Saturday, December 14, 2013

Getting Started with CI

Whenever people ask celebrity environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. how they themselves can begin to have a lesser impact on the environment, he always responds, "Pick the low hanging fruit first. Do those things which are easy to do, such as recycling, buying low-energy lightbulbs, taking cloth bags with you to the market instead of using plastic bags, taking the bus to work, etc. Once you master those activities and they become part of your daily habit, then move onto bigger things."
I think the same can be said about using CI in the Latin classroom. So many times, we do not know where to begin with it all, and it can seem so overwhelming. And yes, considering how much of a “game-changer” CI is compared to the grammar-translation methodology from which we Latin teachers learned the language, the whole undertaking can look rather daunting.
Using CI in the classroom involves you as the teacher speaking Latin with your students, but keep in mind this most basic tenet of CI: deliver understandable and comprehensible messages in the target language, as this is how we acquire language itself. I heard at ACTFL a few weeks ago that parents have a 100% success rate in teaching language to their children, because they speak to them in an understandable manner; parents do not get caught up in teaching grammar to their children but rather speak to them at a level which they can understand. In other words, when speaking Latin to our students, it is not necessary for us to be fluent in the language per se, rather just understandable and comprehensible. What an absolute relief that is!
So if you have never used CI in your classroom or even spoken Latin before, a simple way to begin is to ask basic comprehension questions in the language. Create a simple sentence in Latin or pick one from a reading; if the sentence contains words which students do not know, then write both the Latin word and English meaning on the board in order to establish meaning. Say the sentence aloud in Latin to the class (write the sentence on the board, if needed). Now ask questions in Latin about the sentence (write the Latin interrogatives with the English meaning on the board as a reference), and require a choral response from the class in Latin. Example:
Cerberus est laetus canis et in villa currit.
  • quis est laetus? (Cerberus)
  • quis est Cerberus? (canis)
  • quis est canis? (Cerberus)
  • quid Cerberus agit/facit? (currit)
  • ubi Cerberus currit? (in villa)
To "spice" things up some, you can throw in some "yes/no" and "choice" questions
  • quis est laetus? (Cerberus)
  • estne Cerberus laetus? (ita/sic/certe)
  • estne Cerberus laetus an tristis? (laetus)
  • estne Cerberus tristis? (minime/non)
  • estne Cerberus femina? (minime/non)
  • estne Cerberus puer? (minime/non)
  • estne Cerberus puer an canis? (canis)
Every once in awhile, do a comprehension check in English by simply asking the class, "Now what did I mean when I said __________?" This will help establish meaning and allow you to see if indeed students are understanding what you are saying in Latin.
Once you get the hang of simple questioning, then you can start veering away from the sentence and asking students to think "outside" the sentence.
  • estne Cerberus canis? (ita/sic/certe)
  • estne Snoopy canis? (ita/sic/certe)
  • estne Mufasa canis? (minime/non)
  • estne Aslan canis? (minime/non)
  • estne Nemo canis? (minime/non)
  • estne Marmaduke canis? (ita/sic/certe)
Once you really get the hang of questioning, you can now begin using Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs). It may require writing more vocabulary on the board in order to establish meaning for students.
  • estne Cerberus canis? (ita/sic/certe)
  • (pointing to student) O Carol, habesne canem? (ita/sic/certe)
  • ah Carol, tu habes canem. Discipuli, Carol canem habet. habetne Carol canem? (ita/sic/certe)
  • Discipuli, habetne Carol canem an leonem? (canem)
  • Discipuli, habetne Carol leonem? (minime/non)
  • Discipuli, quis canem habet? (Carol)
As my friend and fellow Rusticator John Kuhner is accustomed to say, "The goal is to put Latin into the ears of your students, no matter how small." Asking simple questions in the target language with limited vocabulary allows students to interact orally/aurally with the Latin language, which is how they will in turn begin to internalize the language. All of this takes time though - even asking comprehension questions can be overwhelming if you dive in too quickly.
Asking simple comprehension questions in Latin is an example of some CI “low-hanging fruit.” If you have never done it before, go pick it!

1 comment:

  1. I subscribed to your blog on my Feedly reader when I got the link to it from the latinbestpractices list, but I've just gotten a chance to start reading it. I recently came back to school from maternity leave, and I'm excited to start with some of this low-hanging fruit, especially in the Latin 1 classes I've met for the first time. Thanks for putting everything out there so clearly!