Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Picture Talk - World's Worst Album Covers

Yesterday, I was cleaning out files on my computer and came across a number of folders related to Picture Talk, an activity which I had done years ago but had completely forgotten about it these past two years. I do not know why Picture Talk had slipped my mind, because it is a great way to dialogue with students in the target language and to get students to interact with it.

Picture Talk is part Movie Talk (without the movie), One Word Picture, and part story-asking. The basic idea is to project a picture and to narrate what is happening in it in the target language, to ask questions about it, and maybe to create a story based upon it. Primarily, I have used it to preview new vocabulary. Like Movie Talks, in order for this activity to be effective, it needs to be compelling for students to want to take part in it. Since movie shorts have a built-in plot, pictures can be difficult, because it can be hit-or-miss with students depending on how they engaged they are with what it is presented. I have heard Katya Paukova often say that the best movie talks are those which emotionally engage students, so with pictures, I try to do the same using the "World's Worst Album Covers"!

If you do an online search of "World's Worst Album Covers," you will see that there are TONS of websites dedicated to this topic. In addition, if you take a look at these album covers, you will find that there are TONS which are definitely INAPPROPRIATE to show in a classroom (let alone wanting to discuss them in the target language with native speakers!). However, there are some which are absolute gems for use in a Picture Talk - here is one of my favorites with possible questions to ask. For those of you Latin teachers who use the Cambridge Latin Course, I was previewing vocabulary in Stage 9 related to Quintus' birthday celebration:

  1. What objects/people do you see in the picture?
  2. Is this a girl or woman?
  3. Is this girl Julie?
  4. How old is Julie?
  5. Do you think that Julie is having a birthday party in the picture?
  6. Is Julie celebrating her birthday at Chuck E. Cheese? at Build-A-Bear?
  7. Why do you think that Julie in this place?
  8. Is Julie happy or sad?
  9. Why do you think is Julie sad?
  10. Why do you think that is Julie alone on her birthday - did she not invite anyone?
  11. Did no one show up to Julie's birthday party?
  12. Why do you think that no one came to Julie's birthday party?
  13. Is this a boy or man?
  14. Do you think that this man is Julie's father?
  15. What do you think is happening in this picture?
  16. What do you think happens next?
As you begin to ask questions about things in the picture, you can start creating a story in the target language. For the above picture, I recall a class creating a story about Julie running away from home on her 16th birthday. She was fighting with her parents, because they wanted to have a Hello-Kitty themed party, but Julie wanted to go to the movies with her friends. As a a result, she ran away to a bar to celebrate, but immediately Julie was sorry when she was approached by an older man who wanted her to run away with him. Julie ran home and happily celebrated her 16th birthday with her parents and Hello Kitty. Julie learned a valuable lesson (I like for my stories to have a moral at the end if possible).

Here are some other world's worst album covers which I have used:
So consider giving Picture Talk a try with some of these pictures!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

List of Classroom Technologies

Many times when teachers find out that I have a degree in Instructional Technology, I get asked "So what are some technologies I can use in my classroom?" That is a rather tricky question for me to answer, because I get the impression that they think that I must be a font of knowledge of specific technologies due to my degree, but more importantly, I realize that they are asking for some new "bells and whistles" which they can add to their curriculum that will most likely be used either to entertain students (instead of to engage students) or will be implemented at a very low level of critical thinking. A better question to ask would be, "So I am using X technology in my classroom - do you have any suggestions on how to use it at a higher level of thinking?"

Recently on Twitter, I saw the following picture on Twitter of a compiled list of classroom technologies. 

Having completed my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology two years ago and now soon-to-be entering an Ed.D program in the field in a few months, I found this list to be of great interest. As a result, for my own purposes, I transferred the above list onto a document, added a number of my own, and added hyperlinks to each of the technologies listed. 

I have now created a List of Classroom Technologies page to this blog:

List of Classroom Technologies

To be honest, more than half of the technologies listed I have never heard of before, and the other half either I have used slightly or have been wanting to try out. One of my summer goals is to look into a number of these technologies to see how they can be used to deliver Comprehensible Input and to initiate critical thinking in students. And let me reiterate again: 
  • Technology in and of itself is not a panacea nor a cure-all for classroom woes.
  • To eschew technology usage in a classroom is short-sighted, because technology is here to stay and is only going to become more prevalent in the lives of our students. In addition, our students ONLY know a world with technology, where most likely we teachers are of the generation where we can live without it.
  • Proper technology classroom implementation involves engagement, not solely entertainment. 
  • Just because one facilitates technology in one's curriculum does not mean that it is being facilitated properly.
  • Technology can never replace a human teacher.
Let me leave you with this statement with which I begin every technology presentation I deliver:

Are there any technologies which I have left off this list which you have found very beneficial in your classroom?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Version of "Who is This?"

