Friday, December 18, 2015

My Top 5 of 2015

With the year coming to an end, as I have seen on other blogs, let me list for you my top 5 posts for 2015 (those posts which received the most page views):
  1. Latin 1 - Week 1 Lesson Plan
  2. Sentence Flyswatter
  3. Read/Draw
  4. Circling - The Art of Questioning
  5. Latin is a Dead Language, Right?
Once again, I am overwhelmed by the fact that so many people are reading my blog. As I have said, there is nothing really special about me as a CI teacher. There are so many others out there who have such a deeper knoweldge of CI than I do and are implementing CI with better results than I am. I am humbled though that many of you feel like I have something to say on the matter.   

So now that my semester has ended and that I am officially on winter break, I am going to take a two-week hiatus from this blog. I hope that you all will take a much deserved break and enjoy you time away from the classroom. 

To quote Luke Henderson who expresses it so eloquently in Latin in a tweet from today:

Rough translation: Grades have been given to students; the classroom has been arranged/set up; the semester has finished/come to an end. Therefore, let me rejoice! (Something gets lost in the translation, as the English really does not give justice to his sentiments. It is expressed so much more eloquently in Latin than in English).

I look forward to posting again in January 2016. Gosh, am I really turning 46 in 2016?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Latin is a Dead Language, Right?

For the following post, the views expressed here are mine personally and may not reflect those of the Latin teaching community nor of the spoken Latin community. 

Anytime I tell someone that I am a Latin teacher, I feel like I am immediately going to have to be on the defensive based on the onslaught of comments which I will receive: "Wow, they still teach Latin? Isn't that a dead language?", "Why would anyone want to take Latin? No one speaks it any more," or "What use does Latin have in the world today? Students should take a language which is actually useful." My favorite comment is "Wow, you teach Latin? You must be REALLY smart." You get the idea.

Many of you may find it shocking that I am in complete agreement that Latin indeed is a dead language but not in the sense which most people mean. According to linguistics, a dead language is one which is still in existence but no longer serves the purpose as one's mother/native tongue. By that definition, then I have absolutely no qualms with calling Latin a dead language. That does not mean, however, that I think that Latin should not be taught on the basis of it being a dead language, because by that definition, I could probably venture to say that Yiddish is a rare mother tongue today. Does that mean that Yiddish should no longer be used or taught as a spoken language? That I should allow it to become extinct? Should my friend Evan Gardner, the founder of Where Are Your Keys?, desist in his attempts to save indigenous, Native American languages from extinction purely because they are no longer anyone's primary language for communication? 

I am going to go one step further with this: I am a firm believer that Latin should be taught as a modern, living language like any other (If you have read the About Me section, you know that I was once one of the BIGGEST opponents of any type of spoken Latin, but now I am a huge advocate of it). Although I do not oppose the teaching of classical texts/culture, I oppose us as Latinists solely isolating the language to the classical period, because in my opinion, it pigeonholes us. There is SO much Latin literature which exists outside of the classical period - in fact, classical literature comprises only 1% (at the most) of all surviving Latin literature through the ages! 

Here is a statement which may shock folks: Students actually wish to speak Latin. How do I know this? Because they are constantly asking me "How do I say X in Latin?" This shows me that students indeed wish to interpret their own world with the Latin language. What kind of message am I sending if I say to them, "Latin is not spoken," or "The Romans did not have X, so we cannot say that"? It simply perpuetates the myth that Latin is different and hammers another nail into its coffin. Latin as a spoken language did not stop with the fall of Rome - Latin was spoken throughout the ages and still is today! However, as schools unfortunately have been transformed from centers of learning into now factories and production centers, schools have shifted their goals from teaching students to become lifelong learners and citizens to becoming manufacturers of a future workforce for the global economy. Anything which is not deemed as preparing students for college or a career immediately out of high school is cast aside.

As you read those last two paragraphs, I bet a number of you just scoffed at the idea of Latin being taught as a modern language and find all of this misguided. Quite honestly, I expect that kind of response from Latin teachers, because nothing divides the Latin teaching community more than the idea of speaking Latin (which saddens me). But some of the biggest opposition which I get for wanting Latin taught as a spoken language is from modern language teachers, and quite honestly, a number of them are CI/TPRS teachers. 

At NTPRS this summer, I thought, "If anyone will applaud the use of CI/TPRS to teach Latin, it will be at NTPRS." Considering that 45 Latin teachers were in attendance, I felt that we would be seen as a language of equal footing with the others. I could not have been more mistaken. Instead, for the first few days, we Latin teachers were viewed as a curiosity and novelty, with a kind of "How cute that these teachers want to use CI/TPRS to teach Latin" and "Why would you want to teach Latin with CI/TPRS? All you do is read poetry and philosophical works" attitude. But to be fair, for most modern language CI/TPRS teachers, the Latin teachers whom they know are probably perpetuating the traditional grammar-translation, Latin-is-different stereotype (Ginny Lindzey, thank you for pointing that out to me), so I am sure that we were a shock to the system at NTPRS. By the end of NTPRS, though, attitudes had definitely changed, thanks in part to Justin Slocum Bailey presenting Latin as a modern living language during the Cocktails and Coaching hour. Attendees began to view Latin as a viable language for CI/TPRS. In fact, as a result, TPRS Publishing will now be coming out with a Latin version of Brandon Brown Wants a Dog in spring 2016! 

But for now, the idea of Latin taught as a modern language remains a dream for me, because so many things would need to change (teacher training and knowledge, university Classics departments). Due to current trends in Latin education, therefore, I find myself relunctantly teaching Latin still with a end goal of students reading classical literature by the end of their 3rd year of the language. Slowly, however, things are changing. The number of spoken Latin events in the country are increasing, as many Latinists have grown weary and jaded with the idea that Latin is only a read language and wish to experience Latin as a living language. I have attended Rusticatio for the past six summers and am probably a solid Intermediate Mid/High Latin speaker (Advanced Low on good day). I have been through two separate 8-hour ACTFL OPI Famliarization workshops to see how these speaking proficiency levels can apply to Latin. I would love for there to be an ACTFL OPI in Latin eventually one day.

For those of you who believe that Latin should only be set in the classical period, consider Erasmus' treatise, Ciceronianus. NOTE - it was written in the 1500's, which shows that even then this debate/tension occurred, but even more, about what Erasmus writes eerily mirrors the debate among Latinists today about "modernizing" the language.

For more information about Latin as a living language, see below.

Web Resources
Video Resources
Nancy Llwellyn's interview on Living Latin

Luke Henderson's TedX talk on "This is Not Your Father's Latin Class"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Airplane Reading

This is another way to do a ping pong/volleyball style reading. I first saw Blaine Ray do this at NTPRS 2014 and then again saw this demonstrated by Alina Filipescu at NTPRS 2015. It is similar to Read Dating, in that students will be moving around to read with a new partner. It does take some time to set up the classroom for Airplane Reading.

1) Set up your classroom so that students are sitting next to someone as if in an airplane. If there is an odd amount of students, that is okay - that just means that you will take part in the activity!
2) In each pair of students, one will be X and one will be Y.

3) Give students a comprehensible reading, and have them do a regular ping pong/volleyball style reading.
4) After a set amount of time (usually two minutes), then Y students will move forward a seat to a new row (see below picture for example)

5) Like in ping pong/volleyball reading, with their new partners, students are to determine the earlier stopping point between the two of them, and at that point, they will start. Explain to students that repetition is good and will only benefit them.
6) After two minutes of reading with their new partner, Y students will move again.
7) Continue again for about 10 more minutes. If students finish the reading, they are start over again at the beginning.

1) Like Read Dating, this is another fun way to go through a reading. Carol Gaab always says, "The brain craves novelty."
2) The movement keeps the activity from getting stale. I always tell students "If you have to read with someone whom you do not like, don't worry - you are only working with that person for two minutes!"
3) To keep things novel, sometimes I will alternate between having X and Y students move. If you do this, then X students will move the other direction, because if they move like the Y students, they will read again with a former partner! The idea of movement is to allow students to read with a new partner each round.
4) You may want to practice having the Y students move a few times before you begin the activity so that they know ahead of time where to go, especially the one who has to move to the other side of the room.
5) I usually spend no more than 15 minutes (at the most) on a reading activity like this, because students will start to tire of reading.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Comprehensible Input is Always Active Latin, but Active Latin Is Not Always Comprehensible Input

I know that my title sounds like a geometry maxim, e.g., a square is always a rhombus, but a rhombus is not always a square. The point of this post is not to offend anyone but is more of an effort to define terms. 

When Latin teachers hear the terms Active Latin and Comprehensible Input, I think that most assume that they are one in the same. The truth is that they are and yet, they are not. Both do involve the use of oral Latin in the classroom for the purpose of language acquisition, but Comprehensible Input is a specific and deliberate form of Active Latin. 

To me, the use of Active Latin means facilitating Latin as a spoken language in the classroom for the purpose of communication and of teaching. Under that umbrella definition, Comprehensible Input definitely fits that description. There are, however, many Latinists out there who think that because they are using active Latin in the classroom, then they must be implementing Comprehensible Input too. The truth is yes, but also no. 

The difference, however, between the two is that I equate active Latin many times with full immersion and forced production of the language. That is not to say that teachers are not achieving success with this approach. The issue is that in many instances full immersion can turn into submersion, which results in frustration for the learner and in a "survival of the fittest" classroom mentality. I myself have experienced this type of submersion at numerous spoken Latin events, and yes, I can attest that frustration and a doubt of one's abilities are the results. In his Comprehensible Input theory, Krashen states that when one's affective filter/stress level rises, learning ceases (for those of you familiar with "Where Are Your Keys?", think "full").   

In Comprehensible Input, full immersion can be implemented, provided that it is 100% comprehensible for learners. This can be achieved through using known vocabulary, limiting vocabulary (but not grammar), establishing meaning of unknown vocabulary and structures (yes, though the use of English!), and bathing learners' minds with understandable input (comprehensible input + 1 is the goal). In other words, Comprehensible Input is deliberate. Output and production of the language are never forced but are viewed as natural results and overflow of input.     

