Rūfus lutulentus: Published

Rūfus et arma ātra (40 unique words) represented an extreme example of sheltering (i.e. limiting) vocabulary that addresses the lack of understandable reading material available to beginning Latin students. It had the lowest unique word count of all published Latin and modern language novellas.

That is, until now…

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Texts from First Week/Class

This year, I see my 3 sections of Intro Latin just once per week, but the typical beginning-of-year activities don’t include much reading. Focusing on TPR for the first 10 hours, for example, just won’t work with this schedule. In order to maximize input, reading must be part of their Latin experience from the start, and the texts I give must be hyper-comprehensible. In my last post, I shared the text I’ll project and read to diēs Mārtis (i.e. the Tuesday Latin class) next week.

Today I got thinking more about maximizing the input through reading. It doesn’t have to stop there in class, but I have to be smart about reading assignments for home. I shouldn’t hand them the exact same text and say “go home, read this, and tell someone what it means/write an English summary.” That’s the kind of artificial assignment that feels like busywork, and it is! Let’s face it, students already know the information in there, and would just be reading for reading’s sake which is practicing language for language’s sake.

We need a parallel reading.

I could make something up, but I don’t know the students well enough yet to gauge what they might find compelling. Instead, I’ve combined the texts from the other two sections to give as a reading assignment (e.g. diēs Mercuriī students will get a text with the interests of diēs Mārtis, and diēs Iovis). Here is what diēs Mārtis students get to take home and read (click for Google Doc):

After I project and read aloud the primary text in class, students will have read just under ~500 words of Latin (216 + 269) by the end of their 2nd Latin class! That’s no small sum, and there’s no way this would be possible without a student-centered focus on compelling messages (i.e. what students like, and how that differs or is similar to others), and sheltering vocabulary—in this case focusing on the one verb we used in the last 15min. of the first day class, placet.

On Sheltering
The primary and parallel texts include what appears to be completely unsheltered maxed-out vocab that many of us avoid (i.e. 28 unique words after 1 class?!). Aside from the most important, most frequent words in these texts (e.g. placet, est, et, nōn, quoque), the rest of the unique word count is comprised of “icing words.” With only one verb other than esse, the compellingness of these texts is going to come from the different interests. I have no expectation that students will acquire these words. Some will, but that’s not the point. The point, and purpose of this communication, is to learn something about each other (and it just happens to be in Latin). Besides, most of the icing words are transparent due to the images, and/or obvious cognates (i.e. mūsica, televisiōrum, telephōnulum, colōrēs, mathēmatica, pictūrae, flōrēs, planētae), adding very little to cognitive demand. Comprehension should be quite high for these texts.

Besides, the icing words will not interrupt the flow of students reading, and have a better chance of acting as those hooks to hold their interest. Contrast the texts above with the 22 unique words in the Ecce Romani textbook’s chapter 1 first reading passage of 61 total words in length, in which very few words are used more than once.

First Week…err Day…

I live by the “low-prep/no-prep” mantra. Yes, there’s life outside of school (maybe not if you teach high school ELA, sorry folks), and I enjoy sharing with others ideas on how to regain their personal life back while also being a damn fine teacher. As part of this, I pride myself on having not taken home student work for a few years now.

This first week, however, is different…

I’ve been used to starting the year with a half-day devoted to essential rules, some routines, and that school-required housekeeping stuff. Then, in next 8-10 class days over about 2 weeks, I would get into Circling with Balls (CWB), Total Physical Response (TPR), Discipulus Illustris, not to mention the No-Travel Story Script I was looking forward to trying out. Not this year. I see my students just 1 hour per week, which means those usual beginning activities would take us up through Thanksgiving! That’s simply too slow for he brain craving novelty. Expectations must be lowered. I’m just now recognizing exactly how much lower, too. This first week—one class—had to combine all that housekeeping with only a little bit of Latin…very little. You know what we did? placet (= likes). Yep, that’s it, at least as the only verb, although eī, tibi, -ne?, an, nōn, et, harpastum, minimē, and certē also made appearances. The focus was on just one student, and another parallel student to compare.

