On Targeting Structures

Here’s a question from Kevin Clemens:

Hey Ben,

I’ve been thinking a lot about the overall scope of my Latin program, and about what next year needs to look like for me. I’ve been left with the following question:

Should I set aside the books?

This is a question for everyone, but feedback from the fellow Latinists would be particularly helpful. I will preface this by saying that I am in a very unique and fortunate situation, as I am able to determine fully what my Latin curriculum looks like: books, methods, assessment, etc. I don’t have to teach AP, and don’t have any standards/requirements to meet. The perk of being at a small private school.  I just get to teach Latin as I desire.

Which leads me to the question: Should I set the book aside, stop letting it drive my vocabulary/structures, and just do CI? Just me, the students, and our stories. Whatever we want to talk about. For all 4 years.

This is my second year with LLPSI: Familia Romana, to which I originally switched (from Latin for the New Millennium) because I wanted students (and myself) to encounter Latin and really use it, not just madly hack at it with a dictionary. That eventually led me at the start of this year to this PLC and the whole notion of CI, and only now do I really understand that this has to be all-or-nothing. I can’t be the Frankenstein-like CI/grammar monstrosity roaming about my classroom confusing students.

I feel that the book is the primary thing pushing me back towards the old ways. Sure enough, I’ve spent plenty of days slipping into discussions about cases, conjugations, the subjunctive mood, and everything else that bores them out of their minds.

So what do you all think? My worry is not having a set direction or goal, or even a set of stories to start from, but perhaps that’s ok. Just Latin, any Latin that is comprehensible. The unknowns are a bit unsettling, but at the same time exhilarating  Any thoughts, comments, suggestions would be most appreciated. And to my fellow Latin teachers: Is anybody else already doing this? How do you make it work?

Kevin

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38 thoughts on “On Targeting Structures”

  1. …should I set the book aside, stop letting it drive my vocabulary/structures, and just do CI? Just me, the students, and our stories. Whatever we want to talk about. For all 4 years….

    In my opinion, the answer is in the question. Of course! You never would have asked such a freeing question had you not thought it, on some deeper level, as potentially best for you and your kids.

    I have been thinking about this very question a lot myself lately.

    But I don’t fully agree with this phrasing right here:

    …and just do CI?….

    Of course I agree with the truth of that idea, but it can get misleading to say that. Let me try to explain:

    Case 1: We have a book. We have to create stories based on the vocabulary in the book. The stories suck. They also stink. The words we need to teach in the book cause that bland stink. The stories we create connected to the contents of a book are not interesting, nor are they free. So the CI sucks.

    Case 2: We have no cares about vocabulary. We get on the bullshit train. We have no direction. We are like rolling stones. We become CI hippies. There are no rails for the train. The stories suck.

    Case 2 is fine when you have 24/7 to hear the language as in when we acquire our first language, because there is so much input that we readily acquire the language in a fairly short period of time, like five or six years, but it doesn’t work in school classrooms, where time is so much more limited.

    Case 3: Since we don’t have five or six years, we have to make rails for the train. Those are the three structures. They work magically. We don’t have the time we do in the acquisition of our first language so we need the rails. We need the three structures of TPRS to function as rails to avoid becoming CI hippies, whose trains try to run on sand.

    In Case 3 we are not connecting structures from some book to stories (can anyone say “stifling”?), and we certainly aren’t being hippies, and thus we find the magical process of establishing meaning of three structures that Blaine invented to be the rails our train can successfully and even magically go down.

    (I challenge anyone to get away from the process that Blaine invented: establishing meaning, discussing on a personal level for reps and interest, and then doing a story, and then reading it. That process of PQA, stories and reading – the famous Three Steps of TPRS – is what works. I base that rather strong statement on my thirteen years of thinking about this stuff day and night. We cannot stay with a book nor we cannot go hippie on the Three Steps. They are the magic. They are the mojo. Blaine invented the formula for Coke. Maybe he just got lucky. It doesn’t matter. When we have a successful CI class, whether we call it TPRS or TCI, we are in some way using some variation of Blaine’s original three step formula and all the TCI talk concerns me on some deeper level although I accept it so we don’t have to have this discussion, which can get pretty stupid.

    I’m starting to ramble but there’s my response Kevin. As an individual teaching artist who uses comprehensible input and who will never get away from some form of the Three Steps, apparent or hidden, I don’t want to be a (book) junkie or a hippie with a train but no rails to go down. I need the medium ground.

    Related:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk3mAX5xdxo

  2. Of course what I said above causes more questions, and I apologize for that, because it is complicated.

    The main question generated in this discussion so far, (and I don’t mean to take your question in a different direction, Kevin, and if I am I apologize) is about where the structures come from.

    We have established and I certainly think we agree that structures connected to the book suck. And structures connected to nothing suck too. So the only logical conclusion is that the structures need to be connected to a story in some way.

    But then the question arises, does the story drive the choice of the structures or do the structures drive the formulation of the story? This is really the question we are talking about.

    My answer is the former of the two in that last sentence. When the story is there first, the mojo is there and the sparkle too, because the story is not trying to conform to a set of structures (which is inherently limiting) but only has to conform to itself.

    That is why I always use Matava or Tripp stories. They are the only ones I have found in the TPRS/CI world that don’t try to connect the CI to some set of vocabulary somewhere else, which action limits the sparkle of the story.

    The story should drive the choice of the structures in our work and not vice versa. This is where the good CI comes from. The sparkly kind.

    So in this sense I am advocating and have always advocated a completely different kind of CI than the kind most people do, which is to some degree to always allow the structures to drive the story.

    I don’t like to do that. I want to be more free than that. Not so free as to be a train in the sand, but free, as happens when the story gets to be what it wants to be, without having those handcuffs on that happen when the story is written to teach some certain vocabulary connected to a novel or whatever.

  3. And while I am on a roll here I would like to say how important this discussion is to us and our growth as teachers. I have always wanted to say this about how we target structures so thank you Kevin for giving me that opportunity.

    The fact is that people have always tried to write stories based on certain structures that they deemed important because those structures were frequently occurring. I don’t see that. To me, if they are frequently occurring then they are going to occur commonly and thus be aquired anyway.

    Therefore in my opinion the story should drive the choice of structures. When people throughout the history of the race have told stories, they didn’t do so to teach certain structures, but to tell the story.

    Few in this group or in my district agree with me on this, which is something I have gleaned over years of discussion and reflection on how we choose structures and prepare our CI instruction, but that is o.k. It’s what I think.

  4. “the question arises, does the story drive the choice of the structures or do the structures drive the formulation of the story? This is really the question we are talking about.”

    This is precisely my struggle, Ben. (And much more concisely stated). My inclination is to agree with you; the story must drive the structures. That is to say, the message one wishes to convey determines the words used to convey that message.

    If you ask me how my vacation was, I’m not going to tell you by using a relative clause in every sentence. That would be absurd (and the hidden agenda is so not hidden when we tell stories that way). I will use whatever vocabulary and structures I need to get my point across. So, yes, I agree. Stories first. I’m totally on board with sparkly CI.

    Yet this is where my difficulty arises: in the limited time that we have, what stories are the one’s I want my students to engage with and internalize. I guess this is a question we all have to answer for ourselves and for our students. So with Latin, do we give them stories about the world they live in, or help them enter into the world of Rome and its legacy through the ages? Perhaps a bit of both…

    1. I haven’t read all the responses below about choice of stories Kevin and I probably should but just to say this one thing. When we try to hit CI with Rome it’s not modern.

      That is to say that the love between people of those days is not the love the kids are experiencing now. Our kids’ love triangles and all that hidden stuff going on in the classroom is different from all other loves in history, much more spectacular.

      And I don’t think the kids are going to get too excited about a story with an astrolabe in it but they might be interested in the girl across the room and her iphone.

      I just don’t think we can mix instruction about culture and stories. Stories have to be intensely personalized to the minds of modern American teens. Then the buy in is there, and in spades.

      Now, if you could write a story that crosses the millenia and reaches out and grabs kids, then you need to share them with us. All you Latinists, if you each wrote three such modern/ancient soul grabbing stories for your kids and compiled them in one collection, like Matava and Tripp have done, you would have a two year curriculum right there.

      I’ll go read the other comments now.

  5. Kevin,

    I teach Latin is a situation very similar to yours. I’ve got a lot of freedom. The only thing I really have to answer to is IB Latin, a program similar to AP, which some students choose to take their junior and senior years. For those IB kids I offer some different (read: compromised) stuff for their 3rd and 4th years, but everyone else gets all 4 years of pretty much whatever I want.

    I started this year using CI to make my textbook series (CLC: Cambridge Latin Course) more accessible. The results where very good in the beginning, but eventually, actually rather quickly, the steam ran out. By the beginning of second semester we were all bored to death with the book’s stuff, and it was getting too difficult too quickly. So I decided at that point to just ditch it. This semester has been AWESOME without the book. So much personalized language has happened, even though I am a total newbie and lazy and still have a ton to learn.

    So now I am planning on not using the book in Latin 1 until maybe the last quarter for some easy readings. Then in the upper levels we can use the books for some culturally rich readings. But at that point we aren’t prepping structures for the readings but just doing the readings here and there casually as a novel.

    You are absolutely right: Any Latin class that stays in any textbook too long will eventually need to fall back on grammar-translation because there is simply no Latin textbook that progresses at a reasonable pace.

    This scares me hugely, because it means next year I’ll need to show up every single time as an adult ready to give them quality CI. I guess the book will still be there for “easy reading” days when we’re burnt out, but those will need to be the exception. Thinking about that now at the end of year, when everyone is, in fact, burnt out, is really overwhelming.

    And about culturally rich readings: I only plan on doing them as the students are able to read them fluently. This means using chapter 1 of our textbook at the end of the first year. I think I will really need to go that slowly. That’s just how language works.

    Until then, make the language interesting and about the kids. Only stories about the kids will be comprehensible to them early on when they acquired so little of the language. The stories need to be about the kids because at the low-novice level, the language needs to be about the “here and now.” Stories about ancient Romans and their products and practices add a huge, heavy layer of difficulty on top of everything.

    1. James – It does indeed sound like we’re in very similar situations. This year has been so much trial and error for me, and after a few months of compromised book-centered (read: grammar vomit) work this winter, I decided to set the books aside and do personalized stories for the rest of the year. PQA for those starts today. Deo gratias!

      I like both LLPSI and CLC, but the vocabulary in the books feels so limiting. The stories, even when about students, just aren’t compelling. That killed a lot of my momentum midway through the year, and my fallback was the books. Ugh.

      You noted: “Stories about ancient Romans and their products and practices add a huge, heavy layer of difficulty on top of everything.”

      I completely agree. It’s not their world, and this is huge impediment to the input being compelling. Why not an entire year (or 2, or more) talking about their world, hic et nunc? But any stories about the here and now seem to fall on us to write; they simply don’t exist yet. It’s in regard to this burden of creativity that the anxiety starts to build…

      [A side note – I spent this semester using CLC unit 1 with my seniors. (We have a set of CLC books from before I started.) I wrote a bunch of alternate stories (keeping vocab limited, but using whatever structures I wanted) featuring a bit more intrigue for 18 year old guys . More or less, Roman soap operas.]

      1. The stories for years 1 and 2 about the here and now can come from the Matava and Tripp scripts, or can be created by us after the examples they have provided. Believe it or not, Latin has words for all those scripts, even if you and I didn’t learn them in university.

        I want to offer to an EMPHATIC word of encouragement as you begin PQA today to set up some stories for the end of the year. I think it will be very very good for you to get some practice with the three steps of TPRS now, before the end of the year, so this summer can be less about theory and more about reflecting on what you have actually had practice doing in front of students. Just dive in. The water’s great. And hopefully your students appreciate the change in pace for the last few classes of the year.

        Remember: go SLOW, get a “certe (or ita)/minime” or other one word response from the WHOLE class EVERY time, and point and pause when it gets confusing. If you don’t have posters up with the basic question words (quis? ubi? quid? quem? qualis? cur? quid agit/facit?) just write them on the board until you can get some printed.

        And are you going to use quick-quizzes at the end of classes? They are awesome.

        And you can always add jobs after a few classes to get the kids (and you) used to those as well.

