Reading Authentic Texts Using cRD – 1

So James we had that discussion a few weeks ago about reading authentic texts and some here (you and Sabrina and a few others) expressed an interest in knowing how my level 3’s were going to do with Le Petit Prince after only two years and a few months of TPRS/CI.

You had said that in your own classes there is initial interest for a few days and then it dropped. What was the text you were reading in that situation? Was it a level 3 Latin class? I can’t remember.

So in our situation we’ve had about three hours of total class time on this book since we talked about this last time and we are on page 2. So that means we read the dedication to Saint Exupéry’s friend Léon Werth and about five paragraphs in Chapter 1 up to where adults advised the narrator at the age of six to give up his career as an artist and to interest himself rather in history, calculus and grammar.

The big questions for me in this were:

1. Could I move the discussion in French up the taxonomy to explore how they felt about that because, just like the narrator when he was young, they (these superstar college bound Latino kids) were in the same situation as the narrator in many ways. (The answer is no – they don’t have the French to understand any discussion up the taxonomy, even if they were to answer only with yes/no questions.)
2. Could I stay out of English?
3. Could we maintain interest in the text without having done any backward planning, trusting the Net cast via stories over the past two years to have taught them enough French to identify in reading and speech enough verbs and forms of verbs to make this reading of an authentic French text possible?

The overall answer is a mixed bag. But it is certainly working. Basically, I take the text sentence by sentence. I translate each sentence really slowly, making sure that they get all aspects of each sentence in terms of meaning. I use pop up grammar on the verbs on just about every verb. I have them now identifying verbs in the following way, in four second bursts of English:

1. What does “ait” mean on the end of that verb? That’s right, “was…”.
2. What does that verb that has two parts mean? That’s right, that was an event, not a situation.
3. What does that r mean in front of the “ait”? Correct, it means “would”.

I don’t name the tense, just what it means. I mightily resist going into a long two week lecture with worksheets on the difference between the imperfect and the passé composé, which they don’t care about and would have trouble with anyway because their first language is not English. Anyway, if I allowed my ego that soapbox I would never get off of it, like I did for 24 years with four percenters who in four years of AP French never came close to what these kids can do now.

So we hammer the verbs with pop up grammar and they told me yesterday that they are starting to see patterns and it’s working. My thinking on reading authentic texts is that if they can start to see meaning patterns in verb spellings of the seven verb forms* we need to read this book, they can read authentic texts.

*present, passé composé, imperfect, near future, future, passé simple, conditional (compound tenses and the subjunctve I leave alone, at least for now in this text). I did tell them to notice if they see a really weird looking verb after “One must” (most common use of subjunctive in French) but not to worry about it. The subjunctive needs major unconscious reps so I just again resist the desire to go off on a three week demo of how I know every single use of the subjunctive, which as a four percenter captivates me but not them. (I love me several good helpings of the subjunctive every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes I splurge on a nice roasted pluperfect subjunctive – heaven!)

Anyway, the good part is that when I use cRD in this work it works and they really respond strongly (much more than I thought a class with a little over two years of French would or could). Key sentence here: I translate each sentence painstakingly for a minute, then jump into reps on it for as long as I need to see that they are comfortable with the sentence, sometimes up to five minutes. With sporadic previous reps over their two years in the Net (so it is potluck whether they know the verb or not) and with no formal backwards planning (I don’t know how any of us could ever backwards plan a novel even though we say we can – there are just too many words!), I then totally dive into circling the just translated sentence. I go nuts with the circling.**

**Since there are 9,714 sentences in The Little Prince, I have calculated that it would take us, on our current schedule, until February of 2023 to finish the book, so that ain’t gonna happen (just kidding – I have no idea how many sentences there are in that book. Gotcha.) But the point is clear. We are not reading the book to finish it. There is a real feeling of just diving in and swimming around in each chapter in the above way with no need to push forward. I would think having no goal but the sentence we are on – that’s the Zen part – would be quite important if we are to use CI successfully to read an authentic text.

Other notes:

1. I think that this book is beyond compelling. It is gripping to these kids. It is just so well written. So the choice of works is going to be a big factor in this discussion. After class yesterday a few kids pestered me in English for facts about Antoine’s life, which I avoid (often unsuccessfully as I said above) during class. I tell them I think it is such a pure book because he probably got a lot of ideas from it while flying his plane; since he was closer to Heaven he got better ideas and purer language. But that is the problem in a way because in class I want to tell them all about his life, since if there was ever a situation of art imitating life this book is it, and so the fail on this so far is my five minute lectures in English about how badass this guy was. It’s a problem when you have a 50 minute class. I need to cool my jets on the English side bars.

