Wednesday, October 29, 2014


This is a quick 10 minute post-reading activity which I learned from the great Carol Gaab this summer at NTPRS. It is a wonderful way to review a reading as a group discussion, and it brings in a degree of critical thinking.

The premise is simple: 
  1. Following a short reading which you have just read with students, show a series of statements about which students will have to make inferences as either possible or probable from the story.
  2. For each statement, ask students "estne possibile? estne probabile?"
  3. Ask students for justification from the story. Depending on their level and speaking ability, they may respond in English.
Latin 1 example:

Bill dicit, “mater, ego canem volo.” mater respondet, “cur tu canem vis?” Bill respondet, “quod ego amicum non habeo. mater dicit, “cur tu amicum non habes?” Bill dicit, “quod nemo me amat! Publix canes vendit.” mater dicit, “ego pecuniam non habeo, sed ego mensam habeo! visne mensam?” Bill clamat, “mensa non est amicus! canis est amicus!” mater dicit, “sed ego pecuniam non habeo!” Bill est tristis, quod amicum non habet, et mater pecuniam non habet.  TO BE CONTINUED...

estne possibile? probabile?
  • Bill est discipulus
  • Bill patrem non habet
  • Bill est popularis
  • mater Billem non amat
  • mater pecuniam habet sed est mendax 
  • mater est robotica
  1. This is a great critical thinking activity, because it forces students to base their response on what happened in the story and to make inferences on what was stated and on what was not stated.
  2. You may have to explain the difference between possible and probable to students.
  3. It is a great comprehension check, because students need to have understood what they read in order to respond
  4. In my Latin 1 classes, while students do not have the ability yet to respond easily in full sentences, when they offer their justification in English, I will restate it in Latin.
  5. It is fun to see students respond in this activity. I have found that the quietest students often are the ones who vocally respond the most.
  6. In many ways, this activity helps students think outside the box. For example, for the statement, "Bill patrem non habet," there is nothing in the story which explicity states that Bill does or does not have a father. Since a father is not mentioned, many inferred that Bill's mother is a single parent (since she says that she does not have money), but other inferred it to mean that Bill is asking his mother first before asking his father. Others inferred that Bill has a father but this is the type of question one would ask a mother, not a father. There is no correct answer for this particular statement, but it is fun to see what students infer and for them to hear each other.   
  7. Carol Gaab adds in another level by asking "is it logical?"
  8. This is another way to review a story in a different way. As Carol Gaab always says, "The brain CRAVES novelty." 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Picture Story Retells

This is an activity which I learned at NTPRS this summer in my session with Betsy Paskvan, where she taught us Japanese. The idea is simple: using pictures, students completely retell a story (which they have been going over in class) to each other in the target language. So yes, it means that students are speaking Latin!

I can absolutely tell you that this activity works, because I myself experienced it as a student with Betsy - i was absolutely shocked that after just 4 1/2 hours of learning Japanese using CI, I was able to retell quite a lengthy story in Japanese which we had been going over during that time. Moreoever, I have seen this activity work with my own Latin students. In addition, you can do three different activities in a row with it, each one scaffolded and building upon the former. One caveat: do not rush too quickly to get students to do this activity, because it is focuses on output; LOTS of input needs to occur first.

This activity does take quite a bit of prep.
  1. Create a powerpoint of a very comprehensible story, with one sentence per slide. No more than 18 slides - I will explain why in a bit.
  2. On each slide along with the text, have a pictoral representation of the sentence. It can be an actual picture representing the sentence or a bunch of pictures representing the different words.
  3. Use this powerpoint when doing a choral reading so that students become familiar with the text and pictures
  4. Make a copy of the powerpoint, and remove the text from the slides so that all remains are the pictures,
  5. Print up the powerpoint slides. 18 slides allows for 9 slides per page, therefore, 2 pages. I also print them in color since the original slides which students saw were in color.
  6. Place the printed page(s) in plastic sleeves or laminate them. If the story is two pages, then place the pages so that the pictures face outwards on both sides of the plastic sleeve
Activity #1
  1. Pair students - Student #1 has the pictures, Student #2 has a copy of the story
  2. Student #2 reads the story aloud slowly to Student #1. Student #1 simply points to different parts of each picture as the words are read aloud. NOTE - the student is not just pointing to the picture itself but to the various parts of the picture which correspond to the Latin words as they are said aloud.
  3. When the story has been through, students switch roles.
Activity #2
  1. Following activity #1, ONLY using the picture, Student #1 will retell the story to Student #2 in Latin.
  2. Student #2 has the story and will help Student #1 with vocabulary words if Student #1 needs help, Student #2 is NOT to correct grammar but only to give words.
  3. Students switch roles after Student #1 retells the story
Activity #3
  1. Following Activity #2, give everyone a copy of the pictures and now do a 5-minute timed write, where students write the story down in Latin using the pictures. 
  2. If students finish before the end of the 5 minutes, they are to write in Latin what they think happens next
  1. I do a Picture Story Retell activities probably only once a month and at the end of a unit. By the time students do this, they have reviewed the story at least 6-7 times in 6-7 completely different ways. I do not do Picture Story Retells too often in order to preserve the novelty of the activity.
  2. In activities #1 and #2, students are still getting in necessary repetitions of the language in the story in different ways. In activity #1, the student who is reading the story aloud visually is seeing the story (and hearing himself/herself say it), while the student with the picture is hearing the story and is pointing to visual clues in the pictures. In activity #2, the student who is listening to the story being told is hearing the story while also reading it silently
  3. Usually by the time i do these activities, so much input has occurred for students with this particular story that output seems natural
  4. There are probably going to be grammatical errors when students retell the story aloud - it is OKAY! That just means that they need more comprehensible messages and repetition of the language for grammar refinement.
  5. The timed write seems like a natural follow up after the first two activities. I have found that students' writing processing skills in the language increase following the oral retell.
Story Example

Target words
dies natalis
ego + do vs. (3rd sing) + dat

Tom est laetus. hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. Tom dicit, “ego elephantum, infantem et leonem volo.”

Jack dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. ego elephantum do!" Jack elephantum dat. Tom est laetus

Ian dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. ego infantem do!" Ian infantem dat. Tom est laetus.

Matt dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat, sed ego elephantum non do. ego infantem non do. ego leonem non do. ego measles do!" Matt measles dat. Tom non est laetus!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cloze Sentences

Although this cloze sentence activity is a staple of a CI/TPRS classroom, I did not begin to use it until this semester (and quite honestly, I did not learn of it until this past summer at NTPRS). It is a great post-reading activity, but it needs to be done only after students have reviewed/gone over the story many times, because it is a limited output activity and will require them to recall vocabulary in the story (and possibly language structures, depending on how you use this).

The set up is basic: 

  1. Using a story which you have been reading and reviewing with students, project the story onto the board with words missing (like you would see in any cloze sentence exercise)
  2. Read each sentence aloud, and ask students to give you the missing word aloud.
  3. Write in the missing word.
Latin 1 example:

Ian puellam videt. puella est pulchra. Ian puellam amat. Ian dicit, “O puella, salve! mihi nomen est Ian. quid nomen tibi est?” puella dicit, “salve, Ian. mihi nomen est Go Away!”
Ian est tristis. Ian aliam (another) puellam videt. puella est pulchra. Ian puellam amat. Ian dicit, “O puella, salve! mihi nomen est Ian. quid nomen tibi est?”puella dicit, “salve, Ian. mihi nomen est You Are Annoying!” Ian est tristis.

Ian puellam _________. puella est _________. Ian puellam ________. Ian dicit, "O ______, salve! mihi ________ est Ian. _____ nomen tibi est? ______ dicit, "salve, Ian. mihi _______ est Go Away!" Ian _____ tristis. Ian aliam ________ videt. _____ est pulchra. Ian _______ amat. Ian ______, "O puella, salve! mihi nomen _____ Ian. quid ________ tibi est?" puella ______, "Salve, Ian. mihi nomen ______ You Are Annoying!" Ian est ________.

