Saturday, December 17, 2016

Top 5 of 2016

With the first semester of school coming to an end and with my winter break soon to begin, I am going on hiatus for the next few weeks. Below, however, are my top-5 viewed posts from this year:
  1. The Perils of Comparing and Despairing
  2. One Word at a Time (OWAT)
  3. Seeing Your Students
  4. The "Sex" Game
  5. Memory Card Game
I am amazed at how quickly this year has gone by, because I can vividly remember writing my top 5 post of 2015 one year ago, but somehow everything between that point and now is a blur. Professionally, it has been quite a year: I left my school after having taught there for 17 years to begin teaching at a new school, completed my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology, delivered numerous presentations and in-services on CI, attended IFLT for the first time and served as an apprentice coach there, joined a very pro-CI Latin department, and began teaching a CI novel for the first time. 

Since I posted weekly on my blog, it also appears that I did not run out of topics to discuss. Thanks to all who read this - I am deeply humbled that you feel like I have something significant to say on the matter. Whenever I go to conferences, I am floored (and rather embarrassed) to meet folks in person who tell me that they read this blog. I also have to laugh when these folks say that I come across a lot different "physically" both on my blog and Twitter. To quote a Twitter follower, "Glad to see you in person. You are much shorter than I envisioned you." I like to think that I make up for it with my charm and good looks...  

See you in 2017!


Monday, December 12, 2016

How Do The Characters Respond?

If you have a reading which has a lot of dialogue in it, here is a post-reading activity which can be used. I have no idea from whom I got this idea (or if I even got this idea from someone), but it is definitely a good quick activity which can be used to reinforce the reading. Plus, it does involve a degree of higher-order thinking.

Currently, Bob Patrick and I are reading Brando Brown Canem Vult in our classes. As it is the first time going through this novel, I have been going rather slow (maybe too slow), taking my time to preview vocabulary through various means. When we began Chapter 2, as the chapter is a dialogue between Brandon and his mother, we started with an 8-sentence dictation. From there, we did a number of different activities based on that dictation dialogue. 

One of the activities which we did was "How Do the Characters Respond?" where I started with Brandon's first statement and then gave students a choice of responses from the dictation dialogue. Here is what I did:

  1. We did this activity two days after the dictation. This was the 5th time in which students had reviewed this story (but 5th different way). By this point, students were very familiar with the dialogue and what each sentence was communicating. Students told me that it was not very difficult to pick the correct response.
  2. Even if students did not remember how each character exactly responded, many students told me that they were able to pick the correct answer based on context and what "made sense."
  3. This was another quick way for students to receive understandable messages and repetitions in a meaningful context. Students were also getting a review of all of the sentences from the dialogue.
  4. It is important to go over a reading multiple times in multiple ways, as students need to receive these messages in different ways (think differentiated learning). As Carol Gaab says, "The brain craves novelty."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Grammar "Errors" in a CI Classroom

Today, in my study hall, four of my Latin 1 students began to converse in Latin with each other. I was rather surprised to hear them doing this, because three of them had NEVER demonstrated any interest during class to converse in the language (outside of scaffolded output). What transpired between the four of them was a rather spontaneous 10-minute conversation in Latin, using language which we had been going over this semester. Now to be honest, it was not a high-level dialogue about anything in particular, and their language usage was FAR from correct - it was messy, full of "errors," and would have hurt the ears of many Latinists - but all I could think was "Oh my gosh, these students are communicating IN LATIN!" I cannot tell how happy I was to hear them conversing in simple Latin, errors and all. I just sat back and let them talk, not even trying to correct them and only giving them corrections when they asked. 

What transpired today reminded me of something which I had seen on Twitter not too long ago:

Which teacher are you - the one on the left or on the right? I can honestly say that I once was the teacher on the left for the longest time, because isn't error correction what we are supposed to do as language teachers? I think, however, that we as world language teachers forget just how difficult it is to for language to come out of the mouths of our students for the purpose of communication, let alone correctly.

How do I know this? Because I myself have been there when it comes to speaking Latin. To understand my situation, you need to understand that I learned Latin in high school, college, and graduate school with the grammar-translation method - quite honestly, I had no idea that any other method existed. Why should there be if our goal was simply to translate classical works into English and to discuss them in English, in addition to parsing the heck out of every word? Yes, being a 4%er, I really liked that (and still do to a degree now)...

