γραφὴ ζῶσα Living Language in the Written Word

ΓραφὴΖῶσαICON3x2andahalfI’m looking forward to tomorrow (November 19, 2016)! Jonathan Robie and I will present our ongoing work on the communicative Koine Greek course, γραφὴ ζῶσα. Our presentation will take place at the 1:00 pm session of the Global Education and Research Technology section of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).

We will demonstrate the results of combining technology with best practices in second language instruction, where even an ancient language can become a living language for those acquiring it.

We are in San Antonio, TX with a very large number of Biblical Scholars, but our presentation will attract mainly Linguists, Greek Teachers, Software Engineers, and Open Data Geeks. The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is also meeting here. The SBL and the AAR have jointly coordinated their national meetings for many years.

We would love to see you at 1:00 in room 209 of the Convention Center.

γραφὴ ζῶσα

Γραφὴ Ζῶσα ICON 3 x 2-and-a-half inchesOn November 19 in the 1:00 pm session of the Global Education and Research Technology section of the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Antonio, Jonathan Robie and I will present our ongoing work on a communicative Koine Greek course. I would love to see you there.

Here is the abstract of our talk.

Γραφὴ ζῶσα is a freely licensed communicative Koine Greek course centered on the text of the New Testament. It is currently in early stages. In this talk, we will present sample lessons as they would be used in a classroom or online, discussing how they are developed and presented, and the adaptations required for online presentation.

We believe that the main goal of language acquisition should be comprehension rather than translation, and that the main focus for biblical Greek should be the text of the New Testament and the Septuagint. Therefore, we are designing a communicative language course that revolves around biblical texts, asking and answering questions about these texts in Greek both orally and in writing, using approaches commonly used in ESL and SSL classes to make the texts accessible to students.

We believe that there are many people who want to learn Greek but have no teacher, and many people who have learned at least basic Greek but have no experience with communicative approaches and cannot themselves produce the materials they would need to teach a class. Therefore, we focus on producing materials that can be used to teach others communicatively, in the hope that former students will dust off their Greek, teach others, and form small learning communities who can teach and learn from each other. These materials include teacher workbooks and student workbooks, videos for teachers who want to learn how to teach a class, and videos for students who do not have access to a teacher.

We believe that systematic instruction is important, tracking vocabulary and grammatical structures to ensure that we teach the things that a student needs to learn. We also believe that text-based instruction reveals the importance of teaching some things not typically taught in introductory courses, but common in the texts that we read. The ability to generate large numbers of examples that illustrate specific concepts by querying syntactic treebanks and other sources is crucial to our approach, ensuring that we can provide adequate practice using authentic ancient texts.

Join us in San Antonio, TX for a lively discussion of this approach. If you plan on attending, but are not yet registered for the SBL conference, click here.

SBL Presentation Including a Greek Lesson in Greek: Mark 14:22

SBL Atlanta from the OmniThe presentation that Jonathan Robie and I gave at SBL this past Sunday was well received, and discussion afterward was productive.

Our talk began with a brief discussion of language acquisition theory and it’s practical implementation, then Jonathan gave a brief introduction to the ways we are using queryable databases to support the development of Greek lessons using a communicative approach. In the last ten minutes of our talk I presented a brief Greek lesson taught in Hellenistic Greek.

Here is the plan for that lesson:

