Sunday, July 26, 2015

What Did I Do to Make This Story Comprehensible for You?

I have recently returned from the National TPRS Conference (NTPRS), and wow, my mind is overflowing with so much good stuff.

I will write up a post here in a bit about NTPRS, but I wanted to write a quick post about something which I learned at the daylong Coaching for Coaches workshop the day before NTPRS began: After telling a story aloud a’ la CI/TPRS style in the target language, ask students “What did I do to make this story comprehensible for you?” What a simple, upfront way to get feedback from students! This question can be asked aloud, but probably it would be best to do as a written “ticket out the door” type of activity. Notice, the question is not “What can I do better to make the story more comprehensible for you?” Although this is an important question, the idea is to focus on the positive, because so many times even if positives are given, we tend to focus on the negatives. I also view it as if certain things are not mentioned as having made the story comprehensible, then most likely, it was because I did not do it.

Some possible answers to look for (students will probably not use these exact CI/TPRS terms:
  • Body language created inviting atmosphere
  • Spoke slowly
  • Created a safety net
  • Wrote target vocabulary on the board with English definitions in order to establish meaning
  • Assigned gestures to vocabulary words
  • Established expectations (choral response, choral gestures, etc.)
  • LOTS of repetitions of vocabulary
  • Pointed and Paused
  • Used student actors to act out the story during its telling
  •  Varied ways of circling
  • Gave lots of comprehension checks in English
  • Did grammar timeouts
  • Asked Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs)

At NTPRS, I gave a presentation where I demonstrated what Day 1 of my Latin 1 class is like where I actually begin to tell a story in Latin. My goal is to incorporate every one of the above CI/TPRS techniques, even though on Day 1 none of my students know any Latin (let alone have heard it as a spoken, communicative language). Less than half of the participants who attended my presentation knew any Latin, so the conditions were perfect. After I finished telling the story (I only got through six sentences of the entire story), I asked the participants “What did I do to make this story comprehensible for you?” Now I was not fishing for compliments, because I truly wanted to know what I was doing correct. I was absolutely blown away by what folks had to say! Even though I had deliberately built the above techniques into the lesson, and granted these participants were at an NTPRS conference so they knew what kinds of strategies to look for, it still felt so good to hear that it was obvious to them what I was doing.

So I challenge to ask your students every once in awhile “What did I do to make this story comprehensible for you?” They may tell you something which you did not know what you were doing! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

PreReading for a Classical Text

A few weeks ago at ACL, I was asked a number of times, "So how do you use CI to prepare students for a classical text?" Maybe a better question should be "What pre-reading activities/strateges do you use to prepare students for a classical text?" 

Under the traditional method, when it came to classical readings, we would give students a text, a dictionary, and say, "Go translate (and good luck, because you will need it)." We would do this, because we were under the impression that students already knew ALL of the necessary grammar and if they did not know a word, they could just look it up. Unfortunately, students would end up looking up probably 80% of the words, and heaven forbid, if it were an idiomatic expression or a phrase needing a note of some kind. The 4%ers could complete the task, but the remaining were floundering. 

If you are new to CI and are wanting to use CI methodology, here is an example of how I introduced students to a classical text. A few years ago, I was teaching Latin 3, and I was wanting to expose students to some passages from the AP syllabus, so I chose the scene in Book 1 where Aeneas and Achates first see the city of Carthage being built. I felt that there was enough plot to keep students interested, and that there was a degree of repetition happening to keep it comprehensible.

Because I was still kind of new to CI at that time, I decided to preview vocabulary/structures using a dictation. By this point, my students were very familiar with dictations.

Prior to the dication, though, I had to select which vocabulary/structures which I was going to preview. I decided on the following words:

1) quondam
2) sulcus
3) arx
4) mirari
5) magalium
6) subvolvere
7) collis
8) moenia
9) concludere

Day 1
I gave a dictation of the following. See here for directions about how to do a dictatio. The dictation was about three students: Colleen, Ray and Sahil.

