Traditionally Trained Kids – 1

Wileen asked this question in a comment earlier this morning:

…I am teaching all third-year classes in the fall (well, in two weeks), and they are all coming from more traditional classroom environments. Do you have suggestions in how to test the waters and for how long before resorting to traditional methods?….

I have suggested that we avoid making them change to what we do and focus on our younger kids. But John (Piazza) gives a much more thought out answer:

I am thinking about this a lot as well, as I come into a very traditional super high acheiving Latin program. For 3rd year, rather than making speeches and trying to convince them to enjoy fun activities, I am planning to make reading — CI reading — a huge part of the curriculum, with quick quizzes, comprehension, grammar and vocab quizzes, translation tests, dictation, etc. They will know that it’s rigorous, but they will be getting a whole lot of CI. I will also have them do composition work emulating the different genres, writing their own letters, poems, aphorisms, etc. Even if this production doesn’t help them with acquisition, it will tell them that I’m a serious teacher who knows his stuff, and has high expectations of excellence, blah blah. Projects? Why not? It’s what they are used to, and as long as I don’t have to do more work, I’ll let them do and present their projects to the class.

All my best efforts I’ll save for the first year students, and let the word of mouth filter up. 3rd year students may see a stuffed animal or prop in the classroom and ask: what’s that? I’ll respond: “oh nothing, just some fun stuff I do with Latin 1. You don’t want to do that, do you? Now let’s get back to our serious work.” If they end up begging for it, I might do it for 5 minutes with them at the end of class, and let it grow from there, but only after they’ve made it clear that they want it.

If you don’t teach lower level classes, just put some props in the back of the room (they’ll notice), and then when they ask, say “oh that’s just some fun stuff I used to use when I taught first year, younger kids. It’s not really serious, so I’m not using it this year with you guys. You’re too old for that, right?” Don’t offer, but don’t close the door. See if they take the bait. But if they do, just give them a little bit. Make it come from them.

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14 thoughts on “Traditionally Trained Kids – 1”

  1. John I would avoid saying too much with them when they spy the Latin 1 props in the back of the room. It would open up discussion about language acquisition and they would be immediately oppositional to you. I would just say that you use those things in Latin 1 and move on. Once word gets into the hallways and back home from younger siblings that the new Latin teacher actually uses spoken Latin in the classroom (Latin is no longer a dead or even sleeping language), then the overall discussion will begin, and you will be ready with the information from:

    1. The Primers hardlink above, and
    2. The “Administrator/Teacher/Parent Re-education” category on the right of this page

    In your refusal to get emotional about how you teach or elaborate on what you do with pedestrian minds, sticking to the facts and the research and not discussing it with those upper level traditionally trained kids in class at all, you will be in the driver’s seat.

    At that point I would start giving them, at the end of class, like it’s a stupid game to fill the time before the bell rings, five minutes of CWB or some simple level beginning activity (because they are beginners and don’t know what Latin sounds like) and then, depending on the class, I would give them more, so that after some months they may be doing 15 minutes of real aural work per class period.

    You are correct in saying that for me it with my own 4th year traditionally trained group at East High School five years ago it was a BIG mistake for me to try to use CI with them, a HUGE mistake, so I would suggest that Wileen follow what you outlined above, especially about reading. I think the way you outlined it above is pretty much the way to go. They read, and then they read some more, and after that they read even more and you can throw in some stealth aural work with them by spinning out some CI questions to them in the most basic basic way, and that will have to do.

    I still feel bad about that one class that just pushed away the big plate of comprehensible input I foolishly offered them each day all year five years ago. They were so smart! And yet so unskilled in French for a fourth year group. All their grammar was a big gordian knot, they couldn’t understand anything aural and rejected the simplest of language (language that first year CI students can easily understand by the end of their first month), not to mention the hundreds of dollars I spent on donuts in that early morning classes trying to win them over.

    They ate the donuts, but pushed away the language. Talk about wasting tax dollars – that’s what traditional teachers do in their haughty misunderstanding of the research, bless their mental hearts.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts! I really like the idea of focusing the CI through reading. Hopefully when I meet them, they will be up for anything, but the one thing I’m sure of is that they are used to a more traditional manner of teaching. Crossing my fingers that they will be won over by CI as the year goes on.

  2. Leigh Anne Munoz

    Ok — Ben!

    In early July, I met with my District Director of Assessment about our method’s correlation to ACTFL, State Standards, College Board, and VanPatten’s research. He was positive, but there is no plan to change anything at the district level.

    I am going to meet with my principal in August; she will be positive, but will probably not change anything.

    What pieces am I missing to connect as many dots as I possibly can? Which research is the best? I only have “Drills are Out” by VanPatten. Where is the other research??

  3. What Eric said. But also we have Mark Knowles. You shouldn’t have to do this collecting of research by yourself, if your people will even read it. We should do it together and make it available in a concrete way here perhaps as a new hard link. I don’t know. Any ideas from others so Leigh Anne from the rest of the group?

