Methods & Results: To What Do We Attribute Success?

Not every teacher shares how well their students are doing—probably out of fear of being criticized—and I don’t blame them one bit. This data is often kept under lock and key, so it’s hard to get a sense of whether all the talk amounts to something. SPOILER ALERT: it does. The reports I’ve seen on how well students have been doing under a…NOT…grammar-translation approach tend to attribute success in different ways, though. Today, I’m looking at two such programs to see if we can narrow down what contributes success:

Program 1:

  • 69% of Latin V students score Intermediate Mid (I4+) on ALIRA
  • Focus on reading
  • Translation of what is understood (vs. in order to understand)
  • Uses LLPSI (Lingua Latina per se Illustrata)
  • Uses novellas & other sources of input
  • Speaks Latin whenever possible (i.e. judicious use of English)
  • Establishes meaning in English (i.e. fēlēs = cat) when students ask
  • CI is necessary, but not sufficient for acquisition
  • Extensive interaction is most important

Program 2:

  • 64% of Latin IV students score Intermediate Mid (I4+) on ALIRA
  • Focus on reading
  • Translation of what is understood (vs. in order to understand)
  • No textbook
  • Uses novellas & other sources of input
  • Speaks Latin whenever possible (i.e. judicious use of English)
  • Establishes meaning in English (i.e. fēlēs = cat)
  • CI is necessary, and sufficient for acquisition
  • Interaction is important

The results are very close by the end of each program, and there’s definitely more in common than not, but what isn’t in common makes for differently-enough teaching and learning environments. Both are just as successful, but what can we attribute that success to? Let’s look into those differences a bit more…

Continue reading

Something Strange…

Before I started teaching in 2013, I joined the moreTPRS Yahoo list serve. Then in 2015, I joined Ben Slavic’s PLC. At that time, there were daily—DAILY—conversations about Second Language Acquisition (SLA), with really tough questions being asked, answered, and debated ad nauseam. Then Tea With BVP was launched, with weekly shows until 2018—here are my clips down to the nuts & bolts. N.B. That show was rebooted in a different iteration as TalkinL2 until just about a year ago. Needless to say, I learned a great deal in those five years; far more, in fact, than in my MAT program (no offense, just a result of SLA expert-lacking faculty nationwide).

I cannot overstate this enough when I say that those early years were simply *crucial* in the development of what we all learned about SLA, and teaching languages. Furthermore, what we now know has also been around for like 10, 20, 30, even 40 years beforehand! That is, most scholarship in the last decades haven’t really changed the game of what’s been discussed since the 70s. The problem? This stuff wasn’t (isn’t?) mainstream—at all. That “golden age” of my SLA development involved the constant interaction with perhaps 200, maybe 300 teachers, almost all of whom I can reach out to with a click. I also had direct access to researchers, their ideas, as well as teachers implementing and arguing about what is, essentially, “best practice” for teaching languages in schools. When we didn’t understand, we emailed and got answers. And we were fringe. Having been exposed to the same ideas over and over—not just Krashen & VanPatten—thankfully from a variety of perspectives courtesy of Eric Herman, a solid understanding of universal truths (as much as we can call them that in the field of SLA) was being discussed.

Don’t get me wrong. There was a LOT of disequilibrium that nearly everyone had to face (e.g. “wait, so you’re saying that…”), and it was not without major headaches. After all, teachers’ worlds were literally being turned upside-down (no, I do mean literally like what you thought was the cause was just a result). Even the researchers’ ideas were challenged—by “mere” teachers no less—and fruitful discussion emerged, like when Carol Gaab demanded a concrete response about whether co-creating a story was a communicative act (i.e. had purpose). N.B. Yes, it is; entertainment. There was significant growth at that time, but it wasn’t all roses. We could call a spade a spade, or at least all come to agreement that a heart was definitely not a spade, and then talk about how to make that heart into a spade. Granted, this was within the fringe group of hundreds of teachers who had that shared experience, but there was definitely some kind of “tell me if what I’m talking about is complete nonsense” agreement. Whatever it was, it now feels like he heyday of theory to practice and critical looks at each others’ teaching.

