The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 8th, 2015, 2:13 pm

Let me give a short, concrete example to illustrate what I was talking about in my previous post. On Sunday, I had a new student show up who knows Latin, but no Greek beyond the alphabet. I quickly discarded the Luke text we were going to use, and picked up John 1. We all know how to pre-teach vocabulary, that's not hard. I managed to improvise some very simple who-what-when questions in Greek, and teach people to answer.

On the very first clause, Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, I pointed out that putting a prepositional phrase first is very marked, that "marked" can mean a bunch of different things like emphasis, focus, topicalization, etc., and asked why they thought Ἐν ἀρχῇ might be marked in this particular passage. That's really basic question about this passage. I have no idea how to ask it in Greek. I don't know how to teach beginners how to answer it. Using English as a metalanguage helped draw attention to this aspect of the text, waiting until we could do the same in Greek would have meant not teaching this point.

What do you do when you are teaching adults with college level reasoning, and college level questions about the text, but less than a grade school ability to speak and write the language? Are there any texts that would help me know how to teach this kind of thing in Greek in a way that beginning students could do this?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 8th, 2015, 2:17 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Real language expression and dialogue is necessary, and if you really want to learn the language as a language, you have to start with texts that are closer to Goldilocks than Chrysostom.
I need evidence for this view, not just repeated dogmatic statements.

That's not the conclusion that teachers of English as a Second Language have reached, or that the SIOP approach practices. They teach to grade level, even with students who are not very proficient in English at all, using a lot of "scaffolding" techniques, and they have a lot of research that seems to show this is a very effective way to go. I suspect that ESL is the closest equivalent we have to what we are trying to do that has an extensive base of relevant research.

And if your students are more interested in the biblical text than in Goldilocks, you won't keep their interest with Goldilocks. Goldilocks is not the reason most people want to learn biblical Greek. At the very least, I don't think you can produce enough evidence from the research literature to criticize everyone who decides not to teach using Goldilocks. The real problem is that we aren't as good at doing this as the ESL teachers are. I think we can learn a lot from them.

Besides, to be perfectly blunt, elementary school teachers go a lot further up the Bloom hierarchy when teaching Goldilocks than most materials I've seen that try to teach Greek using spoken Greek. I've recently seen lesson plans for teaching Goldilocks, analyzed according to Bloom's Taxonomy. Can you show me materials at this level for teaching Greek using spoken and written Greek, for any Hellenistic text?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 8th, 2015, 2:21 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:And you also must access the widest variety of texts possible as the learning progresses. To do otherwise, in my opinion, would be to defeat your purpose of a full dialogue with Biblical texts. Those who wrote those texts, and those who read them well in the original, have developed their language skills from a vastly broader base.
I agree with this, of course.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » June 8th, 2015, 2:59 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Real language expression and dialogue is necessary, and if you really want to learn the language as a language, you have to start with texts that are closer to Goldilocks than Chrysostom.
I need evidence for this view, not just repeated dogmatic statements.
Really? Do you really think the place to start learning a language as a language is reading something like Chrysostom? I thought that came under the "water is wet and sky is blue" umbrella. I am dogmatic about that! Most of us must begin with much simpler material if we want to learn basic expression and dialogue.
Jonathan Robie wrote:That's not the conclusion that teachers of English as a Second Language have reached, or that the SIOP approach practices. They teach to grade level, even with students who are not very proficient in English at all, using a lot of "scaffolding" techniques, and they have a lot of research that seems to show this is a very effective way to go. I suspect that ESL is the closest equivalent we have to what we are trying to do that has an extensive base of relevant research.
I'm not quite sure what 'teach to grade level' means here, but all I know about ESL (I have a quite good diploma, but I'm no expert) tells me that you begin by talking about food, and eating, and furniture and greetings and a few simple idioms, and pets, and family members, and much everyday language - GOLDILOCKS! You certainly don't start with Kant or Goethe - or Chrysostom.
Jonathan Robie wrote:And if your students are more interested in the biblical text than in Goldilocks, you won't keep their interest with Goldilocks. Goldilocks is not the reason most people want to learn biblical Greek. At the very least, I don't think you can produce enough evidence from the research literature to criticize everyone who decides not to teach using Goldilocks. The real problem is that we aren't as good at doing this as the ESL teachers are. I think we can learn a lot from them.
ESL teachers don't do what I think you're suggesting - limiting yourself to one text. For that matter, they don't begin with a text at all. As already noted, they begin with simple everyday language and build a confidence in comprehension AND EXPRESSION.
Jonathan Robie wrote:Besides, to be perfectly blunt, elementary school teachers go a lot further up the Bloom hierarchy when teaching Goldilocks than most materials I've seen that try to teach Greek using spoken Greek. I've recently seen lesson plans for teaching Goldilocks, analyzed according to Bloom's Taxonomy.
Agreed. But it's early, and they are pioneers. It'll get better fast.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 8th, 2015, 3:46 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:I need evidence for this view, not just repeated dogmatic statements.
Really? Do you really think the place to start learning a language as a language is reading something like Chrysostom? I thought that came under the "water is wet and sky is blue" umbrella. I am dogmatic about that! Most of us must begin with much simpler material if we want to learn basic expression and dialogue.
Chrysostom, no. John or 1 John, yes.

