Monday, February 22, 2021

More Observations about Student Grammar Errors

This semester, I am focusing on having students do free writes for their writings. Previously during a normal face-to-face teaching setting, I would have students retell the particular story in Latin which we had been going over for that unit by writing it down in a composition book. Since we had reviewed the story so much as input, writing would be a natural way for output to occur. However, in this digital setting and having students type out their writings of the stories on a Google Document, I soon found that many students were just copying and pasting from digital copies of the story which were already on Google Classroom from previous assignments and submitting that as their writings. As a result, I decided to focus on free writes, where I give students a prompt for them to complete, and their job is create a sequel to the story on their own from that prompt.

Here are some examples of Latin 3 student writing based on the prompt which my colleague John Foulk created: Monstrum et puer nunc sunt amīcī. Cum monstrum et puer aquae appropinquant, subitō…

Example 1

Monstrum gaudet. Monstrum est laetus. Monstrum est lateus qoud amici habet. Monstrum numcam habet amici. Monstrum non queritur dentes e ocolus. Subitio de aquae Peppa pig surgit. Peppa vult cibum. Peppa dicit “puer dat cibum NUNC!” Puer timet. Monstum non placet Peppa.Puer est eius amici, non vult puer timit sed vult puer lateus. Monstrum petit Peppa. Peppa  pettit monstrum. Petit e petit e petit Subito Peppa cadit in Aquea et perit. Puer est lateus sed non iam timet. Peur est latues quod oculous habet et puer potest videre monstrum est un amici.Monstrum et Puer ambulat ad tabernam. Subito Peppa surgit et didct “redibo”. “Non iam pax in gens sed bellum, bellum gerit contra puer et monstrum.”

Example 2

Puer cadit in aquae. Puer non potest natare. Puer est patitur. Monstrum nonscivit liberate puer. Monstrum parat videt mortuus est puer. Monstrum est tristis et patitur, videt drowning puer. Monstrum tristissimus et fugit ex from aquae. Monstrum in dolore et searches for miles ut liberate puer. Monstrum et miles fugit ad puer, sed puer non iam in aquae. Iam puer cum piratae. Piratae liberavit puer et nunc puer est piratae. Pirataes non placet monstrum. Pirataes bellum gerit monstrum. Sed Monstrum fortissimus. Monstrum caedet pirataes et pirataes nunc mortuom. Monstrum vicit pirataes et nunc odit puer. Puer est vulneratus et non iam placet Monstrum. Puer odit Monstrum. Puer fugit ab ex monstrum. Puer videt aliud monstrum sed non amici est. Nunc Puer odit et ab fugit omnes monstrum.

Example 3

Imperator appropinquant. Imperator fortis et audax. Imperator habet arma et vult bellum gerit. Imperator of Bikini Bottom ingens et cancer. Monstrum et puer timet. Monstrum et puer vult pax, non vult proelio. Monstrum iubet ut pax. Imperator iratus et non vult pax. Imperator cadit in terra. Imperator manet in terra. Imperator patitur sed imperator vulneteratus. Imperator non iam vult bellum gerrit. Monstrum, puer, et imperator nunc sunt amici. Subito, regina Sandy appropinquant. Sandy considit in terra, Bikini Bottom. Monstrum, puer, et imperator considit in terra. Imperator audit Patrick et SpongeBob mortus. Imperator iratus et non lauetus. Imperator in dolore. Monstrum et puer in dolore. Omnes Bikini Bottom patitur. Pauci homines such as Squidward non patitur et guadit. Squidward laetus et canit carmen. Monstrum, imperator, puer, et Sandy non nunc sunt amici with Squidward. Omnes iratus at Squidward. Imperator et Sandy videt taberna. Imperator, Sandy, monstrum, et puer vult comedere.

Now if you are familiar with Latin, the first thing which I am sure that stands out to you is the SHEER AMOUNT of grammar and spelling errors! And I am certain that for many of you, it is very PAINFUL to read. However, if I view these writings through the lens of a sympathetic reader (an ACTFL term), then wow, these students are communicating in the language! Even though these are Latin 3 students, in terms of language acquisition, knowledge, and grammar control, they are novice-high/intermediate-low writers. If my students were children learning their first language, they would be equivalent to 2-3 year-olds. As a result, their language is going to be incredibly MESSY! To use an example from Bill Van Patten, when a 2-year old says, "Mommy go bye-bye," do you correct that child's grammar and choice of vocabulary? Absolutely not, because you as a sympathetic listener know exactly what that child is attempting to communicate. That child is piecing together whatever vocabulary has been acquired to communicate. You can try to correct that child, but we know that the child's language will improve over time with more input and exposure.

I have used this illustration before, but it is so true!

Why can I relate to the above illustraion? Because the first time I truly spoke Latin in 2010 at Rusticatio, a weeklong immersion event, everything that came out of my mouth was in the nominative case and in infintives. Keep in mind, I have my Masters in Latin, but when it came to truly speaking in Latin for the purpose of communication and conversation (something which I had never done before), I was a novice - a very LOW novice. My grammar was horrible! Case endings, verb endings, and subject/verb agreement went out the window, because all i could do was just get vocabuary to come out of my mouth - any vocabulary!! 

I love Nancy Llewellyn's quote which she traditionally gave in her opening talk at Rusticatio:

You are going to make the same kinds of grammar errors that if your own students were to make them, you would skin your knees running to grab a red pen to correct them. So be patient with yourself.

That was ten years ago. I can say that I am probably an Intermediate High level speaker now, but I still definitely struggle trying to put it all together with correct case endings, subject/verb agreement, correct usage of subjunctives, noun/adjective agreeement, pronunication, etc.

So when getting students to write in the target language, be sure that there has been plenty of input first so that there is a natural overflow of output, but be prepared for it to be messy. However, if you are viewing the output from a proficiency viewpoint instead of a performance lens, you will be amazed by what students are attempting to communicate in the language.

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