In a Latin Best Practices Facebook group discussion months back, I shared that I wasn’t sure I do any pre- or post-reading. I just have a bunch of…activities. While I still think that’s true, I’ve decided to consolidate and organize everything under the pre/dum(during)/post categories to make planning even easier.
I almost can’t believe I just typed that. Planning—for me—already takes mere minutes. With broad Class Day and Culture Day unit plans established for reference, I’ve had no need to plan the class agenda more than a day or two in advance. In fact, doing so becomes a waste of time as things become irrelevant, or causes frustration when plans—inevitably—must change. N.B. I’m able to plan this way because I work under a “forward procedure” approach, which I highly recommend. Still, if there’s a way to reduce planning even further, I’m game.
I hear teachers talk about cycles a lot these days, which are kind of like longer planning routines. Since my school went to A/B day block schedule, the whole “Monday = ____ day” is pointless, and the longer 84 minute classes really messed with how I structured it all. This year was a big adjustment to say the least. So next year, I’m gonna give the cycle thing a try as it pertains to pre-, dum-, and post-reading sequences within a single class. This differs from what Elizabeth Davidson shared, noting that her sequence typically lasts 4-6 days. These past weeks, though, I’ve been using the sequences when reading a short text, such as a novella chapter, in one class. As such, the amount of pre- needed for the reading (dum-) is far more limited, as well as the scope of a post-reading wrap-up (usually a game). For the descriptions of everything that follows, see this updated list of activities, which is now organized by timing, not prep…
This post includes practical ideas I got from Florencia Henshaw’s and Maris Hawkins’ theory-to-practice SLA (second language acquisition) book. The preface and first chapter contain what’s probably among the best 30 pages a language teacher could read, especially one having little familiarity with SLA, and/or those who missed the Tea with BVP train, and While We’re On The Topic.
My context is teaching first year Latin in a small public high school in a large city. Latin is required. It’s the only language offered. So there. I teach beginning students who have no choice (i.e., this often means no interest or any prior knowledge), and many of them didn’t have a second language experience in primary or middle school. Since “novice learners have a long way to go when it comes to developing a linguistic system” (p. 138), my focus is hardly on any output. Output “helps with the skill of accessing that system” (p. 138), which the beginner is still building, so it’s not a priority. This doesn’t mean no one speaks Latin (students do!). This doesn’t mean there isn’t any interaction. What this does mean is that I’m not thrown off by all the “Get students speaking the TL in just five easy steps!” messages that lead so many language teachers astray. Neither are the authors, although they’ve included stuff in the book for those who might be dealing with an IPA-heavy department (Integrated Performance Tasks), or who might be coming from a more traditional program and isn’t quite ready to give input its due attention. Input is key. I’d actually feel the same if I taught second year Latin as well, and maybe even year three. This would also hold true for any language. That is to say I think all Spanish I & II, or maybe even Korean III teachers would benefit from the same approach: a massive focus on input.
At iFLT 2019, Grant Boulanger paused to have had students close their eyes and spell a word in the air, syllable-by-syllable as he repeated it slowly. Students opened their eyes, and Grant wrote the word on the board, and continued with class.
Quite simply, this gets students to focus on listening, which Grant mentioned is important since most of what goes on in school makes use of other senses. Also, once the word is written on the board, any “mistakes” literally disappear into thin air. It’s like a fleeting dictātiō!
Consider using air spelling before establishing meaning of a new word/phrase when the class flow could use a short break from the input. In fact, this strategy is part of what I’ve been thinking of as Communication Breaks. These breaks pause or reduce input, allowing students either to think, or briefly interact in ways that lack a communicative purpose. Between these breaks and Brain Breaks, class should be over before students even know it!
**See these examples of how weekly sheets have been used**
I’ve known for some time that ending class with Write & Discuss is a great way to focus students’ attention on the target language. I’ve also known that a simple dictation is pacifying, albeit boring (hence why I think I’ve done only one of these this year). Both of these activities require students to write, and both of these activities are nearly distraction-free because students have a writing task to do. It comes as no surprise, then, that we should be using writing as a MGMT tool…
June & July have seen several additions to the Pisoverse. With the low unique word counts and numerous cognates included throughout, the novellas now provide over 28,700 total words for the beginning Latin learner to read! That’s with a vocabulary of just 360 unique words across all texts! Here are the latest publications:
**Here’s the list of older ones I haven’t used in a while**
When choosing the class agenda beyond the Talk & Read format, it dawned on me years ago that I couldn’t remember all my favorite activities. Thus, here are the input-based strategies & activities I’ve collected, all in one place, and that I currently use (see older ones above). Everything is organized by pre-, dum-, and post- timing. You won’t find prep-intensive activities here beyond typing, copying, and cutting paper. Oh, and for ways to get that one text to start, try here. Enjoy!
**N.B. Any activity with the word “translation” in it means translating what is already understood. This should NOT be confused with the more conventional practice of translating in order to understand.**
3000 additional total words in 28 scenes and stories for the novice reader featuring more vivid descriptions of weapons, deeper character development, mud, fights with animals, retiarii, baths, rumors, mysterious odors, infants in danger, Crixaflamma’s real name, and more…
This is a different kind of teacher’s guide.
The 238 pages of support for Pīsō Ille Poētulus are finally here! In addition to invaluable information about Latin poetry, this Teacher’s Guide has 13 ready-to-go options for interacting with each chapter of Pīsō! Head to the copier, or project on board. Use them all, or choose a few per chapter; do whatever you’d like!
Pīsō Ille Poētulus is a poetry novella, so don’t overlook the Poetry Audio Album as a classroom resource, or more importantly, to improve your own rhythmic fluency. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the audio is invaluable when it comes to “feeling” the rhythm of Latin poetry. You can get it on iTunes or Amazon, but it’s better to download from Band Camp! Alternatively, I can mail it to you on a USB Drive. Continue reading
We’ve heard from Bill VanPatten that true communication has a purpose (i.e. cognitive-informational, and psycho-social). In the latest Tea with BVP, Bill stated those two purposes more clearly in teacher-friendly terms in that “we communicate in order to learn, build, create, entertain, and socialize.” My students love creating, entertaining, and socializing, so those are the three main purposes in my classroom.
Dictation, however, can easily have NONE of those purposes, lowering it down to the acceptable “activity,” but possibly the unacceptable “exercise” level, thus, rendering it non-communicative. Many of us have used Running Dictation (see an overview at the end of this post) to keep students moving and engaged, but in order to give dictation more of a social and entertaining purpose, I’ve combined it with the competitive Trashketball.