        Sorry for all this. I feel like I’m dumping it on. But in a lot of ways I think it would be good for you personally to use each class period between now and the end of the year trying all this stuff out. In that way you can go into next year with some experience in all the basics. (That’s pretty much as far in as I’ve gotten: The super basics.) And sorry if you already do all of this! Please keep us updated!

        1. Thanks for the encouragement James. I used the same 3 structures with my Latin 1, 2, and 3 students and they went great. Lots of reps (lowest count was a 38; over 100 on one structure… much better than I used to do). Students had a blast.

          No worries about the influx of info. I have utilized many of these things throughout the year, but had let many of them fall out of practice (like quick quizzes and really hammering home structures with PQA). It’s good to have reminders on all fronts. I don’t know why I got away from all of this during the winter months (probably the ‘need’ for output).

          The best affirmation came when 2 seniors stopped by my room during the freshmen class. After seeing what the freshmen were doing with real comprehension, one senior remarked: “Wow, freshmen. You guys are impressive. You’ve done a really great job Mr. Clemens… These guys know a lot.”

          What?! An actual complement from a student?! Wow. I can definitely ride that all the way to June. 5 more weeks of this? Absolutely. Talk about a much needed boost in the dog days of second semester.

    2. …next year I’ll need to show up every single time as an adult ready to give them quality CI….

      Dude if you have R & D you have the magic formula for easy teaching days. They sit and read quietly for ten or fifteen minutes while a superstar writes a Quick Quiz on the pages they are reading, you R and D line by line through the middle portion of class, maybe with a little RT thrown in, a dictee perhaps, all that other stuff we know about here, then the quiz and you just halfway slept through a class. No need to worry. I was doing a Blaine LICT R & D class today and never made it past the first line the whole period. R & D is the dream replacement for that Cambridge thing you guys are always talking about.

      1. I love R&D. I have an undergrad field student observing me right now and he was amazed at how I was able to make a small 1 paragraph reading last an entire 47 minute period. It was the “fight” story, by the way, in my exploratory. Now, I’m sure most of you don’t find it impressive to make a paragraph last a period as a lot of you can make a sentence last an hour, but it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I am at now. R&D is my lifesaver here in late April

        1. R & D is very badass in April. It will be even more badass in May. When I’m not showing a video, of course, or otherwise starting my summer vacation early because I value my mental health more than having smart students. I have a French 2 class taking the AP at the end of French 3 next year and I told them that if they “bring it” this year they will get some vids this year in May. (Entre les Murs as recommended for French classes by Sabrina). But yeah Chris, I agree. Hey did you get an email from Krashen? He heard about your study and wants it. Judy told him about it. Send it to him so I don’t have to.

          1. I did get his email and I sent him the paper. It was the first email I opened up this morning. One of the most badass emails I’ve ever received; THE Dr. Krashen emailing me for my paper due to word of mouth, wow!

  6. “Which leads me to the question: Should I set the book aside, stop letting it drive my vocabulary/structures, and just do CI? Just me, the students, and our stories. Whatever we want to talk about. For all 4 years.”

    What Ben said plus:
    I vote for a big YES as an answer to your question.

    I did it and never looked back. Not that I used the book anyways but it was there just in case. My kids pay 20$ a year for the workbook. I told my school at the end of the year last year to not order them as it was a waste of money.
    What I did is I ask them to use that money to buy some novels. They agreed and with 20$ per kid , you can purchase 4 novels which I ordered from Carol Gaab and Blaine Ray.
    It was a WIN/WIN for everyone!

  7. This is a very good discussion. I feel this tension — because in my first real year as a CI teacher, I’ve felt it necessary to continue loosely to relate to a textbook. This textbook was chosen because it would make my Chinese classes appear to the school to be equally rigorous, ACTFL-approved, and equally costly in terms of materials as the Spanish and French classes which use textbooks by the same publisher. (But they use their workbooks too – I chucked that before the school year began. It was truly terrible.)

    My colleagues, however, know that I’m unhappy with the textbook on many levels. But if I don’t “require” students to buy it, then I think it “looks bad” because our three courses, homework, grades, and student interest/happiness are CONSTANTLY under observation in this school culture.

    Advice from the group? I currently use some of the book vocab (aiming for highest frequency & highest interest, and I’m getting better at picking that — feeling freer to delete the tedious & unhelpful). On rare occasions, and particularly because most of my classes can’t handle story creation in the classroom, I use a listening exercise or a book video (because the kids do like the cheesiness and we can use them as a basis for more personalized work).