I really do need research evidence for the claims you make here. Especially when you claim this is the only good approach. I think we're at a point that we need to explore various new approaches to teaching Greek better. I don't think it's at all helpful to interrupt every discussion of a non-Goldilocks approach with claims that only Goldilocks approaches are appropriate. We do need room for discussing Goldilocks approaches too.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:That's not the conclusion that teachers of English as a Second Language have reached, or that the SIOP approach practices. They teach to grade level, even with students who are not very proficient in English at all, using a lot of "scaffolding" techniques, and they have a lot of research that seems to show this is a very effective way to go. I suspect that ESL is the closest equivalent we have to what we are trying to do that has an extensive base of relevant research.
I'm not quite sure what 'teach to grade level' means here, but all I know about ESL (I have a quite good diploma, but I'm no expert) tells me that you begin by talking about food, and eating, and furniture and greetings and a few simple idioms, and pets, and family members, and much everyday language - GOLDILOCKS! You certainly don't start with Kant or Goethe - or Chrysostom.
In the SIOP approach, you teach a 10th grader what a 10th grader needs to know. That requires a whole lot of help that native speakers of English do not need, and the SIOP people have gotten good at providing that help, with research results that demonstrate that. That does not require teaching the 10th grader Goldilocks.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:Besides, to be perfectly blunt, elementary school teachers go a lot further up the Bloom hierarchy when teaching Goldilocks than most materials I've seen that try to teach Greek using spoken Greek. I've recently seen lesson plans for teaching Goldilocks, analyzed according to Bloom's Taxonomy.
Agreed. But it's early, and they are pioneers. It'll get better fast.
I agree that they are pioneers, and that they are producing useful new materials. But theirs is not the only approach geared toward reading fluency.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:ESL teachers don't do what I think you're suggesting - limiting yourself to one text. For that matter, they don't begin with a text at all. As already noted, they begin with simple everyday language and build a confidence in comprehension AND EXPRESSION.
I am not saying anyone should limit themselves to one text, never have, and get rather sick of the repeated implications that this is what I am saying. But I am advocating using real texts whenever possible. That may not be your approach, but in my own attempts to learn how to teach, I don't plan on rewriting Goldilocks in Hellenistic Greek, I do plan on searching for texts at appropriate reading levels for a given student.

Reading and responding to texts really does seem to be an important theme in the ESL literature I'm seeing, expression is an important part of that. Even if they are teaching a text, scaffolding might start with teaching words or phrases people will need to understand the text. I'm still absorbing the ESL literature, but so far, I'm not convinced that being able to talk about everyday events is required before learning how to talk about a particular subject matter, or that you need to work on Goldilocks before you can read 1 John.

Again, I do think there's room for different approaches. I don't want to see the Goldilocks camp spam every thread that suggests taking a different approach, though. We need room to discuss various approaches here on B-Greek.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » June 9th, 2015, 12:55 am

There are some strong feelings here and some strong words. That is always a good time to step back and reflect a bit. I think we are working to the same end, and in fact I think we are agreeing on a whole lot. It seems that the biggest area of difference is over the need to be able to express oneself to some extent in normal everyday dialogue in order to gain a large measure of fluency in a language. On that, of course, hangs the question of how you go about developing yourself and your students.

If you are convinced of that necessity, as I am, then you have to try to find some way to make available in Koine what is so readily available in any modern language training program that I’ve ever seen – text in simple language which will help you to gain/teach that fluency. When you try to use extant Koine texts like Biblical text for that purpose you soon discover it simply is not a good way to do it. It is not written for that purpose and you cannot come up with even the simplest phrasing that you would like to learn.