    1. Here’s a website that includes links to tons of research support for TPRS and other TCI methods.

      http://tprsplatform.nl/wetenschappelijk-onderzoek/

      Read Krashen’s blog post about 1 important brain research finding and scroll down for a list of studies that support acquisition (implicit learning).

      http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2013/11/evidence-that-implicit-learning.html

      “Implicit learning has been shown to be superior to explicit learning for studies contrasting comprehension-based methods with traditional methods for beginning foreign language teaching and intermediate foreign and second language teaching, as well as studies showing the superiority of self-selected reading over traditional instruction for intermediate second and foreign language students.

      I present a list of these studies below: all included comparison groups subjects and subjects were high school age or older. In addition, there are a multitude of studies that confirm these results using multivariate techniques and case histories.”

  4. One way to test the waters is by conducting the class in the target language. Doing this, I quickly find out where they are in comparison to where I want them to be. Specifically, I want them to be able to understand what I am saying by the end of the year when speaking at a moderate pace in Spanish. Many, if not all, will quickly find out that they have not learned as much as they thought they had and will be a little more humble, if not totally intimidated. That will happen so soon that I have got to explain in English that I want them to understand me, that I might not realize they do not understand me, that I need someone to let me know that do not understand, that if you ask what something means you will be doing someone a favor who feels a little to shy to ask.

    But they do not believe me yet. So they will not ask. (Also they probably believe that, if they do not say anything, I will give up, go back to speaking in English, because after all, I have more important things to do than speak Spanish…there is a scope and sequence to follow.) So I have to be proactive. It is time for good on-the-spot TPRS assessments.

    I go back and repeat what I have said in the target language. Let’s say it was, “Welcome to Spanish III. I am so glad that you are here.” I assess in English (I have to. They have not heard spoken Spanish for the last two years):
    1. “Raise your hand if you do not understand.” Turning to someone whose hand is not raised, I ask, “Did you understand what I said?” “No.” “Well, raise your hand or I will think that it is OK to call on you.”
    2. Now I can ask someone whose hand is not raised, “What does that mean?” Either they give a right answer or an almost right answer. So they can get a high-five or a “so close” + the right meaning from me + a high five. I have come to see that they need the correct meaning from me. I should not go on and ask someone else. This is to shorten period of time that they “feel dumb,” to avoid their being compared to someone else, and to reenforce that I want them to understand.

    Now I can extend that a little bit by saying welcome to a few individuals. Some faces should light up as they hear two variations: one used for a girl and one for a guy. I assess, “Did you hear a difference?” I can use another variation for two girls and another for a guy and a girl (or two guys). This is stuff they probably learned on worksheets. If they missed it then, it is probably starting to make sense now. Either way their affective filters should be lowering.

    Traditional observers probably think we are doing a grammar lessons. Smart kids may think it is a grammar review. Informed observers will recognize that it is a lot more Comprehensible Input than these students are used to and that we are making relationships a priority and setting the stage for continued use of the target language.

    This is not TPRS per se. It is CI, but it is CI operating under the influence of Blaine Ray. It is setting a standard that Spanish is the order of the day. It is a challenge to those who have avoided communication by acing worksheet manipulations.

    Whatever we feel we must do with our year 3, whether worksheets, grammar explanations, projects, stories, one word images, etc.
    1. We must carry on in the target language.
    2. We must be comprehended.
    3. We must assess on the spot (What did I say? What does that mean?)

    In addition, by conducting the class in the target language we are establishing our credentials as speakers of the language.

    1. I love that! “Raise your hand or I will think that it is okay to call on you.” Using that one, Nathaniel!
      Chill

  5. One question to consider with traditionally trained 3s–no matter what approach I end up taking with them, is what do I expect them to be able to do?

    For me, the answer is comprehension. I cannot expect much for production. They are already laboring under a two-years-of-no-spoken-L1 handicap. I will not allow them to continue doing meaningless manipulation of grammatical markers. They will have to demonstrate that they understand “lo veré” by writing “I will see it.”

    If they were to insist on worksheets (and, quite frankly, I do get many who insist on worksheets) they would be like the example above. If they insisted on using the book, I would make worksheets that require them to demonstrate that they understand what a written utterance means.

    I was doing worksheets like that to cover myself for covering the grammar, although I slacked off last year as I was spending more time with this blog. When my students did notice they did not mind at all.

  6. One thing you may find out is that they are not so much traditionally trained. They are just doing what they have to to get an A, and they may prefer to do CI, interactive, interpersonal mode a whole lot more.

    It might depend on your clientele. I do not work with the smart, hard-working kids. I work with the average, but diligent kids, as well as the smart, lazy kids. They are often very ready for non-traditional.

  7. One sneaky thing you could do with those 3s – and don’t expect them to be able to do anything including written translation of lo veré – would be to focus on the worksheets to make them comfortable. Then, pick a sentence, any sentence from the worksheet and write it on the board in L1 and in L2 as if you are starting a story. Circle it for a minute in the slowest and most comprehensible way you possible can. One minute on that. Then return to the worksheet. Then do two minutes the next day and so on. My guess is that they will start asking for more auditory CI and the worksheet junkies will be outnumbered. Just an idea…

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