Thursday, December 14, 2017

Top 5 of 2017

With final exams coming up next week, this will be my last blog post for 2017 before I take a holiday hiatus. As I have traditionally done at the end of each year on my blog, below are my top 5 viewed posts for 2017:
  1. QR Code Running Dictation
  2. 4-Word Picture Stories
  3. Technology in a CI Classroom, part 1
  4. Focusing on the Basics of CI
  5. Presentations
This blog is now four years old. In December 2013, I began this blog, and quite honestly, I never envisioned so many people would be reading it. I am always so humbled to meet people in person at conferences who tell me that they read my blog and have found what I write to be very useful.

Thanks to all of you who read this blog and keep encouraging me to post. I appreciate that you think that I actually have something of value to say. Thanks also to all those CI teachers whom I so admire (see the sidebar for their blogs) and from whom I have learned so much - you are the ones whose voices are coming through in my posts.

Here's to continuing my CI journey in 2018!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2018 Latin Comprehensible Input Summer Study/Tour of Italy

Allow me an excursus here to do some self-promotion.

Are you a Latin teacher who has heard about Comprehensible Input, read posts about it on blogs, seen presentations at conferences but have never received any formal training? Are you a Latin teacher who has dabbled some in Comprehensible Input but still are trying to figure out how it all works and how it applies to the bigger picture of teaching Latin? If anything in those two sentences applies to you AND you would like to tour Italy while learning about Comprehensible Input, then read on!

Next summer (July 10-21, 2018), I will be leading a 12-day CI workshop/tour of Italy sponsored by the Vergilian Society. Below is the official write up as found on the Vergilian Society's website:
This 12-day tour is designed to teach Comprehensible Input pedagogy to Latin teachers and to demonstrate how Comprehensible Input methodology can be applied to the teaching of Roman authors. The tour will include travel to sites relevant to Roman authors and textbook readings. Workshop sessions will alternate with visits to sites and museums such as the Colosseum, Capitoline Museums, Vatican City, Pompeii, and Capri. 25-30 hours of classroom instruction will be included, and workshop topics cover an overview of Comprehensible Input theory, demonstration of Comprehensible Input techniques/strategies, such as Total Physical Response (TPR), storyasking, circling, dictations, Movie Talk, embedded readings, Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs), incorporating technology into the delivery of Comprehensible Input, and numerous activities related to pre-reading, reading, and post-reading activities. Other topics will include Sequencing and Scaffolding of a Comprehensible Input Lesson, Grammar in a Comprehensible Input classroom, and Teaching Upper Level Authors/the AP Syllabus with Comprehensible Input
. The program features 3 days in Rome and the remainder in Campania at the Harry Wilks Study Center at the Villa Vergiliana.
Price: $2,895 (does not include travel to/from Italy) - there are lots of scholarships out there!
  • All prices are per person for double accommodations;
  • All programs are contingent upon enrollment; Do not make flight arrangements until you are alerted that we have sufficient participants!
  • All prices include a $200 tax-deductible contribution to the Vergilian Society.
  • Breakfast is included in all tours. Lunch and dinner are included in days spent at the Villa Vergiliana. Some meals may be included on tours that are not staying at the Villa. 
I am looking forward to be doing this for the Vergilian Society, since I love teaching others about Comprehensible Input, and I have traveled to/led numerous student tours to Italy (this will be my 12th time to Italy!). If you are interested in Latin in the Comprehensible Input classroom, truly consider this opportunity.

Links of interest

Tour page (itinerary soon to be added)

Tour application

Vergilian Society Scholarship application - The Vergilian Society (sponsor of the tour) offers many full/partial scholarships for its tours. Application deadline is March 1. Definitely consider applying!

Other Scholarship opportunities - there are LOTS of scholarship opportunities out there for classical-related travel/study from national, regional, and state classical associations. Some national scholarships of particular interest are:
If you have any questions about this summer tour, please contact me off-blog at 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vocabulary Highlighter Game

Exams are coming up in a few weeks for my students, so every day this week, I have been trying to do some quick vocabulary review activities (such as Hot Seat and Quick Draw) that will both engage students in order to prepare them for the exam and will not take up more than 15 minutes of time. This is a popular activity which I learned from a colleague at my former school. Though not necessarily a CI activity per se, it is quick and engaging for students, and it involves highlighters!

