Saturday, March 25, 2017

Movie Talk - Changing Batteries

Here is a Movie Talk which Bob Patrick and I did this week in our Latin 1 classes. I have known about this particular movie short for a long time but debated on whether or not to ever use it, because it is SO SAD! However, Katya Paukova always says that the best movie shorts are those which will engage students emotionally, so I finally decided to use this one. Two of my target words were sick and doctor, and the only other movie short which I could find involving these words was one about the Berenstein Bears going to the doctor's office. For high school students, I thought that they would not like it, so I decided to hit them with an emotionally-packed Movie Talk!

This particular movie short is called Changing Batteries. Be prepared to have a few tears shed during this Movie Talk!

English script

Latin script

  1. On the day after I formally did this Movie Talk, as a warm up I re-showed the movie short and narrated it again in Latin this time without pausing. In one of the periods, an administrator came to do my formal observation, and she was very impressed, because of the fact that a) I was narrating this short movie in Latin and that students were understanding it (if she had come the day before, she would have seen an actual Movie Talk and its process) and b) the movie short was so good - she even reacted emotionally to it!
  2. Pay attention to the date July 5, 2011 in the very beginning of the movie short, because it will help explain how much time passes later on. I originally thought that this movie short took place over a few days, but my students pointed out the calendar to me while viewing this. 
  3. After viewing this, a few of my classes told me that I am never allowed to show this again to them, because it was so sad. For the record, these are the same classes which told me that I could never show Bear Story again too.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

You Are Where You Are When It Comes to CI

It is finally the end of conference season for me. In the past seven weeks, I have attended four different state/regional conferences, delivered eight presentations related to Comprehensible Input, and co-facilitated a full-day CI in-service for a world language department at a high school in my district. 

As much as I truly enjoy presenting on CI, there is a part of me at times which feels like a complete fraud when speaking on the topic. I feel like my knowledge of CI is very surfacy, i.e., if you wish to have a high-level discussion on second language acquisition (SLA), I am NOT the person with whom to talk, because I possess an intermediate level of knowledge on the topic (in my defense, though, SLA research does not interest me at all, because much of it goes over my head - is there a way someone could create some embedded readings of SLA research?). I wish I were one who could naturally wield NON-targeted comprehensible input in my classroom so that i+1 would naturally occur. I wish that I were better at implementing PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers) in a compelling and natural way, because I absolutely stink at it. I wish that I were better at making language much more compelling with CI for students, because I can tell that they are getting burned out and bored with it.   

Maybe you are like me in that whatever manner/extent you are implementing Comprehensible Input, you are not where you would like to be. Here is what I have learned in my 3 1/2 years of CI usage: When it comes to CI implementation, you are where you are with it, and that is perfectly okay. Understanding CI does not happen overnight, and learning how to facilitate it in your classroom definitely takes time. It is a constant series of taking two steps forward with CI but then taking one-two steps of retreating back into what you know and were doing before, because CI feels uncomfortable. 

The goal, however, is to continue moving forward by learning more about Comprehensible Input. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Attend a weeklong CI conference like IFLT or NTPRS. Although one can certainly definitely learn about CI through attending individual sessions at state/regional world language conferences, there is something about attending a conference which is completely devoted to CI that one cannot learn elsewhere. I remember how much my mind expanded in CI knowledge/practice from attending my first NTPRS in 2014. Being in a supportive, yet more importantly, immersive CI environment was essential to my CI growth. I point to that first NTPRS conference as where my I truly established my CI roots and grew. I will be at IFLT this summer as a coach, so I hope to see many of you there. 
  2. Find digital resources, such as blogs and social media groups. Believe me, there are A LOT out there - so many that it can seem overwhelming. If you look at the sidebar of this blog, you will find a list of blogs which I try to follow. There are a number of Facebook groups dedicated to CI, but as my life is Facebook-free, I do not know which ones are out there. On Twitter (my sole use of social media), use the hashtags #tci, #tprs, #ntprs17, or #iflt17 to find current tweets related to CI. 
  3. Find other CI teachers either in your area or online with whom you can dialogue and collaborate. Do not undergo this journey alone.
Yes, I am not at all where I would like to be in my CI implementation, but gosh, I am so much further along in both my CI understanding and facilitation than where I was three years ago. I really do feel like I possess a strong foundation of CI after these 3 1/2 years. In other words, I am exactly where I need to be when it comes to CI. This self-realization is what will allow me to grow.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Technology in a CI Classroom, Part 2

