Google Group: Ancient Greek Best Practices

Paul D. Nitz introduced me this week to a new Google Group entitled Ancient Greek Best Practices. The group is intended for discussion of “the Communicative Approach.” Here’s the way their welcome page explains it:

The Ancient Greek Best Practices Group exists to discuss communicative approaches to learning/teaching Greek.  This approach views Greek as communication, not code.  This discussion board is rather disinterested in debating whether the Grammar/Translation method is superior.  We are all convinced (or deeply interested) in a Communicative Approach to teaching Ancient Greek.

The Communicative Approach can include such methods as Total Physical Response  (TPR – James Asher) and Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS – Blaine Ray), picture books and audio (Living Koine), “shadowing,” or other methods we will invent here on this discussion board.

You can join the group by here.

You can see Paul demonstrate the method with his students in Malawi on Youtube. He has posted videos of several lessons there.

I would like to thank Paul for sharing his work with me and invite him to tell us all more about it.

4 Replies to “Google Group: Ancient Greek Best Practices”

  1. Thanks much. Here’s a pretty good lesson to watch if you want a taste of how we are learning Greek this year.
    Note that Lesson 26 also means classhour 26 (50min. ea.). I’m very happy with our progress. The proof will be after 2 years. Will they be better off after 2 years of a communicative approach, or would it have been better to stick with 2 years of a grammar-translation approach?

  2. After watching a few of your videos, Paul, I would like to ask how you organize the students you have working with you at the front of the class. Do you recruit volunteers in advance of each lesson, or do you just choose a student or two at the beginning of the class?

    The students who appear on screen with you seem quite confident. Have you worked with them outside of class to prepare for their role?

  3. Thanks for your questions. It’s a treat to share my experience.

    Usually I decide which students will be doing an exercise, often targeting those who I feel are understanding the targeted language structure (TLS) the least. I want to bring the whole group along together, as the TPRS people (Blaine Ray & others) encourage.

    In past years of teaching Greek, a typical pattern appeared. I’ve heard it’s a pattern world-wide for grammar-translation classes. A small percentage excel. For me, with a class of 20 or less, that might anywhere from 0-2 students. There is a larger middle section who are keeping up, but it’s pretty clear that they will be done with Greek when the course is over. Then there’s a 20-30% group at the bottom who are trying their best not to let it show that they are entirely lost.

    In contrast, all of my students are together this year. The lowest student is getting a bad grade, but I know he’s not lost. The top students is not only excelling, he’s enjoying the success of others. It’s a group effort.

    1. I’m delighted to see that you understand research on language acquisition.

      The percentages you mention are pretty typical of highschool students in much of the United States regardless of the subject being studied. A small number excel. The majority hang on, but are not really excelling, and a disturbingly large group at the bottom are lost. Watching your videos I am impressed not only by your ability to provide “comprehensible input,” but your ability to create engaging activities. Research on classroom success in the U.S. (independent of subject matter) indicates that the higher the level of student engagement, the larger the percentage of students who achieve mastery of the material (other factors being equal, of course).

      A teaching method that is gaining significant support in the U.S., though it’s being fought in a lot of areas, is what has come to be called the SIOP Model. [SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, but that has no relevance for what I want to say about it.] The striking thing to me about this method is that for a teacher to be deemed proficient, he or she must insure that the students are actively engaged in manipulating the relevant material for a minimum of 95% of the class period. That is dramatically higher than what is usual! Lecture is simply impossible in that context.

      I project that your students are going to be quite successful because you are accomplishing both of these objectives (comprehensible input, and high degree of engagement).

      The following statement from your comment is particularly telling:

      In contrast, all of my students are together this year. The lowest student is getting a bad grade, but I know he’s not lost. The top students is not only excelling, he’s enjoying the success of others. It’s a group effort.

      May the “group effort” grow stronger as the year progresses!

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