Tuesday, January 28, 2020

CI Activities to Fill Time

Even though I have been teaching for over 20 years and feel that I have a good idea about lesson planning/scaffolding, I still deal with timing of activities, i.e., how long will an activity take? I have done enough of specific activities to have an idea, but as teachers we know that some class periods will take longer than others due to its make up, needs, chemistry, etc. And then there are other class periods where an activity goes MUCH more quickly than expected, and suddenly, you have all of this extra time left over. What to do?

First off, I do not teach bell-to-bell. If there are 10-15 minutes left in a class period, depending on what we have been doing in class, I will give the class free time to use their phones (I always tell my students, "You give me time during class, and I will give you time at the end of class."). Laurie Clarcq once told me (when I was feeling guilty that I was not teaching bell-to-bell), "Students sometimes just need downtime in class." But there have been those particular classes where giving students that much downtime is risky (we have all had those classes), so again what to do?

Here is a list of CI activities which you can do to "fill time" when you need to, and they are little-to-no prep:
  • Hot Seat - one of my go-to "fill time" activities, because it does not require much preparation, and I can facilitate it on the spot.
  • Freeze Frame (This requires that you have a story already written ahead of time, but if you write one proactively, you can just pull it out when needed)
  • One Word Image - start with one image, and ask the class to give you the rest of the information. Absolutely no prep on your part.
  • Picture Talk - have a number of different pictures on file to talk about in the target language. Pictures which are optical illusions or require students to "find" something are engaging.
  • Who is This - if you have been doing stories and you have accumulated a lot of characters over the semester, this is one which you can do. This does require a bit of prep since you need to be able to give short clues, starting with the most general and going to the specific about a character. But like Freeze Frame, if you do this proactively and keep it on file somewhere, you can bring it out when you need to.
What are some activities which you do?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Power of Community, Good-Will, and Caring: Guest Post by Emma Vanderpool

The following is a guest post from Emma Vanderpool, a first-year Latin teacher at Trickum Middle School in Lilburn, GA.

I graduated from the University of Massachusetts last year with my Master of Arts in Teaching, feeling pretty  immersed in the world of Comprehensible Input activities and teachers. I had spent my free time scouring the multitude of CI blogs and online teaching groups gathering resources and strategies. I had observed teachers, who lived and breathed the CI-mentality in their classrooms. I had attended a multitude of panels and workshops by the best CI Latin teachers in the field, including an opportunity to spend two weeks with Keith in Italy, learning about how to incorporate CI strategies into my classroom. While at UMASS, I had applied these teaching practices and beliefs to the best of my ability both as a college Latin instructor and during student teaching at a local Massachusetts high school. 

Despite the constraints of being a college instructor and being a student teacher, I was able to see the power of comprehensible input strategies. I was able to see the high-level of student engagement and the resulting acquisition of the language. It was empowering and exciting. By the time I graduated, I was full of capital B-I-G, BIG, ideas and couldn’t wait to get into the classroom. 

And despite all of this  preparation, nothing could have prepared me for entering into my own classroom. It was the dream situation: I was completely untextbooked, I had the freedom to build the middle school program from the ground up, and I was completely supported in the use of not only CI activities but also SPOKEN Latin (-- which can be quite a big deal, even today). I had all of these grand ideas of the kind of teacher that I wanted to be. I wanted to use Standards Based Grading based on the ACTFL Standards. I wanted my students to have writing portfolios. I wanted to have a deskless classroom and to be using plenty of fun brain breaks I wanted…. I wanted….

And then, I got into the classroom  -- and most of my energy went not into collecting beautiful writing portfolios but making sure my students could keep track of their pencils for (a majority of) the class period. Most of my energy went not into telling stories from beautiful PowerPoint slides but just making sure my students didn’t stab each other with thumb tacks! Middle school felt like a completely different world from high school - and felt like a universe away from teaching college students. It was just as much about teaching the language as about teaching them how to be kind-hearted, responsible young people. 

I had heard over and over again that Comprehensible Input had to be comprehensible, compelling, and caring.  Yet, I quickly realized that no matter how comprehensible, how compelling, how caring the input that I thought I providing my students, that if they were not buying it, they were not receiving it. 

Finally, part way through October, it finally got through my hazy, first-year-teacher brain. I realized the importance of community and the good-will that comes with it. 

Many of my students were there unwillingly -- and some unaware of what Latin class even was since the program was only in its second year of existence. Every day, I had to work to show them just how much I cared and chip away at the oh-so-cool middle school existence to get them to care just enough in return that some of the input that I was giving them was received. 

I utilized a lesson from Magister P, who in turn learned it from Grant Bolanger: students must first feel cared about before they can care about others. My middle schoolers did not feel connected to the Romans, but they  did feel connected to each other. They wanted more than anything to communicate with each other and with their families as I pitched Latin not as a dead language but rather as a top-secret one. So, in my intro level courses, we focused more on every day vocabulary than on vocabulary that they would  probably later on in the typical Ciceronian or Caesarian text. From there, once they all felt cared about not only by me but their peers, we finally had a door into the ancient world. 

In my intro level classes, we made a taberna (a snack shop) out of paper copy boxes, and they used the language to buy “food” (aka candy) from me. They dressed in togas to exchange small talk on the Roman streets. In the high-school-credit classes, we used things like Discipulus Illustris (Special Student) to increase the feelings of community. As the students felt cared about, we had a greater sense of community. And as I earned some more Good-Will Points, they were more willing to following our Daily Engagement Agreement (DEA). With a clearer system of classroom organization in place, I was better able to provide compelling and comprehensible messages to them. Overall, the more Good-Will Points I had, the more willing they were to delve into the world of the ancients with me. 

