Friday, December 18, 2015

My Top 5 of 2015

With the year coming to an end, as I have seen on other blogs, let me list for you my top 5 posts for 2015 (those posts which received the most page views):
  1. Latin 1 - Week 1 Lesson Plan
  2. Sentence Flyswatter
  3. Read/Draw
  4. Circling - The Art of Questioning
  5. Latin is a Dead Language, Right?
Once again, I am overwhelmed by the fact that so many people are reading my blog. As I have said, there is nothing really special about me as a CI teacher. There are so many others out there who have such a deeper knoweldge of CI than I do and are implementing CI with better results than I am. I am humbled though that many of you feel like I have something to say on the matter.   

So now that my semester has ended and that I am officially on winter break, I am going to take a two-week hiatus from this blog. I hope that you all will take a much deserved break and enjoy you time away from the classroom. 

To quote Luke Henderson who expresses it so eloquently in Latin in a tweet from today:

Rough translation: Grades have been given to students; the classroom has been arranged/set up; the semester has finished/come to an end. Therefore, let me rejoice! (Something gets lost in the translation, as the English really does not give justice to his sentiments. It is expressed so much more eloquently in Latin than in English).

I look forward to posting again in January 2016. Gosh, am I really turning 46 in 2016?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Latin is a Dead Language, Right?

For the following post, the views expressed here are mine personally and may not reflect those of the Latin teaching community nor of the spoken Latin community. 

Anytime I tell someone that I am a Latin teacher, I feel like I am immediately going to have to be on the defensive based on the onslaught of comments which I will receive: "Wow, they still teach Latin? Isn't that a dead language?", "Why would anyone want to take Latin? No one speaks it any more," or "What use does Latin have in the world today? Students should take a language which is actually useful." My favorite comment is "Wow, you teach Latin? You must be REALLY smart." You get the idea.

Many of you may find it shocking that I am in complete agreement that Latin indeed is a dead language but not in the sense which most people mean. According to linguistics, a dead language is one which is still in existence but no longer serves the purpose as one's mother/native tongue. By that definition, then I have absolutely no qualms with calling Latin a dead language. That does not mean, however, that I think that Latin should not be taught on the basis of it being a dead language, because by that definition, I could probably venture to say that Yiddish is a rare mother tongue today. Does that mean that Yiddish should no longer be used or taught as a spoken language? That I should allow it to become extinct? Should my friend Evan Gardner, the founder of Where Are Your Keys?, desist in his attempts to save indigenous, Native American languages from extinction purely because they are no longer anyone's primary language for communication? 

I am going to go one step further with this: I am a firm believer that Latin should be taught as a modern, living language like any other (If you have read the About Me section, you know that I was once one of the BIGGEST opponents of any type of spoken Latin, but now I am a huge advocate of it). Although I do not oppose the teaching of classical texts/culture, I oppose us as Latinists solely isolating the language to the classical period, because in my opinion, it pigeonholes us. There is SO much Latin literature which exists outside of the classical period - in fact, classical literature comprises only 1% (at the most) of all surviving Latin literature through the ages! 

Here is a statement which may shock folks: Students actually wish to speak Latin. How do I know this? Because they are constantly asking me "How do I say X in Latin?" This shows me that students indeed wish to interpret their own world with the Latin language. What kind of message am I sending if I say to them, "Latin is not spoken," or "The Romans did not have X, so we cannot say that"? It simply perpuetates the myth that Latin is different and hammers another nail into its coffin. Latin as a spoken language did not stop with the fall of Rome - Latin was spoken throughout the ages and still is today! However, as schools unfortunately have been transformed from centers of learning into now factories and production centers, schools have shifted their goals from teaching students to become lifelong learners and citizens to becoming manufacturers of a future workforce for the global economy. Anything which is not deemed as preparing students for college or a career immediately out of high school is cast aside.

As you read those last two paragraphs, I bet a number of you just scoffed at the idea of Latin being taught as a modern language and find all of this misguided. Quite honestly, I expect that kind of response from Latin teachers, because nothing divides the Latin teaching community more than the idea of speaking Latin (which saddens me). But some of the biggest opposition which I get for wanting Latin taught as a spoken language is from modern language teachers, and quite honestly, a number of them are CI/TPRS teachers. 

