Friday, August 12, 2016

My CI Family Tree

A few weeks ago at NTPRS, Michelle Kindt (who by the way is an absolutely wonderful CI teacher, presenter, and coach!) posted the following on Twitter.

As a result, a number of folks began to tweet about their various CI "family trees" and who that special person was who introduced them to CI. I have decided to dedicate this blog post to honor those people who have been vital in my CI journey these past few years:

Bob Patrick - I would consider Bob to be my CI "father" for so many reasons. Bob was the first Latin teacher whom I knew that was involved in CI/TPRS. When I first started teaching Latin in the late 90's, I was all about grammar-translation, as that was how I had been taught Latin, and that was the only methodology which I knew; quite honestly, I did not know that anything else existed for Latin pedagogy. Around the early-mid 2000's, on various online listservs, the idea of active spoken Latin in the classroom began to emerge. Bob was involved in many of these discussions, speaking about the merits of CI/TPRS as a method to implement oral Latin. I was VEHEMENTLY opposed to the idea of any type of spoken Latin in the classroom, because in my opinion, why should Latin be spoken? I certainly had never experienced anything like that, so why should I do it since Latin was only meant to be a "read" language? At this point, I only knew Bob superficially through online exchanges, but soon, he became a Latin teacher in my district (and suddenly I was his children's Latin teacher!). Eventually in 2008, out of curiosity I attended my first 2-day Blaine Ray TPRS workshop in Dallas. When I told Bob that I was planning on attending this workshop, according to him, he was absolutely floored and shocked to hear that I, who was so adamantly opposed to spoken Latin at the time, would even consider this. For the next few years, I dabbled in TPRS but found it difficult to maintain the momentum. In the summer of 2013, I attended three CI workshops led by Bob, and that is where I learned specifically about CI and the various methods of implementation (of which TPRS is just one). In my opinion, that summer is where my CI journey officially began. Fast forward to this past February, where Bob asked me join him as the 5th Latin teacher at his school, and now as a result, I am working alongside Bob and three other CI Latin teachers (Rachel Ash, Miriam Patrick, and Caroline Miklosovic) at Parkview High School, where the Latin enrollment is around 700 students. Yes, I, who was once the biggest opponent of any spoken Latin and CI, am now one of its biggest advocates and am teaching with Bob!   

Although I consider Bob my CI "father," I also realize that it took a village to nurture me in those early days (and current days too). The following are those who were part of that village:

Betsy Paskvan - NTPRS 2014 was the first CI conference which I ever attended. I was the sole Latin teacher in attendance at the conference that year, and I was feeling rather lost, because not only was I "alone," but I still felt like a "newcomer to the CI party." That all changed, however, with my extended session on Day 1 with Betsy Paskvan, who was teaching Japanese. Although I struggled with Japanese in that first hour, I remember how incredibly positive Betsy was during that time and how seamlessly she was implementing CI through various activities so that four hours later, I was actually retelling a story in Japanese on my own and was able to write my own 5-6 sentence story in the language. Because I was learning another language via CI and experiencing it firsthand like a student, due to Betsy, I now knew that CI was the real thing. Whenever I hear that folks are attending NTPRS, I always make it a point to tell them to attend Betsy's Japanese sessions because of how incredible she is!

Laurie Clarcq - Laurie has one of the biggest hearts around and is also one of the positively funniest people too; she is the type of person who does not try to be funny but just is. I could repeatedly hear Laurie's story about "Justin," the student who inspired her to co-develop embedded reading, and still tear up every time. I first only knew of Laurie as one of the developers of embedded reading from an ACTFL session which I had attended in 2013. At NTPRS 2014, she was presenting a session on embedded reading, and as I entered into the room before it began, I passed by her, and upon seeing my nametag, Laurie said to me, "Keith, oh my gosh, can I get permission to include your blog post about embedded reading on my own blog?!" I was absolutely dumbstruck that: 1) although we had never met, Laurie knew who I was; 2) Laurie knew that I, some random Latin teacher, had a blog; and 3) she wanted to reference on her own blog what i had written. I think that I mumbled some type of "sure," but I cannot tell you how so valued and important I felt at that moment (I need to remember this for my own students). I have gotten to know Laurie better professionally at various conferences, and I can honestly say that she always makes me feel like a better person every time we meet. 

Carol Gaab - I feel like I cannot say enough about Carol. If you have ever attended one of Carol's presentations, you know what I am talking about. At NTPRS 2014, Carol's session on reading strategies transformed the way in which I present reading now in my classes. Carol was the first CI "guru" whom I ever heard say, "Circling gets really old really fast;" when I heard that, I wanted to run up to her and to give her a huge hug, because I had always felt that students got bored easily with circling but I thought that I had to stick with it since that was what I had first learned. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I heard her say that. Carol taught me to vary up my questions, because "the brain craves novelty." She demonstrated so many different, engaging reading strategies in the target language which not only included higher order thinking but also presented repetitions of the language in novel ways. I owe so much of my teaching style and CI strategy implementation to Carol.

I am incredibly grateful to these four people and am proud to consider them as part of my CI family tree. Who are the people whom you would consider to be part of yours? Honor them by listing their names in the comment section.

Addendum (July 20, 2017) - I have now added Linda Li to my CI family tree. Read the following post to see why!


  1. I love this, Keith. At the time that you recount our interactions, I was just tryin to find my own way foreard (like always--it's always a journey--none of us has this down perfectly). You just got caught in the process. I am so glad for that. Your gifts and contributions to all of us are so rich.

    Today, as you well know, we met after school, compared notes and made plans for next week. For those who don't know, Keith and I are teaching 9 sections of Latin 1. After our conversation about how it's gone this week, I said to him (about myself) 27 years and I'm still learning how to do this work!

    A village, indeed!

  2. My CI tree begins with Bob, too. After SALVI's Pedagogy Rusticatio in 2013, I jumped off the grammar-translation boat into CI waters. I learned how I could teach Latin the way my modern language folks taught their languages. I will never forget Bob's kindness that September when he agreed to talk with me (I was in a panic!) and mentor me through a series of CI lessons and activities that I felt went horribly wrong. While Bob started me down the CI path, it was your blog, Keith, that kept me going. I am in the habit of reading others' blogs, but yours is so practical, clear, and not overwhelming (That's a big deal!). It has the added benefit for me of being written by a Latin teacher. It may be that you started writing it at the same time that I started teaching using CI, after SALVI's Pedagogy workshop.
    In any case, Bob and Keith, thank you! I realized during ACL this year just how much you have taught me when I was providing advice to someone for how to get started teaching using CI. I had a reflective moment when I acknowledged just how far I've come; many thanks to you two!

    1. Tammy,

      Thanks so much for your kind comments. I would never consider myself to be part of anyone's CI heritage, but it is nice to know that I was able to keep folks going.

      When I started this blog years ago, I never thought that it would turn into what it is now. I can totally relate to your experience of providing advice to folks on how to get started with CI or when answering folks' questions about CI issues, because that is how I feel too. I do not think of myself as a CI expert at all, because there are SO many other people who know and understand (and really love) the theory behind CI so much more deeply than I do; I consider my CI knowledge to be superficial compared to others. I am always shocked when folks connect with what I am saying in presentations or in conversations. Maybe that is why my blog resonates with people - I know that I don't know a whole lot about CI, so I just want to make what I do understand practical for folks.

      I am so glad to have been (and will continue to be) part of your CI journey.