Silent Read and Discuss: The power of silence in language processing.

Often, I find myself in a planning phase where I constantly attempt to facilitate students reading a Latin text out loud.  There is a safety net for students when we complete various versions of partner reads or choral reading as they are not on the spot to read out loud in front of a large group by themselves.  But sometimes, these types of readings can be loud and filled with distraction while taking place.

My Latin 3 class is large this year and there are groups of friends who are extroverted processors.  What is interesting about this group is that if I challenge them for a Latin only time frame, they will step up to the challenge while those external processors continue but with Latin phrasing.  Management with this group is a fine line and the few times I find that line the power of acquisition is clear with the external processors in the room.  But not every student in a large group is an external processor.  Although the internal processors are acquiring from their external processing peers, there are times that silence is needed.  Our self directed reading routine offers 2 short periods of silence a week.  I’m always looking for other ways to facilitate quiet with this group and last week I stumbled upon a read and discuss version with the whole group that facilitated some quiet with intermittent periods for external processing.

Bob Patrick has a simple write up for Read and Discuss.  He suggests that the teacher always read the portion of the text out loud even if it is after students read the text silently.  Typically, this is what I do but I find 2 things can happen when I read a text out loud.  Some students will not actually read what I ask them to and they will wait for me to read the text out loud.  Those students do not process as much Latin in that case.  If it is a longer text, students begin to be “antsy” and there becomes a moment I decide to move on from the read and discuss or start spending a lot of energy on classroom  management.  With the external processors in my group, I hoped that using more “silence” and less time of me reading would reduce the “antsy” period.  Overall, I think it was a success.

We were reading a longer passage that introduced the Minotaur and Daedalus myth.  We read the passage for parts of 3 class periods with calendar talk and self directed reading mixed into the routine.  We started with a choral read and discuss as I did want students to put sounds to text at the beginning of the year.  The 2nd class period I projected the passage on the front screen.  I highlighted a paragraph at a time and asked students to read silently.  Instead of setting a timer, I watched their eyes to determine when they were done reading.  Every student at least looked at the screen, but based on what I saw in their eyes, I’m fairly confident that every student read during these silent times.

The silent periods were golden, even though they were short at 2-3 minutes per section.  Both the introverted and extroverted students seemed calm.  It allowed me to focus on student body language for a few moments and to collect my thoughts about what to discuss after reading each section.

The silent moments calmed me and I was able to process the text with more nuance.  Instead of asking my usual prepared discussion questions such as:

  • Quid….agit?  Quid is … doing?
  • Quando?  When?
  • Quomodo?   How?
  • Quibuscum?  With whom?
  • Cui … dicit?  To whom does … speak?
  • Quo … ivit?   Where did … go?
  • Ubi … est?   Where is …?

I was able to process the text and more natural questions came up.

  • Quid Minos volebat?  What was Minos wanting?  Cur?  Why?
  • Quid Minos sentiebat?  What was Minos feeling?
  • Daedalusne Minoem timebat?  Did Daedalus fear Minos?
  • Quid Daedalus sentiebat?  What was Daedalus feeling?

These example questions above created a deeper discussion than normal.  We were not simply reviewing details that had been decoded.  We went beyond the simple reproduction of the events and investigated what it character might be feeling.  For example, although the text doesn’t mention that Daedalus is afraid when he is first summoned, we discussed how he might have been uneasy at first as it was probably out of the norm for him to be summoned by a king.  But after processing the request, he feels pride and takes the invitation as a complement.

As a varied reading approach is important, I will definitely put silent read and discuss into our rotation of ways to read a text.  Next time I might try something a little bit different for the discussion.  Instead of simply discussing the text out loud, students will write something in Latin about the text and pass the idea to another student for them to respond.  After completing a passage, I will take a few of the pass and respond sheets to use as a base to discuss the whole passage.  I envision this will be another way to add some much appreciated quiet processing time for students.



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