The Open Coaching session I attended at iFLT 2019 led by Michelle Kindt was among my top experiences. If you’ve never participated…Continue reading
One way to get students’ attention is to say something they don’t quite understand. Granted, you need to have solid rules in place for negotiating meaning, and you can’t just unleash a ton of words students don’t know. However, when used judiciously, messing with the input ever so slightly is a handy, level 10 trick…Continue reading
Yesterday, close to 10 students across all classes asked what auxilium meant. Oh, and here’s the excerpt from that text:
With questions like that, how often are students aware of all those glosses I intentionally put into class texts?! In the same classes, I also noticed that students were working much slower than I’d expect during Read & Translate. Surely, if they’d been reading at home the process would be much easier. Could it be that comprehension support during class time isn’t helping students read independently at home? Also, it just so happens that two new students began school this week too, so those in-text glosses certainly weren’t much help with almost every other word unknown. At what point might those in-text glosses make a difference, and what could I do to help these new students begin reading on their own?
Based on all those questions, I’ve decided to experiment…
Here’s a brief example to illustrate how insisting on 100% TL (target language) use—even when there’s a shared language—ignores a most basic process in the mind:
This year, I’ve implemented a new strategy while establishing meaning of words (i.e. write word, underline, then write English equivalent underneath in different color). When I give the English equivalent, I immediately ask the class to think of words we get from the Latin (i.e. derivatives).
It’s simple, allows processing time, and increases the likelihood of students making form-meaning connections whenever they come across the word again.
Not only that, but this strategy also has the benefit of giving most people what they want to see from offering Latin in schools, that is, a direct influence on academic language, SAT prep, etc., without being too obtrusive when it comes to providing compelling input.
CI can be a hard sell, partly due to how counter-intuitive it seems, partly due to the widespread intellectual appeal of grammar rules and literature decoding/analysis, and partly due to obstinant teachers unwilling to accept that they could get better results doing a fraction of the prep they’re accustomed to doing.
Besides teachers, some kids damaged by school as an institution think they aren’t learning, and then admin/parents who take their word for it think teachers aren’t doing their jobs. In the face of all this, the 2-for-1 etymology strategy can be used as concrete evidence of meeting certain expectations.
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…
I live by the “low-prep/no-prep” mantra. Yes, there’s life outside of school (maybe not if you teach high school ELA, sorry folks), and I enjoy sharing with others ideas on how to regain their personal life back while also being a damn fine teacher. As part of this, I pride myself on having not taken home student work for a few years now.
This first week, however, is different…
I’ve been used to starting the year with a half-day devoted to essential rules, some routines, and that school-required housekeeping stuff. Then, in next 8-10 class days over about 2 weeks, I would get into Circling with Balls (CWB), Total Physical Response (TPR), Discipulus Illustris, not to mention the No-Travel Story Script I was looking forward to trying out. Not this year. I see my students just 1 hour per week, which means those usual beginning activities would take us up through Thanksgiving! That’s simply too slow for he brain craving novelty. Expectations must be lowered. I’m just now recognizing exactly how much lower, too. This first week—one class—had to combine all that housekeeping with only a little bit of Latin…very little. You know what we did? placet (= likes). Yep, that’s it, at least as the only verb, although eī, tibi, -ne?, an, nōn, et, harpastum, minimē, and certē also made appearances. The focus was on just one student, and another parallel student to compare.