Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Using Storyboard That to Deliver Input

This week, I have been playing around with Storyboard That, a web technology which allows users to create "storyboarded" versions of readings as a form of digital storytelling. This week, I was introducing a unit on the Underworld (which we will be covering for the rest of the semester), so I decided to try out Storyboard That as a post-reading activity. Below is what I created:

Below is a video explaining about how to use Storyboard That:

  1. This is definitely another novel way to deliver input and to do a reading due to the comic-book nature of the pictures and of the layout.
  2. I downloaded my storyboard as a powerpoint and created a screencast so that students would receive double input from hearing me narrate the story in Latin and from reading the Latin at the same time.
  3. There is definitely a learning curve in discovering how to use Storyboard That, because there are so many illustrations and options which you can use to create content.
  4. I can definitely see having students use this tool to create their own content, but like most technology, they need to learn how to use it properly, i.e. this is an easy tool for students to get caught up in the "bells and whistles" without creating anything with real substance or new meaning.
  5. Using this tool, I would like to create a library of "graphic readers" for students to read maybe during a FVR time.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks with Storyboard That. It is a pay-site, and while there are free options available, there are lots of limitations to the free option:
  • One can only create 2 storyboards a week.
  • Storyboards can only be 3 or 6 cells in length.
  • There is limited access to various storyboard layouts.
  • If you wish for students to create a storyboard on their own, they must register for a free individual account on their own OR you can pay per students to create a pay account. However, this may be a student privacy data issue for your school.
There is a free trial account for teachers which will give you extended access, but it only lasts for 14 days.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Emoji Picture Story Retell

A few months ago, I wrote a post about using emojis as part of a Find the Sentence activity. Here is an extension activity which you can do with emojis and can be used following doing Find the Sentence

Today in my Latin 2 classes, I used emojis as a story picture retell. Yesterday, I had students do an emoji Find the Sentence with a Movie Talk reading which we had been doing for the past few days. Today, I gave students the story written in emojis (and some English words where there was no fitting emoji) and had them retell the story to each other in Latin in partners. The Movie Talk story itself was incredibly basic with lots of repetitions and limited vocabulary, so it seemed like a perfect story to "emoji-ize" and to experiment as a story picture retell.

  1. Because yesterday the class had done a Find the Sentence activity with these same emojis, students were already familiar with what Latin words these emojis represented, because meaning had already been established.
  2. Because vocabulary was limited, it was a very easy story for students to retell relying only on the emojis. If the story had extensive vocabulary, I think that it would have been more difficult due to an overabundance of emojis.
  3. Not every story lends itself to being "emoji-ized" due to not every vocabulary word having a matching emoji. As you can see in my story above, there are no emojis indicating size, so I had to write those words in English, as well as the verb want. 
  4. As an extension, I had students then use the emoji story as a guide for a timed-write so that what they verbally expressed had a place to go.
Overall, using emojis in this way is a novel way to do a story picture retell, and it is definitely one that I will do again in the future. At the same time, however, it does have its drawbacks due to a limited emoji language.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

RRR Days

The Latin program at my school, Parkview High School, has over 700 students taking Latin, and we have had no failures over the past number of years. The fact no student has failed Latin in the past few years has been a distinguishing hallmark of our Latin program and definitely a fact of which my school's administration is very aware. While I do believe that having a CI-based Latin program, embarking on a standards-based grading system, and eschewing the traditional way of assessing students have contributed to this, I will also say that we have a number of students who do not perform well in our Latin classes. To remedy this, however, once a month we have something called an "RRR Day."

RRR Day stands for "Rest, Retake, and Remediation" (or some form of that. I think that each of us in my Latin department calls it something different). The concept, however, is very basic: once a month, classtime is dedicated to students retaking any assessment which they want, making up missed assignments/assessments, and getting needed remediation for material which they are not understanding. If a student does not need any of that, then their reward is a day off in class.  

