HQ (High-Quantity) Reading & Pisoverse Vocab

One Second Language Acquisition (SLA) idea is that teachers mostly control only the quantity and quality of input—the sine qua non of language acquisition—with the learner’s internal syllabus acting as a major constraint. Conventionally, Latin teachers have been preoccupied with quality of Latin over quantity, which is likely the opposite of how to acquire a language! Furthermore, quality* has different interpretations, especially concerning its comprehensibility.

Recently, John Piazza has been promoting HQ (High-Quantity) Reading—of texts students understand—on the Latin Best Practices Facebook group, and with good reason. Blaine Ray’s recommendation is reading 32 pages a week (half in school, half at home) beginning in the 3rd year, which is quite the challenge for a profession lacking a high quantity of understandable reading material (i.e. texts written with a reasonable number of words, and NOT what some consider appropriate texts)! Right now, there are a couple of ways Latin teachers are working towards that goal…

1) Novellas
2) Writing personalized texts

There are about 17 novellas written with sheltered vocabulary for the beginning student, which I’ve been updating on a list, here. These novellas are ready-to-go sources of more understandable input than has ever been available in the past, offering thousands of Latin words for students to read in compelling contexts. As an author of some of those texts, I can share some stats. At this point in the Pisoverse, there are 4 novellas, and 2 readers. This winter, there will be a 5th novella of 58 unique words, which will end up being the longest in the Pisoverse at over 3000 total words! These 8 texts are written with just 300 unique words across them all—a reasonable amount for students to understand by their third year, no doubt containing some new words (because high-frequency is context-dependent). The total word count of these 8 texts is over 16,600. That’s a lot of Latin—twice as much, in fact, since this past October! So, the Pisoverse alone is just one huge source towards the 32 pages/wk goal in the third year. Approx. half of that Latin is available completely free for projecting/printing on each publication’s blog post,which you can find on the Novellas tab.

The other option is to write personalized texts for your own students. Here, “personalized” could mean texts based on details learned in class about the students themselves, or adapted ancient texts on topics that students are interested in. Writing personalized texts for your students daily is one way to provide copious amounts of CI. This is a high-leverage practice, and doubles as the least expensive option (yes, novellas are inexpensive, but 5 copies of all current 17 could run $500. This is quite low when it comes to classroom resources, yet remains a hard sell in underfunded programs in which teachers haven’t yet advocated for text budgets like ELA courses). So, writing personalized texts is one inexpensive way to provide the most comprehensible reading material, yet it also might require ditching some practices teachers ASSUME they must do, yet contribute very little to acquisition:
  • Instead of creating worksheets…
  • Instead of designing a 1-2 page quiz…
  • Instead of grading quizzes at home, or during planning time…
  • Instead of creating a translating activity…

…write personalized texts daily for your students!

Not sure where to begin when it comes to writing for the Novice? Read this, this, and this!

*Quality is usually synonymous with Latīnitās, which will be debated ad nauseum, ad inferōs, and beyond, yet another take on quality of input is in the richness and clarity of meaning. The ancient unadapted short sentences found in “Wheelock’s” and “Learn to Read Latin” textbooks hold very little meaning for the beginning student—not to mention some degree-holders—which calls into question the quality of input if only few can understand that level of Latīnitās. After all, even the best examples of single-sentence Ciceronian Latin can be meaningless to most! Quality, then, can be seen as messages that hold a great deal of meaning, and not just messages of a particular style consistent with great ancient authors. 

 

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Writing for the Novice

Writing texts for the Novice isn’t just about novellas. It’s about making Latin more comprehensible, whether typing up class interests to read, editing a student’s ending to a class story, or creating tiered versions of unadapted ancient texts.

Sheltering vocabulary is the most important step of writing for the Novice. As Bill VanPatten mentioned on Episode 61 of Tea with BVP, the Novice student needs multiple encounters of words/phrases as input that repeat throughout.

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Why Novellas? Why “Shelter Vocabulary?”

The new Latin novellas, first published in September of 2015, have been written with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary so the novice student can read Latin confidently after knowing as few as 40 words! This sheltering provides frequent exposure to Latin’s core vocabulary—even more so than textbook narratives, or unadapted ancient texts that seldom repeat words. Why novellas? Why shelter vocabulary? Novellas provide high-frequency repetition for the novice student.

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Plenty of Latin FOR ALL! (provided that you can read it)

Mārcus et Imāginēs Suae Bonae is another recently published Latin novella (the first Latin book sold by TPRS Books!) co-translated by myself and John Bracey.

In a classic classist—not the classiest—Classicist move (probably better as “elitist,” but that phrase was too good to pass up—not unlike Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog), someone began the ole questioning of usage and word choice. No surprises. I’m well-aware that everyone’s a critic, but we could all learn a thing or two from the following video (serendipitously shared by Bob Patrick earlier this week). In sum, the focus of any 10 things shouldn’t be the 1 negative—there are 9 other positive things to make note of:

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“Classically Attested” & “Latinity”: The Latest Buzz

**Updated 5.19.18** I forgot about this post until a comment came through just now. Was I really not using http://latin.packhum.org in 2016?!?! Sure enough, Perseus is utterly unhelpful, still showing no hits even when “different forms” is checked or if they are there, it’s not in Latin, and it’s buried deep within the pages. Packhum, however, has 60 hits, instantly. 60?!?! There I was this fine night in 2016 thinking I had to defend myself for using “magis placet,” yet look at all those beautiful instances right there! Anyway, the particular phrase, then, is a proxy for any phrase we actually DON’T have. I’m not editing this post.

Teacher-written reading material for Novice & Intermediate language learners is not new, at least for modern languages. TPRS Publishing and TPRS Books frequently add more to their roster, so teachers have their choice of topic. 2015 saw the publication of the first two of these novellas in Latin, [self-]published by Pomegranate Beginnings (i.e. Pluto & Itinera Petri). Since then, there has been a wide range of reception amongst Latin teachers (or Classicists, or Linguists, or Scholars, etc.). The general consensus regarding the positive reception has been something like  “this is helping our students feel successful and have a positive experience in Latin class. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it.” Regarding the negative reception, most of it revolves around two buzzwords:

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