So, I got my first “hey Mr. P, remember me?” email from a former student. Oh no, they found me! Naw, it’s not too hard. I’m the only person on the planet with my name, so…
Anyway, here’s the gist of that email:
“It’s ___, your former student, now majoring in linguistics at _____ in no small part due to your teaching style.”
Why? Because I didn’t explicitly teach grammar or focus on information about the target language when teaching. We were communicating in the language, co-creating stories in real time, and then reading them. I was providing CI (i.e. comprehensible input…the messages students understand), learning about students, and personalizing content. Grammar wasn’t the focus of class at all, yet somehow this student was inspired to learn more about languages. That’s cool.
There’s still soooooo much resistance to teaching with CI. The classic argument is that doing so “won’t prepare students” for studying Classics, linguistics, or related fields in college. Seeing how most traditional programs aren’t doing a great job of preparing students per se anyway—rather it’s the individual student that makes it happen—I’d say we’ll see the death of the “they won’t be prepared” argument sometime soon. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?
I spent about 15min entering data from the diēs Mārtis (i.e. Tuesday) Latin class K-F-D Quizzes. N.B. These are “sneaky quizzes” per my NTPRS 2017 presentation, No Prep Grading & Assessment, referring to “assessments” that satisfy most quizzing/testing requirements, yet are actually an opportunity to interact and acquire.
28 students were in class for the K-F-D Quiz. Here are some observations:
At the end of November, I was hired to teach a new 7th grade Exploratory Language program. This was the administration’s solution to a failed compulsory extension of their 8th Spanish program that was halted in October by the abrupt resignation of their teacher. I wasn’t certified to teach Spanish, so the workaround was to reestablish 7th grade Spanish as a 7th grade Exploratory Language, and offer Spanish, Latin (for which I DO hold certification, and actually know), and French.
When I accepted the position, I knew very little Spanish, and French wasn’t even on the map. I was willing to invest the time needed to teach them, though, and I had a secret weapon…my CI language training. The administration recognized such value, and I was on my way.
Familiarize yourself with Bob Patrick’s One Word At a Time Stories (OWATS), here.
Sure, this activity can be used to deliver understandable messages when asking questions to each group and/or providing Pop-Up Grammar explanations. Realize, though, that the more groups you have, the less CI you can deliver; time is divided between groups students instead of all at once in a whole-class format. Aside from the main purpose of providing some limited CI, OWATS is also suitable when you need a break from delivering CI. I was in that kind of state of mind today, and didn’t ask groups many questions. Still, the students had a blast creating stories together.
I didn’t plan ahead of time for today’s OWATS, but quickly realized upon entering the building that after the long weekend (including a surreal night at Hôtel de Glace), I didn’t have the energy to sustain a full day in Spanish (n.b. we start Latin in February, then French in April for this 7th grade Exploratory Language course). Teachers new to CI, and Latin teachers new to speaking Latin will likely find themselves in a similar boat. OWATS is a good option. I always have phrases we’ve used typed up, cut out, and ready to go, and continue to add more to the pile as we go…
It’s a good habit to really listen to your students. In fact, if all language teachers did so, there would be more Teaching with CI.
At the start of the year, I hand out Expectations, and assign a few questions to be answered with an adult at home. Let’s face it, CI classes aren’t like other classes, and it’s good practice to make sure everyone understands how that academic environment is different, and what makes a CI class flow. The following response samples are somewhat depressing, but reflect the current state of taking a second language in high school. I offer them as anecdotal evidence that forced language production/output is damaging, as well as assurance that this “CI thing” will reach more students, especially if we embrace the research.
So, what makes kids nervous, and what challenges do they foresee? Some responses:
This is my first post about Teaching with CI Online, but I’m skipping ahead to showing some student work samples before explaining a bit about how CI Online is working out. That post will follow shortly.
So, here’s the context for the student work I’m showing you:
Reading without consciously translating into one’s native language is assumed to be a part of language acquisition, yet is taken for granted and difficult to assess. Through a Speed Reading program, students are encouraged to read chunks of words rather than individual word-for-word-translation. This aligns with how we focus on teaching the most frequent structures rather than isolated word lists. In addition, students find this reading program compelling due to the personal competitive nature.
Take a minute to read the Speed Reading Process (my adaptation of Blaine Ray’s adaptation of Paul Nation’s program).
If you like the idea, all that’s needed to begin is a set of reading passages (perhaps parallel class stories), accompanying document with 10 comprehension questions, and a table showing reading speed per passage. You will need the following files: