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Language with Justin: May 2016

By Justin Neely, Director of the CPN Language Department 

It’s been an eventful month for the Citizen Potawatomi Language Department. In April, students who attend the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Child Development Center competed in the OU Language Fair. Our group took first place in the large group traditional song category for pre-K – second grade. The kids sang the Potawatomi “Morning Song,” focusing on singing loudly with harmony, but without screaming. Anyone who has ever worked with 4-year-olds knows this is quite a challenge, so a big migwetch to the language staff for working with the kids and even bigger congrats to the children who competed and won.

Check out the video of the CPN Child Development Center kids’ performance at cpn.news/2016LanguageChamps

Our new online language course, Beginner I, is available at language.potawatomi.org and is free and open to anyone with an interest in the language and culture. The beginner course is self-paced and designed so students can do the lessons in their free time. The course has PowerPoint lessons, video spoofs of popular movies, games, quizzes and tests to reinforce material and check one’s progress. After the completion of each of the 20 chapters is a special cultural teaching video which shares topics like the importance of eagles, Potawatomi medicine wheel, dances regalia, the drum, tobacco, the stars, traditional stories and folklore. After a student completes Beginner I we encourage him or her to take the Beginner II course, which has an additional 20 chapters of materials and teachings. 

Additionally, we are working on a children’s course which we hope will be ready to go live by early May. It is designed specifically with kids in mind. The main page is a city and then you click on a building and have the option of going one of two directions. Then there are different hot spots in the areas where kids can hit on and hear songs, stories, learn words and watch parts of movies like “Finding Nemo,” “Frozen” and “Despicable Me” in Potawatomi. We hope kids will enjoy just looking around to see what they can find. We also believe some parents may enjoy it as much as their kids.

As a staff, we were able to attend a three-day workshop on immersion teaching methodology in Albuquerque, New Mexico, hosted by the Indigenous Language Institute. We saw and taught mini immersion classes. With more than 25 different tribal organizations in attendance, we learned language teaching techniques such as total physical response, the natural approach and immersion teaching styles. Immersion teaching involves instructing the class solely in your language.

We saw presentations by various groups using visual cues, songs, physical items and drawing. There were even demonstrations on teaching more complex grammatical concepts while staying in your language. We learned comprehensible input, which means making teaching understandable through hand gestures, pictures and visual aids, even if the students does not know the language. As teachers, we want to make sure to keep all students engaged and make sure we aren’t trying to cover too much material, which is why we have self-paced online classes available. Overall, it was a very insightful workshop.

Please contact me at jneely@potawatomi.org or 405-878-5830 if you have any questions.