Mini-Lesson on Mark 14:22

bread-wholeBuild Background

  • Place a whole loaf of bread in front of the students (not sliced bread).
  • Point to the bread and say: ἄρτος. ἄρτος ἐστίν.
  • Ask, τὶ ἐστιν;
  • Allow two or three students to answer, then say ναί. ἄρτος ἐστίν.
  • Pick up the loaf of bread. Say, κλῶ τὸν ἄρτον and break the bread.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow two or three students to answer, then say ναί. ἔκλασα τὸν ἄρτον.
    As you say ἔκλασα, place your hands against your chest. As you say τὸν ἄρτον point to the bread. Repeat this sequence, but as you say ἔκλασα this time, place your hands against your chest, then mime breaking the bread.
  • Take one half of the bread in each hand as you say, λαμβάνω τὸν ἄρτον.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow one or two students to answer, then say, ναί. ἔλαβον τὸν ἄρτον.
  • Lift the bread high and look toward heaven as you say, εὐλογῶ τὸν θεόν.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow two or three students to answer, then say ναί. εὐλόγησα τὸν θεόν. As you say εὐλόγησα raise your hands toward heaven.
  • Break off a piece of the bread, say ἐσθίω τὸν ἄρτον, then eat it.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow one or two students to answer, then say ναί. ἔφαγον τὸν ἄρτον. νῦν ἐσθίω τὸν ἄρτον. Break off another piece of bread and eat it.
  • Break the bread into enough pieces for your students, hand each one a piece as you say δίδωμί σοι ἄρτον. Retain one piece of bread for yourself.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow one or two to answer, then say, ναί. ἔδωκα ὑμῖν ἄρτον.
  • Say ἐσθίετε τὸν ἄρτον. Eat the piece you reserved for yourself.

It should not be necessary to teach εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου. It is highly likely that your students will deduce the meaning of this statement from the context of this story plus their own contextual experience in the church. If you have students who lack that experience, however, you may need to add a section dealing with this last sentence.

Read Mark 14:22 

Pick up a copy of the Greek New Testament and say, ἀναγινωσκῶμεν τὸν εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Μάρκον.

Read the text slowly, using gestures to reinforce the connection with the background exercise above.

Mark 14:22 Καὶ ἐσθιόντων αὐτῶν λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.

Assess Understanding of the Text (Identify Student Success)

Ask each of the following questions orally. Possible answers are given in parentheses.

  1. τί ἐποίουν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐν τῷ λάβειν Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἄρτον;
    (ἤσθιον)
  2. τί ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ ἄρτῳ;
    (ἔκλασεν τὸν ἄρτον, εὐλόγησεν τὸν θεόν, ἔδωκεν τὸν ἄρτον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ)
  3. τί ἐποίησεν πρῶτον ὁ Ἰησοῦς; Hold up your index finger as you say πρῶτον.
    (ἔκλασεν τὸν ἄρτον)
  4. τί ἐποίησεν δεύτερον; Hold up two fingers as you say δεύτερον.
    (εὐλόγησεν τὸν θεόν)
  5. τί ἐποίησεν ἔσχατον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
    (ἔδωκεν τὸν ἄρτον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ)
  6. τί εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ;
    (λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.)

Hand out copies of what is printed below the horizontal line below, and say, γράψαντες ἀποκρίθητε ἕκαστον ἐρώτημα.


Comprehension Questions on Mark 14:22

Mark 14:22 Καὶ ἐσθιόντων αὐτῶν λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.

Γράψας ἀποκρίθητι ἕκαστον ἐρώτημα.

  1. τί ἐποίουν τοὺς μαθητὰς ἐν τῷ λάβειν Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἄρτον;
  2. τί ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ ἄρτῳ;
  3. τί ἐποίησεν πρῶτον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
  4. τί ἐποίησεν δεύτερον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
  5. τί ἐποίησεν ἔσχατον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
  6. τί εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ;

 

As the students write answers to these questions, circulate among them offering support. This exercise should NOT be used as a test. It is a learning exercise. Give students advice on how to improve their responses. Make sure your comments do not sound judgmental, but also do not offer false praise when students’ writing is poor. Your comments should be supportive while pushing students to do better.


If you have any comments on this lesson, feel free to post them. If you were at SBL in the session where this was presented, I’d love to hear your feedback on that as well.

Teaching Ancient Greek in Ancient Greek (SBL 2015)

Almost a year ago Jonathan Robie and I did a presentation at SBL on the use of XML for structuring databases for the Greek text of the New Testament. Since that time we have been discussing the ways our work can support the creation of materials for teaching Ancient Greek using what has come to be called the Communicative Method.

We will be presenting again this year, but this time in a session dedicated to computer assisted language acquisition. Our talk will be on Sunday afternoon (11/22/2015) in Atlanta in session S22-206, Applied Linguistics for Biblical Languages; Global Education and Research Technology. The theme of that session will be Computer-Aided Language Acquisition for Greek and Hebrew

A part of what we will do is present a brief lesson snippet illustrating the method we recommend. In preparation for this I recently wrote a lesson using the Greek text of Matthew 2:12-13 based on methods that I regularly use for teaching both English and Spanish.