    One thing I do already — my grade 4 and grade 5 courses can be entirely freed from any text and I already do just what I want with them.

    1. Diane,

      Are any of the easy readers from TPRS publishing or Blaine Ray and Cie available in chinese yet (pinyin)?

      Are there any easy books written in pinyin that you could purchase instead of a book you don’t have a real use for? That’s what I did, but Chinese may be a different story.

      I m thinking Pinyin b/c if Chinese is anything like Japanese where one needs a minimum of so many hundreds or thousands of Chinese characters to be able to read even at a beginner’s level, then you are faced with a herculean task.

      This way, you could justify the purchase of these readers, address literacy
      (buzz word in many high schools these days), as well as appease the big cheeses, and kill two birds with one stone.

      Do you write your own stories or do you use others? If you use your own, could you be start compiling them (perhaps in collaboration with other Chinese teachers) and create a book of stories (written and created by students) for easy and compelling reads.

      I think it’s perfect that you and Kevin are facing the same issues, we’ll have plenty to talk about when we meet in June….

      1. Thanks for the ideas, Sabrina. Chinese is perhaps like Latin in that both have authentic texts galore which are very, very hard for beginners.

        Terry Waltz has written a couple of chapter books – one of which is appropriate for my 7th graders & 8th graders at this point in the year (they know different things but the book has very few new words for either group). I have a book that will be great (with added embedded readings) for my current rocking, awesome group of 6th graders once they are in 8th grade. (That’s The Lady in the Painting.) But I also don’t think I could base classes on chapter books entirely – or not yet anyway – because of the school culture. I’m not practiced enough yet to make a course with a book as the basis into something exciting and varied enough to compete with, let’s say, goutee at Mardi Gras and fairy tale puppet shows in Spanish. I can see how I could get there with Reader’s Theater, embedded readings & parallel readings that are personalized, and regular step 1 & 2 of TPRS before reading a novel. I’m aiming to make last month of the year more like that.

        That’s what I forgot – I’m ditching the book at this point with the 7th graders & going to hit the high-frequency stuff that they haven’t acquired yet. Likewise with the 6th graders in another week. So I’ll be testing out the no-textbook-tracks for several weeks this spring with my so-called “proficiency” classes (6th-8th).

        I would be opposed to reading books that are pinyin-only; it’s a philosophical decision but I think the way to go with Chinese reading. I’ve been talking about the character reading issue with CI Chinese teachers in a Yahoo! group, and the same Terry above replied with ideas I will consider carefully for next year. In step 1, she shows only pinyin (with color & capitalization clues to the tones). She does a step 2 oral story-asking. In step 3, she shows only characters. And they can read it with guidance for a couple of lines, then figuring it out. It’s a parallel version of what they heard for a few hours in class, so it’s really reading. The massive aural input, even for Chinese (and that was a question for me), does make reading Chinese much more conquerable in characters up front. So I’m going to have to re-think a bit. Right now, I show pinyin plus characters all the time in grades 4 & 5, and in 6th, 7th, and 8th gradually reduce & stop using it except in step 1 with new words. I think I try to introduce too much and don’t go slowly enough for that to work yet.

        I mostly write my own stories & content. I also use free writes from 6th-8th grades and edit them into readings we use in class.

  8. Do it. F**k the texts.

    You start your year by teaching #s 1-10, say twenty basic nouns, a few adjectives, and colours. Oh, and “likes.” Maybe 30-40 items. TPR the crap out of them. Also Ben’s one-word images and circling with balls is cool for intro basic vocab.

    All you need for your first story is the following: has, wants, goes (plus the nouns etc you started with), receives. PQA these. Your first story is: Caesar has Rome. Caesar wants Gaul. Caesar goes to Gaul. Obelix has Gaul. Caesar gets Gaul.

    After you ask the story, retells etc, write it out– an add a few details (Caesar is tall, caesar likes feeding christians to the lions, caesar is a Packers fan, etc). Then you do your reading.

