Thursday, September 25, 2014

Scrambled Eggs

This is a great activity which I just learned from Lauren Watson, a French teacher in my district. She is a fellow user of CI and has been using it for years in her classroom, long before I ever had even heard of CI. Along with Bob Patrick and me, Lauren co-facilitates our districtwide CI inservices.

Scrambled Eggs is a much like a running dictation but with a twist. For this activity, you wil need plastic Easter eggs. Here are her directions, as she explained it to me:
  1. Write a 10 sentence story with words which students have acquired; then scramble the sentences so that the story is out of order. 
  2. Number each sentence, cut the story into 10 sentence strips and put one strip into a plastic Easter egg. 
  3. Put the eggs into a basket in the center of the room.
  4. Students worked in partners (partner A and partner B)
  5. Partner B has a sheet of paper numbered 1-10 (because there are 10 sentences).
  6. Partner A is responsible for going to the basket and bringing an egg back to Partner B.  They are NOT ALLOWED to open the egg until they are at their seats!  
  7. Partner A opens the egg, gives Partner B the sentence number and reads the sentence slowly.  Partner B writes down what he/she hears.
  8. After 5 sentences, they switch roles.
  9. When finished, show them the correct sentences, and they make corrections.
  10. At the end, they have to unscramble the story so that it makes sense.  
  11. As a bonus, I added 2 extra eggs with "Brain Breaks" in them.  Every time they got an egg with a Brain Break, they had to do what the paper inside said.  EX:  Touche le singe! (Touch the monkey!- I have a stuffed monkey hanging in my classroom) or a list of TPR commands for them to do.  Just silly, but they liked it.  
Okay, back to me now. Yesterday, we had the GA Graduation Writing Test, so I had a number of students out so this was a nice extension activity to do in class. Scrambled Eggs is a high energy activity, because there will be students constantly running back and forth to put back eggs and to retrieve new ones. 

As I have 34 students in a few of my Latin I classes, I added the following to the activity:
  1. In addition to the 10 sentences and 2 brain breaks, I added 2 more brain break strips and 2 strips which had "XXXXXXs", meaning that students had gotten a "dead" egg without a sentence so they would have to go back to get a new egg
  2. I added the task of translating the sentence into English after writing down the sentence in Latin. This was just to add another task to the activity in order to make it last longer.
  1. Because you are solely working with words which students have acquired and as the sentences are comprehensible, the actual reading, listening, writing and translating is not difficult at all for students.
  2. The activity does take prep time but during the activity, you the teacher are simply faciilitating.
  3. It is a different way to do a dictation. In having students read to each other, they are hearing the language spoken by someone other than you the teacher.
  4. It is a different way to do a running dictation, especially since students are just running to the center of the room as opposed to across a gym or hallway.
  5. Because students switch off every 5th sentence, they each get a turn having to read the Latin aloud and to write it down as a dictation
  6. To quote Lauren, "it is a chaotic activity but a good kind of chaos."
  7. It was fun watching students get an egg, go back to their partners and open it, only to find that they already had that sentence so they had to go put it back and then grab a new egg (which hopefully had a new sentence) 
Thanks, Lauren, for a great activity

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Listening Flow

To dovetail off of my post from last week on reading flow, just recently in one of my Latin 1 classes, I was telling a story in Latin. It was not an Ask a Story a'la TPRS style, but rather it was a story which I had written to introduce some new vocabulary and structures. In addition to telling the story and "pointing and pausing" to the target words on the board whenever they came up, I also was circling questions. After about 10 minutes, one of my students said, "Why do you keep asking us questions?! Can't we just listen to you tell the story?!"

At first, I was taken aback by this student's effrontery - how dare he question what I was doing, considering that the purpose of circling was to get students like him to interact with the language? But then I realized what he was saying: he simply wanted to hear the story and to enjoy it without any interruptions. I was the one getting in the way of that with my circling and asking questions. My series of questions was disrupting the picture forming in his mind. Essentially, I was interrupting his listening flow.

This is not to say that circling and PQAs do not have their place - they do. At the same time though, I realize now that it is also important to give students a chance to simply enjoy the language and to experience it without any disuruptions. As Carol Gaab says, "Circling can get REALLY OLD, REALLY FAST for students." If I am delivering the language in an understandable way, then it should be quite easy for students to enjoy the language without much difficulty.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reading Flow in the CI/TPRS Classroom

I'm currently reading Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do. At NTPRS this summer, at his presentation, Bryce Hedestrom suggested that we as CI/TPRS teachers read this book, and I am certainly glad that I am. In this book, Gallagher argues that the reason why students are no longer reading for pleasure is because schools are committing readicide, which he defines as
the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in school.
One of the biggest problems which Gallagher sees is that when reading, students are no longer able to experience reading flow:
Nancy Atwell, in The Reading Zone, describes [reading flow] “as that place where young readers have to come up for air"...many of my students have no idea what it means to come up for air when reading...[compared to viewing a movie] many have never experienced the utter thrill of becoming lost in a book. They have never experienced reading flow.
In his opening chapters, Gallagher lists several reasons which contribute to the obstruction of reading flow:
  • an over-dissection of a text by trying to cover too many standards in one text. Rather, he argues that a teacher should spread the standards over a number of texts, as some standards align better with certain texts than others.
  • schools valuing the development of test-taking more than the development of reading itself
  • trying to cover too much material, which results in shallow coverage of texts (wow, it is almost as if Gallagher saw the AP Latin syllabus when he wrote this book!)
  • little attention paid to pleasure reading, regardless of what it is
  • annotating a text to death with sticky notes and journals
As I read this book, I can see all of this unfolding before my own eyes with my students in their language arts classes.