For those Latin teachers with little to no experience in speaking Latin, the use of CI/TPRS allows for the use of Active Latin through the delivery of understandable messages in Latin without having to be a fluent speaker. Even though I have attended Rusticationes for the past six summers, I would probably say that I am an Intermediate Mid/High speaker of Latin.  (maybe even an Advanced Low on a very good day), and I am happy with that.

So for those of you who do use oral Latin in your classroom, would you say that you are implementing Active Latin or Comprehensible Input? What benefits do you see in either approach?

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Power of Online Professional Learning Communities/Networks (PLC/PLN)

As the 2015 ACTFL Convention is going on at the moment and as I am not attending this year, I am definitely finding myself longing to be there. I have been to the past two ACTFL Conventions, and I can definitely say that attending one is worth it. Aside from the great presentations and outstanding professional development, what I love most about the ACTFL Convention is that I always realize there that I am a part of something so much bigger than just my department at school - I am indeed a world language teacher and am proud of that.

Luckily, however, due to Twitter, I am able to follow this year's happenings at ACTFL, and I am so grateful, because I am able to follow many of the presentations from afar. Apparently, my blog and I have already gotten a shout out at a presentation!

As much as I hate educationese buzzwords like Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and Professional Learning Networks (PLN), these groups have been such a lifeline for me, especially for my development of CI/TPRS implementation in the classroom. As CI/TPRS world language teachers, many times we are isolated from any type of physical face-to-face community, so having an online community is vitally important both for our professional growth and communal needs.

I cannot tell you how many conferences i have attended where I have finally gotten the chance to meet folks in person whom I only know online through PLC/PLNs. It is always fun to see what these people look like in person - apparently, online in my posts to listservs and in my blog, I come across as a tall white man with a beard. I hope that folks are not disappointed to see instead a 5'5, Asian man with a partial goatee and slight southern accent...

Here are some different types of online PLC/PLNs in which I take part, along with some suggestions:


Since you are reading this blog, you are already part of this professional learning community! Blogs have played such an important part in my professional CI/TPRS development. If you look at the sidebar, I have a list of blogs which I follow. These are all wonderful, and I have used many ideas from them in my classroom. More than anything though, these blogs have encouraged me to keep pursuing implementing CI/TPRS when at times I feel like I have hit a brick wall.

  • Latin Best Practices - this is a Yahoo group dedicated to breaking away from the traditional practices found in grammar-translation Latin classes. Begun by fellow CI/TPRS Latin colleagues Bob Patrick and John Piazza, this list has over 1,300 members. I was a member of this listserv LONG before I actually began to implement CI/TPRS in my Latin classroom. 
  • MoreTPRS - this is the primary listserv for CI/TPRS users. I used a member of this group, but as there are over 7,000 members, it became too much for me to read all of the postings coming in, so I unsubscribed. That does not mean that this group does not have value - based on the number of postings, it just was not for me.  
  • Ben Slavic's Blog Community - this is a pay site, but it is full of ideas and resources, as well of supportive teachers. 
Social Media
I am not one who utilizes social media. My life is Facebook free and am more than okay with that. I rarely text, and I have no idea how Instagram or Snapchat works and personally have no desire to learn, since I never use the camera on my phone anyway.Truthfully, I thought that "taking selfies" was a reference to drug usage. 
  • Twitter - I do use Twitter though for professional purposes, and I absolutely love it! I love being able to "follow" CI/TPRS folks and to learn from them in this manner. As i said earlier, I have been reading the many Twitter posts from this ACTFL convention; following #ACTFL15 has given me the next best thing to being there. You can follow me @silvius_toda on Twitter - Silvius is my Latin name! My name Keith means "from the woods" in Welsh, so I picked the Latin equivalent.
  • IFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook group - I suppose if I had a Facebook page, then I would be a member of this group. 
So I challenge you to increase your PLC/PLN beyond what you currently have and to check out many of these resources. Also, feel free to suggest any blogs or online resources which you have found helpful so that i can add them to my list!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why I Blog

As I approach the two-year anniversary of my very first posting on this blog, I find it only fitting to reflect on the question, "Why do you blog?" Quite honestly, I find it very difficult to come up with an answer. I have always equated blogs with those people who write letters to the editor or call into radio newstalk shows - those folks who always have something to say and want to make sure that you know that they do.

So to answer the question "Why do you blog?", based on my views of blogs, my first response is "I do not know - it is not like I have a whole lot to say." (Apparently, I do, because I have written almost 100 posts).

