Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing in Latin, part 3 - Student-Created Comprehensible Readers

This is part 3 in a continuing series on getting students to write in the target language.

So after students have done a timed write, what can you as the teacher do with their writings? I got this idea from Kristin Duncan's TPRSTeacher blog, which she in turn had gleaned from Judith Dubois's blog Ms. D's Funny Little Classroom.

The idea is to take some of the writings and simply to edit them for the class to read the next day, and by "edit," I mean "to correct any grammar errors in the the writing." You as the teacher type up the writings but do not change anything which has been written other than the forms for grammatical purposes or for comprehension. 

Some may say, "Students should not be writing if they are going to be making tons of errors." I suppose that one could argue that, but the purpose of this is to create some more COMPREHENSIBLE readings for students. Because these have been written by students, most likely they do not include any random vocabulary which have not been acquired yet, i.e. the writings are written by students for students at a student-level. And remember: my role in this is purely as editor. The writer Oscar Wilde supposedly, when he was sending off a manuscript to his publishers, penned a note to them, saying "I’ll leave you to tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whichs, etc.”

The following is an example of a timed write which I had my Latin 3 students do. The text in bold is a story which I had written: first, I read it aloud to them and acted it out - any new words or forms (such as the future participle) were written on the board and whenever I came to that word, I pointed to it on the board to establish meaning; second, the class received a paper copy of the story and we read through it together, with a choral translation of it and me asking comprehension questions in Latin about the story; third, students did a 25-minute Read and Draw of the story; fourth, finally students did a 10-minute timed write of the story, using their Read/Draw pictures - when they finished, they were to continue writing what they thought happened next. I then edited their "what happened next?" part and as a class, the next day, we read through them together. What follows are five student-written, teacher-edited conclusions of the story.

Jenny erat in culina, cantans et coquens libum, quod erat dies natalis Susanis. Jenny erat positura saccharum in libo, cum subito, Cindy culinam ingressa est. Cindy donum et venenum in mensa posuit. subito Cindy displosit, et Jenny obstupefacta est. putans venenum esse saccharum, Jenny venenum in libo posuit. libum ad Susanem a Jenny portatum est. Susan gaudio affecta est et erat consumptura libum. tum quid accidit?

1) cum Susan libum gustavisset, lacrimavit. Jenny rogavit, “quid accidit?” Susan dixit, “libum est pulchrum!” Jenny gaudio affecta est et gustavit libum. subito, Jenny displosit. Susan obsupefacta est, et consumpsit libum.

 2) Cindy intravit culinam. cucurrit ad Susanem et rapuit libum. tum Cindy deiecit libum in terra. Susan erat irata quod voluit consumere libum. “libum habet venenum!” Cindy clamavit. “Jenny voluit necare te!” loctua haec verba, Cindy petivit Jennyem. Jenny cucurrit e culina. “ego sum non homo quem tu intellexisti me esse!”

3) Cerberus culinam ingressus est, et Cindy in culina apparuit. Cindy clamat, “minime, libum venenum habet!” Jenny et Susan obstupefacti sunt. “estne venenum in libo?” dixit Susan. “ita vero,” respondit Cindy. Jenny tristitia affecta est, quod Susan erat consumptura libum, et libum habet venenum. Cerberus Jennyo appropinquavit, et prope eam sedit. Jenny gaudio affecta est. Susan risit (et dixit), “ego sum laeta, quod ego non sum mortua. Cindy, tu es amica. Jenny, tu es amica.”

4) Susan libum consumpsit et erat exanimata. Jenny obstupefacta est, et erat lacrimatura. tum Cindy decidit a caelo, et servavit Susanem. Susan affecta est gratitiā, et dixit, “maximas gratias ago, quod tu es meus heros!” Cindy explicavit quid accidisset. Susan et Jenny in animo volverunt cur Cindy portavisset donum cum veneno ad diem natalem. Cindy narravit rem. Cindy voluit necare porcum scelestum, sed obstructa erat a scelesto arbore. Cindy per silvam ambulavit…

5) subito Susan a Jenny pulsata est. irata, Susan Jennyem rogavit, “cur tu me pulsavisti? ego numquam te pulso!” Jenny Susanae dixit, “O Susan, re vera, tu est optima amica.” sed Jenny Susanem iterum pulsavit, et Susan humi decidit, mortua. nunc Susan (awoke) et putans esse fabulam mirabilem, libum laeta consumpsit. sed quod libum erat malum libum, Susan iterum humi decidit, mortua. Cindy apparuit, cacchinans!

