Saturday, April 30, 2016

Latin, Latin everywhere

Two announcements relating to Latin reading material.

I wrote a novella.

This is not a final draft, if ever there will be such a thing. It's definitely a work in progress, but the story is complete and it's been proofread by many people. That being said, since I am still making changes, there will be errors. Please comment if you find any, or if something seems unclear.

Some questions you might have:
1. May I use this for my class?
Absolutely. Give me feedback on how it goes. Click here for copyright info in friendly, comprehensible language.

2. Is this appropriate for all ages?
... That depends on you and your administrators and your students' parents. It contains two stories about rape: chapter five about Lucretia, and chapter six about Callisto. They're not graphic or anything: all it is is scelus contra feminam fecit, cupivit, and violavit. If you want to, you can print it off without those two chapters. It's designed to work even if those are skipped.

That being said, I think that they're important discussion points for how Romans viewed honor and womanhood, and they explain the importance of vows, which will become relevant later in the story. I'd say definitely you can read it with 9-12 graders, and with middle schoolers if you feel confident no one will flip out. The concepts in it are probably overall a little confusing for elementary schoolers so I'd suggest just using adapted excerpts with them.

3. Is there a glossary?
Yeah, here. Use that spreadsheet to make whatever style of glossary you like best. I will probably do a version of the text with side by side vocab eventually, and I do plan to make a printable booklet version of that full glossary as well.

4. Are you going to publish this so I can buy real book versions?
Eventually, I hope so. If I self-publish it and can sell hard copies, I hope I'll be able to include illustrations. Know anyone who wants to do illustrations? For a one-time fee? Email me!

In any case, it will still remain online for free, because it's important to me to make more reading material available NOW, and I am lucky enough to not need the extra income that exclusively selling it might offer (nor am I so deluded to think that amount of income would even buy me a soda!) 

For right now I suggest booklet-printing it on your school copier. Make sure you keep that last blank page.

5. I want to do work! Is it okay if I make something to add to it, like illustrations or grammar notes or audio recordings or videos or a full/partial English translation or tiered versions of the chapters?
YES. PLEASE DO. Just credit me as the author of the story, and share your work with others (and ideally me!). Click here for a summary of adaptation & sharing & attribution rights.

6. Copyright Information

And secondly...

Mille Noctes is live!

What is Mille Noctes? Think of it as a children's library for Latin. It's my attempt at creating a central place for Latin teachers to share free, low-level Latin readings. My direct inspiration was listening to Kevin Ballestrini's "Gradus Parvi" presentation at CANE 2016, which can be found here. In it, he presented a variety of ideas about reading material for Latin learners, but one thing he made a call for was a central place teachers could go to just find a ton of stories. That's what I'm trying to do, basically.

Right now it's almost all my own stories, but I have several more to put up from other teachers. Many of the stories began as story scripts for TPRS and can be used that way, but there are also several that are better for reading.

So, this is my request to you. Check it out. See if it'll be useful to you. Share it with your students as a place to go for more Latin. If you have piles of original Latin stories- whether you're a CI teacher or not- consider sharing them with the world. If you don't want to share them directly on the blog, I'd be happy to share them as links to a Google Doc or other site. The more stories, the better.

For a more thorough description of what MN is and why it is what it is, click here for its About page and here for its How to Use page.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

More on building my CI curriculum

First, a clarification...

I think in my previous post I gave the impression that a CI Latin curriculum has to be an untextbooked curriculum. That is definitely NOT the case. I was focusing on that because that's the kind of curriculum I'm doing, but you can and should do CI with textbooks. The only reasons to abandon your textbook are
(1) if you're too Type A to let others control your scope & sequence (that's me), 
(2) you just don't have enough books or access to online books.
(3) you have an awesome team of CI colleagues with whom you can work to build your ideal curriculum

Your life will be a lot easier if you keep hold of the textbook as a guideline and a life preserver in the seas of curriculum design.

No matter where you get your curriculum, keep these principles in mind, and you'll be a-okay. Oh, and read Lance's thing on the actual logistics of a CI program.

Teach meaning, not grammar. 

In CI, kids don’t learn about language. They learn the language itself. That is, your goal is to hook them up with meaningful, understandable input as much as possible. When they want to know why you keep changing the endings on words, they’ll ask. If you start with that, they’ll tune out or listen but decide it’s too hard. You’ve seen it happen. Tell them what they want to know, when they want to know it. Don’t tell them more than they want to know or again, you’ll lose them.

