TPR & Safety Nets 2019: “We Will Rock You”

I’ve revisited my list of TPRable (Total Physical Response-able) words with way more entertainment in mind, made a PPT to follow along, and also rebooted my safety nets for 2019. This is all in anticipation of students returning from holiday break, forgetting absolutely every routine we established…

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Can’t Read Greek—Unsurprised, but Angry

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…

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“Teaching with CI”

I took a cue from Eric Herman and just updated my blog tagline and email signature. Yes, I dropped “teaching with CI,” not because I’ve done a 180 after ACTFL, but because it doesn’t necessarily distinguish our teaching the way it could. “Teaching with CI” is still a good term that has brought like-minded educators together, but most teachers are confused enough over the role of input in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) such that a different way of expressing what we do might be beneficial for all.

Bob Patrick has been saying for a while that most teachers end up providing at least some comprehensible input (CI) even if they have no clue it’s happening. I agree. As long as students understand what they listen to and/or read, they’re getting CI. So, if a grammar-translation teacher can provide CI, even just sometimes, well then I don’t really want to use a term that aligns myself with that pedagogy.

The big difference between providing CI by chance, and knowingly providing CI is attention to the “C.” It’s usually that “C” (along with the “C” for Compelling) which make the difference between a positive and negative language class experience for our students, and certainly the difference between acquisition, and low vs. high proficiency. Our classrooms are different from most language teachers because we focus on making the target language more comprehensible using various techniques, and strategies. This makes the target language more accessible, which leads to acquisition, and also promotes an inclusive classroom environment. That’s really what teachers seem to mean when using the term “teaching with CI,” so we might as well clearly express what we actually do. We make languages more comprehensible for learners, and not every language teacher can say that.

Teaching for Acquisition
Making Languages More Comprehensible

A New Curriculum Map

**New iteration of the Curriculum Map as the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) Updated 2.4.18**
**More recent post on USING the New Curriculum Map**

As stated in its introduction, this New Curriculum Map is designed to reconcile Second Language Acquisition (SLA) principles with planning demands that exist within the current educational landscape. It is part theory but 100% practical. I hesitate to call it a “CI Curriculum” because I agree with Bill VanPatten from Episode 23 of Tea with BvP that some people think that CI is a strategy used to teach the stuff they’ve been teaching all along (e.g. explicit grammar rules, cultural facts, purposeless paired activities, dialogues, etc.). This is wrong…totally wrong, in fact. In an age when educators prefer an “eclectic” batch of “tools for the toolbox,” CI can’t be considered one of them along side others. CI is an absolute requirement for language acquisition. The only thing that’s debated is exactly how much of a role output plays in language acquisition, and for some, it’s null. No theory of language acquisition disputes the need for understandable messages (= CI).

Furthermore, a call from Ellie Arnold during this past week’s Episode 24 of Tea with BvP was right on topic, and Bill confirmed that a curriculum based on targeted structures (i.e. phrases that contain parts of the language’s grammatical structure) will lead us “off track.” That doesn’t mean we can’t plan for a class with targeted structures in mind; it means that we don’t want to write ourselves into a corner by prescribing targeted structures as part of a curriculum.

Without further ado, you can access the New Curriculum Map here. If you have another idea for the organization of Latin vocabulary Tiers, either based on frequency or preference, treat the document as a template and add your own vocabulary. If you teach another language, use your own frequency lists and/or the English equivalents as a guide. Enjoy!

“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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