Carol Hill on Traditional Teaching

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9 thoughts on “Carol Hill on Traditional Teaching”

  1. “When I asked some Latin students what it said, they were trying to decode M – Agrippa! Wasn’t he a Roman general? They did not recognize it as a name and were trying to figure out case!! Sad, sad!”
    Why do I feel somewhat responsible? I have the sudden impulse to do public penance for each statement like this I hear – compelled to solemnly meander through the streets a smack my face with and Wheelock’s (classic Grammar-Translation Latin textbook).

  2. Nice image Lance. I tried to laugh but had to stop myself because of the truth in it.
    This ignorance is the fruit of much labor by a lot of people over a long period of time.
    [Off topic: In England it’s the worst. All those guys in black robes and beards with pipes pretending that they can reach people when their real motives professionally are to get people to respect them and marvel at the size of their brains. They live up in there all their lives, trapped and yearning for a good human laugh in their classrooms, a shared look that reveals intuition, which is the next step up in evolution for humans with the life of pure intellect (the life of robots) soon to be visible in humanity’s rear view mirror. Language is not about thought. It’s not about thinking at all. It is a vehicle for human sharing, for doing more than just living in one’s brain, evaluating, wasting so much time when would could be actually teaching the language for actual acquisition, discussing things that don’t really relate to being human, thus keeping human experience in two dimensions. They’re all named Jeremy*. No blame but dang those boys are stuck in brain goo. Bob Patrick shared some stuff with me about some presenting he did in Oxford, Cambridge etc. to talk about CI. It wasn’t well received, let’s put it that way.]
    I like the way Carol presented it. She didn’t point a finger and yell, “You are doing it wrong!” She just asked a question of a traditionally trained kid who may or may not have been a four percenter. His failure was his teacher’s failure.
    But how many now teaching Latin in the old way, or any language for that matter, are even aware that their students can acquire Latin much faster by hearing it first, and then reading it once a nice auditory bed has been built in their unconscious minds first? They can’t be blamed. It’s going to be a slow waking up process for them led by courageous scholars like John Piazza, John Bracey, you, James Hosler, etc.
    We just don’t get to say WHEN it happens.
    *“Ad hoc loc and quid pro quo! So little time, so much to know!”
    The Yellow Submarine
    The Beatles
    O.K. Jeremy…whatever you say.

  3. My point was not to malign my Latin colleagues!! I could have just as easily inserted French or German! I have former students who tell me they still remember the “Hail Mary” in French! I think to myself: “Oh, please forgive me. I am so sorry that I failed to do a better job. The traditional textbook methods and the worksheets that failed.

  4. I’m having a Chill response…I am now going to begin my second day in Latvia with these wonderful kids who have taken Russian for three years at three different schools. My two know me and speak easily, respond to my requests to go get another map or help with a box. (It’s not really fair for me to judge them; they know my body language and my questions.) Three of those from another school aren’t so good at the commands, but speak about their families with no trouble and laugh when I make a simple joke. A group of the others from that school are pretty shaky. Those from a third school don’t respond to anything, and their production was just single words when I asked them to tell me something about themselves.
    The third group’s teacher read my blog and got Ben’s books on my advice; he watched my video and the ones from DPS, and then concluded that TPRS wasn’t going to work with his energetic, inner-city kids. I know this because he wrote about his first year of teaching at the school for the national Russian teachers’ publication.

    1. On the other hand…we picked up a Russian director for a different group who rode with us from Riga to Daugavpils. I started talking with her because we were both looking for the same thing in a store half way home. She noticed that two kids responded in Russian and seemed to understand everything, even though they were mostly asleep. I told her that was because they were taught with a heretical method that focused on storytelling. For the next 90 minutes, I explained a few precepts of TPRS, giving her examples. She is going to be here in town for the next four weeks, and is anxious to learn how to teach without focusing on grammar. She teaches at a (college? university?) in Blackburg, Virginia. There are five other Russian language instructors there. I told her to hire Katya. Being able to sling the DLI name around helps!
      Just finished my first school day here. It’s a little hard to see what the kids are going to work with. The instructors assume they’re going to spend a lot of time on homework. I want them to experience Russian-speaking life and not get overwhelmed. Most of you probably know my attitude toward homework, but I’m trying not to be too pushy, at least at first. For a first day, it was pretty intense, with many new vocabulary words to try to put into use immediately. The kids had to give presentations in pairs about themselves. On the one hand, as we listened to many pauses and corrections, I was reminded why CI teachers try to do most of the talking: our input is better than what the kids will offer. On the other hand, listening to 13 other kids and two teachers make presentations gave students a break from the fast-paced stream of solid Russian. (These teachers slow down a little bit, but they don’t know how to shelter vocabulary. When communication breaks down, they speak in English.) And it was mostly comprehensible, because other students were using the same vocabulary that they would all need. It was also pretty compelling, because the prompts were interesting. But interpersonal…not so much, because everyone realized that if they asked and answered questions, the process would drag on much longer. Listening to just 16 total took a long time. I was going to write out the whole lesson, but really all of you will know what it was like if I say it was a little bit of a jigsaw interactive communication exercise with a long glossary of words the teachers considered to be “difficult,” and no reading except of those phrases they had to respond to. In all, this lesson would have taken me a week to do in class, and by the end of that week, the kids would have all dropped Russian! Here, they’ll probably get enough of it that they’ll power on through. But wow. It is such an ineffective way of teaching and learning, compared to what the kids could do if they had the same material in a “regular” TPRS presentation.

  5. When you say Blacksburg, VA, Virginia Tech comes to mind. Two of my former students are there. They are brothers. One majored in Russian and the other is a current French major working on an organic farm in France. They both are familiar with storytelling! We are making inroads, Michele! Your experience in Latvia sounds very exciting for you and your students!

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