Monday, January 30, 2017

I accidentally made a dictation compelling. This is my story.

So, dictation/dictatio. I love dictations because they are QUIET and I don't really have to grade them. They also really seem to help with spelling & listening, and they force the skimming kids to actually READ the Latin in front of them. Beautiful! But... the kids hate them. They're not especially comprehensible as input, especially if you're using new words. You have to use them s.p.a.r.i.n.g.l.y or else do them in more complex but totally awesome ways that I'd have to, like, prep for. I'm much too lazy for that (or alternatively, my brain is too full to learn any new activities at the moment).

The past two weeks I did two story listens. I liked doing them and the kids mostly liked doing them. They seemed to work pretty well for getting the vocab into their brains. They will be hella part of my rotation, which means it's all the more important that I not overdo them. This week I needed to do something else to do some kind of story about the gods. I decided to do a simplified version of the Cronos-baby-nomnoms story, because I think it's hilarious, and it's as good a place to start for the Olympians as anything else.

The way it played out in different classes... differed, depending on time and what other stuff I had to do with each class and all that. Some classes got straight out dictate ten sentences, then correct ten sentences, then translate & discuss ten sentences. Others got dictate one, correct one, then translate & discuss the whole thing at the end. Still others got dictate, correct, translate & discuss, repeat. (The latter is an idea I got from Chris Buczek, btw, who has a new blog and you should read it.)

Here are some things I did that made it work well.

1. The last order- dictate, correct, translate together & discuss- is definitely the best one. Why?

  • Seeing the corrections on each sentence means kids build confidence as they go. Even if Iuppiter sounds like nonsense the first time, after they've seen it in writing once, it goes much easier. 
  • The same thing builds comprehension as you go. For example, -que on the end of otherwise known words was upsetting and incomprehensible the first time they heard it, but once they'd seen it written and had it explained, the next five times were comprehensible input. 
  • It breaks up the tedious listening & writing.
  • It slows down the storytelling, which builds suspense, because they didn't get to find out what happened next until they'd heard & corrected another sentence.

2. Before we started, I brought out my big thing of colored pencils and said, "Come pick out a colored pencil to use for corrections." This tactic meant:

  • they had to move their butts out of their seats to walk over to my colored pencils before we did a long, seated activity.
  • they got to make a personal choice, even such an unimportant one as what color to use.
  • they got to use fun colors, which tbqh is the only way I get through grading. It is juvenile, but it really does make life cheerier.
3. This part was by accident. Here's the dictatio in English. The unknown words are in brackets. The Latin is here in a variety of formats & tenses. 
  1. Saturn is the [king] [of the gods], because he kills [his own] father.*
  2. Rhea, sister and wife of Saturn, is the [queen] [of the gods].
  3. Saturn and Rhea have many sons [and] daughters. (the "and" was a -que btw)
  4. Saturn eats his sons [and] daughters because he [fears] [them].
  5. Rhea [saves] one son.
  6. [That] son, Jupiter, attacks his father.
  7. Jupiter takes his brothers [and] sisters out of his father's stomach.
  8. Jupiter [saves] his brothers [and] sisters.
  9. Jupiter [wages] [war] [against] Saturn.
  10. Jupiter puts Saturn in Tartarus.
Sentences 1, 2, 4, and 7 (and to a lesser extent, 6) contain shocking details: patricide,* incest, cannibalism, taking people out of someone else's stomach. Thus, they are the most compelling sentences. Since those sentences also contained mostly known vocab, they were also the most comprehensible. Thus this result:
Sentence 1: ":mild shock:"
Sentence 2: "What?" "Eww!" "Incest?!"
Sentence 4ish: ":gasp:" "I think I understand a lot of what's going on, but it's really weird."
Setence 7: "STOMACH?" (stomachus) "But they're dead, right? How can they be fine?"

Entirely by accident, I managed to pepper the dictatio with built in "hooks" to engage the kids in the story while they did the tedious work of writing down what I said. I am TOTALLY doing that on purpose next time!

* yes I know he didn't kill Uranus, but I forgot while I was writing this, and also they don't know the verb "to castrate" or "to defeat." I casually added the castration part in as we translated. 

One thing I can't account for is that several of my literally-does-nothing-in-every-class kids participated and did the dictatio. Like, all of it. Even when I didn't finish on day 1 so it was two days in a row to some extent. I DO NOT KNOW WHY. We're talking three out of four kids who never do ANYTHING, in different sections of Latin 1. The fourth one is usually asleep and he slept through this too. If you have any ideas why dictatio was the thing that worked for them, I'd love to know. Maybe because it's a "free hundred." But so are my bell ringer activities, basically, and these kids don't do those... It's a mystery. A beautiful mystery.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How to develop a brand new CI activity without even trying

Here is something that happened by accident one day..

1st class PQA: what do you make & bring to a party? qualem cibum facis et ad festam fers? K says salad. I ask her if there are vegetables in the salad. No. I ask if there is fruit. No. I ask if there is meat. No. I ask if there are sweets. No. I ask if she had anything in mind at all. No. Okay, I say, let's make a salad together then. What does K put in her salad everyone? A few ideas. Not much response.

