The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Jonathan Robie
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The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 28th, 2015, 5:49 pm

Randall Buth's references to Frank Smith have sent me looking to elementary school reading literature and ESL literature of various kinds, and lots of interesting conversations with Micheal Palmer. Yesterday, Micheal reminded me of the Goldilocks Method for helping children pick an appropriate book that they can read on their own. You want them to pick a book that's not "too easy", not "too hard", but "just right".

But for Greek, do we have enough text for people to spend adequate time reading at a given reading level before moving on to harder texts? How can we identify these texts?

The formatting isn't great, but I like the description on Rachel Walshire's site. It's a little hard to read on my browser, so I'll quote quite a bit of it here to make it easier to read.
When you are reading a book, use the Five Finger Test to help find a book that is “just right.”

The Five Finger Test

Sometimes it is difficult to know if a book is going to be too easy or too hard just by looking at it. The Five Finger test is one way to "test" a book before you spend too much time with it and get frustrated.

1. Choose a book you would like to read.
2. Open it to a page near the middle.
3. Begin to read the page. It is best to read the page aloud while doing the test so you can hear the places where you have difficulty.
4. Each time you come to a word you don't know right away, hold one finger up.
5. If you have all five fingers up before you get to the end of the page, this is a book that mom or dad might need to read to you. Right now it is too difficult for you to read it on your own. All five fingers up is called a Too Hard Book.
6. If you have no fingers up when you finish the page, then the book may be an easy read for you. No fingers up is called a Too Easy Book.
7. If you have less than five fingers but more than one or two fingers up when you finish reading the page, the book may be just what you need to grow as a reader. Some fingers up is called a Just Right Book.

Too Easy Books

As you read, ask yourself these questions. If you answer "yes" to most of the questions then the book is probably too easy for you. You can still have fun reading it, but next time try to choose a book that is a little more challenging.

1. Have you read this book many times before?
2. Do you understand the story very well without much effort?
3. Do you know and understand almost every word?
4. Can you read it smoothly without much practice or effort?

*This is the kind of book that can be read independently as it will build your child’s confidence.

Just Right Books

As you read, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to most of them, then the book you are reading is probably "just right" for you. These are the books that will help you make the most progress in your reading.

1. Is this book new to you?
2. Do you understand most of the book?
3. Are there a few words per page that you don't recognize or know the meaning to instantly? Try using the five finger test.
4. When you read, are some places smooth and some places choppy?
5. Can someone help you with the book if you hit a tough spot?

*This is the kind of book a child can read independently and can be used for guided instruction.

Too Hard Books

As you read, ask yourself these questions. If you answer yes to most of these questions, then the book is probably too hard for you. Don't forget about the book, try it again later. As you gain experience in choosing "just right" books, you may find when you pick the book up again that it is "just right."

1. Are there more than a few words on a page that you don't recognize or know the meaning? Try using the five finger test.
2. Are you confused about what is happening in most of the book?
3. When you read, are you struggling and does it sound choppy?
4. Is everyone busy and unable to help you if you hit a tough spot?

*This is a book that an adult can read to the child. Alone, the child will reach frustration.
I think this needs to be adapted for biblical Greek, but guidelines like this would be very helpful. I know that I've spent an awful lot of my reading time on "Too Hard Books" by these criteria. These days, software tools can partly replace "an adult" for "a book that an adult can read to the child", but we still need plenty of independent reading without those tools. These days, the number of fingers may be different if it is really easy to look up a word, and these guidelines certainly need to be adapted for a foreign language like Greek.

How would you adapt this for biblical Greek texts?

In elementary school, we expect kids to spend a lot of time in independent reading, which has clear payoffs in reading ability. To do that for Greek, we need lots of text for people to read, and it would be really helpful to have them sorted by reading level. Suppose we want beginners to be able to read on their level, adding text from the Septuagint, Philo, Josephus, Epictetus, and various Hellenistic works. Is there enough text at each level to do this?

For English, we have programs that can look at the text of a book and compute its reading level. I am not aware of any tools that can currently do this for Hellenistic Greek. Emma has done a little work here, if she produces such a tool that would be great. I'd love to encourage anyone working on such a tool. \

In the meantime, let's try this intuitively. The results could be helpful for anyone writing such a tool.

For the sake of argument, let's accept this list as a difficulty-level ordering of the Greek New Testament:
1. 1 John
2. John
3. Revelation
4. Matthew
5. Mark
6. Luke
7. Acts
8. 1 Corinthians
9. 2 John
10. Romans
11. 2 Corinthians
12. 1 Thessalonians
13. 2 Thessalonians
14. Ephesians
15. Philemon
16. Galatians
17. 3 John
18. Colossians
19. Hebrews
20. Philippians
21. 1 Peter
22. 2 Peter
23. 1 Timothy
24. James
25. 2 Timothy
26. Jude
27. Titus
Does anyone know of a similar ranking for the Septuagint, Hellenistic Greek, or Attic Greek? Which of these works is roughly as hard as John / 1 John? Matthew / Mark? Luke / Acts?