  1. By the time I do this activity, the class has gone through this story in 5-6 different ways over 3 days, so they are very familiar with it.
  2. Because the story uses limited amount of vocabulary, is comprehensible and has lots repetition of words/sentences, it is a very easy story for students to read and to internalize.
  3. I also project a picture illustrating the sentence to give another visual cue for students
  4. This is a very guided limited output activity, but due to the massive amounts of input and repetition through different activities, the output seems natural for students, i.e. internalization of the story occurrs, so this limited output is a natural overflow.
  5. I project one sentence at a time, so students do not feel overwhelmed by the length when they see it (even though we had gone over the story MANY times).
  6. I did this activity while I was being observed by a college student in a Latin teacher prepatory program. She was shocked at how easily my Latin 1 students were able to provide me with the missing Latin word aloud (and in the correct form), because having come from a more tradtional Latin program, she had never done/seen something like this before. I told her that this output was occurring not because I was using oral Latin in the classroom per se but because I was using CI.
  7. This is another great way to get in repetitions for all students. Even if a student is not able to respond, he/she is hearing and seeing the words used in a familiar (hopefully) context.
  8. If you try it and it does not work, a few things to consider:  
    • Problem: maybe you exposed them too early to this kind of output so internalization has not happened yet? Solution: go back and get in more repetitions of the story through various CI methods so that internalization can occur. Try it again and see if you get better results.
    • Problem: maybe the story itself is too difficult due to the amount of vocabulary, types of language structures, etc for this type of output? Solution: create an embedded reading of the story and scaffold it in a way that students can internalize the language slowly without having to make a big jump to output. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Parent Meetings Reflections: A Justification for CI/TPRS

These past two weeks, I have attended five parent meetings regarding students in my Laitn 1 classes  - a combination of SSTs, IEPs and referrals. Because we have passed the midpoint of the semester, suddenly, there is much parental concern regarding grades. Each of the meetings, however, seemed to have the same scenario: the student was failing or close to failing the majority of his/her claseses but yet was flourishing in my Latin 1 class with at least a 95. 

In each meeting, as we teachers, the parents, the counselor, the curriculum administrator and special ed case manager all discussed the student's overall academic performance, it became obvious that something was going on in my Latin 1 class which was making these students succeed. At some of the meetings, I could tell that the core subject area teachers were dismissing the student's high grade in my class with an "But it's just Latin 1 - you really do not do anything in that class" attitude (these teachers really need to come to my classes if they think that!). One parent even commented, "My daughter says that she never has to study for your class. I'm concerned. I see her making vocabulary flashcards for Language Arts all the time - shouldn't she be doing that for Latin too?"

At each of these meetings, when it came my turn to talk about the student's performance, my first instinct was to defend everything about my methodology and why I have adopted a CI-based classroom, but I also knew that this was the last thing which parents wanted to hear, nor was that my purpose for being there. I instead decided to let the student's performance do the talking for me. In a nutshell, here is what i said at each of the five meetings:
  • Even though it is Latin 1, it is still a "rigorous" course, but my job as the teacher is not to make it feel like it is for students
  • My job is to teach the language by delivering understandable messages to students in Latin. I choose to do this through comprehensible, compelling stories.
  • All I ask is that your child pay attention in class and to interact with the stories/readings in various ways
  • Acquiring a language happens subconsciously - here is proof that your child is acquiring Latin
    • Your child is not having to make flashcards, because he/she does not feel the need to; unbeknownst to your child, he/she is internalizing the target vocabulary subconsciously
    • All of my vocabulary/comprehension quizzes are unannounced, but yet your child has at least a 95% quiz average, i.e. even though I give no prior notice of a quiz, your child still feels prepared and never feels "put on the spot" when I announce one. The vocabulary quizzes are cumulative, so the amount of words increases on each quiz - in fact, we are up to 40 words now. If your child were not acquiring the language, the proof would be a much lower quiz average. 
    • Your child's processing skills in the language are improving due to constant and repeated (but not repetitive) interaction with the Latin. Your child's word count output on his/her biweekly 5-minute timed writes has increased each time
    • On tests, your child is able to read a comprehensible story at sight in Latin and then to answer a mix of multiple choice and of true/false questions about the story in the language, thereby demonstrating comprehension. If your child were not understanding what he/she was reading, his/her test average would be much lower. 

