Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Horse and Puppy (Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial) - Movie Talk

This is a special movie talk for me, because it was the first one which was demonstrated to me where the purpose of a movie talk made full sense to me! At the 2016 IFLT in Chattanooga, I saw Katya Paukova demo a movie talk in Russian using this specific commercial, and because I was experiencing it like a student, suddenly, I understood its power! Katya said that the best movie talks are those which appeal to the emotions, and this one certainly will give you the feels. It is a Budweiser commercial from the 2015 Super Bowl involving a man, a puppy, and a Clydesdale horse (the Budweiser mascot). Although the commerical is only 58 seconds, it packs in a lot of emotion!

For Latin 3, I adapted this commercial, because I needed to preview such "odd" words as wander, (to) here and there, have fear, and far away. I had previously used this commercial in Latin 1 to preview words such as home, sad, happy, and afraid, so I was able to manipulate what I scripted before in Latin 1 to meet my Latin 3 needs.

NOTE - the actual commercial ends at 0:58 but is replayed for the remainder of the video


Latin script

Observations

  1. Even though this commercial is only 58 seconds, I was able to get a good 30 minutes as a movie talk in narrating, pointing/pausing, asking processing questions, and using PQAs.
  2. You may need to explain how this commercial relates to Budweiser, since students asked me: Budweiser Super Bowl commercials traditionally spotlight their Clydesdale mascot and not the beer itself (thankfully). Warning - the man is holding a Budweiser bottle in his hand at the very end prior to the Budweiser logo so you may want to end the movie talk before that. 
  3. There is another Budweiser Super Bowl commercial involving the puppy, horse, and man. The previous year in 2014, the commercial was about how the puppy, man, and horse first met, and how the puppy brought about a love connection for the man. I do not know what happened to the woman in the 2015 commercial - did the relationship not work out but yet the man kept the dog? Did the woman tragically pass away? Is the woman on vacation in the 2015 commercial? I like the 2015 commercial much better!
Thank you, Katya, for introducing me to how a movie talk should be done through this commerical!

Monday, September 27, 2021

Lists - Brain Break

This is a brain break, which I learned from my colleague John Foulk, who in turn learned this from Miriam Patrick. The premise is very simple: students individually (and corporately) will create/add to a list based on a category. Call upon students one at a time in a prescribed order (such as seating), and when that student responds with a word to add to the category, write it on the board. Students cannot repeat a word already stated, and the brain break ends when someone cannot add a new word to the list. However, I have changed it so that students can help each other out when a student cannot think of anything new to add in order to keep to the brain break continuing.

Some category examples

  • Fast-food chain restaurants - this topic needs a lot of defining if you choose this, as everyone has a different idea of what a fast-food restaurant is. I ended up defining it as "a restaurant where there is a drive-thru window, you have to order at an order box, and then pick up your order at a window." While restaurants may have a pickup window for mobile/online orders or offer curbside service, you must speak to a worker first at an order box! 
  • Chemical symbols/names of elements on the periodic table - I have printed out an alphabetical list since I myself do not remember many of these!
  • Cartoon characters
  • Items found in a kitchen
  • Cable TV channels
  • State capitals 
  • Current Olympic sports (both winter and summer) - Narrow this category just to the sports and not subcategories in the individual sports. For example, Athletics/Track and Field is a category but not the 100m dash since the event itself is part of that category. 

Observations

  1. Allowing students to volunteer additional words for students who cannot think of an answer continues to add to the community building of the class. Students did not want the brain break to end!
  2. When I did the fast-food category, I could tell which students had grown up in/visited other parts of the country, because they would name fast food chains local to that area/region, such as In 'n' Out, Whataburger, Hardees, Karl's Jr., Jack in the Box, etc. - lots of fun!
  3. Because the Toyko Olympics just happened, this topic was current in students' minds.
  4. This is one brain break which students constantly request, so I have to keep finding new categories!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Dictations Revisited

In students' return to an in-person, post-hybrid classroom, I have realized that they need A LOT of guided support. We cannot make the assumption that everything is going to be "business as usual" and that we can pick up from where we left off last year. As I have stated before in previous blog posts, I have entered this year with the mindset that students did NOT acquire any language last year (or at least the majority of students did not), so I need to focus on sheltering vocabulary (and not grammar) and giving them a lot of support in the beginning. While last year teaching hybrid in a primarily digital environment was definitely challenging, there were a number of revisions and adaptations which occurred to usual face-to-face lessons which I liked and am now incorporating back into my regular teaching. One of them is the dictatio activity.

The basics of the dictatio still remain the same in terms of the activity itself. 

