Friday, February 24, 2017

Creating CI materials

You can’t.

Well, bye everyone!

Well, okay, since you’re here, I guess I could explain what I mean. Recently I was asked if I could write some short informational “CI” texts to include in a packet to be distributed to various Latin teachers. I said no, partly because I’m overcommitted as it is, and partly because I’d have had to like, research stuff, which is effort.

The thing that’s stuck with me though is the idea that we can include “CI materials” in such packets. I don’t think there’s such a thing as “CI materials.” There’s definitely such a thing as “I” materials, that is, materials that provide input in the target language. The “C” is as usual the difficult part. The reason you can’t make “CI materials” as such is that you can’t make something and guarantee it’ll be comprehensible to all parties.  I’m comfortable writing for my own students because I have a decent idea of what’s known versus unknown to them. When writing Cloelia or other stuff for public consumption, however, I don’t have that knowledge. That’s why I don’t want to be known as someone who writes “CI novellas” or “CI texts.”

There are certainly things you can do to make materials that are CI-friendly, however. What I mean by CI-friendly, or CI-oriented, is this: the texts (or videos whatever) are designed with the end goal of comprehensibility in mind, and are presented in ways that make that goal as easy to attain as possible… assuming the teacher & students put the work in to make it there.
Here are some ways you can make materials CI-friendly.

Include visuals: Ideally, these would be pictures that actually show some of the action expressed in the text. Double ideally, maybe they’d have captions or labels that further clarify which word means what. TRIPLE ideally, it's an animation or actual movie.

Limit the vocabulary used...: The less vocabulary used, the better the chance any given reader will know more of the words.

… to high frequency vocabulary as much as possible…: so that more readers are more likely to have encountered that vocab.

… and be aware it may still not help: Even if you use mostly high frequency words, you’re always going to run into stumbling blocks depending on what vocabulary the reader happens to be familiar with. A CLC student may know the word lacrimare but not plorare, and an LLPSI student may be in exactly the opposite situation.

Include a glossary: Especially if your reading does include words that aren’t common or aren’t commonly taught in the early levels (Many irregular verbs for example are very high frequency, yet are not taught until Latin 2 or 3 sometimes…). I like side-by-side glossaries best, but you do have to limit those for space reasons. What I did in Cloelia was include page-side glosses for words used very infrequently in the book or for non-transparent things like cum clauses, and leave the rest to the back glossary.

Gloss unsheltered grammar as needed: Here’s what I mean by this. Don’t “shelter” grammar in the way textbooks do, by not using any grammar out of sequence at all. Rather, if you need to use a more complex piece of grammar, go ahead… but if it’s not transparent (e.g. even if a kid knows fert they may not know tulit is just fert in the past), gloss it. Gloss that ut purpose clause, or at least gloss the ut as “in order to” or something. Nothing wrong with glossing. Lots wrong with assuming that ALL students will have had enough input to be able to implicitly understand, e.g., a fearing clause, even if all the vocab is known. A lot of CI relies on understanding by word order and vocabulary and ignoring endings (sorry, but it's true), so if the vocabulary is obscure in any way, or the syntax is markedly different from what the student has been exposed to, you can lose them.

Set up the teacher for success: Give the teacher a full list of words & forms used in the reading, so that they can prep their students by pre-teaching vocabulary and structures. I also suggest giving teachers editable or at least copy-paste-able docs whenever possible so that they can tweak things as necessary for their own students’ needs.

So, that’s some thoughts I have on some things. Am I off base? What do you think? What's helpful to you as a teacher when you're using someone else's materials?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your suggestions. I appreciate the highlighted sections in your explanations. Over the last couple of days, I have been working on an idea for a Latin novella/series. There will be some research involved, since I'm unsure whether to place it in modernity or antiquity.

    I recently finished Cloelia, excellent job! :) I really enjoyed it and I can see my students finding enjoyment as well. I do agree with you about page-side glosses, I find that extremely helpful at times. There are very few books that work that way, but as I was reading through, I knew that students would like the ability to look quickly to the side if something wasn't registering for them. So, in my mind, page-side glossing is very helpful rather than footnotes.

    In addition, I think limiting the amount of vocabulary would be helpful for them as well, since teachers and students, as you mentioned, would need to go through and prepare any unfamiliar or unknown vocabulary and grammar. This just makes good sense, unless you are planning a sprawling novel with many different threads, but that starts to sound like another feat altogether.