    I have a diario: a notebook where every day one of the kids copies down the day’s on-board vocab and I put the written-up stories into later. Do the same. When you finish with a “story cycle,” you start your next story with 3 new structures (e.g. Fights for Rome, needs three elephants, loves his wife) and you “plan” your next story cycle around those. While doing your TPR, PQA, OWI etc with your 3 new structures, you can recycle the ones from your previous story. That’s where the class diario comes in: it lets you keep track of what you’ve used.

    You do this…and I would guess (with latin) in year 3 or so you introduce reading authentic Roman texts for which by then they ought to be ready

    1. Awesome, Chris. Also there is the possibility of creating a parallel novel. So Caesar wants that and goes there, but make a few kids in your class famous, too: Make up stories about them which are written down and read side-by-side Caesar’s.

      1. Ya. I mean, you could do some stories around real stuff (Caesar did conquer Gaul) andsome could be in present, and some could be a mix (e.g. Caesar wants Cleopatra but Cleopatra wants George Clooney). The idea of mixing students with history is really cool– could lead to neat discussions about big cultural diffs etc (Caesar: “we feed Christians to the lions” Johnny student: “we do not believe in human sacrifice in modern america, unless the sacrificed are foreign and brown, in which case we sacrifice them for cheap oil” bla bla).

  9. Lol – I agree. If you are in a position to drop the books without admin coming down on you, do it. You will be able to do so much more personalization and only the kids who are sociopaths will prefer the book – even a good one like LL or CLC. I am currently in the process of doing this and hope to have 3rd and 4th year students who are reading easier yet interesting literature (like Eutropius and the Vulgate).

    I’m actually teaching a particularly “behind” group of Latin 3s through the vulgate right now (mostly judges) and they are mostly enjoying it provided we do the 3 steps of tprs with embedded readings before they see the real thing. And these are students who are new to the method this year, new to spoken Latin, and students who didn’t retain much from their previous teachers.

    So in short – I wouldn’t worry about staying on the line with CLC so much as long as you are teaching them well.

  10. Jeffery Brickler

    Daniel and James have good points. I too understand what you are saying. I have not used the book very much and I am trying it out a little at the end. I am finding that it resonates with only a few of the kids.

    I have enjoyed my flying solo this year without a book because I have learned so much. My admins don’t really care if I use the book as long as the kids are learning. I know that Bob Patrick uses CLC and he is fond of it though I know he does talk about the need to adapt it. However, I don’t know how he uses it.

    Another idea I had was that if we choose structures that are high frequency we should be able to get a number of stories each year that we could package into a reader? Has anyone done this? Has anyone taken their stories and re-used them as readings in another year? Would this even work?

    We Latinists feel the lack of a novel that is approachable. We have discussed here several times and I know that the gurus Bob, John, and David have discussed even before this year.

    I feel like we have to find something that works. As we know, reading is so important and could really be awesome in the Spring when we all need it. I really did R&D because it is something that we can really see and talk about and we can help each other by looking at the text and using it as a help.

    Some ramblings…love to keep this going.

  11. I am in the process of saving my written-up stories. (I guess that’s what Blaine originally did too). Next year I will use the same structures and basic story outlines– in mostly the same order– so I should have some wonky readings to hand out.

    So far, regarding novels, I am on Ben’s side here: too much work for too little CI return, at least for first-years. You get WAY more bang for your CI buck by using your own stories: if only cos you can recycle the stuff you previously taught. In my view, novel reading should be done by kids for whom it is ZERO work– so a third-year kid reading “Pobre Ana” would be about right. If it doesn’t feel effortless then it’s not fun and if it’s not fun the affective filter kicks in.

    (The one problem with good TPRS: spontaneity (fun) makes for great lessons, but more work, as none then has to type up and embellish the stories, rather than running for the Blaine (or whatever) reader.

    1. “I feel that the book is the primary thing pushing me back towards the old ways.”

      This is the biggest risk with relying too much on a textbook. Increasingly we Latin teachers on this PLC are coming to the notion that the textbook, any textbook, is a resource that we keep in the classroom, and refer to when it is of use to us in forwarding our CI goals–but never the other way around. CI activities tend to break down when there is a texbook-based ulterior motive. You have the freedom not even to have to pretend to do that, which is very liberating. Still, it is nice to be able to anchor what you do in an “approved” curriculum. It lends one legitimacy if necessary, and helps you to communicate with teachers at other schools or administrators, about what you “cover,” if that is the language that they speak.

