Nannanoli' ilimaaithana (We're learning from stories): Transforming narrative documentation into adult immersion curriculum

Hinson, Joshua
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Utilizing linguistic products in the immersion classroom is a challenge for language workers and their partner linguists. The Chickasaw model has long been one of linguistic documentation and analysis feeding into language revitalization and training. Recently we have been seeking to incorporate our large corpus of over 130 Chickasaw oral narratives directly into the daily instruction of the Chikasha Academy Immersion Program. In this paper I will discuss the steps involved in the selection, analysis, and pedagogical use of a Chickasaw narrative in an immersion setting, and will present preliminary findings of this approach. In assessing our learner’s progress, we saw a disconnect between the use of switch reference and discourse markers by native speakers in conversation and texts, and the ability of our L2 adult learners to use these features productively in conversation. We looked for these significant features in our narrative corpus. To begin converting raw narrative into instructional materials, we chose a personal narrative about cooking frog legs. I will discuss how we chose this narrative for content, the use of switch reference and discourse markers, and the process of analyzing the text. Three related narratives emerged from the original, and were crafted into leveled pedagogical materials: the first focusing on lexical and phonological variations present in the speech of the narrator, the second focusing on discourse markers and simplied switch reference, and the third the full original narrative with complex discourse marking and full switch narrative features. I will describe in detail the process by which these leveled narratives were created. These leveled narratives were incorporated in a variety of ways in the daily immersion activities of the Chikasha Academy. One novel exercise involves the retelling of each version in first, second, and third persons by all learners, focusing not only on switch reference and discourse markers but also on the pronominal system and Chickasaw’s active / stative verb agreement pattern. Narrative details are further explored through active question / answer exercises which also reinforce interrogative lexemes needed by learners for daily communication. I will discuss additional aspects of this method and the theoretical motivations for our methodological approach. Finally I will discuss preliminary results of this method and implications for other endangered language communities who may be seeking effective applications for the products of linguistic research in their own language education environments.
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