Lance Albury just left a comment on my post, “Can’t Read Greek—Unsurprised but Angry.” I must say that I get a Highlander kind of feeling whenever I cross paths with another Lance—which is quite rare—so I’m not surprised that Lance and I hold opposing views. We have different definitions and assumptions about the nature of language, language teaching, and education, more generally. This post highlights those differences.
Not meaning to be insulting, but I believe your position on reading ancient Greek is simply naive.
Lance is not off to a great start. He thinks that I have a lack of experience, or poor judgment, which means any response I give is likely to be dismissed. This is the reality of supporting your practices when someone already believes you have no idea what you’re talking about—one of the greatest obstacles against mainstream acknowledgement of CI.
Adriana Ramirez shared videos of her and her students doing Picture Talk on Facebook. I apologize if you can’t see them, but the reality is that most of my professional groups have now migrated to FB, which is becoming THE way to remain current in the field, apparently.
Adriana used old family photos for Picture Talk topics of conversation (keeping in mind “conversations” with Novice language learners are interactive, yet require just a few words from students. The teacher—to the dismay of clueless evaluators—SHOULD be doing most of the talking, here). Once her students developed a higher proficiency level by the end of the second year, she had them bring in their own pictures to talk about. I find it amazing that Adriana continued to provide input, and encourage interaction all throughout the “presentation” of the main student by engaging the class with questions, and checking back in with the main student—basically using Storyasking actor questioning techniques. In a more conventional rule-based language classroom, the teacher would be hands-off, and other students likely bored after 5 or 6 presentations. Not in Adriana’s class.
I instantly thought of how this could follow up Discipulus Illustris (one of 7 language versions of La Persona Especial). Although Adriana had second year students do the presenting, you could do this early on with students of lower proficiency—just be the one providing input and encouraging interaction. To do this, a student emails you a pic to use as a prop. Yes, students are great props, but something novel to look at should grab the attention of others just because it’s different, and fools the mind into thinking the activity is completely different while you could be asking the very same Discipulus Illustris questions about the picture!
I love how it’s no-prep. Actually, it’s can’t-prep, which is exciting on its own. Sure, you could preview the pic (especially if you have students engaging in tomfoolery often), but part of the fun is keeping it lively with unexpected, compelling diversions from what is likely a boring school day. Teachers need to feel energized as well, so try something new.
Whether it’s the first Timed Write (e.g. Free Write, or Story Retell) in September, or the final one during the last few weeks of school, you can turn any writing prompt into a game that everyone can participate in, with…
“Who can write the fewest words, but say the most…about X?”
What is X? Anything; describing oneself, TV show, sports match, or expressing thoughts on first days of high school, summer off, or graduating. The best part? This is a Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) springboard.
BINGO is pretty much a waste of time, however fun it might be, which we all know can’t be that much or last long because…well…it’s BINGO.
Jim Tripp has just breathed new life into this classic game, however, by providing massive amounts of input via circumlocution. It’s a brilliant idea, really, and quite simple to pull off!
This would also be a convenient time to implement Kuhner’s 9 Vocabulary Strategies. While the strategies aren’t appropriate for establishing meaning, and likely require output beyond most students’ capabilities (or just add too much time to whatever you’re doing), they fit really, really well here with Jim’s BINGO reboot.
Assessment & Grading is, by far, the most frequent topic I’m asked about, and this year’s National TPRS Conference features 10 of those workshops on Thursday and Friday! Based on the descriptions, there’s a mix of proficiency people, skill people, tech-tool people, speaking people, rubric people, and more! I’ll be presenting one of those workshops, and have noticed that my thinking is a little different. I do recommend getting to as many of the 10 as you can, so in case you miss out on mine, here’s a brief look at what I’m about…
I have a very simple approach to assessment because the answer is always RLMTL (i.e. Reading and Listening to More Target Language). That is, there is NO assessment I could give that WOULD NOT result in me providing more input. Therefore, my assessments are input-based, and very brief. In fact, what many consider assessments—for me—are actually just simple quizzes used to report scores (see below).
I prefer to assess students authentically.
Agrippīna māter fortis is the latest addition to the “Pisoverse” novellas (i.e. Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and Rūfus et arma ātra), only now Piso and Rufus’ mother gets the spotlight! Agrippina wears dresses and prepares dinner like other Roman mothers, but she has a secret—she is strong, likes wearing armor, and can fight just like her husband! Can she keep this secret from her family and friends?
The novella is currently written with 73 unique words (n.b. Rūfus has 40, and Pīsō 108). Agrippīna is an engaging read, like Rūfus, but almost as long as Pīsō (n.b. Rūfus has ~1440 total words, Agrippīna ~2700, and Pīsō ~2935), making the density of unique words repeated in different contexts much higher. Stephen Krashen told me that a “density” metric didn’t really matter as much as compelling content. My wife, who doesn’t read Latin btw, couldn’t wait to finish the last two chapters of Agrippīna! That’s a good barometer! In addition to compelling content, we know that fewer words contribute to a sense of confidence while reading (for student feedback on the matter, see this post over at The Inclusive Latin Classroom). While Rūfus could be read within the first months of Latin I, Agrippīna can surely follow later in the year, although older students will enjoy confidence from reading something with ease.
As this year comes to a close, I’m asking that you take a look at the first half of the novella, maybe run off a class copy (or project it and read through), and then get back to me with ways to improve it. Asterisks indicate where I intend to establish meaning within the text as a footnote. I’ll be editing it in June, and it should be ready before the next school year. Enjoy!
Click here to access the first 6 chapters (of 12) for previewing/piloting.
The 238 pages of support for Pīsō Ille Poētulus are finally here! In addition to invaluable information about Latin poetry, this Teacher’s Guide has 13 ready-to-go options for interacting with each chapter of Pīsō! Head to the copier, or project on board. Use them all, or choose a few per chapter; do whatever you’d like!