So going into my first Rusticatio in 2010, even though I knew that I would struggle some since I had never had spoken Latin before, in my opinion, as I had both my B.A. and M.A. in Latin, and since I "knew" grammar, speaking should not be too difficult. Boy, was I wrong. Yes, although I had a brain full of grammar knowledge, I had never used it for communicative purposes. When it came to speaking Latin, I had no clue what I was doing. I remember how absolutely difficult it was to SAY ANYTHING in Latin, let alone communicate in a conversation in the language. For me, just to get ANY language to come out of my mouth was a major victory. I found myself making TONS of grammar errors, and I was absolutely frustrated that I was making what seemed to be very basic mistakes.

Luckily, Nancy Llewellyn, the leader of Rusticatio that summer, had warned us on the opening night that making grammar errors in the language was part of the process. In what I always call her "red pen" talk, she said,
You are going to make the same kinds of grammar errors that if your own students were to make them, you would skin your knees running to grab a red pen to correct them.
Rusticatio even has a rule about grammar correction: it is to only occur when the delivered message is incomprehensible and not understandable. This is a rule which I believe that we need to apply in our classrooms. But even at that, I think that we need to exercise a degree of caution, because in its speaking proficiency guidelines, ACTFL itself states that even "Intermediate Low speakers can generally be understood by sympathetic interlocutors, particularly by those accustomed to dealing with non-natives." The key word is sympathetic - even if what my students say is horribly wrong grammatically, can I still understand what they are trying to say? At my first Rusticatio, I remember saying "ego cena parat," and even though that is so grammatically wrong on so many levels, I remember as a beginning speaker how difficult it was for me to get that to come out of my mouth, but at the same, those around me knew what I was attempting to say.

I have even heard a number of CI teachers say that in many ways, there is no such thing as "conscious errors" for speakers, since they are applying their known knowledge of the language at that particular moment. Someone once told me that even recasting (the act of restating the speaker's error with the corrected form) is not always effective unless the corrected speaker actively knows that he/she is being corrected. 

So while we can make overt grammar correction for beginning speakers, in many ways, I firmly believe that these speakers simply need more input. If we as world language teachers believe that all students learn at their own pace, then we must also believe that students will produce correct language at their own pace. I believe Michelle Kindt says it best in this tweet regarding language acquisition:

Some random observations based on my students today
  1. Even though I am nowhere speaking anywhere near the 90% target language goal in class, whatever I am speaking and having students read in the target language is still effective, as these students were able to produce language on their own without being forced. That makes me feel good that I am doing something right!
  2. At the end of study hall, I told these students that I was impressed by their spontaneous dialogue in Latin. I told them, "You do realize that I never once made you make flash cards to learn those words." One student responded, "That is really weird. Somehow I just know these words inside me." That is proof to me of subconscious input and acquisition!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Culture Lesson Plan - Roman Pets

As part of our Brandon Brown Canem Vult -1st Chapter Lesson Plan, Bob Patrick and I introduced animalia domestica Romana (Roman pets) as our culture topic. Since our goal was to introduce culture in the target language through a comprehensible reading (see here for a previous post on this topic), this is the lesson plan which we used. Bob wrote the original reading which we then embedded in different ways:

Day 1
  1. Warm up - project ppt slide of various animals and ask questions in Latin about "which animal .....?" (powerpoint, script)
  2. Dictatio - short version of the original passage (dictatio script, dictatio ppt to project)
Day 2
  1. Complete dictatio as needed
  2. Review dictatio passage through choral reading
  3. Play multiple rounds of Socrative review (Space Race) of dictatio passage - directions:
    a) importing quiz into your own list of Socrative quizzes - the SOC code # is SOC-25027325
Day 3
  1. Read/Draw/Discuss of the dictatio passage
Day 4
  1. Complete Read/Draw/Discuss as needed
  2. Timed write using Read/Draw
Day 5
  1. Read full Animalia Domestica reading
  2. Draw 1-2-3 of one paragraph from the full reading
  1. I really liked this passage which Bob wrote, because it gave students an understanding of why particular pets were more favorable to the Romans than others.I actually learned a lot from the passage.
  2. When doing the dictatio, due to the constant repetitions of phrases, I actually had students predicting aloud what the next words/phrases were going to be as I was reading it aloud. Yep, CI works!
  3. By the time students got to the full reading, most found it to be quite easy to read due to having the foundation of the earlier embedded reading.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thank You

Just recently, my blog passed over 150,000 page views. My blog has been around for only three years, and I am absolutely blown away by this. As I have written before here, when I first started this blog in December 2013, I would have been happy if I were to get around 100-200 views a month. Lately, I have been averaging over 12,000 page views a month. I do not say this to brag, but rather to say, "Who is reading my blog?" What started out as a blog purely for CI Latin teachers (and at that time three years ago, I would have said there was just a handful) is now being read by teachers of all languages who are wanting to learn about CI. I am absolutely in awe of the number of Latin teachers now wanting to incorporate CI into their classrooms. I am incredibly grateful if I have played any type of role in this movement in the Latin community.

I can honestly say that there is nothing special about me as a CI teacher. I am not that skilled as a speaker of Latin - I am probably a strong Intermediate Mid/High speaker. If you were to observe my classroom, I am certain that you would walk away scratching your head, thinking bewildered, "Really?", because I do not think that I am that exciting of a teacher. I know that my own students would agree with me (a prophet is without honor in his own country). I am certainly not in the target language anywhere near 90% of the time . There are other CI Latin teachers out there who know so much more about Comprehensible Input than I do, can talk in great depth about it, and whose students are the prime results of what a CI classroom can produce. Whenever I have been asked to deliver CI presentations, so many times I want to respond, "Are you sure you don't want to ask __________? That person really knows what it is all about." I feel like I am the perfect example of "those who cannot do, blog." I do not say this to fish for compliments or to put on false humility. I just do not think that there is anything special about me as a teacher. I am simply a teacher trying his best to implement CI.

But somehow whenever I blog, the words seem to come out. Put me in front of an audience, and I am 100% comfortable talking about my experiences with CI (as a whole, I am actually more relaxed talking in front of large audiences than I am one-on-one). Whenever I do give CI presentations, there is a large part of me that is always amazed that I seem to know what I am talking about!

I am so appreciative of the CI community as a whole, because those teachers are ones from whom I am learning all of this, and the community has been so gracious in receiving me into its fold. This past weekend, it was so nice to receive some "Why aren't you here in ACTFL with us?" tweets from a number of these teachers. It is nice to have these people in my corner.  

So as long as you all think that I have something to say, I will continue to blog. Both what I write and how I write appear to resonate with people. I so appreciate the comments which people leave - I cannot tell you how uplifting it is to know that folks find value in what I am writing. 

I am grateful that you all are continuing to join me in my CI journey. Here is to getting 200,000 page views!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Movie Talk script - The Present

In trying to pre-teach vocabulary for the 2nd chapter of Brando Brown Canem Vult, I wanted to do a Movie Talk which incorporated the words birthday, birthday party, bring, gift/present. Quite honestly, I could find NOTHING on the Movie Talk database relating to these words. I was shocked, because I thought for sure that there would be an animated short about a children's birthday party. 

On Vimeo, I did, however, come across this animated short called The Present (I have now added it to the Movie Talk database). Although it does not have a birthday party in it, I could pre-teach words like gift and brings. It is only about 3 1/2 minutes, but wow, it is really good! At IFLT this past summer, Katya Paukova said that the best movie talks are those which engage the emotions - I saw Katya demonstrate one involving a one-minute Budweiser commercial which totally drew me in due to its emotional content. The Present is definitely one which will hold students' attention (much like Bear Story, although my students have made me swear never to show anything that sad again!).

Below are scripts in Latin and in English. Hope you can find them useful!

English script

Latin script.

1) Even though The Present is only 3 1/2 minutes, it allows for lots of repetitions and some great opportunities for circling. I was able to get a lot out of this movie short.

2) Stop at 2:33, and then go back to the beginning to watch it again all the way through uninterrupted. I did not want to ruin the impact of the ending with me interspersing circling questions.

3) I actually had a number of students show this movie short to their parents that evening!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

This Time of the Year

I have a confession to make: at this very moment, I am having a love/hate relationship with teaching, and unfortunately, the "hate" part seems to be winning. For the past 6 weeks or so, I have found myself absolutely questioning why I am still a teacher in the classroom. I feel like teaching has turned into a laborious and toilsome effort for me. I feel like I have been faithfully applying CI in my classroom, but I also feel like I am "teaching the walls" on many days, as students do not seem to respond as they did before - has the novelty of me and of a CI classroom worn off for them? Am I now just viewed as a tremendous joke in the eyes of my students? Even though I know for a fact that students have acquired a great deal of Latin after just 14 weeks, am I moving too slowly? Have they acquired too little? Am I actually doing them a disservice? Am I an effective teacher at all? As a result of all of this, now that I have completed my Ed.S degree and am certified in Instructional Technology, the thought of leaving the Latin classroom to become a school technology coordinator or an instructional coach has become a more tangible, tempting possible pursuit.

In light of all of this though, here is what I know to be true: I always feel EXACTLY this very way about teaching at EXACTLY this time of the year EVERY year. And EVERY year, I get through it.

