Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Drawing Dictation

This is a great listening comprehension activity, which I learned this summer from Linda Li in her Fluency Fast Mandarin class. It is very much like a regular dictation, but the difference though is that instead of having students write down the target language sentences as you say them, they draw them! I would recommend that you do this as a post-reading activity, instead of as a pre-reading activity.

  1. Take 6 sentences from a story which you have been going over in class. These sentences need to be "drawable."
  2. If needed, write any target vocabulary on the board with their English meaning.
  3. On a sheet of paper, tell students to draw a 2x3 grid which should fill the entire paper.
  4. Have students number each box from 1-6.
  5. Tell students “I will say a sentence, and your job is to draw a visual representation of that sentence. You will have 2-3 minutes to draw.” 
  6. Begin reading the first sentence slowly. It will be necessary to repeat the sentence many times. 
  7. Continue with the other sentences. Remind students that words are on the board if they need them.
  8. At the end, repeat the sentences and tell students to check their drawings to ensure that they have drawn everything needed.
Alternate version - ask students to draw their visual representations with their NON-DOMINANT hand. This will take a lot more time for students to complete and will cause them to focus more on what they are drawing (which means you saying more repetitions of the sentence).

  1. The sentences need to be very comprehensible, because students are drawing what they hear. If the sentences are too long or are incomprehensible, students will become frustrated.
  2. Students were much more engaged with this type of dictation instead of a regular one, since it involved them having to draw a visual representation of what they heard, as opposed to just writing down words. 
  3. Because students had to draw what they heard, it was necessary for me to repeat the sentences many times, which meant LOTS of great repetitions. 
  4. Students did not complain about doing this type of dictation, because it did not "feel" like a regular dictation.  
  5. Because students were already familiar with the story and vocabulary, it was not a difficult activity for them to do.
  6. This is another great post-reading activity for going over a story and to get in more repetitions.
Example (taken from a Movie Talk called MonsterBox)
  1. Ecce puella et duo monstra: parvum monstrum et mediocre monstrum! (Behold a girl and two monsters: a small monster and a medium monster)
  2. Faber facit casam parvo monstro (The craftsman makes a house for the small monster)
  3. Puella est laeta, quod monstro placet casa (The girl is happy, because the monster likes the house)
  4. Ecce puella et tria monstra: parvum monstrum, mediocre monstrum, et magnum monstrum. (Behold the girl and three monster: a small monster, a medium monster, and a big monster).
  5. Faber facit casam mediocri monstro (The craftsman makes a house for the medium monster).
  6. Faber non facit casam magno monstro, quod magnum monstrum est molestum (The craftsman does not make a house for the big monster, because the big monster is annoying).

Monday, August 28, 2017

Interactive Student Responses

If you are looking for a way to get your students to participate in a story beyond the basic "Ohhh" response in a TPRS story, here are some ways in which I get students to respond whenever I say particular vocabulary words:

Examples of class responses
  1. subito (suddenly) - entire class gasps aloud.
  2. sed (but) - entire class says "BUUUUT" in their most, sarcastic, valley girl, middle school way. I learned this from Annabelle Allen.
  3. tamen (however/neverthless) - entire class sings "tamen, tamen means however, however; tamen tamen, means nevertheless" to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus. I learned this from Karen Rowan who did it in Spanish and from Miriam Patrick who then adapted it into Latin.
  4. eheu (oh no) - entire class says "Oh no!" very dramatically.
Examples of individual student responses
  1. apparet/apparent (appears) - student's job is to say "POOF."
  2. quis/quae/qui (who) - student's job is to hoot "Hoo hoo" like an owl. I learned this from Ben Wang and Linda Li.
  3. quid (what) - student's job is to say "what WHAAAT."
Now these are different from rejoinders which students can yell out depending on what is being discussed, since these are specific responses to vocabulary words. 

  1. These are a great way to incorporate more student participation in class. In fact, as I introduce more of these in class, I will have students who will specifically ask me if they can have one of these "jobs." Even better is when I have more than one student wanting to do a particular response so that it becomes necessary to have "tryouts," which means more repetitions for the class to hear.
  2. The individual student responses requires those students who are assigned that job to be active listeners, because they are always on call. 
  3. I use these to introduce words which I know are important but may not be as easy for students to recall. Usually after awhile, I do not feel that it is necessary for students to say these responses, because I feel that they have acquired these words, but heaven forbid if I do not let students respond to them! It makes me laugh that students have taken such ownership of them that they demand the chance to respond. A few years ago, in one of my classes, I deliberately stopped using the word tamen, because I got tired of hearing the class sing the song so much! 
I love learning other responses from teachers. Alina Filipescu has a lot of them which I plan to steal! What are some which you use in your classroom?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pop-Up Theory

At IFLT this past summer, during the Q&A session with Stephen Krashen and Bill Van Patten, Krashen said that he felt that the CI movement had progressed enough in classrooms that one could now introduce "pop-up theory." Much like how CI teachers can give brief, 30-second "pop-up grammar" explanations during a lesson, Krashen expressed that one could now do the same with Comprehensible Input theory in a class and explain to students how language was acquired. I found Krashen's comment to be very interesting, because although I do try to establish a classroom environment (safety net) and student behaviors (being an active listener, teaching to the eyes, interaction with the target language) needed for acquiring a language, I had never really explained to students why all of this was necessary. 

Today in my Latin 1 class, I introduced students to their first reading. For the past two weeks, our Latin 1 instructional team (Bob Patrick, John Foulk, Rachel Ash and I) has been focusing on Circling with Balls and TPR, so Rachel wrote up a very short story using the vocabulary which had been introduced. I was a bit hesitant to show this reading to my students, because although the reading utilized limited vocabulary with lots of repetitions, in doing Circling with Balls and TPR, I had not been focusing specifically on these exact words per se. Instead, I had been doing more of an untargeted vocabulary approach and running with whatever words came up in class or were needed to keep the dialogue compelling and moving along. Imagine my surprise when as soon as I projected the reading, many students immediately began to translate it aloud without my prompting! We ended up doing a choral reading and a round of Stultus with it, and afterwards, I asked students to show me on their hands what they thought of it: 1 being very difficult to understand, and 5 being very easy to read. All students rated it a 4 or 5!

As a follow-up, I asked students, "So why was this so easy to read? This was your first time ever reading a Latin story. I never once gave you a list of Latin words to learn. I never once told you to make flashcards. Why do you know these words?" I got a bunch of blank stares, as students tried to process my question. A student then replied, "Well, you have been saying these words all the time these past few weeks." My response: "Exactly. All I have ever asked of you these past two weeks is to simply listen to me, to understand what I am saying to you in Latin, and to signal me when I am not understandable. You acquired these words SUBCONSCIOUSLY through listening to me and interacting with the language. These words are now inside you. That is how one acquires a language. When you say that this class is easy, it should be. Acquiring a language should not be difficult and should feel effortless if I am doing my job correctly." I could have gone on for awhile telling students about Comprehensible Input theory and the three C's of CI (heck, I gave a 5-minute lunchtime talk about this at IFLT, so I could have talked their ears off), but like Krashen said, "pop up theory" is all which students need. 

So I encourage you to introduce "pop-up theory" to your students. If students can start understanding their own language acquisition process through occasional short, 30-second explanations, they will more likely buy into what you are doing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cecilia the Balcony Girl - Movie Talk

This is a Movie Talk which I just did with my Latin 2 students this past Monday. It was the beginning of the second week of school, so I wanted to do a Movie Talk which would both recycle lots of words from last year but at the same time introduce some new words. It is actually a Movie Talk which I feel could be used in a level 1 class depending on which words you wanted to introduce, because one could introduce a lot of high frequency basic vocabulary through this movie short.

Cecilia the Balcony Girl - link

Latin script

English script

  1. I was really surprised at how engaged students were during this Movie Talk! This Movie Talk allows for a lot of predictions so that helped keep it engaging for students. Even though it is only a 3 1/2 minute movie short, the Movie Talk itself went for about 35-40 minutes. I myself was surprised in all of my classes how quickly the time went by.
  2. Students really liked the twist at the end.
  3. Even though I use what some teachers may feel are advanced structures for the 2nd week of Latin 2 (according to a traditional grammar-translation syllabus), as long as the message is understandable (in other words, meaning has been established), students will understand what is being communicated. Comprehension is the goal at this point, not production. 
This Movie Talk is a keeper and definitely one which I will use again in future years.

Monday, August 7, 2017

P.S. to Returning to Work

Normally, I do not post anything on my blog two days in a row, but after what I wrote yesterday, I felt like I needed to do a follow up. Yesterday, I wrote up a blog post where I detailed how I was dreading coming back to work today for the first day of school and how mentally, emotionally, and physically, I did not feel in the least bit prepared to teach, even after attending IFLT and taking a Fluency Fast course. Quite honestly, I was feeling rather defeated.