2. I have hope that the level of interest will continue. One thing is certain – these kids have been doing stories for two years and that is in my mind the only reason they can do this. Otherwise, stuck in the analytical dungeons of the old way, they wouldn’t be able to discuss it in the TL at all. They might be able to recognize a nice pluperfect fowl sitting there, but they couldn’t rally eat it. So that would be a waste.

3. The cRD approach, or some form of it, is working here, specifically because we take it sentence by sentence with one minute of translation and up to five minutes of circling on that one sentence.

4. No quizzes, no homework, no tests, nothing but formative assessment of each kid during class. I am seeing some quiet kids really stepping up here. It’s because the text is compelling. They are proud to be doing this, all but about two of them. So there is no need for assessment of any kind.

5. I need to add that we only do the book for 30 minutes. When they come in, they read a Blaine book (Le Voyage Perdu) for ten minutes with the classical music playing. It really works. We need to talk about the clip I use James – got it from Annick. I need to share it here. Remind me. It really sets a SSR tone (I don’t use FVR – too random and I don’t have them read in the Petit Prince in those first ten minutes of class – too hard). And then for the next ten minutes we enjoy an appetizer of a French painting on the Elmo. Just ten minutes. I focus only on one or two verbs in this L & D activity, get lots of reps on those targets, and then dump it and head into the entrée for the day, the book. Those twenty minutes of SSR and L & D are needed. We could never sustain the intensity of cRD on the Petit Prince for longer than 30 minutes.

6. I hope this keeps going well. So far the sails are still up and catching some fine wind. The tables on the deck are set with wondrous things for the crew. I’ll report back in a month or so. We might be on Chapter 2 by then. I don’t know exactly why it is working, but the novel is compelling, we have had stories and reading simple novels for two years, and the kids are upper level kids without the chaos of level 1 and 2 classes to prevent them from putting the gas pedal down onto the floor, and that cRD pattern of reading – are all factors in our success up to this point.

7. Of course, before going to the next sentence in the text, I get about five minutes of excellent sneaky reps by summarizing the plot from the first sentence of Chapter 1.

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45 thoughts on “Reading Authentic Texts Using cRD – 1”

  1. Ben, this is really interesting. One quick question for now: Every now and then I imagine there is an easy sentence in the book. Do you ever let the slow translating of easy sentences go to a volunteer, like if the sentence has words you know they all know? Will you still circle easy sentences like that or just go on to a more difficult sentence for reps on new stuff?

    1. Dunno what Ben does…but when I read “Berto and his Brilliant Ideas” last year with my beginners, I asked barometer kids to translate easy sentences (like “I like to eat cake” where they knew all the vocab already). I didn’t circle these cos the circling slowed things down too much: kids want to see what happens. If I did stop on the easy ones, all I would do would be to ask something like “Hey, Baninder, do you like to eat cake?” and he’d answer, I’d recast as “Class, Baninder and Berto like eating cake” and move on.

  2. Ben, I dunno how much Spanish you know, but…Spanish has basically the same past tenses as French. You ever tried pointing out that “j’avais” = “yo tenia”? I suspect it wouldn’t work but curious what you (or anyone else who has both fr and sp, and has Sp native speakers in class) thinks.

    1. Chrisz I just have enough Spanish to do that. I go from French to Spanish and then into English bc there is usually one kid who doesn’t know Spanish in the class. The kids really seem to be happier when I go to their L1 in that way. Great point. They NEED their L1, not their L2, to learn what would then be their L3.

    2. Many years ago and definitely not in a CI classroom I taught French to native Spanish speakers, so French was their third language. They definitely got it better when I could explain in their native language rather than English. It seems like they were able to transfer the concept of the structure when in their L1.

  3. When I think of all the words and tenses a lump starts rising in my throat. I am reading “La Parure” with my level 4 kids and tomorrow it will be nothing but text and discuss – maybe, maybe some pop-up grammar. We may be done by June:) Your thoughts are very timely. When that lump starts rising, I feel compelled to do all of the non-CI things you alluded to.

    1. Yes chill and La Parure is no easy text. So the change we both can be aware of making in our instruction of hard authentic texts like that is to not allow the lump to form, which is usually followed by over-explaining in English, which does nothing for them, and instead (as described above) swiftly establish what the text means and then, sentence by sentence, circle it into the ground before going on to the next sentence. That is the new way for me and it worked again today. I am crossing my fingers.