I have decided to post that lesson both here and on the b-Greek forum.

I would love to hear suggestions for improvement. As I receive suggestions either here or on b-Greek, I am making the necessary changes in the text below. Notations about these changes are entered in gray text.

THE LESSON PLAN:

Objective: Students will demonstrate comprehension of a short text with multiple participles responding orally and in writing to comprehension questions.

I. Build Background Knowledge/Access Prior Knowledge:

Use this section to prepare the students for reading Matthew 2:12-13.

A. Teach χρηματίζω

Preparation: Place a cardboard box labeled “ἐπικίνδυνος/dangerous/peligroso” in front of the students.  BoxSmallImage

Stand near the box.

  • If you only have one student, say:

Μὴ ἅψαι τοῦ κιβωτίου. Χρηματίζω σοι, μὴ ἅψασθαι ἐκείνου. Ἐπικίνδυνος ἐστίν.

For multiple students, say:

Μὴ ἅψασθε τοῦ κιβωτίου. Χρηματίζω αὐτοῖς, μὴ ἅψασθαι ἐκείνου. Ἐπικίνδυνος ἐστίν.

Thank you, Stephen Hughes and Carl Conrad, for suggesting significant improvements to the Greek statements above on the b-Greek forum.

  • As you say Χρηματίζω, extend your hands (palms forward) toward the audience as if to prevent anyone from approaching.
  • As you say σοι or αὐτοῖς, open your hands toward the student(s).
    • If necessary, repeat the phrase Χρηματίζω σοι or Χρηματίζω αὐτοῖς before proceeding.
  • For μὴ ἅψασθαι, shake your index finger back and forth and sign “touch” (http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-signs/t/touch.htm).
  • When you say ἐκείνου, point to the box.
  • As you say Ἐπικίνδυνος ἐστίν, move your finger from left to right under the word ἐπικίνδυνον on the box as if underlining it, but don’t touch the box.
    • Repeat this procedure if necessary.

B. Teach ἀναχωρῶ (ἀναχωρέω) and ἀνακάμπτω

Preparation: Before class, label two locations as ὁ οἴκος μου and ὁ οἴκος τοῦ θεοῦ with pictures.ὁ-οἴκός-μου

  • Standing next to the sign, ὁ οἴκος μου, gesture toward the other sign as you say, Ἔρχομαι εἰς τὸν οἴκον τοῦ θεοῦ. As you say this, start walking to the sign, ὁ οἴκος τοῦ θεοῦ. When you arrive, look back at the first sign a
    nd say, ἀναχωρῶ εἰς τὸν οἴκον μου. Walk back to the first sign.
  • ὁ οἴκος τοῦ θεοῦRepeat this sequence substituting ἀνακάμπτω for ἀναχωρῶ. Repeat the entire sequence (using ἀναχωρῶ and ἀνακάμπτω) as  necessary.
  • On the last repetition, say ἀναχωρῶ, ἀνακάμπτω εἰς τὸν οἴκον μου as you begin to return.
  • Summarize: Gesturing to indicate the direction of each trip, say, “πρώτον, ἔρχομαι.
    ὕστερον, ἀναχωρῶ.
    πρώτον, ἔρχομαι.
    ὕστερον, ἀνακάμπτω.
    ἀναχωρεῖν καὶ ἀνακάμπτειν ἴσα εἰσίν.”
    Repeat as needed.

C. Teach ἴσθι ἐκεῖ

Lead a student to the sign ὁ οἴκός μου. Step a few feet away from the student, point to the spot where the student is standing, and raising both palms toward the student, say, ἴσθι ἐκεῖ.  Walk away. If the student moves, lead him or her back to the sign and repeat.

Repeat as needed until the student realizes that you want him or her to stay. When the student successfully follows the direction, say καλόν (the adverb related to καλός).

D. Teach ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι

Stephen Hughes made the following suggestion on the b-Greek forum regarding teaching this phrase:

This could be used for a game. Students could repeat an action till you tell them to stop. Useful vocab. might be; Κροῦε (Κρούετε) τὰς χεῖρας ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι (ἡμῖν), Ἀνάσειε (Ἀνασείετε) τὴν χεῖρα ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι (ἡμῖν). “Clap your hands”, “Wave your hand in the air”. μὴ παῦσον / παύσατε, οὔπω εἶπον. παῦσον κρούων / ἀνασείων (παύσατε κρούοντες / ἀνασείοντες).

