12 Days of CI & Wall Talk

We’re 1/3 of the way through the school year. Doesn’t that make you tingle? And why shouldn’t it? In my experience, no matter how much anyone enjoys what they do, everyone just wants to go home at the end of the day, and especially at the end of the school year! 

Here is what my Word Walls look like after 12 classes (Latin 1x/wk):

Notice the variation amongst all three, despite a core set of words used throughout. These Word Walls represent “high frequency” as a concept. Even after watching and discussing the same MovieTalk, each class has its own identity…

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Communication: Definition & Clarification

Recently on Twitter, Tea with BVP caller extraordinaire, Longinus, as well as some Inclusive Latin Classroom folks, got me thinking about the definition of communication. What follows are terms I’ve been using for a while (almost entirely unoriginal), clarified by Bill VanPatten on Episode 68 of Tea with BVP.

Communication isn’t only speaking:
Communication is the interpretation, negotiation, and expression of meaning. We interpret when we read, and express when we write; no speaking necessary.

Two people are usually involved, but not required:
If I write a note (expression), and place it in a drawer, but then the apt. catches fire (yes, we have renters insurance), there’s no possible way for anyone to read it (interpretation), or ask me about it (negotiation), even if that was my intent. I most certainly expressed my ideas, there just wasn’t anyone around to interpret them.

In Latin, reading—though not to be confused with translating—is the primary form of communication. ACTFL modes of communication are helpful, here. Reading is one-way, and Interpretive (i.e. interpretation), but someone had to write what we read…at some point (i.e. two people involved). That person who wrote what we read is also one-way, and Presentational (i.e. expression). Neither of these become Interpersonal (i.e. negotiation) unless there is interaction between two people, and this interaction doesn’t have to take place in person. This is why Bill VanPatten refers to communication as “expression, interpretation, and sometimes negotiation of meaning.” Both the writer and reader engage in acts of communication, it’s just that their role is different.

Timing (i.e. real, or asynchronous) & Perspective:
Ovid wrote something (expression) a couple thousand years ago that I can try to read today (interpretation). There has been no interaction between us, eliminating the possibility of negotiation. However, if I write an adaptation of Ovid (expression), and then send it to John Bracey, a couple things could happen. John could star the email, forget, and never end up reading it (no interpretation, just my expression). Or, John could read it (interpretation), and send back some notes or questions (negotiation). This interaction between us would be delayed, but still the same process communication-wise as if we were in person. Now, if I also star and forget about that latest correspondence from John, however, neither negotiation nor interpretation occur. This doesn’t change the fact that John expressed ideas and attempted to negotiate with me. That is to say, from John’s perspective, he still engaged in communication, but it was only one-way without my involvement.

Communication as a concept, not as verb “communicate:”
Although I’m engaging in the act of communication by trying to read Ovid (interpretation), one could hardly say that I’m “communicating with” Ovid anymore than Ovid is “communicating with” me, or us as a society. Ovid certainly expressed meaning, itself communication by definition, but in the absence of real time interaction and negotiation, or even delayed negotiation of meaning over letters, we are not “communicating with” each other.

Someone correctly brought up the fact that the idea of “communicating with the ancient world” isn’t possible. Classicists use this phrase, referring to relating to [certain] ancient people’s ideas (expression) by learning more (interpreting) about the past, and making connections to our own lives, but this ends there as far as communication goes. There is no possibility of interaction (negotiating) with ancient authors. When we read about the past, communication is one-way.

Partially- or fully-communicative:
Things get more complicated from here, but the definition of communication still holds up. An activity lacking a purpose yet focusing on meaning is partially-communicative. Most teachers spend their time doing partially-communicative activities in preparation of a few fully-communicative tasks along the way. Personally, I don’t bother with tasks/Tasks, and find them awfully close to performance-based assessments, the juice of which tends not to be worth the squeeze.

MovieTalk

Dr. Ashley Hastings’ original MovieTalk looked a lot different from what we see today from the CI-embracing community. Instead of using short animated clips, frequent pausing, interacting with students via Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA), and reading follow-up texts (actual or parallel), Dr. Hastings would instead played longer segments of feature-length movies while narrating as part of the FOCAL SKILLS program’s Listening Module, “where class time is devoted exclusively to improving the students’ listening comprehension.”

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Tasks

On Episode 61 of Tea with BVP, Bill explained Tasks a little bit more. He said that Tasks are usually longer term goals, but also added that level-appropriate and input-based Tasks could be given right away. They certainly could be given right away, but they’re also unnecessary. Considering how hard it is to get multiple concrete examples of Tasks, the amount of planning that needs to go into an assortment of Tasks makes me want to set up a retirement countdown timer and hope it goes by in a blink.

Bill uses the terms “Exercises, Activities, and Tasks” to categorize what we do in class as they relate to communication. Exercises are drills, practicing language for language’s sake, which haven’t been shown to significantly contribute anything to a student’s acquisition or learning experience other than anxiety and frustration for most, so I don’t recommend spending any amount of time on them whatsoever. Instead, the majority of time would be best spent on Activities and Tasks, and there’s one major difference between them…

A Task is an Activity that has a purpose.

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High-Frequency Verbs

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 (6 7)
want (5 6)
see (4 5)
be able (4)
be quiet (4 )

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Forget about the Fossa: [Textbook] Embedded Readings Done BETTER

After attending Michele Whaley’s presentation on Embedded Readings at NTPRS, I was convinced that we’ve been playing a game of Telephone since she and Laurie Clarcq began sharing the concept back in 2012. It turns out that it’s “yes and no,” but there is an important distinction that is being made in current Embedded Reading practice. Whereas many of us THINK we’re creating Embedded Readings, most of us might be just adapting authentic texts, class stories, or textbook narratives. Those products are fine, but aren’t necessarily Embedded Readings. Most of us are missing two key features in our adapted readings that make them better:

  • Parallel Stories
  • Withholding New/Tantilizing Information (not just more words)

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Alphabet (Don’t Teach It!) Alternative

Months ago, I witnessed a classically ineffective language learning lesson. The good news is that the person in charge wasn’t actually a language teacher, and didn’t have pedagogical training at all. The person was a local substitute who gave the kids something to do, which has its own merits. The truth, however, is that many language teachers spend the first few classes teaching the alphabet. Don’t.

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