Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Emoji Picture Story Retell

A few months ago, I wrote a post about using emojis as part of a Find the Sentence activity. Here is an extension activity which you can do with emojis and can be used following doing Find the Sentence

Today in my Latin 2 classes, I used emojis as a story picture retell. Yesterday, I had students do an emoji Find the Sentence with a Movie Talk reading which we had been doing for the past few days. Today, I gave students the story written in emojis (and some English words where there was no fitting emoji) and had them retell the story to each other in Latin in partners. The Movie Talk story itself was incredibly basic with lots of repetitions and limited vocabulary, so it seemed like a perfect story to "emoji-ize" and to experiment as a story picture retell.

  1. Because yesterday the class had done a Find the Sentence activity with these same emojis, students were already familiar with what Latin words these emojis represented, because meaning had already been established.
  2. Because vocabulary was limited, it was a very easy story for students to retell relying only on the emojis. If the story had extensive vocabulary, I think that it would have been more difficult due to an overabundance of emojis.
  3. Not every story lends itself to being "emoji-ized" due to not every vocabulary word having a matching emoji. As you can see in my story above, there are no emojis indicating size, so I had to write those words in English, as well as the verb want. 
  4. As an extension, I had students then use the emoji story as a guide for a timed-write so that what they verbally expressed had a place to go.
Overall, using emojis in this way is a novel way to do a story picture retell, and it is definitely one that I will do again in the future. At the same time, however, it does have its drawbacks due to a limited emoji language.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

RRR Days

The Latin program at my school, Parkview High School, has over 700 students taking Latin, and we have had no failures over the past number of years. The fact no student has failed Latin in the past few years has been a distinguishing hallmark of our Latin program and definitely a fact of which my school's administration is very aware. While I do believe that having a CI-based Latin program, embarking on a standards-based grading system, and eschewing the traditional way of assessing students have contributed to this, I will also say that we have a number of students who do not perform well in our Latin classes. To remedy this, however, once a month we have something called an "RRR Day."

RRR Day stands for "Rest, Retake, and Remediation" (or some form of that. I think that each of us in my Latin department calls it something different). The concept, however, is very basic: once a month, classtime is dedicated to students retaking any assessment which they want, making up missed assignments/assessments, and getting needed remediation for material which they are not understanding. If a student does not need any of that, then their reward is a day off in class.  

So how does it work?
  1. On the RRR day (I usually let students know a few days ahead of time), I tell students to check their grades online to see if there are any assessments/assignments which they would like to make up or to retake. If they wish to retake/make up anything, then they let me know. 
  2. If a student has a zero as an assessment score due to absence or has a 70 or below for an assessment, then that student receives a written notification from me, stating that the student has a low grade (or grades). See below:
  3. If a student needs remediation due to a score of 70 or below on an assessment, that student (or students) meets with me during the RRR time for remediation. Many times, I will have a group of students around my desk reviewing a past story with me. I like this individualized remediation, because it shows me what students are understanding, not understanding, where the problems are, etc. 
  4. Once students have demonstrated to me during this remediation time that they now understand the material, then they can do a retake. Usually, I will give them an altered form of the assessment on which they scored lower than a 70.
  5. Those students who do not need to do any remediation, make up, or retakes have the day off. They can work on homework for other classes, listen to music on their phones, play cards, etc. Essentially, an RRR day is a reward for them.
  1. If your class is proficiency-based and not performance-based, then RRR Days perfectly align with that, because your goal for students is that they demonstrate mastery of a concept/standard no matter how long it takes, as opposed to their performance on an assessment.
  2. Because our program is standards-based, our assessments are quite short (not the traditional 4-5 page tests), so it does not take long for a student to retake an assessment.
  3. Yes, there are students who have received a 95 on an assessment that wish to retake it so that they can get a 100 this time. I do let them retake it.
  4. Because an RRR day is once a month, sometimes much time has passed since the assessment, so students may have forgotten what they did not understand. The remediation time helps correct that.
  5. I personally like the RRR days, because it gives students opportunities to make up missed work, to receive individualized remediation time with me, and to retake assessments to improve their proficiency scores. Both students and I actually get a lot accomplished on these days.
  6. If I were to ask struggling students to come before or after school for remediation, many of them probably would not show up. This way, on an RRR Day, assuming that they are in class that day, these students have no choice but to do remediation with me.
So consider implementing an RRR day in your classroom, and see what a difference it makes for students. 