This is part of an ongoing series on CI and Technology and is taken from my presentation Technology in a CI Classroom: How to Go Beyond Kahoot.

Now that I have my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology, one would think that I am implementing technology all of the time. You would be surprised to find out that I do not. It is not because I do not want to, but more because most of the technology out there focuses so much on incomprehensible input, forced output, or low levels of critical thinking. In addition, my school is a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school, so among students, there is an incredible disparity in the technological capability of the devices which students have due to rapid change in technology. Though my school does have numerous computer labs and wireless carts for teachers to use, these on-site resources cannot keep up with the demand. This does not mean, however, that i do not want to implement technology! I wish to very much, because there is technology which can complement the CI classroom, but I feel greatly limited by my students' access to available technology. This is the time where I wish that my school were a 1:1 school.

One of the main issues in instructional technology is that teachers are implementing technology at a VERY low level of critical thinking, and I would argue that 90% of teachers are completely unaware that they are doing this. When it comes to technology, most classrooms are still very teacher-centered. Much technology usage focuses on online quizzes/homework/assessment preparation sites such as Quia, Quizizz, Kahoot, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with these websites per se, but this is very low-level usage in terms of critical thinking.

I can honestly say that this is how I implemented technology in the past before I began my degree in Instructional Technology. I had a teacher website on Weebly which housed everything students would need, had students create PowerPoints for presentations, implemented Dropbox for student homework, and was one of the first teachers at my school to have a Promethean Board. I loved using remotes during assessments, because I got instant results on how students did. In other words, technology actually made my life somewhat easier as a teacher, and I am sure that students were engaged to a degree because of the technology. One would say that I was a leader in technology implementation. At the same time though, I was not raising students' critical thinking levels any through the use of technology. 

When implementing technology in the classroom, teachers should be aware of the SAMR (Substitute, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model. The SAMR model is very much like Bloom's Taxonomy in that the higher the level on the model, the higher the critical thinking involved, with the highest level being the creation of new meaning. 

The lowest level on the SAMR model is Substitution, where one could actually do the same exact task without technology, but technology has made it either easier or more engaging. Most classroom technology implementation is at this level. The next level is Augmentation, which involves some degree of functional improvement but is still BASIC SUBSTITUTION. The task itself has not changed but some features of technology are incorporated. Modification is the 3rd level, where the outcome of the task is still the same, but the product has been enhanced and has changed due to technology. The highest level is Redefinition, where the new meaning has been created, and the outcome is INCONCEIVABLE without the use of technology.

Here are some examples of technology usage as viewed through the SAMR model:

