Monday, November 20, 2017

Majoring on the Majors, and Minoring on the Minors

I have returned from the 2017 ACTFL Convention in Nashville, and as always, wow, what a conference! Even though it was a quick trip (I was just there for all-day Friday and part of Saturday morning), I got the chance to attend some great presentations and co-presented a presentation on Tasks and Communicating in the Comprehensible Input Classroom with Rachel Ash, Bob Patrick, and Miriam Patrick, in addition to squeezing in some quick hi's and hugs with folks whom I have not seen in awhile. 

Although conferences like this are great for a gathering of world language teachers from across the nation in one place, unwittingly, it is brings up debates (sometimes heated) about teaching, pedagogy, etc. Unfortunately, the CI community of teachers is not immune from these disagreements, such as:
  • TPRS should be the sole way of delivering comprehensible input in the classroom, since story-telling is engaging.
  • TPRS is one of many methods of delivering comprehensible input, so we should not pigeonhole ourselves to just this.
  • If you want to implement CI in your classroom, then you need to go all-in. There is no room for dabbling or transitioning. Using CI methods while still teaching grammar-translation is wrong.
  • If you are a newbie to CI, do not go all-in, because you are going to burn out. Instead, dabble/transition in order to build your CI foundation.
  • I teach with CI novellas as part of my curriculum.
  • I do not use novellas and think that they should only be used for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR).
  • I do not think that we should use authentic resources, since most are incomprehensibe, are full of native idioms, and do not use high-frequency vocabulary.
  • I think that authentic resources are fine as long as they are adapted and/or are language appropriate.
  • We as CI teachers should be using targeted vocabulary and structures, because that helps keeps things focused.
  • We as CI teachers should focus on untargeted vocabulary and structures, since we want students to determine the focus of what we discuss.
  • We should strive to be 90% in the target language at all times.
  • 90% target language usage is a suggestion, not a prescription.
  • I only attend NTPRS and not IFLT, because ________________.
  • I only attend IFLT and not NTPRS, because _______________.
  • (For Latinists), we should only be using classical literature in our classes, since that is our standard. Anything non-classical related has no place.
  • (For Latinists), the Latin language spans over 2,000 years of usage. Why are we limiting ourselves to an ancient time period when Latin is still spoken today in the modern world? Language is fluid and changes. Why keep Latin stuck in the 1st century?
You get the picture. As you read the above, you may have very, strong views one way or the other on those topics. Unfortunately, what i have seen come from these debates is the emergence of camps. While I am not naive enough to think that differences in opinion will not arise, I also think that these disagreements keep us from our guiding focus and become divisive.

When it comes to teaching using Comprehensible Input, we need to determine what are non-negotiables - what is that MUST be implemented or has to occur in order for language acquisition to occur when facilitating Comprehensible Input? In my opinion, here is what I consider to be non-negotiables, and note - they are simply a summary of Krashen's Hypotheses:
  • Learners acquire language through the delivery of understandable messages and will progress in their knowledge when they comprehend language which is slightly more advanced than their current level, hence i+1. As a result of input, students will produce output when they are ready.
  • Language acquisition is subconscious, hence it is long-term memory. Language learning is explicit and conscious, but it is short-term memory. Our goal for students is language acquisition, not language learning.
  • Our focus should be on meaning and not form. Self-error correction only occurs through explicit language learning. In language acquisition, errors will occur, but our goal should be comprehensibility. Self-error correction will occur for learners on their own timeline.
  • When one's affective filter (or "stress") increases, learning decreases.
  • Learners pay attention more to compelling comprehensible messages than to less-compelling comprehensible messages.

To me, that is our foundation as CI teachers - those are the non-negotiables. Those are the major points on which we must both major and strive to protect in our classrooms. Focusing on the minor points and turning them into major points is where we begin to become divided. To discredit CI teachers solely because they are not implementing TPRS in their curriculum does not make sense to me. In good faith, we need to realize that these teachers are still delivering comprehensible and engaging input through other means.