  4. Thanks for updating us on the class, Ben.

    Reading about tenses I think I now have the reaction of most students when the topic comes up: I have no idea what is meant. (Except for past, present, future – those I get.) Now that I’ve spent 20 years in a simple verb language (no tenses/agreement/conjugation) and love it so well, and have not had grammar instruction even about Chinese since college, I have really very little memory of those grammar words. I’m not even sure if subject-verb agreement and conjugation is the same thing or not.

    So to me it is really funny to imagine a roast pluperfect subjunctive. I imagine some kind of wild pheasant-like bird with colorful feathers. Otherwise, my head aches if I try to follow the discussion.

    For Chinese teachers, I think, it’s history and development of characters that mainly causes us to become the equivalently removed from student need & comprehension level. That’s one I have to watch.

  5. Sabrina Sebban_Janczak

    Ben,

    Totally trying it next week!!!
    Thank you Ben.

    I think you are right. It is much easier to read authentic literature (like you are doing with Le Petit Prince) for those kids who have been CI trained than it would be for grammar-taught kids.

    Since the kids I inherited here thanks to fantastic CI teacher Paul Kirschling are so well trained already, I’m really going to try it and will let you know Ben how it works and we can compare notes.

    I had a discussion with Lynette last night about authentic literature versus CI novels and how many of those novels are boring to the kids.
    So on the one hand they need those books because :
    1) it cements the sound/word connections they need
    2) it provides tons of repetitions
    3) they’re easy to read

    On the other hand:
    They are not as compelling because of the language constraints.
    The story lines are not so engaging

    Lynnette knows about this b/c she translated and did the Teachers guide for Nouvel Houdini in French and told me Carol only allowed 175 words maximum, and it is very frustrating but that is what we have.

    So I’ve decided that kids need both. The CI novel to get the CI they need, and the authentic literature so they can appreciate the beauty of the language such as this masterpiece you are introducing to your kids Ben.

    You won’t finish it? So what?
    If they really like it they ‘ll finish it on their own, or will read it in English. Either way they’ll get a taste of ART in its purest form and they will remember you for having exposed them to it.

    Either way its a win-win

  6. OH I LOVE THIS!!!!! Remember how the Grinch’s heart grew and burst? That is how I felt reading this post! Especially this part:

    “There is a real feeling of just diving in and swimming around in each chapter in the above way with no need to push forward. I would think having no goal but the sentence we are on – that’s the Zen part – would be quite important if we are to use CI successfully to read an authentic text.”

    Having no goal but the sentence we are on. Whoa! Thank you for this!

    Does anyone have any favorite (similar?)authentic texts that they read with Spanish 3 /4?

  7. I think as many of us as possible need to try this. Ben might be onto something here and the only way to know for sure is to put it to the test in all the variety of our different classrooms.

    Big picture question:

    Ben, I remember Krashen saying something to the effect that it’s okay (even necessary) to limit structures in the beginning (maybe we would say the first two years?) but that eventually we should try letting go a bit and trusting in his net hypothesis.

    Do you think that what you’re doing here with cRD and authentic literature is an attempt to make Krashen’s net happen for real in schools? And even better, you would be letting it work when he suggests to let it work, that is, after structures are limited for a while in the beginning, right?

    All of this is very exciting and deserves a lot of attention. We all have that upper level puzzle to solve.

    1. James you said this:

      Do you think that what you’re doing here with cRD and authentic literature is an attempt to make Krashen’s net happen for real in schools? And even better, you would be letting it work when he suggests to let it work, that is, after structures are limited for a while in the beginning, right?

      When I read that I think of an exponential curve. I think language gains function exponentially. So that yes it makes perfect sense that Krashen would say that we limit stuff for two years but then trust that there is enough soil in the garden to grow anything. I would suggest that it is indeed possible that we don’t need to limit things past those first 200-300 hours.

      When my TPRS/CI trained kids in this level 3 class listen, I am always surprised at how they get sentences/questions (that originate in the reading of Le Petit Prince) that are FAR more complex than I would think they could understand. My inner teacher talk dialogue is: “Heck, they can’t understand that! What are you doing?”

      But then they understand it, so there IS something to this idea. Not sure what it is, but as you know I am the ultimate Net junkie. I never plan what words to teach, and my kids learn just fine.

      I do agree with you James – we need to figure this one out and make the changes. Entire literature systems await, just out of reach. We can make the great masterpieces of the world available to high school kids.

