Vocab Lists: Sheltering, Grammar Audit, and Creativity

**Updated 8.19.20 – The DCC core list of top 1000 Latin words has just 100 cognates.**

sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 1 was published at the end of July, bringing the total vocabulary found throughout the entire Pisoverse novellas to 737 unique words, of which 316 are found on the DCC core list, and of which 319 cognates (see my last post on cognates), including 52 found on the DCC core list (i.e. Pisoverse cognates account for over 50% of the total DCC cognates). That vocabulary size is quite low for what is now almost 50,000 total words of Latin for the beginner found in 19 books. This is what is meant by sheltering (i.e. limiting) vocabulary. Of course, that sheltering didn’t just happen by chance. There have been many decisions of what to keep and what to let go, the process deliberate, and at times methodical. In this post, I share ways to shelter vocab in novellas, and how those same practical steps apply to more informal writing done in the classroom with students…

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Skip The Activity?

In terms of input, I’ve observed a few differences between reading independently and reading in pairs, or as a whole-class. The bottom line? Reading independently results in far more input than could be provided in pair, or whole-class activities. Therefore, I wonder if we’re not giving enough time for independent reading, even there are already routines in place (e.g. 10 minutes 2x/week). Could we be better off skipping some or even most of the reading activities in class? Maybe. Granted, independent reading cannot be the only kind of reading done in class since most students not only need input, but also interaction, at least in the K-12 public school context I teach in (conf. Beniko Mason’s more advanced Story Listening students with access to 500+ graded readers). Still, how much less input are students getting with all those activities? Let’s look into that…

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AP Latin: There’s Bad News…And…Worse News

I ran texts from the AP Latin syllabus through Voyant Tools:

  • 6,300 total words in length
  • 2,800 forms (i.e. aberant + abest = 2)
  • 1,100 meanings/lemmas (i.e. aberant + abest = 1 meaning of “awayness”)*

Based on the research of Paul Nation (2000), 98% of vocabulary must be understood in order to just…read…a text. According to Nation’s research, then, Latin students must understand about 1,080 words in order to read the AP syllabus texts.

There’s a catch. That 1,080 figure represents the exact words from the AP texts that students must understand, which is a lot. To put that into perspective, it’s been reported that students reasonably acquire ~175 Latin words per year, for a total of something more like 750 by the end of four high school years. Needless to say, there’s a low chance that all 750 would be included in the specific 1,080 needed to read Latin on the AP, and that varies from learner to learner. Even if they were the exact words, though, 750 is still only a text coverage of 68% understandable at best. This is far below Nation’s research. We know that reading starts to get very cumbersome below 80%. This is just one reason why no student can actually read AP Latin. Oh wait

****Those figures are just for Caesar****

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Input Hypermiling Combo: 1 Activity, 6 Days, 24 Texts, 76 Storyboards!

Back in 2016, I wrote about five follow up activities based on one story. I’ve certainly been thinking differently since then, though I haven’t so much as changed my tune as I have changed keys. I’m now cautious of doing many activities over and over using just one story. Despite any novelty, the context remains the same. Surely, that can’t be ideal for acquisition, right? After a while, the student is probably just working with an understanding of the story from memory. Similarly, I’ve been highly critical of Latin teachers for remembering English translations they’ve studied and/or taught over the years instead of actually processing the target language itself. Because of that KEY change, I’ve been looking into creating new contexts with minimal planning effort. Here’s a workflow to hypermile your input:

1) Get a text
2) Read that text
3) Do a new activity that gets you a) more texts, b) drawings, or c) both
4) a) Read those new texts, b) Picture Talk the drawings, or c) both
5) Compile texts, drawings, and glossary into FVR packet

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The Full Glossary Experiment

Yesterday, close to 10 students across all classes asked what auxilium meant. Oh, and here’s the excerpt from that text:

Capture

With questions like that, how often are students aware of all those glosses I intentionally put into class texts?! In the same classes, I also noticed that students were working much slower than I’d expect during Read & Translate. Surely, if they’d been reading at home the process would be much easier. Could it be that comprehension support during class time isn’t helping students read independently at home? Also, it just so happens that two new students began school this week too, so those in-text glosses certainly weren’t much help with almost every other word unknown. At what point might those in-text glosses make a difference, and what could I do to help these new students begin reading on their own?

Based on all those questions, I’ve decided to experiment…

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