And once they do ask- your English grammar explanations need to be comprehensible too. Let’s say we’re working with puella delphīnum vult and you say “estne delphīnus piscis?”
You could say:
“When it’s ‘wants the dolphin’ dolphin has to be delphīnum because in Latin direct objects of transitive verbs have to have accusative endings. But when it's 'is the dolphin a fish?' the dolphin is the subject, which means it has to have a nominative ending, hence delphīnus.” 
But to a kid who’s not good with English grammar already, that translates to “you’re too stupid to understand, so don’t ask next time.” Instead, try something like this. Include the [] stuff if the kids are good with parts of speech, but they're not necessary:

Ultra short version:
T: in Latin when the action [of the verb] is happening to something [a noun], that something gets an M on the end. :smile: 
Version for the kid who says "but WHY?"
T: In English would you ever say ‘the girl wants he’?
S: No?
T: Right, what would you say? The girl wants...
S: …him…?
T: Exactly. delphīnum is like ‘him’ and delphīnus is like ‘he,’ except in Latin all the words do it, not just the he’s and him’s. Isn’t that cool?
The student will then think you’re an idiot for finding that cool, but you won’t have scared them off.

Be patient.

Grant Boulanger has this great saying:
When ACQUIRING another language:
First, we learn to LISTEN.
We learn to READ what we've heard.
We learn to WRITE what we've read and heard.
We SPEAK because we've heard, read and written it.
In short, your students will not be speaking fluent Latin anytime soon. They will mix up case and verb endings for a long time, probably years. That doesn’t mean they haven’t learned anything. If they can mostly understand you and the readings, they’re progressing well. Ability to comprehend will always be much better than ability to produce. Luckily, as Latin teachers, there’s little pressure to force our kids to produce perfect language quickly. Don’t weight output tasks heavily. Composition practice is an interesting change of pace and can be useful, but it’s definitely not how you should measure their OR your success. The biggest way they’re going to learn is by listening to you and by reading comprehensible texts. Focus on that, and the rest will come in time.

Be flexible, but don’t lose sight of your goals.

Things aren’t always going to go as smoothly as you’d like. That’s okay. Build a lot of extra cushion into your curriculum. That being said, it’s easy to go off track and end up teaching random stuff that you didn’t really need to. Consciously limit your vocabulary: if you have debet, you don't need necesse est. But really, if you're properly unsheltering grammar (which I'm not doing a good job of at all), your kids will get the high frequency things they need.

Keep good notes as you go.

Reflect on paper, whether digital or real. Keep track of what your kids know versus what you think you taught- not so you can flagellate them or yourself, but so you have an idea of what sticks when. Keep notes on what worked well and what bombed. Then start a blog and tell us about it because we could use the insight. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Planning a CI Curriculum. I hope.

My school requires us to put a Unit-by-Unit plan into an online system with learning goals and assessments and activity plans and essential questions and objectives and and and and and etc. Doing this for a CI course is a total headache. No one has put anything of this level online and I can understand why. Such things exist for other languages, but you have to buy them. One day maybe you’ll be able to buy Latin ones too. A girl can dream!

This year, however, I have been building my own curriculum ē culō, if you will. I am going to share with you how I have been doing that. Here’s the tl;dr version:
  1. Define goals and limits…
  2. … and create a curriculum that suits them.
  3. Choose vocabulary based on frequency and utility.
  4. Choose target structures based on frequency and utility.

Define goals and limits...

Consider these questions.
  1. Are you using a textbook?
  2. Do you have the freedom to transform your curriculum?
  3. What are your goals for your students?
  4. How much can your students realistically acquire in a year?
Here are my personal answers.
  1. No. My kids seem to hate books, and I'm a control freak so I don’t like doing what textbooks tell me to. This is crazy and I recommend you let a book help you.
  2. Yes, I am the only Latin teacher, and I can basically teach however I want. 
  3. The usual goal for a Latin teacher is for students to be able to read classical Latin literature by their fourth year. That’s my “reach” goal. For right now, it’s more like “get them to see English isn’t the only language” and “have at least one academic class they don’t hate.”
  4. With TPRS the average number of structures you can hope for a class to acquire in a year is between 150-200. That means that if you have 40 weeks of class, you can do roughly 5 structures a week (at best!).*  
* Edited to add this note: This number comes from my Blaine Ray TPRS workshop. I strongly suspect that this number depends A LOT on (a) how much input the teacher is able to provide, (b) how comprehensible that input is, (c) how interesting that input is, and finally (d) individual student aptitude and attention. That means it should be considered an upper limit, probably. Realistically I think this year my kids have got about 50 vocabulary words really solidly known in many forms, and they can deal with present & imperfect tense active indicative pretty well. They have also seen perfect & future but I wouldn't say they've internalized how those work yet.