1) Because everyone in the class took part in the timed write, it is a common experience for the class. The class knows what happened prior to the student-written endings, so they are eager to see what others wrote.

2) Because these writings are student-written, they are incredibly comprehensible to read. I do not even do an English translation of it when we read through them - we read them together in Latin as Latin - I don't ask any comprehension questions but simply read the stories aloud in Latin. What I love most is hearing students laugh as they read along with me, because it shows me that they are truly interacting with the language in the language.

3) Students actually get mad at me when I do not pick their writings for the class to read. I explain to them, "I pick 5-6 writings at random. Yours will be picked eventually."

4) In my editor role, I am able to see what kinds of grammatical errors which students are making; this shows me what I need to review or where I need to slow down to help acquisition.

5) I am absolutely floored at what students come up with when it comes to creating their own endings - they are so creative!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pictionary/Tell A Story

This is an activity which I learned at my first Rusticatio in 2010. It is part Pictionary, part Tell A Story.

1) Ask a student in the class for a letter of the alphabet.
2) Now play Pictionary with the class, where students will volunteer to draw pictoral representations of the vocabulary words beginning with that particular letter
3) Do not erase the picture after a student draws it, but keep it up on the board. In fact, students may add to the existing picture if they choose (as long as the word begins with that letter).
4) Once you have 8-9 words, then tell the class that you will tell them a story involving those words which were drawn. You can also do this as an Ask a Story.

Here is an example which I did with one of my Latin 2 classes. The letter which a student picked was "A"

The words which were drawn were: agricola, auris, audit, animal, amat, amicus, arbor, ad, aqua, aedificat

Here is the story which they came up with as an Ask a Story: agricola animal amat, sed animal agricolam non amat. ergo, animal ad silvam fugit. in silva sunt multae arbores. in silva, animal duos amicos aedificantes villam conspicit. agricola est tristis, et clamat quod amat animal. animal agricolam clamantem auribus audit et ad aquam fugit.

1) A fun activity for students. The Pictionary aspect gives students a different way to interact with vocabulary.
2) Using only particular words for the Tell/Ask a Story can be a bit tricky since there are some specific parameters but at the same time, the parameters keep the story from getting off task
3) Since the students determined which words are going to be in the story, it gives them some ownership of the story.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Writing in Latin, part 2 - What are Some Ways to Do It?

This is part 2 of a continuing series on getting students to write in Latin.

When it comes to having students compose in Latin, the name of the game is INPUT, INPUT, INPUT. In order for student output to occur, they need LOTS and LOTS of understandable input. Output, in a sense, is a logical overflow and outpouring of all of that input which now needs an outlet.

When having students write in Latin, I have three very important rules - I will address the reasoning later in this posting:
  1. When it comes to writing, the goal is to create as much language as possible, THERFORE:
  2. Do not worry about grammar for right now. Do not let that impede you from what you want to write - just write.
  3. Do not worry about spelling for right now. Try to write the word as best you can or to write the word phonetically. Again, do not let this impede you from what you want to write. 
Here are two different types of writing which I do with my classes:

Timed Writes
Directly following an input activity, such as TPRS, Ask a Story, One Word Picture, Read and Draw, Read and Discuss, micrologue, etc., I tell students to get out a sheet of paper and that they will have X minutes to rewrite that story in Latin as best as they can and if they finish with time remaining, they are to continue by writing in Latin what they think happens next in the story in their own words. The idea is that during this set amount of time, they are ALWAYS to be writing in Latin. I remind students, "If you cannot think of anything to write, someone/something can always enter - what does that person/thing look like? Someone/something can do something - what is it? Then what happens?" If students run out of ideas or cannot think of anything, then I tell them that they are to write a list of vocabulary words which they know and hopefully, that list will get their creativity "flowing" again. 5 minutes is a good amount of time for beginners. When they begin to say that they need more time, then slowly begin to increase that time over the semester to 7.5 minutes, and then to 10 minutes and then to 15 minutes. When time is done, students then count the number of words which they have written and are to put that number in a box under their writing. At the top of the paper, they are to write:
  1. their name
  2. the date of the writing
  3. the title of the writing (such as "Stage 18 Timed Write")
  4. the amount of time given
This information is important for their future evaluation. Students turn their writings into me, and I will read them over. I do not grade them, but I will file it into their writing portfolio folders.