  8. I have real small Spanish 3 classes (our school is tiny, and kids have a hard time finding a way to fit it in), so we do a LOT more SSR than cRD-type stuff. When they are reading on their own, they are still at the level where they need readers with Spanish learners in mind. The last couple years, students have averaged about 10 novels (a la Blaine, Gaab, Kirby, etc) in a block semester. But if I had bigger groups, this would be a lovely way to discuss texts with the whole class (I think I’ll even try it more with my smaller groups too). Thanks for the plan Ben.

    Re verb forms, I think Diane may be a better language teacher because of this lack of linguistic knowledge… no temptation to talk smart in L1, nor the burning grammar voice in the back of her head telling her she is not teaching enough.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Jim, but really Chinese just doesn’t have those things in its structure. I really love that about Chinese. However, it does have a lot of historical record about the development of the written language, though, and I do have a lot of that in my head! Remembering that the goal is communication instead of language analysis solves both of these problems.

      1. I reread what i wrote, hope I didn’t sound assuming that you don’t know your stuff… it’s obvious you do!

        Chinese… man, that is serious stuff, and so important for kids to acquire and learn about.

        1. No, I got what you meant. I didn’t want you to think I had some advantage b/c really it’s a language difference more than anything. I really don’t understand verb changes except to do them unconsciously in English. I can see them when I read French (my first other language) but I can’t remember what the terms mean.

  9. “I would think having no goal but the sentence we are on – that’s the Zen part – would be quite important if we are to use CI successfully to read an authentic text.”

    LOVE this.

    Mil gracias!

  10. This discussion reminds me of a practice some of us Latin teachers tried last year, with some success, but it had been dismissed as less effective. I’m talking about concurrent translation. I still keep it in my arsenal as a way to help students with a text that is above their heads, and when nembedded reading is not an option.

    It looks like what you describe, Ben, is in some ways very similar to concurrent translation, though followed by tons of circling in order to establish meaning and promote acquisition. Any thoughts on the differences?

    1. John, I’m not sure what you are doing with “concurrent translation”, but part of what I see as a difference between TCI translation and the old grammar-translation method is this:
      – In grammar-translation, understanding the text was the end of the line as far as the language is concerned. You might have discussions, but they would be in English, and they would hang on the minutiae of why the author used an ablative absolute or the dative instead of the accusative or (in Greek) an aorist instead of a perfect rather. From that students were expected to derive an argument that bolstered their understanding of the passage.
      – In Ben’s case, the discussion takes place in the target language, so students continue to acquire language while focusing on the meaning of the passage without resorting to grammar-speak. They still focus on the text, the words that the author wrote, but in a different way with a different perspective and therefore with a different outcome: acquisition of language as well as appreciation of what the author was trying to convey.

      Just my take on what’s going on. BTW, I get to do this with fairy tales; what better language to teach than one in which fairy tales are an important component of the literary corpus?

      1. …the discussion takes place in the target language, so students continue to acquire language while focusing on the meaning of the passage without resorting to grammar-speak….

        This really describes it, Robert. I checked with them today about that and my #1 superstar told me, as class was getting going, that her experience is that she might not be able to tell me what any one particular word meant but that she knew exactly what I meant, clear as a bell, on each sentence. I wanted to call Krashen on the spot.

        1. “her experience is that she might not be able to tell me what any one particular word meant but that she knew exactly what I meant,”

          If there’s a quote worth exploring further on this site, it’s this.

  11. Maybe I’m not using the term correctly. Someone on the list gave it this name when I described the process. By “concurrent translation” I mean that the students have a Latin text in front of them, and I translate aloud into English, slowly and literally, while they follow along. After that I circle and ask questions about the text, in Latin.

    1. Thanks, John. I missed that exchange, so I wasn’t sure what you meant. Some days it’s hard to keep up. 🙂 But that’s a good thing; it means everyone is using the blog to advantage.

  12. I am fascinated by this. Thanks for sharing the details of the process in your class Ben.

    I can see myself taking this approach with upper levels. It seems that it is the right medium for their maturity level, and from the experience you describe, it seems this is true for your students too.

    My difficulty right now is trying to envision how this would work with my mixed level classes. My situation this year is a little different and has had some unique challenges – it will take a little to explain, but I may have this scenario next year too and am eager for some input.