In other words, when I take a step back from it all, what I am feeling is absolutely normal and part of the teaching experience. It is part of being human. That is actually very encouraging, i.e., it is not I per se who is the problem - it is just par for the course of teaching. As a teacher, I absolutely hate this time of the year. As school begins the second week of August here in Georgia, we have been in session for four months. I am utterly burned out with school, and students are burned out too. Believe me, how I wish my district had a fall break!

Recently, I was clearing out my email inbox, and I came across an email exchange with Bob Patrick from 2015 (both of us were at different schools at the time) where I was lamenting about departmental issues at my school, how unhappy I was with the situation, and how I was wanting to leave. When I looked at the email date, it was exactly at the same time of the year as now. Part of me had to laugh at the email, because in retrospect, it seemed like such an over-reaction on my part, as the situation eventually corrected itself, but as I read over the emails, the feelings behind them are still very real. 

For any teacher out there who is feeling the same as I am right now, I do not write this to minimize or to invalidate what you are experiencing. Based on my own personal experiences, I know these experiences and feelings all to be incredibly real. I completely understanding how overwhelming all of this can feel. I wish that I had some pat answer or some magic pill for getting through this. All I know is that somehow for the past almost 20 years of teaching, I have made it through this time of the year. Quite honestly, it has been one day at at a time and on many days, it has been one period at a time. Regardless of how battered, bruised, and broken I feel and although I may end up crawling across the finish line in December, I have always made it through. Winter Break recharges me, as both teachers and students receive a much needed break from each other, and suddenly, I am ready to teach again in January. To be truthful, that gives me a lot of hope and actually is a comfort.  

In addition, my community of fellow teachers (both local and online) brings me a lot of comfort, encouragement, and fellowship. Attending/presenting at summer conferences like IFLT and NTPRS always renews me afresh to the point that I am chomping at the bit to return to the classroom and that my annual October blues seem like a distant memory.

Maybe one day I will indeed leave the classroom to pursue being an instructional coach or a school technology coordinator. If that happens, I also know that those positions have their own set of problems different from a classroom teacher; I would be a fool to think differently. But for now, I will faithfully keep doing what I am doing in the classroom, although my heart may not be fully in it on certain days. I have to believe that even though my students may be dull and unresponsive, they are still receiving and acquiring understandable messages from me in the target language. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Brando Brown Canem Vult - Chapter 1 Lesson Plan

Bob Patrick and I have begun to read Brando Brown Canem Vult in our Latin 1 classes. This is the lesson plan which I crafted for chapter 1, but I can take no real credit for it, as I have adapted many ideas from blogs which had lesson ideas for the Spanish version of the book. 

NOTE - prior to students' reading this, Bob and I pre-taught roughly 90% of the vocabulary in the first chapter, i.e., this was not a sight-reading for students, nor did we use the first chapter to teach vocabulary. See my post here on the importance of pre-teaching vocabulary.  

Day 1
  1. Introduce the main characters of BBCV (script). I adapted this script from a Spanish script which Mike Coxon had on his blog. Mike actually got this from one of his colleagues, Megan Ramsey. This is a great script, and I can take absolutely no credit for it, other than adapting it into Latin.
Day 2
  1. Students complete an "embedded" cartoon of the 1st chapter. This cartoon highlights the main sentences of the 1st chapter and will prepare them for the main reading on Day 3, as these sentences will show up in the reading. (cartoon)
Day 3
  1. Hand out the books to students and read the 1st chapter aloud, as they follow along in the book. Circle and ask questions as you go along. Do comprehension checks throughout the reading. PQA can also be helpful.
  2. Students complete a survey. I created a Google Forms survey which asked one question: How much of the reading did you understand - none, some of it, half of it, most of it, the majority of it?
Day 4
  1. Do a Verum/Falsum warmup regarding facts in the 1st chapter. (ppt)
  2. Do a Quis Diceret (who would say this?) discussion about characters in the 1st chapter. I learned this activity from Carol Gaab at a NTPRS conference. (ppt)
  3. Play Kahoot game regarding the 1st chapter. Play first as a regular game and then again in Ghost Mode. (link to Kahoot game in Latin)
Day 5
  1. Do warm-up by writing a chart on the board and having students respond in Latin. 
  2. Ping-pong/volleyball reading of 1st chapter. 
  3. Timed write of the 1st chapter.
Day 6 and following
Bob wrote up a cultural reading on Roman pets. I will share this and how we taught it in a later post.

