I want to share with you a couple of ideas I’m working with for writing more short stories of the low-level, easy reading kind of thing that we are in such need of for Latin students.
“You can never have a reader that is too easy.” Stephen Krashen
I heard this time and again at NTPRS 2015, and the simplicity just kept inspiring me. For years, I thought of my beginning task with returning students in the Fall as reviewing grammar and vocabulary for several weeks before starting anything new. They always came back saying that they had forgotten all their Latin (and it seemed to me that they had). A few things have shifted for me over the years that seem to really benefit my students.
1. Since beginning CI work 15 years ago, my students are much less likely to complain that they have forgotten all their Latin. Even if they come in at the beginning of the new year worried about that, it’s just not the case. They actually forget very little if any that they learned through CI methods. A fourth year student came in last fall really anxious that he had forgotten and begging me to let him drop the course. I consoled him and refused to let him drop. It was evident in just a couple of days that he had not forgotten anything, and he ended the year with a 96 in Latin 4. This is not unusual. This is common.
2. Since grammar is acquired best unconsciously through story telling and reading, and since we are no longer sheltering grammar, reviewing grammar in the Fall is something I stopped doing years ago.
3. What we did start doing in our program a few years ago is to begin the new year in Latin 2, 3 and 4 with some easy reading that was “beneath them,” so to speak. For example, we would take Latin 2 students to the computer lab and have them, over two days, read all of Anthony Gibbons’s Gilbo Series found in the Tar Heel Reader online. Even though it has 15 little chapters, they can devour it in two days AND, he wrote no ending to it, so it’s the perfect invitation to go back into class on the third day and ask an ending to the story. The Gilbo series is “too easy” for Latin 2 students, but, “there’s no such things as a reader that’s too easy.” Most news stories, whether on paper or via the internet are written at 7th grade level, and none of us refuse to read them because they are “beneath us.” The “too easy reading” is the perfect way to start the new year at every level (except 1, of course). It reassures students who are nervous that, in fact, they still have their Latin and that they can still continue doing this.
4. But, class, there’s a problem! In our Latin CI work, we have too few easy readers and stories. So, here’s what I propose to do this year to help make a dent in that problem. Carol Gaab and I had a conversation at NTPRS 2015 in which I told her about our 50 Most Important Verbs List. She said, regarding easy, graded readers, that of course, 50 verbs is too many to work with. “Choose 7 of those, or 14 or 20 at the most (for a novella), and work with those,” she said.
Here’s my idea:
I will have a class of Latin 4 students this year, and I’m going to divide them into teams of 3. Each team will have a meeting with me twice over the semester. Before each meeting, they will have to go into the 50 MIV list and pick out 7-10 verbs that they think are “most important.” When they meet with me, they will have an hour (max) to tell me a story–in Latin and/or in English which only uses those verbs. A story–not a novella. As they tell the story, I will type it up into a document. This is an activity that is very much like the Language Experience model, which honestly, I’ve only used a time or two. My goal at that sitting is to get the basics of their story and any undeveloped ideas they may have. Then, after they leave, I will polish the story into something that Latin 1 (second semester) students or beginning Latin 2 students could read and enjoy. Over the course of the semester, we ought to be able to generate a dozen or more of these. If several of us did this sort of thing, and shared them, we’d have dozens in no time.
Whatever we are able to create this way, I will be sharing them, so stay tuned. I’ll also report to the LBP list once this is underway so that we can have some discussions around it. What I am imagining is starting school NEXT FALL in 2016 with dozens of “too easy readings” for any level that I teach. Meanwhile, this little project will become part of my Latin 4 work this year. If you are interested in this, you don’t have to have a Latin 4 class to do it. You can do this with almost any level students beyond level 1.
Why all this talk of starting back to school in July? Because in our district, teachers report a week from tomorrow–August 3. The train is loading folks . . .