Then…

Continue reading

Demonstrations: Providing Compelling Input

I’ve known that Krashen et al. suggested long ago that using Total Physical Response (TPR) to teach basic dance steps, martial arts, magic tricks, etc. results in compelling input. I’ve seen presenters talk about the idea of doing so, but haven’t really seen it much in classrooms. Now, I’ve performed one of Eric Herman’s magic tricks, but I didn’t really think I knew how to do anything that I could instruct students to do.

However, Tuesday was one of those perfect times to try something new during a weird day because the rest of the week was midterms. Since I got into archery this year, I decided to bring in my bow to demonstrate basic assembly, shot cycle, and target point values. Yes, I cleared this with security as well as admin, and no, I didn’t bring any arrows.

The experience was fantastic.

Students were captivated for a solid 45 minutes, and there’s no surprise why. Humans are naturally curious learners. It’s just that the school system has destroyed the joy of learning. If we can pause that “school feeling” for a moment, we bring back the joy. After my demo using common vocab, I projected a list of archery-specific phrases, and we co-created a quick text on archery. From there, I put together a more comprehensive packet. However, I wasn’t teaching words. I was teaching about archery. That’s the content.

In pedagogical terms, this is content-based instruction (CBI). Students asked a lot of questions about the bow. Why? It’s cool. In comparison, though, they didn’t ask as much about Roman apartment buildings last month. Why? That’s kind of boring, no matter how well we connect the content to their lives. Of course, exploring Roman content works the same way as exploring archery. It’s just that it takes someone with particular interests to get as excited about Romans. However, I’m not convinced that this should be either/or. I’ll both continue to explore Roman content (in Latin), as well as teach about other content (in Latin).

I’m now looking for other things to demo. Drumming might be one. After performing that card trick, I suppose I could teach it. In all of this, I’m reminded of how beneficial it is to include students in the demo process (e.g. distribute toy bows, drum sticks, decks of cards, etc.).

So, What could you teach your students?

Krashen’s “i+1” Misunderstood & Demystified (Krashen-approved)

Stephen Krashen himself has joked in a self-deprecating way that he came up with the vague concept of “i+1” to achieve fame as people argue its meaning indefinitely. Before contacting him, I wasn’t exactly sure how seriously we should take the man! Thankfully, Stephen clarified that for me real quick. Regardless of the joke being aimed at those using academic jibberish, the concept of “i+1” is demystified in the following Krashen-approved commentary…

Continue reading

The Problem with Non-Targeted, Targeting 1, and Targeting 2

In 2013, Stephen Krashen wrote an article, The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input, about the problems of the traditional “rule of the day” grammar syllabus. Krashen not only wrote how this “targeted” grammar and vocabulary has disadvantages, but also how TPRS reduces such problems, even ending the section with:

“Although TPRS probably succeeds in reducing the problems of the grammatical syllabus, there is another possibility: Non-targeted comprehensible input.”

At this point, it appears that the “targeted” nature of TPRS and non-targeted are—probably—on par, and that it’s really just an option of what appeals to you…

Continue reading

TPR: More Than Just Commands!

Despite what many people think, Total Physical Response (TPR) is not just commands. A typical TPR sequence involves a) modelling an action, b) commanding, or narrating, and c) verifying with the class what happens. You can interact with the entire class, groups of students, and the individual. When you establish a gesture for a particular word/phrase, that’s TPR! You’re also doing TPR when you coach actors and narrate a scene during a class story via Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS).

Assuming you’ve established names for two groups and the whole class (e.g. Rōma, Capua, and Italia, respectively), like what I saw Jason Fritze and Alina Filipescu do at NTPRS 2017, here’s what just two different phrases (i.e. says “oh no,” and “laughs”) can do for you:

Continue reading

Agrippīna māter fortis: A New Latin Novella

**Updated 6..30.17Agrippīna has been published!**

Agrippīna māter fortis is the latest addition to the “Pisoverse” novellas (i.e. Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and Rūfus et arma ātra), only now Piso and Rufus’ mother gets the spotlight! Agrippina wears dresses and prepares dinner like other Roman mothers, but she has a secret—she is strong, likes wearing armor, and can fight just like her husband! Can she keep this secret from her family and friends? 

