Unit Test “Mastery” (UTM)

Unit Test “Mastery” (UTM) is a symptom many teachers and students suffer from. The teacher:

  1. presents content (Present)
  2. provides a learning experience (Practice)
  3. announces an assessment
  4. assesses students (Produce)
  5. chooses remediation based on low performance, or moves on
  6. repeat

The consequences of UTM is that students appear to “master” the content either right away or after the remediation, which itself is usually misinterpreted as assisting a “struggling student.” The teacher then moves on, and students seldom run into the same content, even from what you might expect from cumulative courses (e.g. one-off math/science concepts, or that perfunctory “transportation unit” in which students are given a vocabulary list for all possible—and likely outdated—ways to get around Madrid, etc.).

This symptom seriously misleads the teacher. It’s one source of validating teaching practices that don’t actually produce results they seem to be producing. For example, most language teachers attribute their understanding of language to how they were taught, yet they’ve probably just been exposed to the language daily over time, teaching similar (same?) content year after year. This looks like proficiency, yet is probably just daily recall of translated and memorized information!

In reality, communication isn’t really something anyone can master, at least not in the subject-matter-learning sense used in other content areas. There’s a lot of pressure to make language courses fit what’s expected in school, but the model fails when we have inclusive classrooms based on universal human traits, and not intellectualizing language. The best teachers are able to resist that, educating their administration, or at least find the wiggle room to provide input and encourage interaction in a second language during the school day—something all humans are hardwired for.

I encourage everyone to find alternatives to traditional units accompanied by lessons with limited flexibility. Instead, meet students where they are, and move forward. One way to think about curriculum is basing it on vocabulary frequency, but not thematic (e.g. Greetings, Getting Around, Sports, etc.). Chris Stolz has shares how Mike Peto’s entire department has taken this to an extreme with fantastic results! All of these ideas are supported by what Eric Herman has coined “Forward Procedure:”

Forward procedure is process-oriented. It focuses on where students are. That doesn’t mean you can’t have tests, but those are not pre-determined. They are created in response to what has happened in class and tailored to where students are. If there had to be an element of “standardization” between sections, this would be to agree to use the same test format, but not the same content (e.g., sections hear a different story and do a timed rewrite). Rather than focus on something to cover, it focuses on giving students what they want and need in that moment to learn. It is the approach that makes a teacher most responsible to the learner. In a second language, communicative classroom, this is a much better fit. To quote Savignon (1976): “Above all, remember that for it to be real, communication must be a personalized, spontaneous event. It cannot be programmed – but you can make it happen” (p. 20).

K-F-D Quiz: Fun With Data Analysis!

I spent about 15min entering data from the diēs Mārtis (i.e. Tuesday) Latin class K-F-D QuizzesN.B. These are “sneaky quizzes” per my NTPRS 2017 presentation, No Prep Grading & Assessment, referring to “assessments” that satisfy most quizzing/testing requirements, yet are actually an opportunity to interact and acquire.

chart

28 students were in class for the K-F-D Quiz. Here are some observations:

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Making Latin More Comprehensible: Cognates

Teacher’s Materials for Rūfus et arma ātra are just days away from being published, featuring 28 additional stories that expand the unique word count, and increase sentence lengths. This will provide the novice+ student with 3000 more total words to read in Latin, and is the first of my Latin texts written with deliberate attention to super clear cognates—45 of them!

When it comes to a student-centered acquisition-rich classroom, the main responsibility of a teacher is providing input. Given time constraints, as well as what we know about general anxiety over learning languages, the input (I) should be as comprehensible (C) as possible. Therefore, the teacher would benefit from spending most of their time making the target language more comprehensible, but doing so requires training in particular strategies and techniques.

An oft neglect technique for Latin teachers is the liberal use of cognates.

