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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Struggling as a Student

As part of my doctoral studies, it is necessary for me to take research classes, both qualitative and quantitative. Because I will have to write a dissertation in a few years, I am required to take these courses. I wish that I could say that I am enjoying these classes - the truth is that I am not. Maybe "enjoy" is a too strong of a word. I can say that I am definitely learning much on the topics, but wow, I am finding these courses so overwhelming at times. Having to wrap my mind around conceptual frameworks, research designs, research methodologies, validity, ethical concerns, leptokurtic vs. platykurtic designs, correlation vs. causal, t-samples, 2-tailed, box charts - oh my gosh, this becomes WAY TOO MUCH to wrap my "pragmatic-based, theoretical framework" mind around (Identifying my conceptual framework is about as far as I can apply my understanding of academic research at the moment, so I guess I should be happy for little victories here). 

I know that most students do not automatically understand this material right away, and I know that my professors all struggled too when they first learned about research. I also know that there are those out there who LOVE conducting, reading, and writing about research and can lose themselves in the material because they are enjoying it so much. I can honestly say that this is NOT me. I am SO sick of reading academic research articles, but I will say that the more that I do read articles, the more I am able to identify aspects of the academic research process (Again, I suppose that I should celebrate this as a small victory, but I am not doing cartwheels just yet).

Let me tell you personally: the affective filter is REAL!! Not that I feel panicky or anxious when dealing with my research classes, but I will also say that there is a degree of stress hovering over my head whenever I have do any work related to these courses. 

It is important for us as teachers to struggle, to feel anxiety, and to not comprehend a subject like our very own students in our world language classroom. The reason is because most likely, when we were students, we did NOT experience this at all. Most likely, as a result, we became language teachers, because language came easy to us. Because of this, it is easy to project this onto our own students - if learning a language came easy to us, then it should be easy for them. The flipside is a belief then that if students are not performing well in a language class, then it is their fault or that they are not "language material" students. I love how Bill Van Patten says, "If all students were like language teachers, then they would be teachers of language, and they're not. We're the weirdos." I also have taught enough years to realize that there is only so much which I can do as a teacher to enable students to acquire material and to pass my class - students must also take some ownership. However, as a teacher, I need to do everything which I can do on my part.

Another area to consider in realizing that most students are not like us is that as 4%ers, we are internally-motivated and possess enough meta skills to drive us to continue through difficult material. Better put, although we may eventually give up on difficult material, that particular stopping point is MUCH further along on the spectrum than the majority of students. We need to accept that most students will give up when presented with difficult material (honestly, there have been so many times that I have shut down in my research classes), so the challenge for us is how to make this material more salient. I am not saying that we have to dumb down material, but rather we must learn how to make our material more understandable and malleable, in addition to lowering students' affective filter. A major way to do this is to SLOW DOWN with the material and to be realistic with an instructional timeline. When we realize that after 4 years that students will only be at the Intermediate level of language proficiency, that actually gives us teachers a realistic view of language instruction and expectations. As Mr. Rogers puts it, "I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex."

One of the best learning experience in my life has been taking a Fluency Fast Mandarin class with Linda Li. I wish I could say that it was because I picked up the Mandarin language so quickly and was the star student. Far from it. In the beginning of the class, I struggled with the language, because:
  • it was not a Romance language based on Latin, so I could not make connections
  • it was a tonal language not based on an English alphabet, so even when the words were written in English letters, the words did not match the sounds which I was hearing. 
But, I will say that it was because of Linda Li's caring, patient attitude and her implementation of Comprehensible Input that made me want to continue so that eventually, everything just kind of "clicked" - I cannot tell you when that happened or how it happened, but suddenly, the sounds of the Mandarin language began to have meaning.

I only have a few more weeks left in my graduate school semester, and although I am looking forward to the end of my quantitative research class, unfortunately, I have to take an even more advanced quantitative research class next semester. I am hoping that time away from having to think about research during Winter Recess will help reset my mind for my new research class in the spring.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Entering my Last Third

I am finishing up my 21st year of full-time teaching (prior to this, I taught part-time at a private school). In many ways, I find that astonishing, because it does not feel like I have taught for that long - so many of those years have blended together. But then I realize that I was at my former school for 17 years and am now finishing up my 4th year at my current school. Then throw in the fact that I have taught over 1,800 students during that time (although I usually teach around 150 students/year, many of those are repeats year after year, so probably 90 new students/year?) - that number still blows my mind!

