The annual meeting was full of a great diversity of workshops and papers. I can only comment on the workshops I attended (and those only cursorily.) If there are any who would like to write about the papers or other workshops, please contact us. Please note that many of the presenters mentioned below have materials or links that you can find here for further exploration.
On the whole, many of the workshops centered on the senses. These presenters focused on the comprehensibility of Latin through various modes; seeing, hearing, speaking, and kinesthetic (specifically American Sign Language) activities ruled the weekend. One of the biggest realizations I had during the meeting was not the importance of using different modalities to reach different kinds of learners (after all, I’m sure many of us are already familiar with Howard Gardner’s theories on multiple intelligences.) Rather, these modes cannot and should not be siloed into “separate but equal” activities for different learners. The modes are all symbiotic and inter-referential.
For example, both Nathan Wheeler and Beth Manca stressed the benefit of using ASL (or modified signs) to communicate in conjunction with speaking Latin sentences. Students hear and see through two distinct vehicles of communication, but come away with memory “hooks” that serve to connect concepts in several modes. This also allows the teacher and students to eliminate the need to use English as an intermediary to communication, letting the ASL and Latin complement each other to achieve comprehensibility.
Visuals helped to cement comprehensible input for Chris Cothran and Sara Cain, as well as Kevin Ballestrini. The activities in both workshops centered on leaving “translation” behind as a tool so that reading Latin would create “movies in your head.” In other words, Latin should be immediately intelligible rather than a puzzle. Demonstrating concepts with visuals and acting allows students to understand meaning and subsequently interact with the language themselves in the forms of writing and speaking.
Music was also a big part of the conference. Lance Piantaggini and Beth Manca, in different but important ways, showed that rhythm and melody, respectively, help to bring often inaccessible (i.e. boring) material into a more immediate and enjoyable form. We rocked out to snippets of poetry yoked to their metrical/musical rhythms and learned mnemonic songs to help ease memorization. The music was engaging and brought the topics to life.
I also saw some interesting project ideas. Our own CANEns editor, Gabe Bakale, provided many primary sources as evidence of riots and uprisings in the ancient world. The most fascinating aspect of the presentation was how easy it was to draw similarities between modern and ancient perceptions of social unrest and bias. Jocelyn Demuth showed us her role playing game modified for a mythological heroic quest. It played like a traditional table-top game and allowed students to get into the mindset of the heroic archetype (MUCH more interactive than reading Bulfinch’s Mythology.) Christopher Buczek showed a variety of his culture projects from over the years. It was clearly evident that his students really engaged with the material and had fun with the projects.
Additionally, Amanda Loud showed us her strategies for analyzing complex sentences. Her focus was on form over meaning, and the ability to chunk sentence fragments, filling in meaning only after the basic grammatical and semantic skeleton of the section was uncovered. This more traditional approach is seemingly antithesis to the comprehensible input methods described earlier, which focus on meaning over form. Though there is (often heated) debate between these two main pedagogical stances, I was glad to see both represented in our meeting.
Having seen the importance of integrating so many modes into learning, and the synergy that each contributes, I must wonder if there is not some way to merge the theories of comprehensible input and grammar-translation into a Super Unifying Theory of Learning and Acquisition ™. But that is for another post…
Once again, please leave comments or get in touch with us to share your thoughts.