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Latin Stories Videos Series: Pygmaliōn

Pygmaliōn is the second video in the series after Mīnōtaurus. I wasn’t familiar with this myth until reading* Ovid with last year’s students. They voted to read it before Daedelus & Icarus, Pyramus & Thisbe, or Orpheus & Eurydice. My personal contribution here is calling Pygmalion “creepy” (i.e. infestus), which was inspired by student comments. I begin retelling the myth after the point when Ovid gives us Pygmalion’s reason for living alone, which downright bothered my students. Misogyny is completely unacceptable, and at an age when image is a sensitive topic, students weren’t comfortable with what the Pygmalion (i.e. Ovid) had to say about the nature of women, as well as how he sculpted a figure “more beautiful than a woman possibly could be.” Go ahead and add that part if you welcome the discussion, which could easily be connected to contemporary advertising industry and its use of Photoshop, as well as the negative social affects, but I kept the story more focused. Here’s Ovid’s Pygmalion myth retold using 31 unique words. The story is 221 words total in length.

1) Class
2) Story (link to Google Doc text found in YouTube video description, but also here)
3) Questions

*I say “reading,” but I definitely wasn’t reading Ovid with ease. I was certainly interacting with the text, reading the notes to establish meaning, consulting the L & S when necessary, and analyzing it closely for themes. After doing all of that in order to create simplified tiered versions for students, I will say that I had a better understanding, yet, as I “read” the poem now, I’m not sure I’m even reading still! Instead, I’m remembering what I translated during the interaction. I think this is what most Classicists do—recall what they’ve already translated, or discussion (in English) in the past.

Latin Stories Videos Series: Mīnōtaurus

This video series is inspired by Mike Peto’s straightforward Story Listening videos in Spanish, and Eric Herman’s structured English Class videos, both shared by John Piazza last month in an effort to get ones like these in Latin. Here’s the Minotaur myth retold using 21 unique words. The story is 229 words total in length.

Mīnōtaurus
1) Class
2) Story (Google Doc link found in YouTube video description)
3) Questions

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FVR Library: Easier Than You Think!

**Updated 3.7.19**
Hypermiling to add packets of text to the FVR shelf regularly!

Mike Peto had great things to say about Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) and Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) on Episode 6 of Teachers That Teach.

How could it possibly be easy? Mike recommends building your FVR library by first making booklets of known class stories that are 100% comprehensible.

THAT’S SO SIMPLE!

This is obvious, yet doesn’t seem to be a common practice, especially for Latin teachers lamenting over the legitimate lack of understandable reading material! If you think about it, the typical Latin teacher engaged in collaborative storytelling/storyasking probably has 10 stories by the holiday/winter break, and maybe even twice, or thrice that! Unless the class has been reviewing old stories as part of a detail-adding, or story-improving activity (which is great, BTW), there’s a good chance that students have forgotten details from the earliest of stories and wouldn’t mind a gentle walk down memory lane. Oh, and students should be able to read them fluently (speed + accuracy), which is a great confidence booster!

So, with everything you need to build an FVR library before more hideously easy books are published and you get funding for several copies, go format those typed-up class stories for booklets, print ’em out, and start setting aside class time for reading!

How? How much time?
An FVR program is simple to begin. Remember, this is FREE reading, so it’s best to avoid assessments and accountability. If all students are reading the same book, it’s known as Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), although Mike said that he calls it that anyway just so students don’t say something snarky like “well if it’s voluntary I’m gonna just sit here.” Once you have a few materials, be sure to hold FVR consistently. If you can’t do it daily, start weekly. As far as time goes, Mike says “if students can read for 7 minutes, give them 5—you don’t want them to get bored with it.” This is good advice. I’ve been doing 15 minutes every few days, but I’ve noticed that a murmur develops towards the end…looks like I’ll drop down to 12min or so and see what happens.

Assumptions & Definitions: Establishing Meaning

1) Our goal is reading Latin via acquisition (universal to humans).
2) Comprehensible Input (CI) is necessary for acquisition.
3) Teaching with CI means providing understandable messages in [Latin].
4) Receiving understandable messages as a student means listening and reading—not being forced to speak [Latin]. N.B. Single word/phrase responses are not considered “forced speech.”

This was the opening slide to my recent CANE presentation on how to continue Teaching with CI after discovering it, largely influenced by the 13-post series on a CI Program Checklist containing many resources and support materials for people just getting into this way of teaching. #3 above deserves more attention. How do we actually make something understandable?

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