… and create a curriculum that suits them.

So, my curriculum should:
  • have a maximum of 150-200 target structures
  • follow whatever scope & sequence I think is most useful
  • not scare kids away or make them hate me or themselves
My first year I taught out of CLC and none of those requirements were met. Good heavens, not by a long shot. This year I have been going by the seat of my pants and things are more or less working out. That middle point though- the scope & sequence- is really very hard to do on your own. I looked around at different books and things. The thing I’ve found that works best for me is to just follow the NLE syllabus for scope & sequence, plus some additions to Latin I that make life more interesting (complementary infinitives) and grammar more comprehensible.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Staying in the Target Language: Tips from someone bad at it (& thoughts on an EdCamp)

On Saturday I attended langcampct, an "EdCamp" for language teachers. An EdCamp is an "unconference" (I know) which is sort of a thing where the participants themselves decide, on the day, what sessions they'd like to have, and there's no dedicated panel leaders or schedules or talks. On the whole, I think such a format would be most valuable as part of a larger pedagogy conference: one or two blocks of "unconference" with more structure for the rest of the day. That aside, it was interesting and valuable, and most importantly, free!

This is what our session schedule ended up looking like.
You can find notes from all the sessions linked there, and there are some additional ones here.

The session I got the most out of in terms of concrete ideas was about ways to encourage students to use the target language (editable doc: please be careful). I didn't love everything I heard- since it was not all CI people by any means, there was a lot about forcing output. But, this leads us to the main topic of this post.

One major goal for a lot of CI practitioners is to stay in the TL for 90% of the class time. This is something I struggle with big time for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I'm not that good at Latin-speaking yet. Working on that. But also, my kids aren't super interested in participating because there's no motivation for them to do so. I've tried a lot of different participation tracking systems but they're hard to keep track of in the moment and they're mostly fundamentally punitive. So... Gotta find a good way. Here are some things I've been chewing on lately, plus my favorites from this past weekend's "unconference."

Friday, April 8, 2016

Pattern Sentence Scramble Game

This game is the one I mentioned several posts ago, here. When I say "pattern sentence" below, I mean the kind of sentences I described in that post. This is a game you can play without doing that method of teaching declensions, too, however.

Grammar-brained students find this laughably easy, although they'll still mix up the vocab order sometimes. I have a handful of students who do poorly with both text and listening, and this really works well for them. They felt very good about themselves, which isn't usually how they feel when we do grammar. Middle range students find it helpful, although somewhat boring because I haven't worked out how to make it competitive.

Students practice composing English to Latin sentences with heavy scaffolding. Through this activity, they get a sense for how Latin uses endings to change meaning. The limited vocabulary and fixed syntax makes the importance of endings really clear. Once they're really good at this, you can make sentences that don't follow the exact pattern and reuse the same cards.

Is this CI? No. It's not CI because it's not input. I tried to bear in mind the concept of comprehensibility, however, which is why all the heavy scaffolding. This really has no place in a truly "pure" CI classroom. That said...

The fixed syntactical order of the sentence removes the difficulty of figuring out which ending to use. Once the kids figure out that order, all they have to do is decide if a noun is singular or plural. The goal here is not for them to compose sentences by understanding the function of the cases; it's for them to understand the function of the cases by composing sentences.

The English on the back of the vocab cards and the case functions on the back of the ending cards are there for the same reason: this isn't an activity about showing what you've learned already. It's about having all the information and tools ready and waiting, with clear instructions (color, fixed syntax, fixed order, helpful teacher <-- necessary! not a sub plan activity!). If giving a kid a chart and a dictionary is like sending someone to a lumber yard with a picture of a night table and a shopping list, this is like sending someone to IKEA for a night table. It's still possible to make mistakes, but you'll probably end up with something not entirely unlike a table in the end.

Actual game prep, materials, and instructions follow!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Careers in Latin

Don't get your hopes up- it's not new jobs for Latin lovers :)

A very simple post today. I'm starting a res gestae project with my kids and the first step is having them pick careers (so, Auggie's career was "princeps" right?). Here's the list of careers I've been working on based partly on student requests.

click me click me

Please do feel free to add or comment. I'd appreciate it if you not change my entries as they stand; make a note in the "notes" field if you have a correction. Thank you :)