Latin is Easy!

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13 thoughts on “Latin is Easy!”

  1. No, don’t react. There is nothing to react to. Before you joined this group, last fall, Clarice in CA organized an important set of texts about rigor in the CI classroom. We have posters up here on the posters page of this site that she generated and when visitors walk into my classroom it is the first thing they see.

    Think about it. If a baby can learn it, how hard can it be? And that is the whole thing about effortless unconscious learning that is at the core of Krashen’s work that is so truly upsetting to four percenters who became teachers of four percenters and want to make it all hard and conscious and shitty for kids.

    Here is something I wrote based on Clarice’s work to read if you have the time:

    Learning with CI is Pleasurable

    Learning with comprehensible input is pleasurable. Language classes based on comprehensible input don’t seem like other classes. Students feel the language and don’t think about it so much. After awhile, it starts to look like a movie in their minds. They even forget it is a language.

    But it is hard work to stay focused on the message, especially when one has been taught that learning is hard work involving conscious focus and lots of thinking and filling out of worksheets, etc. But it is not that. It is hard work of an entirely different kind.

    Hard work (rigor) in the comprehension based classroom means that on the inside the student has to:

    – stay focused on the message being delivered.
    – observe what is happening.
    – listen with the intent to understand.

    This hard work (rigor) happens when the student is actively engaged with the language, which means that on the outside the student will

    – respond with body language.
    – show the teacher when they don’t understand.
    – respond with short answers.
    – read and show that they are understanding.

    Rigor in the comprehensible input based classroom means that the student will feel:

    – confident.
    – aware of the stream of conversation.
    – like they understand but not like they are learning.

    In the comprehensible input classroom the student does not feel:

    – confused
    – lost
    – defeated
    – frustrated

    This new and radical definition of rigor brings with it an entirely new look to discipline in the foreign language classroom – what it is, what it looks like, how it meshes with instruction. The singular most outstanding quality of learning in this way is that the student does not feel stupid and does not think that the work is “hard”.

    If it is true that rigor in the comprehensible input classroom is indeed effortless, and that all the student has to do to acquire the language is enjoy the flow of the discussion, without feeling pressured to produce anything, then those things completely redefine what discipline even means in the comprehension based classroom.

    The old model of the student working hard, thinking hard, trying to produce speech and writing that they are hundreds of hours away from being able to produce, especially at the lower levels of instruction, all of that, by being unceremoniously tossed out of the new kind of foreign language classroom, means that discipline is not what we thought it is.

    In the ideal CI classroom, where the student effortlessly understands and pleasantly interacts with the instructor, no discipline is even needed. However, students don’t always have the skills required in a CI classroom.

    Interacting pleasantly, listening closely to the language because they want to, doesn’t always happen when the student lacks the training necessary to behave in such a way that learning can occur.

    Students then have to retool in the face of how “easy” (read “rigorous”) it is, and many, having been beat over the head with the textbook in so many classes, just don’t get it. They must be re-taught how to be a student in the classroom. Some rebel. Some bitch. That is why we have jGR and the Classroom Rules – to make the transition to actually interacting with the teacher in the new way possible for them.

  2. I think you’re right to tell them that if it’s easy it means you’re doing your job and they are doing theirs. Languages shouldn’t be hard, it’s the way they’ve been taught that makes them hard. I tell my (native French) students all the time that English is easy, it’s only when they try to make English grammar fit into French categories that it becomes complicated. I remember getting the “It’s easy” comment when I handed out the third version of an embedded text for them to read at home. First they groaned because they could see it was long, then they looked at it and realized they already knew almost all the words and could understand it. “It’s easy” simply means that we’re making our input comprehensible, that we’re doing our job.

  3. I have a couple of kids in my intro class who are LD in various ways. What’s really interesting is that they “get” everything orally and now after 5 weeks are pumping out two and sometimes three word answers. Their writing is not awesome (I get it but there are lots of “what?” moments).