Maybe a better question is "Why are people reading my CI/TPRS blog?" Again, my answer is "I do not know" for the following reasons:
  • "I'm not really an expert on Comprehensible Input, but I do play one on TV." There are certainly others out there who REALLY know and understand Comprehensible Input theory so much better than I do. I do understand Comprehensible Input and second language acquisition...but to a degree. I am not one who enjoys spending time reading scholarly articles on the topic. To be honest, I absolutely hate anything to do with research, whether it is reading it or conducting it myself (believe me, the Ed.S degree which I am currently pursuing is ALL about research. I have such high respect for statisticians now). I am not putting on false humility at all when I say this, but whenever I read postings on this blog, I am always impressed, thinking, "Wow, this guy really knows what he is talking about," and then I have to stop myself and say, "Whoa, I wrote this." Honestly, I am convinced that little elves come in after I write up a post, and they change it to make it sound like I know what I am saying. I know myself, and these posts do not sound like me at all.
  • There are other Latin teachers out there who are implementing CI/TPRS so much better than I am. There are other Latin teachers who are conducting their CI Latin classrooms in the Latin language - they are delivering understandable messages close to 90% of the time in the target language. I am lucky if I do 50% on a good day. They are the ones who should be blogging, not I; I should be the one learning from them.
But at the same time, I realize that I do have something to say and apparently, it connects with many people. 
  • Many teachers have grown weary of language methodology/textbooks and are wanting something different
  • Many Latin teachers have become jaded with traditional approaches and the mad rush to get students to translate classical literature.
  • Many teachers are wanting to try out CI/TPRS but do not know how
As a result of this, I will continue to blog the best way I know how.

This week, I passed the 60,000 mark for blog page views after just two years. I am truly humbed by that. When i first started this blog two years ago, I was expecting maybe 100-200 page views/month; I am now averaging over 2,000 page views/month, and a lot of those who read my blog are not Latin teachers! 

I will continue to hone my craft by reading blogs and attending CI/TPRS conferences. I have attended NTPRS for the past two summers, and in the summer of 2016, I plan to attend my first IFLT, since it will be in Chattanooga (only 2 hours from Atlanta).

So to you faithful followers of this blog, I will strive to chronicle my journey into CI. I hope that you will continue to sojourn with me.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Hybrid CI/Textbook Approach, Part 3

This is the final posting in a series based on my presentation "Detoxing from the Textbook."

My last two posts discussed both the issues with wanting to leave behind the textbook and the hows of doing a hybrid CI/textbook approach. This post will demonstrate my actual lesson plan in teaching greetings. NOTE - I do not teach greetings right away, so students have acquired already a bit of language and of structures prior to me teaching greetings.

As I established in my last post, perhaps your end goal for a chapter is for your students to be able to take part in a dialogue found in your textbook. Perhaps your dialogue on greetings looks like this:

A: Hello, what is your name?
B: Hello, my name is Rhonda. What is your name? 
A: My name is Marsha. How are you?
 B: I am fine. How are you?
A: My stomach hurts.

Traditional methods would start first with the dialogue and then have students go around the room asking each other their names and asking how each other are. Nothing wrong with that, other than it gets incredibly boring very quickly! In addition, you are forcing students to produce language which has no meaning to them way too soon. Instead, why not use a story which has many of these phrases embedded in them as part of the storyline? 

Ian sees a girl. The girl is beautiful. Ian loves the beautiful girl. Ian greets the beautiful girl. “O girl, hello. My name is Ian. What is your name?” The beautiful girl greets Ian, “Hello, Ian. My name is Go Away!” Ian is sad and cries.

Ian sees another girl. The girl is beautiful. Ian loves the beautiful girl. Ian greets the beautiful girl, “O girl, hello, my name is Ian.  What is your name?” The beautiful girl greets Ian, “Hello, Ian, my is You are Annoying.” Ian is sad and cries.

Lesson Plan (over a span of 4-5 days)
  1. Tell the story aloud and you as the teacher act it out. Write any unknown words write on the board to establish meaning, and point and pause. No circling - simply establish listening flow.
  2. Tell the story again either with actors or pictures. Circle and implement PQAs.
  3. Project the story on the board and conduct a choral reading to establish meaning as a class.
  4. Play a game of Stultus using the projected story on the board.
  5. Give students a copy of the reading and have students in pairs do a ping-pong reading or Social Emotional Learning reading of the story
  6. Play a game of Sentence Flyswatter
  7. Do a Higher Order Thinking activity with the story (possible/probable, who would say X, is this necessary to know, etc)
  8. Do a partner picture story retell of the story
  9. Do a timed write of the story.
  10. Students FINALLY see the goal dialogue
  11. Play Same Conversation with the dialogue 
  12. Play a game of Nugas with the dialogue
Some of you may be thinking, "Wow, that seems like a lot of work PRIOR to students seeing the dialogue." Yes, it is. My point, though, is that I want students to have already acquired the vocabulary/structures and the sounds of the language before they actually see the actual dialogue. By the time students get to the dialogue, they already know it but do not realize it!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Hybrid CI/Textbook Approach, Part 2

This is part 2 in a series based on my presentation "Detoxing from the Textbook".

My last post discussed that although textbooks are a resource for the classroom, they are not designed with CI in mind. Many of you are in stituations where you do not want to leave behind the textbook, cannot leave behind the textbook for various reasons, or do not feel comfortable enough with CI/TPRS to "untextbook." For the record, those are all indeed valid reasons. This, however, does not mean that you still cannot apply CI/TPRS strategies to the textbook, but it does require planning. 

