Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sound Effects Theater

This is another very quick post-reading strategy which I learned from the great Carol Gaab last summer at NTPRS and then saw demonstrated again at ACTFL last November as part of Krista Applegate's presentation. I do not know if they specifically called it "Sound Effects Theater" - I call it that - and it is a variation of Readers Theater. Instead of acting out a story (like in Readers Theater), the class adds sound effects to the reading.

The idea is simple: assign students to make certain sound effects every time a particular vocabulary word is said in a story which is being told/read aloud.

Example of some sounds with vocabulary words:
pater - "da da"
mater - "mommy"
iratus - "grrrrr"
tristis - "boohoo"
scribit - "Dear Diary"
leo - "ROAR"
feles - "meow"
pirata - "arrr"
pulsat - "POW"


  1. You will read aloud/tell the story a few times.
  2. When reading aloud/telling the story the first time, do it slowly and allow for the assigned students to make the sound after you say the word - if the word is repeated more than once in the story, the better!  
  3. Read aloud/tell the story again, but do it a little faster. Students who are making the sound effects will have to keep up with the pace.
  4. Read aloud/tell the story again, but now quickly. Those making the sound effects will really have to listen so that they do not miss their cue! 


  1. Another fun way to re-read through a known story and to get in repetitions of vocabulary. Even though the story speeds up with each reading, because it is a known story, the reading remains comprehehensible for students.
  2. Another way for students to personalize vocabulary and to associate it with a sound.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

End of the School Year Reflections

My school year has come to an end: Final exams have been graded, the semester averages have been posted, and my classroom has been packed away for the summer. I am now officially on summer vacation. 

Honestly, I feel restless at the moment. It always takes a few days for me to decompress from it all.To me, the end of the school year is always a crazy time with finals, graduation, etc., and I liken it to being on a runaway train. The train is not going to stop whether I like it or not, so alI I can do is just hold on. And then suddenly, the train stops, but due to the laws of physics, I am still in motion and am hurled forward. I once told a class this analogy, and a student just looked at me dumbfounded and said, "Wow, that is SO deep..."

Yesterday at my school's end-of-the-semester luncheon, my principal handed back to us teachers two goals for our school year which we each had written back in August. This was his first full year as principal (he had been with us though for many years as an assistant principal and then took over as principal halfway through last school year), so he had wanted to know what we were feeling. Quite honestly, I had forgotten that I had even done this, so I was pleasantly surprised to read what I had written down as my goals:
  1. Goal #1: to make my classroom a Comprehensible Input classroom
  2. Goal #2: to not allow what I view as educational obstructional policy to sour my view and love of teaching
I'll address Goal #1, but gosh for Goal #2, did I really write the words educational obstructional policy for my principal to read?!! Wow, that was pretty brazen of me! (In an earlier post, I address my reaction to "educational obstructional policy"). My principal actually included a really nice note to me when we got back our goals, and in it regardng this particular goal, he wrote, "Your passion and POSITIVE approach continue to produce excellent results for students. You make Brookwood a better place." I truly do appreciate my principal. He has been an ardent supporter of the Latin program at my school (we will be adding our FOURTH Latin teacher next year) and in fact, our school will be paying for one class of Latin 1 to be taught at the local middle school in order to start up a Latin program there!

Regarding Goal #1 and making my classroom a Comprehensible Input classroom, I would give myself a letter grade of B. This year, I was only teaching Latin 1 and AP Latin (talk abut extremes!). On the one hand, I see all of my shortcomings, failures to deliver Comprehensible Input, the times where it was easier to show a video instead of teach, and the days where I failed to engage students due to falling back on grammar-translation ways; plus I was teaching AP Latin which is not truly CI-friendly. On the other hand, this was my second full year of teaching full-out Comprehensible Input (I had been doing TPRS for years prior to this, but I did not truly understand CI when I was doing it), and I felt like I had a much stronger hand on CI this time. I have heard that it takes three years to get the hang of teaching CI, so watch out next year!

In August, I had written a list of CI goals for the year. Let me write up here how I felt I did. This only applies to my Latin 1 classes:

  1. Leave the textbook behind - On the one hand, I did leave the textbook behind in that my students never used it  - in fact, although I was required to check out books to students in August, I told them to keep it in their lockers for the year. On the other hand, due to my Latin colleagues closely using the textbook, I could not leave it behind complelely. I looked at the sequence of how topics/vocabulary were presented in the book and then taught it how I wanted when I wanted. It was quite a tenuous task, since at the same time I needed to prepare my students for my colleagues who do follow the textbook. I will discuss my experience at this summer's NTPRS in a presentation called "Detoxing from the Textbook."
  2. Deliver understandable, comprehensible and compelling language to students in word and on paper - I feel like I did a good job on this and am looking forward to expanding it even further. Was I teaching 90% of the time in the target language. Not even close, but I'm getting better! I really enjoy writing, and I found that it is indeed possible and very easy to write compelling stories with a limited amount of vocabulary.
  3. Limit vocabulary - I felt like I did a good job...maybe too good a job. In some ways, I feel like I underprepared my students for my colleagues who may expect that they know more words. However, I feel like my students truly acquired them and have a working knowledge of their vocabulary, instead of just having learned them from memorization.
  4. Hit the high frequency words first - Wow, what a simple concept! Done and done!
  5. Incorporate a Word Wall in my classroom - This is definitely something which I am going to do every year. Why did I not do this before? Students told me how much they liked it, because it helped them self-monitor their own knowledge of vocabulary. Reviewing words on the word wall 2-3 times a week is a great warm up activity.
  6. "Point and Pause" more - I have definitely gotten better at doing this. See an earlier post here where I discuss it.
  7. Vary things up -  One of the best things which I have learned from Carol Gaab (and believe me, she is a font of CI/TPRS knowledge) is the phrase  "The brain CRAVES novelty." She was the first TPRS/CI presenter whom I ever heard say "Just doing circling questions and PQAs gets REALLY OLD, REALLY QUICKLY for students." I have learned to vary up circling in a way so that it does not even seem repetitive at all, and I now have students go over a story at least 6-7 different ways. The 4%ers (who have already probably mastered the story) appreciate the novelty of the new activity, while the slower processors appreciate the reps. As Rachel Ash says, "The goal is to get in repetitions without being repetitive." 
  8. Focus on student reading and re-reading of material -  I can honestly say that reading and re-reading is where the magic happens in language acquisition. The job though is to vary up the readings and to find those stories which are compelling to students. This week, on my Latin 1 final exam, I put two reading passages which students had already seen before on previous tests from months ago but with a different set of questions. The feedback which I received was overwhelmingly positive about how easy they were to read, since they already had a background knowledge of them. After the exam, a student told me "Those passages were almost too easy, " to which I replied, "Wow, that just shows you how much your reading ability has improved in just a few months." 
  9. Read more CI/TPRS blogs - Reading blogs has been my lifeline for my teaching this year. There are so many good ones out there. In addition to learning so much from them, I feel such a strong sense of comraderie now with these bloggers, as we are all headed towards the same goal of student language acquisition. 
  10. Attend CI/TPRS presentations at conferences - at ACTFL, I attended some really great CI/TPRS workshops. Unfortunately, now that I am pursuing an Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology, whenever I attend conferences, I must attend tech presentations in order to accrue lab hours for my classes.  
  11. Teach fearlessly - DONE!
So thanks to everyone who helped me achieve my goals. I learned so much from your blogs, presentations, tweets, and emails. I am so grateful for you, and I am already looking forward to next year. Now off to enjoy my summer vacation...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Who is It?

This is a great listening activity to do at the last 10 minutes of class, and it involves whiteboards - like bacon, in my opinion, everything is better with whiteboards! 

1)  Write 3 VERY short comprehensible descriptions in Latin of famous people (characters, historical figures, or real people), where the first description is most general and the third is most specific, i.e., by the third description, it should be obvious who the character is

1) Have students grab a whiteboard and dry-erase markers.
2) Have students number 1-3 on their whiteboards.
3) Explain to students that you are going to read a series of descriptions and after each description, they should write the name of the person/character whom they think it is. All three descriptions are about the same person/character.
4) Read the first description, and next to number one, have students write whom they think is the character/person.
5) Read the second description, and next to number two, have students write whom they now think is the character/person. If they think it is the same person/character as what they wrote for number one, they are still to write down that name.
6) Read the third description, and next to number three, have students write whom they now think is the character/person. If they think it is the same person/character as what they wrote for number one and two, they are still to write down that name.
7) After reading the third description, ask students “quis est?” and have them respond aloud. Ask them to hold up their whiteboards so that you can see their series of answers.
8) Start again with a new person/character.

1) femina
2) cantatrix
3) uxor JayZis

1) Troianus vir
2) sacerdos
3) interfectus a serpentibus

  1. This is a GREAT way to review characters if you are reading a story with lots of characters.
  2. This is a wonderful, low affective filter, output activity, since it just requires students to write down the name of a character/person.
  3. Because it is such an easy listnening activity, I have found students to be very engaged whenever I have done it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


This is a fun listening comprehension, partner activity to do with students as either a post-reading activity or as a review of known material. I learned this as a language lab activity, but it is not necessary to use one. 

For this, you will need sentences from a reading which you have been reviewing or sentences with which you know that students are very familiar - in other words, the sentences need to 100% comprehensible for students to hear aloud! 

Nugas (which is Latin for "nonsense") is a very short guided dialogue/listening activity between two students, where
  1. one student is designated as Student A, and the other is Student B.
  2. each student has a sheet of paper which has numbered sentences, which are specific for that student, i.e., neither student sees each other's sentences
  3. student A will read aloud his/her first sentence to Student B 
  4. student B will read aloud his/her sentence which is a response to student A  
  5. students A and B will determine whether the dialogue made sense. 
  6. If it does, then students will say “Recte!” If not, then students will yell “Nugas!” 
  7. Students will continue with next set of sentences. 
1) Recte examples
Partner A: ubi est Marcus?
Partner B: puto Marcum esse in Foro.

Partner B: quomodo te habes, Marce?
Partner A: bene me habeo.

2) Nugas example
Partner B: cur Metella in via festinat?
Partner A: mihi placet consumere crustula.

Partner A: Salve, Diana!
Partner B: quod ego sum iratus.

Unfortunately, on your end as the teacher, it takes quite a bit of prep, because you need to come up with a series of  2-sentence dialogues (both recte and nugas) and then to transfer those to both Partner A and Partner B handouts separately. For example, partner A's handout would look like this:

1) Partner A: ubi est Marcus?
    Parnter B: _____________

2) Partner B: _____________
    Partner A: bene me habeo.


  1. This is a great partner, listening activity, but the key point is that the sentences must be 100% comprehensible and not too long.
  2. My students LOVE yelling "nugas" when the two sentences do not make sense.
  3. This is a fun way to get in practice of "memorized, life skills" sentences (greetings, salutations, textbook dialogues).
  4. If you are using a story, this is a way to ask questions about a story and to get in repetitions of the story in a different way.