Saturday, December 20, 2014

Story Library

Recently on Twitter, I was having a discussion with some other Latin teachers about the paucity of CI-based Latin stories which we could use. Although there are Anne Matava story scripts, there are very few CI-based stories which have been written in Latin by Latin teachers.

If you use a reading-based method textbook like Ecce Romani or Cambridge Latin Course, yes, you do have stories, but as those readings are not CI-based, the stories are vocabulary driven, i.e., they focus on too much vocabulary way much too quickly. The stories become rather long and have too many unfamiliar words in them, thereby, disrupting reading flow.

As a result of this discussion, I have decided to add a Story Library section to my blog (this can be found in the top menu), which are the stories which I wrote and used with my Latin 1 students this semester. This Story Library page is still a work in progress and by no means are the stories 100% representative of Comprehenisble Input. You can see, however, my attempts at writing a CI-based story and what elements I tried to incorporate.

Hope this will motivate others to write and to publish their CI-based stories online.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

ACTFL '14 Report

I attended the annual ACTFL Convention a few weeks ago, so I thought I would write up a short report of what went on. This time it was in San Antonio, and it was my 2nd ACTFL, after having attended the convention in Orlando in 2013.

The Upsides
  • The keynote speaker for the General Assembly was Annie Griffiths, one of the first woman photographers for National Geographic. When I heard that she was going to be the keynote speaker, I was a bit disappointed, as I had never heard of her before, and last year's speaker was the dynamic Tony Wagner, who spoke on the need for innovation and creativity. But wow, was I wrong about Annie Griffiths! She spoke of her travels throughout the world, documenting it through pictures. The entire audience was absolutely captivated by both what she had to say and the messages delivered through her pictures. Although the below video is not Annie's ACTFL speech, much of it contains what she spoke about.
  • I was very focused and only attended those sessions which were on Comprehensible Input (thanks to TPRS Publishing for creating a list of CI sessions before the convention), and there were a number of them! Although there were many Latin sessions offered at ACTFL, nothing really caught my eye as something which would further me as a Latin teacher. In fact, because I had not attended any of the Latin sessions at ACTFL, there were many Latin teachers whom I knew that did not even know I was there until the ACL reception on Saturday evening!  
  • Getting to interact with many CI teachers whom I follow on Twitter or had met at NTPRS. I will admit that I was rather starstruck seeing them! 
  • The American Classical League/National Latin Exam sponsored a reception at the San Antonio Museum of Art on Saturday evening. The museum houses a wonderful collection of ancient/classical art, so a very apt place to hold a classical reception. I had a very enjoyable time, seeing many of my colleagues whom i only see at the ACL Summer Institute!
The Downsides: 
  • Now if you have never attended an ACTFL Convention, let me say this: it is absolutely MAMMOTH! There are over 4,500 language teachers in attendance - I am more accustomed to the 250 Latin teachers at an ACL Summer Institute or even 500 language teachers at a FLAG conference, so it is very easy to feel lost at ACTFL. The exhibition hall of materials itself is HUGE!
  • There are around 50 sessions going on every hour, so trying to narrow down choices can be overwhelming (thanks to the ACTFL app which helped filter out sessions by language, keywords, etc).
  • Because the sessions were 50-60 minutes long, I felt like presenters were trying to cover WAY too much in that amount of time, so I was bombarded with a lot of information all at once. Luckily, many of the presenters posted their materials online, so I can sift through them at my own pace. I wish that ACTFL would offer 90-minute sessions, because many of the sessions which I attended would make great longer sessions.
  • Three sessions on Comprehensible Input were scheduled at the same time on late Friday afternoon.
  • Earlier in the week, I had gotten a cold, and flying on a plane to San Antonio did not help out. Throw in a kind of balmy, humid weather and a full day of the convention, so by Friday night, I was not feeling well at all. I had to cancel out on a Cena Latina (to which I was really looking forward since I have not done any real conversational Latin since Rusticatio this summer), and ended up going to bed really early that evening.
Next year's ACTFL will be held in San Diego, CA, so consider attending!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Quick Draw

Here is another fun Comprehensible Input activity, which I tried out for the first time this week. I learned Quick Draw from Lauren Watson, a fellow CI French teacher in my district (she is the one who gave me the idea for Scrambled Eggs). Lauren, in turn, learned this activity from Dr. Sherah Carr, who had conducted some professional development at Lauren's school awhile back. This is a fun way for students to review already-acquired vocabulary.

The activity is called Quick Draw and for good reason! It is essentially Pictionary involving white boards and a great SILENT partner activity! You will need to create a powerpoint, where each slide has a category (such as nouns, adjectives, verbs, emotions, anything, etc) and four vocabulary words which relate to that category. Here are Lauren's directions:
  1. Students are in pairs, and each have a dry erase board with markers.
  2. Designate Partner A and Partner B.  
  3. Each partner divides his/her dry erase board in quads with a marker. Number the quads 1-4
  4. For Round 1, Partner A faces the screen and Partner B turns their back to the screen.  Project the PPT. I tell everyone the category for each round.  
  5. Partner A looks at the list of words on the screen and draws a picture for each vocab. word.  S/he draws picture 1 in quad 1, picture 2 in quad 2...etc.
  6. Partner B writes the vocabulary word which s/he thinks the picture represents in the appropriate quad.  
  7. They can't talk or gesture or write words/numbers - ONLY pictures.  
  8. The round ends with the first pair who successfully finishes all 4. 
  9. Switch roles between partners for the next round
My variation: Instead of having the round end with the first pair who successfully finishes all 4, I gave 75-seconds for each round. This way, there was still a feeling of having to draw quickly but it gave the slow processors a chance. At the end of each round, I had teams simply tally their score, and they kept a running tally throughout the game,

  1. Students LOVED this activity and asked for more rounds (even though we had played 5 rounds!). 
  2. The silent aspect of guessing the words makes it a lot more manageable and enjoyable for students. I have played regular Pictionary with students before, and it always gets really loud.
  3. Giving students a set amount of time helped lower the affective filter, because it was not a competition to finish first.
  4. I was surprised at how easily most students were able to write down the vocabulary words, based only upon a picture. This is more proof to me that when limiting vocabulary and targeting high frequency words, acquisition occurs more quickly and naturally.
  5. So many different modalities are addressed in this activity!
  6. The categories help students focus on which words will be used. I threw in an "anything" category (meaning it could be "any" vocabulary word) at the end, and although it made it more difficult, students still enjoyed it.
I will definitely add this activity to my arsenal (which means I will do it every 5-6 weeks in order to preserve the novelty). Thanks, Lauren, for yet another great activity!

