a Latin reading.
  5. In their pairs, student #1 will read aloud the first sentence in Latin and then student #2 will translate that sentence into English. Then student #2 will read the next sentence in Latin, after which, student #1 will translate that into English. Student #1 will then read the next sentence in Latin and so on. If it is a group of three, then students will rotate in a clockwork fashion whose turn it is to read in Latin and whose turn it is to translate into English. If it is a group of five, the two students who are #1 will alternate turns.
  6. If a student does not know a word, he/she can ask his/her partner. If neither of them know, they are to ask you the teacher.
  7. After two minutes, then tell students to switch partners in their groups. If there is a group of three students, it will not change partners.
  8. Now with their new partners, students will determine where each of them left off with their previous partner. The new partners will begin to read/translate starting at the EARLIER stopping point of the two. 
  9. The new partners will continue to alternate reading/translating.
  10. After two minutes, switch partners again in the group. 
  11. If partners complete the story, they are to start again from the beginning.
  12. Continue switching every two minutes until the story has been read at least 1 1/2 times by the groups (depending on the length of the story, this could be anywhere from 5-10 minutes.
  1. This is such a great activity for you as the teacher, because all you do is facilitate.
  2. Though students hate having to start again at an earlier point or to start at the beginning again when they complete the reading, it is a great way to get students to re-read the story and to get in repetitions!
  3. If a student does not know a vocabulary word, mispronounces a word wrong or translates something incorrectly, his/her partner will help him/her out. Your job is purely to walk around and to be available as an aid.
  4. Students really do learn from each other through listening.
  5. I would not do this activity for more than 10 minutes with the same reading, because it gets old for students. 
  6. This is a great way to do an embedded reading if the first story is relatively short. When students change partners, they can switch over to the second version, which should be easy to read, since the first version which they just read is embedded in the second version.
  7. It is a different way of doing a re-reading of a story. As noted TPRS/CI presenter Carol Gaab says. "The brain craves NOVELTY!' 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

TPR (Total Physical Response) for the First Week of Latin 1

In Stephen Krashen's theory of Comprehensible Input, a "silent period" of active listening and of auditory language processing is needed in order for language acquisition to occur, e.g. think of how much input which babies take in before they begin to verbalize/speak. Therefore, it is not recommended for teachers to jump immediately into having level 1 students produce language right away at the beginning of the school year. As much as you may want to go around the room having students ask/tell each their names in the target language during the first week, rather consider doing Total Physical Response (TPR) with your level 1 classes instead.

TPR is essentially associating a vocabulary word with a physical action. It can be hand gestures, American Sign Language (ASL) signs or the actual physical action itself. The idea is that through enough repetitions muscle memory will aid in the acquisition process.

There are many different variations of TPR which can be used in the world language classroom, of which the most basic form is commands, where you as the teacher command a student/students to do something in the target language, and their task is simply to perform it. I will do TPR for the first 5 days of Latin 1 - I know that Bob Patrick does it for the first 10 days - and I will do it for about 20-25 minutes of class.

What kinds of words to teach? That is up to you, but for obvious reasons, the verbs need to be action words. You can pick classroom management words such as "sit down," "stand up," "shout," "be quiet," etc or words which have much action associated with them, e.g. "go," "open," "close," "pick up," "put down," "throw," etc. I usually pick 4-5 new words each day on which to focus, while continuing to recycle past words in order to get in repetitions.

The name of the game is to get in as many repetitions as possible in as many different ways! Students must hear the words in a meaningful context over and over again in order to acquire them. The number thrown around is 70 repetitions in a meaningful context in order for students to acquire vocabulary.

1) For the first 1-2 days, stick with only verbs as commands.Determine which words you will teach that day using TPR, and write the commands on the board in both the target language and in English in order to establish meaning. I usually write both the singular and plural form, because throughout the class, I will end up commanding both individuals and the class as a whole to do something.

2) When introducing a new command, I will usually "command myself' first by pointing to the word on the board in order to establish meaning and then I will demonstrate the action. I will then call upon multiple individual students to perform the action

3) Even though this is a silent period for students, the very completion of the command demonstrates comprehension and is a form of non-verbal output, i.e. it was necessary for students to understand you in order to complete the task.

4) Once students begin to understand the commands (maybe after a day or so), start introducing objects or places in the room for students now to use and with which to interact. Remember to write the nouns on the board both in the target language and in English in order to establish meaning and to point to the words and pause when you use them.

5) Feel free to introduce adverbs too, such as "slowly" and "quickly" to spice things up.

6) As students begin to acquire the language, you can also start making longer sentences, such as "Carlita, stand up and go to the table. Pick up the book slowly and bring it to me. Now go to the table, pick up a cookie and throw it to Barbara."

7) A variation is in the beginning to divide the class into groups, to give them a name (a number, animal, color, etc) and to command the different groups - this requires the class to listen, "Beatnicks, stand up! Hula Hoopers, stand up! Beatnicks, sit down! Hula Hoopers, turn around! Hula Hoopers, stop! Beatnicks, stand up! Beatnicks, walk to the Hula Hooper and sit on them!"

8) As acquisition furthers during TPR, you can start to narrate the action of a student, e.g. "Susan, walk to the door slowly. O class, Susan is walking to the door slowly (you write "is walking" on the board in the target language and in English in order to establish meaning and then point/pause). Susan, touch the door. O class, Susan is touching the door (you do the same for "is touching") In this manner, you have gone from the singular imperative to the 3rd singular present form, but don't get into a full-on grammar discussion about it just yet. If you do this enough, students will start to predict the pattern and actually say it with you.

Your first instinct may be to jump into the grammar of it all but wait for a student to say something. Usually, I will have a student ask, "Why did 'ambula' go to 'ambulat'?" and my first response is, "Even though the form of the word changed, did you understand what I said? I used 'ambulat' because I am narrating the action of Susan, not commanding her," and I will leave it at that - this is an example of pop-up grammar. The same goes for if your nouns change forms too based on their function.

9) As noted CI/TPRS publisher and presenter Carol Gaab is fond of saying, "The brain craves NOVELTY," so change up the commands/objects by having students do wacky and funny tasks with different combinations of known words, e.g. "Julio, pick up the cookie and eat it slowly. Now turn around slowly and eat the cookie loudly and slowly. Marsha, walk to the board, pick up a pen and write 'I love Justin Bieber' on the board slowly." This is what will keep the class engaged!

After 5 days or so, students should have 25-30 words, which you specifically targeted for them, in addition to maybe another 10-15 words which were incidental words.

10) After the 20-25 minutes of TPR, I will review the new words which were TPR'd. This is a good time to introduce any derivatives which come from the words.

11) I sometimes give students 5 minutes at the end of class to command me around the room. Because the words are written on the board with their English meaning, I am not asking them to output on their own (although many will have acquired those words purely due to the massive amount of input).

I was absolutely scared the first time I ever did TPR a few years ago, because I was 100% sure that it was going to bomb. Instead, I had one of my best experiences with CI, because I was completely floored by how engaged the students were and by how much these Latin 1 students understood what I was saying (due to establishing meaning), even though I was speaking in Latin.