A very good exposition on using a textbook

Ginny Lindzey has been on several listservs for Latin teachers for many years. This post to the listserv for a particular textbook, one I used my whole career of 25 years, the Cambridge Latin Course, gives a good picture of how a good textbook can drive all sorts of teaching and innovation. I planned to write up for this blog a typical lesson I might have taught and, though I taught Russian and Spanish as well as Latin, I kept coming back to Latin for my example and a big part of that is the CLC textbook. I will soon post that write-up, but for starters, see what Ginny has written:

A lot of people, many of whom I respect, are totally untextbooking these days. Everything is totally comprehensible input or nothing else. [Italics pb]

I have always said that the textbook is only one tool in your toolbox, and I have felt that CLC was a pretty damn good tool. I have read it in-depth so many times as I’ve looked for examples of certain usages, whether for making quia.com materials or presenting papers at conferences, that I feel like I know it intimately. I can’t imagine not using this textbook.

And yet, for part of this semester, I wasn’t using the textbook but using a novella instead, and letting another younger teacher lead (sort of). I liked the novella, but not as a book to teach from. I want it and others for sustained silent reading, for extra reading, for extensive reading since we get our intensive reading with CLC.

I have always felt on the cutting edge of teaching–when reading approaches were first adopted (and attacked as inferior). In addition, I would never trade a Rusticatio [a workshop for using spoken Latin in the classroom] that I have attended and all that I learned there. I hope to go back. I have always wanted to include more oral/aural Latin in my classes and feel I do increase it each year.

But when I wasn’t using CLC this year for 2 months (we’re on block), it was torture. We weren’t just missing the textbook, we were missing the culture. I felt like we were spinning our wheels because we didn’t really progress with constructions or sentence length. [due to Latin being a case language and SOV type, sentences do not unfold like in modern European languages]

For pure language teaching, I have nothing against comprehensible input. But it’s not like our students are learning Latin to go use a little live language while on vacation.  Our goal is reading ancient (or even humanist/medieval/Renaissance) authors. And I’m thinking about college prep and even AP prep (even though I’m not teach AP again… though I could), and the kinds of skills I wish I had had when I was in college. Pure language learning isn’t enough–maybe for the autodidacts in the room–but….

I guess what I wanted to say is that I am making a well-considered choice not from fear of change, but from experience and knowing what grew my program to have two teachers. (We actually had three teachers this year, but enrollment dropped after our experiment.)  I know that the most critical skill for Latin is READING, and that all the rest should support it and enhance it.  And I will keep forcing myself out of my comfort zone each year to make what I do even better. But I’m not untextbooking.

So, to me, the elephant is everyone talking about untextbooking is the next best thing. And it may be for some teachers. But it’s not for me. Right now I’m working on plans for more oral/aural work this year tied into an overarching project. (More on that another time…)  I will make more time for it because I know it does help to internalize forms, and if that means slowing my pace a bit, ok. But I know the extraordinary value of CLC and I’m sticking with it.

Thus if you are feeling alone, you aren’t.

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