  1. I read aloud a sentence SLOWLY in the target language many times while students write down the words as I say them.
  2. After the 3rd time of reading the sentence aloud, I project the sentence on the screen.
  3. Students make any spelling corrections to their sentences if any words are misspelled.
Here is how I have changed the way in which I do dictations:
  1. I write all unknown/new targeted words on the board prior to the dictation with their English defintion in order to establish meaning right away for students and will point/pause at those words when they come up in the dictation. This way when students are writing down unknown words, they are able to understand the meaning immediately instead of waiting for me to project the sentence and having to ask then.
  2. I now give students a handout/digital document that has three boxes: sentence, corrections, picture/translation. This is something which my instructional team did with students when we were trying to conduct dictations virtually via Zoom (it did not work well at all!).
  3. Students will transcribe the dictation in the Sentence box.
  4. When I project the sentence, students will the correct spelling for any misspelled words in the Corrections box. If they had no spelling errors, they write Optime!
  5. We now do a choral reading of the projected sentence to establish meaning.
  6. I then give students one minute to either write down a translation of the sentence into English or to draw a visual representation of the sentence. At an IFLT many years ago, I saw Annabelle Williamson do this with elementary school students, and I was amazed at how focused they were in doing a dictation!

Observations

  1. Establishing meaning of unknown words for students during the actual dictation has been very helpful for students, because now they can have an immediate understanding of these new words as they write them down.
  2. The format of the handout gives structure to students as they perform this activity.
  3. The choral reading afterwards continues to establish meaning for students with the dictated sentence.
  4. The one-minute of writing down a translation of the sentence or drawing the sentence gives students something to do with that sentence (albeit for a minute).

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Destiny Movie Talk

This is a great movie talk if you are introducing rooms of the house, numbers, or directional verbs of motion. I just recently introduced this movie talk in my Latin 3 classes, because I needed to target the words appropinquat (approach) and abit (go away), but this could easily be used in level 1 to introduce intrat (enter) and discedit/exit (leave).


Latin script

English script 

Observations

  1. Because the main character is reliving an episode in his life, there are tons of repetitions in this animated short.
  2. The first time I did this with a class, it went okay - students were kind of engaged but not overly excited. The second time I did it with another class, I made students pay attention to the number of clocks in each room by asking Latine how many clocks were in each room when I paused it (and then did a running total) and to what time it was on the clock when the man woke up each time - students really got into that and were A LOT more engaged in the movie talk, because the plot began to make much more sense.
  3. There is an end-credit scene to watch at the end too!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Read, Draw, and Discuss

This is an activity which I had done often in the past to introduce a new reading but had forgotten about during the Covid hybrid interim. However, returning to a post-Covid classroom, my colleague Rachel Ash did this with our Latin 2 classes, and I saw that this was an excellent way to introduce students to a new reading with lots of scaffolded support while addressing various modalities. The activity is exactly what the name says: read, draw, and discuss.

After the 2nd full week of class with my Latin 3's, I did a vocabulary ranking survey where students let me know digitally what new targeted vocabulary they really knew, knew, kind of knew, and did not know at all using a Google Slide sorting activity. Using those results of the top 5 words which students felt that they kind of knew and did not know, I created a story which furthered the Pullo et Vorenus story but deliberately targeted those words with which students had informed me that they did not possess much familiarity. Essentially, the reading "circled the plane" a bit in terms of story but got in lots of repetitions in new ways in order to keep the reading novel.

PreClass

  1. I created 6 Google Slides which had the new reading on them. On these slides, I underlined those words from the survey and glossed them at the bottom of each slide. 
During Class
  1. Students had a whiteboard, marker, and rag.
  2. I projected the first slide and read the Latin aloud to the class as they followed along. 
  3. I asked if there were any words which they did not know in order to establish meaning. If students had questions, I would translate that particular word for them and re-read that Latin sentence but translate the word in English when I came to that word.
  4. Following this, we did a choral reading of that particular slide in order to establish additional meaning. 
  5. After this, I gave students three minutes to illustrate that sentence on their whiteboards.
  6. Once the three minutes were up, I told the class to show at least one other person their whiteboard picture and then to show me their pictures. 
  7. I looked at their whiteboard pictures as a comprehension check and then picked three pictures to show the class. I have a document camera which allows me to project the pictures onto my screen.
  8. Using their pictures, I asked circling questions, processing questions, and PQA's based on the pictures.
  9. I then repeated the process again with the next slide.
  10. This activity took 2 days.
Observations
  1. This activity got in "a lot of bang for its buck," i.e., I felt that students really acquired much from doing this. Although it took two days to complete, I was able to get in lots of necessary repetitions with a variety of activities embedded into it which appealed to so many different modalities.
  2. Projecting the pictures gave students novelty in seeing what others drew and that I might choose their drawings.
  3. After this, I felt that students felt much more comfortable with those words which they had told me that they kind of knew and did not know. That does not mean that all students acquired all those words, but they still received lots of comprehensible input, exposure, and repetitions. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Visiting "Sheltering Vocabulary, Not Grammar" Again

Now that I have returned to the classroom, one of my biggest challenges has been to see where knowledge gaps exist in students, i.e., what language did they actually acquire last year during hybrid teaching? And quite honestly, I have come to this conclusion: it is a futile attempt in many ways to do this. Several students have been very honest in telling me that they cheated on the majority of their work last year in all of their classes, because quite simply, they could. And my response to them has been, "And yep, we teachers knew that students would cheat when we assigned work. But based on the situation in which we were, there was not much which we could do about it."