    My breakdown is like this:

    2 Latin 1 sections of about 40 each
    1 Latin 2 section of about 40
    2 Latin mixed level sections – level 2s, 3s, 4s.
    These 2 mixed level sections break down as:
    -22 level 4s, 13 level 3s, 6 level 2s
    -15 level 4s, 12 level 3s, 13 level 2s

    This is the first year I have had such mixed classes. It happened because the district can really only give me 5 sections total, so since I wanted to still have 2 Latin 1 sections, that only left me 3 more sections to work with. I ended up splitting up 2 sections between the 3 levels. I wanted to try it out this year to see how it would work.

    On the whole it is ok with how I am teaching it, but there are some difficult issues: namely trying to keep everything comprehensible and still maintain interest from the more mature students. As I read this post I would really like to try this approach, but I’m not sure how it would work with the mixed level classes. It seems to me that the approach needs a general level of maturity in the class, and I don’t think my mixed level classes, at least the level 2s and some of the 3s are “there” yet. I observe a noticeable difference in the attitude of these various level students. In order to try and service the needs of all I have taken the following structure for these classes:

    Currently we do a TPRS story about every two weeks with some target vocab from the text that we are reading. We also have a fairly easy text to read (this would be my equivalent of a TPRS “novel,” which just don’t exist in Latin of course, so I usually have to simplify an existing text. For this semester I chose to adapt the first version of the Latin translation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Each chapter is about 2 – 4 pages after I edit it and I would say about 95 percent of the vocab should be familiar or fairly easy to distinguish cognates (of course not by all).

    Finally I have also chosen some short authentic texts that theme up with the easier “reading text” (in this case, the Harry Potter text). For this unit I have chosen some excerpts from some Renaissance era school textbooks about school life (connect with the Harry Potter setting of the school of Hogwarts) that include dialog between students on usually humorous subjects: having to get up in the morning, making fun of each other, avoiding beatings from the rod, (well sort of humorous, in a dark, dry sort of British humorous way I guess). I am mainly using Sebaldus Heyden, Comenius, Corderius, maybe an excerpt from the play Susebrotus, and may end the unit with the song Gaudeamus Igitur. I know we won’t finish the Harry Potter book and that is fine – we will probably get about 6 or 7 chapters through (in my easy text), and that is skipping or summarizing some parts.

    With the authentic texts, I have taken an approach much like you describe Ben. I don’t test on them. I translate everything and do a little explanation – I just haven’t done much circling. I need to do more of this in general – with my easier Harry Potter text too.

    All in all, this is how I have structured my upper level classes for the past couple years: 1. TPRS stories, 2. an easy reading text, 3. short authentic passages that theme up with the easy text. I try and have new vocab show up across these three areas, but it doesn’t always work out that cleanly, and often I have had to write or adapt the easy level text myself which takes a lot of time. The one big advantage this year though is that I only really have 2 preps, just Latin 1 and then everything else which I just teach for 3 sections (the pure level 2 class does the same curriculum as the mixed classes). I do like this a lot.

    But here’s the main challenge with the mixed level classes: the 2s seem to struggle some and the 4s seem to get a little bored sometimes. Trying to attend to all these levels at once is a challenge. I did try a strategy to alleviate any boredom from 4s or fast processing kids – I made several copies of the complete Latin translation of Harry Potter and an English version too for them to read along with in class while we read the easier text. They just pick it up when they come in the door and are allowed to have it on their desk during class, reading it at their own pace. A few took me up on it and have enjoyed this a lot. They are still accountable for all the stuff we do in class, quizzes, discussion, answering choral questions, etc. They just have a more difficult text there for them to go through at whatever pace they want. Some ask me about words they are puzzled about after class and during transitions – these are avid reader type kids, they really devour texts, and they are enjoying getting to read a Latin text in this way (and have an English translation right there to clarify meaning).

    Any ideas on split levels across 2,3,4? Has anyone else had a level split like this? Does reading authentic text with a LEVEL 2 class like Ben describes even work? How can I better differentiate instruction to both keep things COMPREHENSIBLE for everyone, while at the same time STIMULATING INTEREST for the more experienced students. These are my main questions that have been formulating over this semester.

    I’ve been thinking about this stuff and wanting to ask some of these questions for a while; maybe that’s why this post ended up being so long.

    1. Of course in 2002 Blaine was coming to Denver a lot and at East High School Meredith Richmond was doing exactly this, David. I used to attend those master classes – Blaine would teach Meredith’s students. The lunch discussion was always very positive about how much it worked, and Blaine wrote it up in the Green Bible and Diana was in full support.

