A Story Writing Idea

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 . . .
Bob Patrick

Timed Writes

Timed Write

It must be noted, first, that a TW is not a form of Comprehensible Input.  It is actually a form of production and should not be required of students until it is clear that they are capable of producing and with material with which they are thoroughly familiar.  Timed writes are best done as an ongoing collection in a portfolio style work.  Students in each class should have a folder with their names on it and into which they put each timed write.  A timed write works like this.

  • students are given a half sheet of paper,and they take out a pencil
  • the teacher asks them to put the date and the title of the story about which they will be writing at the top.  This is very important in portfolio work.
  • When the teacher says begin, students write as much as they can about the identified story in Latin.  If they reach a point where they have said all that they can about the story, and time remains, they begin to make things up to go along with the story.  In other words, they write until time is called.  Time is called by saying (as some timer goes off) “If you are in the middle of a sentence, you may finish the sentence.  Then, count all of your words.  Write the number large at the bottom of the page, and circle it.  Place your TW in your portfolio.
  • How long should a timed write be? With beginners who are ready to do some production, start with 5 minutes.  When they complain that this is not enough time, increase to 10, then to 15.  Ultimately 20 minutes is a good time for timed writes.  Advanced students may be given 30 minutes or longer to write about something they’ve ready or on a topic that has been discussed.
  • In any timed write, the ONLY question is how many words, in Latin, did you write.  This is not an analysis of grammar or spelling.  It’s an opportunity for students to produce in the language they are learning.
  • At the end of the semester, students may be invited to do some meta-analysis of their portfolio.  See a suggested way of doing this on the next page.