1) When trying to do a hybrid/CI approach with a textbook, there are a few questions to consider:
  • What MUST I absolutely cover? What are considered non-negotiables? Look through your textbook and see what topics, language structures, vocabulary, etc are covered. Of those, what MUST be covered and for what reasons? Things which can determine coverage in a textbook:
    • state/district standards
    • standardized exams and assessments (school, district, state-level)
    • Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)
    • instructional team 
  • If there are topics which must be covered, can I cover them on MY own timeline? Is it truly necessary for me to be on the same page as other teachers? If I can ensure that all of these topics are taught by the time of the "_________" (final exam/SLO, etc.), does it matter that I will do it according to MY own personal pacing calendar?
2) Take a look at a chapter, and ask yourself "What is my end goal?" Depending on your goals, it could be a number of things:
  • students will be able to read a particular story/reading
  • students will be able to take part in a specific textbook dialogue
  • students will be able to demonstrate specific skills/language structures
  • students will be able to demonstrate proficiency on a common standardized chapter/final exam assessment
NOTE - Simply "knowing" a list of vocabulary is NOT an end goal, but rather an acquisition of, an internalization of, and a working knowledge of vocabulary should be the goal.

3) Now ask yourself, "What must I do to prepare students to get to that end?"
  • Shelter vocabulary but not grammar - One of the most practical tools which i have come across for this is Carrie Toth's Vocabulary Chuck-it Bucket. Sort through your textbook's chapter vocabulary and ask yourself:
    • What words are necessary? Are there words which are absolutely necessary for my end goal?
    • What words are high frequency? Teach these early! It will actually save you time in the long run, plus you can get LOTS of mileage from these words.
    • What words can be put on hold for a bit?
    • What words can I chuck out? Regardess of your textbook, I am certain that there are words on a textbook's vocabulary list which make you scratch your head and say "Who the heck thought that this was an important word to know (due to low frequency)?" I usually throw these words out, and if they appear in a reading, I will gloss it for students.

  • Preload/preteach vocabulary/language structures prior to the actual textbook reading/dialogue. This will allow for whatever your end goal is to be 100% comprehensible by the time your students get to it. Preloading/preteaching vocabulary/language structures can be achieved through TPR, TPRS, and many other CI strateges. 

  • Noted CI/TPRS presenter Karen Rowan passed along to me another great tool for backwards design. Take a look at your desired end goal dialogue/reading and based on the vocabulary/structures in that dialogue/reading, fill out the grid. This is a wonderful tool, because it really helps map out visually what needs to be done to prepare students for my end goal.

    You may be thinking, "This is great, but what does this look like in the classroom?" Stay tuned for my next post!

    POST SCRIPTUM: Quite ironically, this week on his live hour-long online "radio" show "Tea with BVP," second language acquisitionist Bill Van Patten discussed textbooks and if they were a "friend or foe" for language acquistion. It was a great lively discussion, but unfortunately, the episode was not recorded, so it is not in the Tea wth BVP episode archive (I am bummed, because I was only able to listen to the first half of the episode). If you are not currently listening to his show, you can listen live on Thursday afternoons starting at 3:00pm EST ( or you can listen to past episodes in the archive (

    Wednesday, October 21, 2015

    A Hybrid CI/Textbook Approach, Part 1

    The following is the first in a series based on my presentation "Detoxing from the Textbook".

    When one starts to embrace CI/TPRS, immediately one begins to think about casting aside the textbook. That was my first inclination when I began to implement TPRS in 2007, and for the first six weeks, I was moving along pretty strongly...and then I suddenly realized that I had no idea where I was going. I had no map, and I did not possess a strong enough foundation of CI/TPRS to head out on my own. As a result, I ended up going back to the textbook and felt like a CI/TPRS failure.

    So is the textbook in and of itself bad? It is a resource indeed BUT..
    • Textbooks are not written with Comprehensible Input language acquisition in mind. If they were, textbooks would focus on higher frequency vocabulary and unsheltered grammar; and they would scaffold like crazy with tons of repetitions. Instead, we find the opposite in textbooks: intensive vocabulary with limited grammar. 
    • Textbooks assume that language learning is linear in nature. Most textbooks assume that students will master a language structure in a chapter. The reality is that language acquisition does not occur in a linear fashion but rather in a spiral: one goes up the spiral a bit when being introduced a new target structure/vocabulary and then one goes back down, and then one goes up again a little higher, and then spirals back down again. It is actually in the goings up and down of that spiral where acquisition of previous structures/vocabulary occurs through repetition. And for the record, I am quoting ACTFL language in that description.
    So then why do we cling to the textbook?
    • It is what we know. For many of us, we have "perfected" lesson plans for the textbook after having used it for years. We have worksheets/packets set up for each chapter, and we know how to teach each concept. We ourselves most likely learned from a textbook, so we "understand" how it works.
    • It provides us a map (albeit faulty) of where to go with structures, topics, vocabulary, etc. Even though we are language teachers, creating a "map" on our own is difficult.
    • It is safe and easy. The textbook has everything lined up for us teachers, in terms of vocabulary lists, workbook exercises, classroom work, online resources, etc. All we have to do is to follow the teacher's manual. 
    • It saves prep time. Many language teachers have 2-3 preps (even more!), so using the textbook is a godsend, since it saves preparation time for teachers.
    • We are “required” to use it. Even if one wanted to leave behind the textbook, in many districts, teachers must use the textbook.
    • We are bound by a pacing calendar or Instructional team. Depending on one's district, there may be a policy requiring that all students be on the same page at the same time.
    • We do not have enough of a foundation of CI/TPRS to leave the textbook behind. This was exactly the situation in which I was in 2007.
    The question to ask yourself then is "Is the textbook what is best for your students? or is it what is best for you as the teacher?" 