The novella is currently written with 65 unique words (n.b. Rūfus has 40, and Pīsō 108). Agrippīna is an engaging read, like Rūfus, but almost as long as Pīsō (n.b. Rūfus has ~1440 total words, Agrippīna ~2870, and Pīsō ~2935), making the density of unique words repeated in different contexts much higher. Stephen Krashen told me that a “density” metric didn’t really matter as much as compelling content. My wife, who doesn’t read Latin btw, couldn’t wait to finish the last two chapters of Agrippīna! That’s a good barometer! In addition to compelling content, we know that fewer words contribute to a sense of confidence while reading (for student feedback on the matter, see this post over at The Inclusive Latin Classroom). While Rūfus could be read within the first months of Latin I, Agrippīna can surely follow later in the year, although older students will enjoy confidence from reading something with ease

As this year comes to a close, I’m asking that you take a look at the first half of the novella, maybe run off a class copy (or project it and read through), and then get back to me with ways to improve it. Asterisks indicate where I intend to establish meaning within the text as a footnote. I’ll be editing it in June, and it should be ready before the next school year. Enjoy!

Click here to access the first 6 chapters (of 12) for previewing/piloting.

Input & Interaction: Tea with BVP 10.20.16

Listen to highlights from the latest show for more on these Second Language Acquisition (SLA) takeaways.

There are two main camps, and one outlier when it comes to the role of Input and Interaction in SLA. Both assume Input is necessary. However, there are those who believe…

1) Interaction is absolutely necessary in addition to Input.
2) Interaction is beneficial, but not necessary.
3) Interaction isn’t beneficial at all (very few believe this).

A good place to start is defining Interaction, which Bill gave us as “NOT forced speech, but 2+ people demonstrating that they are involved in meaning making (e.g. speaking, facial/eye expression, nodding, other gesturing, etc.)”

A caller brought up the point that Interaction between the teacher and students is under scrutiny by those looking for students to do more of the communicating. After all, it certainly “looks” like lecturing, but Bill’s Principle #2 of a definition for communication (i.e. interpretation, negotiation, and expression of meaning in a given context) supports the process of a teacher expressing ideas to students who interpret those ideas is, most certainly, communication! Bill’s best advice is to “talk with, not talk at” your students. He further warns “if you say 2+ sentences without involving students, you’re doing something wrong.” I see this play out well when teachers circle tactfully. The teachers asks many questions and repeats student answers in order to increase exposure to input, but the students are involved and interacting. I see this play out not-so-well when teachers frequently restart a story from the beginning, or continuously retell the events without new ideas or questions with new information. So, 2+ sentences, then checking in with students is a GOOD strategy.

So, where does Bill stand on the role of Interaction? When learners signal that input is NOT comprehensible, their interaction leads to more comprehensible input, but clarification and negotiation are not needed all the time. Like Stephen Krashen and authors of Angelika’s quote,  Bill agrees that the role of Interaction does not CAUSE acquisition, but it can be beneficial, placing him in camp #2.

 

 

CI Program Checklist: 13 of 13

Classroom MGMT
✔   Rules (DEA & CWB)
✔   Routines (Routines, Student Jobs, Interjections & Rejoinders)
✔   Brain Breaks

Comprehensibility
✔   Inclusion (Safety Nets, Gestures & Question Posters)
✔   Shelter Vocab (Super 7, TPR ppt, TPR Wall, and Word Wall)
✔   Unshelter Grammar (TPR Scenes)

Camaraderie
✔   Secrets (Class Password)
✔   Students (People)
✔   Stories (TPRS, MovieTalk, Magic Tricks, Free Voluntary Reading (FVR))

Counting
✔   Reporting (Quick Quizzes)
✔   Showing Growth (Fluency Writes)
✔   Grading (DEA & Proficiency Rubrics)

Community
__ Groups, Blogs, Contacts

Continue reading

CI Program Checklist: 9 of 13

Classroom MGMT
✔   Rules (DEA & CWB)
✔   Routines (Routines, Student Jobs, Interjections & Rejoinders)
✔   Brain Breaks

Comprehensibility
✔   Inclusion (Safety Nets, Gestures & Question Posters)
✔   Shelter Vocab (Super 7, TPR ppt, TPR Wall, and Word Wall)
✔   Unshelter Grammar (TPR Scenes)

Camaraderie
✔   Secrets (Class Password)
✔   Students (People)
__ Stories

Continue reading