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The New Standards for Learning Classical Languages and Latin Teacher Education

Teresa Ramsby

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

In this paper I will discuss how the Standards for Learning Classical Languages, formulated in cooperation between ACTFL, ACL, and SCS, can be useful in helping teachers establish goals, implement lessons aimed at diverse learners, and find means of assessment for the various pedagogical methods they apply in the classroom. The categories of learning and assessment stated in the Standards provide a teacher with a broad view of the benefits that derive from language study, and encourage the instructor to seek a many-faceted approach to teaching language. Culture, inter-disciplinarity, reception, audience, linguistic influence, and communicative capability all have their place for consideration within a Classics program; the Standards articulate the value and applicability of these aspects to the teacher of the secondary student, the college student, or the graduate student. But in particular the Standards communicate a great deal about teaching a language to the teacher in training.

These standards, five in total (the “5-C’s), with 2 or 3 sub-standards for each, provide a helpful foundation upon which Latin teachers can establish goals, create plans and assessments, and adapt their methods to those objectives. In turn, when teachers formulate their curricula with these standards in mind, they do two things: they align themselves to the goals of other language teachers as well (thereby making connections between their Latin programs and the other foreign language programs in their school), and they provide themselves more defenses for their programs because they can demonstrate the ways that Latin effectively meets standards for foreign language instruction, despite any differences that Latin exhibits vis-à-vis modern foreign languages.

It is important to regularly review and implement the Standards within a teacher- training program. Students can then document what standard (and sub-standard) each part of a lesson plan meets, justifying and solidifying goals. Students can also design some lesson plans to meet specific standards, a useful exercise in aligning goals to outcomes. For example, regarding the Connections Standard, a student could create a lesson-plan that incorporates the aspects of another discipline. Such lesson plans can then be presented in the context of their utility to bridge gaps between Latin classes and classes inother departments. In this regard, the Standards prepare our students to enter their careers with the notion that inter-disciplinary teaching is something to seek out, and is a useful and successful endeavor. In my paper I will demonstrate a range of exercises that students can do in order to bring together teaching goals with the Standards.

The recent and significant acronym in public teaching is DDM, or District- Determined Measures. Whether a teacher’s preferred approach is organized by grammar with readings tailored to the grammatical concept, or focused on reading with grammatical concepts tailored to the needs of comprehension, teachers are being expected by their administrators to use assessments to prove reading proficiency and demonstrate improvement in their students’ abilities to comprehend the language from semester to semester. The Standards provide guidance as to the benchmarks that teachers should strive to achieve so that their students can demonstrate proficiency and improvement. The recently created ALIRA test for Latin students, created in concert with ACTFL, is one measure teachers can use to prove student comprehension levels, but there are many others, as seen online (see a short list at the end of this document), and models are also found frequently at conference sessions for Latin teachers. In turn, national standards provide common ground between Latin and modern foreign language programs; those who need to defend their programs to administrators, or who wish to initiate programs will find many helpful formulations of the value of learning a language in the ACTFL Standards. 

Session/Panel Title

The New Standards for Learning Classical Languages (organized by the Committee on Education)

Session/Paper Number

31.5

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