Friday, November 28, 2014

10-50 Vocabulary Assessments

In earlier posts about limiting vocabulary and hitting high frequency words first, I alluded to vocabulary quizzes, so let me address here how I assess vocabulary. I got this idea from someone at NTPRS this past summer, and I really wish that I remember who it was so that I can give proper credit to that person (I recall it was in my session with Blaine Ray, so it may have been Blaine Ray himself. The funny thing is that I vividly remember what I was wearing during that session, where in the room I was sitting, who was sitting around me, what they were wearing, what Blaine was wearing, what was served for lunch on that day but yet I cannot recall the person who gave this idea!).

The idea is to give unannounced vocabulary assessments which are simply "translate the vocabulary word into English." But the difference is:
  • the only words which are on the quiz are those which have been targeted in class and are on the word wall
  • the list of words on the quiz becomes cumulative, meaning that all of the words from previous quizzes are on there as well, hence the name "10-50" (signifying that the number of words on the quiz increases, starting from 10 to eventually 50
  • the quizzes are only given when you the teacher feel that students are ready, so you are on their timeline, not the other way around
  • my addition is that instead of just giving students a list of words to define, I have the words in sentences from stories which we have done, hence, the words are not in isolation but rather in a familiar context
Why not give students the English word and have them write the Latin equivalent? In my opinion, that is forced output/production of the language when the majority of students may not be ready yet. I would have to grade them on spelling, and plus, I am not interested at all if students know the dictionary entry of the word - do we as English speakers know the dictionary entry of English words (they do exist!)? I will leave it for timed writes for students to show me what they can do with the actual Latin words.

Latin 1 example (34 words):

1)  mater dicit, “ego pecuniam non habeo
2) Rob est tristis.
3) Ian pulchram puellam videt.
4) Leonard clamat, “O infans, depone lightsabrem!”
5) Bill clamat, “mensa non est amicus!”
6) hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat.
7) infans ad Walmart it.
8) pater infantem videt, et infantem capit.
9) mater dicit, “cur tu canem vis?’
10) Bill non est laetus.
11) Ian mensam et sellam dat.
12) Kim crustulum amat, sed non Yodam.
13) Jack est iratus, quod Publix popartes non vendit.
14) Ian dicit, “O pulchra puella, salve!”
15) Jack dicit, “ego poptartem volo!”
16) Kim leonem vult.
17) in familia, Rob est filius

  • Because I only give these quizzes when I feel that students are ready, there is not the stress which I saw when students had to be prepared for an announced quiz. In fact, I have never had a student gripe or complain about the unannounced nature of the assessment. These quizzes usually happen every 1 1/2 weeks.
  • Even though these quizzes are unannounced, at least 90% of students are getting 95% or higher, meaning that students have acquired these words. They have never had to study these words, to memorize them or to make flashcards - it has all been through listening, reading and meaningul repetitions/interactions with these words. Plus, because I have limited vocabulary, students have never felt overwhelmed by the number of words.
  • I use these quizzes as formative assessments, although there are many who use them as summative assessments. If I see that students are missing a particular word, then that shows me that they have not acquired it and need more meaningful repetitions/interactions with that word. 
  • Because the words are in sentences from previous stories which students have read ad nauseam (hence, a familiar context), it is easier for them to recall the meaning if they do not know it offhand. In fact, it is fun to hear students say during the quiz, "Hey, this word is from the first story which we ever read!" I do vary up the sentences each quiz though so that students are not just memorizing the sentences.
  • Although the list of words is cumulative, I only add 4-6 new words each quiz, so it is not overwhelming for students. The cumulative nature of the quiz actually lowers affective filters, because students already know the majority of the words on the assessment.
  • The only overwhelming part of the assessment for students is having to define more words each time, so it is not a matter of not knowing the words but having to write down more. 
Because students finish the quiz at different times, I always have those quick processors draw a picture on the back as a way to keep them occupied while others are still working, e.g., I will tell them "Draw me a picture of your 6th period class" or "Draw me a picture of what you were doing when the fire alarm went off yesterday." This also shows me who is still working. Quite honestly, for some reason, drawing the picture is what students look forward to the most, so much that I always have to say, "Now don't rush through the quiz so that you can draw the picture!"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Power of Sharing Ideas

I'm currently at ACTFL in San Antonio as I write this. I have been attending some really good Comprehensible Input sessions so far. I have found myself starstruck at times, as I see so many of these CI presenters whom I greatly admire/respect (and follow on Twitter and read their blogs - gosh, I feel like a stalker!), but yet they present with such humility and are SO willing to share their ideas with others.

At my school, in my department there are many teachers who are wanting to use CI but still are unsure about it or are experimenting with it; the others are still stuck in the grammar-translation way because that is all they know, or they are holding tightly to the textbook. This is much better than a year ago, however, where I was the SOLE one using CI in the classroom and whenever I would mention anything about CI/TPRS, my department would look at me like I was from Mars

A couple months ago, on Cynthia Hitz's blog "Teaching Spanish with Comprehensible Input" (which by the way, if you do not follow it, please do - LOTS of good stuff there), she posted "15 Ways to Increase Awareness of Your Language Program and Share Your Students' Success."

At the top of the list: Willingly share materials and activitives with other language teachers at your school.

I accepted the challenge and the day after I read that post, I emailed a CI technique/strategy to my department. I did not know what to expect in terms of response - would folks appreciate it? would they think it another attempt by me to convert my department to CI? would they even read it? The response was ovewhelmingly positive, with many asking for more! I now send out something every two weeks or so to them, and I have found my department to be incredibly appreciative, especially those whom I have viewed as anti-CI teachers.