    So if you need/want to use the textbook (for various reasons), is there a way you can implement a CI/TPRS approach with it? The answer is YES, That will be my next posting...

    Friday, October 16, 2015

    Three Ring Circus

    This is a fun way to preteach three verbs in an active way. I first saw Nancy Llewellyn demonstrate this activity at Rusticatio in 2010 but had forgotten about it until I saw Alina Filipescu use this in her session at NTPRS this summer. If you have any students who like to act/mime, this is a great activity for them:
    1. Pick out three verbs which you wish to preview/preteach and can be easily demonstrated by an action/gesture.
    2. Write the three verbs in the target language on three strips of paper, i.e., one verb per strip.
    3. Pick three students who will demonstrate the three verbs.
    4. Hold up the first strip, say the verb in the target language, and define the verb in English to establish meaning.
    5. Now have the first student demonstrate the action of the verb CONTINUOUSLY while you begin to circle, e.g. O class, Steven audit. (ohhh). Stevenne audit? (ita). Stevenne an Lady Gaga audit? (Steven). Lady Gagane audit? (minime). quis audit? (Steven). quid Steven agit? (audit)
    6. Now tell the first student to take a break and do the whole thing again with a new verb and student. Repeat again with the third verb and student.
    7. Line up all three students, and now ask three other students to stand behind them and to hold the strips over their heads.
    8. Tell all three students to demonstrate their actions simultaneously and continously (hence, the "three ring circus" aspect), while you circle regarding the three actions.
    1. When all three students are demonstrating their actions simultaneously as part of the Three Ring Circus, be aware: depending on the action, it can be very tiring for them if you do it for too long. This is a great activity in which to practice circling, but wow, one can get in a good workout acting out a verb. At Alina Filipescu's presentation, I had to demonstrate the verb "fight," and after a few minutes, I was really tired! Next time, I will ask if I can demonstrate "sit" or "stand"....
    2. I was surprised by how engaged students were in the activity. Maybe the choice in verbs and gestures lent itself to engaging students, maybe the students which I picked know how to ham it up.
    3. The three ring part of the activity naturally lends itself to circling, because you can ask about particular students, what they are doing, what they are not doing, who is doing what, who is not doing what, etc.
    I have definitely added this activity to my CI arsenal, but I will probably only do it every 5-6 weeks to preserve the novelty.

    P.S (July 23, 2018)
    Here is a video of Grant Boulanger demonstrating Three Ring Circus in Spanish.

    Here is another video demonstrating Three Ring Circus at 1:36.

    Friday, October 9, 2015

    The Role of Translation in the CI Classroom

    I do not think that any topic gets CI teachers more riled up than the topic of translating L2 into English. There are those who feel that it has NO place in the CI classroom, while others feel that it is a necessary part of the language acquisition process.

    I do not claim to be an expert on this topic by any means, but this posting represents where I am on the matter at this moment in time - a few months from now, my views may have changed.

    When I first began the switch over to a CI classroom, I was very greatly opposed to any type of translation into English, as I was reacting against the grammar-translation model which I had been implementing for years and under which I myself had learned Latin. In addition, I had just returned from my first Rusticatio, where only spoken Latin was allowed. Basd on my Rusticatio experience, to me, the thought of translating into English seemed to diminish the importance of L2. John Piazza, a fellow Latin CI teacher, however, shared an article by Susan Gross which addressed the need for translation in a CI classroom. In that article, "Reading is Essential in Second Language Class," Susan Gross (2009) writes the following about translation:
    One reason for translation is to assure perfect comprehension. I have witnessed many language classes where students were able to answer Spanish questions about a Spanish reading, yet they did not exactly understand the reading! Since language is acquired only when the input is comprehensible, we are not promoting acquisition by simply asking questions in Spanish.  
    A second reason for translation is to inform the teacher. While listening to a student translate a paragraph, the teacher will discover many interesting things, such as confusing “to” and “from” (this is surprisingly common) or a lack of attention to plurals. As the teacher notices which things tend to be incorrectly translated, the teacher then knows what to reinforce in the next few lessons.
    This showed me that translation does indeed have its place in a CI classroom, but just not THE place as the end result. For those of us Latin teachers, translation is pretty much all we did in college. Our university classes were very predictable, as we each took turns around the table translating classical works aloud into English, with a smattering of grammar questions and discussion in English about what we were translating. In most traditional Latin classes, translation occurs, but that is where we stop; we may have students do some projects about what was read, but anything using the Latin itself rarely happens. 

