I recently updated the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) to include ongoing Class Days and Culture Days. This provides more of a balance to the year without the previous “Unit 1/Unit 2” structure that each lasted approximately an entire semester. I also made sure to list independent reading as a key component. Yeah, I obviously have a stake in whether teachers build class libraries and include my books, but the whole reason I got into writing novellas in the first place is because I bought into the idea of independent reading tenfold…Continue reading
Modern and classical language teachers alike have been using big name textbooks for decades, yet there’s been an emerging counter culture known broadly as “untextbooking.” This movement is a response to a) the lack of proficiency, b) dropping interest/enrollment, and c) the kind of exclusivity that form-based textbook teaching has an affect on. Instead, preference within the “untextbooking” movement is given to meaning-based teaching that results in greater proficiency, higher enrollment, and a removal of obstacles, making language programs more inclusive. For years now, I’ve heard things like “there’s not enough culture,” or “this lacks curriculum support,” or some other complaint suggesting that textbooks have something necessary to offer that not-textbooks don’t. It’s been shown that textbooks can overload learners with too much vocab, grammar rules, and target-culture details (in English). However, I’m more interested in the role of proficiency. That is, for all the supplements textbooks might bring to the curriculum, what do they really do for language proficiency? Where does proficiency come into play in a curriculum?
Language proficiency generally refers to one’s unrehearsed ability to communicate (e.g. listening, reading, seeking clarification, replying, sharing ideas, asking questions, etc.). Humans can’t plan to communicate genuinely (e.g. “ready, communicate!”). It’s just something that happens when there’s a reason to do so. The following curricular questions keep language proficiency in mind (vs. studying about languages, or cultures, or memorizing vocab, which requires little to no proficiency)…
This year, I’ll be teaching 4 sections of Latin 1 filled with brand new high school freshpeople. My first of 2 broad units in the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) is based on the questions “Who am I?” and “Who are we?” Since the first day of school is one of those adjusted schedules so every section meets, I have a PPT about myself using lots of cognates, and forms of just 1 verb, “to be,” as a way to introduce the course, as well as begin connecting with students.
After the section about me, I show a few pics of our school, a few of the city, and then they get a sneak peak at the Unit 2 Essential Q, “Who were the Romans?” then go back to the familiar with a slide including 4 things I like in the corners. This segues into Card Talk so I get a little bit of data in order to type up, talk about, and read their interests on the first full day. I probably won’t hand out the syllabus until the end of the first full class, too, even though other teachers might do so during this first orientation day. Here are screenshots from that PPT:
Unless you’re an island of one, a program Mission & Vision is a good idea to keep the department heading in a similar direction, even if things don’t start out that way. I put a lot of time into crafting the document last spring, and just had some help from my admin for the final touches. Once that was squared away this week, I could hand in my 2018-19 Syllabus. Let’s unpack all that…
When choosing the class agenda beyond each particular day’s routine, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember all my favorite activities. Thus, here are the input-based strategies & activities I’ve collected over the years, all in one place. Although this began as only reading activities, I decided that it didn’t matter as much whether students were reading or listening. Why? These input-based activities start with some kind of text either way, so beyond variety, what really matters most to me when planning for class is providing students with input, and what kind of prep goes into getting the text/activity. Everything is organized by prep, whether no instructions, no prep, printing only, or low prep. You won’t find prep-intensive activities here beyond typing, copying, and cutting paper. Oh, and for ways to get that one text to start, try here. Enjoy!
**N.B. Any activity with the word “translation” in it means translating what is already understood. This should NOT be confused with the more conventional practice of translating in order to understand.**Continue reading
I’ve just decided to drop Obligation from the Awesome Octō (i.e. is, has, wants, likes, goes + says, thinks,
owes/should), and replace it with Knowledge (i.e. knows/doesn’t know). Here are all the posters.
This is the first step towards updating and embracing the Sweet Sēdecim (+ sees, hears, comes, leaves, brings, puts, gives, is able) that many successful language teachers have been using for quite some time. The result will be focusing on a slightly larger core vocabulary—instead of just the top 8—over a longer period of time. These top 16 naturally occur across many communicative contexts. Thus, the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) is born.
In a nutshell, though…
- Can be used for ANY target language
- Curriculum is based on expanding vocabulary
- Content is driven by communication and student interests
- A repeating single-year organized into 2 units
Unit 1 Content, Years 1 – 4 (ACTFL’s Communication, Connections, and Communities)
“Who am I?”
“Who are we?”
- Community: town(s), school, landmarks
- Family: members, origin/ancestry, home
- Self: age, likes/dislikes, wishes
Unit 2 Content, Varies each year (ACTFL’s Communication, Cultures, and Comparisons)
“Who were the target language speakers?”
- establish suggested topics and poll students