So how does it work?
  1. On the RRR day (I usually let students know a few days ahead of time), I tell students to check their grades online to see if there are any assessments/assignments which they would like to make up or to retake. If they wish to retake/make up anything, then they let me know. 
  2. If a student has a zero as an assessment score due to absence or has a 70 or below for an assessment, then that student receives a written notification from me, stating that the student has a low grade (or grades). See below:
  3. If a student needs remediation due to a score of 70 or below on an assessment, that student (or students) meets with me during the RRR time for remediation. Many times, I will have a group of students around my desk reviewing a past story with me. I like this individualized remediation, because it shows me what students are understanding, not understanding, where the problems are, etc. 
  4. Once students have demonstrated to me during this remediation time that they now understand the material, then they can do a retake. Usually, I will give them an altered form of the assessment on which they scored lower than a 70.
  5. Those students who do not need to do any remediation, make up, or retakes have the day off. They can work on homework for other classes, listen to music on their phones, play cards, etc. Essentially, an RRR day is a reward for them.
  1. If your class is proficiency-based and not performance-based, then RRR Days perfectly align with that, because your goal for students is that they demonstrate mastery of a concept/standard no matter how long it takes, as opposed to their performance on an assessment.
  2. Because our program is standards-based, our assessments are quite short (not the traditional 4-5 page tests), so it does not take long for a student to retake an assessment.
  3. Yes, there are students who have received a 95 on an assessment that wish to retake it so that they can get a 100 this time. I do let them retake it.
  4. Because an RRR day is once a month, sometimes much time has passed since the assessment, so students may have forgotten what they did not understand. The remediation time helps correct that.
  5. I personally like the RRR days, because it gives students opportunities to make up missed work, to receive individualized remediation time with me, and to retake assessments to improve their proficiency scores. Both students and I actually get a lot accomplished on these days.
  6. If I were to ask struggling students to come before or after school for remediation, many of them probably would not show up. This way, on an RRR Day, assuming that they are in class that day, these students have no choice but to do remediation with me.
So consider implementing an RRR day in your classroom, and see what a difference it makes for students. 

For further reading, Rachel Ash and Miriam Patrick have a blog post here about RRR days from a few years ago. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Story Listening

Today, I ventured into Story Listening with my Latin 2 classes. Story Listening is a pre-reading strategy devised by Beniko Mason, and the title is exactly what it is: students listening to a story being told while the teacher draws pictures as part of the storytelling. No circling takes place, and it is done in the same way as a parent telling children a story, i.e., parents tend not to interrupt a story with questions. I had dabbled before with Story Listening, but I had not added the picture component.

Today, in my Latin 2 classes, I did a Story Listening of the following story - the story of Vulcan and Mars. Below is the story with the pictures which I drew as I narrated the story aloud in Latin.

Iuppiter et Iuno duōs filiōs habebant. Primus filius erat Mars. Mars erat deus bellī. Iuno amabat suum filium Martem, quod Mars erat fortis et pulcher.

Secundus filius erat Vulcanus. Vulcanus erat deus ignis. Iuno non amabat suum secundum filium. Quamquam Vulcanus erat fortis, Iuno non putavit Vulcanum esse pulchrum.

Eheu! Quod Vulcanus erat fortis sed non pulcher, Iuno erat irata. Iuno Vulcanum non amabat, et noluit Vulcanum habitare in Monte Olympō. Iuno Vulcanum ad terram deicit. Vulcanus non iam erat in Monte Olympō sed in terrā. Vulcanus erat vulneratus in terrā.

Vulcanus erat tristis, quod mater Vulcanum non amabat. Vulcanus erat tristis, quod Iuno non putavit Vulcanum esse pulchrum. Vulcanus erat tristis, quod erat vulneratus. Vulcanus noluit habitare in terrā. Vulcanus voluit habitare in Monte Olympō.


