salvēte iterum, amīcī et sodālēs. In this post we’ll look at the specific ways that the Tres Columnae system builds ownership of in-process reading comprehension tasks. First, though, one critical point about ownership and choice.
One thing I think we can do, and must do, for to build ownership of learning is to make sure the learner has lots of choices about how (and when and even whether) to demonstrate learning. For example, when it comes to reading comprehension, the learner will have a choice of question types – for example, questions in English or Latin, or forced-choice or constructed-response answers – and a choice of whether or not even to use the questions.
lectōrēs fidēlissimī, I know that some of you are very opposed, philosophically, to English comprehension questions about a Latin passage, and I do understand your philosophical objections. If learners are still exclusively using English comprehension questions after several years of study, I’d tend to agree with those objections! But for that matter, in a grammar-translation system, if advanced students are still “translating the passage” the way they did in Latin I (writing out a collection of English words even though “you know that don’t make no sense”) or incorrectly parsing grammatical elements, I’d have a similar objection, as I would if their reading comprehension or reading rate were unchanged in a reading-method approach, or if their pronunciation and aural comprehension were poor in a direct-method approac
It seems to me, as you advance in your knowledge, skill, and understanding, the very nature of performance tasks should also advance. But you do have to start at the appropriate level for you, and that might not be the same as someone else’s appropriate level. So, for those who need them, we’ll provide English questions, at least for the early Lectiōnēs; eventually we’ll “fade” the English questions … unless participants say they want or need them for a particular passage.
Regardless of language, though, these questions are self-checking, with immediate feedback for both right and wrong answers. Aren’t computers wonderful? Just try to write a self-checking worksheet sometime! 🙂
Why self-checking? Because, if learners are to own their comprehension, they need to know how they’re doing right away. If you go to the doctor for a medical test, you want those results as soon as possible … and if something’s wrong, the doctor wants you to have them as soon as possible! If you take your car in for service or inspection, you also want – and need – those results right away! And when your taxes are prepared, you need to know how much you owe (or how big your refund is) right away! Why should it be any different with your learning?
If you still hate the very idea of English questions, please remember that you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to! 🙂 And please keep in mind that you, the learner, won’t even see these English questions until you’ve seen and heard the Latin text at least 4 times, assuming the passage is at instructional reading level and you didn’t skip any steps.
If you could skip steps, you’re probably at an independent reading level, and Tres Columnae will present you with a little survey like this: “On a scale from 1-5, where 5 is perfectly, how well did you understand the passage?”
- If you choose 4 or 5, you won’t even see the English questions – or, for that matter, the Latin ones; after all, you don’t need them!
- If you choose 3 or below, it will suggest that you re-read the passage, following the steps you skipped. But it won’t make you do so! After all, the learning really does belong to you! Besides, you may have built up a lot of distrust after years of unsuccessful school experiences, and you may need some time – and some “easy” tasks – before your trust is restored. That’s OK; unlike a factory-model school, we have plenty of time. No assembly line here!
Enough about the reasons for a choice of questions! Here’s how the comprehension-check process will actually work for our most recent sample story. Again, let’s imagine the picture (little Roman boy in bed, with some servants in the room and his older sisters laughing outside the door) and the audio as we read:
servī cubiculum Cnaeī intrant. “domine, quaesō, surge!” servī exclāmant. “hōra enim prīma est. nōnne hic est tibi prīmus lūdī diēs?”
extrā cubiculum Cnaeī sōrōrēs audiunt et rīdent. “ēheu! quam stultī sunt servī” susurrat Prīma. “num Cnaeus umquam prīmā hōrā ē lectō surgit?” rogat Secunda.
servī iterum exclāmant, “domine, quaesō, surge! cūr in lectō manēs?” Cnaeus autem ignāvus in lectō manet.
Here are some of the English comprehension questions:
- Who is in the bedroom in line 1?
- the servants
- Prima and Secunda
- Cnaeus and the servants
- What did the servants tell Cnaeus, and why?
- get up; it’s the first day of school
- get up; he’ll get in trouble otherwise
- stay in bed; he’s sick and needs to rest
- stay in bed; his father, their master, is angry
- What is Prima and Secunda’s response?
- they are listening and laughing outside the dore
- Prima thinks the servants are foolish
- Secunda doubts that Cnaeus has ever gotten out of bed on time
- All of the above.
- What do the servants ask Cnaeus in the end
- Who is staying in bed?
- Why are you staying in bed?
- What bed are you staying in?
- How can you stay in bed?
- What is Cnaeus’ response at the end
- he curses and beats the servants
- he goes back to sleep, saying nothing
- he stays in bed and is lazy and rude
- he ignores their request completely
As a learner, you’ll probably find these quite easy to answer; in fact, over time, you’ll become annoyed by the easiness and seek a greater challenge – especially if no one pushes you to do so!
I continue to provide questions like these to my face-to-face Latin students until they’re at an intermediate level of comprehension; by then, they usually ignore them or tell me the questions are “too easy” or “not interesting.” Then I move them on to higher-level questions or to direct-comprehension tasks or even, sometimes, some “translation” tasks. More about those the next time we see a Cursus Secundus sample story.
For the moment, though, let’s assume that you’re a Tres Columnae participant who finds the English comprehension questions too easy. Your next step might be Latin comprehension questions like these:
- quid faciunt servī?
- cubiculum intrant
- Cnaeum excitant
- Cnaeum laudant
- audiunt et rīdent
- ubi sunt Prīma et Secunda?
- in cubiculō
- in stabulō
- extrā cubiculum
- in ātriō
If those are still too easy, you might try constructed- response questions like these:
- quī cubiculum intrant?
- quis “quam stultī sunt servī” susurrat?
- quō modō Cnaeus sē gerit? Cnaeus ______ est. (in this case, there’s a sentence prompt so you, the learner, can answer ignāvus or īnsolēns without having to form an adverb to answer quō modō idiomatically.)
As we’ve noted before, these are self-correcting exercises, which are easy to create with
- an authoring tool like Hot Potatoes, now freeware
- a LMS like Moodle
- a quiz-creating environment like Quia.com, and, of course,
- many other online tools.
lectōrēs cārissimī, do you have any favorite tools for creating such exercises? I’m always eager to find new tools and toys! 🙂
In any case, here’s how the process will work:
- A correct response, chosen or constructed, sends you on to the next question – or you can choose to exit the exercise.
- An incorrect response returns you to the sentence-and-illustration page, with audio, and then repeats the question (most likely with the forced-choice responses, if any, in a different order than last time.)
- Another incorrect response brings some pre-written feedback, such as: You seem to be having trouble with this question. Do you think it’s an issue of…
- grammatical forms
- reading-process difficulty
- something else
- Depending on your response to this survey, Tres Columnae will offer you some suggestions (or some different exercises) to practice your area of weakness. Of course, the choice to use them or not is ultimately up to you!
quid respondētis, amīcī? This workshop or tribal model of assessment is probably very different from what you’re used to. Does it seem practical and possible, or completely crazy? Either way, can you offer any suggestions for ways to improve it? And would you like to see any further examples?
Incidentally, you may remember that I promised you the resolution of the story of Sextus, puer ignāvus et īnsolēns, and Fortunāta, bōs placida. You’ll actually get it – and even help to create it – tomorrow, when we address the issue of summative or post-learning assessments. Tune in then for more!