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. :)

1 comment:

  1. This is good to remember. I get frustrated when my kids use nominative/accusative incorrectly after four years of a hybrid TPRS approach, but it's not about what I think they should be able to produce...it's the input I'm giving them. And...mostly they do it well. I think we also have to remember that regular grammar instruction is a deficit model - what they get WRONG instead of what they CAN DO. Shifting that mindset is almost as helpful as changing the approach in the first place.