I was not aware that I was “… interrupt[ing] every discussion of a non-Goldilocks approach with claims that only Goldilocks approaches are appropriate…”, nor would I want to “interrupt” any discussion or to be boorish about pressing any particular position. It is always good to take stock, though, and to keep oneself under discipline.

In the give and take of debating the best ways to learn and teach Koine Greek there is bound to be some bumping of heads, but I assure you, Jonathan, that I respect the work you are doing, have great expectations for its outcome, and regret anywhere where hasty or ill considered comments from me would suggest otherwise.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 9th, 2015, 8:32 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:There are some strong feelings here and some strong words. That is always a good time to step back and reflect a bit. I think we are working to the same end, and in fact I think we are agreeing on a whole lot. It seems that the biggest area of difference is over the need to be able to express oneself to some extent in normal everyday dialogue in order to gain a large measure of fluency in a language. On that, of course, hangs the question of how you go about developing yourself and your students.
Yes, I do think we mostly agree. I think there are two main differences, actually: (1) whether we should write new texts in Hellenistic Greek or use existing texts, and (2) whether everyday conversational Hellenistic Greek is an important goal, as opposed to reading and responding to the language in existing texts (orally and in writing) and using appropriate scaffolding techniques to teach these texts.

And I think the real answer is that we should develop both approaches more fully and measure the results. I would love to see people interact on B-Greek while developing both approaches. These are not contradictory approaches, and the materials developed by one group can be useful for the other.

And right now, this is a little like two novelists in a bar arguing about which one plans to write a better novel. Let's write the novels first, then we can compare.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:If you are convinced of that necessity, as I am, then you have to try to find some way to make available in Koine what is so readily available in any modern language training program that I’ve ever seen – text in simple language which will help you to gain/teach that fluency. When you try to use extant Koine texts like Biblical text for that purpose you soon discover it simply is not a good way to do it. It is not written for that purpose and you cannot come up with even the simplest phrasing that you would like to learn.
If you mean modern conversational fluency to discuss everyday things, I agree. If you mean the ability to speak about what's going on in a text, I disagree. I think the simplest Hellenistic texts are within range using appropriate scaffolding techniques. That may involve things like pre-teaching the vocabulary of a passage, activities like asking students to help you make lists of the people involved in a passage, the places involved in a passage, the time frames involved in a passage, asking simple who-what-where questions about the text. But all of this gets us to just a very basic understanding of a text, mostly Level 1 of Bloom's Taxonomy, which has 6 levels.

Before we can discard English as a metalanguage, we need to be able to ask things like "why do you think the disciples were surprised, what do you think they were expecting?", or say things like "this participle is temporal, and it sets the context in terms of something that happened before the main verb". I think your solution to this problem is that any serious discussion of Hellenistic texts along these lines is many years down the road, because (a) students need a lot of time to master the language first, and (b) we need to develop the instructional materials first. I think my solution to this problem is (a) use appropriate scaffolding techniques, learning from SIOP, and (b) we need to develop the instructional materials first. I think there's a lot of room for working together on the kinds of instructional materials that would be helpful, starting with Level 1 of Bloom's Taxonomy and working our way up.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 9th, 2015, 8:46 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:I was not aware that I was “… interrupt[ing] every discussion of a non-Goldilocks approach with claims that only Goldilocks approaches are appropriate…”


This is my main frustration and my main concern. I do think it can sometimes be difficult to discuss other approaches because of the level of enthusiasm of the conversational Greek folks. I think it's great that there are people here writing stories in simpler Hellenistic Greek and learning how to speak Hellenistic Greek as an everyday conversational language. I took one class online to try to learn how to do that, and I would certainly take classes from Randall Buth or Louis Sorenson if they were local.

But I also think other approaches are important. My current direction is to work directly with Hellenistic texts, and composition that centers on Hellenistic texts. I'm fine with a "hold your nose and jump" thread, and I'm happy to see people discussing how to write simpler stories. I would also like to explore other approaches, some will be useful, others will not. My main current interest involves (1) corpus-based methods, leveraging syntax trees to identify teaching materials, (2) developing appropriate scaffolding techniques for texts, and (3) learning to ask questions about texts in Greek and respond to Greek texts in speech and in writing. I don't know how to do this well. I think the conversational people can help me a lot on (2) and (3), but some of the non-conversational people can too. I have a lot to learn.

