Wednesday, May 4, 2016

CI Curriciulum, Untextbooking, Student Choice and Teacher Planning

This post comes to us from Dr. Robert Patrick. Dr. Patrick teaches with both Rachel and me and is a great influence on me as both a colleague and my father. ~Miriam Patrick

One of the hot topics these days among CI teachers in general and perhaps Latin teachers in particular is how to create and then prepare to teach without textbooks.  I’ll spare a defense of dropping textbooks as a quick search through this blog will catalog the problems with all our textbooks.  The driving force of a CI classroom are the principles, of course, but really two things:  compelling material and understandable messages in Latin.  Those messages come through the teacher who speaks to students in Latin that they can all understand and through readings that they can all read.  The talk and the reading must be interesting to them.  Coupled with some classroom practices that make learning Latin a friendly and supportive experience, this approach has grown our program over the last 11 years by 400%.  

We will begin the Fall of 2016 with about 700 students and 5 Latin teachers.  We will also be continuing ongoing work, evolution through trial and error, our CI work, Untextbooking and Standard Based Grading.  In what follows, I want to outline how we create and prepare our curriculum.  For the third year now, we will be doing our work with no textbook.  This work is entirely a collaborative effort of Caroline Miklosovic, Rachel Ash, Miriam Patrick and myself.  Next year we will be joined by Keith Toda.  What we are doing would never have happened as a result any one of us doing what we do best, but has evolved and continues to as we pool our efforts, skills and insights.  I share here with this declaration, that this work belongs to no single one of us and only results from a daily commitment to collaboration and sharing.  Quite frankly, we believe that the future of Latin in this culture depends on such collaboration and sharing.

We began with a list of topics that met two criteria:  1) they included topics we thought students might have interest in and 2) they were topics we felt we could teach from Latin authors (or many periods) either directly or (more commonly) through embedded versions that we would prepare from them.  You can see immediately the two core principles at stake: compelling materials and understandable messages.  So, for example, if a topic depends on you working with an author that you are unprepared to work with, don’t offer it for student consideration. If you know that offering “Roman Couples” means working with the Heroides, which you love, and your Latin 2 students choose that, you will need to do much embedding, and that’s a lot of work.  Balance what you offer them with what you are prepared to do and/or co-create with a colleague. You do not have to have multiple Latin teachers at your school, but it is really important to have some other Latin teachers that you can collaborate with.  The marvels of the internet and things like Google Docs make that easier than ever.

Here was our original list:

  • Roman thoughts on other cultures (Cicero)
  • Roman Virtues (what Romans valued in themselves)
  • Couples relationships/myths
  • Battles and Wars
  • Roman History
  • Roman heroes and legends
  • Romans Science and Philosophy
  • Roman games
  • Roman Women
  • Roman Daily Life (Cf. JoAnna Shelton)
  • Roman Religion and Philosophy
  • Fables
  • Roman Government and Law
  • Modern Literature in Latin (Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Dr.Seuss, Charlottes Webb, Treasure Island, Fairy Tales)
  • Roman Comedy and Drama

We posed those topics to students in the Spring of the year who were in Latin 1-3 asking them to identify topic they wanted to encounter in the next year of Latin (2-4). We tallied their results, demarcated topics by level (so as not to have too much overlap--though we did allow for some overlap), and established what our curriculum for the next year would include.  That year, the curriculum looked like this:

Latin 1--Mythological stories written by the teacher based more on high frequency vocabulary than any particular author; Fables from Aesop, Phaedrus et al (much thanks to Laura Gibbs for her wonderful online materials).

Latin 2--Fables; Mythological stories from Ovid; Roman History from Livy

Latin 3--Mythological stories from Ovid (not used in 2); Heroes and legends (Ovid, Livy)

Latin 4--Roman Games; Entertainment; Roman Virtues (Seneca, Cicero et al); selections from Harrius Potter

This past year, we did the same, and offer the following:

Latin 1--Mythological stories based on high frequency vocabulary; novella: Pluto: Fabula Amoris; Roman legend/ history focused on stories from the Aeneid and Caesar; Novella: Magus Mirabilis--the Wizard of Oz.

Latin 2--Roman Comedy based on Plautus; Roman War based on Caesar; Roman Heroes based on Livy, Roman women based on various authors; Novella: Camilla

Latin 3--Roman History based on Livy; Roman love stories based on Ovid; The Druids from Caesar; Roman War based on the Pro Caelio of Cicero et al.

Latin 4--Roman Games; Entertainment; Roman Virtues (Seneca, Cicero et al); Novella: Itinera Petri; selections from Harrius Potter; Roman virtures traced all the way through the year as a common sub-theme.  List of 16 virtues chosen from Latin literature with Cicero being the predominate source along with Seneca and Quintilian.  

This spring (2016) we surveyed students again.  Our surveys continue to have the basic list we started with, but now with novellas in hand, we can make those a part of what we offer.  So, we asked current Latin 1 students about their Latin 2 year which novella they would like to read:

Ille Hobbitus (and embedded version of some chapters)
Eurydice: Fabula Amoris (to be written this summer)
Itinera Petri
Camilla (on women and war) currently being written

Other topics from them to consider

Under Science:
Fantastical people (Pliny)
Geography and race (various authors and vocabulary driven)
Fantastical creatures (Pliny)

Under War:
Hannibal vs. Rome (Livy)
Boudicca vs. Rome
Alexander the Great
Octavian vs. Marc Antony

Under Love:
Hector and Andromache
Abelard and Heloise
Jason and Medea
Claudius and Messalina

From these, you can see that our original list of items is present, but we are getting better at identifying what we are ready to work with.  If you knew us you would recognize among the authors we are working with the contents of our doctoral dissertations and masters theses, our many years of coursework and teaching experiences.  In other words, we are largely working with what we know or have the time to explore.  

As has become our custom, the 5 of us will gather this summer to plot out exactly what we are doing with the surveyed topics, authors and materials.  We are anticipating the novellas of others to come out soon which will enrich our possibilities as well.  Each year that we do this, we have the repository of the previous year’s work, so in some cases there is less work to do from scratch.  That allows us to edit, refine and add to existing materials.  

I want to add this one note which may be sub-titled program promotion, politics and/or professional development.  At every opportunity, we try to let our administrators and district leaders know what we are doing, why, and with what results.  We need them to support this work.  What we are doing is working with all kinds of learners, and we need it to be supported and celebrated.  At the same time, we look for every conference opportunity to share what we are doing.  As I suggested in the opening of this post, we believe that the future of Latin depends on this kind of creative, collaborative work, and we need and want more Latin teachers involved in doing this kind of things as well--not to jump on our bandwagon, but to ensure that Latin thrives and that it is no longer the domain of elite learners.  I wrote this blog post because of private requests to share how we plan this sort of curriculum.  I can no longer respond to the number of requests that I and the others on our team receive privately, but why should these be private conversation, anyway?  I encourage everyone doing this sort of work to blog, present, share, collaborate, and make sure your local administrators and leaders know what you are doing, and that it’s a national movement.  

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