Here is a fun, quick take on the "Who is This?" assessment, which can be used as a warmup, bellringer, ticket out the door, etc. It is a listening comprehension activity involving whiteboards and characters from a reading/novella. It only lasts 5-10 minutes.

  1. Write 3 VERY short descriptions in target language of one character, where the 1st description is most general ,and the 3rd is most specific, i.e., by the third description, it should be obvious who the character is.
  2.  Do this for three or more different characters.
  1. Have students get a whiteboards and dry-erase markers. Students can also use pencil and paper for this, but it is not as fun.
  2. Have students number 1-3 on their paper or whiteboard
  3. Explain to students that you are going to read a series of descriptions and after each description, they should write the name of the character whom they think it is. All three descriptions are about the same character.
  4. After reading the 3rd description, ask students in the target language “who is it?” and have them respond. If they are using whiteboards, ask them to hold up their whiteboards so that you can see their series of answers.
  5. Continue with the next character.
Examples from the Aeneid
  1. Troianus vir (Trojan man)
  2. pater (father)
  3. a serpentibus interfectus (killed by snakes)
Answer - Laocoon
  1. deus (god)
  2. rex (king)
  3. mittit ventos (sends winds)
Answer - Aeolus
  1. femina (woman)
  2. in Italia (in Italy)
  3. sacerdos Apollonis (priestess of Apollo)
Answer - the Sibyl
  1. Troianus vir (Trojan man)
  2. fidelis amicus (loyal friend)
  3. rare loquitur (rarely speaks)
Answer - Achates

  1. This is actually a very fun activity to do. Years ago, I demonstrated this in a presentation at an American Classical League Summer Institute with Latin teachers using characters from the Aeneid, and they did not want to stop playing this and wanted me to keep giving them character descriptions, even though I had run out of them.
  2. The shorter the descriptions are, the better. Since it is a quick activity, to give students long descriptions makes the activity drag. Vocabulary words and short phrases work best.
  3. The more characters from which to choose, the better. If your reading only has four characters, then it becomes obvious VERY quickly whom the description is describing.
  4. I have found that students turn this into a competition to see if they can get the answer right based on the first, most general description.
  5. I like the class to show me their whiteboards after they write down the character after the last description so that I can see their "train of thought" - it is fun for me as a teacher to see them be able to narrow down who they think that the character is based on the names which they wrote down.
  6. If you are a Latin teacher who uses the Cambridge Latin Course, this is a great activity, since there are so many characters in the readings.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Taking a Huge Plunge

I am headed back to graduate school! This week, I found out that I have been accepted into the Doctoral of Education program in Instructional Technology at Kennesaw State University. It is an online degree program, and I had received my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology from this same university back in July 2016; as a result, I can transfer many of my credits to this new program. Because it is an online program, I will still be in the classroom full-time but taking courses simultaneously.

Now that the initial shock and excitement have worn off, part of me is thinking, "Oh my gosh, what the heck am I getting myself into? A lot is going to change in my life as a result of this." Pursuing a doctorate means:
  • taking coursework and now pursuing a doctorate, in addition to working a full-time teaching job.
  • no longer having the free time which I enjoy now but rather instead having to be incredibly disciplined with my time.
  • at least three years of commitment to an academic degree program which now includes a writing a dissertation. 
  • cutting back big time on attending conferences and giving presentations and instead having to be rather selective in which ones I attend and to which ones I submit proposals.
  • entering the realm of academic research (both qualitative and quantitative), something which after writing my M.A thesis over 20 years ago I thought was behind me.
At the same time, the chance to pursue further and deeper knowledge in the field excites me. I think that it is incredibly short-sighted for people to disqualify technology's place in education, because whether we like it or not, industries are changing so rapidly due to technology. As a result, I would much rather be on the proactive side and on the cutting edge of proper educational technology implementation instead of being on the "reactive" end. However, I am also savvy enough to understand that technology is not a panacea and should never replace the needed humanity of teachers in the classroom.

