What Is A Language Curriculum?

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)…

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Forgetting How To Teach…Again

eyeearCapture5Even a teacher who’s been in the classroom for 6 years has only started the school year a maximum of 6 times, and there’s a good chance that none of those years began the same way. That’s not a lot of practice!

As annual amnesia sets in, I do a LOT more scripting, thinking, planning, confusing, etc. all at the start of the year. If Kids lose knowledge after 3 months; teachers lose flow. In fact, I just posted a video to the Latin Best Practices Facebook group sharing how I ended up stuck one day during some Total Physical Response (TPR) I’ve been using as brain breaks. Naturally, I’m more aware of my teaching since there hasn’t been enough time for anything to stack up, so I’ve been thinking about the start to this year… Continue reading

That Day 1 Meet & Greet Adjusted Schedule: “Who am I? Who are we?”

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:

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2018-19 Syllabus & Latin Program Mission & Vision

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…

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Basics: Current Ideas & Summary of Recurring Blog Posts

All Of My Daily Activities, etc.
– input-based strategies & activities
– how to get texts

If this stuff interests you, consider putting a few things in place to support the move towards a more comprehension-based and communicative approach. Here are the practices fundamental to my teaching, making the daily stuff possible:

Grammar
Textbooks
Curriculum
Grading
Course Grade
D.E.A.
Assessments
Speaking & Writing

Continue reading for explanations of each…

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Input-Based Strategies & Activities

**Updated 11.20.19 with new The Septem Game rules**
**Check out the companion post on Getting Texts!**

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.**

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