For further reading, Rachel Ash and Miriam Patrick have a blog post here about RRR days from a few years ago. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Story Listening

Today, I ventured into Story Listening with my Latin 2 classes. Story Listening is a pre-reading strategy devised by Beniko Mason, and the title is exactly what it is: students listening to a story being told while the teacher draws pictures as part of the storytelling. No circling takes place, and it is done in the same way as a parent telling children a story, i.e., parents tend not to interrupt a story with questions. I had dabbled before with Story Listening, but I had not added the picture component.

Today, in my Latin 2 classes, I did a Story Listening of the following story - the story of Vulcan and Mars. Below is the story with the pictures which I drew as I narrated the story aloud in Latin.

Iuppiter et Iuno duōs filiōs habebant. Primus filius erat Mars. Mars erat deus bellī. Iuno amabat suum filium Martem, quod Mars erat fortis et pulcher.

Secundus filius erat Vulcanus. Vulcanus erat deus ignis. Iuno non amabat suum secundum filium. Quamquam Vulcanus erat fortis, Iuno non putavit Vulcanum esse pulchrum.

Eheu! Quod Vulcanus erat fortis sed non pulcher, Iuno erat irata. Iuno Vulcanum non amabat, et noluit Vulcanum habitare in Monte Olympō. Iuno Vulcanum ad terram deicit. Vulcanus non iam erat in Monte Olympō sed in terrā. Vulcanus erat vulneratus in terrā.

Vulcanus erat tristis, quod mater Vulcanum non amabat. Vulcanus erat tristis, quod Iuno non putavit Vulcanum esse pulchrum. Vulcanus erat tristis, quod erat vulneratus. Vulcanus noluit habitare in terrā. Vulcanus voluit habitare in Monte Olympō.


  1. Because this was my first real foray into Story Listening, I am glad that I had a very basic story with tons of repetitions and lots of vocabulary with which students were familiar. That made it much easier for me to tell.
  2. This is a very LOW-prep activity for you as the teacher. All that is required for you is the story and a place to draw pictures.
  3. I was surprised at how engaged students were when I told the story. Granted it was a rather comprehensible story to understand when heard aloud, but the fact that I was drawing pictures as I narrated it kept the story compelling.
  4. The pictures added another layer of comprehensible input. Essentially, students were receiving double input: hearing the Latin aloud and seeing the pictorial representation of the story as I drew it.
  5. I suppose one could draw the pictures ahead of time, but drawing the pictures while telling the story aloud forced me to go slow and to repeat a lot by referring to the pictures. I think that students appreciated this.
  6. Because students are just listening to a story and you as the teacher are not asking questions, it can be tricky to see if students are fully comprehending what you are saying. Halfway through the story listening, I did a comprehension check by asking students to tell me in English what was going on in the story. I could have circled or asked comprehension questions in Latin, but since this was the first experience which students had with this story, I wanted to confirm that they understood it.
  7. Because this is a pre-reading strategy (I suppose it could be used as a post-reading strategy), it is important that students are familiar with the vocabulary words in the story either as having already acquired them or as icing words written on the board.
  8. The whole story listening took about 10-15 minutes.
  9. This is definitely something which I going to do more often in the future!
To see how it works, see below for a Story Listening Demo by Beniko Mason

Also, check out this post on the Fluency Matters blog about Story Listening - New or Time-Tested. This is a very good write-up by Carol Gaab. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Where my Passion Lies

