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.

Choose vocabulary based on frequency and utility.


For this, I use the Dickinson College Commentaries Core Vocabulary List for Latin. I actually use an excel file based on this I found on Latin Best Practices in the Files section under CI Resources > vocabulary lists. It was posted by Jeffrey Brickler in 2012. I do not know if he made it or what. I'm not comfortable uploading something not immediately publicly available, so please join that group (it's great anyway) and download it yourself if you want it.

Using the top 200 out of  DCC's 1000 words, I made my own excel file and started adding parameters and cross-referencing with the other three lists below. I also added some words from the base VERBA set and a few others here and there. This is my file- it's a big gross mess. Copy & edit as you will.


For determining utility, luckily a lot of the legwork has been done by people more knowledgeable and experienced than I am.
In making my own list, I started with those and then filled up the extra two spots with words I thought were handy to have around: agere and facere. In practice, I have needed them but don’t have a good enough handle on how to use them distinctly that I really haven’t spent enough time on them. Next year I’m thinking facere and ferre. Or maybe I’ll jettison discedere and keep agere. It’s tough. Here’s my list- do with it what you will.

You can find Miriam Patrick's (via Lance) and Lance's thoughts on the Latin equivalent of the Super 7 etc. here. I may adopt those myself, in fact, since it'd be useful to have dēbere and putāre earlier on.

Choose target structures based on frequency and utility.

Now here is where things get tricky. A target structure can be anything from “amāmus - we love” to  “magistra dīcit sē fessam esse.” For the most part, this year, my target structures have been more along the first lines. Next year, I think I need to make them more meaningful chunks, i.e. delphīnum vult rather than just vult.

In terms of Latin specifically, when we talk about target structures we are probably talking about meaningful chunks we can use as models for specific syntax. e.g., for the second declension masculine accusative singular of a -us noun, I might indeed use delphīnum vult, which would also serve as a model for the third person singular present active indicative of the irregular verb velle. Thinking about teaching grammar in these terms is very difficult for a person who was trained on charts.

There is very much another option: non-targeted input. Read what Justin Slocum Bailey has to say on it: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. Again, I personally need the structure and control that targeting offers, and my Latin isn’t nearly as good as Justin’s.


How do we determine frequency for features of Latin grammar? I do not know the answer to this either. Do you? Tell me, please.

Some things are easy: do a PHI corpus search for fīliābus and you’ll find fewer than 30 instances of the form. That tells you you don’t need to teach fīliābus in Latin I, or even in Latin II or III really; wait til you come across it in literature and explain it then.

On the other hand… what are the MOST frequent features of Latin grammar? Some are obvious: we do need to cover the five major cases of at least the first three declensions. We don’t need to cover ablative of degree of difference perhaps so much as ablative of means, but either way we have to cover the forms.

Verbs make me nervous. Surely I ought to teach the full conjugations, yes? As I was taught? But what shows up more: -mus or -ō? Or should we just focus on the -t and -nt forms, as many textbooks do for the first while?


Utility is a lot easier, at least so long as we’re talking about classroom utility. You will need things in year 1 of a CI Latin program that you wouldn’t in a traditional program (imperatives, mostly). Having the present, imperfect, perfect, and future is really nice, and waiting until the end of the year to hit them all feels very silly. This is the nice thing about CI- you can use future when you want to, so long as you establish the meaning for it. I taught indirect statement the other week without ever having discussed infinitives; I just wrote the meaning of “dīcit sē … esse” on the board and used it a lot. Now I can say “Megana, audīvī Antonium nunc esse ‘puerum-amicum’ tuum.” which is fun.

So, how to determine utility? Teach your class. When you think for the tenth time, “oh boy I wish we’d done the future tense already.” just do it. Bam. Well, , but you see what I’m saying.

Final thoughts

You will note, I think that I have not included an example of what my curriculum looks like. That's because it doesn't look like anything much at the moment. I have an appalling excel sheet which I intend to change around quite a bit. In there too are "Topics - Grammar" and "Topics - Culture" sheets, in which you can find all the culture and grammar listed on the NLE syllabi for Latin I-III listed by level. Feel free to play with those.

You may also note that I have said absolutely nothing about grading or assessment. I don't feel like I have even a middling handle on how to do that yet. I know that ultimately I'd like to be doing proficiency based grading, but it's just not coming together yet. I will share as soon as I have some success (so, hopefully this time next year? Don't hold your breath.).

I hope this was helpful for you. I am very much a newbie to all this, as I often state, and I've had a hell of a time finding sources on what a CI curriculum looks like. In addition to my own insane musings, you may find these helpful:

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