1) Colleen ira affecta est, quod quondam Ray eam in sulco deiecerat.
2) in sulco a Raye deiecta, Colleen ultionem voluit et arcem in colle aedificavit.
3) arce in colle aedificata, Colleen invitavit ut arcem videat.
4) arce a Rayo viso, non miratus est, sed risit, dicens “ille non est arx, sed magalium!
5) arce vocato “magalium,” Colleen Rayem humi deiecit, et Ray de colle subvolvit.
6) Ray subvolvit in sulco, quem Colleen quondam effoderat.
7) Ray non ascendere e sulco poterat, quod Colleen sulcum moenis conclusit.
8) conclusus in sulco moenis, Ray tristitia affectus est et lacrimavit.
9) Sahil ad sulcum festinavit, et arcem miratus est.
10) mirans arcem, Sahil clamavit, “O fortunatus est vir qui arcem aedificavit!”
11) Sahilo audito, Colleen ira affecta est et in sulco Sahilem deiecit.

Following the dictation, we did a choral reading of the passage to establish meaning.

Day 2
1) I did a review of the dictation with a powerpoint, calling attention to particular vocabulary words. This was done was a choral reading.

2) I then introduced an embedded reading of the passage written in prose (as Nancy Llewellyn likes to call it, an enodatio):

Aeneas miratur molem (aedificia) in Karthagō - molēs erant quondam magalia, sed nunc sunt moles. Aeneas quoque miratur portās, strepitum urbis et strata viārum (paved roads). Tyriī (the Tyrians) sunt ardentēs (ablaze), et instant (they press on): pars Tyriī ducunt (extend) murōs, pars Tyriī aedificant arcem, et pars Tyriī subvolvunt saxa manibus; pars Tyriī quaerunt locum domō (for a home), et concludunt locum sulcō.

Tyriī legunt (choose) iura (leges), magistratūs et sanctum senatum. Hic (here), aliī (pars Tyrii) effodiunt portus. hic, aliī (pars Tyrii) locant alta fundamenta (foundations) theatrīs. Tyriī excidunt (carve out) immanēs (magnas) columnās e rupibus (cliffs). columnae sunt alta decora (ornamenta) scaenīs futurīs (for future stages). Aeneas dicit, “O fortunatī sunt homines quorum moenia iam (nunc) surgunt!”

3) I then had the class do a choral reading of this, since this was the first time for them to see it. I asked some comprehension questions and circled in Latin about the passage.

Day 3
1) Students did a 20-minute Read and Draw of the embedded prose passage. See here for a description. 
2) Following this, students did a 8-minute timed write of the passage, using the Read and Draw as a guide. When they finished writing the passage, they continued writing what happened next. 

Day 4
1) I gave students another version of the reading, this time as an outline - they read this silently:

molem = aedificia
quondam = olim

pars = alii
moliri = aedificant
subvolvere = subvolvunt

pars = alii
optare = quaerunt
iura = leges

I. Aeneas miratur
A. molem (quondam magalia) et
B. portas et
C. strepitum(que)
D. et strata viarum[1].

II. ardentes Tyrii instant[2].

III. pars (Tyrii)
A. ducere[3] muros
B. et moliri arcem et
C. subvolvere saxa manibus

IV. pars optare locum tecto[4] et concludere sulco.            

V. (Tyrii) legunt[5]
A. iura et
B. magistratus et
C. sanctum senatum

VI. hic[6], alii (Tyrii) effodiunt portus

VII. hic, (alii Tyrii) locant alta fundamenta[7] theatris

VIII. (alii Tyrii) excidunt[8] immanis columnas (e) rupibus[9] scaenis decora alta futuris[10].

IX. Aeneas ait, “O fortunati (homines), quorum moenia iam surgunt!”

[1] strata viarum = paved roads
[2] ardentes Tyrii instant = the blazing Tyrians press on
[3] ducere = are extending
[4] tecto = for a house (tecto = roof – what poetic device is this?
[5] legunt = choose
[6] hic - here
[7] fundamenta - foundations
[8] excidunt = dig out
[9] rupibus = cliffs
[10] scaenis decora alta futuris – lofty decorations for future stages