Sharing ideas is powerful. I think we forget how much of a lone-ranger mentality we can get as teachers. Sharing ideas develops community, especially in a world language department where we tend to group (and to isolate) ourselves according to language. Who would have ever thought that modern language teachers in my department would be asking me, a LATIN teacher, for CI ideas?

This confirms my view that we CI teachers cannot beat CI into folks who do not want it to use it. All I can do is use CI in my classroom, share ideas with folks (whether they accept it or not), let my results speak for me and simply leave it at that. Now that does not mean that I should not be prepared to defend my usage of CI if people ask - much like the apostle Paul says, "(i need to) be prepared in season and out of season" (I am VERY CERTAIN that Paul was not referring to CI when he wrote that!) - but I need to give permission for my non-CI colleagues to be the teachers they are at this moment. I need to follow the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach [CI], and if necessary, use words.' (Again, I know that he was NOT referring to CI), and to let them come to the decision on their own, if they choose.

So much like Cynthia, I challenge you to share with your department a CI idea which has worked for you, even if they are not open to the idea of CI. Become the CI expert in your department; even if you do not feel like one or know much about Ci, at least you know of some resources where to look. You'll be surprised at the reaction. I have a Latin teacher friend in Baltimore who, after I posted Lauren Watson's Scrambled Eggs activity, immediately shared the idea with her department, and many of them used it with much success! 

Thanks to all here at ACTFL who have shared their CI knowledge with me this weekend. I plan to "pay it forward"!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Putting it Together

So after a year of blogging about teaching Latin using Comprehensible Input, how do I put it all together to teach a "unit"? To clarify, I do not teach "units" per se, but rather each week, I use a different story which focuses on my targeted vocabulary/structures.

The following is an example of a week's lesson plan which I did this semester, but by no means do I this same lesson plan every week, as I vary it up weekly with different activities in order to preserve the novelty. And by no means is this a definitive list. At the same time, however, I am very deliberate about how I scaffold the week's lesson. In the beginning of the week, it may seem like I am doing a lot of translating into English, but that is purely to establish meaning. By the end of the week, students are retelling the story completely in Latin, both orally and on paper; in order for this to happen, there has to be TONS of meaningful input and of interaction with the language first.

I try to do 3-4 different activites a day with the story. As Carol Gaab always says, "The brain CRAVES novelty." Rachel Ash puts it best: we want to get in repetitions without repetitive activities.

Preparing for the Week
  1. I as the teacher act out/tell the story aloud in Latin, with plenty of pointing and pausing at the target vocabulary/structures which are written on the board. No circling, no PQAs so that I can establish listening flow.
  2. Projecting the written story on the board, with me reading it aloud again and now doing circling and PQA's.
Day 2
  1. Picture Story Retell (2 rounds)
  2. 5-minute timed write of the story using the pictures
Day 5
  1. On the board, I project a couple student-written endings to the story based on their timed writes from the day before. As a class, we read through them
  2. Read Dating of embedded reading Version #2 of the story
Day 6
  1. Consolidation activity, such as Word Chunk Game, Micrologue, Guess the Word, 
Like I said, this is just an example of one particular week, but I found that it was pretty successful. Hope this helps some of you!

Monday, November 10, 2014

How to Write a CI Story

Many teachers have asked me how to write a CI story so that they can do the same and use it with their own students in class. Quite honestly, my response is: I do not know. Maybe I should rephrase that. I know how to write a CI story, but I do not know how to write a good complelling CI story - that is what I am still working on.

I actually do enjoy writing. When I was in the 3rd grade, I wanted to be an author when I grew up. I remember my 3rd grade teacher had us write a short story about anything we wanted, but the only stipulation was that the main character had to be a potato. I do not know why my teacher chose a potato (it was not like it was an extension of something we were studying), but I wrote about the richest potato in the world who one day decided to go visit the Nile River but because it was so hot there, he dehydrated and became a potato chip. Yes, that was the entire story - and that was about how long it was too. There was no moral to the story, and I have no idea why my character had to be so rich, because it had nothing to do with the plot. We had to illustrate the story too, and my potato looked more like Mr. Peanut (complete with top hat and monocle) than a potato.

My school uses CLC, but I do not use those stories. Not that they are not interesting - oh, they are! My students always enjoyed reading the stores in Unit 1, especially anything involving Grumio. They loved the readability of the stories, plus they were light-hearted and somewhat humorous. The main issues, however, are that there is too much vocabulary in the stories (so at times it turns into decoding/translating instead of reading), too many language structures going on at the same time too quickly, and the stories themselves are just too long. 

Starting last year, I began to write my own CI stories but this year, I feel like I am doing a much better job at limiting vocabulary and getting in repetitions, but also personalizing the stories.

When crafting a CI story, one has to be incredibily deliberate, because there are so many factors involved: 

  • limited target vocabulary/language structures
  • repetition of target vocabulary, and in many ways, repetition of actual sentences
  • an actual plot itself, which needs to include all of the above but yet be comprehensible AND compelling
I have heard Blaine Ray say that stories must have the following:
  • a problem of some kind, and that you must incorporate the actual phrase "But there is a problem" in the target language in every story
  • a character must go somewhere to resolve the problem, as motion is important to a story
  • there must be an unsuccessful resolution the first time so that the character can go somewhere else, which is where the resolution will take place. 
According to Blaine, incorporating these elements will allow for natural repetitions of target vocabulary/language structures.

I will admit that I agree with Blaine to a degree, but I also feel like keeping to this strict pattern causes the stories to become predictable after awhile. Therefore, I tend to adhere to the principles, not necessarily the "rules" per se.

So how do I write a story?