    HOWEVER– these guys are so far ahead of where they would have been under old mish-mash method that it’s hard to believe. One of them said “ya Spanish is way easier than French was.” They can write crude stories using past and present tense. I even get rudimentary adjective agreement etc!

    So. Yeah. If it’s easy, it’s probably working.

      1. I agree with you completely on this James! TCI IS the best differentiation I’ve seen as well. I think of my students that have struggled with the textbook and the grammar and think that they would get so much farther and NOT BE LEFT BEHIND if I could just abandon the textbook. And I will next year! So I’m really excited about that.

  4. Bernard Rizzotto

    When the kids are telling us “ït’s easy,” what they really say is “I get it! I never thought I could do it!” There is such a stigma associated with learning foreign languages, such negative preconceived ideas about the whole process that, if they don’t resist the TPRS approach, they are blown away by the simplicity of it all. They get it and they feel it.
    How many times did I tell to the parents of a robot that we are indeed creatures of communication, that communication is what we do best, that no, their son is not French impaired… And do you know that it is not uncommon for a kid in Africa to know several languages? We are fighting against those ridiculous ideas that plague our profession. In the meantime, I am stealing students from my grammarian Spanish-teaching colleagues who want nothing to do with CI-based instruction. Yep, easy!

  5. What we have to fight is the perception that if something is easy it is not useful knowledge–the “no pain no gain” mentality that is, for better or worse, at the heart of the American perspective on work. By clarifying and reinforcing the notion that rigor in language acquisition pertains to community not content, we can hopefully address some of these misperceptions. On the other hand, some will simply not be open to what we are saying, and how we are teaching. We should do what we can not to provoke them, especially if they have power over us, but beyond that, it is not in our control. All we can do is continue to show compassion and make sure all of our students understand the language we use daily in the classroom.

    I agree that this method is inherently differentiated, and so there is no need to make “accommodations.” Our school had a workshop on differentiation at the beginning of the school year, and during one session, we were supposed to apply what we learned and modify a lesson. When I explained to the presenter how I was teaching, she acknowledged that I didn’t need to make any modifications, because I was already doing it. This is a very useful thing to show to administrators when you are up against traditional language teacher colleagues, whose curricula are definitely not differentiated.

    1. I was recently at an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for a student. We had discussed how the student was doing in his various classes, and the case worker wanted to go over accommodations with us. I had another meeting and asked to go tell the others that I would be running a little bit late. The case worker said, “That’s okay, you don’t need to stay for accommodations. You do all of that already; it’s part of the way you teach.” So I left for my other meeting.

      Yes, TCI is differentiated instruction.

  6. Another aspect of this whole thing is kids feel that it is really easy and yet when I give them a “pop” test they at first go ” wait a minute we didn’t even get to study, I am not ready!”. I then say too bad, here’s the test ( because I know they don’t think they have acquired anything). When the test is over the majority say ” wow, that wasn’t so bad. I can’t believe I knew all that vocabulary”. I then reinforce and explain how acquiring language works. But everytime we have another unexpected test I hear the same complaint and it is because they are taught that way in every other class. I also have them tell stories on the fly with no preparation just two words. They say, ” hey, we can’t do that!”. And then those that feel confident and give it a try see that they can because they have listened to so much input. It is those moments that the class realizes that they are getting something even though they say “it’s easy”. keep up the good work.

    1. I agree with you about the “pop” quizzes and tests. I tend not to give them much warning, which in any other class would not be fair. But because we are not teaching them material that can be crammed, and because I often review the material with them just before any quiz, and because my translation tests allow for minimal notes, I and the kids simply don’t sweat it. So it’s win-win: we can be rigorous yet differentiated, and give frequent authentic assessments, and it’s easy–for them and for us.

      1. I have just stopped calling them “tests.” Now I just say “do this,” or “answer these questions” or “translate this into English.” And they do it very well. Funny enough, though, I heard recently that “we don’t do tests,” either. So not only do we sit there all period doing nothing (haha) we never take tests! Silly children need to feel freaked out to feel like they’re in school. It’s actually sort of sick and twisted.

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