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."