This past July, I led a Vergilian Society tour to Italy, where the morning focused on classroom sessions about CI in the Latin classroom, and the afternoon was devoted to touring. For our tour sessions, I wanted to focus on classical sites, since we were Latin teachers. At these sites, a number of participants wanted to read aloud excerpts in Latin from Roman authors who had written about some of the sites in classical times which we were now visiting. When our group was in the Piscina Mirabilis in Miseno and was reading excerpts from Book 6 of the Aeneid (where the Sibyl tells Aeneid that his comrade Misenus is dead, that his body needs to be buried, but that the land will be called Misenum after him), we took turns reading the passage in Latin and in English. Many participants really enjoyed it, but quite honestly, I so wanted to feel a part of it all and to experience the joy of hearing the Latin read about these places like others were, but to be honest, my heart just was not into it. That is not to say that there was anything wrong either with those who enjoyed it or with me who did not fully get into the experience - it just means that we are in different places when it comes to Latin.

I have come to realize that my passion no longer is in the Latin language itself. When I came straight out of graduate school, I would have told you that my passion was Vergil and how much I loved anything related to the Aeneid or dactyllic hexameter. That is NOT to say that I have lost my love for the Latin language; in many ways, it is as strong as ever. It is just not as strong as others whom I know and quite honestly, something else has taken its place and superseded it.

Where my passion lies is now in the TEACHING of Latin, in learning how to be a more effective CI instructor, and in passing along this knowledge to others through presentations, blogs, social media, etc. That is what excites me as a Latinist. This is why every summer I attend IFLT - I want to hone my craft and to become a better practitioner of delivering comprehensible input to my students. This is why I read blogs devoted to the topic and follow CI teachers on Twitter. In many ways, this is why I have not attended Rusticatio in the past few summers; as much as I want to become a better speaker of Latin, as I become more selective in what summer conferences I attend, an IFLT or NTPRS conference is going to be my first choice.

Even though I am taking off this year from conferences, I love presenting on implementing comprehensible input in the classroom. My absolute favorite presentation which I have ever given was my first session at IFLT 2017 in Denver on how to play Mafia (I gave two presentations there on Mafia). I had no idea what to expect for the presentation, since it was the first time for me to present on the topic, and I was also a bit intimidated, because there were a number of folks in attendance whom I absolutely admire and respect as CI teachers. Everything went so well, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Usually at the end of doing a CI demonstration in a presentation, I ask, "What made this activity comprehensible for you? Compelling for you? Lowered your affective filter?" One participant responded, "Your body language during the entire Mafia game made the activity so interesting for us and kept it entertaining." To be honest, my body language was something of which I was completely unaware (and am still unaware. Occasionally, I will notice my body language when telling a CI story or asking questions, and it kind of freaks me out). I am always taken by surprise when I hear this, because my body language is completely unintentional. One time, Jason Fritze commented that I look like I am surfing when I circle. At the same time, it is great to hear that my body language even communicates my joy of teaching Latin using CI and of wanting to teach others about how they can implement CI in their classrooms.

Where does your passion lie when it comes to language and to teaching?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

How to CI a Latin Textbook Chapter Reading

With the school year now beginning for many Latin teachers, here is a blog post about how to CI a textbook chapter for those teachers who are "bound" to the textbook or are wanting to incorporate CI in their curriculum but do not feel that they possess a strong enough foundation yet to leave behind the textbook.

Since most Latin textbooks are centered around readings, the first thing to do is to pick 1-2 readings from a chapter on which you will focus - do not feel the need to cover EVERY reading in a chapter (e.g., stage 14 of the Cambridge Latin Course has 9 readings!). The name of the game, though, is to sift through the reading(s) to determine with what vocabulary words students are unfamiliar PRIOR to the students reading it, and then to determine what vocabulary to PRETEACH, how you plan to introduce it, and what words will you leave as icing/glossed words. Then, you need to determine what kinds of post-reading activities which you want to do in order to consolidate this vocabulary.

Below are lessons plan examples of "how to CI" Stage 1 of the Cambridge Latin Course and Chapter 3 of Ecce Romani. 

