Sunday, May 21, 2017

Reflections on This Past Year

In my last post, I addressed the craziness, emotional exhaustion, and everything else which comes with the end the of the school year. I referenced where I felt that I had "failed" with what I was wanting to accomplish in my classes - here are my reflections on that:

Where I fell short: teaching using a CI novella. Prior to the beginning of the school year, I was really excited about implementing CI novellas in my classes. As I was now at a new school and teaching in a Latin department which had gone "untextbook," I felt free, as I was no longer bound to a textbook. Brando Brown Canem Vult had just been released, and I had been waiting YEARS for a Latin version of this novella to come out (see here for my blog post on its release). When approaching a new reading, I knew that the name of the game was to pre-teach necessary vocabulary and structures prior to reading and not to use the reading itself to teach vocabulary. As a result, for each chapter of Brando Brown Canem Vult, I pre-taught any new vocabulary and structures so that students would already be familiar with (and hopefully have acquired) them before they began reading it (in fact, I have posted a number of those lesson plans/movie talks here on my blog). The problem, however, was that as there were ten chapters in the novella, this process began to drag on for students. As the process took much longer to go through it than I had expected, students began to tire of reading the novella and to a degree, to resent reading itself. 

Conclusion: Interestingly, this year I have heard many other Latin teachers mention the same struggles about their first time implementing Brando Brown Canem Vult. For some, the experience soured them to such a degree that they do not wish to implement CI novellas in the future. Although I can empathize with them, I do not believe that it was the novella itself which was the problem but rather our inexperience in undertaking something like this. In actuality, because no teacher's guide existed for Brando Brown Canem Vult this year (one is being released soon), we teachers who undertook this pursuit were pioneers, considering that we did not know what we were doing or what to expect.

What I wish to do differently: I still feel that novellas have tremendous value in a CI classroom, therefore, I need to change the way in which I implement them. Based on my shortcomings this year, I have a much better idea of how to do things differently next year. I will continue to pre-teach vocabulary and structures necessary to the novella, but I will not take it one chapter at a time like I did this year - that was the major flaw, because it slowed down students' reading experience. Rather, I will have students read through a novella as a whole AFTER the process. If I can get my act together, I would like to give students a choice in which novellas to read and implement reading as a FVR/SSR time.


  1. Thanks for your work, Keith, on the blog especially.

    Do you know of any active forum where CI teachers can share resources or get advice? Or, since this is what I'm on at the moment, do you know of anyone who is creating CI stories for or with Orberg's LLPSI?

    1. I wrote up a blog post which addresses this:

      There is also a facebook group called Teaching Latin for Acquisition.

  2. (My previous posting of this comment was missing some words.)

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Keith! I think your decision to delay using a particular novella until students have acquired enough of the language to be able to read the book pretty fast, without delays between chapters, is a good one.

    Here's a comment I left on a thread in which John Piazza shared your post on the FB Teaching Latin for Acquisition group:

    "It's great to get more and more reports from the field by teachers who have used the various novellas!

    I think using the novellas as extended units in which the whole class participates might be a good transitional project for teachers, helping them become more comfortable with an approach that doesn't treat language as a series of grammar topics. Ultimately, I suspect that the best use of novellas will be for FVR or, if they are to be read as a whole class, only when students have acquired the language enough to be able to read at least a chapter per day with little to no assistance. This could be done simply by delaying the use of a particular novel or by "pre-teaching" the linguistic content of the novel not just before starting reading, but well before--a few months or more before--starting reading. Otherwise, it's easy for a novella to turn into an alternative textbook or syllabus.

    Ideally, the novellas would be leveled in such a way (and be numerous enough) that students were completing one every week or two, all year round. This would bring their use in line with their purpose as sources of Extensive Reading."

    1. Thanks for the comments and insights!

    2. One thing I did this year was have Kahoots for each chapter of the book we read. I gave extra credit for the top Kahooters. This helped motivate students to focus more on their reading.