Free Writes
This type of writing activity is very similar to a timed write, in that students will write for X minutes. The difference, however, is that instead of rewriting something which has already been "input" into them, students will now respond to a prompt or to a picture and have to write about that. This is a bit more difficult for students in that they are now composing right away, instead of relying on an "input product" first as they had in the timed write. I do not do free writes until students have completed LOTS of timed writes. Same rules and procedures apply here as with a timed write.

To me, a free write allows for more creativity, as the prompt gives more freedom in writing. I am always amazed that even though all students have the same prompt, every student comes up with a completely different story.

Some prompts which I have used:
  1. Brant in Starbucks sedebat, bibens caffeam et legens librum. subito magnum sonitum audivit. 
  2. Ashley nocte per silvam ambulabat, et subito, conspexit aliquid.
  3. Joseph in cafetera sedebat, cantans carmen, et subito, barbara puella cafeteriam ingressa est. 
  1. This is a great way for me to see what vocabulary/language structures students have acquired. I cannot tell you how often I see students write "stock phrases" which I use in my stories such as (person's name) erat iuvenis/puella pravi ingenii (do students know that they are using a genitive of description?!) or (person's name) gaudio/ira/laetitia/tristita affectus est. 
  2. This is also a great way for me to see what language structures/grammar I need to review or to continue to use in order for students to gain acquisition. Even though I do not grade these writings, I do view it as a formative assessment for me to see where students need more help.
  3. Even though students may gripe when I say that they will be doing a writing activity, they actually do enjoy being able to create something in the language. I cannot tell you how often after a writing is completed, I hear students telling each other and me what they wrote.
  4. The original story for a timed write or the free write prompt needs to compelling in order for students to want to write in the first place. If the prompt is Italia est parva patria in Europa, quite honestly, that really is not of much interest for students.
  5. As students become more accustomed to writing, the amount of words which they will be able to write in X minutes will increase. If it does not, then this could be a red flag that I as a teacher am not doing enough input for student acquisition of language or it could be that this particular students needs a little "push" from me 
  6. As students become more accustomed to writing, SLOWLY their sentence structures will begin to become more complex. But let us remember that these students are still novice language learners - do not expect just because the unit is on ablative absolutes that students will be able to produce these structures 100% on their own. 
So what about grammar/accuracy? Shouldn't we be teaching students to be grammatically correct when writing? My answer: yes, I agree but just not in the way that many folks do. Yes, I want students to be grammatically correct in their writing/speaking but at the same time, these are novice language learners, meaning that I should expect a TON of errors. Remember that the goal of timed/free writing is to create as much language as possible in a set amount of time, just not necessarily accurate language.

So where does the grammar correction happen? Although I do not grade the writings per se, I do take a look at them purely to see where I as a teacher need to do more review. If I see that students are writing everything in the nominative case, it shows me that they are still struggling with using the accusative ending and have not truly acquired it, so I will try to pattern that structure through TPRS and other input activities.

But don't grammar errors make it difficult to read what students have written? In some ways it can. Sometimes, I actually have to read their writings aloud to understand what they have written, because I as the teacher am putting on my grammarian hat and am getting all caught up with their errors, BUT as a sympathetic reader (an ACTFL writing proficiency term for novice/intermediate writers), I am able to comprehend what they are trying to communicate, which is the goal.