  1. I was absolutely floored by how smoothly the reading went and how students kept saying "how easy it was to read." I credit this to pre-teaching the majority of the vocabulary and to Carol Gaab's brilliant crafting of the story with limited vocabulary and TONS of meaningful and compelling repetitions!
  2. After the reading on Day 3, 90% of the students who answered the survey said that they were able to understand at least half of it (with the majority stating that they understood the majority of it). On Day 4, I was absolutely floored by how well they were able to answer and to take part in the post-reading discussions/activities i.e., they really did understand it! 
  3. The cartoon was not actually part of the original lesson plan. I had planned to jump into the reading on Day 2, but Bob ended up getting sick on that day, so we decided to create a preview cartoon for Day 2. This actually worked in favor for our students, as it eased them into the reading and served as an embedded reading for them.
  4. You may want to do a read-dating or airplane reading for the ping-pong/volleyball reading, because I gave students 10-minutes to read this in partners, and although students could read the chapter, they complained that 10 minutes seemed like a long time. Adding movement of some kind may add some novelty to the activity and make student unaware of the time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Importance of Pre-Teaching Vocabulary

Bob Patrick and I have begun teaching Brando Brown Canem Vult in our Latin 1 classes at Parkview. As I have never taught a CI novella before, this is all new to me. I am definitely learning a lot in the process! 

In my Latin CI journey over the past few years, one of the biggest concepts which I have learned is the difference between reading and translating/decodingWhen I was learning Latin in high school and in my college/graduate level Latin courses, "reading" consisted solely of decoding large portions of classical texts, which were written at a VERY high level of Latin. In order for me to translate the text, it was necessary for me to have a Latin dictionary, a grammar primer of some kind, and an English translation of the text in order for me to check if I had gotten it correct. To me, that was reading, when in reality it was very tedious decoding. I was not doing any reading at all, because the language structures and vocabulary were beyond my knowledge, so I had to rely 100% on a dictionary, grammar books, and an actual translation to establish meaning. Due to my experiences at Rusticatio and in teaching CI, I have learned that reading and translating are two completely different skills and that it is possible to read Latin as Latin! I had never experienced that before in my college and graduate classes, as we focused purely on translation/decoding. 

In order to ensure that something is readable, one must be familiar with 90% of the words in the text. When a large portion of words are unknown to the reader, frustration ensues, and one's affective filter rises. Readers will give up if a reading is incomprehensible. So many times when we see students give up on a reading, we blame the student and label him/her as "lazy" - have we ever thought that this is actually a normal reaction to a text which he/she finds incomprehensible?

Because I wanted students to start reading Brando Brown Canem Vult this semester, it required me to be 100% deliberate in what vocabulary I taught leading up to it. At the very beginning of the semester, using an online word count tool, I entered in the first chapter of BBCV (a downloadable PDF of the first chapter exists on the TPRS Publishing website) in order to determine word frequency (at this time, a Latin teacher's edition does not exist, but I am assuming that the TE will have something like this when it comes out). This is what I found:

This list became my guide as to what vocabulary words I was going to preteach for the semester so that students could read the first chapter. For 11 weeks, my goal was for students to acquire at least 50 of the words (a number of the words on the list are cognates or only appear once in the chapter so those words could be glossed) through various stories and activities so that by the 12th week, the first chapter would be quite comprehensible for students. During these 12 weeks, Bob and I also taught more words than just these, as we also did a cultural reading on Roman houses vs. insulae, and we did a reading on the creation myth. My goal, however, was always to begin Brando Brown Canem Vult by mid-end of October.

When it came time to introduce the first chapter, I was quite nervous if students would find the reading difficult. Just because I had pretaught most of the vocabulary did not necessarily mean that it would transfer to student ease in reading the novella. For the first day of reading, I simply handed the books to students and had them follow along as I read the first chapter aloud to them. When I was done, I asked them what they thought. The majority of students said, "That was actually pretty easy." I took that with a grain of salt, though, because in my mind I kept thinking, "Just because students say that it was easy does not mean that they totally understood what they read." On the following day, I did some post-reading activities (of which one was a Kahoot game completely in Latin based on the 1st chapter), and I was blown away by how students responded in the target language. Yes, the majority of students truly understood what they had read! The fact that they knew most of the vocabulary words in the first chapter had to mean something in terms of their comprehension! A few students even commented to me, "Now I understand why you had use learn words like molestus and ingeniosus."

Next post: the Brando Brown Canem Vult 1st Chapter Lesson Plan

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Using Optical Illusions to Teach Numbers

My friend Justin Slocum Bailey has a TON of CI resources posted on his Indwelling Language website. Just recently, I have been using many of them in my Latin 1 classes, and quite honestly, I do not know why I waited so long to use them.