At NTPRS this summer, I thought, "If anyone will applaud the use of CI/TPRS to teach Latin, it will be at NTPRS." Considering that 45 Latin teachers were in attendance, I felt that we would be seen as a language of equal footing with the others. I could not have been more mistaken. Instead, for the first few days, we Latin teachers were viewed as a curiosity and novelty, with a kind of "How cute that these teachers want to use CI/TPRS to teach Latin" and "Why would you want to teach Latin with CI/TPRS? All you do is read poetry and philosophical works" attitude. But to be fair, for most modern language CI/TPRS teachers, the Latin teachers whom they know are probably perpetuating the traditional grammar-translation, Latin-is-different stereotype (Ginny Lindzey, thank you for pointing that out to me), so I am sure that we were a shock to the system at NTPRS. By the end of NTPRS, though, attitudes had definitely changed, thanks in part to Justin Slocum Bailey presenting Latin as a modern living language during the Cocktails and Coaching hour. Attendees began to view Latin as a viable language for CI/TPRS. In fact, as a result, TPRS Publishing will now be coming out with a Latin version of Brandon Brown Wants a Dog in spring 2016! 

But for now, the idea of Latin taught as a modern language remains a dream for me, because so many things would need to change (teacher training and knowledge, university Classics departments). Due to current trends in Latin education, therefore, I find myself relunctantly teaching Latin still with a end goal of students reading classical literature by the end of their 3rd year of the language. Slowly, however, things are changing. The number of spoken Latin events in the country are increasing, as many Latinists have grown weary and jaded with the idea that Latin is only a read language and wish to experience Latin as a living language. I have attended Rusticatio for the past six summers and am probably a solid Intermediate Mid/High Latin speaker (Advanced Low on good day). I have been through two separate 8-hour ACTFL OPI Famliarization workshops to see how these speaking proficiency levels can apply to Latin. I would love for there to be an ACTFL OPI in Latin eventually one day.

For those of you who believe that Latin should only be set in the classical period, consider Erasmus' treatise, Ciceronianus. NOTE - it was written in the 1500's, which shows that even then this debate/tension occurred, but even more, about what Erasmus writes eerily mirrors the debate among Latinists today about "modernizing" the language.

For more information about Latin as a living language, see below.

Web Resources
Video Resources
Nancy Llwellyn's interview on Living Latin

Luke Henderson's TedX talk on "This is Not Your Father's Latin Class"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Airplane Reading

This is another way to do a ping pong/volleyball style reading. I first saw Blaine Ray do this at NTPRS 2014 and then again saw this demonstrated by Alina Filipescu at NTPRS 2015. It is similar to Read Dating, in that students will be moving around to read with a new partner. It does take some time to set up the classroom for Airplane Reading.

1) Set up your classroom so that students are sitting next to someone as if in an airplane. If there is an odd amount of students, that is okay - that just means that you will take part in the activity!
2) In each pair of students, one will be X and one will be Y.

3) Give students a comprehensible reading, and have them do a regular ping pong/volleyball style reading.
4) After a set amount of time (usually two minutes), then Y students will move forward a seat to a new row (see below picture for example)

5) Like in ping pong/volleyball reading, with their new partners, students are to determine the earlier stopping point between the two of them, and at that point, they will start. Explain to students that repetition is good and will only benefit them.
6) After two minutes of reading with their new partner, Y students will move again.
7) Continue again for about 10 more minutes. If students finish the reading, they are start over again at the beginning.

1) Like Read Dating, this is another fun way to go through a reading. Carol Gaab always says, "The brain craves novelty."
2) The movement keeps the activity from getting stale. I always tell students "If you have to read with someone whom you do not like, don't worry - you are only working with that person for two minutes!"
3) To keep things novel, sometimes I will alternate between having X and Y students move. If you do this, then X students will move the other direction, because if they move like the Y students, they will read again with a former partner! The idea of movement is to allow students to read with a new partner each round.
4) You may want to practice having the Y students move a few times before you begin the activity so that they know ahead of time where to go, especially the one who has to move to the other side of the room.
5) I usually spend no more than 15 minutes (at the most) on a reading activity like this, because students will start to tire of reading.