I plan to retire in about 10-12 years, so the fact that I am now entering into the last third of my teaching career is incredibly significant to me as a Latin teacher. In ancient Rome, the office of a Vestal Virgin was a prestigious position for a woman as these priestesses of the goddess Vesta were considered religious guardians of the city. Those who were chosen began between the ages of 6-10 and served for 30 years, remaining as virgins during their time of service. The thirty years of a Vestal Virgin were very regimented:
  • the first ten years - were trained in their duties by elder Vestal Virgins
  • the middle ten years - served their duties as Vestal Virgins
  • the final ten years - trained newly chosen Vestal Virgins in their duties
As I look ahead to my final 10-12 years of full-time teaching, I must ask myself, "What can I do to help train/mentor new teachers in their early years of teaching, especially those who are interested in CI? What is it that I know now after 20 years of teaching that I can pass along to help novice teachers? What can I pass along which I have learned from those who are part of my CI family tree?"

I suppose in many ways that I am already doing this through this blog, but I still blog thinking that only 12 people read this. Although I am a doctoral student in instructional technology, I only use Twitter for professional reasons (and I am only on that 2-3 times a week), so I am not hip to what is going on in Facebook groups (and that is a personal choice) or in other social media forums.

Here are some ways in which I hope to help mentor novice teachers/newcomers, especially those wanting to learn more about CI:
  • I have signed up to be a Latin teacher Mentor as part of the American Classical League Mentorship program.
  • I wish to seek out and to partner with potential 1st-time/novice presenters to deliver presentations at conferences to give them experience and exposure.
  • I wish to be more available and approachable at conferences. When I attend conferences, I realize that I usually stick with my own group of friends and rarely branch out and spend time with those whom I do not know. For an ACL Summer Institute or an IFLT, I am seriously considering organizing nightly "A Meal with Five Strangers," where if newcomers to conferences do not know anyone or do not have anyone to eat with, they can join me and other newcomers to go out for a meal - the fact that no one really knows each other and that we are all strangers but are interested in meeting each other over a meal is what actually lowers the affective filter and social anxiety of it all. Many universities have events something like this but a lot more formal. When I was a student at UCLA, the alumni association had an event called "Dinner for Twelve Strangers," and I loved attending this event every!
  • I wish to be more available for observations by those who are interested in CI. Last month, we had four Latin teachers from three different schools come observe us at Parkview HS on the same day. I actually do like being observed, because it gives me a chance to show what I am doing in my classroom.
Those of you who are also in your last third, I challenge you too to take up the mantle!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Running Dictation with Categories

This is a take on a regular running dictation which I learned from Miriam Patrick. This is a great post-reading activity involving characters from a reading or sentences involving categories. It still has the basics of a running dictation where a runner will run to a list of sentences in the target language, memorize what is written, and then dictate what is said to a writer. This twist, however, has the writer put the sentence now in a particular category.

Pre-Class Directions
  1. On a document, create a number of categories, such as characters in a reading or other natural categories. 4-5 categories are a good amount.
  2. Write short sentences in the target language for each category. 4-5 sentences for each category are a good amount.
  3. Scatter the sentences on a document so that all of the sentences are not grouped by category.
  1. Put up the sentences along a wall in a random order either in the room or outside of the classroom. You can post copies of the document. I recommended making one copy of the sentences, cutting the sentences into strips, and taping them to an outside wall.
  2. Pair up students.
  3. Each team will need a writing surface and a writing utensil.
  4. Give each team a copy of the category document.
  5. Explain that one person will sit with sentences and the other person will run to ONE of the sentences. It is not necessary for them to run to the sentences in order but rather to run to just one of the them.
  6. The person who runs will look at the sentence, memorize it, run back to the partner, and dictate the sentence in the target language.
  7. Both members will then determine into which category that sentence that goes, and the writer will write that sentence under that category heading.
  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 sentence at a time.