My own personal experience: in the summer of 2010, I attended my first Rusticatio, a weeklong, spoken Latin-immersion "camp." Even though I had studied and taught Latin for half my life by that time (and was a grammar-lover), I had never communicated before in the language. And let me tell you, it was very difficult! I found myself making what seemed like incredibly basic errors, such as "ego est laetus," and "ego cena parat," but let me also say that being grammatically correct was the last thing on my mind! All I wanted was to get Latin to come out of my mouth; forget grammar!! For me, that was the victory. If I worried way too much over being grammatically correct, then I never would have said anything that summer. What I was trying to communicate was understandable to the sympathetic listener. When correction was needed for the purpose of comprehension, then speakers patterned the correct usage for me but never blatantly corrected me, i.e., no Krashen's external monitor. And as I attended more Rusticationes, I found myself becoming more comfortable with communicating in the language, and I began to correct myself or to become more aware of the grammar needed to communicate (Krashen's intermal monitor). This summer will be my 5th Rusticatio, and I know that I will continue to make mistakes but I am definitely more comfortable making them. I write all of this to say that through my experiences at Rusticatio, I suddenly realized what my own students must feel like in my class.

The next post will address what students will do with their writings as a summative assessment.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Writing in Latin, part 1

This will begin a series of postings on writing in the target language

In the past, I have always wanted my students to write in Latin, but I have never been really happy with the results. I never liked the books which had students "translate the following sentences into Latin" because the exercise seemed rather stilted, and the sentences provided were rather impractical (e.g, the queen asked for money, because a pirate is sailing to the island - all 1st conjugation and declension words).  What I wanted was for students to compose in Latin on their own, but I felt like students did not have much to say when they wrote, and when they did, it was full of grammar errors.

When I myself was an undergraduate at UCLA, I had to take a Latin composition class, and I remember that it was such an incredibly difficult course - quite honestly, I do not think that UCLA even offers that class any longer. That class was the first time where I had ever been required to write ANYTHING in Latin outside of verb synopses and noun declensions (and this was after 4 years of high school Latin and 3 years of university-level Latin), and I certainly had never heard Latin before for the purpose of communication. I ended up getting a B in that class, and I was pretty proud of it, considering how tough it was. As I reflect back now, I realize that I really was not writing in Latin per se but rather decoding English into Latin, one word at a time.

These past few years though I have learned three very important points about students writing in the target language.

  1. In order for students to produce "output," they needs LOTS of understandable "input" IN LATIN first. Input includes but is not limited to oral, listening, reading, drawing and singing, with as much student interaction as possible with the Latin IN LATIN so that the Latin becomes internalized. "Output" then becomes a natural response to "input," but it is almost like there needs to be at least 3-4 times as much input than output in order for output to occur.
  2. Students actually do want to compose in the target language, but whatever they write needs to be both of great interest and compelling to them. This is why the stilted "translate-these-senteces-from-English-into-Latin" sentences usually do not work for students. An isolated sentence involving a queen asking for money because a pirate is sailing to the island is probably not of great interest to students.
  3. Expect grammar errors! It is part of the language acquisition process. Based on the ACTFL Writing Proficiency Guidelines, Novice-level students can write lists of vocabulary words and compose rudimentary sentences and memorized phrases; if students have never written in Latin before, even if they are at an AP-level, then this is where they are at. Intermediate-level students can write full sentences and demonstrate basic control over language structures in their writing (note - in the modern languages, this is considered roughly the 4th year of actual usage of the language). I think that we teachers make the mistake of expecting students to write perfectly in Latin right away, even if they know all of their endings, and we push them to start writing complex structures too soon, but the ACTFL reality is, the average student cannot. Moreover, they will make a TON of grammar/spelling mistakes, which is exactly what they should be doing.

So what are some ways you can get your students to write in Latin if they have never done it before (and quite honestly, you have never done it before)?

  1. Don't rush into composition right away. For Latin 1, it may simply be to write a list of all vocabulary words which they know in 5 minutes and then to count them. Granted this is an isolated list, but it is a skill of a Novice-level writer. Maybe students can spit back sentences like "Caecilius est in tablino," "Metella est mater," as these may have become memorized phrases for them.
  2. Give students an understandable story written in Latin to read, with simple comprehension questions which they will answer by writing their response in Latin, using the text as the source. Though they are not composing in Latin per se, the act of copying words/text in the target language is a Novice-level writer according to ACTFL Writing Proficiency standards. Plus, comprehension of the text is needed for students to know what to write down, so both comprehension and writing skills are addressed.
  3. Do a short dictation exercise. I have written an earlier post about dictationes and their benefits.
My next posting will deal with various ways in which I have had students write and compose PARAGRAPHS in Latin.