  1. Pick target vocabulary/structures first, i.e. what do I want students to acquire? Take a look at the vocabulary list for your textbook or if the purpose of this story is to "preview vocabulary" for a future reading, then select words from that reading.
  2. Limit the target vocabulary/structures. I have found that 3-5 new vocabulary/structures is a good amount for students to learn per week.
  3. Pick vocabulary/structures that are a good fit for a story. For example, I found that videt, vult and capit work perfectly together in a CI story. Using those target words, I wrote a story about Kim Kardashian who wanted various things, and Yoda (who loved her) saw those things and took them so that she would love him (she did not).
  4. Keep the story comprehensible! Though you may want to recycle some previous vocabulary/structures, there is no need to overload your story with them; you can always create an embedded version which will use those words. Instead, focus on the your target vocabulary/structures.  
  5. Personalize the story. Include students, celebrities or events in students' lives as part of the story. Students will find that much more compelling than a story to which they cannot relate.
  6. The story needs to have a conflict/problem of some kind. This is true of any story.
  7. Repeat the target vocabulary and language structures as many times as possible. An unsuccessful attempt at the solution to the conflict with further attempts is a good way for natural repetitions. Dialogues also allow for repetitions.
  8. Keep the story short. Some folks will start with a version which is just 20-30 words and then expand from that. I have found that a story between 50-75 words is good for students, because it allows for a good number of repetitions. If the first draft of the story is longer than that, consider whittling it down to create two separate embedded readings.
  9. A unexpected plot twist at the end helps so that the story is not predictable. 
For me, this story will serve as the primary lesson by which I plan to teach these target vocabulary/structures. I usually spend 3-4 days on the story, having students review it in 6-7 different ways, each time with a different focus to preserve the novelty, but each time with the goal of getting in necessary repetitions and input. After 3-4 days, then I have the class read through version #2 (embedded reading) of the story, which I call the real version.

Latin 1 example - this was based upon my students' outrage that regular Poptarts were no longer being sold in the school vending machines due to Michelle Obama's initiatives. I figured that this would make for a personal, compelling story.

Target vocabulary
1) vendit
2) iratus
3) ego + volo

Version #1
Jack poptartem vult. schola poptartes non vendit. Jack est iratus. Jack clamat, "ego poptartem volo!"

Jack ad Publix it. Publix poptartes vendit. Publix poptartes non habet. Jack est iratus. Jack clamat, "ego poptartem volo!"

Jack ad Michelle Obamam it. Michelle Obama poptartes vendit. Jack est iratus. Jack clamat, "ego poptartem volo!"

Jack poptartem capit. Michelle Obama clamat, "ego poptartem volo!" Jack poptartem consumit, et non est iratus.

Version #2
Jack poptartem vult. Jack ad scholam it. sed schola poptartes non vendit. Jack dicit, "O Mr. Toda, cur schola poptartes non vendit?" Mr. Toda dicit, "Michelle Obama poptartes in schola non vult." Jack est iratus. Jack clamat, "ego poptartem volo." quod Jack est iratus, Jack fit (becomes) Hulk. Hulk Mr. Todam sumit. Hulk Mr. Todam iacit. Hulk non est iratus, et fit (becomes) Jack.

Jack ad Publix it. Jack dicit, "Publix poptartes vendit." sed Publix poptartes non habet. Michelle Obama poptartes in Publixe non vult. Jack est iratus. Jack clamat, "ego poptartem volo." quod Jack est iratus, Jack fit (becomes) Hulk. Hulk Publixem sumit. Hulk Publixem iacit. Hulk non est iratus, et fit (becomes) Jack.

Jack ad Michelle Obamam it. Michelle Obama dicit, "Haha - ego omnes (all) poptartes in America habeo. ego omnes (all) poptartes in America vendo." Jack est iratus. Jack clamat, "ego poptartem volo." quod Jack est iratus, Jack fit (becomes) Hulk. Hulk Michelle Obamam sumit. Hulk Michelle Obamam iacit.

Hulk poptartem capit. Michelle Obama clamat, "ego poptartem volo." Hulk poptartem consumit, et non est iratus. Hulk fit (becomes) Jack. Jack omnes (all) poptartes capit. Jack ad scholam it. Jack omnes (all) poptartes dat. Jack est hero! sed Michelle Obama est iratus et fit (becomes) Hulk, et displodit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dance Party USA

Update (7/19/23): The official name for this activity is Musical Pairs. I still think Dance Party USA has a better ring to it.

I learned this reading strategy from Justin Slocum Bailey, a Latin teacher and fellow user of CI, at this past summer's Pedagogy Rusticatio. I do not know if "Dance Party USA" is the official name of this activity, but this is what I call it. It is a variation of Ping Pong/Volleyball Reading. It is a fun activity which gets students moving around to music and has a Musical Chairs kind of feel to it.

  1. You will need two different colored index cards for the class, so that exactly half of the class will have one color and the other half will have the other. If there is an odd number of students in the class, you as the teacher will participate.
  2. Give each student a copy of a reading. The reading should be a re-reading of a story which students have already read (like an embedded reading) or a VERY COMPREHENSIBLE sight passage which they can easily read.
  3. Give each student one of the two colored index cards. Again, exactly half of the class needs to receive one color, and the other half needs to get the other color.
  4. Now play music, and tell students to circulate around the room while the music plays. Students may dance around as they move around the room!
  5. Stop the music after 25-30 seconds or so. Tell students now to pair up immediately with someone near them who is holding the other color index card. if there are an odd number of students, remember that you will be participating!
  6. The pairs of students will do a ping pong/volleyball reading of the story with each other
  7. After 90 seconds, start the music again, and tell students to stop reading and to circulate around the room.
  8. Stop the music after 25-30 seconds (this will give students time to move around the room), and tell students to pair up immediately with a new person who is holding the other color index cards.
  9. Continue doing this until students have read at least 1 1/2 times through the passage.
  1. You will need LOTS of room for this activity - a big open space is best. This is difficult to do with desks in the way. I have used the cafeteria area and hallway for this activity. 
  2. This activity gets loud due to the music. Warn the teachers around you that you will be doing this.
  3. This is a great way to get students to interact with each other. Like in Read Dating, if a student does not "prefer" his/her partner, he/she only has to spend 90 seconds with that person before moving on.
  4. Even though it is just ping pong/volleyball reading, the fact that students are moving around the room to music gives it a very different feel for them. As Carol Gaab says, "The brain CRAVES novelty."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


This is a quick 10 minute post-reading activity which I learned from the great Carol Gaab this summer at NTPRS. It is a wonderful way to review a reading as a group discussion, and it brings in a degree of critical thinking.