Cambridge Latin Course - Stage 1 Model Sentence (due to copyright law, I am unable to post the actual reading from the story)

1. Words to immediately target before the reading:
  • pater
  • mater
  • filius
  • filia
  • canis
  • est
  • scribit
  • bibit
  • laborat
  • in culina
  • in tablino
    Icing words/words for glossing:
  • servus (possibly a cognate which students may recognize)
  • in atrio
  • in triclinio
  • in horto
  • dormit
  • legit
  • in via
  • coquus
2. Preteach the following words using Picture Talk: pater, mater, filius, filia, canis, est, -ne, quis, quae

Picture talk script

3. Preteach the following words using a Movie Talk: in culina, in tablino

Movie Talk script

4. Preteach the following words doing 3-ring circus: scribit, bibit, laborat
5. Project the model sentences and pictures from the textbook for students to read. Gloss icing words.
6. Do a choral reading of the model sentences.
7. Play a game of Stultus with the model sentences.
8. Do a Ping Pong reading of the model sentences.
9. Play Pancho Cumacho with vocabulary from model sentences. 

Pancho Cumacho script

10. Word Chunk Game with model sentences. 

Ecce Romani - Chapter 3 reading "In the Garden" (due to copyright law, I am unable to post the actual reading from the story)

1. Words with which students are "familiar/may have acquired" due to prior use in previous chapters:
  • est
  • nomine
  • in villa rustica/villis rusticis
  • habitat
  • alter
  • et
  • sunt 
  • amici
  • hodie
  • quod
  • laeti
  • quoque
  • in agris
  • currunt
  • sed
Words which are cognates:
  • pictura
  • Romanus
  • servus
  • Italia
  • Brittanicus
  • statua
Words to immediately target before the reading
  • puer
  • solus
  • clamant
  • rident
  • subito
  • laborant
  • iratus
  • molestus
Icing words/words for glossing
  • qui
  • in horto
  • eadem
  • multi
  • in piscinam
  • cadit
  • abite, molesti
  • gemit
2. Preteach the following vocabulary using a Movie Talk: Dragonboy

Dragonboy script

3. Preteach the following words doing 3-ring circus: clamat, ridet, laborat
4. Project Dragonboy reading for students to read. 

Dragonboy reading

6. Do a choral reading of the Dragonboy story.
7. Play a game of Stultus with the Dragonboy story
8. Social Emotional Learning reading with Dragonboy story.
9. Read/Draw of Dragonboy story

Read/Draw sentences
Read Draw cartoon grid

10. Using Read/Draw as a guide, do a 5-minute timed write of the Dragonboy story
11. NOW introduce Chapter 3 Ecce Romani reading. Gloss any icing words.

While some many wonder why it is necessary to do another story prior to introducing this chapter, our goal is to make the Chapter 3 reading as comprehensible as possible for students upon reading it for the first time, meaning that they know as many words as possible. Preteaching vocabulary will allow for this.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Embedded/Tiered Reading Example

I am finishing up the second week of school - yep, here in Georgia, we start early. In my Latin 2 classes, I wanted to ease them back into reading with a very easy passage in order to make them feel successful, so I felt like doing an embedded/tirered reading would achieve that. Also because I am now doing a daily ritual of a "weather report," I felt like that particular vocabulary needed to go somewhere, so I included some of that in the reading. 

Tier 1
Latin: Sol non lucet, et pluit. Rhonda umbrellam non habet. Rhonda dicit, “Ubi est mea Mickey Mouse umbrella? Quis meam Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam habet?” Rhonda est madida. Rhonda est irata, quod pluit, et umbrellam non habet.

English: The sun is not shining. Rhonda does not have an umbrella. Rhonda says, "Where is my Mickey Mouse umbrella? Who has my Mickey Mouse umbrella? Rhonda is soaking wet. Rhonda is angry, because she does not have an umbrella.