      The idea was that the instructor would go slowly enough for the level 2 kids. (I think there were even two level 1 kids in that class so it was levels 1-4.) And the data they gathered showed an interesting thing – the upper level kids scored higher on the DPS exit exams than kids not in multi-level classes. I would have to ask Diana for the rest of those results. Ostensibly those upper level kids scored better because they were hearing the language spoken slower and it was concluded that developmentally they needed that at the upper levels.

      Now I don’t know what to think because I feel as if I have discovered, in this current level 3 class, that funky increase in speed being handled easily by the kids in that class. That exponential growth that I am sensing after two years of stories and readings is what I am referring to, and what I referred to in another thread here today, where my mind was temporarily blown in mid-class about how much they could understand in our discussion about Le Petit Prince, as long as there was plenty of circling.

      OK we could get into a big discussion about this but we don’t have enough information to draw good conclusions, Plus, the tests back then were pretty bad. I do know one thing, I was sitting next to a level 1 kid in one of those mixed four level class and he had no clue what was going on. Blaine avoided him and my heart went out to the kid, who kept slouching down further and further.

      But that was level 1. So David your question:

      …how can I better differentiate instruction to both keep things COMPREHENSIBLE for everyone, while at the same time STIMULATING INTEREST for the more experienced students?…

      would be answered, if I may guess, by Diana saying that it doesn’t matter if the kids’ interest is stimulated – their job is simply to listen. I don’t agree with that and I think you did a great thing by offering some better leveled reading to those few kids who took you up on it.

      My own feelings on this are:

      1. You are doing a brave and classy thing by allowing all those kids in all those levels to be in your classes. Isn’t it just a little bit nuts?
      2. No level 1 should ever be allowed into a tri-leveled class.
      3. The jury is out on how to keep the upper level kids interested. I don’t know.
      4. I’m inclined to want to put a 1 with a 2 class, or, very easily, a 3 with a 4, but I would not cross those lines. Just a feeling.

      Dude this is major, what you are doing is major.

    2. navar.daniel@gmail.com

      David – great to see you on here! This is a great idea – with the harry potter novel reading. I would be interested in seeing how you’ve embedded. Do you find that the it overlaps with what your students already know?

      I have no idea how to teach those big mixed classes. I’ve managed to convince my administration to give me small sections of upper levels to avoid doing this. I don’t think you could ever satisfy every students’ need for level appropriate input in Latin when some have had 4 years of TCI from you and others have only had 1.

      Are those other students technically on independent study?

      Start clamoring for another Latin teacher over there at Cal! You have needed it for years at this point IMHO.

      1. Hi Dan,

        Thanks for the note. Yes, I would like to have another teacher. I’m going to start asking more about this but the past few years when we were facing the economic downturn and RIFs (but not many in my district). It just wasn’t something that could even be considered, but now I think I need to pursue this.

        And I have made the text for Harry Potter as simple as I can, so it would read like a Pobre Ana type novel. I’m pretty much writing it so I shelter vocab pretty well. It’s tough though, you just can’t replicate the same tone of the original book.

        No, the students are not on independent study. Everyone does the same curriculum. I refuse to try to have students do separate things in a 40 person class. Every time I have tried having separate curricula for levels it has been a disaster. No one works well independently and I need everyone on the same page.

        The only kids that would have more work to do outside of class would be kids doing an AP curriculum, which they do largely independently and meet with me during our embedded support time.

          1. I would also love to be able to do some real curriculum planning with other teachers where we could really get together and write a pobre ana type novel.

            You are right that most students in high school do not work well all doing different things. You are doing a great job David!

    3. One idea: when you use those “base version” readings, ask your most advanced kids to embellish them from memory after they’ve read the more advanced text. That requires them to remember some extra details, and so they’re interacting with the original, yet demonstrating what they’ve understood from the complex writing.

      I have the same thing going on in Russian (and believe me, texts are even more limited!). The wide expanse of abilities is always difficult, but I would propose that even in a homogenous level 4 class, you’d end up with a mix of abilities, in every area.

      The other issue you haven’t mentioned is that you can’t repeat any readings for another two years because you’ll have some of the same kids, so it’s a lot of work for three year cycles. That’s what kills me! I end up forgetting what I created long ago.

      One other idea that I just got reminded of by Martina Bex is to have “deeper” discussion questions that are still comprehensible after using the authentic texts. Save some of those pre-reading, interesting questions to follow up the text. Lately, my classes have been discussing what they do when they’re alone and what they don’t like to do when they’re alone, how to find friends, how to keep them, and so on. These are the sorts of discussions that you can make comprehensible to all levels, but because they’re human themes, and of interest to almost everyone in the room, it won’t matter what level the kids are. They’re the “big questions” about life. What’s fair? What is just? What does it mean to be “adult”? Is it right to lie?