  12. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the discussion everyone! I’ll share my personal experience with this question.

    I used to rely more on the Cambridge text as I transitioned into using CI (I wasn’t able to speak Latin that well in the beginning, so the book was extremely helpful to ME.) As I became more comfortable with speaking Latin with my students and being able to ask stories, PQA, etc. I used less and less of the book’s stories. Now I feel pretty comfortable with my current paradigm:

    I now use the book as a resource but I am not controlled, or governed by the book.

    I don’t check books out to students (unless they want one), but keep a class set in the room for:
    -non-CI stuff, like reading English cultural essays
    -reading the stories in the books

    (but a caveat here – I have found that because of the vocabulary issue (i.e. TOO MUCH OF IT), I don’t usually have the kids read the stories directly out of the book – I have rather rewrote the stories, sheltering the vocabulary, and give that out to the kids (on Xeroxed papers. Email me Kevin if you want to see some samples. david.maust at wuhsd.k12.org)

    Like James, I don’t start using the textbook until into the 2nd semester of Latin 1. My 4 years look like this:

    Latin 1:
    -1st two months of year: Circling with Balls, One Word Images, Mini Stories
    -From this point on, TPRS stories, usually one a week during fall and winter, one every two weeks when the spring hits and energy drops
    -In Spring I start introducing the Cambridge characters and then stories. We read about 7 stages of my simplified versions by the end of the year.

    Latin 2:
    -Continue with TPRS stories like Latin 1 and continue Cambridge stories – usually we will make it to Stage 16 by the end of the year (reading simplified stories and not teaching grammar moves you through the book at a nice pace).

    Latin 3 / 4 (I combine these classes):
    -I continue with TPRS stories.
    -I may read from Cambridge as I did in Latin 2, to continue the storyline with simplified versions. (I really like the Cambridge characters and story, but have to eliminate that vocab issue to enjoy them.)
    -I create 4 study units for the year, making a short portion of a Classical text the capstone of each unit. This year we did:
    -Caesar: read a couple paragraphs from DBG (the intro to the DBG) and I taught them about the Helvetian campaign and we watched an edited version of HBO Rome Season 1. I used embedded readings to approach the text and taught vocab via TPRS stories.

    -Women of Antiquity: read a adaptation of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita: the story of Lucretia, also some epitaphs of Roman Wives and short excerpts from some of Pliny’s letters on wives. Used embedded readings again.

    -A “Heros” Unit – focused on easy readings of Achilles, Odysseus and Aeneas, read two short speeches of Aeneas from Vergil (used lots of embedded readings with any classical stuff, esp. Vergil)

    -Doing a “Stories” Unit Now: reading a couple chapters from Winne ille Pu (I simplified it), fables from Aesop and Phaedrus, excerpts from the Epitome Historiae Sacrae (easy version of the Vulgate from 1700s – available from Focus Publishing), focusing on the Old Testament patriarchs. The students are also writing short chapter books on their own (they write them in English and translate them into Latin with me as editor).

    So you can see that I sort of use the textbook, but it’s on my terms, and I think this is the best scenario – use what you can from it, when you want, but stay in control.

    If my Latin 1s could carry through the whole year on their own stories alone, that’s great, but I find it is a nice rhythm to also have something else to read – it just gives some variety and makes for easy planning on my part – the only caveat is that it has to be READABLE, and comprehensible, otherwise, like you yourself said, it will pull you back to the old ways.

    Cura ut valeas, David

  13. Hi, Kevin,

    Congrats on getting your ‘carte blanche’ to do as you see fit with your students.

    You asked a good question, so here is my answer. BTW — I spent many moons wandering in ‘CI-landia’ and I will never go back.

    I have found a destination worthy of all efforts. Anne Matava’s stories have changed my professional life. When I use her stories my students are amazingly successful and uniformly consistent in developing a skill set. I highly, HIGHLY recommend jumping into *her* stories, if you can manage it.

    e.g. — To place out of their final exam and/or receive an ‘A’ in the course, many of my ‘average’ students are teaching my class for 10 – 30 minutes, voluntarily, and they are doing brilliantly. Yes, they are using old vocab and structures, but their performance is extraordinary. I just call it ‘imitating Mme Munoz.’