Though we are all bound to have our opinions on the "best" way to implement Comprehensible Input, we all have the same end goal: student language acquisition. I think that these disagreements occur, because we as CI teachers are so passionate about what we do. However, when we learn to major on the majors and to minor on the minors is when we will gain perspective that we are all on this CI journey together.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Getting the Most out of Conferences

I leave for the national ACTFL Convention in a few days. This will be my third ACTFL convention which I have attended after having taken a 2-year hiatus (I have written a blog post about attending the 2014 ACTFL Convention), and I am looking forward to it. Because I have attended ACTFL Conventions before, I know exactly what to expect in terms of its overwhelmingly massive size and session offerings.

On last week's #langchat discussion on Twitter, the topic was the upcoming ACTFL convention, and folks were sharing their thoughts on numerous convention-related questions. This got me to thinking about what I have learned about how to survive conferences in general. Let's face it: conferences can be big, impersonal, and overwhelming. Here are my tips on how to get the most out of a conference:
  1. Do not feel like you have to attend every session. Pick and choose your sessions wisely. It is very easy to develop "information overload" from attending too many sessions and to burn out.
  2. Know your learning goals ahead of time. Is there a particular topic/strand which you wish to follow? This will help make selecting which sessions to attend much easier. For me, at this ACTFL Convention, I specifically want to attend sessions dealing with technology in the world language classroom. As I have a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, I want to learn more about new technologies for my curriculum but viewed through the lens of Comprehensible Input. 
  3. Take time for yourself. Take advantage of down-time if there is not a session which interests you. Grab a cup of coffee, tour the exhibit hall, find a place to plug in your phone, etc. Use this time to recharge yourself.
  4. Take time to network, to meet new people, and to reconnect with those whom you only see at conferences. There are so many people whom I know (or know of) that I only get to see at conferences. Some of my favorite times at conferences are when I am sitting alone off to the side at a conference in order to recharge myself or to prepare a upcoming presentation, and people will come/go at their leisure to talk with me. 
  5. If possible, share/discuss with others at the conference what you have learned. In turn, find out what sessions they attended and what they learned. Use that time to begin processing the conference.
  6. If there is something of great interest which you learned from a particular presenter, do some follow up. Talk to the presenter afterwards or contact him/her during/after the conference. Do not let your learning stop at the session door on the way out.
I hope to see and to meet many of you at ACTFL this weekend. Please take time to introduce yourself to me! 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Monster and Dumpling - Movie Talk

Here is a movie talk which I just recently did with my Latin 2 students. I was wanting to preteach vocabulary involving body parts, since we will be doing some readings related to monsters and fantastical beasts in the ancient world. Having found this movie short on Jason Fritze's national movie talk database, I thought that it did a great job of introducing this needed vocabulary.

The Movie Talk is called Monster and Dumpling (Monstrum et Cibus in Latin). 

Latin script

English script

  1. Students reacted well to this movie short. A number of them said that it had "feel goods" of the three-legged dog Movie Talk. One student insightfully said, "Both the monster and boy are outcasts - I'm glad that they found each other."
  2. Pause and ask students specifically at 3:00 in the movie short why the monster is sad. Some students thought that the monster felt sorry for the boy, because the boy was blind, but many caught that the monster felt bad for taking advantage of the blind boy.
  3. There is some English narration at the beginning of the movie short (about 6-7 seconds). My students did not like that! They have become so accustomed to Movie Talks having NO English in them that it did not feel right for them to hear it. 
  4. I showed the credits at the end too, because it shows the preliminary storyboard of the movie short. It appears that originally, the monster was ostracized by other monsters because of its looks, the character was a girl not a boy, and that the girl too was ignored and demeaned by others, because she was blind. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Who is This" Assessment

This is a quick assessment idea which I learned from my colleague Bob Patrick. Recently, our Latin 2 students were finishing up a story, so Bob implemented this listening assessment involving characters from the story with his class, which in turn, I used with my students. If your class is reading a story with at least three characters who do a number of different things, then this is a great way to assess students.