For this, you will need to create a word cloud of vocabulary words which you want to review. I have found that 25 words is a good amount. Unfortunately, finding a website/extension for the creation of word clouds has been difficult, because many websites like Wordle do not work on Chrome or are not compatible with Windows 10. I use a MS Word extension to create my word clouds. Google Docs also has an extension for word clouds, but I have found that MS Word has more capabilities.

Below is a video for creating a word cloud on MS Word.

In creating a MS word cloud for this activity, I use the following settings:
  1. Font: Arial
  2. Colors: Black on White
  3. Layout: Half on Half (this will allow for words to be both horizontal and vertical)
  4. Case: Intelligent
Here is a MS word cloud which I made for my Latin 2 students

  1. Pair up students.
  2. You can have students either sit next to each other or across from each other.
  3. Students will need a common surface between them. It can be a desk, or if your class is deskless like mine, then I had students sit on the floor with a whiteboard between them.
  4. Each student in a pair needs to have a different-colored highlighter, i.e., no two students who are paired up can have the same color highlighter.
  5. Give each student a handout of the word cloud.
  6. There will be two different rounds of play, so have each pair of students use only one of the word clouds for the first round.
  7. Have each pair place the word cloud between them, and give students roughly 30-45 seconds to look at the words in order to familiarize themselves with both the words and the layout.
  8. You as the teacher call out a definition in English.
  9. The goal for each student is to be the first person to highlight the correct word.
  10. After about 9-10 words, now tell students that they have to use their NON-DOMINANT hands to highlight the correct word. Do this for about 9-10 words.
  11. After most of the words have been called, have students count how many words they each got correct. They will know based on the color of their highlighter. 
  12. To start the second round, students will now use the other word cloud.
  13. Tell students that they need to put this word cloud in a new orientation, i.e., if it was laid out horizontal before, now it needs to be vertical. This makes the second round more challenging, since although students know what words to expect, the words are in a "different place," since the orientation is different.
  14. Repeat steps 8-10 again.
  15. When finished, have students create their final totals for both rounds.
  1. As I said, this is a fast, quick activity. It lasts about 10 minutes. 
  2. Depending on your students, it can get VERY competitive.
  3. I have a tub of different-colored highlighters in the event that students have the same color or do not have a highlighter. I suppose one can use markers for this activity.
  4. Having students use their non-dominant hand for part of it adds to the novelty of the activity.
  5. Variation: Because vocabulary does not exist in a language isolated outside of a context, you can make a word cloud out of phrases in the target language. I know that Wordle will allow you to do this.
  6. It is not really a CI activity, but it is definitely fun to watch!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Majoring on the Majors, and Minoring on the Minors

I have returned from the 2017 ACTFL Convention in Nashville, and as always, wow, what a conference! Even though it was a quick trip (I was just there for all-day Friday and part of Saturday morning), I got the chance to attend some great presentations and co-presented a presentation on Tasks and Communicating in the Comprehensible Input Classroom with Rachel Ash, Bob Patrick, and Miriam Patrick, in addition to squeezing in some quick hi's and hugs with folks whom I have not seen in awhile. 

Although conferences like this are great for a gathering of world language teachers from across the nation in one place, unwittingly, it is brings up debates (sometimes heated) about teaching, pedagogy, etc. Unfortunately, the CI community of teachers is not immune from these disagreements, such as:
  • TPRS should be the sole way of delivering comprehensible input in the classroom, since story-telling is engaging.
  • TPRS is one of many methods of delivering comprehensible input, so we should not pigeonhole ourselves to just this.
  • If you want to implement CI in your classroom, then you need to go all-in. There is no room for dabbling or transitioning. Using CI methods while still teaching grammar-translation is wrong.
  • If you are a newbie to CI, do not go all-in, because you are going to burn out. Instead, dabble/transition in order to build your CI foundation.
  • I teach with CI novellas as part of my curriculum.
  • I do not use novellas and think that they should only be used for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR).
  • I do not think that we should use authentic resources, since most are incomprehensibe, are full of native idioms, and do not use high-frequency vocabulary.
  • I think that authentic resources are fine as long as they are adapted and/or are language appropriate.
  • We as CI teachers should be using targeted vocabulary and structures, because that helps keeps things focused.
  • We as CI teachers should focus on untargeted vocabulary and structures, since we want students to determine the focus of what we discuss.
  • We should strive to be 90% in the target language at all times.
  • 90% target language usage is a suggestion, not a prescription.
  • I only attend NTPRS and not IFLT, because ________________.
  • I only attend IFLT and not NTPRS, because _______________.
  • (For Latinists), we should only be using classical literature in our classes, since that is our standard. Anything non-classical related has no place.
  • (For Latinists), the Latin language spans over 2,000 years of usage. Why are we limiting ourselves to an ancient time period when Latin is still spoken today in the modern world? Language is fluid and changes. Why keep Latin stuck in the 1st century?
You get the picture. As you read the above, you may have very, strong views one way or the other on those topics. Unfortunately, what i have seen come from these debates is the emergence of camps. While I am not naive enough to think that differences in opinion will not arise, I also think that these disagreements keep us from our guiding focus and become divisive.

