I got thinking about what I’d say my core practices were if anyone wanted to learn more about CI and get an overview of what comprehension-based and communicative language teaching (CCLT) looks like. Would it be a list of 10? Could I get that down to five? Might it be better to prioritize some practices like the top 5, 8, and 16 verbs (i.e. quaint quīnque, awesome octō, and sweet sēdecim)? Would I go specific, with concrete activities? Or, would I go broad and global, starting with principles and ideas?
I highly recommend that you do this just as an exercise during a planning period this week, making a quick list of your core practices. Doing so required me to sort out a few things in the process, and helped organize and align my practices to certain principles. Of course, terms and definitions can get tricky, here. I just saw that Reed Riggs and Diane Neubauer refer to “instructional activities (IA),” which covers a lot of what goes on in the classroom. It’s a good term. I’m using “practices” in a similar way to refer to many different methods, strategies, techniques, and activities that all fall under a CCLT approach, as well as general “teacher stuff” I find to be core as well.
Another reason for this post is that I’ve seen the “CI umbrella” graphic shared before, but that doesn’t quite fit with my understanding of things. Rather than practices falling under a CI umbrella, I envision CI instead as the result of practices under the umbrella of CCLT. I also consider such an approach a defense against incomprehensibility—the first obstacle that needs to be removed—and I thought a more aggressive graphic of a “CI shield” might best represent that.
In the COVID-19 scramble to replace classroom instruction, many teachers are tossing anything they can at students, often using materials someone else created. This might work out fine, but it also might not. Some of the texts are comprehensible. Some aren’t.
Of course, some students will do the enrichment work, and some won’t. That’s just our reality. Yet the K (constant) in all this is us. Teachers can use this time to hone their skills while also providing input—that students may or may not receive, which is completely out of our control (i.e. what used to be problems with homework is now the entire course content!)—ensuring more productive ways to spend our time…
I’ve just decided to drop Obligation from the Awesome Octō (i.e. is, has, wants, likes, goes + says, thinks, owes/should), and replace it with Knowledge (i.e. knows/doesn’t know). Here are all the posters.
This is the first step towards updating and embracing the Sweet Sēdecim (+ sees, hears, comes, leaves, brings, puts, gives, is able) that many successful language teachers have been using for quite some time. The result will be focusing on a slightly larger core vocabulary—instead of just the top 8—over a longer period of time. These top 16 naturally occur across many communicative contexts. Thus, the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) is born.
In a nutshell, though…
Can be used for ANY target language
Curriculum is based on expanding vocabulary
Content is driven by communication and student interests
A repeating single-year organized into 2 units
Unit 1 Content, Years 1 – 4 (ACTFL’s Communication, Connections, and Communities) “Who am I?” “Who are we?”
Community: town(s), school, landmarks
Family: members, origin/ancestry, home
Self: age, likes/dislikes, wishes
Unit 2 Content, Varies each year (ACTFL’s Communication, Cultures, and Comparisons) “Who were the target language speakers?”
Someone asked the “Teaching Latin for Acquisition” Facebook group for a list of the top 10 verbs in each of our classes—if we had to make such a list. There were only about 1011 comments, but many teachers probably use similar verbs and just didn’t have anything to add. What I find interesting, though, is that across the lists from only 1011 comments, there were still 3844 different verbs in total!
The verbs that were most common between everyone who chimed in were: be (67)
see (45) be able (4)
be quiet (4 )
I don’t know Ancient Greek very well, despite “studying it” in college, but recently I’ve had the desire to read it (vs. translating, or just knowing about how Greek works). Desire certainly accounts for motivation, which has a positive effect on compellingness of messages read, yet I’ve been having the hardest time with comprehension—the undisputed sine qua non of language acquisition. I began to look into why, and now I’m just angry…
Recently, John Piazza reminded me of Bill VanPatten’s definition of high-frequency vocabulary as “vocabulary used often in a particular context.”
The classroom context is very important. I can tell you that pater, though the 84th most frequent Latin word (according to Logeion), doesn’t come up much in my classes. You know what does? saccus pyraulocinēticus, meaning “jet pack.” Honestly, I don’t blame kids for finding a reason to sneak that into class, and I don’t mind one bit because a) we can show how Latin works with saccus pyraulocinēticus just as much as we can pater, and b) because it’s pure buy-in that makes Latin class fun.
The high-frequency lists are useful, but don’t forget that those lists are based on literature. Realize, then, that most of your students, if not nearly all, will NEVER read Latin literature. If your class is truly communicative, vocabulary used in your room each day will be relevant to students and their interests. Once you move beyond the Quaint Quīntum, Awesome Octō, Sweet Sēdecim, Top 32, Most Important 52, etc., the “high-frequency list” words you CHOOSE to use in class might be in vain, especially if they aren’t compelling, or worse, somehow causing grief in an effort to “get through” or “cover” words that appear in X, Y, and or Z.