  1. In the target language, create a number of sentences that describe different characters in the story. I have found that 8-10 sentences is a good number.
  2. Each sentence should start out with "this character" (in Latin, haec persona) - I used actual sentences from the story since those sentences were with what students were most familiar.
  1. Write the character choices on the board.
  2. On a sheet of paper, have students number 1-8 (or however many sentences you have created.
  3. Explain to students that for each of the sentences which you will read aloud, their job is to determine which character this sentence describes and to write down that character.
  4. Read each sentence 2-3 times very slowly, as students write down the character about whom the sentence describes.
  5. At the end, read each sentence again so that students can check their responses. 
Latin Example - this was based on a story from a Movie Talk (Broken: Rock, Paper, Scissors)

a) forfex             b) puella chartacea          c) saxum

Question #1 - haec persona credit puellam chartaceam esse pulchram.
Question #2 - haec persona occidit multas arbores.
Question #3 - haec persona vult fugere cum puella chartacea.
Question #4 - haec persona occidit puellam chartaceam.
Question #5 - haec persona magnos sonos facit.
Question #6 - haec persona non vult fugere cum saxo.
Question #7 - haec persona occidit forficem.
Question #8 - haec persona fugit cum saxo.

  1. This was indeed a very quick assessment - it took less than 10 minutes.
  2. This is a great activity to assess listening comprehension in a very low-key way.
  3. I was surprised at how well my students did on this. You need to understand that when I was learning Latin in high school and in my college and graduate courses in Latin, I NEVER heard it spoken. Because I am implementing Comprehensible Input in my Latin classes with lots of repetitions in active Latin, for my students to hear Latin does not seem that big of a deal for them.
  4. Afterwards I asked students what they thought of it. A common response - "It was really easy, since we have gone over the story so many times..."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This Day in History

This is a warm up activity which I learned from Justin Slocum Bailey. If you have never attended one of Justin's sessions at a conference, then you need to! I always learn so much from him, as he expands the way in which language can be used in the classroom. Justin and I have roomed together numerous times at conferences, so we both know each other's quirks.

The premise is quite simple: for a particular day (preferably the day on which you will do this), from among three choices, ask students to pick the event which they think happened on that day. I have found this activity to be a good example of Krashen's Forgetting Hypothesis, where due to the compelling nature of the message in the target language, students "forget" about the language per se, because the message itself is so compelling.

  1. Find an event in history which happened on the day which you plan to use this activity. I use the following websites: On This Day, Thought Co - Inventions, National Day Calendar.
  2. Find two other "false" events ("false" as in not having happened on that day) as distractors. 
  3. Create a slide presentation with choices A, B, and C, and write the three choices in the target language. Add pictures related to your choices.
As a warm up, project the slide presentation, and ask students which historical event they think happened on that day. Here is what I say in Latin every time which I do this:

Latin script
Discipuli, quid hōc die in historiā accīdit? Hodie est (ordinal number) dies mensis (month), ergo, quid hōc die in historiā accīdit? Discipuli, quid putatis? Littera A (read letter A choice)? Littera B (read letter B choice)? an littera C (read letter C choice). Quid putatis? (Get students to call out the letter). Ah, audio litteram _____ saepius quam audio litteram ____ an _____. Videamus.

English script
Class, what happened on this day in history? Today is the (ordinal number) day in the month of ____________. Therefore, what happened on this day in history? Class, what do you think? Letter A (read letter A choice)? Letter B (read letter B choice)? or letter C (read letter C choice)? What do you think? Ah, I am hearing letter ____ more often than I am hearing letter ____ or _____. Let us see.

Example for September 28 - press on slide presentation to see answers.

  1. In order to preserve the novelty of the warm up, I only do this 2-3 times a week.
  2. The first couple times when I did this, students were not very receptive due to it being new. Now as I do it more often, I have found students to be quite engaged. A few students have said to me, "Gosh, I wish we did this in my social studies class."
  3. This warm up gives me a way to give the date in Latin in a NATURAL CONTEXT, since it is part of an activity, as opposed to announcing it at the beginning of class outside of a context.
  4. I have chosen to give the date in a modern Latin context and not in a Roman context (Kalends, Nones, Ides, etc.), because quite honestly, I myself cannot keep track of how the Romans did their calendar dates. Since I want to treat Latin as a modern language, I have chosen to use the modern way for dates.
  5. When picking historical events (both true and false), it is important that these events be compelling for STUDENTS! What I find compelling as a historical event is NOT what students find compelling. I suppose that I could do "what happened on this day in Roman history?" which I would find interesting, but would the majority of my Latin students?
  6. Although this was not my intention, I am getting in LOTS of subconscious repetitions of phrases like "was born," "was discovered/found," "was invented," and "made its debut" in a natural way (even though I have never formally taught these phrases), since these phrases come up a lot in this warm up. In addition, because I say the same thing every time as part of the script, students are starting to be able to say it with me now.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sentence Picture Relay