      Oops…gotta go!

      1. Hi Michelle! Good to hear from you!

        You have given me some great ideas to consider, especially the “big questions.” I think these would appeal to all levels well and be comprehensible, like you say. Also I could adapt these easily to different units or texts that we are studying.

        You are correct that I have to rotate the curriculum, but this is not really a big deal to me. I keep pretty good records of what I’ve done on my computer and can easily replicate a unit in a couple years, fine tuning it some the second time. It also is a way that I get to explore new literature myself and keep the class interesting for me, not always teaching exactly the same thing.

        But yes, I agree, it does take a lot of time. Fortunately, because Latin 1 is pretty well set planning-wise with stories already, the “upper level course” is really my only class to prepare for (I just teach it for three periods) and I can handle that. One prep is not bad!

      2. Michele I can’t move with this 3 class up the taxonomy that far. They only hang on because I am circling the text. I often feel like I want to apply and discuss some of what we are reading and discussion (“Has anyone told you that you are not an artist?” – questions like that) but I just don’t go there bc it would require output from them and they are truly not riding that horse yet.

        1. I am not sure my level 4 kids – with about 250-300 hours of French could even handle the four questions that Laurie suggests – what is the character feeling, doing, thinking, saying. Maybe, but it would not anyway close to the way they could react to the text in L1. You are right, Ben, they are not riding that horse yet. Relax and enjoy the text where they are not where we wish they were.

    4. First of all, David, how the heck do you have so many level 4s? You have a combined total of 36, right? That is huge. And why are your level 3 numbers smaller than level 4? Just curious.

      I have 160 French I students in 4 morning sections of classes that vary from 33 – 36 kids
      Then after lunch are my two sections of combo 2, 3, 4, but the situation is different. One class has 25 and the other 30. I think that is the difference.

      We just do TPRS, using Anne Matava’s second book of stories. It works ok. I’m a terrible planner, but my AP program is just 4 kids taking the test this year. Of course, they do test prep outside my classroom 2 days a week, but they actually like the stories, because when I had them 2 years ago, my stories were super lame-o.

      Anyway, I’d love to see you out in Whittier! Give me a call!

      909 – 753 – 9629

  13. Do you think one weakness of the book Le Petit Prince will be the lack of action and therefore a difficulty in including RT as a part of cRD? At least I just read the first chapter and was struck by the philosophy but not the action, if you know what I mean. Again, I am not discouraging, just offering thoughts on problems that might arise so that we can think of solutions BEFORE they arise. Or do the later chapters include tons of action?

    1. No James the whole book is like that. What I see happening with these kids is that they are being pulled into responding to the sheer innocence and beauty of the text. They are responding to beauty. Did you read it in French? That’s the thing – Saint-Ex. has created something with language here that can only find a counterpart in the poetry of Rimbaud. So we don’t need a lot of action. I don’t really care if it falls apart in a way. I haven’t been able to teach this book in over 13 years, and that was in the old way, and then when I came from SC to CO and met Susie Gross (that was a blessed day!) it was off to nothing but level 1 and 2 TPRS since then, so now that I am getting ready to hang up my cleats permanently I say a prayer of thanks to God for allowing me the great privilege of teaching this book one last time. If it goes two chapters, then so be it. I have waited all my life to teach like this, as per the comment just under this one.

  14. I have the very best news. I had written somewhere here a few days ago that I felt that there is an upwards exponential curve in upward gains that might happen in level 3 classes that have been trained with comprehensible input for the first two years. I just now finished a class with my fluent-in-Spanish and highly motivated French 3 kids on the first chapter of the Petit Prince that shows me that this may be true. I was asking things at very high speeds and, because we had gotten so many repetitions on the first chapter as per the above article, they were hanging with me. At one point I stopped everything, bc it kind of freaked me out what we were doing, how fast they were nodding their heads up and down, and how in that moment I was teaching the class of my dreams. Compared to my AP classes from twenty years ago before I heard of CI, this 3rd year class is vastly more capable in French than those mostly 5th year four percent kids of privilege who learned from me in the old way. This stuff works. If our students get lots of CI in the first two years, even though in terms of hours it’s not much (just a few hundred), I am starting to see in this first ever group to go into level 3 with CI, some amazing things. Can they speak? No, they shouldn’t be able to. Some do output, but no, there isn’t a lot of wonderful speech. And the writing? No, that too is output and as such is worth very very little in these first years of training. Can they read and listen this authenic text? Yes, the Little Prince wind is still in the sails! I’m loving this. Will there be bad days ahead? Yes. I am a teacher. But I am more and more convinced that the way to teach a language is to just speak it and have the kids read it to the exclusion of just about everything else. I am seeing some badass stuff today. Badass. There may be a 3rd year exponential curve for third year (motivated) students trained with CI since the beginning of their study of the language in level 1.

