Here’s a report from one of the Latin Kings, John Bracey:
I wanted to shoot you and the PLC a quick report on how my first year of teaching 7th and 8th grade Latin with CI has been going. Overall it has been incredible.
My 7th graders have never had word of Latin before coming to me and already they are able to fluently read and comprehend stories at a level that I never thought possible. I have been teaching them using pretty traditional TPRS using Matava and Tripp stories thus far. We started the year off with lots of TPR and CWB before moving on to stories. We have played the word chunk game and a variety of reading activities as well. I cannot believe how much and how well they are learning Latin!
The external response has been enormously positive from parents. The head of our PTO is a mother of one of my kids. She dragged me over to our Assistant Superintendent at an event to tell her how much her son loved Latin and how much he was learning. She said that he annoys the whole family by speaking Latin at the dinner table, while her daughter, who has taken traditional Spanish for the past 8 years, still can’t say a word. This is one of many tremendously positive bits of feedback that I have received from parents.
I have been trying to ease my 8th graders into CI by using very short story based on mythology. This unfortunately annihilated the momentum created by our beginning of the year TPR and CWB. The stories are too short and the structures are weird. The kids were starting to get really bored, despite a variety of activities, and my goodwill was starting to fade. I decided to take a risk this week and do a super-mini story with them. I explained the rules of the story creating game, gave them jobs, and then dove into asking a super simple story with them. I was expecting to spend the whole time managing behavior, but instead the kids enthusiastically jumped on board! We ended up making a two location story with the kids begging to add a third the next class. They have responded really well to MT’s also, as I mention in a different post. The feedback from my 8th grade parents has also been hugely positive.
Biggest victory of the year happened last week. My department head observed my largest 8th grade class during a PQA warm-up activity. He was all smiles during his visit and gave me an “exemplary” rating on the visit. I certainly was not expecting that one.
My challenges so far have been with prewritten stories. Once the kids understand the story, I have had a tough time keeping the momentum going with follow-up activities. All my attempts to mix-up the rereading of pre-written stories have fallen pretty flat.
I also have ZERO idea of how to create a quality CI “test”. I give loads of quick quizzes, but I have no base conception of what a “test” would look like.
I have also drawn the intense ire of my fellow Latin teachers at the high school. Bob Patrick and John Piazza have gone far out of their way to offer advice about how to deal with this situation. My Latin colleagues are getting more and more anxious about my departure from the textbook. They admit very openly that they teach straight out of the textbook. They blame me for sending them kids who can’t decline a mixed declension noun + adjective pair with a 3rd declension i-stem, or complete a verb synopsis. We have an in-house curriculum day coming up in a few weeks. They have already invited a Latin department head from a local private school to come to that day and teach us how to have a “rigorous” 7-12 Latin program that prepares kids well for the AP exam. I suspect this to be an ambush of sorts.
Even though I consciously know that I am trying to use best practices with my kids, I still feel tremendous personal pressure to somehow prepare them for Latin II. I am going to try to cram in some meaningless conjugating and declining at the end of the year to cover my butt. I know that 90% of my students will not understand this stuff or remember how to do it next year. I used to spend ALL of 8th grade trying to teach them this stuff and I never saw the percentage increase. What they really want me to do is fail more kids so that only 4%ers show up to their classes in the high school. But I digress…
Having the tasted the sweet successes and noble failures of teaching with CI, I have no idea how I could possibly go back to the old way of doing things. I would much rather fail at TCI than “succeed” at “teaching” grammar charts.