    When looking at Bloom's Taxonomy, you will see that translation ranks near the bottom (it is a demonstration of "Understanding"), as it is a low-level proficiency skill. Now some of you are scoffing, "But hey, translating requires much knowledge to accomplish." Granted, I will give you that, but when translating something from L2 into L1, although a great deal of skill is needed, in the end after translating, all which you have is the original L2 document but now in L1. Absolutely no new meaning has been created in L2, and the creation of new meaning is the ultimate end goal in Blooms Taxonomy. NOTE - we may do some consolidation, higher-level thinking projects in English regarding the reading, but our actual goal should be new meaning in L2. 

    So why is translation important then? To me, for one purpose: it establishes meaningWhenever I lesson plan, as I use stories to teach the language, I always make sure that one of my early activities is for students to chorally translate the story aloud into English. This way, I can make sure that all students are on the same page when it comes to the meaning. It also shows me where some of the problems are. But as I said before, translation is not where it ends for me. Following translation, I focus now on working with the language itself in a number of ways with students so that by the end of the "unit" a few days later, students are able to create their own meaning in the target language.

    A few caveats about asking students to do a translating a text/reading into English:
    1. it needs to be comprehensible and meaningful, i.e., students need to have acquired the majority of words and structures by the time of translating. It is okay to give glossed words ('icing" words), but if it is necessary to supply a large number of these words, then the text/reading is not comprehensible enough.
    2. it needs to compelling for students
    3. it needs to be a reasonable length for them. If you give students something too long, their affective filters will rise, even if the reading is comprehensible.
    Every few months, unannounced I give students a "translation check-in," where they have to sight translate a very comprehensible story into English (about 1/2 page in length at the longest), but the story contains known vocabulary and structures. I call it a "check-in," because this is their way to "check-in" with me to demonstrate proficiency of concepts and of comprehension and also so that i can see which structures I need to review with them based on any errors. At the very end of the passage, I always ask students "I found this translation to be (choose one of the following): difficult, challenging yet doable, easy, very easy" and then I ask "Why?" Overwhelmingly, most students will respond "easy" or "very easy," with a few "challenging yet doable." I have yet to receive any "difficult." In responding to "why?" most students answer "Because it was a story, it was easy to understand what was happening" or "I knew all of the words." For anyone who wants an argument as to the importance of presenting vocabulary in a meaningful context, there it is! I am also amazed at how quickly they finish writing out their translations! In fact, a number of students write, "This was much easier to do than I thought. I thought it would take me a long time."

    For me personally, in every CI/TPRS workshop which I have attended where a new language was being demonstrated, I have always been grateful for the times where we translated into English purely for the establishment of meaning. There have been a number of occasions at Rusticationes where I have been completely lost and felt frustrated/overwhelmed, because no meaning was established (or meaning was established through the use of incomprehensible L2).

    Essentially, it is okay to translate into English for the purpose of establishing meaning or for checking comprehension, but when we solely focus on that English translation and not back on the original text in the target language, then we have missed the point.

    Some more resources on the topic:

    Reading is Essential in Second Language Class - article by Susan Gross quoted above

    Translation: Evil or Essential? - a blog post by Terry Waltz, a CI Chinese teacher

    Direct Translation: Lame...Not as Boring as You'd Think and Efffective - a blog post by Chris Stolz, a CI Spanish teacher.

    Volleyball Translation - a post by Martina Bex, a CI Spanish teacher. The comments section especially has some great discussion about the role of translating.

    When to Assess Reading Comprehension in English - another great post from Martina Bex. Because of this post, I now assess all of my reading comprehension on tests in English.

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    "Events" - Working in Past Tenses in Latin 1

    Here is a great way to introduce past tenses and to use them in a way which demonstrates the "past tense" nature as compared to the present tense.

    At NTPRS 2014, during my group's session with Blaine and Von Ray, they introduced the concept of "events," which essentially are flashbacks in a story with which students are already familiar.

    Now this concept of "events" was a departure from what I had learned at my first TPRS workshop in 2008, where Blaine Ray himself had said that it was important to teach past tenses as soon as possible, since most stories were written in the past tense; he posited that we should just begin telling stories using the past tense and expose students early to the concept. At NTPRS 2014, Blaine's changed his tune a bit, as he and Von explained that the use of "events" now allowed for past tenses to be used in a meaningful context, while at the same time distinguishing themseves from other tenses. After having implemented "events" in stories, I can definitely say that they work and are a wonderful tool to use.

    The set up is very simple: Take a story which you have already used with students, but the key part is that it needs to have been written in the present tense (I suppose you can take a story written in the imperfect/perfect tense if you wish to introduce the pluperfect tense). The idea now is to create a flashback which will either explain details of the original story or add new ones.

    So here is how I used an event to introduce the imperfect and perfect tenses in Latin 1. After roughly six weeks of school, I "revisited" the very first story which I had used with students.

    Part of Original Story
    Earl elephantum vult. Earl est tristis. Aliyah elephantum habet. Aliyah est laeta.

    Event (with original story embedded in it)
    hodie, Earl elephantum vult, sed heri Earl leonem volebat. heri Earl dixit, “ego leonem volo!”  mater leonem ei dedit. Earl erat laetus. sed leo patrem consumpsit. nunc Earl est tristis.

    hodie Aliyah elephantum habet. heri, Aliyah elephantum non habebat. Aliyah erat tristis. heri Aliyah erat in Arbys. Aliyah elephantum et senem vidit. Aliyah dixit, “ego elephantum volo.” Aliyah senem pulsavit. nunc Aliyah elephantum habet. Aliyah est laeta.