Google Docs
  1. Substitution: using Google Docs to write a paper.
  2. Augmentation: using collaboration function of Google Docs for feedback.
  3. Modification: Google Docs paper is rewritten using collaborative comments.
  4. Redefinition: Modified Google Docs paper now becomes a multimedia presentation.
Reading a text
  1. Substitution: reading texts online or using a device such as Kindle, iPad.
  2. Augmentation: using online dictionaries, informational videos, etc. which have been linked to online text.
  3. Modification: annotating digital texts with comments for sharing.
  4. Redefinition: creating an interactive document or blog for public discussion, comments, and dialogue.
Delivering a presentation
  1. Substitution: using PowerPoint/Prezi/Google Slides to make a presentation.
  2. Augmentation: creating a product which uses embedded hyperlinks.
  3. Modification: creating a screencast of the presentation for online viewing.
  4. Redefinition: Nearpod presentation.
Now let me say that it is perfectly okay to implement technology at the Substitution level. The problem, however, is when we remain there and do not facilitate technology beyond this. When we stay at the Substitution level though, technology becomes more about entertainment than about true engagement and creation of new meaning. To quote something which I wrote in an earlier blog post:
When focusing on technology as either substitution or entertainment and not as a tool for creating and engaging students in higher order thinking, then the novelty of that technology will wear off very quickly. Students will want to move onto the next new piece of technology for amusement. And why should they not, since this is how the teacher has modeled technology usage for them?
So how does one reconcile the SAMR model with Comprehensible Input methodology? The two are not mutually exclusive of each other, and one can implement the two together. However, it takes knowledge and understanding of both for it to work. This has been my quest lately, as I explore various instructional technologies. I will address this in a later post. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Writing from Novice Learners

This semester, I have been doing a number of free writes in my Latin 1 classes. Though I still implement timed writes (which to me is usually attempting to re-tell a story in the target language which we have been going over in class), I have also been giving opportunities for students to write whatever they want in Latin based on input.

As writing is an output activity, it is important that we bathe students in input to such a degree that output is a natural overflow of that input. This is why I like implementing timed writes - after going over a story 6-7 different ways over 3-4 days, all of that input from that story has somewhere to go as output. Free writes, however, are different. To me, free writes are exactly that: students have the chance to create and to write freely whatever they want in the target language and are not spitting back a story. I usually give them a prompt of some kind and then let them write for X amount of time.

Having students do free writes has been a very interesting experience so far, and I am learning SO much about language acquisition theory in the process, especially for novice learners.

  1. As not every student acquires language at the same rate, I have to accept that students "will be all over the spectrum" when it comes to output. There are students whose extent of writing output is being able to re-combine a seen list of vocabulary to create sentences, while others are able to create and to fashion sentences on their own. Guess what? Each of those examples is perfectly fine. The important thing to remember is that every individual student is exactly at the point where he/she is at; I cannot force students to progress at my pace. My sole job is to continue to immerse my students in understandable messages to aid them along their individual output continuum.
  2. Output is going to be MESSY!! Messy to me, that is. To the student, however, most likely they are completely unaware of their errors, which is fine, because that is where they are at in their language acquisition. I love the following cartoon:
  3. I am surprised at the number of students who are writing compound sentences on their own. In many ways, I do not think that they realize that this is actually "complex," because they are constantly hearing and reading compound sentences in the target language. In many ways, they cannot help but write compound sentences due to vast amount of input examples.
Some examples of free-write activities

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Find the Difference

This is great, quick post-reading activity which you can do with students. I got this idea from Annabelle Allen's blog (if you are not reading her blog, bookmark it!), specifically from her post on "Milking Movie Talks." Bob Patrick and I had done a Movie Talk last week, and I was looking for some new novel post-reading activities to do with it. Annabelle's post was perfect for what I was looking!

"Find the Difference" is exactly what students will do: find the differences in a reading which you have been reviewing!


  1. Type up a current reading, and make vocabulary word changes to it. It is important that students are quite familiar with the reading. In many ways, you do not want to completely change the reading - you do not want more differences than similarities.
  2. Print up reading.
  1. Students will need a highlighter for this activity.
  2. Hand out a reading to each student. You can pair them up if you want to focus on collaborative work.
  3. Explain that students are to find the differences in the reading from the real story. Tell students HOW MANY differences for which they will be looking. This will be very helpful for students.
  4. When students find a difference, they are to highlight the word(s) in the story. 
  5. Review the answers with students. I projected the story onto a whiteboard and had students come up and underline the difference.
  6. As an extension, you can ask students to replace the differences with the correct word(s) in the target language.
  1. I was surprised at how quickly students were able to get through this activity. Because it was a reading with which students were familiar, (due to being a Movie Talk and having gone over it a few different ways), it did not take long.
  2. Because I had told them ahead of time how many differences there were, students paid closer attention to the reading.
  3. This is another great way for students to interact with comprehensible messages. 
  4. Students were becoming tired of this story so this activity gave the reading some novelty!
Example in Latin:

Knock Knock Movie Talk reading
Ecce vir! Vir in spondā considit. Rē verā, vir totum diem agere vult in spondā. Rē verā, vir cenāre vult in spondā!

