Saturday, September 14, 2019

Word Cloud Cloze Sentence Activity

This is an activity which I learned from Cindy Hitz, and it is a great higher-order thinking, post-reading activity involving word clouds. In the past, I have normally used word clouds as a vocabulary highlighter game or have students predict what they think is going to happen in the story. Cindy takes it to the next level and uses the word clouds as part of a cloze sentence activity. So instead of calling out individual vocabulary words where students race to highlight words, now you read out cloze sentences from a reading, and students race to highlight the missing word in the word cloud.

You can find directions for this activity here on Cindy's blog at the bottom under the heading "Game Smashing with Word Clouds." 

Here are my directions on how to create word clouds using MS Word 

Example - this is based on the Monster and Dumpling Movie Talk:

Word Cloud

Slide presentation with cloze sentences

  1. This is a great post-reading activity, but students need to be very familiar with the reading before they do this since they are doing cloze sentences without a word bank per se.
  2. I loved the double input which students received in this activity - visually seeing the sentences and me reading them aloud.
  3. Keep the sentences somewhat short, because the activity involves a lot of processing, so to give students a long sentence for they which they have to understand the meaning, to realize what the missing word is, and then to find it in a scrambled word cloud is a lot. 
  4. I thought that students would struggle with knowing what the missing word was, when in actuality, students told me that was the easy part (again, because we had gone over the story so many times in different ways). The difficult part for them was finding the word in the word cloud before their opponents!
  5. I love the higher-order thinking going on in this activity. It goes way beyond the basics of the regular vocabulary highlighter game. 
  6. To keep the faster processors from always finding the word first, sometimes I would tell students that they had to wait until I said, "Go!" This allowed the slower processors a chance. 
  7. Although I only focused on one reading, I threw in distractor words from other passages to fill out the word cloud. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Why You Should Consider Attending NTPRS or IFLT in 2020

NOTE - I am only addressing NTPRS and IFLT in this blog post, because those are the two weeklong conferences which I have attended and on which I can speak from personal experience. Any omission of other weeklong CI conferences should not be taken personally and does not reflect my feelings for or against them. If you would like to write a guest blog post about another weeklong CI conference such as Agen or Express Fluency, contact me.

Although summer is now over and school is back in session, I write this blog post to challenge you to consider attending a conference like NTPRS or IFLT in the summer of 2020. If you have never attended weeklong CI conferences before, you will not be disappointed in what they have to offer. This is not to say that one cannot learn from a 1-2-day regional conference like TCI Maine, Mitten CI, or CIMidwest. Receive CI training wherever you can and as often as you can! And while online groups, professional learning communities/networks, and blogs are so important to the CI community, they can only go so far.

However, in my own experience, all I can say is that there is absolutely nothing like the weeklong concentration of being in a full CI training environment which you do not experience in a 1-2 day conference. I cannot explain what it is. Maybe because one has a week, there is more time to be immersed in a CI environment and to learn and to experience it all. Maybe because since pedagogically everyone there is on the same page, one is not constantly having to defend one's use of CI. Maybe it is the coaching sessions where one can be coached on a particular CI skill in a positive setting. Maybe a week gives participants time to ponder over, to process, and to experiment at a slower pace, since there is ample time to do so, as opposed to a single day at a training where everything is thrown at you at once. Maybe it is the overwhelming amount of practical sessions addressing CI implementation in the classroom. Maybe it is the tangible care and enthusiasm which the presenters, coaches, and leaders exhibit in creating such an accepting environment. Maybe because it is so much dang fun!

Although each summer I am a regular attendee at the American Classical League Summer Institute and as much as I look forward to the professional camaraderie of being with other Latin teachers from around the country, honestly, I cannot say that I walk away feeling pumped to return to my classroom when it is over like I do when I attend a NTPRS or IFLT. That is not to say that I do not enjoy attending the ACL Summer Institute, but the conference just has a different focus for me. I do appreciate though that the number of CI sessions at the ACL Summer Institute has increased each year and that we seem to have reached a critical mass in the CI movement in the Latin community.

This past July, I attended IFLT, and even though I was there wearing many different hats (sub-cohort leader, coach, and presenter), I got SO MUCH out of the conference! I cannot tell you how much I learned that I already have used in these past five weeks with students. If you have read my past few blog posts, they are all related to ideas which I learned at IFLT this summer. I attended a session where when the presenter saw me come in, she said, "Wow, what are you doing here? You know all of this." I responded, "That does not mean that there is still not more for me to learn." And yes, I walked away with so much from her presentation that I am now implementing in my classroom. Compared to the summer of 2018 where I did not attend a NTPRS or IFLT and felt "flat" entering the school year, this year already after five weeks with students, I am still SO pumped and jazzed to be in the classroom. IFLT so charged my CI batteries!

