Independent Reading & Speaking Latin

I recently updated the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) to include ongoing Class Days and Culture Days. This provides more of a balance to the year without the previous “Unit 1/Unit 2” structure that each lasted approximately an entire semester. I also made sure to list independent reading as a key component. Yeah, I obviously have a stake in whether teachers build class libraries and include my books, but the whole reason I got into writing novellas in the first place is because I bought into the idea of independent reading tenfold…

Aside from its own merits, independent reading is even more necessary if the teacher doesn’t speak Latin. I understand the obstacles, but there’s very little support for not speaking the target language nowadays. So yes, this falls under “you probably don’t speak Latin, but you kinda have to now,” as we can see in a not-so-subtle move as Massachusetts just updated its antiquated 1999 World Languages framework. On page 12 of the new 2021 version, you’ll find:

Issues with definitions aside (uhhh…90% of what students read could be in Latin, right folks? That’s not difficult to achieve at all!), this statement points out the obvious: Latin teachers gotta start speaking. Easier said that done, though, especially when some immersion events require minimum levels of Latin knowledge upfront. Quite frankly, there’s little justification for not providing a beginner, almost-no-Latin track. Events like those end up more exclusive, primarily for the “in-crowd,” and with only a minor focus on turning Latin teachers into Latin speakers (vs. improving the Latīnitās of already-speakers-of-Latin). Until that changes, or new kinds of events emerge, the main opportunities for Latin teachers to interact in Latin will be limited to only the most confident of people willing to put themselves out there, and I’ve seen adults cry at these, too. No wonder it’s easier to retreat into the shadows, and grab that textbook, right?

So, teachers gotta speak Latin, especially in a comprehension-based and communicative approach (CCLT). How else will each student expand vocabulary they’re ready for?! We know learners have an internal syllabus that dictates what’s ready to be acquired, yet the textbook is just one fixed curriculum, and might not even match what a single student in class—this year—is ready for. When speaking Latin, however, the teacher can adjust input left or right in word choice, up or down in complexity, forwards or backwards in speed, and even diagonally in topic! Other students benefit from observing these adjusted interactions between the teacher and their classmates, too. It’s win-win.

Still, for all the obstacles already mentioned, some teachers aren’t there yet. Therefore, independent reading is the only way for students to get something more personalized. Other buzz words for this are “differentiation” and “scaffolding.” The benefit? It’s easy. I mean…it’s hideously easy to set aside class time for everyone—teacher included—to choose Latin and read. The question of *what* to teach becomes less of an issue as the Talk & Read lesson plan prevails. I’d love to see some action research from Latin teachers devoting more class time to independent reading, and the positive results that follow. What happens if independent reading is increased to 10, or 25% of class time? What if activities are reduced to…50%…and class is evenly split between reading books and then interacting?! That’s exciting to think about.

So, have you carved out time for independent reading yet? If you’ve been doing it, any thoughts to improving the experience for all?

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