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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My CI Journey

This summer, I attended a weeklong TPRS Trainer Prep Course sponsored by Altamira Language Learning and TPRS Academy. One of the exercises which we did was to create a visual representation of our individual "CI journeys" - how we came to learn about CI, our journeys of CI implementation, where we were going with CI, etc. As we only had 10 minutes to create this, in many ways, what each of us illustrated became a stream of our consciousness. Following this, we then had to share our stories with various participants. This was a great exercise, because it forced me to think about how I came to learn about CI, how did I view CI then and now, etc. and to put it down on paper without thinking.

I have decided to share my drawing and CI journey with you all. Hopefully it will resonate with you and perhaps explain how I came to embrace CI.

Prior to 2007 - I was all about grammar-translation. Like you probably, I absolutely love grammar. That is why I was attracted to Latin - since it was being taught in a grammar-translation manner, it instantly appealed to me. Latin was like a puzzle to me - I could immediately see or at least decode how sentences were set up. I had never heard Latin spoken before, but why should we? In my opinion, our goal as Latinists was simply to translate classical works into English via grammar-translation. I spent my undergraduate years at UCLA, obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in Greek and Latin, and I received my Masters degree in Latin from UGA - both programs were pure grammar translation. At this time, I was of the biggest advocates against any type of spoken Latin, let alone Comprehensible Input.

2007 - I attended a Blaine Ray TPRS workshop, because I had heard about TPRS and was interested in using some active Latin in my classroom. I was implementing the reading method in my classes, and I was still very grammar-oriented. I had never before heard of Comprehensible Input. I was really impressed with what I saw, as Blaine did a TPRS demo in German. I decided to facilitate some TPRS in my classes, but at the same time, I saw CI/TPRS purely as just another tool to add to my bag of tricks, i.e., I was not convinced that there was one single way to teach Latin.

2010 - This was a turning point in my teaching career, as I taught AP Latin for the first time and witnessed first hand that we (the College Board, university classics departments, and tradition) were asking WAY TOO MUCH from students after just 3 years of Latin. I was unaware of the ACTFL proficiency scales at this point (for the record, the Aeneid is SUPERIOR level reading), but I came to the realization that asking students to translate 1,900 lines of the Aeneid in a year (something I never did in college/graduate school as a Latin major) was way beyond their capability. This is also when I started to notice the concept of "4%ers," although I did not know the term or had heard anything about it. After this experience, I knew that I needed to make a HUGE change in the way I viewed the teaching of Latin and in how I taught it. I had become rather disillusioned with the traditional view of teaching Latin and what our goals were.

2013 - This was the year that I fully embraced CI. That summer, I attended THREE CI workshops, so what I did not quite understand at the first workshop was reinforced at the second one, and so on. Because I had a foundation of CI through my experiences in implementing TPRS, in addition to my experience in teaching AP Latin, embracing CI 100% was not too difficult for me. Learning ways to implement CI was where my journey headed for the next few years. I attended numerous national CI conferences such as NTPRS and IFLT, and my CI family tree began. 2013 is also the year I began this blog. When I first started this, my goal was that perhaps 20 Latin teachers would read this. Never did I imagine that it would turn into what is now, where I have had over 350,000 pages views in the past five years, and the majority of people who read this are non-Latin teachers.

2013-2016 - Although I was implementing CI at my school, I was the only Latin teacher at my school who had embraced it, as I was moving away from the textbook. As much as I loved my Latin department, it still was kind of lonely being the only CI teacher. I needed a change.

2016 - present - I am now in a Latin department, where all of us are implementing CI, as I work alongside Rachel Ash, John Foulk, Bob Patrick, and Miriam Patrick. The Parkview High School Latin department has over 700 students and 5 Latin teachers. It is so nice to be in a department where everyone is on the same page pedagogically.

The future - I really do not know where I am headed. Will I continue to be a Latin teacher? Will I leave the classroom and use my graduate degree to become a local school technology coordinator?

  1. I still love grammar and will continue to do so. I also need to realize that the average student is not I - the average student does not like grammar. I am the "weirdo" and the "not normal" one. That does not by any means mean that this is wrong, but I do need to understand that explicit grammar teaching is not productive nor 100% necessary for students to learn a language at the novice/intermediate levels - pop-up grammar teaching is what CI teachers do instead. To quote Bill Van Patten: "If all students were like language teachers, then they would be teachers of language, and they're not. We're the weirdos."
  2.  I think that I was able to embrace CI completely in 2013, because I had a foundation of CI with TPRS of which I was unaware. Even though prior to 2013 I viewed TPRS as just another tool to add to my toolbox of teaching, I was still implementing CI and did not know that I was. I wonder if I would have embraced CI so fully in 2013 if I had not been dabbling in TPRS for a few years.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Picture Talk - Family Member Vocabulary

Here is a Picture Talk idea which I have been doing for years, and quite honestly, I began doing this long before I embraced Comprehensible Input and was teaching solely the reading method out of the Cambridge Latin Course. Since the very first stage of the Cambridge Latin Course introduces the family around which the readings revolve, here is how I introduced family member vocabulary.

The following script is in Latin, but it should be quite comprehensible and can be adapted into any language.

Target words for this Picture Talk (write these words on the board with their English meaning)
pater (father), mater (mother), filius (son), filia (daughter), infans (baby), canis (dog), liberi (children), est (is), sunt (are), -ne (?), quis (who - masculine form), quae (who - feminine form), quot (how many)

Haec (this) est Simpson familia. In Simpson familia est Homer. (point to Homer) Homer est pater. Homer est pater in Simpson familia. When I said, “Homer est pater in Simpson familia,” what did that mean? Yes, Homer is the father in the Simpson family. Homer est pater in Simpson familia, et Marge est mater.

(point to Marge). Estne Marge mater? Estne Marge mater an pater? Estne Marge pater? Quis est pater? Estne Homer mater? Quae est mater? Homer est pater, et Marge est mater in Simpson famila.

Sed (but) Bart (point to Bart) non est pater. Bart non est mater. Bart est filius. When I say “Bart est filius,” what am I saying in English? Estne Bart mater? Estne Bart mater an filius? Estne Bart filius? Estne Bart pater? Quis est pater? Quae est Marge - mater an filius? Homer est pater, Marge est mater, et Bart est filius.

(point to Lisa) Haec (this) est Lisa. Lisa non est pater, non est mater, et non est filius. Lisa est filia. Estne Lisa filius and filia? Look at the words “filius” and “filia” - what is the difference between the words in Latin? Quis est filius? Quae est filia? Quis est pater? Quae est mater?

(point to Maggie) Haec (his) est Maggie. Maggie non est mater, non est pater, non est filius, sed Maggie est filia. Maggie est infans. When I said "Maggie est infans," what did I say in English? Maggie est infans. Estne Lisa infans? Quae est Lisa? Estne Bart infans? Quis est Bart?

(point to dog) Santa’s Little Helper non est mater, non est pater, non est filius, et non est filia. Santa’s Little Helper est canis. What is a “canis” in English? What word in English do we get from “canis”? Estne Santa's Little Helper? Estne Snoopy canis? Estne Snoopy and Winnie the Pooh canis? Estne Winnie the Pooh canis?

In Simpson familia sunt tres liberi (count to three and point to each of the children in the picture as you do it) - unus, duo, tres. When I said "In Simpson familia sunt tres liberi," what did I mean in English? Tres liberi sunt in Simpson familia. Suntne duo liberi in Simpson familia? Suntne quattuor liberi in Simpson familia? Quot canes sunt in Simpson familia?

(You can introduce Snowball the Cat if you want, and circle that word).

(Now do the same for the following families - you will find that you will not need to circle as much for the second and third pictures, because students are very familiar with the vocabulary. For the fourth and fifth pictures, now ask students who is who in each of the families. "In the Griffin family, quis est canis? quae est mater? Estne infans in Griffin familia? Quis est infans? Quot liberi sunt in Griffin familia?")

  1. Because this activity involves very limited vocabulary, meaning is established, and vocabulary is presented in a meaningful context with LOTS of repeated exposure, students acquire these words quickly.
  2. Because we are dealing with tv show families, the activity is compelling for students.
  3. One of the drawbacks of this picture is that students are not familiar with every tv show family. I used to do the Brady Bunch, but students no longer know they are (I weep for this generation). I do not watch Family Guy, so I am very honest with students and tell them, "I don't who this family is. Can you tell me about them in Latin?"

Sunday, July 22, 2018

CI Latin Teacher Database

With so many Latin teachers having attended NTPRS and IFLT these past few summers, not to mention the number of blogs, of Facebook groups, and of conference presentations dedicated to the teaching of Comprehensible Input in the Latin classroom, I have decided to create a CI Latin Teacher Database much like the CI Teacher Database which Martina Bex has created. This will now allow us to see what CI Latin teachers are out there, in what area they are, etc. Now that we have gained a critical mass of CI teachers in the Latin teacher community, I think that it is more important than ever that we CI Latin teachers support each other. To be part of this database, you do not have to be using CI exclusively. Perhaps you are a CI dabbler. Maybe you are a CI seeker. I want you to know that you are still part of the CI Latin teacher community.

This document hopefully will lead to the creation of some Professional Learning Networks (PLN) based on local area and to being able to observe other CI Latin teachers in the classroom, but most importantly, to community and the knowledge that you are NOT alone in being a CI Latin teacher. If you are willing to have others come observe you in the classroom, please indicate that. 

A few of the questions deal with the phrase "formally trained." Some of you may be asking why that phrase is there. To quote Martina Bex:
Why ‘formally trained’? I don’t specify it to be a snooty-pants, I promise! It is my attempt to guarantee that what you see in the lesson is true, modern, TPRS®. I had a very wrong idea of what TPRS® was before I began learning about it from Michele Whaley. My idea was based on antiquated information from a methods course and my own imagination. Many teachers have observed their colleagues using TPRS® or read about it in a book or on a blog, but they have never been to a workshop in which they are coached in the essential skills of TPRS®. You would never allow a doctor that had not been to medical school to teach you how to do heart surgery, would you? Likewise, when you are learning how to teach a TPRS® lesson, you need to learn from someone that has been to TPRS® school. Now, of course there is still much margin for error, but finding a formally trained TPRS® teacher is at least some kind of a protection plan.
This is something to keep in mind. It is important that if you are willing to have others come observe you implementing CI in your classroom or you are wanting to coach someone in how to use CI, you truly need to understand what CI is and what it is not through some kind of formal training. As Martina Bex writes above about her own experience, there are many out there who have their own idea of CI and think that they understand what it is, but in reality, they are FAR from what CI actually is. My understanding of CI greatly improved (and still does) through attending conferences like NTPRS and IFLT.

How to use this database: As the database grows, search to see what other CI Latin teachers are possibly in your area. Perhaps you are wanting to observe another CI Latin teacher in the classroom. Perhaps you would like to collaborate with another CI Latin teacher who is using the same textbook or has gone un-textbook. In each of these situations, email those particular teachers.

Click here if you would like to submit information to be on this database. 

Click here to see what CI Latin teachers are a part of this database so far.

NOTE - this is a public document, so please be aware of this if you choose to submit any information. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Latin "Invent a Monster" Lesson Plan

During 1st semester in my Latin 2 classes, one of our units covered monsters, specifically adapted Latin passages dealing with the Python (from the Apollo and Python myth), the basilisk as described by Pliny the Elder, and the Basilisk from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The unit then focused on an adapted Latin passage about the Cynocephali, an ancient Middle Eastern people who supposedly had the bodies of humans but the heads of dogs (Marco Polo even wrote about these people in his travels!). At the end, I culminated the unit with students creating their own monsters in Latin. If you know anything about mythological monsters, they are usually a hybrid of different animals. As a result, this gave me a perfect opportunity to introduce body parts in Latin. 

Below is the lesson plan which I implemented (note - I did other things on these days too but I have listed only what pertains to the Invent a Monster lesson):

Day 1
  1. Movie Talk - Monstrum et Cibum
Day 2
  1. Cartoon - Monstrum et Cibum
Day 3
  1. Project reading for class to read (story - the red represents new target vocabulary)
    1. Choral Reading
    2. Stultus
  2. Four Word Picture (2 rounds)
    1. Group 1 words - dentes, fugit, dat, torosus
    2. Group 2 words - cibus, in capite, occidit, silva
Day 4
  1. Drawing Dictation using words from the Movie Talk story (script)
Day 5
  1. Read/Draw of Monstrum et Cibum story
Day 6
  1. 10-minute Timed Write of story using Read/Draw
Day 7
  1. Assessment
Day 8
  1. Invent a Monster
  1. I was very surprised at how creative students were in combining body parts of animals to create their monster - I wish that I had taken pictures of them for you to see!
  2. The movie talk lent itself to introducing body parts in a very natural, contextual way.
  3. Although I did not plan this, for second semester, the focus was on the Perseus myth, which I did not realize had so many different body parts in it (Medusa has serpents on her head and the body of a woman; if one looks into the eyes of Medusa, one turns into stone; Graiae sisters share a single eye and tooth among them). Unknowingly, I had already previewed body parts vocabulary by the time we began the Perseus myth.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Latin Snail Mail Project

If you are a Latinist who is wanting to incorporate more active Latin in your own daily life or to become more adept at writing in Latin at your own level, then here is an opportunity for you. My colleague Miriam Patrick (of both Pomegranate Beginnings and Stepping into CI) has started up a Latin "“pen pal/writing” project called Latin Snail Mail which focuses on getting Latinists to “find their own voice” when writing in Latin. There are two ways in which you can get involved:

  1. writing postcards in Latin – allows for very short messages in Latin.
  2. traveling journal in Latin – allows for longer messages, such as compositions, stories, poems, etc.
Each week, there are writing prompts so that you have a subject on which to write. Upon signup, you will receive directions about how this all works (to whom to send postcards, journaling). Most of those participating are here in America, but there are a number of folks who are overseas.
I joined the postcard share right before Memorial Day, and already I have sent a number of postcards in Latin to some of those who are part of this. Last week’s postcard topic was de temptestate (about weather), and since we had days of rain/cloudy weather due to Subtropical Storm Alberto coming through here in Atlanta, it was very easy to write short messages in Latin on the topic. This week’s postcard topic is de urbe (about your city), so again, a very broad topic which one can address personally.
If one wants to write lengthier sentences in Latin or to wax more eloquently in the language, then I would suggest signing up for the traveling journal option.
  1. It is very enjoyable communicating in Latin via postcards - this is not old-school translating random English-to-Latin sentences involving soldiers and catapults in Gaul! I get the chance to write about personal topics related to my life. 
  2. Since I do not know the Latin level of those to whom I am writing, I am forced to be very comprehensible, and due to writing a postcard with very limited space, I have to be very succinct (no Ciceronian sentences!). This is why something like this is perfect for those Latinists wanting to try out active Latin or for someone who does not have a lot of time.
  3. You only have to write one postcard a week, although some write 3-4 a week. Honestly, it does not take much time to write down a message, although sometimes I do have to think about what I want to communicate in Latin (and if I have enough room on the postcard to say everything I want to say). 
  4. Finding postcards was an issue - apparently, the local drug store/Target no longer sells postcards, so I had to buy sets on Amazon (I bought a whole box of Pixar-themed postcards). The next time I pass by a truck stop on a road trip, I will stop in order to stock up on tacky, tourist postcards. 
  5. In order to participate, you do not have to be a master communicator in Latin - you just have to be understandable in the language!
  6. It is actually quite fun now going to the mailbox as I anticipate possibly receiving a postcard that day. Who would ever have thought that I would look forward to receiving a postcard written in Latin?!
  7. I love that in doing this, I am continuing the historical tradition of using Latin as a daily communicative language.
So consider being a part of this, whether it be through the postcard share or the traveling journal. You can also follow this on Twitter using #latinsnailmail - folks are posting pictures of both the postcards and messages which they are receiving.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Picture Talk - World's Worst Album Covers

Yesterday, I was cleaning out files on my computer and came across a number of folders related to Picture Talk, an activity which I had done years ago but had completely forgotten about it these past two years. I do not know why Picture Talk had slipped my mind, because it is a great way to dialogue with students in the target language and to get students to interact with it.

Picture Talk is part Movie Talk (without the movie), One Word Picture, and part story-asking. The basic idea is to project a picture and to narrate what is happening in it in the target language, to ask questions about it, and maybe to create a story based upon it. Primarily, I have used it to preview new vocabulary. Like Movie Talks, in order for this activity to be effective, it needs to be compelling for students to want to take part in it. Since movie shorts have a built-in plot, pictures can be difficult, because it can be hit-or-miss with students depending on how they engaged they are with what it is presented. I have heard Katya Paukova often say that the best movie talks are those which emotionally engage students, so with pictures, I try to do the same using the "World's Worst Album Covers"!

If you do an online search of "World's Worst Album Covers," you will see that there are TONS of websites dedicated to this topic. In addition, if you take a look at these album covers, you will find that there are TONS which are definitely INAPPROPRIATE to show in a classroom (let alone wanting to discuss them in the target language with native speakers!). However, there are some which are absolute gems for use in a Picture Talk - here is one of my favorites with possible questions to ask. For those of you Latin teachers who use the Cambridge Latin Course, I was previewing vocabulary in Stage 9 related to Quintus' birthday celebration:

  1. What objects/people do you see in the picture?
  2. Is this a girl or woman?
  3. Is this girl Julie?
  4. How old is Julie?
  5. Do you think that Julie is having a birthday party in the picture?
  6. Is Julie celebrating her birthday at Chuck E. Cheese? at Build-A-Bear?
  7. Why do you think that Julie in this place?
  8. Is Julie happy or sad?
  9. Why do you think is Julie sad?
  10. Why do you think that is Julie alone on her birthday - did she not invite anyone?
  11. Did no one show up to Julie's birthday party?
  12. Why do you think that no one came to Julie's birthday party?
  13. Is this a boy or man?
  14. Do you think that this man is Julie's father?
  15. What do you think is happening in this picture?
  16. What do you think happens next?
As you begin to ask questions about things in the picture, you can start creating a story in the target language. For the above picture, I recall a class creating a story about Julie running away from home on her 16th birthday. She was fighting with her parents, because they wanted to have a Hello-Kitty themed party, but Julie wanted to go to the movies with her friends. As a a result, she ran away to a bar to celebrate, but immediately Julie was sorry when she was approached by an older man who wanted her to run away with him. Julie ran home and happily celebrated her 16th birthday with her parents and Hello Kitty. Julie learned a valuable lesson (I like for my stories to have a moral at the end if possible).

Here are some other world's worst album covers which I have used:
So consider giving Picture Talk a try with some of these pictures!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

List of Classroom Technologies

Many times when teachers find out that I have a degree in Instructional Technology, I get asked "So what are some technologies I can use in my classroom?" That is a rather tricky question for me to answer, because I get the impression that they think that I must be a font of knowledge of specific technologies due to my degree, but more importantly, I realize that they are asking for some new "bells and whistles" which they can add to their curriculum that will most likely be used either to entertain students (instead of to engage students) or will be implemented at a very low level of critical thinking. A better question to ask would be, "So I am using X technology in my classroom - do you have any suggestions on how to use it at a higher level of thinking?"

Recently on Twitter, I saw the following picture on Twitter of a compiled list of classroom technologies. 

Having completed my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology two years ago and now soon-to-be entering an Ed.D program in the field in a few months, I found this list to be of great interest. As a result, for my own purposes, I transferred the above list onto a document, added a number of my own, and added hyperlinks to each of the technologies listed. 

I have now created a List of Classroom Technologies page to this blog:

List of Classroom Technologies

To be honest, more than half of the technologies listed I have never heard of before, and the other half either I have used slightly or have been wanting to try out. One of my summer goals is to look into a number of these technologies to see how they can be used to deliver Comprehensible Input and to initiate critical thinking in students. And let me reiterate again: 
  • Technology in and of itself is not a panacea nor a cure-all for classroom woes.
  • To eschew technology usage in a classroom is short-sighted, because technology is here to stay and is only going to become more prevalent in the lives of our students. In addition, our students ONLY know a world with technology, where most likely we teachers are of the generation where we can live without it.
  • Proper technology classroom implementation involves engagement, not solely entertainment. 
  • Just because one facilitates technology in one's curriculum does not mean that it is being facilitated properly.
  • Technology can never replace a human teacher.
Let me leave you with this statement with which I begin every technology presentation I deliver:

Are there any technologies which I have left off this list which you have found very beneficial in your classroom?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Version of "Who is This?"

Here is a fun, quick take on the "Who is This?" assessment, which can be used as a warmup, bellringer, ticket out the door, etc. It is a listening comprehension activity involving whiteboards and characters from a reading/novella. It only lasts 5-10 minutes.

  1. Write 3 VERY short descriptions in target language of one character, where the 1st description is most general ,and the 3rd is most specific, i.e., by the third description, it should be obvious who the character is.
  2.  Do this for three or more different characters.
  1. Have students get a whiteboards and dry-erase markers. Students can also use pencil and paper for this, but it is not as fun.
  2. Have students number 1-3 on their paper or whiteboard
  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 character whom they think it is. All three descriptions are about the same character.
  4. After reading the 3rd description, ask students in the target language “who is it?” and have them respond. If they are using whiteboards, ask them to hold up their whiteboards so that you can see their series of answers.
  5. Continue with the next character.
Examples from the Aeneid
  1. Troianus vir (Trojan man)
  2. pater (father)
  3. a serpentibus interfectus (killed by snakes)
Answer - Laocoon
  1. deus (god)
  2. rex (king)
  3. mittit ventos (sends winds)
Answer - Aeolus
  1. femina (woman)
  2. in Italia (in Italy)
  3. sacerdos Apollonis (priestess of Apollo)
Answer - the Sibyl
  1. Troianus vir (Trojan man)
  2. fidelis amicus (loyal friend)
  3. rare loquitur (rarely speaks)
Answer - Achates

  1. This is actually a very fun activity to do. Years ago, I demonstrated this in a presentation at an American Classical League Summer Institute with Latin teachers using characters from the Aeneid, and they did not want to stop playing this and wanted me to keep giving them character descriptions, even though I had run out of them.
  2. The shorter the descriptions are, the better. Since it is a quick activity, to give students long descriptions makes the activity drag. Vocabulary words and short phrases work best.
  3. The more characters from which to choose, the better. If your reading only has four characters, then it becomes obvious VERY quickly whom the description is describing.
  4. I have found that students turn this into a competition to see if they can get the answer right based on the first, most general description.
  5. I like the class to show me their whiteboards after they write down the character after the last description so that I can see their "train of thought" - it is fun for me as a teacher to see them be able to narrow down who they think that the character is based on the names which they wrote down.
  6. If you are a Latin teacher who uses the Cambridge Latin Course, this is a great activity, since there are so many characters in the readings.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Taking a Huge Plunge

I am headed back to graduate school! This week, I found out that I have been accepted into the Doctoral of Education program in Instructional Technology at Kennesaw State University. It is an online degree program, and I had received my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology from this same university back in July 2016; as a result, I can transfer many of my credits to this new program. Because it is an online program, I will still be in the classroom full-time but taking courses simultaneously.

Now that the initial shock and excitement have worn off, part of me is thinking, "Oh my gosh, what the heck am I getting myself into? A lot is going to change in my life as a result of this." Pursuing a doctorate means:
  • taking coursework and now pursuing a doctorate, in addition to working a full-time teaching job.
  • no longer having the free time which I enjoy now but rather instead having to be incredibly disciplined with my time.
  • at least three years of commitment to an academic degree program which now includes a writing a dissertation. 
  • cutting back big time on attending conferences and giving presentations and instead having to be rather selective in which ones I attend and to which ones I submit proposals.
  • entering the realm of academic research (both qualitative and quantitative), something which after writing my M.A thesis over 20 years ago I thought was behind me.
At the same time, the chance to pursue further and deeper knowledge in the field excites me. I think that it is incredibly short-sighted for people to disqualify technology's place in education, because whether we like it or not, industries are changing so rapidly due to technology. As a result, I would much rather be on the proactive side and on the cutting edge of proper educational technology implementation instead of being on the "reactive" end. However, I am also savvy enough to understand that technology is not a panacea and should never replace the needed humanity of teachers in the classroom.

As you can probably guess, my two specific areas of interest in Instructional Technology are: 
  1. the proper implementation of technology for the delivery of Comprehensible Input in a world language classroom. This was my Capstone project for my Ed.S degree, and quite honestly, there is little current research out there on this topic. Krashen has written a few short articles recently on the topic, but most "research" out there is quite outdated when addressing current technologies. Unfortunately, technology has an incredible short shelf life, and nowhere do we see that more prevalent than in today's world where the average lifespan of a gaming app is two weeks (which explains the perpetual need for updates). Also, note the emphasis on the word proper - most teachers have NEVER received any training on how to facilitate technology properly and are rather implementing it at an incredibly low level of critical thinking. 
  2. the use of technology for the delivery of extended staff development. I wrote a blog post a few years ago on this topic. 
Quite honestly, I do not know if in pursuing this degree that I will eventually leave the classroom as a Latin teacher and will become a school technology coordinator - I cannot rule out this option (my colleague and department head Bob Patrick has explicitly told me that I must give him a year's notice if I choose this path!).

I will still continue to blog here, but you may notice that my posts will begin to have a technology angle to them. I do not begin my graduate program until August, so I have a few more months both to prepare and to enjoy my life before it changes. Here's to my next few months!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Find the Sentence using Emojis

Recently, Kristy Placido posted on Twitter a Find the Sentence post-reading activity involving emojis, so last week, I decided to give it a try with my Latin 2 classes. We had been going over the Perseus story which deals with Andromeda and how Perseus rescues her, so using emojis was definitely a novel post-reading activity. It went quite well.

In order to do this activity, you will need to type emojis using a keyboard. See below how to do this using Windows 10.
Once you activate your emoji keyboard,
  1. Take known sentences from a story which you have been reviewing, and emoji-ize them, i.e., write the sentence on a document using ONLY emojis. NOTE - most likely, the sentences will not be a true one-to-one with emojis, because there are a number of words for which there are no emojis. My goal was to get the gist of the sentence as closely as possible.
  2. If you wish, scramble the emoji sentences so that they are not in order of the story.
  3. Project the emoji sentences OR print them out for students.
  4. Give students a copy of the passage from which the sentences come.
  5. Students are to find the sentence which the emojis best communicate and to write down that sentence.
  6. Review when students are done.
Extension activity - Give sentences from the story to students for them emoji-ize.

Here is the Emoji Find the Sentence activity which I did. I have included the Latin sentences and English translations for you.

  1. This was definitely a novel way for students to review a story, because it forced them to re-read the story to find the sentence. 
  2. Emojis are a great way to deliver additional comprehensible input. They are compelling and are already a "language" with which students use to communicate. 
  3. Be aware that students are not familiar with every emoji out there. If you have students create their own sentences to emoji-ize, you may have to help them out finding emojis.
  4. Unfortunately like when using pictures to deliver input, emojis can be interpreted differently by students. What seems obvious in meaning to one student is not always to another. It may be necessary to establish meaning for some of the emojis.
  5. If you print your sentences in black/white (as I did), sometimes meaning is lost, since the original emojis are in color. You may want to project your emoji sentences instead or to print them in color.
  6. For those students who did not have access to a smartphone, I had them use the classroom student computer and activate the emoji keyboard so that they could type out their sentences.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Nearing the End Zone

Yep, it is the end of the school year, with just three weeks left in the semester for me. If you are like me, you absolutely dread this time of the year. Instruction becomes disrupted by standardized End of Course testing, AP testing, and end-of-the-year activities (yearbook distribution, senior activities, graduation practice). It becomes a balancing act of trying to get in last bits of instruction, of keeping track of what students will be missing class on which days due to testing, and of trying to remain somewhat motivated. In addition, let me say for the record: I am tired of students, and students are tired of me. That is not to say that I dislike students or hate teaching. It is just that it is the time of the year where all parties involved are ready for a much needed break from each other.

I am weary and exhausted. I know that it must be the end of the school year, because every day for the past few weeks, I have taken a nap when I come home from work - I only nap like this at the start and at the end of the school year. As I have written before, I feel like I am in zombie mode during these last weeks of the year, because I am physically teaching, but my heart, mind, and emotions are not always fully present.

Apparently, this topic must be an important one to me, because I have blogged about it almost yearly, sharing the same feelings and sentiments. At the same time, I am glad that I have, because in my reading over these past posts, in hindsight it demonstrates to me that every year I have indeed gotten through and survived all of the craziness, received much needed rest over the summer, and returned re-energized for the new school year.  

I am constantly reminded that teaching is a marathon and not a sprint. I have never run a marathon, but I can imagine that the last few miles are absolutely brutal to complete as one's body begins to shut down and to fight back against the effort. As the end of the school year draws near, I find myself laboring (and sometimes crawling) to cross the finish line. Although I may be battered and bruised, I will still cross it.

I write this post not to vent nor to complain but rather to encourage others who are feeling this way that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is okay and normal to be feeling this way. So many times we are expected to be super heroes in the classroom, but we must remember that we are also human. The end is in sight...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Laundry Quandary - Movie Talk

Here is a fun Movie Talk which I did last week. With my Latin 2 classes, I am finishing up the last section of the Perseus myth (the part which deals him with rescuing Andromeda from the monster) which I have adapted, and I needed to preview the words in periculo (in danger) and servat (rescue/save). Once again, using Jason Fritze's National Movie Talk database, I was able to find a Movie Talk which addressed these words in a very humorous way.

The movie short is called Laundry Quandary, and it is about a superhero whose service is needed on his laundry day.

Latin script

English script

  1. Lots of good discussion on superheroes in the target language during the Movie Talk! I could have done a whole period of PQA's just on superheroes.
  2. I was kind of disappointed with the end of the movie short, as the woman ends up becoming all "fan girl" over Captain Beautiful. I would have liked to have seen the woman end up being a superhero and her saving the city.
  3. A number of students really liked the soundtrack - a couple students said to me, "You have picked some really good movie talks lately - they have had good music."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More Thoughts on Sheltering Vocabulary

Some random thoughts about sheltering vocabulary but not grammar:

1. Back in February, we were doing registration at my school. One of my Latin 2 students remarked to me how someone in her Advisement class asked her if Latin was easy; her response was "Yeah, it is super easy. We learn words through stories, and then those words appear in the next story along with some new words and then those words are in the next story, and so on. We never have stupid vocabulary lists to memorize. We never have fake dialogues like they do in other language classes. We learn vocabulary through stories and movie clips and through using them in conversation. It never feels like learning." In a roundabout way, unknowingly my student just explained many aspects of CI. I also find it interesting that my student never mentioned anything about grammar in her response, such as conjugating verbs and grammar drills.

2. As I become more versed in sheltering vocabulary but not grammar, I cannot help at times second-guessing myself when it comes to using CI. More than often I feel like I am short-changing my students in terms of the amount of words which they know. Of course, that is the old textbook side of me talking, where vocabulary acquisition was dictated by the lists which the textbook provided (which is usually around 20-30 words per chapter). Then, although I am focusing on high frequency words, I wonder if they are the right high frequency words. There are Latin high frequency lists out there, but they are based on frequency appearance in classical literature - should I focus on that? or on high frequency in language in general? I am still trying to find that sweet spot. I am reminded of the truth that Latin teachers probably know five different Latin words for catapult, but most do not know vocabulary related to themselves or to their daily life in the language. 

3. Just recently, Anthony Gibbins, a dear friend of mine from Rusticatio (Antonius Australianus is his Latin name - you may know him better as Legionum, the one who tweets Latin using Legoes), tweeted the following. It is a great example of sheltering vocabulary but not grammar. If you are a Latin teacher who uses The Cambridge Latin Course, then you will recognize the opening sentences.

English translation of above
Caecilius is in the garden. Caecilius is sitting in the garden. Are you able to see Caecilius sitting in the garden? Do you know why Caecilius is sitting in the garden? Perhaps someone ordered Caecilius to sit in the garden. Perhaps it is very pleasing to Caecilius to sit in the garden. Only I know that Caecilius is sitting in the garden. Where are you sitting?

The basic phrase which Anthony uses is Caecilius is sitting in the garden, but look how many different ways grammatically he uses that phrase in the passage. From a Latin teacher perspective, Anthony incorporates a present participle, indirect statements, an indirect question, and some infinitive usage with the verb iussit and the impersonal form perplacet. He then ends it with a PQA. 

Now in Latin 1, you probably would not present this full paragraph in the first weeks, but you can see in many ways how naturally you can take students through various structures with known vocabulary. Now you probably would not introduce all of these structures at once but in many instances, based on known vocabulary, new structures are very easy for students to comprehend based on context. I have found that present participles, indirect statements, and indirect questions are very quite easy for students to comprehend. We teachers are the ones who made them difficult for students, because we get caught up in teaching sequence of tenses, formation, stem change vowels, naming structures, making students parse the forms, etc.