I would like to have some threads that focus on these things, discussing only those things and not other possible approaches. If someone comes into one of those threads and says, "no, what we really need is to write lots of simpler stories", I'll just split the thread into two separate threads so that we can discuss each topic separately.

We will be using a private subforum for (2), partly to allow us all to write embarrassing Greek in private.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » June 9th, 2015, 11:11 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Before we can discard English as a metalanguage, we need to be able to ask things like "why do you think the disciples were surprised, what do you think they were expecting?", or say things like "this participle is temporal, and it sets the context in terms of something that happened before the main verb". I think your solution to this problem is that any serious discussion of Hellenistic texts along these lines is many years down the road, because (a) students need a lot of time to master the language first, and (b) we need to develop the instructional materials first. I think my solution to this problem is (a) use appropriate scaffolding techniques, learning from SIOP, and (b) we need to develop the instructional materials first. I think there's a lot of room for working together on the kinds of instructional materials that would be helpful, starting with Level 1 of Bloom's Taxonomy and working our way up
No, I don't think such a use of Koine is many years down the line, and I don't see use of everyday expressions as the sine qua non of Koine usage as you are describing it. I think we are getting there quite fast because of the work of the pioneers and the more who make this their focus the sooner it will be realized.

I never thought that the only road is to gain fluency in everyday terminology, but I do think that 'freedom of expression' greatly enhances fluency. What I mean by 'freedom of expression' is that you have enough facility with the language that you can use it in many different everyday situations - you are not bound to simply use Koine when speaking about a text or a particular topic. Of course, there are real limitations since there are no expressions for space ship, or internet, or motorcycle etc. Nevertheless, Koine can still be applied to many everyday experiences / objects / ideas etc. The 'freedom' to use the language here, I think, really steps up fluency as the language is accessible and you can use it and 'think in it' in much of your normal everyday experience.

A silly example which I think makes the point is that I began counting in Koine when doing exercises about a year ago. I now use Koine numbers 'thoughtlessly'. That is, it is as natural for me to say a number in Koine as in English (well up to 30 anyway. ;-> ). The more one can expand this sort of application, the faster usage becomes natural, and this carries over to every setting - discussing texts or dialoguing over coffee.
Jonathan Robie wrote:But I also think other approaches are important. My current direction is to work directly with Hellenistic texts, and composition that centers on Hellenistic texts. I'm fine with a "hold your nose and jump" thread, and I'm happy to see people discussing how to write simpler stories. I would also like to explore other approaches, some will be useful, others will not. My main current interest involves (1) corpus-based methods, leveraging syntax trees to identify teaching materials, (2) developing appropriate scaffolding techniques for texts, and (3) learning to ask questions about texts in Greek and respond to Greek texts in speech and in writing. I don't know how to do this well. I think the conversational people can help me a lot on (2) and (3), but some of the non-conversational people can too. I have a lot to learn.
Yes. The end goal is a common one, and other approaches are important. I'm not sure if anyone here actually ever disagreed with that, but I think you've required us to ACT like we agree with it. ;->

I think, for me at least, the term 'stories' must be read in the largest meaning of that term. No one is suggesting that we all have to become little Aesop's in order to develop curriculum. Rather, we're trying to cope with the paucity of materials that are normally close at hand to teach fluency. I think you have to be careful not to 'categorize' this too closely. In a sense, everyone who is teaching language is using 'stories'. Your questions and 'scaffolding' necessarily involve simple 'stories'. I think that is the jist of your earlier question:
Jonathan Robie wrote:What do you do when you are teaching adults with college level reasoning, and college level questions about the text, but less than a grade school ability to speak and write the language? Are there any texts that would help me know how to teach this kind of thing in Greek in a way that beginning students could do this?
Finally, questions are a very important part of the process no matter what the approach, and would be a very important element in any 'story' I created as a curriculum aid. We're really on the same path - the biggest difference being the ideal scope of expression to gain the most fluency in the least time. I see this is kind of a sub-category.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Andrew Chapman » June 10th, 2015, 10:55 am

If one thing we are trying to do is to read outside the New Testament, then I personally would benefit from the opportunity to discuss the text, perhaps in 'Koine Greek Texts' or 'Other Greek Texts'. I am thinking of 1) the papyri, there are some suitable ones I think in Milligan's Selections from the Greek Papyri 2) Shepherd of Hermas; 3) Aesop's Fables. Just one papyrus - a letter home, say, or a marriage contract; or one fable; or, I guess half a chapter of ὁ Ποιμήν, to begin with. What do you think?

Andrew

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