Well, yes. It's hard. But we've got to do it. I'm going to say right now that I'm really very weak. We've done classroom commands and stuff but I hardly ever use them. We do attendance in Latin now, but that's limited to "adestne Marcus?" "adsum." etc. When I'm doing a story or PQA, I speak Latin, but I pretty regularly break into English, and very few of the kids use Latin beyond sic, non, and adsum. One of my goals for next year* is to really push the spoken Latin and use it whenever possible.
Oh wait there's the rub. "Use it whenever possible." There are two huge constraints on this before we even worry about the kids' use of English. The first is the teacher's ability to speak, and the second is the kids' ability to understand.
As Latin teachers, we are usually pretty horrible at output. Most of us never even take prose comp courses, and forget about speaking practice. I posted previously about how to improve your spoken Latin (tl;dr: the answer is get more comprehensible input yourself!).
What about ensuring that the kids can understand you? You can read Cicero to them all day and they won't acquire a damn thing. You have to make sure that the input you provide is truly comprehensible. How do we do that? More under the cut.
Scaffolding: when you're speaking to the kids, scaffold as much as you can. Scaffolding can be anything from having useful conversational phrases on the wall/board, pointing & pausing to words written somewhere in the room, using gestures (TU :points: estisne laeta? :ridiculous happy face:), using circumlocution to clarify meaning ('dedit' est 'dat' sed heri, non hodie). It's May and I'm still sometimes pointing to the quid sign above my board when I ask a "what" question. They all know most of the time, but why leave it in doubt?
Set yourself up for success: Make sure they words they know first and best are the ones you need to talk about stuff you need to talk about. Get those question words up in your classroom & keep them there all year. Make sure they know sedete! if you're planning to do classroom commands, but make sure they also know "NULLA TELEPHONA!"
Repeat, repeat, repeat: If you have to say it and gesture it nine times, don't get frustrated- it's all input. That being said, if they don't understand after two or three times, find another way to say it.
Use your high achievers: If you ask the whole class a question and get crickets, try asking just that one kid who you know understood. The other kids will pick up on what you mean by listening to that kid's answers. And if that one doesn't get it? Definitely time to rephrase.
Watch your middle achievers. The furrowed brow of a B student tells you nine million times as much as the mildly bored expression of an A+ kid. If you see that look of mild panic on a B student, smile specifically to them and check in in English.
Watch all your kids' eyes, actually, especially the slow ones. This is basic TPRS- teach to the eyes. It's easy to forget when you're focused on your own Latin output.
KISS: You know what this means. Keep it simple for your OWN sake, too. If you're tangled in your own words, you're not paying attention to the kids.
GO SLOW. No, slower than that. SLOWER. If there's such a thing as "too slow," why not make it your mission to find it? The kids will let you know if it's too slow, but an awful lot of them will never let you know it's too fast.
Embedded questioning: I just made up that term. It's essentially backwards circling. If you ask a question and get nothing, use a simpler question until you get something, then try going back up again. Example- assume gesturing for nose, size, 'no', etc.:
T: Iosua nullos amicos habet quia ei nasus maximus est. discipuli, cur est Iosua solus?The first question I asked is a problem because it doesn't even relate obviously to the sentence before it. Sure, it does if you think about the meaning, but they may not be at that level. Try again- repeat the core structure of the sentence "nullos amicos habet." Still nothing, probably. Try again with a yes/no or either/or question. If the either/or is too hard, ask them each part of it individually, then ask it again as an either/or. Then build back up to a longer question.
T: Iosua nullos amicos habet quia ei nasus maximus est. Cur Iosua nullos amicos habet?Ss: ................
T: Iosua nullos amicos habet quia ei nasus maximus est. Habetne Iosua amicos?
T: bene! Iosua amicos non habet! Iosua nullos amicos habet quia ei nasus maximus est. estne ei nasus parvus?
T: est nasus Iosuae parvus an maximus?
T: Iosua nullos amicos habet quia ei nasus maximus est. estne nasus Iosuae maximus?
T: est nasus Iosuae parvus an maximus?
Ss: maximus! (some will say sic/non, others will say "big" in English, one or two may say parvus, others will say nothing at all-- but a few will say maximus)
T: bene! nasus Iosuae MAXIMUS est! Iosua nullos amicos habet quia ei nasus MAXIMUS est. habetne Iosua amicos?
T: bene! Iosua NULLOS AMICOS habet quia ei nasus MAXIMUS est! discipuli... :SLOW AS HECK HERE: habetne Iosua ... nullos amicos... quia ei nasus... PARVUS... est...?Ss: non! (and a few will by this point go "NON! MAXIMUS! MAXIMUS!")
That actually speaks to something important: Don't expect them to be able to repeat back to you "Iosua nullos amicos habet quia ei nasus maximus est." It will never happen. Maybe one of the really high kids will get to "nasus maximus" but it'll be one kid and the others will be lost and unhappy that they don't understand and possibly even angry with the other student for being a "try hard." We don't need those feelings in the room. The point isn't to get them to repeat what you say. The point is for them to understand what you say and be able to communicate that they understand.
I think I haven't done too good a job saying in what situations I use Latin versus English, so I'll give a rundown of times you could use Latin, although I don't usually do all of these:
- hello, how are you, what did you do this weekend, etc. (build up complexity over time)
- announce the day's routine & transition from activity to activity in Latin (this means you need Latin names for all your activities...)
- classroom commands (get your pencils, paper, write in Latin, write in English, read two pages etc.)
- Latinize everyone's names (Kaitlin = Ketlin, Ketlinis or Ketlina, ae, or Katarina... give em some options) so you don't interrupt your flow with sudden, jarring English. (I've also heard kids in other language classes complain about the random TL names they get- "My name's not Pablo!!" so I like to keep it connected to their real name. Oh and of course a Chris is going to respond better to "Cristopere!" than "Pablo!")
- TPRS activities generally can and should be done in TL once you've established meaning
If you use spoken Latin in your classroom, tell us what YOU do in the comments! :)
* This is a bad habit of mine. "Next year..." Why not now?! I don't know either.