Daily Archives: August 6, 2013

Comprehensible Input

I have long held the belief that Latin, like any other language, can and should be spoken.  To that end, I have been attending SALVI’s Rusticatio Virginiana for quite a few years.  Needless to say, it changed my life.  This year, SALVI added an amazing new program called Pedagogy Rusticatio.  The thought behind this was that even if YOU can speak Latin, actually getting your STUDENTS to speak Latin can get, well, lost in translation.
This year’s Pedagogy Rusticatio focused on Comprehensible Input (CI), with presenters Jason Fritze and Bob Patrick, with appearances by Nancy Llewelyn and Evan Gardner of Where Are Your Keys.  We focused on TPR, TPRS, and Embedded readings–both teaching them, and creating them.    Simply put, we focused on making sure students LEARN and RETAIN language by actually working with it.
There’s a quote that came out of the workshop–I believe it was Bob Patrick who said it:  “One will produce language when they are ready and not a moment before.”  I think this is something we all have to remember.  I know it sure helped me as I went in to my seventh (!?) Rusticatio!
The ACTFL guidelines for proficiency in a language explain a lot if you take a look at them.  To put them more simply, here is the “Party Taxonomy” that Evan Gardner uses to explain them.  It looks like this:
“There are 4 levels of being able to use a foreign language, but you can extrapolate this to ANYTHING.
1) Tarzan at a party–sheer vocab and memorization; barely full sentences. (e.g. Teacher: “What do you like to eat?” Student: “Hamburgers!”)–think Sesame Street
2) Get to the party–can you ask the appropriate questions and understand the responses to get to the party, dressed appropriately, bringing the right things. (e.g. “May I bring a guest?” “Yes, and I’d like you to bring a cake as well.” “Ok”)–Think Dora The Explorer
3) What happened at the party last night?–Can you talk about an event in the past, present and future? (e.g. “Tarzan went INSANE at the party last night! He got out of control and was throwing couches out the window! So the police came and arrested him. This morning, he called me to ask about baling him out of jail, but I have no money, so I will have to call my mom and see what we can do.  I will never invite Tarzan to a party again.”)–Think Larry King
4) What if parties were illegal?–How does that affect our cultural, economic, and social standards and day to day life? Can you think about something in the big picture and almost philosophically. Think about being on Charlie Rose’s show.”
Learning to use (levels 2 + 3) or thinking deeply about (level 4), is soooo much better than learning about (level 1). I’ve used this to get my colleagues thinking about where they want their students to be throughout the year. Not just my language colleagues, either.
I think this applies a lot to what we are doing. We want the students at 4 eventually, right? Well, you’re not going to get there by sitting on 1! You need to USE your knowledge and apply it. For we teachers, this is where the work we do comes in, I believe.
Too often, we try to speak Latin, and we get scared because it isn’t easy for us.  If it is hard for us, we think, we could never use it with the students!  They would be overwhelmed.  That is where Comprehensible Input comes in.  I will go into all of this more in my next post.  In the meantime, check out this awesome post by Rachel Ash!