Subito, aliquis ianuam pulsat. Vir ianuam aperit, sed rē verā, nemo adest. Quod nemo adest, vir ianuam claudit. Aliquis iterum ianuam pulsat. Rē verā, vir totum diem agere vult in spondā. Rē verā, vir cenare vult in spondā! Vir iterum ianuam aperit, sed rē verā, nemo adest.

Vir iterum ianuam claudit, et iterum in spondā considit. Subito, aliquis iterum ianuam pulsat. vir ianuam non aperit, quod totum diem agere vult in spondā! Vir cenare vult in spondā!
Iterum aliquis ianuam pulsat! Vir valde iratus est!

Vir irate ianuam aperit. Rē verā, nemo adest! Vir ianuam claudit, sed rē verā, non in spondā considit. Aliquis ianuam pulsat. Vir iterum ianuam aperit, sed rē verā, nemo adest...

Find the Difference reading (changes are italicized here for your purpose)
Eheu vir! Vir in lecto considit. Rē verā, vir totum diem agere vult in Germania. Rē verā, vir aspicere televisionem vult in Germania!
Subito, aliquis ianuam pulsat. Vir ianuam aperit, sed rē verā, parvus catulus adest. Quod parvus catulus adest, vir ianuam claudit. Aliquis iterum ianuam pulsat. Rē verā, vir totum diem agere vult in lecto. Rē verā, vir cenare vult in lecto! Vir iterum ianuam aperit, sed rē verā, infans adest.
Vir iterum ianuam claudit, et iterum in spondā crustulum consumit. Subito, aliquis iterum ianuam pulsat. Vir ianuam non aperit, quod totum diem agere vult in spondā! Vir cenare vult in armario! Aliquis iterum ianuam pulsat! Vir valde laetus est!
Vir irate ianuam aperit. Rē verā, magnus porcus adest! Vir ianuam claudit, sed rē verā, non in ursa considit. Aliquis ianuam pulsat. Vir iterum ianuam aperit, sed rē verā, nemo adest…

Monday, February 20, 2017

4-Word Picture Stories

This is an activity which I got from Bob Patrick (and I don't know from whom - if anyone - he got this idea). Bob and I both teach all nine sections of Latin 1 at our school. I am the one in charge of creating lesson plans, and as we were starting a new chapter of Brando Brown Canem Vult, I was wanting to pre-teach some new vocabulary. My idea was for students to give students four new vocabulary words and for them to draw a visual representation of three of the four new vocabulary words. Bob took it one step further and had students draw a 4-frame cartoon involving the 4 new words and to create a very short "story" in Latin as captions for the cartoon - students could only use known words in their story. I really liked this idea and put my spin on the activity. 

For this activity, I gave students seven words, of which they had to choose at least four to use (four of the seven words were completely new, and three were words which I wanted to recycle from the past, because I did not feel like many had truly acquired them). Like Bob, I then had them illustrate a 4-frame cartoon which incorporated those four words and to write a short 4-sentence minimum "story" in Latin which used those 4 words. Again, they could only use words which they knew and learned in class, i.e., no Google Translate! There had to be a minimum of one sentence per frame, but students could write more if they wanted.

I then took a number of their cartoons/stories and edited them for grammar errors. After this, I scanned their pictures and created a Google Slides presentation to show them over the next few days as warmups (3-4/day). The scanning and creating Google Slides presentations did take some time and effort to complete. 