Has anyone done good work along these lines?
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 29th, 2015, 12:18 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:Jonathan. I have said before, and am still am convinced, the very biggest need in NATURAL* learning of Greek is a book of short stories. None of the "First Year..." storybooks out there are at a beginner level (Greek Boy, Moss, White, Peckett, simplified Xenophon, etc.).
I agree that this would be helpful. You seem to be thinking of a series of stories to read that would bring someone up to the level of John or 1 John. I think this would be particularly helpful if it targeted the kind of vocabulary and grammar found in Hellenistic Greek, and would prefer stories set in ancient times. The challenge is to be interesting while writing simply, and getting the Greek checked by enough people to get it as good as possible.

I wonder if you could start a separate thread on that, perhaps using most of the text from the post I'm replying to? I'd like to use this thread to try to identify existing texts at various reading levels. But I wonder if people on B-Greek couldn't help you in writing some of those stories or reviewing them, if you want help.
Paul-Nitz wrote:The effort should produce something that I think will be useful for Year 2 and Year 3 Greek classes.
By then, shouldn't they be able to comfortably read material at the level of Matthew, or at least John? I'm looking for low hanging fruit, what would you recommend for someone who reads for 30-60 minutes a day and wants more material to read at about that level? Genesis seems to be on that level, for instance, and the style of parts of it, at least, is not miles away from the Greek in the Gospels. Jonah is about that level. What else is available at that level in the Hellenistic literature?

What about someone who is at the 1 John / John level, what else would be reasonably easy for them to read?
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Stephen Hughes
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 29th, 2015, 12:52 pm

If you wanted something extensive at a very easy level, the Apophthegmata Patrum, Sayings of the Desert Fathers, would be okay. It expresses a popular rather than cannonical understanding of the spiritual struggle, but is readily accessible Greek none-the-less.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Paul-Nitz
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Paul-Nitz » May 29th, 2015, 12:54 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Paul-Nitz wrote:
The effort should produce something that I think will be useful for Year 2 and Year 3 Greek classes.
By then, shouldn't they be able to comfortably read material at the level of Matthew, or at least John?
I'm not familiar with what level a person gets to in 3 years of Greek in other places. Can they READ Matthew after 2-3 years? Or, can they parse/plough their way through it? Here, I have more pedagogic challenges that I won't get into. But another salient difference, I assume, is that I have a different objective than most programs or instructors (and I have the glorious freedom to pursue it, thank God!). I do not try to jump into NT texts. I want my students to understand, and even use, all the basic Greek language structures. I'm ambivalent about vocabulary. My theory and belief is that if they can control the Greek structures we do together, they will be capable and confident learners who will be able to continue their use of Greek in their final three years of school (after they leave me) and in their autodidact efforts.
Jonathan Robie wrote: I'm looking for low hanging fruit, what would you recommend for someone who reads for 30-60 minutes a day and wants more material to read at about that level?
I can't recommend authentic Koine texts. I remember Randall Buth somewhere recommending Chariton.

For story based primers, you have a plethora to choose from, but all are focused on pre-Koine Greek. Of those I'm more familiar with, Peckett's Thrasymachus is best by far. Many are free on archive.org. I'll create a list of those I know about, if it interests you.
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 29th, 2015, 1:00 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:If you wanted something extensive at a very easy level, the Apophthegmata Patrum, Sayings of the Desert Fathers, would be okay. It expresses a popular rather than canonical understanding of the spiritual struggle, but is readily accessible Greek none-the-less.
Thanks - I haven't read this, do you have a link to a decent version? If not, I can go hunt.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 29th, 2015, 1:19 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:I can't recommend authentic Koine texts. I remember Randall Buth somewhere recommending Chariton.

For story based primers, you have a plethora to choose from, but all are focused on pre-Koine Greek. Of those I'm more familiar with, Peckett's Thrasymachus is best by far. Many are free on archive.org. I'll create a list of those I know about, if it interests you.
Thanks!

Jonathan
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 29th, 2015, 1:23 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:I'm ambivalent about vocabulary. My theory and belief is that if they can control the Greek structures we do together, they will be capable and confident learners who will be able to continue their use of Greek in their final three years of school (after they leave me) and in their autodidact efforts.
And for adults, and foreign languages, I suspect the best way to measure difficulty is to look at the syntactic structures, not primarily at the vocabulary. The five-finger method would need significant adaptation. Does anyone know of a better way to grade Greek texts for native speakers of English?
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Stephen Hughes
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 29th, 2015, 1:33 pm

Not a link, no. I read a few of them with John Lee in Advanced Koine Texts, and he concentrated on the lexical development, but actually, they are quite easy reading. I only have a paper copy (in Australia- non essential reading).
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(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Peter Pankonin
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Peter Pankonin » May 29th, 2015, 3:37 pm

Is this it:

http://dspace.unitus.it/handle/2067/2344
"The work presents the Old Church Slavonic text of the Alphabetic Paterìk (Lives of the Desert Fathers) according to Serbian and Bulgarian manuscripts, paralleled by the original Greek text."
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Peter Pankonin
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Re: The Goldilocks Method - Just Right Books

Post by Peter Pankonin » May 29th, 2015, 4:00 pm

Some other resources:

Seumas Macdonald has created a 3-part Greek Natural Method reader available here:
http://thepatrologist.com/free-resources/

I found some Greek e-books here (modern Greek):
http://www.openbook.gr/2013/11/openbook.html

Also a Juvenile Fiction book:
http://www.ebooks4greeks.gr/category/fr ... E%B9%CE%B1
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Πέτρος Πανκώνιν
"There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't"

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