As you can probably guess, my two specific areas of interest in Instructional Technology are: 
  1. the proper implementation of technology for the delivery of Comprehensible Input in a world language classroom. This was my Capstone project for my Ed.S degree, and quite honestly, there is little current research out there on this topic. Krashen has written a few short articles recently on the topic, but most "research" out there is quite outdated when addressing current technologies. Unfortunately, technology has an incredible short shelf life, and nowhere do we see that more prevalent than in today's world where the average lifespan of a gaming app is two weeks (which explains the perpetual need for updates). Also, note the emphasis on the word proper - most teachers have NEVER received any training on how to facilitate technology properly and are rather implementing it at an incredibly low level of critical thinking. 
  2. the use of technology for the delivery of extended staff development. I wrote a blog post a few years ago on this topic. 
Quite honestly, I do not know if in pursuing this degree that I will eventually leave the classroom as a Latin teacher and will become a school technology coordinator - I cannot rule out this option (my colleague and department head Bob Patrick has explicitly told me that I must give him a year's notice if I choose this path!).

I will still continue to blog here, but you may notice that my posts will begin to have a technology angle to them. I do not begin my graduate program until August, so I have a few more months both to prepare and to enjoy my life before it changes. Here's to my next few months!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Find the Sentence using Emojis

Recently, Kristy Placido posted on Twitter a Find the Sentence post-reading activity involving emojis, so last week, I decided to give it a try with my Latin 2 classes. We had been going over the Perseus story which deals with Andromeda and how Perseus rescues her, so using emojis was definitely a novel post-reading activity. It went quite well.

In order to do this activity, you will need to type emojis using a keyboard. See below how to do this using Windows 10.
Once you activate your emoji keyboard,
  1. Take known sentences from a story which you have been reviewing, and emoji-ize them, i.e., write the sentence on a document using ONLY emojis. NOTE - most likely, the sentences will not be a true one-to-one with emojis, because there are a number of words for which there are no emojis. My goal was to get the gist of the sentence as closely as possible.
  2. If you wish, scramble the emoji sentences so that they are not in order of the story.
  3. Project the emoji sentences OR print them out for students.
  4. Give students a copy of the passage from which the sentences come.
  5. Students are to find the sentence which the emojis best communicate and to write down that sentence.
  6. Review when students are done.
Extension activity - Give sentences from the story to students for them emoji-ize.

Here is the Emoji Find the Sentence activity which I did. I have included the Latin sentences and English translations for you.

  1. This was definitely a novel way for students to review a story, because it forced them to re-read the story to find the sentence. 
  2. Emojis are a great way to deliver additional comprehensible input. They are compelling and are already a "language" with which students use to communicate. 
  3. Be aware that students are not familiar with every emoji out there. If you have students create their own sentences to emoji-ize, you may have to help them out finding emojis.
  4. Unfortunately like when using pictures to deliver input, emojis can be interpreted differently by students. What seems obvious in meaning to one student is not always to another. It may be necessary to establish meaning for some of the emojis.
  5. If you print your sentences in black/white (as I did), sometimes meaning is lost, since the original emojis are in color. You may want to project your emoji sentences instead or to print them in color.
  6. For those students who did not have access to a smartphone, I had them use the classroom student computer and activate the emoji keyboard so that they could type out their sentences.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Nearing the End Zone

Yep, it is the end of the school year, with just three weeks left in the semester for me. If you are like me, you absolutely dread this time of the year. Instruction becomes disrupted by standardized End of Course testing, AP testing, and end-of-the-year activities (yearbook distribution, senior activities, graduation practice). It becomes a balancing act of trying to get in last bits of instruction, of keeping track of what students will be missing class on which days due to testing, and of trying to remain somewhat motivated. In addition, let me say for the record: I am tired of students, and students are tired of me. That is not to say that I dislike students or hate teaching. It is just that it is the time of the year where all parties involved are ready for a much needed break from each other.

I am weary and exhausted. I know that it must be the end of the school year, because every day for the past few weeks, I have taken a nap when I come home from work - I only nap like this at the start and at the end of the school year. As I have written before, I feel like I am in zombie mode during these last weeks of the year, because I am physically teaching, but my heart, mind, and emotions are not always fully present.

Apparently, this topic must be an important one to me, because I have blogged about it almost yearly, sharing the same feelings and sentiments. At the same time, I am glad that I have, because in my reading over these past posts, in hindsight it demonstrates to me that every year I have indeed gotten through and survived all of the craziness, received much needed rest over the summer, and returned re-energized for the new school year.  

I am constantly reminded that teaching is a marathon and not a sprint. I have never run a marathon, but I can imagine that the last few miles are absolutely brutal to complete as one's body begins to shut down and to fight back against the effort. As the end of the school year draws near, I find myself laboring (and sometimes crawling) to cross the finish line. Although I may be battered and bruised, I will still cross it.

I write this post not to vent nor to complain but rather to encourage others who are feeling this way that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is okay and normal to be feeling this way. So many times we are expected to be super heroes in the classroom, but we must remember that we are also human. The end is in sight...