2) Finally, they saw the original text:

miratur molem Aeneas, magalia quondam,
miratur portas strepitumque et strata viarum.
Instant ardentes Tyrii: pars ducere muros,
molirique arcem et manibus subvolvere saxa,
pars optare locum tecto et concludere sulco.               5

iura magistratusque legunt sanctumque senatum;       
hic portus alii effodiunt; hic alta theatris
fundamenta locant alii, immanisque columnas
rupibus excidunt, scaenis decora alta futuris.

'O fortunati, quorum iam moenia surgunt!'               10

3) As an assessment, I gave them the following two pictures and they had to label them using the text. In many ways, it was easy for them to do since they had already done a Read and Draw of the prose version.

1) Yes, it took four days to get students to read the original text, but at the same time, they were able TO READ the original Latin by then without really translating.
2) Most students told me how easy it was to read the original, even with the funky dactyllic hexameter word order. My response, "Well, it should have been! You read it multiple times, different ways and you knew most of the vocabulary by the time you got to how Vergil wrote it."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

ACL 2015 Reflections

Last weekend was the 2015 American Classical League (ACL) Summer Institute, the national conference for Latin/Greek teachers, at the University of Connecticut. ACL (as it is called by attendees) has been a mainstay of my professional development over the years. As I was not able to attend last summer, I truly enjoyed ACL this year, because it gave me an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and to be in an environment with other Latin teachers. 

What I enjoyed the most though was the amount of presentations focusing on the use of CI in the Latin classroom. In the past, there has usually been one-two (at the most) CI presentations at a single ACL conference, but this year there were five! Over ten hours of CI presentations were given:
  • The Power of Reading (Pre, Post, Embedded) - a 6-hour PreInstitute workshop given by Bob Patrick and me.
  • Teaching AP Latin in a Comprehensible Input Classroom - a 1.5-hour presentation given by Bob Patrick.
  • Teach Latin IN LATIN from Day 1: The Marvels of Comprehensible Input - a 1.25 hour presentation which I gave.
  • Towards a More Comprehensible Classroom - a 1.5-hour presentation given by Kevin Ballestrini.
  • Thinking Outside the Textbook: Authentic Latin Texts for All Levels - a 1-hour presentation given by Rachel Ash.
There was a such a wide range of CI topics presented that it gave attendees an overview of how CI can be used for different levels and for different purposes. Interestingly enough, outside of Bob and me for our PreInstitute workshop, none of us really had consulted each other about what we were going to present. 

All of these sessions were well-attended. Based on all of this, here are some observations:
  1. Comprehensible Input is on the radar among Latin teachers. It may just be a trendy buzzword at the moment, but at least, people are interested.
  2. Many Latin teachers have become tired of the grammar-translation or pure reading methodology and are wanting a change.
  3. Many Latin teachers are wanting to incorporate spoken Latin in the classroom; Comprehensible Input is a perfect way to accomplish that.
  4. Many Latin teachers desperately want training in Comprehensible Input.
  5. The number of knowledgeable Latin teachers who can offer Comprehensuble Input presentations at conferences is growing.
What an exciting time it is for CI among Latin teachers! In fact, at NTPRS in a few weeks, there will be FIVE presentations on CI in the Latin classroom!

I have already started to think about possible CI presentation ideas for next summer's ACL., which will be held at the University of Texas, Austin - hope to see you there!

Post scriptum: The only downside of ACL for me was that I had to attend mostly technology sessions in order to accrue lab hours for my Instructional Technology degree program - not that I did not learn much from those session, but after awhile, one can only see Kahoot demonstrated so many times...