2nd class: Let's make a salad. What do you want to put in it? One idea each. I write them on the board. A few ideas, then one kid says 'broken glass.' Okay, new rule, you can put something in OR take something out. visne aliquid imponere an extrahere? The world's worst salad thus forms and is fixed and forms anew. Someone chooses to remove shrimp rather than the broken glass. We get lots of reps of imponere and extrahere. After kids add things, others respond with "bene sapit!" or "male sapit!" Everyone is delighted. And LOUD.

3rd class, boy this would be easier if I had Latin terms for all the food oh hey VERBA cards what's up. I pick out cards with foods and a bunch of animals and also stuff like tears, paint, love, etc.: Also, we've been using the word for soup this week, so we make soup instead. We sit on the rugs. Everyone has four randomly dealt cards. Same deal. They make a terrible soup but seem fairly pleased with it.

4th class, smallest class, things go smoothly. Not much to say. They mostly make a pretty decent soup, except for the time when someone puts in a heart, and the next person puts in love, and then the third person takes out love (but leaves the heart...).

5th class, my largest & most troublesome class. Not as much listening going on, but even the kid who literally never does anything says imponere in Latin when I ask him visne aliquid imponere an extrahere? and then he adds some batteries. I call that a win.

You can't plan this stuff. Thanks, K, for not having a plan for your salad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Biduum Noveboracense 2017

Salvete omnes!

I am just back from the first Biduum Noveboracense, held in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY. I thought I'd share my experience and tell you some neat things I learned. It was about a four hour drive from my school, which wasn't ideal, but it was a heck of a lot closer than the other SALVI event I've been to in West Virginia! I wrote about that here. SALVI is also hoping to build regional nodes of itself so they can hold more Bidua throughout the country. So far they've had them in Los Angeles and Oklahoma, and they're planning more. Definitely subscribe to their blog if you're interested.

The basic deal with SALVI events is this: come make friends in Latin. That's basically it. I mean, there's a whole philosophical and pedagogical agenda to it, but what makes SALVI special is the atmosphere. I've heard Rusticatio described as "a big week-long house party in Latin." That's about right, minus the parts of a house party that are scariest to homebodies like me. The atmosphere is summed up with three dicta, thus:
regulae SALVIenses
serva patientiam!
Be patient, especially with yourself, but also with others. You will make a zillion mistakes, but that's okay. No one cares as much as you do. Keep trying.

mitte difficiliora - dic quod potes!
Throw out what's too hard, and say what you can. If you can't remember the exact word for what you want, find another way. For example, maybe you don't know how to say "Open the drawer please and get me a hand towel." That's fine. Instead, try this: quaeso, aperi hoc :points at drawer: et da mihi :mimes drying hands:. aqua in manibus est." Pointing and grunting is also a valid strategy.

memento te versari apud amicos
Remember that you're among friends. This is the big thing I like about SALVI. Sure, there're always be people you "click" with better than others. The expectation however is that we put that aside and treat one another kindly. The staff is explicitly there to HELP you through the experience, and not just to TEACH you something.

This Biduum was different from Rusticatio Veteranorum in a couple of key ways. First, it was Friday night through Sunday morning, so it was a LOT shorter. That length difference was my least favorite thing. bi is not enough duum! But that's a necessary limitation of doing these things during the school year. 

Secondly, there was more of a mix of proficiencies. Since RV is aimed at people with higher speaking & reading proficiencies, and Biduum is a mix, that's to be expected. I didn't mind this at all. In fact, it was kind of fun to hang out with people who hadn't done much spoken Latin and get to be one of the friendly (I hope) faces helping (I hope) them lose some of their shyness. At both RV and the Biduum, I felt totally safe asking questions during reading sessions.

Third, at RV, there is staff that feeds you. This is awesome. I was NOT looking forward to helping in the kitchen at Biduum because I am lazy. However, what I'd forgotten is that I like cooking and helping. I managed not to do a single dish the entire weekend, but I helped out a fair bit and definitely learned a LOT of useful words & expressions for food and cooking. 

Fourth, and this isn't a normal difference, but one notable difference between RV and this particular Biduum was BABIES! There were twin one year olds and a three month old, and they were so cute. If babies aren't your thing, not to worry; they are not a default feature of SALVI events. I did feel relieved, however, because I thought this would be my last immersion event for several years due to the kid I'm expecting in June. Now I feel like it doesn't have to be. I also learned some useful words for diapers and what babies do to them and so on, which will come in handy with my kid when I'm indoctrinating him/her into Latin nerddom enriching his/her brain by speaking Latin. The fact that there were babies running around was awesome for me personally, but it also expresses something about the comfiness of the atmosphere.

Anyway, so those are some words about my Biduum experience. Soon hopefully I will post two entries about different teaching & reading techniques we used. I still have to write them though so no promises!