Tier 2
Latin: Rhonda est tristis. Sol non lucet, et pluit. Rhonda est in domo. Rhonda umbrellam non habet. Rhonda dicit, “Ubi est mea Mickey Mouse umbrella? Mea Mickey Mouse umbrella non est in meo sacculo! Quis meam Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam habet?”

Pluit, sed Rhonda umbrellam non habet. Rhonda est madida (soaking wet). Quod Rhonda est madida, est irata!

Rhonda Carolem videt. Carol Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam habet! Rhonda est irata, et dicit, “Carol meam Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam habet! Sol non lucet, et pluit, et madida sum.

Rhonda Carolem pulsat, et umbrellam capit! Rhonda est laeta, quod habet Mickey Mousem umbrellam! Carol est tristis. Rhonda ridet.

English: Rhonda is sad. The sun is not shining, and it is raining. Rhonda is in her home. Rhonda does not have an umbrella. Rhonda says, "Where is my Mickey Mouse umbrella? My Mickey Mouse umbrella in not in my bookbag! Who has my Mickey Mouse umbrella?"

It is raining, but Rhonda does not have an umbrella. Rhonda is soaking wet. Because Rhonda is soaking wet, she is angry.

Rhonda sees Carol. Carol has a Mickey Mouse umbrella! Rhonda is angry and says, "Carol has my Mickey Mouse umbrella! The sun is not shining, and it is raining, and I am soaking wet!"

Rhonda punches Carol and takes the umbrella. Rhonda is happy, because she has her Mickey Mouse umbrella. Carol is sad. Rhonda laughs.

Tier 3
Hodie est primus dies scholae. Rhonda est tristis, quod sol non lucet, et pluit. Rhonda est in domo. Rhonda non vult ire ad scholam, quod sol non lucet, et pluit. Rhonda umbrellam non habet. Rhonda dicit, “Ubi est mea Mickey Mouse umbrella? Mea Mickey Mouse umbrella non est in meo sacculo! Mea Mickey Mouse umbrella semper est in meo sacculo! Quis meam Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam habet? Sol non lucet, et pluit!”

Rhonda ad scholam ambulat. Pluit, sed Rhonda umbrellam non habet. Rhonda est madida. Quod Rhonda est madida, est irata! Rhonda dicit, “Hodie est primus dies scholae, et madida sum. Sol non lucet, et pluit. Quis meam Mickey Mousem umbrellam habet?!”

Rhonda Carolem videt. Carol meam Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam habet! Rhonda est irata, et dicit, “Carol meam Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam habet! Sol non lucet, et pluit, et madida sum!”

Rhonda Carolem pulsat, et umbrellam capit! Rhonda est laeta, quod habet Mickey Mousem umbrellam! Carol est tristis, et quod pluit, Carol est madida. Rhonda ridet, quod pluit, et Carol est madida.

Subito, Bob Rhondam videt, et dicit, “O Rhonda, habeo tuam Mickeyem Mousem umbrellam! Quod sol non lucet et pluit, cepi tuam umbrellam!” Rhonda est laeta, quod habet DUAS Mickeyes Mouses umbrellas, sed Carol est irata, quod Rhonda cepit eius Mickey Mousem umbrellam. Carol displodit.

English: Today is the first day of school. Rhonda is sad, because the sun is not shining, and it is raining. Rhonda is in her home. Rhonda does not want to go to school today, because the sun is not shining, and it is raining Rhonda does not have an umbrella. Rhonda says, "Where is my Mickey Mouse umbrella? My Mickey Mouse umbrella in not in my bookbag! My umbrella is always in my bookbag. Who has my Mickey Mouse umbrella? The sun is not shining, and it is raining."

Rhonda walks to school. It is raining, but Rhonda does not have an umbrella. Rhonda is soaking wet. Because Rhonda is soaking wet, she is angry. Rhonda says, "Today is the first day of school, and I am soaking wet. The sun is not shining, and it is raining. Who has my Micky Mouse umbrella?!" 

Rhonda sees Carol. Carol has a Mickey Mouse umbrella! Rhonda is angry and says, "Carol has my Mickey Mouse umbrella! The sun is not shining, and it is raining, and I am soaking wet!"