For the past few weeks, I have been using Justin's idea of using pictures to generate language. He has a GREAT post here with directions and links to picture websites. I have been using many of these pictures in Latin 1 as warmups in order to give students more input of the language and for students to respond with "output."

Lately, I have been using optical illusion pictures where students have to find "how many of X" are in the picture. This is a GREAT way to get in repetitions of cardinal and ordinal numbers in a MEANINGFUL context. Although I could simply teach students to count to X in Latin (boring), when using a context to teach numbers, it is a lot more personal (and we know the value of personalization in a CI classroom!).

Recently, I used the following picture (note - this picture required me to know the names of animals in Latin):

I simply opened by asking my Latin 1 classes "Quot animalia in pictura sunt?" (You can also ask "Quot animalia in pictura videtis?" to change the language structures). Students will most likely call out numbers in English - I am fine with this, because I will then recast their answers in Latin. If you do this enough, students will start to call out their answers in the target language. Once I figured that students had reached their answers, then I began to explain the picture in Latin and to point out the various animals. Example:

primum animal in pictura est serpens (point to the serpent). Unum animal! secundum animal in pictura est procyon (racoon). Unum animal (point to serpent), duo animalia (point to racoon)! primum animal est serpens, secundum animal est procyon, tertium animal in pictura est testudo (point to turtle). Unum (point to serpent), duo (point to racoon), tria animalia (point to turtle)!...

In using these types of pictures, I was able to get in LOTS of repetitions of cardinal and ordinal numbers simultaneously in a meaningful context. Do I expect them to remember the cardinal and ordinal numbers in Latin immediately after this and to be able to recite them? Not really (although my high-flying students may be able to), but that was never my goal per se - my goal was to deliver understandable messages in the language.

  1. Optical illusions work, because students will be automatically engaged in them. These types of pictures serve as a common activity in which the entire class can be involved.
  2. In many ways with optical illusions, there is no "true" right answer, because what one person sees is not always seen by another and may never be seen by another, even after it is pointed out. Just because I do not see something which a student sees, it does not mean that it is not "there.
  3. "Depending on the picture, one can introduce a number of different vocabulary items in the target langage, such as body parts, animals, shapes, etc. 
P.S. For the record, there are 15 animals in the above picture, 16 if you count the "elephant."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Short and Sweet" Follow-up Lesson Plan

The following is the Latin lesson plan which I created based on the Short and Sweet Movie Talk from the previous blog posting. Once again, I thank Lauren Watson for sharing some of her ideas with me! I have also included English versions so that you can adapt it for your own target language. 

Latin target words
puella, puer, magnus, parvus, valde, inquit, eheu, quod, alter

English target words
girl, boy, big, small, very much, says, oh dear, because, the other

Day 1 
Short and Sweet Movie Talk to introduce target words

Day 2
1) Introduce short reading based on Short and Sweet Movie Talk, using circling and PQAs (Latin story to project/ English version)
2) Choral reading to establish meaning 
3) Play Stultus with the reading
4) Class blind retell of story in target language based on screenshots (pictures to project)

Day 3
1) Cloze sentence activity (ppt to project)
2) Parallel story reading (Latin story / English version)
3) Sentence Flyswatter (pictures to project)

Day 4
Find the Sentence (handout)
Timed Write

Day 5
Ping-pong reading of embedded version of story (Latin version #2 of story/ English version)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Movie Talk Script - Short and Sweet

Yesterday, Bob Patrick, Lauren Watson, and I were invited to give a 1/2 day CI in-service at a neighboring county about an hour away. Bob, Lauren, and I have given numerous CI in-services in our own district, so we felt very honored to have the chance to visit another district to share our CI knowledge (in fact, a teacher in that district asked us to come, because she found our names through Martina Bex's database of CI teachers - thanks, Martina!).

I always love giving presentations with Bob and Lauren, because I get the chance to learn so much from them during their demos. Lauren teaches French, so learning some French via CI is ALWAYS helpful, because I get to experience her demo like a student. Yesterday, Lauren's demo was a Movie Talk in French, and I really liked what she much that as a result, I actually typed it up in Latin and did it today with my own Latin 1 classes. It is with Lauren's permission that I share her Movie Talk with you here. 

The Movie Talk is called Short and Sweet, and Lauren used it to introduce words such as boy, girl, loves, big, small, not, sad, says. It is actually very short, but you can do SO much with this. I was actually surprised at how engaged my students were in watching it.

