Following Carol Gaab, and M & M (i.e. Mira Canion & Martina Bex), here’s a quick post on how I’ve organized the Pisoverse. While those authors have hundreds of titles to address, I have just 8, and they’re much smaller in scope. After all, I write novellas, not novels. Still, there is method to my madness…
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 )
I was sitting next to my friend and NTPRS travel buddy, Angie Dodd, as she read Rūfus et arma ātra to pass the time on the flight down to San Antonio. I’ve observed Angie teaching Spanish in VT, and she’s great. Angie took a few years of Latin back in high school, but remembers very little other than the opening lines of some Caesar, and Cicero (which she had to memorize, of course). “I feel like I’m reading more fluently by page 28,” she said. Truth.
In a novella with only 40 words, most of them will have been read long before the end of the book. It should be no surprise, then, that the most frequent words occur within the first chapter or two. This explains why reading the book actually became easier as Angie continued. This can be applied to all novellas that shelter (i.e. limit) vocabulary, and those with the lowest word counts have most of their words front-loaded within the first chapter or two, also obvious in my other books, Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and the latest, Agrippīna: māter fortis .
Therefore, if students feel the most strain in the first chapter or two, perhaps we should begin novellas together. Laurie Clarcq would often read half a novel together as a whole class before it would go on the Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) shelf. The rationale being that those interested/hooked will pick up the book to find out how it ends, and those disinterested will have a better chance of reading something else they find compelling.
BTW, Angie decided to reread the Rūfus—having had meaning established on the first pass—knowing that she would then “actually be able to read.” She did, with chuckles throughout.
CI is amazing, isn’t it?
p.s. Rūfus was inspired by Mira Canion’s El capibara con botas containing just 55 Spanish words. That book was a breeze and a blast to read, and I knew that Latin students needed something like this. Granted, the word count figure excludes a lot of Spanish cognates (twice as many?), but that seems to be the industry standard practice. For Pīsō, however, I strayed from this practice and instead chose to include cognates in the word count figure of 108 since I don’t believe cognates are necessarily transparent. I also excluded the ~30 additional meanings established in footnotes, as well as all different forms of words (e.g. est and esse) that students encounter when unsheltering (i.e. not limiting) grammar. Agrippīna has ~20, and Rūfus just ~10 additional meanings established in footnotes. If the word count figures irritate you, it’s fine to say that while Pīsō has under 150, Agrippīna has under 90, and Rūfus has under 50 words—figures still worthy of note!
**Update 3.15.17 – Rufus has been published!**
Rūfus et arma ātra is a spin-off of Pīsō Ille Poētulus written with ONLY 40 words—the lowest word count of currently published novellas! Rūfus is simple, funny, and can be read a) after Pīsō once students have a connection to the character, or b) before Pīsō early on in Latin I. At the end of November, most of my Latin I students read Rūfus over just a few days of Free Voluntary Reading (FVR); some read it within the first 15min!
In the preview, you’ll recognize some illustrations from Pīsō. Over 50 of them, both old and new, will be used to aid comprehension in the final version of Rūfus. I’ll be editing the book in February for publication in March, so contact me with any suggestions you and/or your students might have by the end of January.
p.s. Rūfus was inspired by Mira Canion’s El capibara con botas containing just 55 Spanish words. The book was a breeze and a blast to read, and I knew that Latin students needed something like this. Granted, the word count figure excludes a lot of Spanish cognates (twice as many?), but that seems to be the industry standard practice. For Pīsō, however, I strayed from this practice and instead chose to include cognates in the word count figure of 108, since I don’t believe cognates are necessarily transparent, and excluded the ~30 additional meanings established in footnotes. Similarly, Rūfus has just ~10 additional meanings established in footnotes. If that reckoning irritates you, it’s fine to say that while Pīsō has under 150, Rūfus has under 50 words—a figure still worthy of note!
After attending iFLT, I spent another week in Reno at NTPRS. While iFLT offered more opportunities to observe teachers teaching students, NTPRS offered more opportunities to actually BE a student for those of us in the Experienced track. I appreciated the short demos that most presenters gave, even when the workshops were not titled “___ language demo.” There are some game changes here that warrant their own posts (e.g. embedded readings straight from the source, Michele, Whaley), but I have much else to report on. Like last week’s iFLT post, this one includes more of what I intend to think about and/or change for 2016-17. They’re organized by presenter: