Monday, January 13, 2020

Listening/Matching Activity

Here is a good post-reading, listening activity for students to work on their listening comprehension skills. I believe that I learned this from Annabelle Williamson at IFLT this past summer (if it was someone else, I apologize!). It is a very basic picture matching activity, but it requires some pre-work on your end prior to facilitation.

  1. Take a known story which you have been reviewing in class. If it is a story which students have already heard narrated in the target language (as a Movie Talk or Story Listening), the better, because students are already familiar with having to comprehend it aurally.
  2. Pick 10 sentences from the story. 
  3. Randomize the sentences, and number them 1-10 on a document.
  4. Create a 3x4 grid on a document, and letter each square in order A-L.
  5. Illustrate the 10 sentences plus two more for a total of 12 sentence illustrations. Two pictures will not be chosen and will serve as distractors. Illustrate the sentences randomly. You can use screenshots if you wish.
  6. Make copies of the picture grid for every student.
  1. Hand out copies of picture grid to every student.
  2. Explain that you are going to read sentences from the story and that students are to pick which picture they think fits the description which they hear read aloud.
  3. Students are to put the sentence number in the box of the picture which matches the sentence.
  4. Read aloud each sentence to the class, and have students match the sentence number to the picture. Example: "Sentence #2 - the bear is eating hot wings." Repeat the sentence multiple times before moving onto the next one.
  5. When done, re-read each sentence aloud with the correct picture letter. Example: "Sentence #1 - the old woman is chased out of the train station - is picture D."

  1. Parvus vir consilium capit! (The small man has an idea)
  2. Parvus vir ad fontem ascendit ut vota expleat. (The small man climbs up to the fountain in order to grant the wishes)
  3. Parvus vir conatur vota explere, sed non potest. (The small man tries to grant the wishes but is not able)
  4. Vir in arcam nummum iacit. (The man throws a coin into the box)
  5. Eheu - nummi adhaesiti sunt! (Oh no - the coins have become stuck!)
  6. Parvus vir votum explet, et subito, vir pecuniam habet. (The small man grants the wish, and suddenly the man has money).
  7. Vir in fontem nummum iacit, quod votum est pecunia. The man throws a coin into the fountain, because his wish is money)
  8. Parvus vir in fontem nummum iacit. (The small man throws a coin into the fountain).
  9. Iuvenis in fontem nummum iacit, quod votum est amor. (The young man throws a coin into the fountain, because his wish is love)
  10. Parvus vir votum explet, et subito, iuvenis et femina amorem accipiunt. (The small man grants the wish, and suddenly, the young man and woman receive love).
  1. Wow, what a great listening activity! So easy to facilitate after the prepwork!
  2. This is a great way to deliver Comprehensible Input, because students are receiving repetitions of understandable messages in the target language.
  3. This involves higher-order thinking in students, because it requires them to understand what they are hearing and to match it with a visual picture.
  4. Even though students may only need to hear the sentence stated 1-2 times to complete the activity, they are receiving subconscious repetitions of the sentences when you say them 4-5 times.
  5. Because the brain craves novelty (thanks for that phrase, Carol Gaab!), this is another way to review a story in a different way without being repetitive. 
  6. I have a love/hate relationship with using screenshots. On the one hand, I love that they are available just a cut/paste away, but at the same time, there are issues, such as ambiguity sometimes in what the screenshot is communicating, difficulty in seeing the picture when printing them for black/white copies due to contrast issues, etc.
  7. Because I myself learned Latin without any type of oral/aural components, I am always amazed that students are able to do this. Whenever I comment on this to students, they always reply, "It really is not that hard." To which I reply, "But that is because you are so accustomed to hearing Latin spoken to you."

Monday, January 6, 2020

2020 CI Conference/Training Dates

With a new year beginning, I want you to consider attending a full CI conference/training in 2020. While attending CI presentations at state and regional conferences is helpful, nothing can compare to a summer, weeklong, full-CI immersive environment. A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about why you should consider attending a CI conference, but here are links to registration pages with updated information:
  • Altamira CI Training - Intensive Course - June 21-23, Presenter Retreat - June 24-26,                                     Jamestown, RI 
  • Cascadia Conference - June 30-July 2, Portland, OR
  • IFLT - July 14-17, Cal State Long Beach, CA
  • NTPRS - July 20-24, Minneapolis, MN
  • Agen Workshop - July 27-August 1, held in Agen, France
  • Express Fluency Conference -  held in Vermont. Usually held in August

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Top 5 of 2019

The semester is coming to a close, and winter break is on the horizon. Therefore, it is that time of the year for me to list my top-5 most-viewed blog posts for 2019:
  1. Cartoon Olympics
  2. Storyjumper
  3. Lucky Reading Game
  4. The Card Game
  5. Invisibles Listening Activity
Thanks to all of you who read this blog - I appreciate that you feel that I have something to say! I began this blog in December 2013, and now six years and 294 blog posts (wow!!) later, your support is what motivates me to continue blogging on a weekly basis. Here's to 2020!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Highlight Reel or Highlight Real?

Meredith White has written a similar blog post a few years ago - it is a great read!

A few years ago, a number of Latin teachers from all over the country and I were talking over dinner about observing other Latin teachers in the classroom. On the one hand, we all agreed how important and beneficial it was for us to see other teachers in action, to see what they were doing in their classrooms, and to learn from them. At the same time, I vividly recall one teacher saying, "I loved being able to observe __________, but what I really want to see is how he handles a disruptive class or students who do not want to be there. Or even better, I want to see what he does when a lesson just flat out bombs. That is what is going in my classroom. THAT is what I need to see."

There is so much truth in what that teacher said. As teachers, we want to show off and to display our best when observed. Whenever teachers come to observe me, I know that I want them to see my classes where I am at my best. I also know that I enjoy sharing classroom triumphs and academic strategies with which I have had success and where I saw both language acquisition and high student engagement occurring. On social media, there is a plethora of posts by teachers, detailing their student victories and what is working in their classes. However, what we need to realize is that as inspirational as these social media posts can be, these are just teacher highlight reels. Much like sports newscasts which only spotlight the highlights of a game, these snippets do not represent the bigger picture as a whole.

Highlight reels can be both encouraging and motivating, but they can also have the opposite effect if a person gets into a "compare and despair" mentality about one's ability as a teacher. What we need is more highlight reals. We need to be more honest about our daily struggles and about those times where we feel like we are falling short. I think that a major issue is that we wish to hit home runs every day in the classroom, when in reality, we are lucky if we get a single when at bat. My district world language coordinator always reminds us that teaching is a marathon, not a sprint, and that our victories are not always immediate.

I hope that my blog posts do not make it appear that every day is a day of student language acquisition and of tremendous student classroom engagement in my classes. This year, I have been blessed to have five classes of students who for the most part enjoy both me and the class, and I have had very little discipline issues. However, I also realize that this is an anomaly, because over the past years, I have always had 1-2 classes where it has been a daily struggle with particular students. I employed classroom management strategies, tried to make connections with them, and loved them by faith but to no visible avail, and I feel like these students held both me and the class hostage. I even have written a blog post a few years ago about the times when I feel like a failure as a Latin teacher.

At the same time, I know that I am not alone and that I am not the only teacher whose actual highlight reals are a far cry from his sporadic highlight reels. In her blog post, I love how Meredith White says that too often we compare others' highlight reels to our own blooper reels and as a result, we harp on ourselves for being bad teachers.

I hope that we as teachers can feel more open and safe to share our highlight reals with each other and that these reals in turn can help encourage others , knowing that everyone still deals with struggles in teaching.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Crossword Puzzle Train Relay

Here is another great post-reading, collaborative activity which I found on Cindy Hitz's blog. It involves crossword puzzles and is completed/competed in a relay kind of way. This activity involves a story which you have been reviewing with students and needs to be one which students know well in the target language. 

Here are directions for the activity from Cindy's blog.

Example of one which I did with students - this is based on a Movie Talk called The Wishgranter.

1) Crossword Puzzle

2) Crossword Puzzle Clues
  1. This activity took about 12-15 minutes, as the opening rounds lasted about 30 seconds each, with the rounds lasting around 45 seconds by the end, since more time was needed due to less clues available. 
  2. Because this is essentially a cloze sentence activity, students need to know the reading very well in the target language, since they are filling in the blank with the correct word.
  3. Because this is a crossword puzzle, correct spelling is important. If students needed help with correct spelling, they could ask me. I would not tell them the correct answer for a clue but only the correct spelling of a word.
  4. Students whose turn it was to take a break during each round enjoyed it! 
  5. I allowed students who only had the clues to write in the answer to one of the clues listed on their sheets in order to give them something to do. 
  6. Students enjoyed the "choice" aspect and that they could choose any clue to answer (at least in the beginning rounds).
  7.  I did not think that this activity would become competitive among students, but I had some students really get into it.
As always, thanks, Cindy for your great ideas!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

There is No One Type of CI Teacher

The ACTFL Convention has ended, and although I did not attend this year, my Twitter account can tell you what happened, as it blew up with Tweets from so many teachers who were there. When attending a conference like ACTFL or an IFLT or NTPRS, on the one hand, it is easy to feel motivated by all of the presentations and teachers. On the other hand, it is also easy for one to walk away feeling defeated, because "Gosh, I stink as a teacher, because I am not like X person in the classroom."

Quite honestly, it is very easy for me to get into that way of thinking. There are so many teachers out there whom I admire for all that they are doing for students in their classrooms and are achieving with them, and then I get into a "compare and despair" mindset where I think, "Gosh, I'm lucky if I can get my students to tell me their name in Latin." But then I remind myself: I am not that person - I am me. That person is not in front of my students - I am. And because of that, my students deserve to have me and who I am, not me trying to be someone else. Yes, all of that does sound a bit hackneyed and like an over-reaching platitude, but there is such truth in that.

There are CI teachers out there whom I think are SO effective in the classroom, but I also know that their teaching style reflects their individual personalities. I absolutely love the energy which Jason Fritze and Annabelle Williamson exhibit in their classrooms, but if I were to do that, gosh, I would have nothing left after 30 minutes. There are things which work perfectly well in my classroom, because it is me up front teaching, and there are things which have absolutely BOMBED in my class, because it is me up front teaching. In other words, the only person whom I can be as a teacher is myself. 

There is no one single type of CI teacher. There are those who are full of energy and run around their classroom acting everything out with their students. I know CI teachers who are incredibly laid back, implement a non-targeted language approach, and let students dictate the direction and scope of the class based on their spontaneous interests. I also know CI teachers who are ALL about structure and organization in their approach to teaching, facilitate a targeted language approach, and have everything planned out. I know that there are CI teachers who are implementing a hybrid, CI/textbook curriculum in their classrooms But the thing is that I know that all of these teachers are 100% effective in their facilitation of a CI classroom. 

The task then is to find your own voice as a CI teacher and to become comfortable with it. Yes, be motivated and encouraged by other teachers, but do not strive to be them. Finding your own voice as a regular teacher takes time, let alone as a CI teacher. It takes time becoming comfortable in your own skin in front of students. I look back at my early years of teaching, and I am so embarrassed at how I was as a 3rd-year teacher. At the same time, I have to admit, relatively speaking among 3rd-year teachers, I did a pretty good job. And as dear Rose Williams has said to me, "And your students loved you still in spite of all that." Such true words.

So continue to learn about CI and what that looks like in a classroom. As you do and as you progress as a teacher, you'll grow into it. As a result, there you will find your CI voice. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


This is one of my all-time favorite CI activities, but quite honestly, it is one which I have forgotten about until now!  It is a Rassias method which I learned from Nancy Llewellyn at Rusticatio, and at every Rusticatio which I have attended, I have always looked forward to when Nancy demonstrates a micrologue, because I get to experience it from a student's perspective. Essentially, a micrologue is telling a "mini" story in the target language through the use of pictures, with the idea that by the very end of the activity, everyone to a degree can "retell" the story. A micrologue is all about REPETITIONS, as the story is retold about 7-8 times, but different tasks accompany the retells to preserve the novelty.

  1. Write a very short story in the target language (6-7 sentences) or a series of 6-7 short sentences, using known vocabulary and grammar. The telling of the story should take no longer than a minute. It can be from a known story.
  2. Illustrate each sentence either on your classroom board OR draw a series of pictures for projecting using a computer projector
  3. Write the story as a document to be projected later.
  1. Pick one student to sit up at the front of the class.
  2. Explain to the rest of the class that you as the teacher are going to tell a story and that you only want them to listen.
  3. Explain the same to the student sitting up at front.
  4. Tell the story to the class slowly, using the pictures for each sentence.
  5. After telling the story, explain to the class that you are going to tell the story again 2-3 times but that they are now to write it down the story in Latin as you read it.
  6. Explain to the student sitting up front that he/she is to listen only.
  7. Read the story again 2-3 times, using the pictures for each sentence. The class will write down the story in the target language, while the student continues to listen only.
  8. Now repeat the story again, one sentence at a time, but ask the student, “Nonne….?”. Student will respond, “Ita/certe/sic, …..” and will repeat the entire sentence back to you.
Teacher: nonne Marcus et Paulus in via ambulabant?
Student: ita, Marcus et Paulus in via ambulabant.
Teacher: nonne subito Marcus canem ferocem conspexit?
Student:  ita, subito Marcus canem ferocem conspexit.

Teacher: Surely Marcus and Paul were walking in the street?
Student: Yes, Marcus and Paul were walking in the street.
Teacher: Surely, suddenly Marcus caught sight of a ferocious dog?
Student: Yes, suddenly Marcus caught sight of a ferocious dog.

    9. Now project the written story onto a screen, using the overhead projector or computer 
  10. Explain to the student that he/she is going to read the story aloud to the class. Explain 
        to the class that they can now correct any of their own writing/spelling errors at this                time.
  11. Have the student read the story aloud twice.
  12. Now using the original set of pictures, ask the student to tell you the story verbatim.

Example of Nancy Llewellyn doing a micrologue in Latin

Post Activity
Ask the class comprehension questions in Latin about the story, or ask another student to tell you the story verbatim. As a class, translate the story aloud to establish meaning. Do a timed write with the pictures

  1. For a micrologue truly to work, a few things need to occur
    • the story itself needs to be around 6-7 sentences, i.e. it needs to be short!
    • telling the story itself should take no longer than a minute. That is key; if it becomes to long, then it can become overwhelming to the student up front. 
    • the story needs to be 100% comprehensible and to use only known vocabulary/language structures.

     2. Switching tasks between the retell keeps the rest of the class engaged during the        
     3. Depending on the level of the story and the class's familiarity with the 
         vocabulary/language structures, I sometimes leave out the part where I ask the 
         student, "Nonne..." and the student responds back with the sentence, because this is 
         where I start to lose engagement from the class.

I myself have been the one up front who had to retell the story in Latin. A few Rusticationes ago, I was "volunteered" to be the "student". Even though I was 100% familiar with what to expect, it was a different experience being up front as opposed to being in the audience, but as the story was completely comprehensible to me due to the vocabulary, pictures and gestures, I felt at ease. By the 3rd retell, I was pretty familiar with the story and by 5th retell, I was ready to tell it on my own (even though 2 more retells still remained). When I retold the story finally, it seemed so easy, and I pointed to the pictures exactly and incorporated the gestures just like Nancy had done.