The premise is simple: 
  1. Following a short reading which you have just read with students, show a series of statements about which students will have to make inferences as either possible or probable from the story.
  2. For each statement, ask students "estne possibile? estne probabile?"
  3. Ask students for justification from the story. Depending on their level and speaking ability, they may respond in English.
Latin 1 example:

Bill dicit, “mater, ego canem volo.” mater respondet, “cur tu canem vis?” Bill respondet, “quod ego amicum non habeo. mater dicit, “cur tu amicum non habes?” Bill dicit, “quod nemo me amat! Publix canes vendit.” mater dicit, “ego pecuniam non habeo, sed ego mensam habeo! visne mensam?” Bill clamat, “mensa non est amicus! canis est amicus!” mater dicit, “sed ego pecuniam non habeo!” Bill est tristis, quod amicum non habet, et mater pecuniam non habet.  TO BE CONTINUED...

estne possibile? probabile?
  • Bill est discipulus
  • Bill patrem non habet
  • Bill est popularis
  • mater Billem non amat
  • mater pecuniam habet sed est mendax 
  • mater est robotica
  1. This is a great critical thinking activity, because it forces students to base their response on what happened in the story and to make inferences on what was stated and on what was not stated.
  2. You may have to explain the difference between possible and probable to students.
  3. It is a great comprehension check, because students need to have understood what they read in order to respond
  4. In my Latin 1 classes, while students do not have the ability yet to respond easily in full sentences, when they offer their justification in English, I will restate it in Latin.
  5. It is fun to see students respond in this activity. I have found that the quietest students often are the ones who vocally respond the most.
  6. In many ways, this activity helps students think outside the box. For example, for the statement, "Bill patrem non habet," there is nothing in the story which explicity states that Bill does or does not have a father. Since a father is not mentioned, many inferred that Bill's mother is a single parent (since she says that she does not have money), but other inferred it to mean that Bill is asking his mother first before asking his father. Others inferred that Bill has a father but this is the type of question one would ask a mother, not a father. There is no correct answer for this particular statement, but it is fun to see what students infer and for them to hear each other.   
  7. Carol Gaab adds in another level by asking "is it logical?"
  8. This is another way to review a story in a different way. As Carol Gaab always says, "The brain CRAVES novelty." 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Picture Story Retells

This is an activity which I learned at NTPRS this summer in my session with Betsy Paskvan, where she taught us Japanese. The idea is simple: using pictures, students completely retell a story (which they have been going over in class) to each other in the target language. So yes, it means that students are speaking Latin!

I can absolutely tell you that this activity works, because I myself experienced it as a student with Betsy - i was absolutely shocked that after just 4 1/2 hours of learning Japanese using CI, I was able to retell quite a lengthy story in Japanese which we had been going over during that time. Moreoever, I have seen this activity work with my own Latin students. In addition, you can do three different activities in a row with it, each one scaffolded and building upon the former. One caveat: do not rush too quickly to get students to do this activity, because it is focuses on output; LOTS of input needs to occur first.

This activity does take quite a bit of prep.
  1. Create a powerpoint of a very comprehensible story, with one sentence per slide. No more than 18 slides - I will explain why in a bit.
  2. On each slide along with the text, have a pictoral representation of the sentence. It can be an actual picture representing the sentence or a bunch of pictures representing the different words.
  3. Use this powerpoint when doing a choral reading so that students become familiar with the text and pictures
  4. Make a copy of the powerpoint, and remove the text from the slides so that all remains are the pictures,
  5. Print up the powerpoint slides. 18 slides allows for 9 slides per page, therefore, 2 pages. I also print them in color since the original slides which students saw were in color.
  6. Place the printed page(s) in plastic sleeves or laminate them. If the story is two pages, then place the pages so that the pictures face outwards on both sides of the plastic sleeve
Activity #1
  1. Pair students - Student #1 has the pictures, Student #2 has a copy of the story
  2. Student #2 reads the story aloud slowly to Student #1. Student #1 simply points to different parts of each picture as the words are read aloud. NOTE - the student is not just pointing to the picture itself but to the various parts of the picture which correspond to the Latin words as they are said aloud.
  3. When the story has been through, students switch roles.
Activity #2
  1. Following activity #1, ONLY using the picture, Student #1 will retell the story to Student #2 in Latin.
  2. Student #2 has the story and will help Student #1 with vocabulary words if Student #1 needs help, Student #2 is NOT to correct grammar but only to give words.
  3. Students switch roles after Student #1 retells the story
Activity #3
  1. Following Activity #2, give everyone a copy of the pictures and now do a 5-minute timed write, where students write the story down in Latin using the pictures. 
  2. If students finish before the end of the 5 minutes, they are to write in Latin what they think happens next
  1. I do a Picture Story Retell activities probably only once a month and at the end of a unit. By the time students do this, they have reviewed the story at least 6-7 times in 6-7 completely different ways. I do not do Picture Story Retells too often in order to preserve the novelty of the activity.
  2. In activities #1 and #2, students are still getting in necessary repetitions of the language in the story in different ways. In activity #1, the student who is reading the story aloud visually is seeing the story (and hearing himself/herself say it), while the student with the picture is hearing the story and is pointing to visual clues in the pictures. In activity #2, the student who is listening to the story being told is hearing the story while also reading it silently
  3. Usually by the time i do these activities, so much input has occurred for students with this particular story that output seems natural
  4. There are probably going to be grammatical errors when students retell the story aloud - it is OKAY! That just means that they need more comprehensible messages and repetition of the language for grammar refinement.
  5. The timed write seems like a natural follow up after the first two activities. I have found that students' writing processing skills in the language increase following the oral retell.
Story Example

Target words
dies natalis
ego + do vs. (3rd sing) + dat

Tom est laetus. hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. Tom dicit, “ego elephantum, infantem et leonem volo.”

Jack dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. ego elephantum do!" Jack elephantum dat. Tom est laetus

Ian dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. ego infantem do!" Ian infantem dat. Tom est laetus.

Matt dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat, sed ego elephantum non do. ego infantem non do. ego leonem non do. ego measles do!" Matt measles dat. Tom non est laetus!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cloze Sentences

Although this cloze sentence activity is a staple of a CI/TPRS classroom, I did not begin to use it until this semester (and quite honestly, I did not learn of it until this past summer at NTPRS). It is a great post-reading activity, but it needs to be done only after students have reviewed/gone over the story many times, because it is a limited output activity and will require them to recall vocabulary in the story (and possibly language structures, depending on how you use this).