Rhonda punches Carol and takes the umbrella. Rhonda is happy, because she has her Mickey Mouse umbrella. Carol is sad, and because it is raining, Carol is soaking wet. Rhonda laughs, because it is raining, and Carol is soaking wet.

Suddenly, Bob sees Rhonda, and says, "O Rhonda, I have your Mickey Mouse umbrella. Because the sun is not shining and it is raining, I took your umbrella!" Rhonda is happy, because she has TWO Mickey Mouse umbrellas, but Carol is angry, because Rhonda took her Mickey Mouse umbrella. Carol explodes.

  1. Yes, the reading passage may seem very basic for the second week of Latin 2, but as I stated earlier, I wanted to give them a passage where students would feel successful right away reading it. I also wanted to get in lots of repetitions, especially of the weather words.
  2.  Reading the passage as embedded readings, where new facts and details are added for each tier, keeps the passage novel and compelling.
  3. For more information about embedded readings, check out the official Embedded Reading website.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Brain Breaks

A brain break is exactly what the name implies: a break for your brain and a chance for it to reset. Years ago, I had heard of the concept but actually wrote it off as some trendy "touchy feely" kind of activity which had no merit. It was not until IFLT 2016 that I saw brain breaks in action as something which needs to be incorporated into one's classroom. At that particular IFLT, I had the opportunity to observe Annabelle Allen (whom I did not know at that time but now absolutely love) teach Spanish to elementary school-aged students and was absolutely blown away by her and what she does in her classroom. In addition to Annabelle's absolutely phenomenal teaching and her connection with her students, I saw how often she did brain breaks. This is where I finally understood the need for them in a classroom, especially since she was teaching elementary school-aged students. 

Some things I have learned about brain breaks:
  1. They do not have to be long - they can be less than a minute or as long as 3-4 minutes.
  2. They can be any type of activity (see list below).
  3. Brain breaks need to be done every minute for the average age of your class, e.g., my classes this year are mostly sophomores and juniors, so the average age is 15-17, meaning my students need a brain break every 15-17 minutes. 
  4. For classes later in the day, students need brain breaks more often, so I will do it every 12-14 minutes for my afternoon classes.
  5. According to science, the best brain breaks are those: 
    1. where one crosses the middle of one's body.
    2. which involve the use of one's non-dominant side, 
    3. or which involve trying to do two different actions simultaneously.
  6. They can be done in the target language. I will usually do them in English, because my brain needs a break too from speaking Latin in class.
There are a ton of resources out there regarding brain breaks, but here are some links of interest:

My list of brain breaks
Annabelle Allen's blog - search "brain breaks" - in my opinion, Annabelle is the queen of brain breaks
Annabelle Allen Teacher Pay Teachers Brain Breaks - this is a FREE resource about Brain Breaks on TPT - this was a professional development which Annabelle gave on Brain Breaks. It does require that you sign up for a free account before you can download the resource.
Cynthia Hitz's blog - search "brain breaks" - you can find lots of really good brain breaks here
Martina Bex - Brain Breaks for the Language Classroom
Martina Bex - Best Brain Breaks
Justin Slocum Bailey' - Image Imitation
Bryce Hedstrom - list of brain breaks
Mindful Brain Breaks

  1. Although students may not realize the importance of brain breaks, they really do need them. As the teacher, I can definitely notice a change in students following a brain break.
  2. Brain breaks are important for you too as the teacher!
  3. When I do brain breaks every 16-17 minutes in a 52-minute period, it really helps break up a class into short chunks of time. I am always amazed at how quickly a period goes by when I do 2-3 brain breaks in a class.
  4. It is important to be consistent with brain breaks. Consider assigning student job who will serve as the brain break countdown timer or who will shout out "We need a brain break!"
  5. Like anything, when it comes to brain breaks, the brain craves novelty (in the immortal words of Carol Gaab), so it is important to do different kinds of brain break activities.