So which one is better: NTPRS or IFLT? I cannot answer that, because they are both different. In my opinion, one is not "better" than the other.
  • NTPRS is five days, while IFLT is four days. 
  • NTPRS is held in a hotel and has a more "conference" feel to it, while IFLT is held on a school campus.
  • Both conferences offer tracks for their participants based on one's experience with CI.
  • Both conferences offer coaching for their participants.
  • IFLT offers language labs, where participants can observe master CI-teachers teaching a language class with actual students. In my opinion, this is where the magic happens. I could observe Linda Li forever work her magic in teaching Mandarin, and I would never get bored.
  • NTPRS has organized nightly events, such as receptions, language-immersive dinners, and a talent show. This year, IFLT had one night session on Readers Theater, which was a blast!
The downside of attending a weeklong conference like NTPRS or IFLT is that it is not cheap when one starts to factor in the price for registration, travel, food, and lodging costs. That is why I encourage you start thinking now about attending. Find out if your school/district will pay for you to attend. Look into scholarship opportunities with your local/regional WL organizations. 

2020 dates for NTPRS and IFLT
  • NTPRS - July 6-10 in Minneapolis (at the time of writing, this is the word on the street)
  • IFLT - July 14-17 in Southern California (yes, I know that it is rather vague at the moment, but I am assuming either in Los Angeles or Orange County)
So I encourage you to consider attending NTPRS or IFLT next summer. I have attended both conferences before. My blog posts on having attended each:
I look forward to seeing you next summer at one of these conferences!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Unfair Game/Give or Take Game

In online CI groups and in social media, there has been much talk about the Unfair Game over the years. For some reason, I never investigated what this game was, although folks were praising it as a fun activity for students. This summer at IFLT, Martina Bex talked about the activity with our cohort, and suddenly I realized that I already knew what this game was - I just called it something different! 

I have always called the game "Give or Take," but I like the title "The Unfair Game," because that so describes this game. Here is a link to the directions which Martina Bex has written up for the activity. However, I have always used it with a PowerPoint that has a grid with hyperlinks. The game is still played the same way but now with a visual. Students will pick a number from the grid, and the point total is revealed using the hyperlink. Although it is a generic grid and I have to write in new questions and answers, I can re-use the basic template.

Give or Take PowerPoint example 
  • Download the PowerPoint and change the questions/answers.
  • Don't touch the hyperlinks when editing. 
  • The two icons, face and thunderbolt, are purely decorative. Choose which icon you want to be "give" and which one will be "take" - both icons have the same point value attached to it.
Directions for PowerPoint version
  1. Project the slide which has the number grid.
  2. Ask a student to pick a number from the grid, and click on that number. There should be a hyperlink on that number,
  3. Ask the question now on the screen.
  4. Student will respond.
  5. Click on the screen to reveal the answer. Be sure NOT to click on the face or thunderbolt.
  6. If the response is correct, ask if the student wants to give or take the points. 
  7. If the response is incorrect, ask the other team if it wishes to give or take the points.
  8. Click on the icon, and a point total will be revealed.
  9. Click on the yellow reverse arrow, and you should now be at the original number grid. Numbers which have already been called will now be a different color.
  10. Begin again with a new student on the other team.
  1. Students REALLY get into this activity!
  2. This is a great post-reading activity for a story, because there are so many different types of questions which you can ask (see Martina Bex's examples).
  3. Quite honestly, although there are questions involved with this activity, for students it is all about giving or taking the points and making the correct choice for their teams.
  4. I always tell students that they will either love this game or hate it depending on which end of the "fair/unfair" that they are on.
  5. I also tell students that it is best to volunteer to be one of the first ones to pick a question, since there is not any stress just yet in the activity.
  6.  I have had students deliberately miss a question for which they knew the answer, because they did not want the stress of having to choose either give or take.
  7. The PowerPoint does not transfer well to Google Slides, because the hyperlinks get all messed up, so I just edit the PowerPoint template each time I use it.
  8. Miss Maestra in the Middle's' version - great way to involve ALL students in the game at the same time instead of just two teams.
  9. This is an easy game to keep in the target language, since the questions/answers are in the target language, and I keep the dialogue basic and formulaic: 
Teacher: Do you want to give or to take?
Student: I want to take.
Teacher: O class, _________ wants to take. And the points are ____________.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Picture/Screenshot BINGO

Once again, I need to share an absolutely great idea which I learned from Annabelle Williamson (LaMaestraLoca) herself at IFLT this past summer. It is a simple twist on vocabulary BINGO, but gosh what a twist! I will never look at vocabulary BINGO the same. The premise is still the same as BINGO but instead of individual vocabulary words in the grid, there are pictures or screenshots from a known story. So, instead of reading out individual vocabulary words, you are calling out full sentences from that story in the target language. This is such a GREAT post-reading, listening comprehension activity.

The downside of this activity is that it requires LOTS of time/effort on your part prior to the activity, as you will be pre-making the BINGO grids for students and making different BINGO grids. You will need to know which sentences are possible for each column so that you can put those pictures in those particular columns. Yes, there will be multiple copies of the same BINGO boards among the students, which means multiple winners at the same time. I played this like normal vocabulary BINGO and pulled cards which had the Latin sentences on them out of a bag so that the game was still random. I still called out the letter so that students knew in which column to look, along with the sentence. Example: "N - pisces non erant in reti." 

Below are some examples of some BINGO boards which I made for the prologue of Andrew Olympi's Perseus et Rex Malus I created a 4x4 grid for this, since 5x5 was too small for the pictures. I made 11 different BINGO grids.

  1. I loved that I was able to get in LOTS of repetitions of the sentences as I read them at least 3-4 times for each picture. Even if a student did not have that picture which I called, that student still heard understandable messages.
  2. I thought that students would find this difficult, but it was not at all for them. Yes, it required that students listen to the Latin, but because we had gone over the story so many times in different ways, they knew the sentences well.
  3. The pictures need to be completely obvious of what the sentence is portraying, or else the message is not comprehensible for students.
  4. If using screen shots as pictures, make sure that they transfer well to your BINGO grid. Many times, screenshots do not turn out well if you are printing in black/white.
  5. I suppose you could have students create their own BINGO sheet by drawing in the pictures themselves but to me, that would take a lot of time. Perhaps if you wanted to make it a 2-day activity of drawing the pictures one day and then playing the next.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Story Listening 2.0

This is a twist on regular Story Listening. For the record, I really do like Story Listening. I have experienced it myself as a student, and I know its power in delivering comprehensible input through primarily listening and using drawings to aid in delivering understandable messages. In addition, asking questions and circling do not get in the way of hearing a story being told. However, at the same time, I also know that when doing Story Listening, two issues arise: 
  1. Because I am not asking any questions, I do not know if/how much of the story is actually being comprehended in the target language.
  2. Students can tune out during a Story Listening, since there is nothing keeping them "accountable" for listening. Yes, students are listening which is active, but they can also be passively listening. - they are presently listening but not really taking it in, regardless of how compelling the story is.
My colleague John Foulk added the following to when he does Story Listening: having students draw along with you and copy what you are drawing as you tell and draw the story. I know that some of you may say that this defeats the purpose of story listening (since learners are not solely listening), but now having done Story Listening a few times this way, I really like it. Here is why:
  1. It gives students something active to do while listening to the story and they have to pay attention.
  2. It forces me to slow down in telling the story, since I need to give time for students to draw what I am drawing.
  3. I can get in LOTS of repetitions of each sentence, because I am saying each sentence many times while I wait for students to finish drawing that sentence.
  4. Even though students are copying what I am drawing, they are making a connection with what they are hearing because they themselves are drawing pictures.
  5. Because students have their own artifact of the Story Listening, they can use it as a reference for later activities.
Here is an example of a Story Listening which I just recently did with my Latin 3's. We are starting to read Andrew Olympi's novella Perseus et Rex Malus, so I introduced the prologue with a Tier 1 embedded reading using Story Listening:

Olim erat piscator qui in insula parva habitabat. Quodam die, piscator rete in mare iecit ut capiat pisces. Cum piscator rete in navem traxisset, rete piscatoris erat vacuum. Subito, piscator aliquid in mari vidit. Piscator putavit rem esse navem. Non erat navis, sed erat arca. Quid erat in arca?

Story (English)
Once upon a time there was a fisherman, who was living on a small island. On a certain day, the fisherman threw a net into the sea in order to catch fish. When the fisherman dragged the next into the boat, the fisherman's net was empty. Suddenly, the fisherman saw something in the sea. The fisherman thought that it was a boat. It was not a boat, but it was a box. What was in the box?

Day 1
I told the story as a Story Listening activity and had students copy what I drew. Even though this was just a 7-sentence story, it took a period to complete. No circling/questioning took place. Students turned in their drawings when they were done. As the teacher, either take a picture of the drawing or draw your own copy of it.

Day 2
I projected my Story Listening picture from the day before and then told the story again, pointing and pausing at particular parts of the picture as I retold it. Again, no questioning or circling happened. 
I then asked students to summarize the story in English so that I could confirm that they understood both the drawings and what I had said in Latin. I then handed back the drawings to students and had them answer some comprehension questions in Latin at the bottom/back of the page related to the story. They could use the drawings as a reference, but they had to write down their answer in Latin.

  1. Although the questions relied heavily on the drawings, most students felt that their drawings were comprehensible enough to use to answer the questions.
  2. Many students felt that they did not have to rely on the pictures because they had heard the story repeated so many times.
  3. Those questions which students answered incorrectly told me that those were the sentences/vocabulary words which I needed to review more.
  4. I used this Story Listening to preview the vocabulary words piscator, rete, and vacuum which are rather specific words. However, because these words appeared many times in the story and I kept repeating them while they were copying my drawings and in my retell, most students acquired the words. i suppose that I could have given them a list and told them to have these words memorized, but the repetition of these words in a meaningful context connected to an illustration which they themselves drew led to subconscious acquisition.
  5. Doing a Tier 1 Story Listening of the prologue made it very easy for students to read the Tier 2 level reading.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Using Padlet for PQAs

I struggle with PQA's, mainly because I feel like I am asking only a few students at a time, while the rest of the class listens. Granted it may be a compelling PQA, but at the same time, I always feel like only a few students are actually involved. Here is a way in which I have introduced PQAs while using technology: Padlet.

Essentially, Padlet is a similar to online discussion boards. One can still write comments and responses, but instead they appear like Post-its (NOTE - Padlet can be used other ways such as back chats, collaborative discussions, etc). A padlet can be embedded into a webpage, blog, classroom learning management system, or projected. 

NOTE - Although Padlet says that it is a free site, it only allows you to create three Padlets for free before you have to pay. Options are to re-edit the same Padlets over and over again or to create multiple accounts with different email addresses.

  1. Create a class PQA question using Padlet. Use the "Wall" setting.
  2. Set it to "moderated status," meaning that you as the teacher will approve responses before they are posted.
  3. Copy the URL link or QR code for students to use.
  4. Project the Padlet onto a screen.
  5. Students will use the URL or QR code on their devices, which will take them to the Padlet question. If students are using the QR code, I have found that using their camera to scan the code works best, instead of a QR code reader.
  6. Students will answer the Padlet PQA question on their devices. They can respond anonymously or by their names if they are logged into Google already.
  7. You as the teacher will moderate responses before posting them for all to see.
  8. Discuss PQA responses as a class. You can begin by saying "Who responded X?" and go from there. 
  1. Because all responses can now be seen on a screen by those involved, students are more inclined to be engaged in the activity, since they see other students' responses.
  2. Having all responses on a screen gives me as a teacher a better "map" of where to go with this particular PQA, since I can see all of the answers at once.
  3. It is fun to hear students say "Who responded X?"
  4. I demonstrated this at IFLT as part of a presentation, where the question was "What popular movie from the past have you not seen?" Lots of fun answers to use for PQAs! Responses included any of the Star Wars movies, Frozen, Breakfast Club, Titanic, and Back to the Future. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Running Dictation with Pictures

I absolutely love IFLT! In Georgia, students return in the first few weeks of August (summer begins around Memorial Day), so with IFLT being in mid-July, the conference totally gets me pumped up and ready to return to school. I love attending the presentations, because there is SO much which I learn from master CI teachers. This is one which I learned this summer from La Maestra Loca herself, Annabelle Williamson.

It is a twist on the traditional running dictation. A running dictation is very much like a regular dictation, except there is a running aspect, and it is like the game Telephone. Outside of the classroom or on the opposite wall (depending on the size of the room), there is paper which has the dictation sentences in the target language. Students are teamed up usually in pairs, where one student is a runner, and the other is a writer. The runner runs to the paper, tries to remember as much as possible, runs back to the writer, and dictates the sentence or as much as possible. The writer writes it down, the writer and runner then switch roles, with the writer now running and the runner now writing.

I am not a big fan of running dictations, because not every student enjoys it or sees the purpose in it. Because the sentences may not be completely comprehensible to the students, the runner does not always understand what he/she is dictating to the writer. Plus, a lot of times, it becomes a spelling activity for the writer. In addition, when I look over the dictations, many times I do not understand what was written due to spelling errors and the "telephone" effect of the sentence changing. Annabelle's idea changes it into a comprehension activity but still preserves the running aspect. 

Pre-Class Directions
  1. Create sentences in the target language from a known story, and create a document of those sentences. I used 12 sentences and found that it was a good number.
  2. Illustrate (or use screenshots) for those sentences. You will also need to label the picture as "A," "B," "C", etc. 
  3. Print up the Running Dictation pictures.
  4. Print up Running Dictation sentences - usually ½ of total number of students which you have.
  1. Put up the pictures along a wall in a random order either in the room or outside of the classroom.
  2. Divide up class into teams of 2 or 3.
  3. Each team will need a writing surface and a writing utensil.
  4. Give the list of running dictation sentences to each team. 
  5. Explain that one person will sit with sentences and the other person will run to ONE of the pictures. It is not necessary for them to run to the pictures in order but rather to run to just one of the pictures.
  6. The person who runs will look at the picture, memorize which letter that picture is, run back to the partner, and describe the picture in English.
  7. The person with the sentences will then determine what sentence that picture is and write down the letter.
  8. Then, the two will switch roles - the writer will now become the runner, and the runner will then become the writer.
  9. Explain that they may NOT use their phones to take a picture! They again can only look at one picture at a time.
  10. When they have gotten all of the sentences, they are then to put the story in order based on the letters. 
Examples from Monster in the Closet


___________. Senex in lecto dormiebat.

___________. Puer non erat in lecto, sed monstrum erat in lecto!

___________. Quamquam senex erat iratus, in lecto ascendit.

___________. Puer non dormiebat, et timebat.

___________. Sed subito aliquid magnos sonos facit.

___________. Senex vidit puerum in armario.

___________. Puer in armario magnos sonos faciebat.

___________. Aliquid magnos sonos faciebat in armario!

___________. Cum senex magnos sonos in armario audivit, timebat.

___________. Puer respondit, “Monstrum est in armario!”
___________. Senex vidit puerum in lecto.
___________. Senex respondit, “Tempus est obdormire!”
Once you are done, put the story back in order by the above letters
______ 1. ________ 5. _________ 9.
______ 2. ________ 6. _________ 10.
______ 3. ________ 7. _________ 11.
______ 4. ________ 8. _________ 12.

  1. Wow, I liked this version of a running dictation SO much better than the traditional one.
  2. Turning the running dictation into a comprehension activity made it a higher-level thinking activity, since in a regular running dictation, if the runners did not understand what they were saying, then they were just parroting unknown words. 
  3. Even though runners are reporting back to the writers in English (I suppose they could do it in L2), there is a purpose for it, since the writer needs that information to determine which sentence it is in L2.
  4. Annabelle recommends that you as the teacher be near the pictures to clarify them for students if needed. I found this to be helpful for students, because sometimes they could not interpret my pictures.
  5. I liked that lots of higher-level collaboration happened when students were putting the story back in order according to letter. Yes, it was happening in English, but students were solely using the sentences in the target language.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Find the Disney/Pixar Character

I like to do class warmups/bellringers which involve the "forgetting hypothesis" - a warm up activity in the target language where the task becomes such the focus that students forget that they are in the target language or the target language becomes secondary. The key point is that these warmups need to be very compelling. Here is one which I created on a whim today (and I am certain that I am not the only one who does this, so I can take no credit for it. If you do this, let me know!).

It simply involves a picture of all of the Disney characters or Pixar characters and a laser pointer. This is very much like a Where's Waldo kind of activity.

Retrieved from

Retrieved from

  1. Project the picture on the screen.
  2. Introduce it by saying in the target language, "In the picture there are very many Disney/Pixar characters." 
  3. First, ask students in the target language to find specific characters "Where is Aladdin?" "Where is Ursula?" Where is Mulan"? etc.
  4. Then ask in the target language "Who (of you) is able to find Aladdin in the picture?"
  5. Then hand the laser pointer to a student volunteer and have that student locate Aladdin in the picture.
  6. From there you can start asking questions about the character, such as "Is Aladdin a young man or old man? What is the name of the friend of Aladdin? What kind of animal is Aladdin's friend? Whom does Aladdin love? Where is the Genie? What color is the Genie?"
  7. After you do the simple "where" questions, then state "Find a character who does not have a mother," "Find a character who is an animal," "Find one of the seven dwarves, "Find a character who is evil," etc. Because there are so many different characters who match that description, there are lots of possibilities.
  8. From there, discuss the character in the target language.
Example for a Pixar character
Find Mike Wazowski. How many eyes does Mike Wazowski have? What is the name of Mike Wazowski's friend? What is the name of the little girl? What color is Sully?   

  1. I was surprised at how long this warmup actually lasted. Maybe because there was much to discuss and many options.
  2. I was also pleasantly surprised by how engaged high school students were. I do not know if it was the Where's Waldo aspect or because it was dealing with Disney/Pixar characters. I am sure that elementary school students will like this.
  3. This is definitely one which can be used many times in the future due to the number of characters and possible questions/discussions.
  4. Letting students use the laser pointer to find characters added novelty to the warmup activity.
  5. Asking students to find characters which fit particular parameters made the activity a little more higher-thinking.
  6. This is a great listening comprehension activity for students since it just requires them to listen and to "find" the character.
  7. Students want to talk about Disney/Pixar characters forever!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Wii Obstacle Course Brain Break

I can take absolutely no credit for this brain break - I learned this from Erica Peplinski at IFLT this past summer (in turn, she may have learned it from Annabelle Williamson). She even has her own blog post where she references this. In many ways, it is such a basic brain break, but wow, it is actually really fun - the Wii Obstacle Course. Today is the second day of school, and I thought I would try it out - it went well!

The brain break is basic: project a Wii Obstacle Course video, and have your students run the course! You as the teacher are running the course with them and yelling out commands in the target language.

The only target language TPR commands which you need are:
  • run (currite - Latin)
  • jump (salite - Latin)
  • to the left (sinistrorsum - Latin)
  • to the right (dextrorsum - Latin)
  1. Project the Wii Obstacle Course video on the screen. I use the following video, but there are SO many out there -
  2. On the settings tab, change the playback speed. The "normal" setting goes too slow - Erica Peplinski says that the 1.5/1.75 playback speed is the best.  
  3. Have your students stand up.
  4. Tell students that they are going to run (in place) the Wii Obstacle Course with you.
  5. I start the video at 0:13. From 0:23-0:30, I have students "stretch" along with the character on screen.
  6. From 0:38-1:40, we "run" the course as a class, and yes, I am participating with them! I am also yelling out commands as we "run" - you can do the course for longer amounts of time or run different parts of the course. 
  1. Erica Peplinski does this with elementary school students, so I was a bit leery about doing this with high school students, because I thought that they would think it would be stupid. I was actually surprised by how many got into it!
  2. I had a number of students who wanted to do more levels of the obstacle course, but I was winded after running it with them and yelling out commands!
  3. You as the teacher need to ham it up with your students for this to work!
  4. When Erica demo'd this at IFLT, all of us teachers who attended her presentation had a lot of fun with this!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Returning Back to Work

I return back to work tomorrow for pre-planning. I cannot believe that my summer vacation is over – these past two months have gone by very quickly. At the same time, it was a very full summer. I took two online graduate courses for my Ed.D. program in Instructional Technology (one course was on Digital Citizenship, and the other was on Managing Data Systems in a District – I ended up getting A’s in both!); attended two conferences (ACL Summer Institute and IFLT), where I presented at both; and managed to squeeze in a trip to Disney World before IFLT and then a trip to CA after IFLT to visit family. As packed as my summer was, in many ways, I feel like my summer vacation just started.

However, I am ready to be back to work. As I look back at the blog post which I wrote two months ago at the end of theschool year, I can sense just how physically and mentally exhausted I was when I wrote that. One of the things which I mention is that I was looking forward to the summer to have time away from students in order to recharge my batteries. Well, the time away from work and students did its job, because I certainly do feel ready for the school year.

My time at IFLT has played a HUGE part in this. Even though I had a larger role in leadership at the conference as a sub-cohort leader, coach, and presenter, I still received so much out of my time there as a participant. Seeing Linda Li teach a Mandarin class again (with me taking a part in it) showed me afresh how to deliver CI in a language class – people tease me that after Krashen, I am Linda Li’s biggest fan! Mostly, for me, however, being in an environment where I did not have to defend myself pedagogically, and where the presenters and lab teachers humbly gave of themselves to help others become better CI teachers (may I eventually display that level of humility) has so motivated me for this school year. I challenge all of you to attend a NTPRS or an IFLT, because although one can learn much about CI from conference presentations, in-services, and blogs, there is NOTHING like experiencing it in person in a weeklong, immersive environment.

So to those of you who still have a month of summer vacation left, enjoy it! I am ready to be back at school!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

So You've Just Come Back from Your 1st NTPRS/IFLT - Now What?

CI conference season has ended here in the US (it is about to begin in Agen, France), with both NTPRS and IFLT being huge successes. Perhaps the following scenario is you: This was your first time attending one of these conferences, and your mind has been totally blown away by everything which you learned and experienced. You also have a notebook full of great ideas from both presentations and lab observations which you are sifting through and trying to consolidate. You were coached for the first time in storytelling and asking questions, and as scary as it was, you made it through. You met so many dynamic people who share the same passion as you for teaching world languages and making connections with students. But now that you are home: now what?

I can totally relate to this, because after my first NTPRS conference in 2014, even though I had been implementing CI/TPRS for years, suddenly my mind had been completely expanded and blown away by everything which I had experienced during that week. Here are my suggestions to keep the ball rolling:
  1. Take time to reflect of what you just experienced. After an experience like NTPRS or IFLT, it is common to experience some degree of letdown. Reflect on your experience though: what did you go in thinking NTPRS/IFLT would be like? Where were my expectations not met? Where were my expectations exceeded? What "a-ha" moments did you have? Where do you still have some misgivings about CI? What are some strategies which I can implement in my classroom? 
  2. Find some type of CI professional learning community (PLC), either online or in person. This is key, since you cannot keep this up alone. Finding a CI PLC which meets face-to-face may be difficult depending on your area, but they do exist out there. I know of TCI Ohio and TCI Tri-States which meet on a semi-regular basis. If you cannot find something, organize one yourself! Online, there are so many CI PLC's on Facebook, such as IFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching, and others which are language specific.
  3. Find online resources such as blogs, podcasts, and vlogs. For me, outside of in-person conferences and presentations, blogs are my lifeline for learning more about CI. The list of CI blogs on the sidebar are a few places to begin. Most importantly, do not worry if the blog is is not for "your language," because CI implementation is CI implementation regardless of the language. As a Latin teacher, I cannot tell you how much I actually get from presentations by CI Spanish and French teachers. I am always floored by how many non-Latin teachers tell me that my blog (still written with Latin teachers in mind) has greatly helped them with their classroom.
  4. Watch videos online. I had no idea that so many CI teachers out there had classroom videos - I just learned about it last week at IFLT 2019. Here are some:
    1. Annabelle Williamson (lamaestraloca)  
    2. Erica Peplinski
    3. Another channel by Erica Peplinski
    4. Tina Hardagan (CI Liftoff)
  5. Follow CI teachers on social media. My only use of social media is Twitter (I do have a Facebook page which I had to create for professional purposes but I rarely use it), but I really do enjoy reading and interacting with tweets from these teachers.
  6. Attend CI presentations at state/regional/national conferences. I know that at ACTFL, Fluency Matters always creates a list of CI-focused presentations for participants to look over. 
  7. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. To be honest, you cannot do this journey alone. Find others with whom you can collaborate on lessons, either in person or online.
  8. Expect to feel like a first-year teacher when implementing CI in the beginning, so take your time. I am not of the mindset of "all in or nothing" when it comes to using CI, because that is how I started out years ago and burned out after 6 weeks. I had no idea where I was going, since I did not have a strong enough foundation. My advice: take a few CI strategies/activities and run with them until you feel confident to add more. It is okay to do a hybrid CI/whatever until you feel like you can do more. 
  9. Give yourself permission to fail. Great CI teachers did not just come out of a box like that. Believe me, I still fail as a "veteran" CI teacher (note the quotation marks implying doubt) on a daily basis. I also tell myself "Well, tomorrow is another day" (didn't Scarlett O'Hara say something like that?). I have seen too many novice CI teachers experience a "failing" moment with CI, then blame CI as the reason, and then leave it all behind. 
  10. Always be hungry to learn more about CI. This week at IFLT, there was a particular session which I wanted to attend, and when I walked in, the presenter said to me, "Wow, what are you doing here? You know all of this." I think I replied something like, "That does not mean that I still don't have more to learn on the topic." And I did walk away from the session with a number of strategies which I now plan to implement!
So to all of you for whom this past NTPRS or IFLT was your first CI conference, I am so excited for all of you - here is to the journey!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Does CI Work? H*ll Yeah it Does!

Today is the final day of IFLT, and it has been such a great conference. Yesterday morning, I got the chance to observe Linda Li teach Mandarin, and if you remember, I took a 20-hour Fluency Fast Mandarin class from Linda back in 2017. Even though it had been two years since I had done any Mandarin and I did not remember much, I still wanted to watch Linda perform her CI magic with her students. However, after just watching Linda interact with her students for 5 minutes in Mandarin, I was ABSOLUTELY FLOORED at how much Mandarin suddenly came back to me. Suddenly, I was completely understanding what Linda was saying, even though it had been two years since I had interacted with the language. Linda even asked me to participate in a game in Mandarin with her students, and I was able to take part in it fully.

To be honest, I have absolutely NO IDEA how that language got there in my mind so deeply, especially since it had been two years since I had even thought about Mandarin. I cannot tell you how I was able to recall all that Mandarin after two years. All I can say is that the Mandarin must have gotten there subconsciously two years ago, because I certainly have made no active effort over the past two years to learn any Mandarin. If you read my post about learning Mandarin from Linda in that 20-hour class in 2017, you will learn that we never did any oral practice drills or used flashcards. All that Linda required from us was that we listen to her, pay attention, and interact with the language in a comprehensible manner in so many different ways. Seeing Linda teach Mandarin yesterday suddenly re-activated that part of my brain where Mandarin had been stored away subconsciously, and it all came back in a POWERFUL way. 

That is the difference between learning and acquisition. Learning is active in nature, and in a language class it involves conscious, explicit learning, such as memorization, flashcards, grammar drills, oral repetition practice, and forced dialogues. That is not to say that material is not learned this way, but it is stored in a different part of the brain which holds temporary memory. Acquisition, however, is different, because it is subconscious,"passive," and implicit. This is not to say that a learner in a CI classroom is not learning or engaged in the material; the material is just delivered differently in a way so that it does not mirror explicit learning. Learning becomes subconscious, and as a result, it is stored in a completely different of the brain. Based on my own personal experience from yesterday, I can say that this is true.

So do I think that CI works? Since I have experienced it truly myself first hand as a student and realize now that Mandarin is so deeply inside of me in a way that I am unable to explain after yesterday's experience, all I can say is H*LL YEAH IT DOES!

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Forgetting Hypothesis

The following is taken from a recent presentation "How to Put Latin in the Ears of Your Students (When You Don't Know How to)," which I co-delivered at the American Classical League Summer Institute.

One of Krashen's key components of Comprehensible Input is that language acquisition occurs when messages are not only understandable but are also compelling in nature. We wish to listen to messages which are compelling to us. If the message (regardless of whether it involves targeted or non-targeted vocabulary) is compelling, then language becomes secondary, i.e. students "forget" that it is another language due to their focus and interest on the message itself. Krashen writes:
In fact, the "forgetting hypothesis" requires that the messages not only be interesting but also compelling, with all attention focused on the message to such an extent that thoughts of anxiety do not occur...When you get compelling input, you acquire whether you are interested in improving or not.
In a CI classroom, I think that for us teachers, delivering comprehensible messages becomes so much of a focus that we forget to deliver compelling messages. And to be honest, delivering compelling messages is difficult: what is compelling for one student is completely boring to another. Some students love PQAs and being asked about their lives, while others hate the attention. Some students love culture discussion in the target language, yet others find it boring. Some students really enjoy story asking/story listening, while others tune out.

As Carol Gaab always says, "The brain craves novelty," and she is completely correct. As CI teachers, we need to be mindful of this and to switch up activities in order to keep the compelling factor going. Rachel Ash's statement "We want repetitions without being repetitive" rings true about the need to keep things compelling in our classroom. The key is to vary activities so that the slower processors get in the necessary repetitions, while the faster processors get the novelty of a new activity in order to avoid boredom. This also allows for you as the teacher to appeal to as many students who have varied degrees of interest in a topic. 

Here are some examples of activities which I have implemented in class where I have seen "the forgetting hypothesis" occur, i.e., students focused more on the task/activity due to interest and the language became secondary due to the task's compelling nature:
  • PQAs - Personalized Questions and Answers. Luke Henderson, a Latin colleague in California, once said to me, "Students want to talk about two things: themselves and money. And since we are not going to talk about money, we are going to talk about them."
  • Movie Talks - I could base my entire curriculum on Movie Talks. Everyone loves a good story, and a good movie talk will achieve that. I used to struggle with doing movie talks, because I had never experienced one as a student. It was not until 2016 when I saw Katya Paulova demonstrate one using a Budweiser commercial involving a puppy and a horse that I understood how to do one properly. Katya demonstrated it in Russian, but I was so engrossed in this commercial that I did not really think about her speaking in Russian. Katya says that the best movie talks are those which appeal to the emotions. I also feel that there needs to be some kind of twist at the end of the clip which students did not see coming - I see this as a "reward" for those students who hate sitting through movie talks.
  • Optical Illusions/This Day in History - These are quick 5-minute activities where students get so focused on the task that they want to know the answer. At the same time, overuse of these can destroy the novelty.
  • Find the Disney/Pixar Character
Whenever I am observed, I love it if I am doing one of these activities, because even the observer becomes engaged in the activity. 

What activities have you used which leads to students to "forgetting" about the language?