This is a great post-reading activity which I learned from my colleague Rachel Ash, who has her own write up about how to do it. There is a degree of work on the front end, but the actual activity is a great cooperative way for students to demonstrate comprehension of a known reading.

Pre-Activity Preparation

  1. Take a story familiar to students, and divide it into 10-15 sentences.
  2. Draw pictures for each of the sentences. It does not have to be anything elaborate. To quote the great Latin teacher Sally Davis, "everyone can draw stick figures." Example of my pictures. I created a table on a document to draw the pictures.
  3. Type up the sentences. I created table on a document to type up the sentences. 
  4. Make 10 copies (for a class of 30) of the pictures and sentences onto cardstock. You can use regular paper, but the cardstock makes the pictures/sentences sturdy.
  5. Cut up the sentences and pictures - this is what will take up the most time in preparation. I had students cut these up for me.

In-Class Directions

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3. There may be groups of 4, but that can be kind of big.
  2. On a table/desk, mix all of the sentences together so that it is one big pile. On another table/desk, separately mix all of the pictures together so that it is one big pile.
  3. Explain to students:
    • Their job is to match sentences to pictures. There are ____ sentences/pictures pairs.
    • As a relay, one team member at a time will grab 2 pictures, 2 sentences or 1 of each and bring them back to the team.
    • The next team member will grab 2 pictures, 2 sentences or 1 of each and bring them back to the team and so on.
    • As a team, members will try to match sentences with pictures, as more sentences and pictures are added.
    • As more pictures and sentences are added, team members will need to determine specific sentences or pictures which need to be gathered.
    • If a team receives a duplicate of a sentence or picture, then the team needs to send it back with their next "runner."
    • Teams will have to match the sentences with the pictures AND to put the story in order.
    • First team to complete the activity “wins”!
  1. When explaining the activity to students, it does not make much sense, but once it begins and students begin to bring pictures/sentences to their teams, students understand how the activity works.
  2. This can get VERY competitive depending on your students. 
  3. I love hearing students communicate with their runners, "Bring back the picture with _________" or "We need the sentence that says _________," as they now need specific sentences/pictures to complete the activity.
  4. The activity took about 10 minutes. I thought that it would take longer but because students were very familiar with the story in the target language, they did not think that the activity was difficult to do.
  5. Remind students that part of the task is to put the story in order! Many get caught up in the matching that they forget this part.
  6. Alternate version - I have done this activity where I broke up pictures and sentences into clauses, instead of full sentences so that students were focusing on specific parts of the sentence.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Using Book Snaps/SnapChat

Although I have my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology and am quite versed in the application of technology to one's curriculum "for the creation of a student-centered, 21st-century, blended-learning, critical-thinking classroom environment" (that last phrase sounds very Educationese, because I constantly had to use those buzzwords in my degree program), at the same time, I have been somewhat hesitant to implement technology in a CI-based setting for the following reasons:
  1. Most world language technology is incomprehensible for novice-level students or focuses on forced output.
  2. The majority of classroom technology focuses on low-levels of critical thinking, operates at a Substitution level on the SAMR model, and/or serves more as entertainment than true engagement.
(see here for my posts on Technology in a CI Classroom, part 1 and Technology in a CI Classroom, part 2)

Earlier this year, Meredith White, a Spanish CI teacher in my district, demonstrated how she uses SnapChat in her classroom, and while I was VERY impressed with how it can be implemented, I was also a bit tentative in utilizing it for both professional reasons (how can social media be properly applied to the classroom without crossing the line?) and personal reasons (what the heck is SnapChat, since I myself have never used it?).