      1. I can tell you that I do, as does David M., but I think that for more Latin teachers to use these books, they will need a bit of guidance, especially with certain phrases and words that are just too complicated to render in Latin for students in years 1 and 2. I would be happy to share my “adaptations” to certain stories, for any of the Latin teachers who are interested in using these great resources.

        1. John I just came across this comment from a couple of years ago and I think what you were saying is correct. I have Anne’s stories and looking through them I find myself wondering how to say or use at least a couple of phrases/words per story (if not far more than that). I would greatly appreciate the adaptations to Latin with whatever stories you have done this for. My email: mjdubroy AT gmail.

          One question however – if with CI we do not need to shelter or limit grammar (only vocab) why would any of the structures be too complicated for newer students? Maybe they are too complicated for me(!) to render into Latin or find a felicitous Latin expression for the word, but why too complicated for the student?

          1. That’s a pretty well thought out question, Matthew. I would only say what I know Anne would say, we can adapt them for our own use. All the sentences are not necessary, and I can also hear Anne saying that we don’t have to target the structures she suggests. She has told me many times that she knows that the language originally targeted – in her case German and French – skews the story when it gets put into another language anyway. That’s not the best answer but it’s all I can think of. Great question and a fascinating one.

  14. Yes, I consider Matava and Tripp just as much my textbooks as The Cambridge Latin Course. But John is right, most Latin teachers would find the texts a little difficult to use without either a little guidance, or by just learning to adapt them through some personal trial and error, as I did. As strange as it may seem, most Latin teachers are simply not used to communicating face to face in Latin; they are rather used to reading and more often, translating Latin to English, from existing texts.

    Learning how to actually communicate with other human beings in Latin takes some time for a traditionally trained Latin teacher, but in my opinion it’s a rich journey to learn to do this. I did not internalize much of the language until I just started trying to make meaningful communication with my students. From the moment I started doing that, I actually experienced for myself what it was like to communicate in a second language.

    Matava and Tripp are great because they give a guide for things to talk about with students that will really hit the students where they are at. From using these scripts, I’m now able to write my own scripts as I need them for specific vocabulary. These scripts really have been one of the most important training tools for me as I’ve learned how to be a TPRS teacher.

  15. … in my opinion it’s a rich journey to learn to [actually communicate with other human beings in Latin]….

    David I had a very visceral response to this sentence. I just love it. I love the way it sounds. I love it’s meaning, what it carries for the future. I love everything about that sentence. What work you guys are doing!

  16. Thanks Ben.

    And there is something really visceral in the emotions of any Latin teacher who starts feeling what it’s like to actually communicate in this way, with humans, after having spent hundreds of hours processing the language solely on the page, and with others, almost always through the medium of English.

    Being a musician, I liken it to this story:

    I take a class to learn an ancient instrument. This instrument was played for hundreds of years, but no one learns it today. Yet it was once the king of all instruments; in fact more music was written for this instrument than anyone could play in a lifetime.

    The instrument teacher knows all about this instrument, but does not play it. No one has played this instrument in many years he says. This is instrument is now considered dead among nearly all musicians. It is considered to have no real place among the modern instruments of our time. He lets the students see a museum full of these ancient instruments. They are beautiful: inlaid, polished wood, inscribed with the names of the craftsmen who made them, worn corners from years of use. And they are all enclosed within glass cases. The teacher talks about them, talks about how beautiful they once sounded.

    The instrument teacher also teaches the students how to read and understand the music of this instrument, since there are volumes and volumes of music for it that still exist. The teacher has books and books of music. Thousands of bars of music, that the students study from. They learn to read the music and play it on modern instruments. They know it’s not the same as how it sounded on the actual instrument, but it’s better than playing nothing at all. They memorize the music of these books. They learn to discuss and critique the music. They even learn how to write some of their own music.

    Some of the students long to actually play the ancient instruments again. One night, they break into the museum. They shatter the glass. They begin playing the ancient instruments.

  17. Please keep this, post it in your own blog and share it with your Latin listserv colleagues. It’s beautiful.

    with love,
    Laurie

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