  1. Because this was my first real foray into Story Listening, I am glad that I had a very basic story with tons of repetitions and lots of vocabulary with which students were familiar. That made it much easier for me to tell.
  2. This is a very LOW-prep activity for you as the teacher. All that is required for you is the story and a place to draw pictures.
  3. I was surprised at how engaged students were when I told the story. Granted it was a rather comprehensible story to understand when heard aloud, but the fact that I was drawing pictures as I narrated it kept the story compelling.
  4. The pictures added another layer of comprehensible input. Essentially, students were receiving double input: hearing the Latin aloud and seeing the pictorial representation of the story as I drew it.
  5. I suppose one could draw the pictures ahead of time, but drawing the pictures while telling the story aloud forced me to go slow and to repeat a lot by referring to the pictures. I think that students appreciated this.
  6. Because students are just listening to a story and you as the teacher are not asking questions, it can be tricky to see if students are fully comprehending what you are saying. Halfway through the story listening, I did a comprehension check by asking students to tell me in English what was going on in the story. I could have circled or asked comprehension questions in Latin, but since this was the first experience which students had with this story, I wanted to confirm that they understood it.
  7. Because this is a pre-reading strategy (I suppose it could be used as a post-reading strategy), it is important that students are familiar with the vocabulary words in the story either as having already acquired them or as icing words written on the board.
  8. The whole story listening took about 10-15 minutes.
  9. This is definitely something which I going to do more often in the future!
To see how it works, see below for a Story Listening Demo by Beniko Mason

Also, check out this post on the Fluency Matters blog about Story Listening - New or Time-Tested. This is a very good write-up by Carol Gaab. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Where my Passion Lies

This past July, I led a Vergilian Society tour to Italy, where the morning focused on classroom sessions about CI in the Latin classroom, and the afternoon was devoted to touring. For our tour sessions, I wanted to focus on classical sites, since we were Latin teachers. At these sites, a number of participants wanted to read aloud excerpts in Latin from Roman authors who had written about some of the sites in classical times which we were now visiting. When our group was in the Piscina Mirabilis in Miseno and was reading excerpts from Book 6 of the Aeneid (where the Sibyl tells Aeneid that his comrade Misenus is dead, that his body needs to be buried, but that the land will be called Misenum after him), we took turns reading the passage in Latin and in English. Many participants really enjoyed it, but quite honestly, I so wanted to feel a part of it all and to experience the joy of hearing the Latin read about these places like others were, but to be honest, my heart just was not into it. That is not to say that there was anything wrong either with those who enjoyed it or with me who did not fully get into the experience - it just means that we are in different places when it comes to Latin.

I have come to realize that my passion no longer is in the Latin language itself. When I came straight out of graduate school, I would have told you that my passion was Vergil and how much I loved anything related to the Aeneid or dactyllic hexameter. That is NOT to say that I have lost my love for the Latin language; in many ways, it is as strong as ever. It is just not as strong as others whom I know and quite honestly, something else has taken its place and superseded it.

Where my passion lies is now in the TEACHING of Latin, in learning how to be a more effective CI instructor, and in passing along this knowledge to others through presentations, blogs, social media, etc. That is what excites me as a Latinist. This is why every summer I attend IFLT - I want to hone my craft and to become a better practitioner of delivering comprehensible input to my students. This is why I read blogs devoted to the topic and follow CI teachers on Twitter. In many ways, this is why I have not attended Rusticatio in the past few summers; as much as I want to become a better speaker of Latin, as I become more selective in what summer conferences I attend, an IFLT or NTPRS conference is going to be my first choice.

Even though I am taking off this year from conferences, I love presenting on implementing comprehensible input in the classroom. My absolute favorite presentation which I have ever given was my first session at IFLT 2017 in Denver on how to play Mafia (I gave two presentations there on Mafia). I had no idea what to expect for the presentation, since it was the first time for me to present on the topic, and I was also a bit intimidated, because there were a number of folks in attendance whom I absolutely admire and respect as CI teachers. Everything went so well, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Usually at the end of doing a CI demonstration in a presentation, I ask, "What made this activity comprehensible for you? Compelling for you? Lowered your affective filter?" One participant responded, "Your body language during the entire Mafia game made the activity so interesting for us and kept it entertaining." To be honest, my body language was something of which I was completely unaware (and am still unaware. Occasionally, I will notice my body language when telling a CI story or asking questions, and it kind of freaks me out). I am always taken by surprise when I hear this, because my body language is completely unintentional. One time, Jason Fritze commented that I look like I am surfing when I circle. At the same time, it is great to hear that my body language even communicates my joy of teaching Latin using CI and of wanting to teach others about how they can implement CI in their classrooms.

Where does your passion lie when it comes to language and to teaching?