I am home now from the first day of school, and wow, what a difference a day can make. The impasse about teaching which I was experiencing yesterday has been broken through. I had a wonderful first day back with students! It was as if a switch had been turned on in me when that first period bell rang, because suddenly I was back into teacher mode. How I enjoyed interacting with my students from last year and with new ones! My mind is now back in "work mode," and "summer mode" has been filed away. While yesterday my mind was parched even entertaining the thought of teaching, it is as if the floodgates have been opened. Whereas yesterday, i was struggling and laboring to come up with any type lesson plans, now my mind is racing with ideas from this summer, as I try to think of how to incorporate what I learned from Linda Li in her Fluency Fast class and from observing Annabelle Allen at IFLT into my curriculum. Tomorrow my Latin 1 and 2 teams are going to be implementing Circling with Balls and TPR in our classrooms, and I am really looking forward to it. There is joy and excitement in me now when I think about teaching. 

I wish that I could pinpoint exactly what caused this shift in my mindset from yesterday to today. I do not feel like I had somehow built up all of this negativity in my mind to be something bigger than it actually was, nor do I feel that I was over-reacting. I can tell you with confidence what I was feeling was quite real. Maybe I just needed to dive into it all head first. Maybe it was being back with students. Maybe it was feeling like a united team with my fellow Latin teachers. Maybe my years of teaching just kicked in and took over instinctually.

Teaching is a series of good days and bad days. That is something which I just need to accept, as I cannot expect to hit a homerun every day. We, however, cannot experience the fullness of those good days without the bad days. Therefore, I look forward to the good, the mediocre, and the bad days which I will experience this upcoming school year.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Returning to Work

Tomorrow is the first day of school for students. Last week, I had a full week of pre-planning, which consisted of meetings, in-services, a motivational speaker, time in my classroom, and seeing students and parents as they came to visit on registration day. 

This summer, I was pretty much a bum. Since I was finishing up my Ed.S degree last summer, this summer I was determined to take it easy. I deliberately stayed at home and enjoyed my time off doing nothing. In terms of professional development, though, it was busy for a 2-week span, as I delivered CI presentations at both the ACL Summer Institute and IFLT, served as a coach at IFLT, and took a 4-day Fluency Fast course in Mandarin with Linda Li. I got the chance both to teach others about CI and to experience CI myself firsthand, as well as learn many new strategies and ideas which I plan to implement in my classroom. Overall, I had a great summer.

After all that, one would think that I am ready and refreshed to teach students. The truth is: I am not. Far from it. Mentally and emotionally, I do not feel ready to teach or to see students. I feel like I am laboring to create lesson plans. Scaffolding and even knowing where to start as a beginning point with my lesson plans feels difficult for me, because I am out of sync. The idea of seeing 150 students tomorrow throughout the day seems a bit daunting to me. Quite honestly, I want to be feeling joy and excitement, instead of knowing that regardless of how early I go to bed tonight, I am not going to be able to get to sleep.

Now to be honest, I feel this way to a degree EVERY year before the first day of school, and I do eventually get back into the swing of things. I also know that the best thing for me is just to dive back into it all, and that like riding a bike, it will all come back to me. I am just out of rhythm.

My accounting friends always tell me that they envy my job, because "there is a definite beginning, middle, and an end." While I definitely celebrate the "end," do I celebrate the "beginning"? A beginning means a clean slate - I can start anew; where I fell short last year, I can strive to improve this round. I just wish my mind and emotions could embrace that at the moment.

So I write this to say that even after over 20 years of teaching, I still get nervous about the beginning of the school year. I guess that it is just part of being a teacher.

Friday, July 21, 2017

IFLT 2017

Wow, has it only been a week since IFLT ended?! My mind is still absolutely full from everything which I took in, so blogging is a great way for me to process it all.

This year, IFLT was held in Denver. I had an absolutely great time, but gosh, I could not get over how dry it was in Denver compared to humid Atlanta (I kept losing my voice due to the dry weather, so drinking LOTS of water was definitely a necessity), in addition to being out of breath slightly for the first few days on account of the altitude.