When it comes to teaching using Comprehensible Input, we need to determine what are non-negotiables - what is that MUST be implemented or has to occur in order for language acquisition to occur when facilitating Comprehensible Input? In my opinion, here is what I consider to be non-negotiables, and note - they are simply a summary of Krashen's Hypotheses:
  • Learners acquire language through the delivery of understandable messages and will progress in their knowledge when they comprehend language which is slightly more advanced than their current level, hence i+1. As a result of input, students will produce output when they are ready.
  • Language acquisition is subconscious, hence it is long-term memory. Language learning is explicit and conscious, but it is short-term memory. Our goal for students is language acquisition, not language learning.
  • Our focus should be on meaning and not form. Self-error correction only occurs through explicit language learning. In language acquisition, errors will occur, but our goal should be comprehensibility. Self-error correction will occur for learners on their own timeline.
  • When one's affective filter (or "stress") increases, learning decreases.
  • Learners pay attention more to compelling comprehensible messages than to less-compelling comprehensible messages.

To me, that is our foundation as CI teachers - those are the non-negotiables. Those are the major points on which we must both major and strive to protect in our classrooms. Focusing on the minor points and turning them into major points is where we begin to become divided. To discredit CI teachers solely because they are not implementing TPRS in their curriculum does not make sense to me. In good faith, we need to realize that these teachers are still delivering comprehensible and engaging input through other means.

Though we are all bound to have our opinions on the "best" way to implement Comprehensible Input, we all have the same end goal: student language acquisition. I think that these disagreements occur, because we as CI teachers are so passionate about what we do. However, when we learn to major on the majors and to minor on the minors is when we will gain perspective that we are all on this CI journey together.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Getting the Most out of Conferences

I leave for the national ACTFL Convention in a few days. This will be my third ACTFL convention which I have attended after having taken a 2-year hiatus (I have written a blog post about attending the 2014 ACTFL Convention), and I am looking forward to it. Because I have attended ACTFL Conventions before, I know exactly what to expect in terms of its overwhelmingly massive size and session offerings.

On last week's #langchat discussion on Twitter, the topic was the upcoming ACTFL convention, and folks were sharing their thoughts on numerous convention-related questions. This got me to thinking about what I have learned about how to survive conferences in general. Let's face it: conferences can be big, impersonal, and overwhelming. Here are my tips on how to get the most out of a conference:
  1. Do not feel like you have to attend every session. Pick and choose your sessions wisely. It is very easy to develop "information overload" from attending too many sessions and to burn out.
  2. Know your learning goals ahead of time. Is there a particular topic/strand which you wish to follow? This will help make selecting which sessions to attend much easier. For me, at this ACTFL Convention, I specifically want to attend sessions dealing with technology in the world language classroom. As I have a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, I want to learn more about new technologies for my curriculum but viewed through the lens of Comprehensible Input. 
  3. Take time for yourself. Take advantage of down-time if there is not a session which interests you. Grab a cup of coffee, tour the exhibit hall, find a place to plug in your phone, etc. Use this time to recharge yourself.
  4. Take time to network, to meet new people, and to reconnect with those whom you only see at conferences. There are so many people whom I know (or know of) that I only get to see at conferences. Some of my favorite times at conferences are when I am sitting alone off to the side at a conference in order to recharge myself or to prepare a upcoming presentation, and people will come/go at their leisure to talk with me. 
  5. If possible, share/discuss with others at the conference what you have learned. In turn, find out what sessions they attended and what they learned. Use that time to begin processing the conference.
  6. If there is something of great interest which you learned from a particular presenter, do some follow up. Talk to the presenter afterwards or contact him/her during/after the conference. Do not let your learning stop at the session door on the way out.
I hope to see and to meet many of you at ACTFL this weekend. Please take time to introduce yourself to me! 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Monster and Dumpling - Movie Talk

Here is a movie talk which I just recently did with my Latin 2 students. I was wanting to preteach vocabulary involving body parts, since we will be doing some readings related to monsters and fantastical beasts in the ancient world. Having found this movie short on Jason Fritze's national movie talk database, I thought that it did a great job of introducing this needed vocabulary.

The Movie Talk is called Monster and Dumpling (Monstrum et Cibus in Latin). 

Latin script

English script

  1. Students reacted well to this movie short. A number of them said that it had "feel goods" of the three-legged dog Movie Talk. One student insightfully said, "Both the monster and boy are outcasts - I'm glad that they found each other."
  2. Pause and ask students specifically at 3:00 in the movie short why the monster is sad. Some students thought that the monster felt sorry for the boy, because the boy was blind, but many caught that the monster felt bad for taking advantage of the blind boy.
  3. There is some English narration at the beginning of the movie short (about 6-7 seconds). My students did not like that! They have become so accustomed to Movie Talks having NO English in them that it did not feel right for them to hear it. 
  4. I showed the credits at the end too, because it shows the preliminary storyboard of the movie short. It appears that originally, the monster was ostracized by other monsters because of its looks, the character was a girl not a boy, and that the girl too was ignored and demeaned by others, because she was blind. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Who is This" Assessment

This is a quick assessment idea which I learned from my colleague Bob Patrick. Recently, our Latin 2 students were finishing up a story, so Bob implemented this listening assessment involving characters from the story with his class, which in turn, I used with my students. If your class is reading a story with at least three characters who do a number of different things, then this is a great way to assess students.

  1. In the target language, create a number of sentences that describe different characters in the story. I have found that 8-10 sentences is a good number.
  2. Each sentence should start out with "this character" (in Latin, haec persona) - I used actual sentences from the story since those sentences were with what students were most familiar.
  1. Write the character choices on the board.
  2. On a sheet of paper, have students number 1-8 (or however many sentences you have created.
  3. Explain to students that for each of the sentences which you will read aloud, their job is to determine which character this sentence describes and to write down that character.
  4. Read each sentence 2-3 times very slowly, as students write down the character about whom the sentence describes.
  5. At the end, read each sentence again so that students can check their responses. 
Latin Example - this was based on a story from a Movie Talk (Broken: Rock, Paper, Scissors)

a) forfex             b) puella chartacea          c) saxum

Question #1 - haec persona credit puellam chartaceam esse pulchram.
Question #2 - haec persona occidit multas arbores.
Question #3 - haec persona vult fugere cum puella chartacea.
Question #4 - haec persona occidit puellam chartaceam.
Question #5 - haec persona magnos sonos facit.
Question #6 - haec persona non vult fugere cum saxo.
Question #7 - haec persona occidit forficem.
Question #8 - haec persona fugit cum saxo.

  1. This was indeed a very quick assessment - it took less than 10 minutes.
  2. This is a great activity to assess listening comprehension in a very low-key way.
  3. I was surprised at how well my students did on this. You need to understand that when I was learning Latin in high school and in my college and graduate courses in Latin, I NEVER heard it spoken. Because I am implementing Comprehensible Input in my Latin classes with lots of repetitions in active Latin, for my students to hear Latin does not seem that big of a deal for them.
  4. Afterwards I asked students what they thought of it. A common response - "It was really easy, since we have gone over the story so many times..."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This Day in History

This is a warm up activity which I learned from Justin Slocum Bailey. If you have never attended one of Justin's sessions at a conference, then you need to! I always learn so much from him, as he expands the way in which language can be used in the classroom. Justin and I have roomed together numerous times at conferences, so we both know each other's quirks.

The premise is quite simple: for a particular day (preferably the day on which you will do this), from among three choices, ask students to pick the event which they think happened on that day. I have found this activity to be a good example of Krashen's Forgetting Hypothesis, where due to the compelling nature of the message in the target language, students "forget" about the language per se, because the message itself is so compelling.

  1. Find an event in history which happened on the day which you plan to use this activity. I use the following websites: On This Day, Thought Co - Inventions, National Day Calendar.
  2. Find two other "false" events ("false" as in not having happened on that day) as distractors. 
  3. Create a slide presentation with choices A, B, and C, and write the three choices in the target language. Add pictures related to your choices.
As a warm up, project the slide presentation, and ask students which historical event they think happened on that day. Here is what I say in Latin every time which I do this:

Latin script
Discipuli, quid hōc die in historiā accīdit? Hodie est (ordinal number) dies mensis (month), ergo, quid hōc die in historiā accīdit? Discipuli, quid putatis? Littera A (read letter A choice)? Littera B (read letter B choice)? an littera C (read letter C choice). Quid putatis? (Get students to call out the letter). Ah, audio litteram _____ saepius quam audio litteram ____ an _____. Videamus.

English script
Class, what happened on this day in history? Today is the (ordinal number) day in the month of ____________. Therefore, what happened on this day in history? Class, what do you think? Letter A (read letter A choice)? Letter B (read letter B choice)? or letter C (read letter C choice)? What do you think? Ah, I am hearing letter ____ more often than I am hearing letter ____ or _____. Let us see.

Example for September 28 - press on slide presentation to see answers.

  1. In order to preserve the novelty of the warm up, I only do this 2-3 times a week.
  2. The first couple times when I did this, students were not very receptive due to it being new. Now as I do it more often, I have found students to be quite engaged. A few students have said to me, "Gosh, I wish we did this in my social studies class."
  3. This warm up gives me a way to give the date in Latin in a NATURAL CONTEXT, since it is part of an activity, as opposed to announcing it at the beginning of class outside of a context.
  4. I have chosen to give the date in a modern Latin context and not in a Roman context (Kalends, Nones, Ides, etc.), because quite honestly, I myself cannot keep track of how the Romans did their calendar dates. Since I want to treat Latin as a modern language, I have chosen to use the modern way for dates.
  5. When picking historical events (both true and false), it is important that these events be compelling for STUDENTS! What I find compelling as a historical event is NOT what students find compelling. I suppose that I could do "what happened on this day in Roman history?" which I would find interesting, but would the majority of my Latin students?
  6. Although this was not my intention, I am getting in LOTS of subconscious repetitions of phrases like "was born," "was discovered/found," "was invented," and "made its debut" in a natural way (even though I have never formally taught these phrases), since these phrases come up a lot in this warm up. In addition, because I say the same thing every time as part of the script, students are starting to be able to say it with me now.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sentence Picture Relay

This is a great post-reading activity which I learned from my colleague Rachel Ash, who has her own write up about how to do it. There is a degree of work on the front end, but the actual activity is a great cooperative way for students to demonstrate comprehension of a known reading.

Pre-Activity Preparation

  1. Take a story familiar to students, and divide it into 10-15 sentences.
  2. Draw pictures for each of the sentences. It does not have to be anything elaborate. To quote the great Latin teacher Sally Davis, "everyone can draw stick figures." Example of my pictures. I created a table on a document to draw the pictures.
  3. Type up the sentences. I created table on a document to type up the sentences. 
  4. Make 10 copies (for a class of 30) of the pictures and sentences onto cardstock. You can use regular paper, but the cardstock makes the pictures/sentences sturdy.
  5. Cut up the sentences and pictures - this is what will take up the most time in preparation. I had students cut these up for me.

In-Class Directions

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3. There may be groups of 4, but that can be kind of big.
  2. On a table/desk, mix all of the sentences together so that it is one big pile. On another table/desk, separately mix all of the pictures together so that it is one big pile.
  3. Explain to students:
    • Their job is to match sentences to pictures. There are ____ sentences/pictures pairs.
    • As a relay, one team member at a time will grab 2 pictures, 2 sentences or 1 of each and bring them back to the team.
    • The next team member will grab 2 pictures, 2 sentences or 1 of each and bring them back to the team and so on.
    • As a team, members will try to match sentences with pictures, as more sentences and pictures are added.
    • As more pictures and sentences are added, team members will need to determine specific sentences or pictures which need to be gathered.
    • If a team receives a duplicate of a sentence or picture, then the team needs to send it back with their next "runner."
    • Teams will have to match the sentences with the pictures AND to put the story in order.
    • First team to complete the activity “wins”!
  1. When explaining the activity to students, it does not make much sense, but once it begins and students begin to bring pictures/sentences to their teams, students understand how the activity works.
  2. This can get VERY competitive depending on your students. 
  3. I love hearing students communicate with their runners, "Bring back the picture with _________" or "We need the sentence that says _________," as they now need specific sentences/pictures to complete the activity.
  4. The activity took about 10 minutes. I thought that it would take longer but because students were very familiar with the story in the target language, they did not think that the activity was difficult to do.
  5. Remind students that part of the task is to put the story in order! Many get caught up in the matching that they forget this part.
  6. Alternate version - I have done this activity where I broke up pictures and sentences into clauses, instead of full sentences so that students were focusing on specific parts of the sentence.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Using Book Snaps/SnapChat

Although I have my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology and am quite versed in the application of technology to one's curriculum "for the creation of a student-centered, 21st-century, blended-learning, critical-thinking classroom environment" (that last phrase sounds very Educationese, because I constantly had to use those buzzwords in my degree program), at the same time, I have been somewhat hesitant to implement technology in a CI-based setting for the following reasons:
  1. Most world language technology is incomprehensible for novice-level students or focuses on forced output.
  2. The majority of classroom technology focuses on low-levels of critical thinking, operates at a Substitution level on the SAMR model, and/or serves more as entertainment than true engagement.
(see here for my posts on Technology in a CI Classroom, part 1 and Technology in a CI Classroom, part 2)

Earlier this year, Meredith White, a Spanish CI teacher in my district, demonstrated how she uses SnapChat in her classroom, and while I was VERY impressed with how it can be implemented, I was also a bit tentative in utilizing it for both professional reasons (how can social media be properly applied to the classroom without crossing the line?) and personal reasons (what the heck is SnapChat, since I myself have never used it?).

This past summer, I learned about Book Snaps and realized that this is definitely something which can be applied to the CI Classroom. Essentially, Book Snaps is a SnapChat involving a reading of some kind. It is primarily used for students to interact with, to write commentary on, and to react to a text (think of students writing comments on sticky notes in a text but with SnapChat). Once I learned about this, I realized that Book Snaps could be used for students to "illustrate" sentences from a story!

Here is a video explaining how to make a Book Snap:

For the past few days, I have been going over the following story with students (it is based on a Movie Talk), so today, I had students create Book Snaps of the story:

Rock, Paper, Scissors Story
Ecce saxum. Terra saxum generat. Subito saxum aliquid audit. Aliquid magnos sonos facit. Saxum surgit ut videat quid magnos sonos faciat. Ecce puella in silva! Silva puellam generat. Puella est chartacea, et magnos sonos facit. Saxum puellam chartaceam videt, et credit puellam chartaceam esse valde pulchram.

Ecce forfex in silva! Saxum valde timet, quod videt puellam chartaceam et credit forficem velle occidere puellam chartaceam. Saxum in silvam cadit. Forfex multas arbores occidit. Saxum credit forficem velle occidere puellam chartaceam. Saxum vult fugere cum puella chartacea, sed puella chartacea non vult fugere cum saxo. Puella non credit forficem velle occidere eam (her). Eheu! Saxum puellam chartaceam tangit, et succumbit. Saxum et puella chartacea in silva fugiunt, quod credunt forficem velle occidere eos (them). Vis est forfici, quod occidit multas arbores in silva.

Eheu! Forfex puellam chartaceam occidit. Saxum credit puellam chartaceam esse mortuam, et est valde iratum. Saxum vult occidere forficem! Vis est saxo, et occidit forficem. Forfex est mortua. Saxum est valde triste, quod puella chartacea est mortua. Saxum vult servare (to rescue) puellam chartaceam, sed si (if) tanget puellam chartaceam, succumbet...

Assignment directions
Choose ONE of the following options:

Book Snaps
  1. Using SnapChat, take a picture of the story text. This will serve as your background.
  2. Type in the text of a sentence or two. NOTE - you cannot use sentences with the word ecce.
  3. Adjust where you want the text to be on your picture.
  4. Insert emojis, bitmojis, stickers, which apply to the text which you chose. NOTE - As this is an assignment, these emojis, stickers, bitmojis MUST BE SCHOOL APPROPRIATE.
  5. You may also write or draw pictures onto your Book Snap.
  6. When finished, save to your phone’s photo album.
  7. Submit your SnapChat photo to me using your eClass Dropbox for Latin 2.
  1. Using SnapChat, take a picture with you as a character depicting a particular sentence in the story. Either take a selfie or have someone take the picture for you. There may be other people in your picture but each person is turning in his/her own picture.
  2. Type in the text of a sentence or two. NOTE - you cannot use sentences with the word ecce. 
  3. Adjust where you want the text to be on your picture.
  4. Insert emojis, bitmojis, stickers, which apply to the text which you chose. NOTE - As this is an assignment, these emojis, stickers, bitmojis MUST BE SCHOOL APPROPRIATE.
  5. You may also write or draw pictures onto your Book Snap.
  6. When finished, save to your phone’s photo album.
  7. Submit your SnapChat photo to me using your eClass Dropbox for Latin 2.
Here are some examples of students Book Snaps based on the story:

My goal is now to create a Google Slides presentation of these slides and show them in class.


  1. Most students opted to do a Book Snap, instead of a SnapChat. I do not know why (considering how often they take selfies in class!).
  2. This is another way for students to demonstrate comprehension of a reading.
  3. Even though students are very well-versed in SnapChat, I was surprised at how long it took students to create a Book Snap. I thought it would take 5-10 minutes to create a single Book Snap, but it took roughly 10-20 minutes.
  4. Even though many students created Book Snaps of the same sentence, no two were alike; many students were very creative!
  5. This was definitely another way for students to re-read the story to choose a sentence, thus getting in more subconscious repetitions of the language.
  6. For those students who did not have access to a device or SnapChat, I had them illustrate a sentence on paper.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Read, Write, Draw, Pass

This is another awesome post-reading activity which I learned from Linda Li this past summer (Martina Bex also has a great post about this activity). It is loosely based on a party game called Paper Telephone/Telephone Pictionary, and it works great as a way to get students to review a known reading.

  1. Every student needs paper, pen/pencil, and the reading passage which you want to review.
  2. Divide students into groups of six. There may be groups of seven or as little as four, but try to avoid groups of three. Arrange students in a circle.
  3. Have students fold paper vertically/hot-dog style. Tell students that they will only be drawing on one side of the paper.
  4. Tell students to pick ONE sentence from the story and to write it at the top of their paper. Write it as it appears in the story, i.e. students are NOT to translate the sentence.
  5. Have students PASS their paper to the person on their left. 
  6. Now have students draw a visual representation of that sentence underneath it. Leave some space between the sentence and picture.
  7. Stop students after 45 seconds, and have students FOLD the sentence over the back of the paper so that it cannot be seen. Only the picture should be showing.
  8. Have students PASS their paper to the person to their left. It is important that students do NOT pass until you say so.
  9. Now have students find the ONE sentence from the reading that matches the drawing. Students are to write the sentence underneath the picture. Leave some space between the picture and the sentence.
  10. Stop students after 45 seconds, and have students FOLD the picture over to the back so that only the sentence is showing.
  11. Have students PASS their paper to the person on their left. It is important that students do not pass until you say so.
  12. Continue this pattern of drawing, passing, writing, and passing until students in a group of six have their original paper - it should be a total of six passes. For groups smaller than six, then they will continue to pass until the sixth pass. For groups larger than six, they will not get their original paper back so they will have to find theirs.
  13. Tell students to unfold their papers to see how accurate others were with drawing pictures/writing sentences for their original sentence.
  1. Having taken part in this activity myself when learning Mandarin from Linda Li, I can tell you that it is great activity for post-reading on so many different levels: re-reading of a known text (thus getting in more repetitions of language), comprehension of what is being read demonstrated non-verbally through a picture, comprehension of what is being communicated in a picture and writing that in the target language via the story/passage.
  2. Depending on students' interpretation of the pictures/sentences given to them, this activity mimics the game Telephone, because the sentences and pictures can begin to change. It is always fun to hear some students at the end talk about how their original sentence changed. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Immersion Can Turn into Submersion

In previous posts, I have blogged about my experience this summer learning Mandarin with Linda Li in a 4-day Fluency Fast class. Since then, my goal has been to continue acquiring Mandarin when I have time. Recently, I found a video on YouTube of a first day high school Mandarin 1 class, so thinking this video would be a great place for me to continue my language acquisition, I began to watch it. What I saw was that this teacher was using an 100% immersion approach on day 1. While there is nothing wrong with that per se, there was no attempt to establish any type of meaning in English, outside of gestures and handouts with Mandarin phrases where students filled in the English meaning during the class. In the video, when the teacher began to speak in Mandarin after the bell rings and asked the class to stand up, immediately you could see the confusion among the students, and only a few students caught onto what he was asking them to do. I am certain that affective filters immediately went through the roof with those students, because mine certainly did just watching it (and I was familiar with what he was saying in Mandarin!). For the remainder of the video, the teacher employed a traditional approach to an immersion classroom, with lots of the teacher saying phrases, students repeating after him (I wonder how many of those students actually understood what they were saying in Mandarin), and him correcting their pronunciation. Occasionally, the teacher would ask students (in Mandarin) to define words in English. While for me, much of what he said in the video was somewhat comprehensible (due to my limited Mandarin), I can guarantee that for most of the students in that classroom, it was not.

In reflecting on my experience with Linda Li this summer, I realize that from Day 1 of our Fluency Fast course, she could have employed a 100% immersion experience like the above teacher, but Linda also knew that this approach with beginning Mandarin students would not have been successful for every learner in our class. That is not to say that Linda did not utilize much more Mandarin as the class progressed, but it was not immediate from the first hour.

I am NOT saying that a classroom immersion environment in and of itself is a bad or terrible thing, but incomprehensible classroom immersion where the burden is completely 100% on students to establish and to negotiate meaning on their own in a "sink or swim" environment is where I have a problem. I have been in those types of immersion experiences, and I can definitely say that my affective filter went through the roof to the point of "fight or flight." Not every learner can succeed in that type of environment, and if equity in the classroom is our goal for all students, then a "survival of the fittest" attitude only excludes learners, as only "certain" types of learners end up finding success. Although we as teachers may have the best intentions in implementing an immersion approach, if we are not careful, immersion can quickly turn into submersion for students. When students do not perform well in this setting, our tendency is to to blame the students as being lazy or not trying (or even worse, that only certain students should take language, since not everyone can keep up in an immersion classroom). The reality is that students are not doing well, because we ourselves have not set them up properly for success in an immersion setting. An incomprehensible immersion environment is simply just noise to students.

In order to guarantee success for students in an immersion setting, then I feel that we as teachers must establish the following environment:
  1. Create a safety net for students. In my opinion, this is vital. A safety net empowers ALL students to inform you as the teacher NON-VERBALLY that they are not understanding what you are saying, that they need you to go slower, that their affective filters are skyrocketing, etc. It is very easy to get a false impression of what students are understanding or processing in an immersion environment if we are only relying on the fast processors to inform us. Even counting "1, 2, 3" aloud after you ask a question can greatly slow things down in an immersion setting in order to give ALL students time to process what has been asked (thank you, Annabelle Allen, for teaching me this).
  2. Strive to be 100% comprehensible by establishing meaning in L1. Nothing divides immersion-based teachers more than the topic of establishing meaning in L1. Some feel that this has absolutely no place in an immersion environment, as their argument is that students will figure out and determine meaning on their own or that students will be thinking in L1, instead of L2, if meaning is given in L1. Others feel that meaning can be established through props or pictures but still no L1. I am of the mindset that we teachers need to establish meaning in L1 if our goal is to be 100% comprehensible to learners. When understandable messages are delivered, then language acquisition can occur. In my language learning experiences with both Linda Li (Mandarin) and Betsy Paskvan (Japanese), each of them established meaning in L1 by writing any unknown language words on the board, having the English definitions next to them, and pointing/pausing when referring to them. I am so grateful that they did, because it made what was being said understandable to me. Yes, it was so helpful to have those words and meanings there as a reference, and yes, I was thinking in L1 during that time. To be honest, since I was negotiating meaning, it was necessary for me to think in L1. As the class progressed, I found that I no longer needed to refer to the words (although they were there if needed) and that I was starting to think in L2, instead of L1. Some may say, "If a student does not know a word in L2, can't just you explain the meaning in L2, instead of L1?" I have been in immersion environments where when I asked for a meaning of a word, the meaning was given to me in L2. Although these people had the best of intentions, i was already frustrated, because I did not know what the original word meant, so explaining the meaning in L2 only frustrated me more, thus raising my affective filter higher. In these situations, my thinking has always been "Just tell me what the d@*n word means in English, so that I can move on."
  3. Facilitate constant comprehension checks. This is a key point, because comprehension checks give students an opportunity to let you know what they think that you are saying and give you the teacher a chance to see if you are truly understandable. This can be done very quickly and easily either in L1 or L2 by simply asking, "When I said that, what did I mean?" Depending on their answer, this feedback can tell you whether to move forward or to "circle the plane a bit," since students are not understanding what you are communicating.
What are some tools and strategies which you implement in an immersion setting in order to guarantee success for all learners?