    1. I was surprised by how seamless it was for students to pick up the imperfect and perfect tenses this way.
    2. Using flashbacks in a meaningful context truly allowed for students to distinguish between the different tenses, because they were being used and contrasted at the same time.
    3. Because I was taking a story with which students were already familiar and one which involved their classmates, the flashbacks were compelling for them.
    4. Because I was limiting vocabulary, I could focus on taking known words and "milking the heck out of them grammarwise." When introducing the new language structures, because I was using known vocabulary words, students could focus purely on the new form and meaning. 
    5. The only new vocabulary words which I introduced were hodie, heri, and nunc, which served as adverbial timemarkers necessary for introducing the time shifts in the story. I also had to introduce the word erat.
    Now I try to write some type of "event" in all of my stories in order to work in both past and present tenses at the same time. There is no reason why I cannot introduce future tenses this way too!

    For some reason, "events" used to be known as "bird walks" - I do not quite know why...

    Wednesday, September 16, 2015

    Pancho Cumacho

    This is a VERY fun activity which I saw Alina Filipescu demonstrate at NTPRS this past summer. It is a great 5-10 minute activity which is a lot like Hot Potato, and it is definitely full of comprehensible (albeit fast) repetitions. My students LOVE this game and the fact that I the teacher will play the final round against them. Here is a link to a blog post which Alina has written up about Pancho Cumacho (there is also a video of the game).

    NOTE - for this game, even though I am using Latin words, I still keep the name Pancho Cumacho purely for the phonetics. I could not find a Latin name which would have the same effect.

    Thanks, Alina for showing us this game!

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    The Marker Partner Game

    Today, I played the Marker Partner Game with my students. This is an activity which Cynthia Hitz, a CI/TPRS Spanish teacher, mentioned in her ACTFL presentation last November. The game is a lot like Spoons, and yes, it is just as competitive and high-action! It is a great way to review a reading in the target language and to get in comprehensible repetitions of the language in a very fun way. If your class is in need of some much needed energy, this is a very dynamic activity.

    The directions can be found on Cynthia's blog -

    Cynthia has SO MUCH good stuff on her blog. She's a wonderful woman whom I only really know through Twitter; follow her @sonrisadelcampo. I have met Cynthia a few times in person at ACTFL, and I have learned a great deal from her blog and presentations. I recommend that you bookmark Cynthia's blog, because it is definitely worth reading.  

    Thursday, September 3, 2015

    Lesson Plan - Want to Have, Love, See. Take, Give to Him/Her

    I've received a lot of very positive feedback about my Week 1 Lesson Plan. Here is my lesson which I recently used to teach the verbs want to have, love, see, take, and give to him/her; and the nouns dog, money, and baby. I chose those particular verb structures, because they are high frequency, and because students already knew the verbs want and have, I could easily add on the infinitive to have and teach it as a single structure. It is not necessary to use those particular nouns, but to me, they seemed somewhat compelling for the story.

    English version
    Yoda sees Kim Kardashian. Yoda loves Kim. Kim sees Yoda. Yoda does not love Kim. 

    Kim wants to have a dog. Yoda sees a dog. Yoda takes the dog. Yoda gives the dog to her. Kim loves the dog, but aww shucks, Kim does not love Yoda.

    Kim wants to have money. Yoda sees money. Yoda takes the money. Yoda gives the money to her. Kim loves the money, but aww shucks, Kim does not love Yoda.

    Kim wants to have a baby. Yoda sees a baby. Yoda takes the baby. Yoda gives the baby to her. Kim loves the baby, but aww shucks, the baby explodes.

    Latin version
    Yoda Kim Kardashianem videt. Yoda Kimem amat.Kim Yodam videt. Kim Yodam non amat.

    Kim canem habere vult. Yoda canem videt. Yoda canem capit. Yoda canem ei dat. Kim canem amat, sed edepol! Kim Yodam non amat.

    Kim pecuniam habere vult. Yoda pecuniam videt. Yoda pecuniam capit. Yoda dulciolum ei dat. Kim pecuniam amat, sed edepol! Kim Yodam non amat.

    Kim infantem habere vult. Yoda infantem videt. Yoda infantem capit. Yoda infantem ei dat.

    Kim infantem amat, sed edepol!  infans displodit.

    Day 1

    Day 2
    2) Teacher retells story aloud and acts it out w/ circling and PQAs (sorry, no script this time!)

    Day 3
    1) Readers Theater of story (if you as the teacher play Movie Director with this, you can get students to redo their stage directions after each sentence to get in more reps of the language!)
    2) Choral Reading of story

    Day 4
    1) Read/Draw of story

    Day 5
    1) Partner retell of story in Latin, using Read/Draw
    2) 5-minute timed write of story, using Read/Draw as a story map

    Day 6
    1) Project student-written timed write endings and read as a class (pick out any endings which students wrote for their timed write, edit them for grammar purposes, and write them on a document or powerpoint)