I agree with Justin Slocum Bailey that something great can come from nothing. most teachers fall into the habit of planning waaaay too much. Even if all that planning is enjoyable, somehow, it often results in insignificant gains in student happiness and/or proficiency. In the spirit of “no fail no burnout,” then, plan whatever you have to in order to sleep well at night, but begin class ready for any compelling diversion to take you away from those plans! Sometimes a sentence is all you need, and depending on the content, a single word (e.g. One Word Image, or One Word Drawing).
This has been the 3rd year in a row that I’ve wanted to start the year cold with a story on Day 1, but have bailed. I was even close this year with Von Ray’s No-Travel story script, but it still didn’t happen. I’m thinking that it’s just not my style, which is fine, but it’s already clear to me that my students need to experience something new besides Total Physical Response (TPR), Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA), and subsequent reading activities. Still, a class story via Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a home run for us right now, so I need a solution.
When I saw Von Ray last winter, he mentioned that MovieTalk is the easiest first step to storyasking. He’s right. Even if you have absolute novice students, just narrate at their level! I’d normally wait for more TPR, or Discipulus Illustris to establish a solid foundation of familiar words, but I’ve decided to do a MovieTalk for this 4th Latin class of the year, which is the 4th week of school (i.e. Latin 1x per week).
The Present is one of the 9 animated shorts used in TPRS Books’ Look, I can MovieTalk! available in Spanish, French, and soon—with hope—Latin! I already know that after just 3 classes my students won’t be able to read even the simplest versions of any MovieTalk readings out there, so I’ve created a super simple Embedded Reading for The Present, retold in 3 versions.
The text doesn’t limit, or represent exactly what I’ll narrate and ask in class, but it does represent a safe amount of language that my students will understand as a follow up reading. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a parallel reading, but I’ll likely ask Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) that stray from the script. That’s a good thing.
You’ll notice that while the word count increases from 13 to 25 from Version 1 to Version 3, the total words figure drops from 71 in Version 2, to 63 in Version 3. Why? There’s less of the recycled exposure to words found in Version 2 because there’s more new information in each version, not just longer sentences, or more sentences about the same information. By the time the student reads the last version, they will have been exposed to the recycled language enough to make repetition less important. I’ve also deliberately used more transparent cognates to support comprehension, and kept the word count low, replacing the classic “there’s a problem” phrase with an already known interjection, “oh no!” I’m still using Picturae images whenever possible, and establishing meaning with English for more abstract words, or possibly ambiguous images (e.g. I couldn’t find a clear image for a generic ball). You’ll also notice that Version 3 has a more typical Latin word order, which students are more likely to be able to read once they’ve understood the meanings of the words in an order similar to English. This is a deliberate strategy for making Latin more comprehensible, and shouldn’t be seen as negative, or damaging. See a February post on Input Processing for more.
The 2 class day (for me, 2 week) plan:
Day 1 = MovieTalk, then Choral Translation of Version 1.
Day 2 (a week later for me) = Choral Translation of Version 2, something else unrelated (like Discipulus Illustris), then Silent T/F Reading of Version 3.
Like Justin Slocum Bailey wrote, Choral Translation is best used sparingly, yet 7 days between classes makes comprehension even more of a priority so that students stay super confident. Also mentioned on the latest Tea with BVP, written input helps students find word boundaries that aren’t necessarily obvious when listening. Knowing these boundaries helps in the search for words, and the search for words—big content words and not their endings—is what novice through intermediate students are doing!
Silent T/F Reading is new, which I got from NTPRS 2017 (i.e. partners read silently for X minutes, then draw just 2 pics: one True, one False. Swap, then partner chooses correct. Pass to other groups, and partners choose correct. Show a few on document cam, PQA, etc.).
For me, paired translation activities a) are not speaking activities, and b) have a purpose similar to what Justin Slocum Bailey juuuust wrote about Choral Translation, with confidence building as the primary one. This is week 3 of school, which is also the 3rd hour my students have listened to and read (i.e. received input) in Latin.
Today, I used a new update to the classic ABBA paired translation activity I’ve always known as Volleyball Translation (i.e. the role is tossed back and forth like a volleyball “pass”). This comes from Jason Fritze at NTPRS, and I used it with the following text based on events of last week’s class, which includes:
- Something funny that happened on that day, specific to each class
- Details from an Either/Or TPR activity
- sī tibi placet X, surge, et consīde Pompēiīs (i.e. Pompēiī = right side group)
- sī tibi placet Y, surge, et consīde Rōmae (i.e. Rōma = left side group).
How do we get students to speak the target language?
At least, that’s what no one disputes, though not every teacher does enough of it. The biggest misconception regarding how to get students speaking is based on the assumption that the goal—speaking the target language—must be part of the process. This makes sense, but we don’t have much evidence to suggest this is true, despite how intuitive it seems. In fact, if you want get all Second Language Acquisition (SLA) technical, in 1995 Merrill Swain—herself—called her own Output (i.e. speaking/writing) Hypothesis “somewhat speculative” (p. 125).
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 able (4)
be quiet (4 )
It seems that reading Unadapted Ancient Texts—what some people call “Authentic Texts”—has been a universal goal in Classics for quite some time.
Whose goal is this?
Justin Slocum Bailey has just written an excellent article about speaking Latin. Though related, my post is about the implications of using the term “Active Latin” as it pertains to classroom practices.
I’ve long felt weird about that term. After synthesizing my thoughts, I now believe that most teachers who use the term to describe their teaching (as informed by Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research) are actually using something closer to “Productive Latin,” which might not lead to language acquisition at all.