At one of the meetings, the special ed case manager said to me, "Will you be teaching Latin 1 again next year? Because I want to send more of my cases to you!"

Each of these meetings confirmed for me that CI is the way to go when teaching Latin. Definitely under a grammar-translation methodology and even under a reading method with extensive vocabulary, these particular students would be failing, but under CI, they are flourishing. Even though all of this evidence is just anecdotal, I need no other proof that CI works for all students.

At the end of one meeting, a parent said to me in front of everyone, "I may not understand everything that you are doing, but keep doing it, because _________ is succeeding in your class." With results like this, I definitely will.

Friday, October 3, 2014

No More Vocab Lists

One of my goals for this school year is to limit vocabulary and to hit the high frequency words first - this also coincides with my goal of leaving behind the textbook (which I will write about in a later post). These two goals have been my focus for my Latin 1 classroom and after nine weeks of implementing them, I can see a HUGE difference in my students' acquisition of the language. 

The best thing about it though: no more vocabulary lists for students to study. 

The old way of giving students a list of 20-25 vocabulary words to learn by the end of the chapter never lead to retention but rather students "cramming and flushing" the words for a quiz. Plus, of those 20-25 words which textbooks gave students to learn, almost half of them were hardly used again following that chapter. I have found that in limiting vocabulary in a CI manner, there is no need to make lists, because students do not need them! 

So what am I doing? Each week, I am focusing on just five new vocabulary words and for now, they are high frequency words or words which I feel are important for them to know. These five target words are repeated constantly in a very comprehehsible 18-sentence story which I have written for them. Because during the week we cover that one story 5-6 different ways with a different focus each time, due to the massive repetitions, it is almost difficult for students not to acquire the words! At the end of the week, students read version #2 of the story, an embedded, more fuller version of the story. And students anticipate reading the "real" version of the story. I also add these words on my word wall so students can see what words they should "know".

What words am I picking? First, I am choosing those high frequency words in language in general and not just in Latin. Then I am taking a look at the CLC textbook to see which words I should also incorporate. 

How do I know students have acquired these words? During partner reads, I am amazed at how quickly they are processing these words. These words are also appearing in students' timed writes. I also give vocabulary assessments each week - I will address this in a later posting.

Here are the words which I have taught so far:

Week 1-2 (these were presented purely using TPR)
  1. ita
  2. minime
  3. salve
  4. sella
  5. mensa
  6. it
  7. considit
  8. surgit
  9. sumit
  10. deponit
  11. est
  12. in
  13. ad
  14. leo
  15. infans
Week 3-4
  1. dulciolum
  2. crustulum
  3. habet
  4. amat
  5. dat
  6. non
Week 5
  1. vult
  2. videt
  3. capit
  4. sed
Week 6
  1. pater
  2. mater
  3. filius
  4. filia
  5. et
Week 7
  1. puella
  2. pulchra
  3. tristis
  4. dicit
  5. "quid nomen tibi est?
  6. "mihi nomen est ____"
Week 8
  1. clamat
  2. iratus
  3. ego
  4. volo
  5. vendit
  1. In limiting vocabulary, students are able to acquire language in bite-sized chunks.
  2. Because students are just learning 5 new words a week and as those words are high-frequency words, students are not burning unncessary "memory bandwidth" in learning "random" words.
  3. Students are not overwhelmed with vocabulary like they were before when I used to give them a list of 20-25 words.
  4. Because these are high frequency words, I can use them and re-use them in stories, hence, if students do not acquire them the "first round," hopefully they will due to repetitions in later stories.
  5. In limiting vocabulary, I can actually introduce language naturally and not by when the textbook says that I should. For example, since I have introduced vult/volo already, it just seems natural to use infinitives now. If I were to wait until they appeared in the textbook, it would be not until February/March. 
Try giving limiting vocabulary a try - your students will thank you for it!