The set up is basic: 

  1. Using a story which you have been reading and reviewing with students, project the story onto the board with words missing (like you would see in any cloze sentence exercise)
  2. Read each sentence aloud, and ask students to give you the missing word aloud.
  3. Write in the missing word.
Latin 1 example:

Ian puellam videt. puella est pulchra. Ian puellam amat. Ian dicit, “O puella, salve! mihi nomen est Ian. quid nomen tibi est?” puella dicit, “salve, Ian. mihi nomen est Go Away!”
Ian est tristis. Ian aliam (another) puellam videt. puella est pulchra. Ian puellam amat. Ian dicit, “O puella, salve! mihi nomen est Ian. quid nomen tibi est?”puella dicit, “salve, Ian. mihi nomen est You Are Annoying!” Ian est tristis.

Ian puellam _________. puella est _________. Ian puellam ________. Ian dicit, "O ______, salve! mihi ________ est Ian. _____ nomen tibi est? ______ dicit, "salve, Ian. mihi _______ est Go Away!" Ian _____ tristis. Ian aliam ________ videt. _____ est pulchra. Ian _______ amat. Ian ______, "O puella, salve! mihi nomen _____ Ian. quid ________ tibi est?" puella ______, "Salve, Ian. mihi nomen ______ You Are Annoying!" Ian est ________.

  1. By the time I do this activity, the class has gone through this story in 5-6 different ways over 3 days, so they are very familiar with it.
  2. Because the story uses limited amount of vocabulary, is comprehensible and has lots repetition of words/sentences, it is a very easy story for students to read and to internalize.
  3. I also project a picture illustrating the sentence to give another visual cue for students
  4. This is a very guided limited output activity, but due to the massive amounts of input and repetition through different activities, the output seems natural for students, i.e. internalization of the story occurrs, so this limited output is a natural overflow.
  5. I project one sentence at a time, so students do not feel overwhelmed by the length when they see it (even though we had gone over the story MANY times).
  6. I did this activity while I was being observed by a college student in a Latin teacher prepatory program. She was shocked at how easily my Latin 1 students were able to provide me with the missing Latin word aloud (and in the correct form), because having come from a more tradtional Latin program, she had never done/seen something like this before. I told her that this output was occurring not because I was using oral Latin in the classroom per se but because I was using CI.
  7. This is another great way to get in repetitions for all students. Even if a student is not able to respond, he/she is hearing and seeing the words used in a familiar (hopefully) context.
  8. If you try it and it does not work, a few things to consider:  
    • Problem: maybe you exposed them too early to this kind of output so internalization has not happened yet? Solution: go back and get in more repetitions of the story through various CI methods so that internalization can occur. Try it again and see if you get better results.
    • Problem: maybe the story itself is too difficult due to the amount of vocabulary, types of language structures, etc for this type of output? Solution: create an embedded reading of the story and scaffold it in a way that students can internalize the language slowly without having to make a big jump to output. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Parent Meetings Reflections: A Justification for CI/TPRS

These past two weeks, I have attended five parent meetings regarding students in my Laitn 1 classes  - a combination of SSTs, IEPs and referrals. Because we have passed the midpoint of the semester, suddenly, there is much parental concern regarding grades. Each of the meetings, however, seemed to have the same scenario: the student was failing or close to failing the majority of his/her claseses but yet was flourishing in my Latin 1 class with at least a 95. 

In each meeting, as we teachers, the parents, the counselor, the curriculum administrator and special ed case manager all discussed the student's overall academic performance, it became obvious that something was going on in my Latin 1 class which was making these students succeed. At some of the meetings, I could tell that the core subject area teachers were dismissing the student's high grade in my class with an "But it's just Latin 1 - you really do not do anything in that class" attitude (these teachers really need to come to my classes if they think that!). One parent even commented, "My daughter says that she never has to study for your class. I'm concerned. I see her making vocabulary flashcards for Language Arts all the time - shouldn't she be doing that for Latin too?"

At each of these meetings, when it came my turn to talk about the student's performance, my first instinct was to defend everything about my methodology and why I have adopted a CI-based classroom, but I also knew that this was the last thing which parents wanted to hear, nor was that my purpose for being there. I instead decided to let the student's performance do the talking for me. In a nutshell, here is what i said at each of the five meetings:
  • Even though it is Latin 1, it is still a "rigorous" course, but my job as the teacher is not to make it feel like it is for students
  • My job is to teach the language by delivering understandable messages to students in Latin. I choose to do this through comprehensible, compelling stories.
  • All I ask is that your child pay attention in class and to interact with the stories/readings in various ways
  • Acquiring a language happens subconsciously - here is proof that your child is acquiring Latin
    • Your child is not having to make flashcards, because he/she does not feel the need to; unbeknownst to your child, he/she is internalizing the target vocabulary subconsciously
    • All of my vocabulary/comprehension quizzes are unannounced, but yet your child has at least a 95% quiz average, i.e. even though I give no prior notice of a quiz, your child still feels prepared and never feels "put on the spot" when I announce one. The vocabulary quizzes are cumulative, so the amount of words increases on each quiz - in fact, we are up to 40 words now. If your child were not acquiring the language, the proof would be a much lower quiz average. 
    • Your child's processing skills in the language are improving due to constant and repeated (but not repetitive) interaction with the Latin. Your child's word count output on his/her biweekly 5-minute timed writes has increased each time
    • On tests, your child is able to read a comprehensible story at sight in Latin and then to answer a mix of multiple choice and of true/false questions about the story in the language, thereby demonstrating comprehension. If your child were not understanding what he/she was reading, his/her test average would be much lower. 

At one of the meetings, the special ed case manager said to me, "Will you be teaching Latin 1 again next year? Because I want to send more of my cases to you!"

Each of these meetings confirmed for me that CI is the way to go when teaching Latin. Definitely under a grammar-translation methodology and even under a reading method with extensive vocabulary, these particular students would be failing, but under CI, they are flourishing. Even though all of this evidence is just anecdotal, I need no other proof that CI works for all students.