This was my second time attending an IFLT conference (see here about my first time at IFLT last summer). That definitely helped, because I knew the "routine," and I knew how to pace myself better. A major concern of mine was that since I was taking the 4-day Fluency Fast Mandarin class immediately before, I would already be tired and burned out by the time IFLT began. Far from it! Both Fluency Fast and IFLT were two completely different experiences (and I absolutely loved both of them), and in fact, the high which I was experiencing from Fluency Fast carried over to IFLT. 

Here are just a few of my many highlights from this summer's IFLT:
  • Senor Wooly's opening address - Granted I am not a Spanish teacher, but I am aware of who Senor Wooly (Jim Wooldridge) is and of all of his resources (music videos, graphic novels, etc). At the same time, I never grasped why for most Spanish teachers, meeting him was like meeting Elvis. After hearing his opening address at IFLT, I now count myself in that group. In his opening talk, entitled "Embracing Inauthenticity," he addressed the following - I have been looking and asking everywhere if someone has a video of Senor Wooly's talk, because it was so incredible. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate one:
    1. Authentic language is not solely reserved for native speakers.
    2. Non-native speakers can be effective language teachers.
    3. When true communication (comprehension of what is said) in a language occurs, regardless of errors, it is real and authentic language.
    4. As a result, the language which our students produce is real and authentic. 
    5. Authenticity is about stepping the language outside of one's comfort zone to communicate.
    6. We need to tell our students that they have a right to speak the language.
  • Lab observations - Although I enjoy the many presentations at IFLT, I absolutely love the lab observations and getting the chance to see master CI teachers actually teaching students in a classroom setting. I can honestly say that the lab observations are where the true magic happens at IFLT, because folks can witness CI in action. To me, this is the major difference between IFLT and NTPRS.
    • Annabelle Allen - There was absolutely NO way that I was NOT going to observe Annabelle teach elementary school Spanish, because observing her last summer at IFLT made such an profound impact on me. If you have ever seen her in action, then you know what I am talking about! Annabelle's high-level energy is absolutely contagious - heck, I want to be one of her students. This year, I observed Annabelle twice, because that is how much I wanted to see her teach. I also knew that I needed to get there EARLY if I wanted a seat, because her observations fill up very quickly. There is so much that I could say about Annabelle, and believe me, even though I do not teach elementary-aged students, I learn so much from her every time I observe her (both in Spanish and as a CI teacher) - it is difficult for me to pinpoint just one thing. What I love most about Annabelle is her absolute love for students and how much they love her in return. I remember last year being brought to tears as I saw her students RUN to see her, and this year, I witnessed that same love in her students. I love how Annabelle is able to correct a student behavior-wise in such a way that it makes that student feel like he/she is still part of the community. I was incredibly touched in seeing her deal with a particular young boy who was experiencing a meltdown at the end of the day. 
    • Linda Li - I have to admit that I had rather selfish reasons for observing Linda: after 4-days of learning Mandarin from her in a Fluency Fast class, I wanted more! Before the lab observation began, I was sitting in the back of the room with the other observers, but Linda asked me if I wanted to sit up front with her students - I think that she sensed that I wanted to learn more Mandarin. I certainly obliged (but sat in the row behind the students so as not to freak them out) and even though I was there as an observer, I was also a silent participant in the class. I was an active listener, gestured with the class whenever Linda said particular words, and answered her questions in Mandarin under my breath. Even though Linda was teaching many of the same high-frequency vocabulary as she had in our Fluency Fast class, it did not matter to me: all I wanted was to hear more Mandarin, to interact with it, and to get more INPUT! Linda is a master at teaching Mandarin without it feeling one is actually learning, because it is all happening subconsciously. Honestly, this is how learning is supposed to happen!
  • Mafia presentation - I gave two presentations on how to play Mafia in a CI Classroom, and I was absolutely floored by the number of folks who attended each time! What I enjoyed most was being able to demonstrate the game in Latin. I venture to say that most who attended had never experienced Latin as a spoken language, so it was rather cool to expose fellow world language teachers to comprehensible spoken Latin and to show them that it is indeed a true communicative language. Annabelle Allen wrote up a blog post about the session -  I wish I could tell you how special I feel!
Believe me, so much more than just this happened at IFLT. The coaching sessions, the Lunchtime Talks, the presentations, the Q&A session with Krashen and Bill Van Patten - how I can cover it all?!

Next year's IFLT will be in Cincinnati from July 17-20. Hope to see you there so that you can experience everything which I mentioned here!