*THE* Time For Writing & Adapting Texts

In the COVID-19 scramble to replace classroom instruction, many teachers are tossing anything they can at students, often using materials someone else created. This might work out fine, but it also might not. Some of the texts are comprehensible. Some aren’t.

Of course, some students will do the enrichment work, and some won’t. That’s just our reality. Yet the K (constant) in all this is us. Teachers can use this time to hone their skills while also providing input—that students may or may not receive, which is completely out of our control (i.e. what used to be problems with homework is now the entire course content!)—ensuring more productive ways to spend our time…

Novellas
First of all, do you have an idea for one? Start writing. I predict there will be 10 new novellas published after this summer, which is great (under 100 unique words, even better!). In fact, here’s a preview of my next one:

But maybe you were reading a novella, then school closed before getting a chance to distribute books. Maybe you know that my novellas are ~$3 right now, and I can ship books directly to parents’ homes if you contact me. Then again, maybe your school isn’t supportive enough to get you what you need to continue instruction the way they expect. That’s another story altogether. Anyway, are you halfway through a book students no longer have access to (and if one of my books, beyond where the previews end), and wondering what to do? Try this…

  1. Ask students to submit a prediction/detail…maybe what happens next, or a backstory about something known from the text.
  2. Type those up & edit them.
  3. Share back to read, discuss, etc.

voilà! If this is the first time you’ve co-created a text, or ventured into collaborative storytelling, it’s really this simple. The asynchronous format means you have *time* to edit your own monitor, too, so there’s no real-time Latin speaking to worry about, right? Also, you’ll be surprised how much content this generates. Even if you have as few as 10 students, a single sentence from each student’s suggestion is a decent amount of novel input with all the shared background knowledge of the novella. Another benefit is that you can craft the story using Latin words your students know (vs. Latin words someone else’s students know that you have to adapt anyway). This is a way to nearly ensure comprehension, especially if you include a full glossary of every word form. Also, remember that the novella will be waiting for students in your FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) library whenever they get back to the classroom. This is win-win.

Adapting Texts
Without the teacher, students need a LOT of scaffolding. Their independent reading level is probably way lower than you think, even if you already think it’s low. Still, you might have a lot of Latin prepared, and/or want to make use of texts other teachers are sharing. So, how do you adapt a text? Here’s a crash course we’ve been using in Latin department meetings:

  1. Simplify, creating tiers as needed (e.g. 1, 2, 3…4? different tiers, then original).
  2. Tier 1 is a few sentences using cognates, the Top 5, 8, or 16 verbs, and most basic of vocab, adding pictures and/or English to establish meaning of words. Tier 2 can be nearly the same just in paragraph form.
  3. Break up long sentences into shorter ones, restate subjects, and repeat vocab for exposure, doubling or tripling the input (e.g. “Charlie is an animal. The animal that Charlie is is a dog. Charlie is happy. Charlie is a happy a dog” vs. only “Charlie is a happy dog”).

Our school is providing enrichment work so that students can spend anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours on the same assignment. Students should get something out of it if the minimum time is all they can give. So, if a student has just 5 minutes to read a text, that text better be hideously simple to read, and 100% clear. At the very least, it will be a breeze for fast processing students to read as they work their way through to the original. This is win-win.

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