During a meeting with the Director of Curriculum & Instruction, also an ELA teacher, I noticed on the board that students were to read & analyze Book 9 of The Odyssey and track the characterization of either Odysseus or Polyphemus. “Track the characterization of…” got me thinking…
Historically, Latin teachers haven’t really had many texts of substantial length that their students can also read with ease (i.e., in order to then do the heavy lifting of tracking characterization, etc.). This combination hasn’t been possible for centuries, yet novellas have changed that quite a bit. The continuous narrative and character development of even the shortest novellas contain enough information for students to do a “track the characterization of…” task.
So, just before the holiday break, we spent a few classes reading Poenica purpurāria. At the start of the second day, I had this on the board:
This was not an easy task. Students really had to think beyond the statements. For example, classes thought Poenica must be determined since she immigrated, has her own shop, and already dyed many togas purple. This was a very straightforward task that engaged students in all that higher-order thinking gold.
My thoughts have wondered further. What are some other ELA teacher reading tasks that I could now implement in my own classes when reading novellas (vs. translating passages)?
Before having the opportunity to present a couple workshops, my mind was blown quite sufficiently during the week. Overall, the Advanced Track with Alina Filipescu and Jason Fritze got me thinking about aaaaaaaall the things I’ve forgotten to do, or stopped doing (for no good reason) over the years. Thankfully, most of them are going to be soooooo easy to [re]implement. As for the others, I’ll pick 2 at a time to add—not replace—until they become automatic. This will probably take the entire year; there’s no rush!
Jason referred to high-leverage strategies—those yielding amazing results with minimal effort (i.e. juice vs. squeeze), and I’m grateful that he called our attention to everything Alina was doing while teaching us Romanian. ce excelent! I’ll indicate some high-leverage strategies, and will go as far as to classify them as “non-negotiable” for my own teaching, using the letters “NN.” I’ll also indicate strategies to update or re-implement with the word “Update!” and those I’d like to try for the first time with the word “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways organized by presenter:
Most tricky questions are the misguided product of a teacher thinking they’ve created a valid or rigorous assessment. Validity is when the assessment measures what it’s supposed to measure. This usually means that assessments show that students know what was taught. When it comes to teaching a language, teachers lacking Second Language Acquisition (SLA) training tend to select the wrong thing to be measured (e.g. grammar, cultural facts, etc.). These things usually include tricky details, which lead to tricky questions. Validity then becomes an issue when these teachers use such assessments as evidence that they successfully teach “communicatively” or “for fluency,” when they’re only assessing memory and knowledge about the language system and its speakers. Rigor then muddles things up.
Rigor is not well defined in most school systems, but people (i.e. parents, admin, evaluators, colleagues, etc.) seem confident when they BELIEVE it’s not there. As such, teachers are under pressure to create assessments that seem rigorous, but these assessments just end up being longer (i.e. obtrusive), complex, and downright sneaky. Here’s an example I lifted from a teacher’s assessment. It’s a weak example, but serves our need for the purpose of discussion: