Thursday, March 31, 2016

CI is the New Buzzword

Recently at a conference, a fellow-CI user attended a session which was publicized as one involving CI (the words "Comprehensible Input" were in the title). To her surprise, she found that the session really had nothing to do with CI, as the speaker was focusing on full immersion, forced output, and no translation into L1 for the establishment of meaning. Yet, the speaker was saying that these were all components of a CI classroom. 

The term "CI" has become the new buzzword in world language education, but unfortunately, I do not think that many people who use the term truly understand it. On the one hand, I am happy to see that many teachers are embracing CI, but I also do not like the fact that CI has become "trendy." As I write this, please do not think that I wish to play "CI police" or that I own the market on CI, since I too still am learning about Comprehensible Input. By no means am I a full expert on the topic. 

In many occasions, however, a misinformation regarding CI is disseminated. This may be the result of a number of reasons. Now there is a difference between those who knowingly use the term CI but possess a limited understanding of it and acknowledge that they want to learn more about it vs. those who use the word generously but think it to be something else. I feel that there are many out there who possess an academic knowledge of CI but not a heart understanding of it.

Ways to learn about CI:
  1. Attend a local CI workshop in your area. Here is a listing of Blaine Ray TPRS workshops, and Laurie Clarcq has an updated list on her blog
  2. Read CI blogs. On the sidebar, there is a listing of CI blogs which I regularly read.
  3. Join CI communities, either online or in person.
  4. Attend national CI conferences, such as NTPRS and IFLT.
  5. Collaborate with other CI users, either online or in person. This is key. I really do not think that I would be the CI teacher which I am today if it were not for a my community of local CI users.
Although learning about CI through reading blogs is helpful, in my opinion, it is not enough, as it is limited; blogs can only go so far in teaching about CI. I cannot say it enough: one of the best ways to understand Comprehensible Input is to experience it first hand learning another language which you do not know from a teacher using CI and to experience all components of the language (listening, reading, writing, speaking) in a CI manner. I always point to my experiences with Blaine Ray at my first TPRS workshop where I learned German and with Betsy Paskvan at two NTPRS conferences where I learned Japanese. The first hand experiential knowledge of CI is key, because you will understand how your own students feel in your classroom.

I have found that in my own experience that the more I learn about CI, the more I teach using it, and most importantly, the more I myself experience it, the deeper my knowledge of CI becomes. I hope the same for you too.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

CI Sessions at the 2016 ACL Summer Institute

At this summer's American Classical League Summer Institute (the national conference for Latin teachers), there will be NINE CI-based/friendly presentations. This is up from four presentations last year! If you are a Latin teacher who is interested in CI, consider attending the 2016 ACL Summer Institute and checking out one (if not all!) of the following presentations.

6-hour PreInstitute Workshop
  • Comprehensible Input Strategies: Scaffolding and Sequencing for the Latin Classroom - Keith Toda, Robert Patrick,  Rachel Ash
Regular Presentations
  • Technology in the Comprehensible Input Latin Classroom: How to Go Beyond Kahoot - Keith Toda
  • Let's Make a Story! ‐ Story‐Asking for the Comprehensible Input Classroom - John Bracey
  • Hard Grammar? What Hard Grammar? Justin Bailey
  • Comprehensible Consequences - Traci Dougherty
  • Teaching Vocabulary with Movie Shorts - Rachel Ash
  • Gradūs Parvī: Creating Tiered Readings for Any Level of Instruction - Kevin Ballestrini
  • The Value of Writing in the Cl Classroom - Robert Patrick
  • Teaching Latin with a Novel‐‐All Modes of Communication - Robert Patrick
If there are other CI presentations of which you know, please let me know so that I can add them to this list.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Camera Freeze Frame

If you are looking for a good 1.5 day project, this is a good one. Camera Freeze Frame is an activity which I learned from Carrie Toth at NTPRS a few years ago, and it is an extension of another activity which I had done in the past. Essentially, the basic idea is to give students a digital camera, with which they will take pictures which depict scenes from a particular story. These pictures can then be used as a matching activity (which scene is this from the story?) or as a digital storybook. Carrie Toth has taken this idea to a whole new level using the app Educreations.

The concept is still the same: give students a digital camera and have them depict scenes from a story which the class has been reading.

PreClass Directions:
As the teacher, you will need to do the following:
  1. Pick out a short story which students will depict using pictures. I have found that the story should be no more than 9 sentences due to time restrictions.
  2. Organize the class into groups of 6 (if possible). I preselected the groups myself based on student personality types so that there would be a mix.
  3. Set up a Google Drive folder where students will deposit their pictures
  4. Reserve digital cameras for the class. Each group will need a camera. I chose not for students to use their phones, because since they will upload their pictures to Google Drive, every student's phone is different which results in interface issues.
  5. Reserve a few laptops so that multiple groups can upload their pictures at the same time.
Class Directions
Day 1
  1. Go over your particular story to ensure that meaning has been established for all students. For this story, I did a choral reading and then played a round of Stultus.
  2. Here are the directions which I handed out: Freeze Frame directions
  3. Go over the directions with the class to ensure that all understand what they are.
  4. Give the groups time to select student jobs and to begin to stage each scene.
Day 2
  1. Give a digital camera to the photo taker in each group.
  2. Give students a choice of props.
  3. Set out 2-3 laptops around the room.
  4. Each group will have 30-35 minutes to "shoot their scenes." 
  5. When each group is finished, the photo taker will upload the pictures to his/her group's folder. 
Day 2 Post Class Directions
As the teacher, you will need to do the following:
  1. Using Educreations,for each group, create a presentation by uploading each picture onto a slide. Because each picture has the sentence number in it, it is easy to put the pictures in order.
  2. For each presentation, record your voice narrating each story. Add any graphics using the whiteboard function.
Day 3
  1. Show each group's video to the class.
  1. What a fun activity for students! This activity also ranks high on Bloom's Taxonomy, as it is a high-level critical thinking activity; students are creating their own meaning and interpretation of the story.
  2. Students actually want to see each other's videos. Because they are all familiar with the story, students want to see how others interpreted the story.
  3. In showing the video to students, you are getting in repetitions of the story, although students do not realize it. All students care about is watching the videos, but this is a VERY sneaky way to get into subconscious repetitions of vocabulary and of structures.
Here are some links to a few of the presentations which my students created (you will need Flash to view them):