Non est defessus
Exclamat “Narra fabulam mihi”
Ludit (is playing) cum amicis in silva
Habitat in parva insula
Iecit rete in mare
Vidit aliquid in mari
Putavit arcam esse navem
Est defessa, sed narrat fabulam
Non vult narrare fabulam
Vult matrem narrare fabulam
Est monstrum
Est in Labyrintho
Habet caput tauri
Est in arca
Est cum parvo infante in arca
Invenit feminam in arca
Vendit pisces
Accepit nummum
Vult caedere Minotaurum
Non vult auxilio esse (to help) patri
  1. This is a quick post-reading activity and takes about 10 minutes.
  2. I love the higher-level thinking that goes on in this activity. Instead of just parroting back sentences, students are using the sentences for a reason (a "task" perhaps), which is putting the sentences into categories.
  3. This is also a higher-level thinking activity, because runners and writers need to communicate to each other which sentences they already have.
  4. The sentences need to be short, since runners are dictating them for a purpose. It frustrates students to have long sentences where they have to keep running back to the sentence.
  5. The sentences need to be comprehensible, since the both the runner and writer need to understand the message communicated.
  6. I love the multiple layers of input which is going on - the runner reading the sentence and then dictating it to the writer, who is listening and writing it down.
  7. I like cutting up the strips and posting them all over the walls outside the classroom, because students are moving all over the place and really start to read each sentence as the activity progresses to determine if their team already has that sentence.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Why You Should Present at Conferences

It is conference season, and the call for session proposals is currently going out for many conferences. As stated in an earlier blog post, I have returned to presenting again. Having had time away from presenting, I now find my mind racing with many different ideas as potential topics. So as the call for session proposals goes out, I challenge you to consider submitting one yourself. 

Right away, I am certain that I raised the affective filter and brought on social anxiety for some of you with that statement. When I have challenged teachers to consider presenting at conferences before, the first response is usually, "But I do not know what I would present. I have nothing to say - I am not (insert name of a presenter whom you admire)." 

My response is this. Simply put: You have a voice and do have something to say. 

At the same time, I do understand the hesitancy among people to present, because deciding on presentation topic can be difficult, let alone filling 60-90 minutes on that topic. Here are some suggestions about topics:
  • What do you see yourself doing well in your classroom? 
  • Is there a particular "epiphany" which you have had on a pedagogical topic which you wish to share? Those presentations which are most personal to the presenter are difficult to dispute, since they are based on personal experience.
  • Look for gaps in conference presentation topics. Is there a topic which you feel has not been addressed but should be? However, do not pigeon-hole yourself into such a specific topic that it isolates the majority of your audience, unless you are targeting a specific audience.
  • The best presentations are those which are constructivist in nature where participants themselves can experience the subject matter hands-on in order to create their own meaning. Think of your own students - how effective is a pure 60-minute lecture in their acquisition of material? Just because you are using a PowerPoint does not make a presentation constructivist in nature. 
  • Consider presenting topics which are applicable to all languages and levels of instruction. Although I am a Latin teacher, I learn so much from presentations done by other world language teachers. 
  • Avoid presentation topic gluts. If you are tired of the same old presentation topics of conferences, then do not submit one of the same topic, because most likely, so is everyone else. Rather, put your own spin on the topic or address it from a different angle. 
And now let me address those of you who are more experienced conference presenters: consider partnering with someone who has never presented before. There are many benefits of doing this:
  1. It introduces "new faces" to the world of conference presentations. Although I enjoy attending presentations of seasoned presenters, I also want to see a diversity of presenters represented. Also, as much as I enjoy presenting, people need to see other faces and to hear other voices besides mine.
  2. There are so many potential presenters out there with so much to say and to share who just need that little push or invitation to present. You can be that catalyst for them.
  3. It provides a safe space for novice presenters, who can rely on you to help guide them through the process of writing up a session proposal and how to design a presentation.
  4. It helps lower the affective filter of first-time presenters, because they are not responsible for 100% of the presentation. They are only responsible for their portion.
  5. Tag-teaming a presentation is just plain fun!
I hope to see many new faces presenting at conferences!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Charlala DrawRoom - Picture/Sentence Match

Just recently, I learned about Charlala, a "conversational language platform" according to the website. I have not investigated much on the website outside of the DrawRoom function, but I really like what I see. Unfortunately, the DrawRoom function is still in Beta testing, so there are a number of drawbacks and limitations, but gosh, it really does have a lot of potential. The creator of Charlala is a world language teacher, and the DrawRoom has so many CI possibilities!

