Latin Lang Chat Reflections 2

In this post, we continue reflecting as the year ends. Last week Michael Hoffman offered his insights about being a first year teacher. Soon thereafter, there was a lively #latinlangchat focused on the positives and negatives of the year. The participants came from a variety of contexts, grade levels, teaching methodologies, and geographic locations. I offer here some highlights from that night, though you can check out the whole conversation here.

The answers were varied. One teacher was experimenting with Rosetta Stone as a teaching tool, but remarked that it used a reading style that was unfamiliar to those accustomed to a traditional grammar approach. This brought on many comments about the introduction of TPRS, CI, tiered reading, and textbook-free classrooms. Many lauded those approaches for their ability to reach more students. However, some participants, including myself, expressed our dismay at how difficult it could be to stay true to those teaching styles; the way we were taught (grammar-translation) sometimes sneaks through despite our efforts to be more progressive in our teaching. This led to the second question.

Along with the sentiments that many of us would like to get better at implementing CI and TPRS methods in our classes, other areas of growth that were discussed included how to better transition students from textbooks to authentic reading and how to integrate the plethora of ideas from language conferences into the daily practice of teaching. A general solution was that all of these ideas take time and implementing one solid idea per year (instead of trying to tackle it all at once) is the best strategy. Persistence is also key, and as we all know, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Other suggestions included keeping digital portfolios and using thematic quarters to keep material relevant and interesting to the students. The conversation once again steered towards the value of translation vs. understanding, and that we must clarify the objectives of our classes for our students and ourselves.

Teachers echoed their intentions to get more involved with CI, TPRS, and making texts more relevant and understandable for students. People wanted to use more tech tools to accomplish these goals. Many bemoaned the soul-sucking nature of AP classes and wished they could pick their own texts for upper level classes. Many of the themes of the night centered on context; without it, the methods described would have no meaning. Getting our students to better understand Latin can only be accomplished by situating literature, vocabulary, and reading within a deliberate structure and framing.
I encourage those of you who do not use Twitter to jump on the bandwagon. The discussions that occur can be wonderful and can help to ground, galvanize, or augment your own positions on teaching and learning. Leave comments below to add your insights, or if you’d like a tutorial in a future post about the mechanics of using the service.

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