1) Group 1
2) Group 2 
3) Group 3

Thanks again to Carrie Toth for this idea!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Time for Change

I wanted to let you all know that I will be transferring schools next year. I have decided to leave Brookwood High School (where I am currently one of four Latin teachers) to go to Parkview High School (a school 10 minutes away from my current one). Bob Patrick, the department head, asked me to become the school's 5th Latin teacher there next year, and I have accepted. In August, I will join its current team of Latin teachers and will be teaching alongside Latin CI users Bob Patrick, Miriam Patrick, Rachel Ash, and Caroline Miklosovic. 

The big question which folks are asking is why. I wish I could give a better response than "It is time for a change," but that is indeed the truth. I wish I could say that I was mad, angered, or offended at my co-workers or administration, but that is far from the reality; they, in fact, are the reasons why I wanted to remain. Simply put, though, it is time. I have been at my school for 17 years (over 1/3 of my life!). My stay has run its course, and it is time to move on. 

Yes, the opportunity to work in a completely CI Latin program certainly was a HUGE motivator but not the sole reason. I am very much looking forward to working alongside Bob, Miriam, Rachel, and Caroline, as they have "untextbooked," and I am so ready to leave behind the textbook. One of the main draws for transferring was that they are teaching from CI Latin novellas, which they themselves have written. I also really want to teach the soon-to-be-published Latin version of Brandon Brown Wants a Dog! I have been waiting years for this book to come out, and nothing is going to stop me from teaching from it!

I am thankful for my time at Brookwood. Over the past 17 years, my administration has always been incredibly supportive of the Latin program. I came to Brookwood in the fall of 1999 as the 2nd Latin teacher, where the Latin enrollment was 225 students. Now in the spring of 2016, I have helped grow the program to now four Latin teachers and over 500 students enrolled in Latin. I know that I am leaving the Latin program in the very good hands of my three colleagues.

My goal for these final 3 months is to enjoy every moment left at Brookwood, even the bad ones. I am very grateful for what I have learned at my current school and am looking forward to what my new job will have to offer. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Conference Season

It is the beginning of March, which means that I am in the midst of conference season. For the past 3 weeks or so, I have been presenting on Comprehensible Input at a number of conferences, and I still have one more presentation to give this weekend. 

A few weeks ago, I attended the 2-day Living Latin in New York City (LLiNYC) event sponsored by the Paideia Institute. This event drew the top Latin speakers from all over the country (and from parts of the world) in an effort to promote Latin as a living language. Around 150 people attended this event. The Paideia Institute had invited Bob Patrick and me to present on Comprehensible Input in the Latin Classroom at the event, so Bob and I flew up for the event (thanks to Paideia Institute for paying for our travel and hotel!). Both Bob and I were given two slots each, so we decided to give a two-part presentation on CI theory on the first day (with him going first in the early afternoon and then me later that afternoon) and then to give a two-part demo on the second day.

Now leading up to my first presentation at LLinYC, I was feeling like a fish out of water. By no means am I a master Latin speaker at all - even after attending six Rusticationes, I am only an Intermediate Mid/High speaker at best. Prior to my presentation, I kept thinking, "What the heck am I doing here? What is my name doing on this list of expert Latin speakers? I do not belong to be here. Even if I am here to present on Comprehensible Input, what do I really know about it? I can understand why Bob was invited, but me? I write a blog on CI, and suddenly now folks think that I am an expert on the topic. If folks only knew..." I was dreading my presentation, because I felt like a complete and total impostor.       

But then I began to speak and to give my presentation. Immediately, the doubt completely disappeared, and I was 100% comfortable speaking to the group. I began to speak from my heart on the topic, and quite honestly, it was like another person was talking through me, because this person seemed to really understand CI theory (that couldn't be me, could it?) and to speak with authority on the matter. An excitement was surging through me as I was speaking. In short, I was having so much fun presenting on the topic.

I do not write this to brag, because quite honestly, I still do not recognize who that person was who gave that presentation. I write this to say thank you to all of the CI teachers, whose blogs I have read and have showed me that I am not alone in my CI journey; to all of the CI presenters whose presentations have taught me so much and of whose audience I have enjoyed being a part; and to all those CI users, who have encouraged me and motivated me to want to become a better teacher. It was all of your voices which were speaking through me at LLiNYC. Maybe one day, I will be able to add my own voice.

P.S. That weekend was my first trip to New York City. For the record, it was SO cold! The wind chill was in the negatives! In spite of the freezing weather, I absolutely loved the feel of the city. I hope to return again!