At the end of one meeting, a parent said to me in front of everyone, "I may not understand everything that you are doing, but keep doing it, because _________ is succeeding in your class." With results like this, I definitely will.

Friday, October 3, 2014

No More Vocab Lists

One of my goals for this school year is to limit vocabulary and to hit the high frequency words first - this also coincides with my goal of leaving behind the textbook (which I will write about in a later post). These two goals have been my focus for my Latin 1 classroom and after nine weeks of implementing them, I can see a HUGE difference in my students' acquisition of the language. 

The best thing about it though: no more vocabulary lists for students to study. 

The old way of giving students a list of 20-25 vocabulary words to learn by the end of the chapter never lead to retention but rather students "cramming and flushing" the words for a quiz. Plus, of those 20-25 words which textbooks gave students to learn, almost half of them were hardly used again following that chapter. I have found that in limiting vocabulary in a CI manner, there is no need to make lists, because students do not need them! 

So what am I doing? Each week, I am focusing on just five new vocabulary words and for now, they are high frequency words or words which I feel are important for them to know. These five target words are repeated constantly in a very comprehehsible 18-sentence story which I have written for them. Because during the week we cover that one story 5-6 different ways with a different focus each time, due to the massive repetitions, it is almost difficult for students not to acquire the words! At the end of the week, students read version #2 of the story, an embedded, more fuller version of the story. And students anticipate reading the "real" version of the story. I also add these words on my word wall so students can see what words they should "know".

What words am I picking? First, I am choosing those high frequency words in language in general and not just in Latin. Then I am taking a look at the CLC textbook to see which words I should also incorporate. 

How do I know students have acquired these words? During partner reads, I am amazed at how quickly they are processing these words. These words are also appearing in students' timed writes. I also give vocabulary assessments each week - I will address this in a later posting.

Here are the words which I have taught so far:

Week 1-2 (these were presented purely using TPR)
  1. ita
  2. minime
  3. salve
  4. sella
  5. mensa
  6. it
  7. considit
  8. surgit
  9. sumit
  10. deponit
  11. est
  12. in
  13. ad
  14. leo
  15. infans
Week 3-4
  1. dulciolum
  2. crustulum
  3. habet
  4. amat
  5. dat
  6. non
Week 5
  1. vult
  2. videt
  3. capit
  4. sed
Week 6
  1. pater
  2. mater
  3. filius
  4. filia
  5. et
Week 7
  1. puella
  2. pulchra
  3. tristis
  4. dicit
  5. "quid nomen tibi est?
  6. "mihi nomen est ____"
Week 8
  1. clamat
  2. iratus
  3. ego
  4. volo
  5. vendit
  1. In limiting vocabulary, students are able to acquire language in bite-sized chunks.
  2. Because students are just learning 5 new words a week and as those words are high-frequency words, students are not burning unncessary "memory bandwidth" in learning "random" words.
  3. Students are not overwhelmed with vocabulary like they were before when I used to give them a list of 20-25 words.
  4. Because these are high frequency words, I can use them and re-use them in stories, hence, if students do not acquire them the "first round," hopefully they will due to repetitions in later stories.
  5. In limiting vocabulary, I can actually introduce language naturally and not by when the textbook says that I should. For example, since I have introduced vult/volo already, it just seems natural to use infinitives now. If I were to wait until they appeared in the textbook, it would be not until February/March. 
Try giving limiting vocabulary a try - your students will thank you for it!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Scrambled Eggs

This is a great activity which I just learned from Lauren Watson, a French teacher in my district. She is a fellow user of CI and has been using it for years in her classroom, long before I ever had even heard of CI. Along with Bob Patrick and me, Lauren co-facilitates our districtwide CI inservices.

Scrambled Eggs is a much like a running dictation but with a twist. For this activity, you wil need plastic Easter eggs. Here are her directions, as she explained it to me:
  1. Write a 10 sentence story with words which students have acquired; then scramble the sentences so that the story is out of order. 
  2. Number each sentence, cut the story into 10 sentence strips and put one strip into a plastic Easter egg. 
  3. Put the eggs into a basket in the center of the room.
  4. Students worked in partners (partner A and partner B)
  5. Partner B has a sheet of paper numbered 1-10 (because there are 10 sentences).
  6. Partner A is responsible for going to the basket and bringing an egg back to Partner B.  They are NOT ALLOWED to open the egg until they are at their seats!  
  7. Partner A opens the egg, gives Partner B the sentence number and reads the sentence slowly.  Partner B writes down what he/she hears.
  8. After 5 sentences, they switch roles.
  9. When finished, show them the correct sentences, and they make corrections.
  10. At the end, they have to unscramble the story so that it makes sense.  
  11. As a bonus, I added 2 extra eggs with "Brain Breaks" in them.  Every time they got an egg with a Brain Break, they had to do what the paper inside said.  EX:  Touche le singe! (Touch the monkey!- I have a stuffed monkey hanging in my classroom) or a list of TPR commands for them to do.  Just silly, but they liked it.  
Okay, back to me now. Yesterday, we had the GA Graduation Writing Test, so I had a number of students out so this was a nice extension activity to do in class. Scrambled Eggs is a high energy activity, because there will be students constantly running back and forth to put back eggs and to retrieve new ones. 

As I have 34 students in a few of my Latin I classes, I added the following to the activity:
  1. In addition to the 10 sentences and 2 brain breaks, I added 2 more brain break strips and 2 strips which had "XXXXXXs", meaning that students had gotten a "dead" egg without a sentence so they would have to go back to get a new egg
  2. I added the task of translating the sentence into English after writing down the sentence in Latin. This was just to add another task to the activity in order to make it last longer.
  1. Because you are solely working with words which students have acquired and as the sentences are comprehensible, the actual reading, listening, writing and translating is not difficult at all for students.
  2. The activity does take prep time but during the activity, you the teacher are simply faciilitating.
  3. It is a different way to do a dictation. In having students read to each other, they are hearing the language spoken by someone other than you the teacher.
  4. It is a different way to do a running dictation, especially since students are just running to the center of the room as opposed to across a gym or hallway.
  5. Because students switch off every 5th sentence, they each get a turn having to read the Latin aloud and to write it down as a dictation
  6. To quote Lauren, "it is a chaotic activity but a good kind of chaos."
  7. It was fun watching students get an egg, go back to their partners and open it, only to find that they already had that sentence so they had to go put it back and then grab a new egg (which hopefully had a new sentence) 
Thanks, Lauren, for a great activity

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Listening Flow

To dovetail off of my post from last week on reading flow, just recently in one of my Latin 1 classes, I was telling a story in Latin. It was not an Ask a Story a'la TPRS style, but rather it was a story which I had written to introduce some new vocabulary and structures. In addition to telling the story and "pointing and pausing" to the target words on the board whenever they came up, I also was circling questions. After about 10 minutes, one of my students said, "Why do you keep asking us questions?! Can't we just listen to you tell the story?!"

