Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My CI Journey

This summer, I attended a weeklong TPRS Trainer Prep Course sponsored by Altamira Language Learning and TPRS Academy. One of the exercises which we did was to create a visual representation of our individual "CI journeys" - how we came to learn about CI, our journeys of CI implementation, where we were going with CI, etc. As we only had 10 minutes to create this, in many ways, what each of us illustrated became a stream of our consciousness. Following this, we then had to share our stories with various participants. This was a great exercise, because it forced me to think about how I came to learn about CI, how did I view CI then and now, etc. and to put it down on paper without thinking.

I have decided to share my drawing and CI journey with you all. Hopefully it will resonate with you and perhaps explain how I came to embrace CI.

Prior to 2007 - I was all about grammar-translation. Like you probably, I absolutely love grammar. That is why I was attracted to Latin - since it was being taught in a grammar-translation manner, it instantly appealed to me. Latin was like a puzzle to me - I could immediately see or at least decode how sentences were set up. I had never heard Latin spoken before, but why should we? In my opinion, our goal as Latinists was simply to translate classical works into English via grammar-translation. I spent my undergraduate years at UCLA, obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in Greek and Latin, and I received my Masters degree in Latin from UGA - both programs were pure grammar translation. At this time, I was of the biggest advocates against any type of spoken Latin, let alone Comprehensible Input.

2007 - I attended a Blaine Ray TPRS workshop, because I had heard about TPRS and was interested in using some active Latin in my classroom. I was implementing the reading method in my classes, and I was still very grammar-oriented. I had never before heard of Comprehensible Input. I was really impressed with what I saw, as Blaine did a TPRS demo in German. I decided to facilitate some TPRS in my classes, but at the same time, I saw CI/TPRS purely as just another tool to add to my bag of tricks, i.e., I was not convinced that there was one single way to teach Latin.

2010 - This was a turning point in my teaching career, as I taught AP Latin for the first time and witnessed first hand that we (the College Board, university classics departments, and tradition) were asking WAY TOO MUCH from students after just 3 years of Latin. I was unaware of the ACTFL proficiency scales at this point (for the record, the Aeneid is SUPERIOR level reading), but I came to the realization that asking students to translate 1,900 lines of the Aeneid in a year (something I never did in college/graduate school as a Latin major) was way beyond their capability. This is also when I started to notice the concept of "4%ers," although I did not know the term or had heard anything about it. After this experience, I knew that I needed to make a HUGE change in the way I viewed the teaching of Latin and in how I taught it. I had become rather disillusioned with the traditional view of teaching Latin and what our goals were.

2013 - This was the year that I fully embraced CI. That summer, I attended THREE CI workshops, so what I did not quite understand at the first workshop was reinforced at the second one, and so on. Because I had a foundation of CI through my experiences in implementing TPRS, in addition to my experience in teaching AP Latin, embracing CI 100% was not too difficult for me. Learning ways to implement CI was where my journey headed for the next few years. I attended numerous national CI conferences such as NTPRS and IFLT, and my CI family tree began. 2013 is also the year I began this blog. When I first started this, my goal was that perhaps 20 Latin teachers would read this. Never did I imagine that it would turn into what is now, where I have had over 350,000 pages views in the past five years, and the majority of people who read this are non-Latin teachers.

2013-2016 - Although I was implementing CI at my school, I was the only Latin teacher at my school who had embraced it, as I was moving away from the textbook. As much as I loved my Latin department, it still was kind of lonely being the only CI teacher. I needed a change.

2016 - present - I am now in a Latin department, where all of us are implementing CI, as I work alongside Rachel Ash, John Foulk, Bob Patrick, and Miriam Patrick. The Parkview High School Latin department has over 700 students and 5 Latin teachers. It is so nice to be in a department where everyone is on the same page pedagogically.

The future - I really do not know where I am headed. Will I continue to be a Latin teacher? Will I leave the classroom and use my graduate degree to become a local school technology coordinator?

  1. I still love grammar and will continue to do so. I also need to realize that the average student is not I - the average student does not like grammar. I am the "weirdo" and the "not normal" one. That does not by any means mean that this is wrong, but I do need to understand that explicit grammar teaching is not productive nor 100% necessary for students to learn a language at the novice/intermediate levels - pop-up grammar teaching is what CI teachers do instead. To quote Bill Van Patten: "If all students were like language teachers, then they would be teachers of language, and they're not. We're the weirdos."
  2.  I think that I was able to embrace CI completely in 2013, because I had a foundation of CI with TPRS of which I was unaware. Even though prior to 2013 I viewed TPRS as just another tool to add to my toolbox of teaching, I was still implementing CI and did not know that I was. I wonder if I would have embraced CI so fully in 2013 if I had not been dabbling in TPRS for a few years.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Picture Talk - Family Member Vocabulary

Here is a Picture Talk idea which I have been doing for years, and quite honestly, I began doing this long before I embraced Comprehensible Input and was teaching solely the reading method out of the Cambridge Latin Course. Since the very first stage of the Cambridge Latin Course introduces the family around which the readings revolve, here is how I introduced family member vocabulary.

The following script is in Latin, but it should be quite comprehensible and can be adapted into any language.

Target words for this Picture Talk (write these words on the board with their English meaning)
pater (father), mater (mother), filius (son), filia (daughter), infans (baby), canis (dog), liberi (children), est (is), sunt (are), -ne (?), quis (who - masculine form), quae (who - feminine form), quot (how many)

Haec (this) est Simpson familia. In Simpson familia est Homer. (point to Homer) Homer est pater. Homer est pater in Simpson familia. When I said, “Homer est pater in Simpson familia,” what did that mean? Yes, Homer is the father in the Simpson family. Homer est pater in Simpson familia, et Marge est mater.

