Friday, January 9, 2015

Same Conversation, part 1 - TPR

This is a first of a series of three posts.

One of the main tenets of CI is that language learners need constant repetition of vocabulary/structures in a meaningful context in order for them to acquire the language subconsciously. The problem is how to do this without making it boring for students, because in the words of Carol Gaab, we know that "the brain CRAVES novelty!"

One way of accomplishing this is Same Conversation, a technique which I learned from Evan Gardner, founder of "Where Are Your Keys?". Same Conversation is exactly how it sounds - have the same comprehensible conversation in the target language multiple times in order to get in the necessary repetitions. Due to the "sameness" aspect, language learners become familiar with what they are hearing and can anticipate what will be said next.

There are a number of ways in which one can accomplish this and still keep it novel. Total Physical Response (TPR) itself is full of repetitions, as the teacher is the one telling students what to do in a Simon Says kind of fashion, and students demonstrate their comprehension by completing the action. Commands are constantly repeated in various ways. After awhile, however, TPR can get really old, really fast for students. At NTPRS last summer, Carol Gaab demonstrated a great way of doing Same Conversation with TPR which really resonates with students. Based on her example involving the word "pick up," here is how I accomplished it in Latin 1 on the 3rd day of class - it simply involved a baby doll. The target word was sume (pick up) - because it was only day 3 of Latin 1, I spoke in a mix of Latin/English:

Me: Joe, sume infantem(Joe picks up the baby doll by its neck)
Me: Really, Joe? That is how you sume infantem?! This is an infans! Let me show you how to sumere infantem(I overdramatically pick up the baby doll gently, cradling its neck and put it back down)
Me: Katy, veni huc (come here)and show Joe how it's done. Sume infantem(Katy picks up the baby doll somewhat gently)
Me: Really, Katy? That is how you sume infantem? Again, this is an infans! Melissa, veni huc and show Katy and Joe how it's done. Sume infantem(Melissa picks up the baby doll very gently and does a better job)
Me: Ok, better, but gosh, Ben, veni huc and show Joe, Katy and Melissa how to do it. Sume infantem(Ben overdramatically picks up the baby doll as if it were a real baby)
Me: Optime, Ben! Now Melissa, sume infantem(Melissa overdramatically picks up the baby doll as if it were a real baby).
Me: Optime, Melissa! Katy, sume infantem(Katy overdramatically picks up the baby doll as if it were a real baby)
Me: Optime, Katy. Joe, sume infantem(Joe overdramatically picks up the baby as if it were a real baby).
Me: Optime, Joe! Now you know how to sumere infantem!

  1. During that whole interchange, I had repeated the phrase sume infantem (or some variation of it) ELEVEN times in the span of a couple minutes, but students did not realize it or tire of hearing the phrase due to the "problematic scenario" which I had created.
  2. The class was entirely engaged and laughing during the whole interchange, watching their fellow students pick up a baby doll, being chastised for doing it incorrectly and only being praised when it was done overdramatically. Little did they realize that it was all a ploy in order to get them to hear the phrase sume infantem over and over again in a meaningful and novel way. They simply thought it was just about learning how to pick up a baby properly. Haha, I am so devious..
  3. Even though I used the infinitive form sumere at times, it did not impede comprehension.

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