This past summer, I learned about Book Snaps and realized that this is definitely something which can be applied to the CI Classroom. Essentially, Book Snaps is a SnapChat involving a reading of some kind. It is primarily used for students to interact with, to write commentary on, and to react to a text (think of students writing comments on sticky notes in a text but with SnapChat). Once I learned about this, I realized that Book Snaps could be used for students to "illustrate" sentences from a story!

Here is a video explaining how to make a Book Snap:

For the past few days, I have been going over the following story with students (it is based on a Movie Talk), so today, I had students create Book Snaps of the story:

Rock, Paper, Scissors Story
Ecce saxum. Terra saxum generat. Subito saxum aliquid audit. Aliquid magnos sonos facit. Saxum surgit ut videat quid magnos sonos faciat. Ecce puella in silva! Silva puellam generat. Puella est chartacea, et magnos sonos facit. Saxum puellam chartaceam videt, et credit puellam chartaceam esse valde pulchram.

Ecce forfex in silva! Saxum valde timet, quod videt puellam chartaceam et credit forficem velle occidere puellam chartaceam. Saxum in silvam cadit. Forfex multas arbores occidit. Saxum credit forficem velle occidere puellam chartaceam. Saxum vult fugere cum puella chartacea, sed puella chartacea non vult fugere cum saxo. Puella non credit forficem velle occidere eam (her). Eheu! Saxum puellam chartaceam tangit, et succumbit. Saxum et puella chartacea in silva fugiunt, quod credunt forficem velle occidere eos (them). Vis est forfici, quod occidit multas arbores in silva.

Eheu! Forfex puellam chartaceam occidit. Saxum credit puellam chartaceam esse mortuam, et est valde iratum. Saxum vult occidere forficem! Vis est saxo, et occidit forficem. Forfex est mortua. Saxum est valde triste, quod puella chartacea est mortua. Saxum vult servare (to rescue) puellam chartaceam, sed si (if) tanget puellam chartaceam, succumbet...

Assignment directions
Choose ONE of the following options:

Book Snaps
  1. Using SnapChat, take a picture of the story text. This will serve as your background.
  2. Type in the text of a sentence or two. NOTE - you cannot use sentences with the word ecce.
  3. Adjust where you want the text to be on your picture.
  4. Insert emojis, bitmojis, stickers, which apply to the text which you chose. NOTE - As this is an assignment, these emojis, stickers, bitmojis MUST BE SCHOOL APPROPRIATE.
  5. You may also write or draw pictures onto your Book Snap.
  6. When finished, save to your phone’s photo album.
  7. Submit your SnapChat photo to me using your eClass Dropbox for Latin 2.
  1. Using SnapChat, take a picture with you as a character depicting a particular sentence in the story. Either take a selfie or have someone take the picture for you. There may be other people in your picture but each person is turning in his/her own picture.
  2. Type in the text of a sentence or two. NOTE - you cannot use sentences with the word ecce. 
  3. Adjust where you want the text to be on your picture.
  4. Insert emojis, bitmojis, stickers, which apply to the text which you chose. NOTE - As this is an assignment, these emojis, stickers, bitmojis MUST BE SCHOOL APPROPRIATE.
  5. You may also write or draw pictures onto your Book Snap.
  6. When finished, save to your phone’s photo album.
  7. Submit your SnapChat photo to me using your eClass Dropbox for Latin 2.
Here are some examples of students Book Snaps based on the story:

My goal is now to create a Google Slides presentation of these slides and show them in class.


  1. Most students opted to do a Book Snap, instead of a SnapChat. I do not know why (considering how often they take selfies in class!).
  2. This is another way for students to demonstrate comprehension of a reading.
  3. Even though students are very well-versed in SnapChat, I was surprised at how long it took students to create a Book Snap. I thought it would take 5-10 minutes to create a single Book Snap, but it took roughly 10-20 minutes.
  4. Even though many students created Book Snaps of the same sentence, no two were alike; many students were very creative!
  5. This was definitely another way for students to re-read the story to choose a sentence, thus getting in more subconscious repetitions of the language.
  6. For those students who did not have access to a device or SnapChat, I had them illustrate a sentence on paper.