    1. I can really believe it about the exponential growth curve in year 3.

      My 7th graders in their 3rd year of CI (and 3rd year of class with me) are really ahead of the 8th graders in their 2nd year of CI (but 4th year of class with me — first 2 years were more or less pre-CI) in terms of comprehension, both aural and reading. That even with my belief that middle schoolers move slower to acquisition because of their age and brain development. But like Ben said about his class, the 7th graders aren’t super-vocal yet, but most of them are comfortable jumping into full sentences and all of them join group discussion comfortably. I am excited to see how they’ll progress over the next year. It’s evident that they’ll be my first group with the most acquired Chinese, having been taught with CI methods all along.

    2. Wow Ben, this is awesome. Thanks so much for sharing all about what’s happening with these kids in your class. I wish every kid in a language class could experience the success and happiness they must be feeling in your room. Is there any way you could video the Petit Prince portion of your class very soon? I would absolutely LOVE to see this in action to better feel the flow of how it works.

      I have a few questions, which might be cleared up if you’re able/willing to share a video of this:
      1) When you’re ready to move on to a new sentence do you read the new sentence at a normal pace and then go back and translate?
      2) How does “translating” work when you’re doing this? Do you just translate the sentence slowly in English while your kids read the sentence in French? How do they follow along, knowing which word they should be reading in French to correspond to the one you’re saying in English?
      3) In your original post you said that your steps are translate, then reps until you feel the students are comfy with the sentence, then you go nuts on circling. How does the reps portion of this cycle look different from the circling part?

      I think I might try something like this with two groups of students I have here in France. I teach them in a high-school, but they’re students who already have their Bac and are doing a two-year program in management before university or work. I did CWB with them on our first day together, and it quickly spun into a strange mega-detailed “story” about a student in the class, except it wasn’t a story because it had no plot line. There was too much detail because they are sort of conversational in English, so I couldn’t circle one idea for too long. But, their English is far from fluent (whatever fluent means) when they try to output, mostly with out of place tenses and incorrect pronunciation, but with lots of vocab nonetheless. So, I’m thinking what you’re doing with Le Petit Prince might be my key with those two groups. Something that has an underlying theme beyond what’s possible with CWB or a story, but that would still allow me to circle with them and provide us with lots of compelling input. I just have to find something in English that would fulfill that task. What’s the English “equivalent” (forgive me) of Le Petit Prince???

      Looking forward to following how this develops with your kids. Also looking forward to your answers to my questions about it, although I’m really just crossing my fingers that you’ll treat us to a video…

  15. Does anyone have an authentic Spanish text they have done with a Spanish 3 or 4? I love the Little Prince but can’t think of something equivalent in Spanish.

    Thanks–Great post Ben

    1. I would like to have an answer to the equivalent authentic text in Spanish as well. I tried Lazarillo de Tormes and half my class nearly mutinied by the time we got to Lazarillo’s second master. I think I’ll just do some shorter passages or poems next. I have Angel Flores’ First Spanish Reader and have picked out a few short things to read from that.

      We finished reading a couple of versions of “La llorona” to compare and contrast, but although the story is authentic, there is no “beauty of the language itself” in such oral tradition types.

      I look forward to reading what others have to say here–I tend to look most often at the “Upper levels” category now because this is where I am lost.

      1. Hi Lori,

        Me too. I love the Little Prince and I know there is a Spanish translation but then it really isn’t authentic is it?

        I did some of La Llorona with my level 3 and they were OK with it but like you said not captivated. I just did Una Carta a Dios. I took it and worked backwards to make an embedded reading. I did 2 simpler versions and then they read the third more detailed version from an anthology. I think I with do one of the TPRS readers and then hopefully find an authentic one for the spring. If anyone knows of one –let us know 🙂

  16. Hi Ben,
    Thank you for this wonderful training blog. I appreciate what you are saying through my elementary level lens. Yes, I’m back in elementary school! We currently have third grade students reading Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I have found that circling each sentence hard, while also paralleling each step of the story to the story (about one of the students) we previously asked with actors, helps them stay interested in this reading.

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