In this post, I am going to focus on the Game Mode of DrawRoom and how to use it as a post-reading activity. 

The example in the above video demonstrates the Game Mode using individual vocabulary words, but I used it with 9 sentences from a reading - I think that 7-9 sentences are a good amount (see drawbacks for why).

  1. Students really got into this activity! It was fun trying to interpret others' drawings and match them with the correct sentence.
  2. Because I was only focusing on 9 sentences, a number of students drew the same sentences so that allowed for lots of repetitions of pictures shown.
  3. Students REALLY wanted their pictures to be displayed and guessed. That kept many students engaged. 
  4. A number of my sentences involved close reading, so students had to choose carefully.
  5. I stressed to students that they include ALL drawable aspects of their sentence, since many sentences were similar but certain aspects in the sentence made them distinct.
Drawbacks (NOTE - the Draw Room function is still in Beta testing)
  1. Although students can draw their pictures on their smartphones, it works much better with a tablet. A number of students found the smartphone screen to be too small.
  2. Due to the formatting of the sentence choices, there is not enough screen space on a smartphone for more than 9 sentences, and if sentences are too long, they can be difficult to see.
  3. The leaderboard only shows 4 names. For a class of 30, students do not know where they have placed overall.
  4. There is no way for you as the teacher to preview the pictures prior to posting them, so if a student draws an inappropriate picture, you cannot delete it nor will you know until it is projected. I also had some students misdraw the sentence, i.e., what a student drew was incorrect. Unfortunately, I did not know until the picture was projected.
  5. Students enter in their names, so students can enter in "naughty nicknames" - much like Kahoot before, you as the teacher cannot delete any names until they are submitted. I would like to be able to enter in students' names prior to playing the game (I know that this is a student privacy information situation though).

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Three Sentence True/False

Here is a great no-prep, post-reading activity which I got from Cindy Hitz's blog - if you are not reading her blog, it is a treasure trove of great CI insights and activities! I have been devouring it and have found so many practical CI application there. 

The activity is very simple - two true sentences and one false sentence from a reading. Here is a link to her directions for this activity.

  1. This truly is a no-prep activity - the only material which you need is a passage/reading which you have been reviewing.
  2. I gave 45 seconds for each group to find the false sentence. This gave students a sense of urgency (which was not necessary since most found the false sentence in about 20 seconds) but also kept the activity moving along.
  3. I divided the reading into three sections - students had to pick one sentence from each section. I did this so that students had to use the entire passage instead of just writing down the first three sentences of the passage. This also made students look through/be familiar with the entire passage in determining the false sentence.
  4. Although I partnered students, I had a few smaller classes which would have resulted in lesser rotations of sentences and would have made the activity end much more quickly. To remedy this, I myself added 3-4 lists of true/false sentences and lettered them. For these classes, I kept the lists of sentences, and one group would pass its sentences to me, and in turn, I would pass one of mine to the next group. It is important, however, that you keep track of the order of your own sentences so you know which sentences to pass on next.
  5. Due to having an odd number of students in a few of my classes, I did have groups of three. I found that this was too big - pair works better if possible.
  6. This does get in lots of repetitions of sentences. As students got more exposure to the true/false sentences, it became very obvious to them which sentences were false.
  7. I liked that this activity involved close reading, because many students wrote some subtle changes for their false sentences. 
  8. I loved that all I had to do was facilitate this activity. This gave me an opportunity to walk around to see how students were doing.
So if you need a break from "being on" in the classroom or suddenly are in need of an activity at the last minute, consider this one! As always, thanks, Cindy!