It was then and only then I started to make a break-through and things started to fall into place. As a first year teacher, I still sometimes struggle with classroom management. I found, however, that once we had a greater sense of community and I had some more Good Will points with my students, we had a better, more orderly environment and I was finally able to not only give Comprehensible Input but to have students receive it. 

Finally, I could see the “magic” working in my classroom as we spent more time laughing about inside jokes in the target language. Finally, I could see the “magic” working as my students not only learned about gladiators in the target language but asked deep questions as they imagined themselves in that world. Finally, I could see the “magic” working in their writing samples and in the fact that at the end of the semester, so many of my sixth graders were eager to come back next year for the year-long version. And, finally, finally I truly understood all of the hard work that went on behind all the blog posts, videos, and social media posts. 

My classroom is far from picture perfect. It is barely ready for a post in a Facebook group -- or a blog post. After my first semester in my own classroom, I’ve made the important revelation that as caring as I am to my students, I have to be just as caring and kind to myself through not only my successes but my failures. I’ve made the important revelation that, although  it’ll never be perfect, it’ll be an adventure as I learn how I, as a teacher, fit in amongst the theory and Facebook posts. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Listening/Matching Activity

Here is a good post-reading, listening activity for students to work on their listening comprehension skills. I believe that I learned this from Annabelle Williamson at IFLT this past summer (if it was someone else, I apologize!). It is a very basic picture matching activity, but it requires some pre-work on your end prior to facilitation.

  1. Take a known story which you have been reviewing in class. If it is a story which students have already heard narrated in the target language (as a Movie Talk or Story Listening), the better, because students are already familiar with having to comprehend it aurally.
  2. Pick 10 sentences from the story. 
  3. Randomize the sentences, and number them 1-10 on a document.
  4. Create a 3x4 grid on a document, and letter each square in order A-L.
  5. Illustrate the 10 sentences plus two more for a total of 12 sentence illustrations. Two pictures will not be chosen and will serve as distractors. Illustrate the sentences randomly. You can use screenshots if you wish.
  6. Make copies of the picture grid for every student.
  1. Hand out copies of picture grid to every student.
  2. Explain that you are going to read sentences from the story and that students are to pick which picture they think fits the description which they hear read aloud.
  3. Students are to put the sentence number in the box of the picture which matches the sentence.
  4. Read aloud each sentence to the class, and have students match the sentence number to the picture. Example: "Sentence #2 - the bear is eating hot wings." Repeat the sentence multiple times before moving onto the next one.
  5. When done, re-read each sentence aloud with the correct picture letter. Example: "Sentence #1 - the old woman is chased out of the train station - is picture D."

  1. Parvus vir consilium capit! (The small man has an idea)
  2. Parvus vir ad fontem ascendit ut vota expleat. (The small man climbs up to the fountain in order to grant the wishes)
  3. Parvus vir conatur vota explere, sed non potest. (The small man tries to grant the wishes but is not able)
  4. Vir in arcam nummum iacit. (The man throws a coin into the box)
  5. Eheu - nummi adhaesiti sunt! (Oh no - the coins have become stuck!)
  6. Parvus vir votum explet, et subito, vir pecuniam habet. (The small man grants the wish, and suddenly the man has money).
  7. Vir in fontem nummum iacit, quod votum est pecunia. The man throws a coin into the fountain, because his wish is money)
  8. Parvus vir in fontem nummum iacit. (The small man throws a coin into the fountain).
  9. Iuvenis in fontem nummum iacit, quod votum est amor. (The young man throws a coin into the fountain, because his wish is love)
  10. Parvus vir votum explet, et subito, iuvenis et femina amorem accipiunt. (The small man grants the wish, and suddenly, the young man and woman receive love).
  1. Wow, what a great listening activity! So easy to facilitate after the prepwork!
  2. This is a great way to deliver Comprehensible Input, because students are receiving repetitions of understandable messages in the target language.
  3. This involves higher-order thinking in students, because it requires them to understand what they are hearing and to match it with a visual picture.
  4. Even though students may only need to hear the sentence stated 1-2 times to complete the activity, they are receiving subconscious repetitions of the sentences when you say them 4-5 times.
  5. Because the brain craves novelty (thanks for that phrase, Carol Gaab!), this is another way to review a story in a different way without being repetitive. 
  6. I have a love/hate relationship with using screenshots. On the one hand, I love that they are available just a cut/paste away, but at the same time, there are issues, such as ambiguity sometimes in what the screenshot is communicating, difficulty in seeing the picture when printing them for black/white copies due to contrast issues, etc.
  7. Because I myself learned Latin without any type of oral/aural components, I am always amazed that students are able to do this. Whenever I comment on this to students, they always reply, "It really is not that hard." To which I reply, "But that is because you are so accustomed to hearing Latin spoken to you."

Monday, January 6, 2020

2020 CI Conference/Training Dates

With a new year beginning, I want you to consider attending a full CI conference/training in 2020. While attending CI presentations at state and regional conferences is helpful, nothing can compare to a summer, weeklong, full-CI immersive environment. A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about why you should consider attending a CI conference, but here are links to registration pages with updated information:
  • Altamira CI Training - Intensive Course - June 21-23, Presenter Retreat - June 24-26,                                     Jamestown, RI 
  • Cascadia Conference - June 30-July 2, Portland, OR
  • IFLT - July 14-17, Cal State Long Beach, CA
  • NTPRS - July 20-24, Minneapolis, MN
  • Agen Workshop - July 27-August 1, held in Agen, France
  • Express Fluency Conference -  held in Vermont. Usually held in August