At first, I was taken aback by this student's effrontery - how dare he question what I was doing, considering that the purpose of circling was to get students like him to interact with the language? But then I realized what he was saying: he simply wanted to hear the story and to enjoy it without any interruptions. I was the one getting in the way of that with my circling and asking questions. My series of questions was disrupting the picture forming in his mind. Essentially, I was interrupting his listening flow.

This is not to say that circling and PQAs do not have their place - they do. At the same time though, I realize now that it is also important to give students a chance to simply enjoy the language and to experience it without any disuruptions. As Carol Gaab says, "Circling can get REALLY OLD, REALLY FAST for students." If I am delivering the language in an understandable way, then it should be quite easy for students to enjoy the language without much difficulty.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reading Flow in the CI/TPRS Classroom

I'm currently reading Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do. At NTPRS this summer, at his presentation, Bryce Hedestrom suggested that we as CI/TPRS teachers read this book, and I am certainly glad that I am. In this book, Gallagher argues that the reason why students are no longer reading for pleasure is because schools are committing readicide, which he defines as
the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in school.
One of the biggest problems which Gallagher sees is that when reading, students are no longer able to experience reading flow:
Nancy Atwell, in The Reading Zone, describes [reading flow] “as that place where young readers have to come up for air"...many of my students have no idea what it means to come up for air when reading...[compared to viewing a movie] many have never experienced the utter thrill of becoming lost in a book. They have never experienced reading flow.
In his opening chapters, Gallagher lists several reasons which contribute to the obstruction of reading flow:
  • an over-dissection of a text by trying to cover too many standards in one text. Rather, he argues that a teacher should spread the standards over a number of texts, as some standards align better with certain texts than others.
  • schools valuing the development of test-taking more than the development of reading itself
  • trying to cover too much material, which results in shallow coverage of texts (wow, it is almost as if Gallagher saw the AP Latin syllabus when he wrote this book!)
  • little attention paid to pleasure reading, regardless of what it is
  • annotating a text to death with sticky notes and journals
As I read this book, I can see all of this unfolding before my own eyes with my students in their language arts classes.

The same principles can be applied to the world language class. Now while I do not expect to see my Latin 1 students so caught up in a reading that they forget where they are nor will I ever have them sticky-note a story to death, there are many obstacles which can disrupt a student's reading flow in a world language classroom:
  • too much unfamiliar/un-acquired vocabulary in a reading. Instead of simply reading, the task ends up being a dictionary hunt. More time is spent in looking up words than actually reading. The reading ends up being a stop-and-go process. I have heard it said that if there are more than five unknown words to a student in a reading, then the reading is too difficult. 
  • the reading itself is not comprehensible enough, i.e. the reading is too difficult and is beyond students' ability. As a result, frustration ensues.
  • the reading itself is not compelling. While the reading may be comprehensible, the subject matter itself is uninteresting. Though students may be able to read and to understand a reading about Liechtenstein, most students may not find a connection to the reading. Noted CI/TPRS presenter Carol Gaab says, "Compelling Input is just as important as Comprehensible Input."
  • the reading is too long. Just the length itself can cause students to have a pre-meditated conception that they are not going to enjoy the reading. 
Laurie Clarcq, one of the developers of Embedded Readings, says it best in her opening quote of her presentations (Laurie, thanks for giving me permission to use this quote!):
The purpose of language used in communication is to put a picture in the heart and/or mind of another person.
When reading flow is disrupted, that picture formation in the minds of students is also disrupted. When having students read, our goal as CI teachers should be an uninterrupted picture forming and constantly re-forming in their minds as more details from the reading are added.

How guilty I am of disrupting reading flow in my classroom over the years. Quite honestly, I do not think I ever thought of reading as something distinct from translating/decoding. In my opinion, they were the same concept; they are in fact two different skills.

So how can we CI/TPRS teachers produce reading flow for our students when they read? Here are a few strategies:

  • do not jump into a reading right away. Students need to be prepped before they begin a reading, so do some pre-reading activities first. Do not use the first reading of a text as a way to teach new vocabulary and structures. Too much is going on for students at the same time if you do that.
  • preview unfamiliar vocabulary/language structures first before reading. This can be achieved through TPR, asking a TPRS story, telling the actual story aloud first and acting it out, while having the new forms/vocabulary on the board so that students see/hear them first, a dication, etc. 
  • create some embedded readings of the text for students. If a text seems rather long and complex, give it to students in bite-sized chunks. In reading and re-reading scaffolded embedded versions of the text, reading flow is achieved, because students are already familiar with the vocabulary and can activate background knowledge in anticipating the plot.
  • create your own readings for students. Just because the textbook has readings/stories does not mean that they are good for students. Many textbook readings are overloaded with way too much vocabulary/structures too quickly. If you limit vocabulary/structures and you use the right words, you can create both a comprehensible and compelling story with just 15 distinct words. 
  • do post-reading activities - I think that post-reading activities of a text is where the "magic" happens, as students interact with the reading in different ways and are "forced" to re-read it again multiple times. Examples of post-reading activities are read and draw, Readers Theater, cloze sentences, parallel universe, Mindreader, possible/probable questions and embedded writings. Post-reading activities are great ways to transition to a more complex embedded reading. Many of these activities I will discuss in later postings.
  • have students re-read the story/text on their own - I will address this in a later posting.
I hate the fact that we as a Latin community do not have the CI/TPRS novels which the other languages have. Hopefully, that will change soon as the CI/TPRS Latin community grows!