ΙI. Reading: Matthew 2:12—13.

Many class members will have heard the story of the flight to Egypt in their native language. This context will help them comprehend the meaning of several words in their Greek context. Read the passage aloud slowly without translation.

A. Scaffolded Reading

  • Picking up a Greek New Testament, say: ἀναγινωσκῶμεν τὸν εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Ματθέου.
  • Read Matthew 2:12—13 using the text and illustrations provided online (http://slides.com/mwpalmer/fleetoegypt), but without translation.
    [The last page of the online representation of the text contains a set of comprehension questions. Leave that page displayed throughout the remainder of the lesson, but don’t attempt to answer the questions yet. Just move on to the re-reading below.]

B. Re-reading

Read the text a second time as printed below without the online support. You can use your own Greek New Testament if you wish, just make sure to stop at the appropriate place (with the words ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι).

As you read, point to places in the classroom where you illustrated relevant vocabulary. Repeat key phrases from the lesson as needed to prompt memory.

Matthew 2:12-13

Matt. 2:12 καὶ χρηματισθέντες κατ᾿ ὄναρ μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην, δι᾿ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν.

13 Ἀναχωρησάντων δὲ αὐτῶν ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου φαίνεται κατ᾿ ὄναρ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ λέγων· ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ φεῦγε εἰς Αἴγυπτον καὶ ἴσθι ἐκεῖ ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι·

III. Identify Student Success (Formative Assessment of Comprehension).

After the re-reading, distribute the student page (see χαρτηρία τοῦ μαθητοῦ below). Use this as an informal assessment of how well your lesson has gone. Can the students answer the questions effectively?

A. Oral Assessment

Ask the following questions to eliciting oral responses. Possible answers are given here in parentheses.  The questions are displayed on the last page of the online presentation as well.  Keep that version displayed as you ask these questions.

    1. τίς ἐχρηματίσθη;
      (οἱ μάγοι, ὁ Ἰωσήφ, οἱ μάγοι καὶ ὁ Ἰωσήφ)
    2. πῶς ἐχρηματίσθη ὁ Ἰωσήφ;  (κατ᾽ ὄναρ)
    3. πῶς ἐχρηματίσθησαν οἱ μάγοι;  (κατ᾽ ὄναρ)
    4. τὶς πρῶτον ἐχρηματίσθη, ὁ Ἰωσήφ, ἤ οἰ μάγοι;
      (οἰ μάγοι)
    5. Ἀνεχώρησαν οἱ μάγοι πρὶν χρηματίσθηναι ὁ Ἰωσήφ ἢ ὕστερον;  (πρίν) [Note: The adverbs πρὶν and ὕστερον may be unfamiliar, but should be easy to illustrate.]
    6. τὶς ἀνήκαμψε / τίνες ἀνηκάμψαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτοῦ / αὐτῶν;

B. Written Assessment

Distribute copies of the student page show below. Have the students write their answers on the student page. These are the same questions they just answered orally. You can either read them aloud a second time and ask for written responses or allow the students to work in pairs reading the questions to each other and negotiating answers.

___________________________________________________________________________

χάρτης τῶν μαθητῶν

Γράψον τὸ ὄνομά σου· ____________________

Ἀποκρίνου ἕκαστον ἐρώτημα

  1. τίς ἐχρηματίσθη;
  2. πῶς ἐχρηματίσθη ὁ Ἰωσήφ;
  3. πῶς ἐχρηματίσθησαν οἱ μάγοι;
  4. τὶς πρῶτον ἐχρηματίσθη;
  5. Ἀνεχώρησαν οἱ μάγοι εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν πρὶν χρηματίσθηναι ὁ Ἰωσήφ ἢ ὕστερον;
  6. τὶς ἀνήκαμψε / τίνες ἀνηκάμψαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτοῦ / αὐτῶν;

I would like to offer sincere thanks to Stephen Hughes who took the time to read through this lesson on the b-Greek forum, catching several careless mistakes and offering significant advice for improvement.