(point to Marge). Estne Marge mater? Estne Marge mater an pater? Estne Marge pater? Quis est pater? Estne Homer mater? Quae est mater? Homer est pater, et Marge est mater in Simpson famila.

Sed (but) Bart (point to Bart) non est pater. Bart non est mater. Bart est filius. When I say “Bart est filius,” what am I saying in English? Estne Bart mater? Estne Bart mater an filius? Estne Bart filius? Estne Bart pater? Quis est pater? Quae est Marge - mater an filius? Homer est pater, Marge est mater, et Bart est filius.

(point to Lisa) Haec (this) est Lisa. Lisa non est pater, non est mater, et non est filius. Lisa est filia. Estne Lisa filius and filia? Look at the words “filius” and “filia” - what is the difference between the words in Latin? Quis est filius? Quae est filia? Quis est pater? Quae est mater?

(point to Maggie) Haec (his) est Maggie. Maggie non est mater, non est pater, non est filius, sed Maggie est filia. Maggie est infans. When I said "Maggie est infans," what did I say in English? Maggie est infans. Estne Lisa infans? Quae est Lisa? Estne Bart infans? Quis est Bart?

(point to dog) Santa’s Little Helper non est mater, non est pater, non est filius, et non est filia. Santa’s Little Helper est canis. What is a “canis” in English? What word in English do we get from “canis”? Estne Santa's Little Helper? Estne Snoopy canis? Estne Snoopy and Winnie the Pooh canis? Estne Winnie the Pooh canis?

In Simpson familia sunt tres liberi (count to three and point to each of the children in the picture as you do it) - unus, duo, tres. When I said "In Simpson familia sunt tres liberi," what did I mean in English? Tres liberi sunt in Simpson familia. Suntne duo liberi in Simpson familia? Suntne quattuor liberi in Simpson familia? Quot canes sunt in Simpson familia?

(You can introduce Snowball the Cat if you want, and circle that word).

(Now do the same for the following families - you will find that you will not need to circle as much for the second and third pictures, because students are very familiar with the vocabulary. For the fourth and fifth pictures, now ask students who is who in each of the families. "In the Griffin family, quis est canis? quae est mater? Estne infans in Griffin familia? Quis est infans? Quot liberi sunt in Griffin familia?")

  1. Because this activity involves very limited vocabulary, meaning is established, and vocabulary is presented in a meaningful context with LOTS of repeated exposure, students acquire these words quickly.
  2. Because we are dealing with tv show families, the activity is compelling for students.
  3. One of the drawbacks of this picture is that students are not familiar with every tv show family. I used to do the Brady Bunch, but students no longer know they are (I weep for this generation). I do not watch Family Guy, so I am very honest with students and tell them, "I don't who this family is. Can you tell me about them in Latin?"

Sunday, July 22, 2018

CI Latin Teacher Database

With so many Latin teachers having attended NTPRS and IFLT these past few summers, not to mention the number of blogs, of Facebook groups, and of conference presentations dedicated to the teaching of Comprehensible Input in the Latin classroom, I have decided to create a CI Latin Teacher Database much like the CI Teacher Database which Martina Bex has created. This will now allow us to see what CI Latin teachers are out there, in what area they are, etc. Now that we have gained a critical mass of CI teachers in the Latin teacher community, I think that it is more important than ever that we CI Latin teachers support each other. To be part of this database, you do not have to be using CI exclusively. Perhaps you are a CI dabbler. Maybe you are a CI seeker. I want you to know that you are still part of the CI Latin teacher community.

This document hopefully will lead to the creation of some Professional Learning Networks (PLN) based on local area and to being able to observe other CI Latin teachers in the classroom, but most importantly, to community and the knowledge that you are NOT alone in being a CI Latin teacher. If you are willing to have others come observe you in the classroom, please indicate that. 

A few of the questions deal with the phrase "formally trained." Some of you may be asking why that phrase is there. To quote Martina Bex:
Why ‘formally trained’? I don’t specify it to be a snooty-pants, I promise! It is my attempt to guarantee that what you see in the lesson is true, modern, TPRS®. I had a very wrong idea of what TPRS® was before I began learning about it from Michele Whaley. My idea was based on antiquated information from a methods course and my own imagination. Many teachers have observed their colleagues using TPRS® or read about it in a book or on a blog, but they have never been to a workshop in which they are coached in the essential skills of TPRS®. You would never allow a doctor that had not been to medical school to teach you how to do heart surgery, would you? Likewise, when you are learning how to teach a TPRS® lesson, you need to learn from someone that has been to TPRS® school. Now, of course there is still much margin for error, but finding a formally trained TPRS® teacher is at least some kind of a protection plan.
This is something to keep in mind. It is important that if you are willing to have others come observe you implementing CI in your classroom or you are wanting to coach someone in how to use CI, you truly need to understand what CI is and what it is not through some kind of formal training. As Martina Bex writes above about her own experience, there are many out there who have their own idea of CI and think that they understand what it is, but in reality, they are FAR from what CI actually is. My understanding of CI greatly improved (and still does) through attending conferences like NTPRS and IFLT.

How to use this database: As the database grows, search to see what other CI Latin teachers are possibly in your area. Perhaps you are wanting to observe another CI Latin teacher in the classroom. Perhaps you would like to collaborate with another CI Latin teacher who is using the same textbook or has gone un-textbook. In each of these situations, email those particular teachers.

Click here if you would like to submit information to be on this database. 

Click here to see what CI Latin teachers are a part of this database so far.

NOTE - this is a public document, so please be aware of this if you choose to submit any information.