This year, I see my 3 sections of Intro Latin just once per week, but the typical beginning-of-year activities don’t include much reading. Focusing on TPR for the first 10 hours, for example, just won’t work with this schedule. In order to maximize input, reading must be part of their Latin experience from the start, and the texts I give must be hyper-comprehensible. In my last post, I shared the text I’ll project and read to diēs Mārtis (i.e. the Tuesday Latin class) next week.
Today I got thinking more about maximizing the input through reading. It doesn’t have to stop there in class, but I have to be smart about reading assignments for home. I shouldn’t hand them the exact same text and say “go home, read this, and tell someone what it means/write an English summary.” That’s the kind of artificial assignment that feels like busywork, and it is! Let’s face it, students already know the information in there, and would just be reading for reading’s sake which is practicing language for language’s sake.
We need a parallel reading.
I could make something up, but I don’t know the students well enough yet to gauge what they might find compelling. Instead, I’ve combined the texts from the other two sections to give as a reading assignment (e.g. diēs Mercuriī students will get a text with the interests of diēs Mārtis, and diēs Iovis). Here is what diēs Mārtis students get to take home and read (click for Google Doc):
After I project and read aloud the primary text in class, students will have read just under ~500 words of Latin (216 + 269) by the end of their 2nd Latin class! That’s no small sum, and there’s no way this would be possible without a student-centered focus on compelling messages (i.e. what students like, and how that differs or is similar to others), and sheltering vocabulary—in this case focusing on the one verb we used in the last 15min. of the first day class, placet.
The primary and parallel texts include what appears to be completely unsheltered maxed-out vocab that many of us avoid (i.e. 28 unique words after 1 class?!). Aside from the most important, most frequent words in these texts (e.g. placet, est, et, nōn, quoque), the rest of the unique word count is comprised of “icing words.” With only one verb other than esse, the compellingness of these texts is going to come from the different interests. I have no expectation that students will acquire these words. Some will, but that’s not the point. The point, and purpose of this communication, is to learn something about each other (and it just happens to be in Latin). Besides, most of the icing words are transparent due to the images, and/or obvious cognates (i.e. mūsica, televisiōrum, telephōnulum, colōrēs, mathēmatica, pictūrae, flōrēs, planētae), adding very little to cognitive demand. Comprehension should be quite high for these texts.
Besides, the icing words will not interrupt the flow of students reading, and have a better chance of acting as those hooks to hold their interest. Contrast the texts above with the 22 unique words in the Ecce Romani textbook’s chapter 1 first reading passage of 61 total words in length, in which very few words are used more than once.