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Parātus sum

Preparing for the new school year is kind of crazy. I just read how someone feels like they have to “learn how to teach all over again.” This resonates with me. It’s the 5th time asking myself “OK, but what do I DO?!” just before everything starts. I’m preparing to plan a little more than I normally would, at least in the beginning, but really just to sleep well at night. This is exactly like what Jason Fritze mentioned about writing a quick story script ahead of time, even if you plan to roll with compelling diversions and give students most of the control over story details (noted in my NTPRS 2017 Takeaways). I know that once things get rolling I’ll be able to relax, and the daily stress will dissipate. I’m prepared for stress, and in doing so will avoid anxiety. In my first year, another teacher shared with me how he began his 9th year filled with anxiety, and later vowed to prepare enough so that he could replace it with stress. He knew how to deal with stress, but anxiety was too much, even for an experienced teacher. Here’s how I’ve prepared myself for the upcoming year:

CI Program Checklist Summary
What, you thought this blog was only for readers other than myself? No way. The checklist still holds up, and I use it to make sure everything’s printed and ready to go. I might not use the PPTs on my website—the ones that I really needed when I first began actually speaking Latin in class—but the processes are the same so I review and refresh.

Setting up my room, and Grading
Clean room, clean mind. New this year is an updated Word Wall. I’ll keep track of new words (rather than print lists to refer to), and nest under appropriate question word poster.

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Since I have 3 sections of Latin I (i.e. Tues, Wed, Thurs), each class will have their own Word wall panels. To make these, I folded a sheet of tear-away paper over construction paper for rigidity, and punched a single hole to be suspended by push pins. The other class panels hide behind the ones shown, and are rotated each day at the start of class. Can someone saaaaay “student job?”

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Strategy Cards
Not unlike Terry Waltz’s Squid For Brains “Circle-Up!” cards that guide you along the path of randomized circling questions, etc., I laminated some cards with strategies I’d like to implement in the classroom. After NTPRS 2017, I knew that there were just sooooo many new yet simple strategies to try, but that I would likely forget about them. These cards took me 10min. to make, and are comprised of general “Class Strategies,” and then more specific “Story Strategies” I’ll use while storyasking. Yes, this is slightly artificial, but not that long ago I actually had to “practice” just speaking to students in Latin…think about THAT! These cards are for honing my craft so that making Latin more comprehensible becomes more automatic. This is professional development.

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New Refocusers
Sometimes we need to refocus. I experienced this firsthand with Alina Filipescu’s “mira, escucha, estamos en la lucha!” chant. It was fun, and worked to lower the affective filter. The best ones I’ve seen/heard have rhythm, or just rhyme. We should use them in Latin class, so Traci Dougherty and I were tossing ideas back and forth. It’s definitely the Pīsō in me, but I struggled with sacrificing a fun chant for accurate vowel quantities—what made a good rhythm didn’t reflect how we actually say those words, etc. So, here are my two refocusers that are metrically sound:

1) “Quid agis, nihil magis” (rhythm = quid Agis, NIhil MAgis)
2) “in lūdō, vidēmus, audīmus et, rogāmus” (rhythm = in LŪdō, viDĒmus//auDĪmus et, roGĀmus)

Both work well as a call & response (either teacher/students, or left side/right side). To initiate the left side/right side, just clap the rhythm as a cue before students chant. The second one has the added bonus of reinforcing my Daily Engagement Agreements (DEA).

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Pīsō (latín -> español) Published!

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You’ve seen this map, right? Among many things, it’s to remind Western cultures that their historic place in the world doesn’t mean that the continents actually exist as they’ve been portrayed. This was the first image that came to mind when Donaciano Pardo, a Latin teacher in Spain, expressed to me that he wanted his students to read Pīsō Ille Poētulus, but that they didn’t understand English…

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Why Novellas? Why “Shelter Vocabulary?”

The new Latin novellas, first published in September of 2015, have been written with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary so the novice student can read Latin confidently after knowing as few as 40 words! This sheltering provides frequent exposure to Latin’s core vocabulary—even more so than textbook narratives, or unadapted ancient texts that seldom repeat words. Why novellas? Why shelter vocabulary? Novellas provide high-frequency repetition for the novice student.

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Expanded Readings (ExR), and Drum Corps: The Hose

It’s DCI finals week, so you get a drum corps analogy. You have no idea what that is, you sort of know, or you marched colorguard in 1984? Well, this is what a DCI champion looks like these days. Drumlines usually begin the season in the winter months with complex and challenging music. In the summer, after hours and hours of rehearsal, that music is usually “watered-down” to something the performers can actually achieve, hence The Hose. I’ve long thought that it might be a more pedagogically-sound practice to write some basic “skeleton” music, and then expand it to be more challenging as performers improve throughout the season. The result would be music appropriate to the performers’ proficiency level (instead of spending time trying to reach something they can’t do, or can’t do well, only to ditch during finals week). Of course, it would take an incredibly patient drum line and staff in the winter to have faith that performer proficiency would improve beyond what appeared to be the “simple, easy beats” to play, and then become something impressive and worthy of playing in front of a crowd. In reality, though, the simple beats are quite rudimental to drumming, just like sheltered vocabulary is to second language learning.

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