The seven words, from which students had to select at least four, were: 
  1. castellum - castle/fort
  2. prandet - eats lunch
  3. custodit - is guarding
  4. fingit se - pretends that he/she
  5. catulus - puppy
  6. petit - heads for
  7. dux - leader

  1. Because these stories were written by students (and edited for grammar by me), the stories were completely comprehensible to them, because they were level-appropriate.
  2. Students really enjoyed seeing each other's stories. Many liked that their story had been picked to show!
  3. Many students enjoyed the freedom of choice in choosing which words to use, because it allowed them to be creative.
  4. Because students had to incorporate at least four of the seven words into their stories, this allowed for LOTS of repetitions of words, since every story had some degree of commonality of vocabulary. 
  5. Even though students had to use four of the seven words in their stories, no student had the same exact story, so it allowed for LOTS of creativity.
  6. Because the stories were short (usually 4-6 sentences), it allowed for novelty and kept students engaged.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Focusing on the Basics of CI

A few weeks ago, Bob Patrick, Lauren Watson, and I presented a full-day CI in-service for the world language teachers at Lauren's school. During the lunch break, a teacher approached me about how I assessed students using Comprehensible Input. In some ways, I hate this question, not because it deals with assessments, but because the way in which I assess now is so different from the traditional methods. My formative/summative assessments are:
  • completely unannounced but only given when I feel that at least 80% of students will score 80% or higher. In most instances, I will wait until I feel that 90% will score 90% or higher.
  • based on standards-based grading.
  • never longer than 10-minutes in length, because I am only addressing particular standards at a time. I do not need pages of an assessment for students to demonstrate proficiency in a standard.
  • given with the idea that students can do a re-assessment if they (or I) are not pleased with their scores.
In explaining how I assessed students, I could feel this teacher starting to become overwhelmed and to back off a bit from CI, because it sounded like one had to adopt this method in becoming a CI teacher and that this style of assessment was a non-negotiable for a CI classroom.

With someone who is curious about CI or new to the topic, I think that we who are experienced with CI need to be very careful how we present the topic. Many times we start to talk about topics and practices which we ourselves implement in our classrooms that enhance CI but big picture are not exclusive to CI.
  • Yes, I have gone deskless, and it has greatly enhanced my classroom environment, BUT a deskless classroom is not necessary at all for establishing community and lowering the affective filter. For a number of years, my CI classroom had desks, and there are times now where I do miss students having desks.
  • Yes, I have "untextbooked" and am no longer using a textbook, BUT going off the textbook is not a requirement of a CI curriculum. One can deliver understandable messages and apply CI principles to the teaching of a textbook, doing a hybrid approach. It is not easy to facilitate, but many have done it.
  • Yes, I now implement standards-based grading (as opposed to traditional grading), and I am seeing its benefits in my students, BUT you will not find mention of standards based-grading specifically among Krashen's Five Hypotheses of CI (although standards-based grading does cause a teacher to look at teaching differently). One can use standards-based grading in a non-CI classroom.
  • Yes, I allow students to do unlimited retakes (with remediation though) in order for them to demonstrate proficiency in a particular standard, BUT this is not considered a non-negotiable in a CI classroom. To me, student-retakes are an individual teacher decision, but I will say that having a safety net of retakes does lower the affective filter in students when assessing.
I will say that those things which I have stated above do help contribute to and greatly enhance a Comprehensible Input learning environment, but a Comprehensible Input learning environment can exist WITHOUT those things.

When beginning to implement CI into one's classroom, I always suggest baby steps, taking things one step at a time. Begin to major on the majors first, and leave minoring on the minors for later. I have been using CI for four years now, and it is only this year where I have gone deskless, untextbooked, and implemented standards-based grading. I will also say that I felt like I was finally ready to facilitate these changes to my curriculum. 

Let us be sure to focus on the basics of CI when presenting the subject to those who are curious. So many times we can get sidetracked and add irrelevant topics to the message!