English script

Latin script

  1. When Lauren demonstrated this, she only showed it up to 1:50 the first time, because there is a plot twist which occurs. It is best when the Movie Talk is shown completely through a second time uninterrupted with the ending.
  2. Lauren also showed it without sound the first time. She says that she likes to do this in order to keep students focused. Normally I will do a Movie Talk with the sound, but for this one, I would do the first run-through without sound, because I found the background music to be very annoying - it sounds like something from the Kahoot soundtrack.
  3. My students absolutely were totally taken in by the plot twist at the end (as was I when I saw it the first time). 
Thanks, Lauren - my students really enjoyed it. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Professional Development Fails

If you are like me, I dread teacher in-service days. Although these days are devoted to teacher training, in many ways, these in-services present overarching topics which have no application to me and to my classroom, or they are poorly implemented. Let me make it clear up front that I am a firm believer that teachers continuously need to better themselves in their craft and that ongoing professional development needs to play an important part of a teacher's career. The problem lies in forcing teachers to attend professional in-services which do not treat or view teachers as "professionals." As a result, most teachers find professional development insulting.

In my educational leadership courses in my Ed.S program, I learned much about proper professional development facilitation. One of the primary reasons why professional development courses fail (outside of no teacher input in what is being offered, hence there is no buy-in) is that there is absolutely no proper follow up afterwards. Most in-services cast out a net of general information, but unfortunately, the net is never retrieved to see who is interested. Those who wish to learn more are left empty-handed and are forced to pursue further information on their own, or they end up leaving it behind, because it is just too much work to pursue on their own; most often, the latter occurs. 

I feel like the same can be said about CI training. Teachers attend CI sessions at conferences or even a weeklong conference like NTPRS or IFLT, and as a result, they walk away with a desire to implement what they have learned. However, when these teachers have questions or their CI buzz starts to wear off and need that extra bit of motivation from a mentor, they have nowhere to turn really for continuous professional CI development. While blogs, professional learning networks (PLN), and social media can help, they can only go so far - there is nothing like personal interaction and mentoring from those in a CI community.

I will admit that I am 100% guilty of perpetuating this problem. For the past few summers, along with a number of CI teachers in my district, I have helped create and facilitate a district-wide 20-hour, 4-day CI workshop for interested world language teachers; over 40 teachers have attend each of these workshops. This past summer, Bob Patrick, Rachel Ash, and I delivered a 6-hour PreInstitute CI workshop at the American Classical League Summer Institute, and over 50 Latin teachers attended! In each of these cases, I wanted to have some type of follow-up training (either face-to-face or online) for those who attended, but unfortunately, life and work got in the way. I wonder how many of these teachers who were so gung-ho about CI following these workshops have fallen by the wayside and have returned to their former ways of teaching, because there was no one there to aid in their CI development. Even as I write this, I am trying to create a TCI Atlanta/GA group for CI teachers in my area, but I am finding it difficult to carve out time for it. O that CI professional development and follow-up could be my full-time job!

I am so grateful though that all over the country, pockets of CI communities have been developing which have served as support and a place for continued CI development. Local groups such as TriStates TCI and TCI Ohio offer ongoing professional CI training opportunities and community (this is why I would like to form a TCI Atlanta/GA group), and 1-2 day CI regional conferences like TCI Maine, CI Iowa, and CI Midwest are gaining momentum and popularity among CI users. 

Are you looking for some local CI support and community? Here are some suggestions:
  • On her blog, Martina Bex has compiled a list of CI teachers from all over the country who have volunteered to be a support for interested CI users.
  • Consider forming a local TCI group in your area. It only takes a few interested teachers to do this. Years ago, Alaska CI teachers Martina Bex, Michele Whaley, Betsy Paskvan and others began meeting on a Friday evening to share ideas - what a group that must have been! I still say that one day I need to go to Alaska so that I can learn Spanish from Martina, Japanese from Betsy, and Russian from Michele.
  • Network like crazy when attending CI workshops! 
For those teachers wanting support, I wish you the best in finding local CI support. I am not much of a CI expert, but you can always drop me an email ( or leave a comment on my blog if you need some community. For those of you in the Atlanta/GA, I am in the process of crafting an email which will announce the formation of a TCI Atlanta/GA group. Now if I can remember to finish it and to push "send"...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Learning to Introduce Culture in a CI Classroom

I have always enjoyed teaching Roman culture to students, because it is such a rich topic. In the past, I have had students who have absolutely hated reading Latin but when it came to culture, they enjoyed every moment of the discussion. Many Latin textbooks try to tie in their readings to a particular cultural topic, such as the baths, gladiatorial games, life in different parts of the Roman empire, etc. The problem though has been that so many times, the actual teaching of culture is relegated to an English section. While this does provide lots of useful information, as a language teacher, I want my students to learn about culture in the language itself, so that culture is not viewed as outside of the language but rather as part of the language. The other side of it though is that one can go overboard with too much vocabulary in a creating a culture-based reading in Latin so that it ends up becoming too incomprehensible and overwhelming for students to read.

