I’ve been using the basic Talk & Read class structure for a while (i.e., a greeting, quick discussion, and/or some activity “by ear” for about 5 to 20 minutes, then reading, reading, reading for the remainder). That was when I had 40 to 60 minute classes for years. However, switching to an 85-minute block schedule last year really fucked things up. Now, classes feel way too long, I’m exhausted, there’s too much time between class days (i.e., 48 hours) so “the din” of Latin in students’ minds grows dim, and absent kids miss out big time (i.e., now 96-120 hours from class to class if absent just one day).
It turns out that I didn’t write much about the block schedule messing with things last year aside from a blog post or two. Granted, 2021-22 was the first year back from remote learning. That came with unique challenges, and the schedule change didn’t help. Btw, this is my 10th year teaching and my 10th schedule. Even when I stayed at the same school for more than a year, the schedule changed each one. I’m now in the 6th year at the same school. 6 schedules. Anyone wanna place a bet as for next year will hold? So, 2021-22 was a big calibration year for all sorts of reasons, and it’s taken me until right now to actually identify how much the schedule has negatively impacted first year language students. But I have a solution…
Talk, Read, Reread
I don’t like to reread texts ad nauseam. In my experience, students stop processing language after a few reads of the same exact short text, and then complete activities using their understanding of the details in English. As such, I settled on 2-3x per text, max. However, last year I went so far in the opposite direction with the block schedule that we’d often spend the whole class with one text, and not revisit it. Once I realized that 85 minutes on the same content got real old, real fast, I started using half the class time for one text, then moved onto something else. The problem was never revisiting that text another day. I was banking on the recycled vocab throughout the whole year, not the micro-exposure to a single text read a few times a week
Moving forward, I plan to have two texts running parallel throughout the week. For example, one MovieTalk text read during the first half of class each day, then in the second half of class a new novella chapter read. Novellas have built-in continuity (unlike much shorter texts). Besides, I primarily encourage the use of novellas for enjoyment, and rarely attached activities to them. So, that would give two different texts read throughout the week. Another example would be to hold Discipulus Illustris one day, get a Type ‘n Talk text about the student, then use that text the other days during the week, such as a guess-who-from-other-class-section, and/or other reading activity.
Read On Own
There’s also the powerful strategy of having students read, and/or reread a text on their own before you do something as a whole class or in pairs. Even 1-4 minutes of rereading the previous novella chapter before moving on will go along way. Plus, it builds independent reading habits, which come in handy for free voluntary reading (FVR) programs. So, I’m thinking of including this as part of keeping the same text going throughout the week.