Establishing Meaning: Confusion

Step 1 of TPRS is “establish meaning” to show what a word/phrase means in the target language (TL) before using it to co-create a story. The most efficient and effective way to do this is by using a native language (L1) common to all students (e.g. “fēlēs means cat“). In TPRS, we write the TL on the board, underline it, then write the L1 below in a different color. We refer to this throughout class by pointing and pausing.

Establishing meaning is also Step 1 for anyone providing comprehensible input (CI), regardless of the method or strategy.

If this step doesn’t occur, teachers are providing input (I) that might not be comprehensible (C). Although there’s some role that noise in the input plays (Incomprehensible Input?), it’s clear that acquisition doesn’t happen with high levels of that noise. This is why no one—NO ONE—disputes that CI is necessary; it’s the sine qua non of acquisition, which is why establishing meaning is so important.

Still, there’s been confusion over establishing meaning, and that confusion has to do with purpose…

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High-Frequency Verbs

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 10 11 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 10 11 comments, there were still 38 44 different verbs in total!

The verbs that were most common  between everyone who chimed in were:
be (6 7)
want (5 6)
see (4 5)
be able (4)
be quiet (4 )

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“School isn’t even close to an L1 environment:” Why reading is KEY

I’ve heard the argument that “it’s impossible to replicate a native language (L1) environment, so why bother with all this CI stuff in the classroom?” I used to counter this with “we’re trying to get as close to that environment as possible while lowering expectations to a realistic level given how little time (~400 hours) students have with a language in high school.” Sure, that’s all true, but we can do better.

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Complete Standards Based Grading (SBG) Systems: Why not in a language course?

You may have read that my new “one grading system to rule them all” essentially has a single standard, Proficiency. This is because I am no longer convinced that students need to practice anything in order to acquire a language. If you believe students need to practice, SBG will work for you, but I don’t buy it, and neither does VanPatten. This concept is so utterly counterintuitive to traditional language teachers, you probably need to spend some time thinking things over before developing your teaching philosophy.

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