New Beginnings, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we begin a series of posts that will explore possible ways to use the Tres Columnae Project materials in a real, live, face-to-face classroom setting. Since the beginning of the school year is rapidly approaching – and for some of our lectōrēs fidēlissimī it’s already begun – this seems like a good time to consider such issues. Of course, some of us may want to wait until later in the year, when that first burst of energy has dissipated and students have begun to struggle with their textbooks, and bring out Tres Columnae as a much-needed refresher. Still others might want to save the materials for certain students – perhaps those who are struggling, or maybe those who need a bit of extra challenge – and continue with textbook-based instruction for others. I think these are all sensible, reasonable choices, depending on your needs and those of your students.

Even though I had the original idea for Tres Columnae, I’m also struggling with the “perfect” way to use the project materials with my face-to-face classes this school year. My Latin II, III, and IV students have been previewing the materials for Lectiōnēs I-XX that are published on the Version Alpha Wiki site as part of their summer review project, and we did a bit of exploration near the end of the school year as well. I’m excited to hear from them about their responses. Most likely they’ll use the stories (including those for Lectiōnēs XXI-XXX, which haven’t been uploaded yet, and for Cursus Secundus, which are still being written as I write this post) for extensive-reading practice, and they’ll use the exercises and quizzes for reinforcement of “problem” grammatical elements. When it comes to the Virtual Seminars, I think we’ll be creating separate seminar rooms, so to speak, for different groups of learners; for example, my face-to-face students will have one, our pilot school in England will have one, and our adult learners will have another. I don’t want to segregate our different audience members completely, but I do want to make sure that our younger students (and their parents) feel safe sharing their thoughts with each other rather than with a group of strangers. To that end, we’ll also be monitoring and approving Virtual Seminar posts before they appear. I’m sure I also have some upper-level students who will want to create Submissions, and I look forward to seeing those, too. We may keep some of them as decorations for that private seminar room, so to speak, but I hope that many of them will become part of the project materials. I also hope some of my students will want to jump in and create exercises, quizzes, additional grammatical explanations, and other things of that nature … especially those students whose thinking and learning styles are very different from mine.

But I’m still thinking about exactly how I want my Latin I students to use the Tres Columnae materials. At one point, I thought we might use them as the primary learning materials, saving our (rather venerable) textbooks for supplementary work. On the other hand, my students would greatly appreciate not having to take a textbook home – and the overwhelming majority of them do, in fact, have reliable Internet access at home. So I’m thinking about a system where some work would be done with the textbooks in class, but they wouldn’t be needed at home. It’s a big step out of my comfort zone; in a typical year, while I make minor tweaks and sometimes major revisions to course plans, I have a pretty good idea about who will be doing what, when, especially in Latin I and II. Stepping out into the unknown is exciting but slightly scary. quid mihi suādētis, lectōrēs cārissimī?

As I reflect on the Conscious Competence Learning Model I mentioned in Monday’s post, I realize it’s definitely time for me to make such a step. The problem with Step 4 or Unconscious Competence is that after you’ve been there for a while, it’s easy to get stale, lazy, and somnolent – to move from “I could do this in my sleep” to “no need to wake up for this!” I also realize that the development of the Tres Columnae materials has followed the model pretty closely:

  1. In the beginning, when I first had the idea, I just knew there needed to be “something different” for Latin learners in the twenty-first century. I wasn’t sure what that “something” needed to be, or exactly how it would be different from a conventional, twentieth-century textbook. I was definitely at the point of Unconscious Incompetence.
  2. Pretty soon, though, I started to consider some possibilities. I quickly realized that there were vast numbers of choices I’d need to make in designing the project … and that I had no idea how to begin making them! I was flailing around in Conscious Incompetence.
  3. Fortunately for everyone, I had the help of some caring, critical friends and read some very helpful books, many of which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. Before long, with a lot of help from you lectōrēs fidēlissimī, we had worked together to develop the basic idea of what a Joyful Learning Community with Ownership would look and feel like. We were starting to move to a point of Conscious Competence, which I think is where we still are.

Sometimes, of course, I feel hugely incompetent at the thought of helping to build a Joyful Learning Community … and I definitely feel incompetent about some of the business-structure decisions I need to make in the next few weeks and months. I think it’s good for teachers to have that feeling of incompetence from time to time – if nothing else, it humbles us, and it also reminds us how our students can all too easily feel in classrooms where expert performance is routine. Also, in those business-related decisions, I don’t have to make them by myself; I know and trust some experts who can help me make wise choices. Besides, even after 18 years and various accolades, sometimes I still feel utterly incompetent in a face-to-face classroom. And I don’t think anyone ever gets all the way to Unconscious Competence 100% of the time!

In light of our focus on new beginnings, our next few posts will focus on ways to use the Tres Columnae Project materials with two different new-beginning groups of students in a face-to-face classroom setting. We’ll think about actual beginners, Latin I students who haven’t had prior experience with the language, but we’ll also consider those upper-level students I mentioned in Monday’s post. The more I think about them, the more helpful I realize a self-paced, easily differentiated set of materials can be for review at the beginning of a school year … especially if you have a very diverse class, or if you need to diagnose their learning needs, or if you have students who struggled in the past and would benefit from a quick, but genuine success.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the Conscious Competence Learning Model and its implications?
  • What do you think of Tres Columnae materials as a self-paced review for Latin II students and beyond?
  • Which group do you want to focus on first? I’ll be glad to decide if necessary, but I’d love to hear from you.

Tune in tomorrow to see which group we will focus on first. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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