At my former school, when I made the decision to do a hybrid textbook/CI approach, I loved the freedom to be able to teach the textbook in whatever way I wanted and in whatever order I wanted. The problem, though, was that I still had to cover the culture sections from the textbook, as that was on my instructional team's final exam. To teach the depth of the cultural material in a level-appropriate target language manner did not seem possible, so I would always have to take a full-day to cover the culture material in English through a lecture so that I could get it out of the way. 

At my new school, however, where I am one of five CI Latin teachers and where we all have completely "untextbooked," culture is introduced and taught through a level-appropriate reading. In other words, like any other reading passage, the cultural reading involves pre-reading, reading, and post-reading. Bob Patrick and I teach all of the Latin 1 sections (we have nine!), so last week, we decided that we wanted to introduce the Roman domus vs. insulae. As a result, Bob wrote up a reading passage in a level-appropriate, Latin 1 language which explained life in the Roman insula vs. domus, which also included an adapted version of Horace's "City Mouse and Country Mouse" story. While Bob wrote the passage, I was in charge of creating the lesson plans. For some reason, when given this task, I found myself struggling to do this, because it meant introducing lots of topic-specific words about the house - how could I introduce these words in a compelling way?

The following is my lesson plan for how Bob and I "taught" the Roman insula for Latin 1 (we just finished this yesterday!). The goal is to use the Horace story as a transition for another reading about the Roman house (this will be a later blog posting):


In Romā antiquā (ancient), multī hōminēs (people) in insulīs (apartment buildings) habitaverunt.  Frequenter, familia in unō conclavi (room) habitavit.  Aqua non in insulīs erat (there was). Latrina non in insulīs erat. Aqua publica erat. Latrina publica erat.  Culina non in insulīs erat. Cubiculum non in insulīs erat. unum conclave (room) erat (there was), et tota (entire) familia in conclavi (room)  habitavit. difficile erat (it was) in insulīs habitāre.

Day 1
  1. Target vocabulary - culina, cubiculum, tablinum, latrina, coquit, dormit, scribit, dentes fricat. Preview target vocabulary by writing them on the board with their English meanings. Go over each word and their meaning. Ask English derivatives as a way for students to connect words with known vocabulary.
  2. Rooms of the house PowerPoint with circling and PQAs - if you are familiar with stage 1 of CLC, you will recognize these types of sentences! Some great PQAs for this are "cui Kanye coquit? cur?", "cui Praeses Obama scribit? Donald Trumpo? Justin Biebero?", "mavis dormire in cubiculo an in culina?" "mavis dentes fricare in latrina an in culina? in cubiculo?"
  3. Movie Talk - iPad vs. Paper
Day 2
  1. Review rooms of the house ppt
  2. Target vocabulary for Movie Talk - vir, cubiculum, latrina, intrat, abit, horologium, per scalas descendit, culina, domum, iterum. Preview target vocabulary by writing them on the board with their English meanings. Go over each word and their meaning. Ask English derivatives as a way for students to connect words with known vocabulary.
  3. Movie Talk - Destiny
Day 3
  1. mavis habitare ppt - this activity actually took MUCH longer than I thought it would, as students really wanted to discuss this!
  2. Hand out reading for students to read silently
  3. Review reading in order to establish meaning. 
  4. Discuss culture in English to "fill in the gaps."
Day 4
  1. Review reading if needed
  2. Verum/Falsum de Insulis ppt - students wanted to use whiteboards to show me their answers
  3. Products, Practices, and Perspectives handout - this helps students better understand the three P's but still use the passage. I was surprised at how QUICKLY students were able to complete this after only having gone through the reading the day before!
  1. Although I felt like I struggled to create a lesson plan which surrounded a culture-based reading, I was pleased with the results.
  2. Though the idea of a CI-based reading to introduce culture did not feel natural to me, students did not seem to think that it was any different from what we had been doing before. 
  3. I love this approach! It is still going to take me time to learn how to do it better, but I am definitely on board with doing it this way!
I will blog in the future about how the rest of the culture-based reading on the Roman house and the adapted Horace story goes, as that is currently a work in progress - not ready for public viewing yet.