Thursday, January 15, 2015

Same Conversation, Part 2 - Movie Director

This is part 2 of a series of three posts.

My last post dealt with the technique Same Conversation and TPR - how to have the same conversation in a novel yet meaningful way when using TPR. What are some other ways outside of TPR?

Many textbooks have dialogue practice in them, but in most cases, the dialogues themselves are rather stilted. Here is another VERY easy and fun strategy of doing Same Conversation with textbook dialogues: 

I call this activity Movie Director. Carol Gaab demonstrated this at NTPRS last summer (I do not think that she called it "Movie Director"), but I remember doing skits like this (in English) at summer camp when I was growing up:
  1. Pick two students whom you think are good actors. (or as many are needed for the dialogue). Many times I will ask the class, "Whom in this class do you think will do a good job of acting?" 
  2. Project the dialogue or part of it - eight sentences is about right. 
  3. Have those students come up to the front of the room and simply read it aloud without any type of emotion. You may have to translate it into English first in order to establish meaning for the class.
  4. Now you as the Movie Director say in the target language, "Okay, that was good, but can you do it now loudly"?
  5. The actors read the dialogue aloud and act it out loudly
  6. Now you as the Movie Director say in the target language, "Okay, that was better, but this time do it happily?"
  7. The actors now act out the dialogue happily.
The idea is that after each time, you tell them to do it differently, such as sadly, angrily, romantically, slowly, quickly, etc.

  •  It is absolutely hilarious watching students act out the same dialogue differently each time, and it makes reading through a dialogue less "painful." 
  • The class is engaged in watching the dialogue acted out differently each time, when in reality, it is hearing the same dialogue over and over again, thus getting in the necessary repetitions of language needed for subconscious acquisition. This is also a great way to work with adverbs. 
  • Sometimes I ask students for different ways the dialogue can be acted out - you will be surprised at how many times you can have the same dialogue acted out differently. Suggesions have included: Valley Girl accents, Darth Vader/Yoda voices.

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.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Progress Report

A few months ago, I wrote up a posting here about what my CI goals were for the year. With 1st semester having ended and 2nd semester to begin in a few days, I thought that I would give you all a progress report of how things are going so far this year. Here are my reflections:
  1. Leave the textbook behind - I have not completely left behind the textbook, but rather I am doing a "hybrid" approach. As I have two other Latin colleagues who follow the textbook closely, I cannot just abandon it. Instead, I took a look at what needed to be covered for the semester and took my own approach at it: covering the material how I want to and in what order I want to. In some ways, I have been successful, but in other ways, there have been some "grammar" concepts which I did not get to. I am not concerned though. 
  2. Deliver understandable, comprehensible and compelling language to students in word and on paper - I have gotten better at this, but I still have a long way to go. On many occasions, I feel that I am indeed delivering messages, but they are not 100% comprehensible or compelling. As I have read on a number of CI/TPRS blogs: less is more. 
  3. Limit vocabulary - This is the one area where I start to panic a bit. If I were following the Latin 1 textbook, at this point, students would “know” 160 words. For me, I have only introduced 60 words, so part of me feels like “Wow, I am SO behind.” But I also realize that:
    • I have introduced lots of high frequency vocabulary first which the book does not until much later
    • in limiting vocabulary and lots of interaction with the language through meaningful repetitions, my students have truly acquired these words. They are not having to make flashcards to learn these words, because they are learning them subconsciously. My students truly know these words now, because they have ACQUIRED and internalized them. The proof: although my vocabulary quizzes are unannounced and cumulative in nature, 90% of the students are scoring 100s on them (the lowest score is around an 80). Plus, students are using these words on their own in their timed writes.
         I would much rather have that students acquired 60 words than "memorize" 160 words                 for a quiz and then forget them.

     4. Hit the high frequency words first - Wow, this has completely changed the way in                        which I teach language. I do not know why textbooks do not do this! Hitting high 
         frequency vocabulary first has given me so much freedom and for students to create 
         language. Here is a great post by Crystal Barragan about what high frequency verbs 
         should be taught first.
     5. Incorporate a Word Wall in my classroom - DONE! I love having a word wall, and I 
         do not know why I waited so long to do one. I will address this in a later post.
     6. "Point and Pause" more - I am doing a much better job at this. I have always written 
         new words on the board in order to establish meaning, but now I am deliberately 
         "pointing and pausing." In fact, I am pausing for a longer time than I have before. I
         slows me down in presenting the words, which as a result allows for added time for 
         students to process the vocabulary. At NTPRS last summer, when learning Japanese                     from Betsy Paskvan, I remember how much I appreciated it when she "pointed                                and paused." 
     7. Vary things up - I have adopted Carol Gaab's mantra "The brain CRAVES novelty." I 
         try to do 2-3 different strategies/techniques a day and not to repeat a strategy until 3-4 
         weeks have passed in order to preserve the novelty. I have written up an earlier post 
         addressing this. Even in circling, I have followed Carol's advice and vary it up every 
         4th/5th question by then doing a PQA and then after every 4th/5th question of that, 
         I will change it up again.
     8. Focus on student reading and re-reading - This seems like such an easy and given 
         strategy but gosh, we language teachers completely neglect this. Reading and re-
         reading is indeed where the "magic" happens in second language acquisition! The 
         key though is to vary up the strategies so that the re-reading has a different focus 
         each time, thus preserving the novelty.
     9. Read more CI/TPRS blogs - I have read some really good blogs out there! I will                               address this in a later post. 
   10. Attend CI/TPRS presentations at conferences - At ACTFL, I did not attend one 
         Latin session (outside of the one on Untextbooking as it was led by Bob Patrick, 
         Miriam Patrick and Rachel Ash), instead focusing on sessions which addressed 
         Comprehensible Input. There were many Latin teachers there who did not even know 
         that I was at ACTFL until the ACL reception, because they did not see me any of the 
         Latin sessions.

So far, I am very pleased with how my CI progress is going. It is actually very exciting seeing the acquisition process occurring in students - it is SO much different from the results which I have seen using past memorization/drill-and-kill methodology.

I am looking forward to this new semester - at the end of May, I will give you my final update.