4th Class, 1st MovieTalk

This has been the 3rd year in a row that I’ve wanted to start the year cold with a story on Day 1, but have bailed. I was even close this year with Von Ray’s No-Travel story script, but it still didn’t happen. I’m thinking that it’s just not my style, which is fine, but it’s already clear to me that my students need to experience something new besides Total Physical Response (TPR), Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA), and subsequent reading activities. Still, a class story via Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a home run for us right now, so I need a solution.

MovieTalk.

When I saw Von Ray last winter, he mentioned that MovieTalk is the easiest first step to storyasking. He’s right. Even if you have absolute novice students, just narrate at their levelI’d normally wait for more TPR, or Discipulus Illustris to establish a solid foundation of familiar words, but I’ve decided to do a MovieTalk for this 4th Latin class of the year, which is the 4th week of school (i.e. Latin 1x per week).

The Present is one of the 9 animated shorts used in TPRS Books’ Look, I can MovieTalk! available in Spanish, French, and soon—with hope—Latin! I already know that after just 3 classes my students won’t be able to read even the simplest versions of any MovieTalk readings out there, so I’ve created a super simple Embedded Reading for The Presentretold in 3 versions. 

The text doesn’t limit, or represent exactly what I’ll narrate and ask in class, but it does represent a safe amount of language that my students will understand as a follow up reading. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a parallel reading, but I’ll likely ask Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) that stray from the script. That’s a good thing.

You’ll notice that while the word count increases from 13 to 25 from Version 1 to Version 3, the total words figure drops from 71 in Version 2, to 63 in Version 3. Why? There’s less of the recycled exposure to words found in Version 2 because there’s more new information in each version, not just longer sentences, or more sentences about the same information. By the time the student reads the last version, they will have been exposed to the recycled language enough to make repetition less important. I’ve also deliberately used more transparent cognates to support comprehension, and kept the word count low, replacing the classic “there’s a problem” phrase with an already known interjection, “oh no!” I’m still using Picturae images whenever possible, and establishing meaning with English for more abstract words, or possibly ambiguous images (e.g. I couldn’t find a clear image for a generic ball). You’ll also notice that Version 3 has a more typical Latin word order, which students are more likely to be able to read once they’ve understood the meanings of the words in an order similar to English. This is a deliberate strategy for making Latin more comprehensible, and shouldn’t be seen as negative, or damaging. See a February post on Input Processing for more.

The 2 class day (for me, 2 week) plan:
Day 1 = MovieTalk, then Choral Translation of Version 1.
Day 2 (a week later for me) = Choral Translation of Version 2, something else unrelated (like Discipulus Illustris), then Silent T/F Reading of Version 3.

Like Justin Slocum Bailey wrote, Choral Translation is best used sparingly, yet 7 days between classes makes comprehension even more of a priority so that students stay super confident. Also mentioned on the latest Tea with BVP, written input helps students find word boundaries that aren’t necessarily obvious when listening. Knowing these boundaries helps in the search for words, and the search for words—big content words and not their endings—is what novice through intermediate students are doing!

Silent T/F Reading is new, which I got from NTPRS 2017 (i.e. partners read silently for X minutes, then draw just 2 pics: one True, one False. Swap, then partner chooses correct. Pass to other groups, and partners choose correct. Show a few on document cam, PQA, etc.).

Texts from First Week/Class

This year, I see my 3 sections of Intro Latin just once per week, but the typical beginning-of-year activities don’t include much reading. Focusing on TPR for the first 10 hours, for example, just won’t work with this schedule. In order to maximize input, reading must be part of their Latin experience from the start, and the texts I give must be hyper-comprehensible. In my last post, I shared the text I’ll project and read to diēs Mārtis (i.e. the Tuesday Latin class) next week.

Today I got thinking more about maximizing the input through reading. It doesn’t have to stop there in class, but I have to be smart about reading assignments for home. I shouldn’t hand them the exact same text and say “go home, read this, and tell someone what it means/write an English summary.” That’s the kind of artificial assignment that feels like busywork, and it is! Let’s face it, students already know the information in there, and would just be reading for reading’s sake which is practicing language for language’s sake.

We need a parallel reading.

I could make something up, but I don’t know the students well enough yet to gauge what they might find compelling. Instead, I’ve combined the texts from the other two sections to give as a reading assignment (e.g. diēs Mercuriī students will get a text with the interests of diēs Mārtis, and diēs Iovis). Here is what diēs Mārtis students get to take home and read (click for Google Doc):

After I project and read aloud the primary text in class, students will have read just under ~500 words of Latin (216 + 269) by the end of their 2nd Latin class! That’s no small sum, and there’s no way this would be possible without a student-centered focus on compelling messages (i.e. what students like, and how that differs or is similar to others), and sheltering vocabulary—in this case focusing on the one verb we used in the last 15min. of the first day class, placet.

On Sheltering
The primary and parallel texts include what appears to be completely unsheltered maxed-out vocab that many of us avoid (i.e. 28 unique words after 1 class?!). Aside from the most important, most frequent words in these texts (e.g. placet, est, et, nōn, quoque), the rest of the unique word count is comprised of “icing words.” With only one verb other than esse, the compellingness of these texts is going to come from the different interests. I have no expectation that students will acquire these words. Some will, but that’s not the point. The point, and purpose of this communication, is to learn something about each other (and it just happens to be in Latin). Besides, most of the icing words are transparent due to the images, and/or obvious cognates (i.e. mūsica, televisiōrum, telephōnulum, colōrēs, mathēmatica, pictūrae, flōrēs, planētae), adding very little to cognitive demand. Comprehension should be quite high for these texts.

Besides, the icing words will not interrupt the flow of students reading, and have a better chance of acting as those hooks to hold their interest. Contrast the texts above with the 22 unique words in the Ecce Romani textbook’s chapter 1 first reading passage of 61 total words in length, in which very few words are used more than once.

First Week…err Day…

I live by the “low-prep/no-prep” mantra. Yes, there’s life outside of school (maybe not if you teach high school ELA, sorry folks), and I enjoy sharing with others ideas on how to regain their personal life back while also being a damn fine teacher. As part of this, I pride myself on having not taken home student work for a few years now.

This first week, however, is different…

I’ve been used to starting the year with a half-day devoted to essential rules, some routines, and that school-required housekeeping stuff. Then, in next 8-10 class days over about 2 weeks, I would get into Circling with Balls (CWB), Total Physical Response (TPR), Discipulus Illustris, not to mention the No-Travel Story Script I was looking forward to trying out. Not this year. I see my students just 1 hour per week, which means those usual beginning activities would take us up through Thanksgiving! That’s simply too slow for he brain craving novelty. Expectations must be lowered. I’m just now recognizing exactly how much lower, too. This first week—one class—had to combine all that housekeeping with only a little bit of Latin…very little. You know what we did? placet (= likes). Yep, that’s it, at least as the only verb, although eī, tibi, -ne?, an, nōn, et, harpastum, minimē, and certē also made appearances. The focus was on just one student, and another parallel student to compare.

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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:

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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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What CI Isn’t

CI is not optional.

For language acquisition, CI is necessary, and no one disputes it. For full inclusion of all students, no one can deny that tapping into what every human is hard-wired for (i.e. language acquisition) is the more universal practice and responsible choice as educators.

CI is not a method or strategy.

The messages students listen to or read are received as Input. When students understand those messages, they receive Comprehensible Input. Continue reading