I got thinking about what I’d say my core practices were if anyone wanted to learn more about CI and get an overview of what comprehension-based and communicative language teaching (CCLT) looks like. Would it be a list of 10? Could I get that down to five? Might it be better to prioritize some practices like the top 5, 8, and 16 verbs (i.e. quaint quīnque, awesome octō, and sweet sēdecim)? Would I go specific, with concrete activities? Or, would I go broad and global, starting with principles and ideas?
I highly recommend that you do this just as an exercise during a planning period this week, making a quick list of your core practices. Doing so required me to sort out a few things in the process, and helped organize and align my practices to certain principles. Of course, terms and definitions can get tricky, here. I just saw that Reed Riggs and Diane Neubauer refer to “instructional activities (IA),” which covers a lot of what goes on in the classroom. It’s a good term. I’m using “practices” in a similar way to refer to many different methods, strategies, techniques, and activities that all fall under a CCLT approach, as well as general “teacher stuff” I find to be core as well.
Another reason for this post is that I’ve seen the “CI umbrella” graphic shared before, but that doesn’t quite fit with my understanding of things. Rather than practices falling under a CI umbrella, I envision CI instead as the result of practices under the umbrella of CCLT. I also consider such an approach a defense against incomprehensibility—the first obstacle that needs to be removed—and I thought a more aggressive graphic of a “CI shield” might best represent that.
Here’s a list of how to easily convert tried-and-true activities to the digital space during our remote learning. For a list of all original in-person ways to get texts and input-based activities, see this post.
Last year, I reported total words read up to holiday break, and it’s hard to believe that time of year is upon us again. Since part of my teacher eval goal is to increase input throughout the year, let’s compare numbers. 2018-19 students read over 20,000 total words of Latin by this time. However, this year’s students have read…uh oh…just 11,000?!?!
Something’s going on. I’m positive that students are reading more now, and for longer periods of time. Classes are now structured to be roughly half listening and half reading (i.e. Talk & Read), too. So…why don’t the numbers add up?! Surely there’s a reason. Let’s look into that, starting with this quote from last year’s post:
“Over the 55 hours of CI starting in September up to the holiday break, students read on their own for 34 total minutes of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), and 49 minutes of Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)…“
This year’s independent reading time has skyrocketed to 99 and 233. That’s nearly 5x more independent choice reading! Now, last year’s 20,000 figure included an estimated 1,900 from FVR. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to estimate that this year’s students have read something like 9,500 total words during FVR, which would be like reading a third of this paragraph worth of Latin per minute. If so, the year-to-year comparison would be very close (i.e. 20,000 vs. 20,500). However, I’d expect the numbers to be much higher now with even more of a focus on reading. Seeing as it’s really difficult to nail down a confident number during independent choice reading due to individual differences, then, let’s just subtract all that FVR time from both years, arriving at 18,100 to compare to this year’s 11,000, which is still quite the spread. Let’s do some digging…
For years, my go-to teacher eval goal has been for students to increase their timed write word counts by X% (like 20%, which always happens), which includes selecting one or two practices to improve that allow CI to be provided, and contribute to the goal (e.g. establishing rules & routines, consistently using brain breaks, writing more embedded readings, etc.). In my experience, it’s not necessarily the results that lead to good evaluations, it’s how everything is analyzed. That is, a thorough analysis is more important than every student meeting the eval goal. Thus, this post. Hey Principal HD, #shoutout!
Having turned my focus to One Word Image (OWI) for the rest of the year, I’m noticing little tweaks that make all the difference. The first tweak is that the entire OWI process works best when limited to 20 minutes. Even storyasking the following day after artwork is presented limited to 20 minutes (e.g. 5 minutes per section in the pic below) keeps everything more comprehensible, compelling, and novel. You might think shorter stories lack input, but that’s not true. Since so many stories can be created, exposure to frequent vocabulary are found in many new contexts, rather than one monster of a story that takes an entire class (or more!) to co-create.
That tweak now a part of my M.O., here’s another one that adds 5 minutes to the storyasking process, but has really helped my students reawaken their imagination, not to mention something that gets X new parallel stories…
Here are 4 sneaky activities that don’t seem like input at first glance. I call them “admin-friendly” because when there’s conflict over providing CI, it’s usually someone in a position of power who just wants to see the kind of schoolwork that makes more sense/is familiar to them. Unfortunately, that kind of observable schoolwork is output, or something completely non-communicative, or not even in the target language. I must admit that these 4 activities appear output-heavy, but they aren’t, so pay attention…
See this post for all the input-based activities you can do with a text. But how do we end up with a text in the first place?! Here are all the ways I’ve been collecting:
**N.B. Many interactive ways to get texts require you to write something down during the school day, else you might forget details! If you can’t create the text during a planning period within an hour or two of the events, jot down notes right after class (as the next group of students line up for the Class Password?), or consider integrating a student job.**
Whether it’s the first Timed Write (e.g. Free Write, or Story Retell) in September, or the final one during the last few weeks of school, you can turn any writing prompt into a game that everyone can participate in, with…
“Who can write the fewest words, but say the most…about X?”
What is X? Anything; describing oneself, TV show, sports match, or expressing thoughts on first days of high school, summer off, or graduating. The best part? This is a Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) springboard.
This is probably the most effective no-prep activity you should become familiar with:
1) Say or ask for one(1) word. 2) Draw it on the board (or have the Class Artist draw it). 3) Ask about it, and add details to the image.
I’m never at a loss for what to add because I rely on my Question Word Posters as reference to drive the image. Looking at the posters around my board, I usually just ask questions in order and get corresponding supporting details without planning a single thing. Here’s an example that began with a single word, fūr (thief)…
Where? = The thief is in Starbucks From Where?= Lived in Spain To Where? = Wants to go to Peet’s Coffee in Berkeley, not Cambridge What? = Has a gladius (Roman sword) Who? = The thief’s name is Tom Whose? = The gladius is actually the Starbucks barista’s gladius When? = It’s night time Whom? = The thief sees someone with a better, bigger gladius With Whom? = Donald Trump (obviously!) To Whom? = The Starbucks barista gives a coffee to Donald Trump How? = The thief has the gladius because he stole it from the Starbucks barista How many? = Actually, the Tom the Thief has 7 gladiī—one from each Starbucks in Starbucksville What sort of? = Tom is actually a bad thief…the Starbucks barista saw him steal the gladius Why? = Donald Trump is there because he wants to buy all the Starbucks’
Note how some of the details don’t connect (e.g. there is another person with a sword but doesn’t get mentioned again), but realize that they don’t have to. We’re just creating an image, not any kind of plot. Also note, however, how easily this COULD turn into a prompt for a Timed Write, or a Storyasking session, especially given the image we’ve established as a class.