The same principles can be applied to the world language class. Now while I do not expect to see my Latin 1 students so caught up in a reading that they forget where they are nor will I ever have them sticky-note a story to death, there are many obstacles which can disrupt a student's reading flow in a world language classroom:
  • too much unfamiliar/un-acquired vocabulary in a reading. Instead of simply reading, the task ends up being a dictionary hunt. More time is spent in looking up words than actually reading. The reading ends up being a stop-and-go process. I have heard it said that if there are more than five unknown words to a student in a reading, then the reading is too difficult. 
  • the reading itself is not comprehensible enough, i.e. the reading is too difficult and is beyond students' ability. As a result, frustration ensues.
  • the reading itself is not compelling. While the reading may be comprehensible, the subject matter itself is uninteresting. Though students may be able to read and to understand a reading about Liechtenstein, most students may not find a connection to the reading. Noted CI/TPRS presenter Carol Gaab says, "Compelling Input is just as important as Comprehensible Input."
  • the reading is too long. Just the length itself can cause students to have a pre-meditated conception that they are not going to enjoy the reading. 
Laurie Clarcq, one of the developers of Embedded Readings, says it best in her opening quote of her presentations (Laurie, thanks for giving me permission to use this quote!):
The purpose of language used in communication is to put a picture in the heart and/or mind of another person.
When reading flow is disrupted, that picture formation in the minds of students is also disrupted. When having students read, our goal as CI teachers should be an uninterrupted picture forming and constantly re-forming in their minds as more details from the reading are added.

How guilty I am of disrupting reading flow in my classroom over the years. Quite honestly, I do not think I ever thought of reading as something distinct from translating/decoding. In my opinion, they were the same concept; they are in fact two different skills.

So how can we CI/TPRS teachers produce reading flow for our students when they read? Here are a few strategies:

  • do not jump into a reading right away. Students need to be prepped before they begin a reading, so do some pre-reading activities first. Do not use the first reading of a text as a way to teach new vocabulary and structures. Too much is going on for students at the same time if you do that.
  • preview unfamiliar vocabulary/language structures first before reading. This can be achieved through TPR, asking a TPRS story, telling the actual story aloud first and acting it out, while having the new forms/vocabulary on the board so that students see/hear them first, a dication, etc. 
  • create some embedded readings of the text for students. If a text seems rather long and complex, give it to students in bite-sized chunks. In reading and re-reading scaffolded embedded versions of the text, reading flow is achieved, because students are already familiar with the vocabulary and can activate background knowledge in anticipating the plot.
  • create your own readings for students. Just because the textbook has readings/stories does not mean that they are good for students. Many textbook readings are overloaded with way too much vocabulary/structures too quickly. If you limit vocabulary/structures and you use the right words, you can create both a comprehensible and compelling story with just 15 distinct words. 
  • do post-reading activities - I think that post-reading activities of a text is where the "magic" happens, as students interact with the reading in different ways and are "forced" to re-read it again multiple times. Examples of post-reading activities are read and draw, Readers Theater, cloze sentences, parallel universe, Mindreader, possible/probable questions and embedded writings. Post-reading activities are great ways to transition to a more complex embedded reading. Many of these activities I will discuss in later postings.
  • have students re-read the story/text on their own - I will address this in a later posting.
I hate the fact that we as a Latin community do not have the CI/TPRS novels which the other languages have. Hopefully, that will change soon as the CI/TPRS Latin community grows! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Parallel Universe

I got this idea from Cynthia Hitz's presentation at ACTFL last November (although I do not think that she called it "Parallel Universe" - that is my addition. Mea culpa, Cynthia, if you indeed did call it this). This is a great post-reading activity, but it needs to be done only after students have reviewed a particular story/reading MANY times, because it is going to require them to know a number of facts from the original story.

The idea is quite basic: tell another story aloud in Latin using sentences from the original story but alter some of them to create a new story. After each sentence in the altered version, ask students if that sentence is from the original story or is from the Parallel Universe.

Here is one which I did with my Latin 1 students during the second week of school.

Original story
Leonard ad Walmart it. infans ad Walmart it. elephantus est in Walmart. infans elephantum sumit. Leonard clamat, "O infans, depone elephantum." infans elephantum deponit. lightsaber est in Walmart. infans lightsabrem sumit. Leonard clamat, "O infans, depone lightsabrem!" infans lightsabrem non deponit. infans ad Leonard it. Leonard in infante considit.

Parallel Universe
Leonard ad Walmart it. elephantus est in Walmart. elephantus Leonardem sumit. Leonard
clamat (shouts), “O elephante, depone me!” elephantus Leonardem non deponit. infans ad 
Walmart it. infans elephantum sumit. Leonard clamat, "O infans, depone elephantum!" 
infans elephantum deponit. elephantus in infante considit. 

- A fun, quick way to review a story! Students pay attention to see where the differences are.
- A great way to get in repetitions of the parts of the original story.
- If it is kept simple, it is a great listening comprehension activity
- A degree of critical thinking does take place. In my example, there were some sentences 
which were identical from the original story. Some students noted, however, that the 
sentences took place in a different time in original story - wow, they were really paying