Input Analysis & Textbook Comparison

One universal thing we can discuss with any language teacher is awareness of how much target language we’re giving students (I, Input), how well they understand (C, Comprehensibility), and the reason for doing an activity (P, Purpose). In fact, this focus is central to our school’s Latin department, and keeping track of input is part of my teacher eval goal.

I covered an ELA teacher’s class last Friday, which means the most productive thing to do was complete some kind of menial task. It just so happened that counting up words is exactly that. So, I compared the input my Albāta class students have received to the Latin found in the first four stages of Cambridge. N.B. I chose the Albāta class section because they’ve read the most total words between all class sections (i.e. 1616 to 1755).

Indeed, Albāta students received about 36% more input than Cambridge (1755 to 1117). Surprisingly, though, the unique word count was also higher by about 24% (221 to 169). I wouldn’t have expected that with such an intent on my part to shelter (i.e. limit) vocabulary unlike what is found in textbooks, so let’s take a look…

Frequency
The first thing I notice is how many names make up the most frequent words from Cambridge (i.e. two other words appear more than Caecilius). In terms of grammar, esse appears in two different forms (est and sum), and the other two, intrāre and salūtāre, are both in 3rd person singular. Albāta students, however, read two different singular and plural forms of placēre 145 times, and esse frequently appeared also in the past tense, erat. Two other verbs, habēre and pingere, were read frequently, as well as the infinitive, dormīre. Also, both the nominative and dative cases of studēns were more frequent (64x) than the first four nouns in Cambridge combined (pecūniam, amīcus, mercātor, ātriō, at 58x).

Sheltering
Further analysis of the rest of the verbs appearing more than just once shows that Cambridge is limited to 3rd and 1st person singular forms (clāmat, habeō, labōrat, inquit, respondet, ridet, spectat, videt, circumspectat, dormit, venit, ambulat, audit, bibit, exit, exspectat, habet, laudat, portat, revenit, stat, surgit, vocat, coquit, coquo, debet, emit, latrat, legit, numerat, pingō, recitō, recumbit, reddit, scrībit, tenet tondeō, tondet, vituperat), whereas Albāta students read a variety of grammatical forms (cōnsūmere, sunt, cōnsūmit, pingere, māvult, dormit, erant, habuit, legere, canit, accūsat, esse, gerit, natāre, pinxērunt, scrībere).

Therefore, sheltering is most obvious with verbs (i.e. Cambridge includes 59% more meanings), but the Albāta students did read 24% more unique words other than verbs. This is largely due to many names, and 1-off words used as compelling “flavor text.” These are the kind of words crucial to a particular message, such as one student’s interest, but not words that recur frequently. However, in this example, something like placēre used with 1-off words was read over 145 times, which was 32% more often than Caecilius in Cambridge. This just shows how the most frequent words still occur far more often (e.g. placēre) than less-frequent ones specific to a particular message from class (e.g. Biologia, cereālis, pedifollis, etc.). When the context is students and their varied interests, there will be more of these unique 1-off words, but the big content verbs remain the focus of the message.

Context
The vocab of Cambridge covers wealth, commerce, trade, home, and daily life. Albāta students are reading more about their immediate environment, the school, as well as their own interests. Despite these different contexts, though, input is input. Albāta students read forms of esse 123 times compared to Cambridge’s 91, and habēre 25 times to Cambridge’s 14. They read quoque 50 times to 7, and sed 23 times to 3. Very clearly stated, these frequent words appear in Latin no matter what the topic is, and Albāta was exposed to more instances of them.

Input Sources
Something should be said about the source of input. This analysis I’ve done is based on texts typed up during class or my planning period, but still only texts. As such, my student teacher mentioned how classes are actually receiving so much more input than anyone just reading, estimating that listening to Latin in class might be double the input, if not triple or more! Unless Cambridge is being used in a comprehension-based and communicative classroom, there likely isn’t additional input coming from anywhere.

Therefore, at least in this mini-analysis after 4 weeks, it’s fair to say that Albāta students are receiving quite a bit more input beyond the 36% from texts than one gets from Cambridge. With listening, could it be 50%? Could it be 75%? Such data would be laborious to collect, but if anyone felt like recording and transcribing class it’d be fascinating!

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