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…

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Zōdiacī & Weekly Routines

After writing about the first weeks of routines, it’s clear that Total Physical Response (TPR) is now only effective as a brain break. After all, moving about and gesturing isn’t as compelling now that we can hold actual class discussions. When it comes to compelling topics, though, Discipulus Illustris is taking off with zodiac qualities right now in first place in terms of holding interest. As such, I’ve updated the 2019-20 PPT with links to two qualities for each sign:

The follow up question is something like “do you have similar, or different qualities?” This has been awesome. Otherwise, next week introduces MovieTalk, and new Card Talk prompts beyond the four like/like to do drawings we got from the very first class. Talk about a lot of mileage out of that one; it’s been 4 weeks! With these new daily routines comes new planning needs and changes. One change is reading the Tuesday/Thursday Write & Discuss as a whole class (instead of a Do Now). Also, the second half of class on Wednesday/Friday will be devoted to reading; independently, as a whole-class, and then in pairs/groups. Here’s the updated schedule for the next 4-5 weeks, and Do Now/Daily Prep below that:

  • Mondays:
    Do Now – Draw what you did/something you saw over the weekend
    Prep – Determine Tuesday’s Do Now drawing prompt
  • Tuesdays:
    Do Now – [Drawing prompt]
    Prep – 1) Wednesday’s MovieTalk screenshot
    2) Type up text based on Do Now drawings, for Thursday
  • Wednesdays:
    Do Now – See|Think|Wonder (screenshot)
  • Thursdays:
    Do Now – In 1-2 sentences, summarize text (from Tuesday’s drawings)
    Prep – Determine Friday’s Card Talk prompt
  • Fridays:
    Do Now – [Card Talk prompt]
    Prep – Type up & print text based on Card Talk

Do Now & Text-Generating Routines

Classes feel a bit different this year—to say the least—meeting between just 40 and 44 minutes daily. That certainly doesn’t sound like much time for high school, but it’s growing on me. In fact, I’d even say that this is an ideal amount of time to spend in a second language each day, so no complaints, here. Due to the need for super efficient timing, though, my daily structure now looks like this:

  1. Do Now
  2. Activity 1 (or first part of a longer activity)
    -Brain Break-
  3. READ (independently)
  4. Activity 2 (or second part of a longer activity)

To give you a sense of how this looks, on Tuesday we held the first round of student interviews (i.e. Discipulus Illustris/Persona Especial), students read about last Friday’s basketball game, then I asked questions about what we learned from the student in the spotlight, typing into a Google Doc as students copied the Latin into their notebooks (i.e. Write & Discuss). That was it! Thinking of the class day as two parts is really easy to plan for. Also, since classes meet daily, I’ve decided to alternate activities. This makes the week feel like there’s more variety without adding too much. Here are my alternating daily routines for these first weeks of school…

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Are My Students Reading Every Day?

No? Why not?

After thinking it over—and I can think things over for a long, long time—I can’t find a compelling reason why students shouldn’t be reading every day, either independently, in pairs/groups/whole class, or both. This year’s students have already read independently for twice as long as last year’s students did…by the end of Quarter 1!!!!

Reading is probably the best source of input, and although I value class time interaction, the reason for all that interaction amounts to being able to read Latin. In fact, I would still place all my eggs in the reading basket when teaching a modern language, too, knowing that interpersonal communication *might* occur outside of the classroom, but that it also might not. However, books can accompany us wherever we go, and literacy is probably the most important skill to promote and build across all content areas, as well as language class.

Bottom line, reading is paramount. Looking back at last year’s plans, there were days when students didn’t read, but I can’t justify that, even for a few minutes at some point between activities. Therefore, I’ve now built reading time into my plans for each day…like…ALL of them…! How?!

Halfway through class, and before ANY reading or any other input-based activity, students read independently for 3 minutes. That’s it!