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.

The Dirty Truth About Most New Testament Greek Classes

I just read a very honest assessment by Daniel R. Streett of the state of Ancient Greek instruction at very many institutions in the U.S. If you’ve studied Greek, take a look at his post and see if it matches your experience. I matches mine. It took me many years of hard work to overcome the drawbacks of this method!

You can read his discussion here: The Dirty Truth About Most New Testament Greek Classes

Thanks to Mike Aubrey for pointing this out over at ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ.

 

 

 

A Little More on the Middle / Passive

In each of the lessons dealing with the middle and passive voices, I have taken the opportunity to introduce a little more detail needed for a clear understanding of the functions of these voice categories. In lesson 22 I have included an unusually long discussion of transitivity as it relates to the passive voice.

While I think understanding transitivity is crucial for correctly understanding Greek voice, I’m unsure about how helpful my discussion of it is for beginning students. I would love to hear candid remarks on how helpful this discussion is or how obscure, confusing, or problematic you consider it to be.

I have thick skin. I can take criticism. I want the grammar to be useful to as many students as possible, so I don’t mind hearing recommendations for change!

 

A New Kind of Graded Reader: James Tauber’s Work

Take a look at the following nine minute video by James Tauber to see a very innovative use of currently developing technology to support acquiring New Testament Greek. He posted this video to Youtube about two years ago. I hope significant progress has been made on the project since then.

Input and Output in Acquisition of Hellenistic Greek

In earlier posts I have mentioned the notion of Comprehensible Input and its crucial role in language acquisition. Now I want to address a different issue that has equal implications for teaching and acquiring Ancient Greek: the distinction between receptive and expressive language, also called the input/output difference.

In acquisition of an additional language, reception precedes expression. That is, a student’s ability to understand develops much faster than her or his ability to speak. The ability to read develops faster than the ability to write. While research has clearly demonstrated this, it’s quite easy to see for anyone whose ever taught a modern language to any degree of fluency. Students that have a great deal of difficulty speaking German in class can nonetheless understand what the teacher is saying in German at a significantly higher level. Students who struggle with writing in French can nonetheless read French texts with grammatical constructions well beyond the ones they are able to write.

Now let’s think about the implications for teaching Ancient Greek. What is our objective? I think it is quite uncontroversial to propose that most Ancient Greek classes are focused more on reading than on writing. What we want our students to be able to do is read fluently, not write fluently. That is, our objective is most clearly aligned with reception, not expression.

While we might disagree over how beneficial it is to have students speak or write in class (output), these activities are clearly not our goal in and of themselves. Since our goal is reception rather than production, we could argue that having students learn to speak Ancient Greek is not a productive use of time (though some would disagree). Still, hearing Greek spoken clearly is a good use of time. It provides, in addition to reading, input that is useful to the student. Of course, the quality of this input must be high to be of real value. It must be comprehensible input.

I would love to hear comments from any of you who have experience relevant to this question. Have you been asked to speak or write (output) Greek in your classes? How helpful did you find that experience? Have you had instructors who spoke to you (input) in Greek? Did you find it helpful? If not, what was the nature of the way the instructor spoke? Were you able to understand based on the context? If not, it was not really comprehensible input.

It is my view that speaking to the class in Greek WILL aid acquisition so long as what is said is comprehensible based on the context in which it is spoken.

Comprehensible Input

Read about and listen to Stephen Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input as the key to language acquisition.

The video below demonstrates Stephen Krashen’s influential notion of “Comprehensibe Input” far better than I could explain it. Watch the video, then read the discussion below.

How could this perspective be applied to teaching Ancient Greek? I am certain that Krashen is correct in his assessment of the nature of language acquisition, but teaching an ancient language presents some special problems that make his method extremely difficult.

No materials designed specifically to support this kind of teaching exist for Hellenistic Greek as far as I know (though some limited attempts have been made). My own online grammar is certainly not suited to this purpose. I wrote most of it far too long ago. It is focussed on learning Greek, not acquiring it (See “Acquiring and Learning Greek“).

I would like at some point to begin to create materials to support this kind of instruction for Hellenistic Greek, but that’s a major project that is going to have to wait quite a while.