For example, last week I finished class with TPR (Total Physical Response), but guess what? Students had 3 minutes of independent reading time with their first text. This was after a brain break in the middle of class, and that’s in 40 to 44 minute classes. If I still taught for 1 hour, I’d set a timer for 25, quick break, then read. Every. Day.

Of course, the insistence on this routine means I need a text every day, but that doesn’t mean the text must be long. That also doesn’t mean that a new text is needed every day. While students certainly could be given new text daily, especially with judicious use of copying a text written/typed out during class (i.e. Write & Discuss), a longer text could last a couple days, or even the whole week.

So, if your students aren’t reading every day, what can you do to build in this time?

First Text: A Year To Year Comparison

After the first orientation day of just 12 minute “classes,” I typed up statements using the drawings students did while responding to “what do you like/like to do?” Even though I followed the same plan for the first day as last year, the higher execution of it this year has been…well…crazy.

Last year, each class section read just 50 total words of Latin (10 unique words). This year? There’s 520 total words using 54 unique (17 of which cognates)!!!! Yeah. That’s how much Latin I’ll be able to provide this week after just one very brief meeting, and a decent number of hours writing/typing. Oh, and I’m not keeping track of that kind of work at this point in the school year, doing what I need to do to start off in a calm and confident manner, putting in any extra time beyond the school day I need.

So, how does this year end up including SOOOOO much more input?! First of all, I made sure every 9th grade student was included in the text, clearing the time needed to write about them. Otherwise, I updated a few things. This post looks at those changes…

sample of 2018-19 first text
sample of this year’s first text

The differences you can probably see between the two comparison pics are the following…

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Syra et animālia: Published! & The Pisoverse FVR Readers

The companion text to Syra sōla is now available on Amazon.

Rūfus lutulentus, Rūfus et arma ātra, Agrippīna: māter fortis, and now Syra sōla all have companion texts, either as collections of additional stories via Expanded Readings (i.e. Rūfus et Lūcia: līberī lutulentī, Syra et animālia, and Rūfus et gladiātōrēs), or a parallel novella via Choose-Your-Own-Level Readings (i.e. Līvia: māter ēloquens). These books have a colored border, and more than one unique word count button to show the range throughout (depending on the level one reads), which corresponds the other Pisoverse books (i.e. light blue <50 words; dark blue 50-100 words; purple 100+ words). This word count button is intended to inform teachers of relative reading level, and help learners choose a book during Free Voluntary Reading (FVR). Thus, I refer to all these companion texts as “FVR readers.”

N.B. Even though the companion texts are all based on existing novellas, learners don’t need to have read the originals! They can exist independently as FVR reading options.

Syra et animālia is the latest addition to the FVR readers. The new companion text to Syra sōla features the most super clear cognates in a Pisoverse novella to date, with 60! In this book, Syra encounters various animals around Rome on her quest for a pet. Familiar Pisoverse characters make appearances throughout, such as the arrogant Terrex, who we learn has a pet ape he doesn’t like and never named, and a pet peacock he adores, named Pāvopapī!

Here’s how the FVR readers work, and can be used…

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The 1-Class CALP & Comprehensible Content-Based Instruction (CCBI)

At iFLT 2019, Martina Bex presented on content-based instruction (CBI), only with an important caveat you’d expect from the conference: a focus on comprehension, hence CCBI. I was delighted to see how similar her three steps were to the framework I’ve been developing with John Bracey, David Maust, and John Piazza, which we presented at ACL’s Centennial Institute. Martina uses slightly different terms taken from Bloom’s Taxonomy to describe the same process we’re using (hers on the left, ours on the right):

Knowledge = Connect
Comprehension = Explore
Analysis/Synthesize = Create

Martina’s presentation showed how simple the process can be, making the concept of teaching Roman content in Latin more approachable. How? The format she shared was for a single class. Of course, the idea is not to teach random new content every day, but instead to have each day’s content within a larger unit, but still, this “bite-sized” approach feels more manageable for anyone looking to teach content in the target language. So how does that differ from the unit template the John’s and I shared at ACL?

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