So instead of trying to pinpoint specific knowledge gaps (which could take forever to find), I am really focusing on sheltering vocabulary, not grammar these first few months. Here is what I am doing:
  1. I know that there are specific vocabulary and language structures which were covered last year, but I am going to assume that students never acquired them. For me, at least that levels the playing field for everyone, and I am not projecting wrong assumptions onto students.
  2. In terms of vocabulary from last year, I am focusing on specific words which I know are important and then "chucking" the rest (see Carrie Toth's Vocabulary Chuck-It Bucket).
  3. I am slowly beginning to introduce specific vocabulary words which I know students will need for this semester.
  4. Using this limited set of vocabulary, I have created readings where I am using them in LOTS of language structures which we "covered" last year. As a result, there will be TONS of repetition of vocabulary in different grammatical forms, of which there will lot of repetition there too.
Example - Latin 3 reading:

Target words
milites, vocabatur, ostendere, fortior quam, celerior quam, nemo, cum, semper, odi, exercitus, iubebat ut, vehere, in castris, hostis, appropinquare, dux, ad defendam

Part 1

Olim erant duo milites. Primus miles Pullo vocabatur et semper fortitudinem ostendebat. Pullo erat fortior quam elephantus. Pullo semper exclamabat, “Nemo est fortior miles quam ego!”

Secundus miles Vorenus vocabatur et semper celeritatem ostendebat. Vorenus erat celerior quam equus. Vorenus semper exclamabat, “Nemo est celerior miles quam ego!”

Pullo et Vorenus erant non amici. Cum Vorenus vidisset Pullonem ostendentem fortitudinem, semper dixit, “Pullonem odi!” Cum Pullo vidisset Vorenum ostendentem celeritatem, semper dixit, “Vorenum odi!” 

Part 2

Pullo et Vorenus erant milites in exercitu Romano. Exercitus Romanus erat in Gallia, quod Gallia erat provincia Romana. Exercitus Romanus erat in Gallia ad defendam provinciam. 

Dux Modestus vocabatur. Quod Modestus erat dux, iubebat Pullonem et Vorenum ut aquam in castris vehant. Quod Pullo erat fortior quam elephantus, vehebat plus (more) aquae quam Vorenus. Cum Pullo vidisset Vorenum vehentem minus (less) aquae, exclamavit, “Cur tu es miles in exercitu Romano? Tu es non fortior quam puer! Non difficile est mihi vehere multam aquam in castris, quod nemo est fortior miles quam ego!” Cum Vorenus audivisset Pullonem exclamantem verba (words), dixit, “Pullonem odi, quod semper fortitudinem ostendit!”  

Subito, hostis appropinquabat! Cum Modestus vidisset hostem appropinquantem, iubebat Pullonem et Vorenum ut vehant arma ad milites in castris ad defendam Galliam. Quod Vorenus erat celerior quam equus, vehebat arma ad milites celerius quam Pullo. Cum Vorenus vidisset Pullonem lente (slowly) vehentem arma, exclamavit, “Cur tu es miles in exercitu Romano? Tu es non celerior quam testudo (turtle)!! Non difficile est mihi vehere arma ad milites, quod nemo est celerior miles quam ego!” Cum Pullo audivisset Vorenum exclamantem verba (words), dixit, “Vorenum odi, quod semper celeritatem ostendit!” 

Cum dux Modestus audivisset Pullonem et Vorenum exclamantes, dixit, “Pullonem et Vorenum odi, quod semper hi (these) duo milites sunt molesti (annoying). Nemo est molestior miles in castris quam Pullo et Vorenus!” 

Observations

  1. Some may scoff and say that the reading is maybe too easy and overly repetitive for beginning Latin 3 students, but considering last year, I really have no idea what/if students acquired any language during hybrid teaching. It is completely wrong for me to assume that they did or to place the blame on them if they did not.
  2. Students found the reading to be very engaging and want to know more!
  3. In many ways, part 2 is an "embedded reading" of part 1 (although the plot is moving forward), since so many of the same sentences are repeated verbatim. That is intentional - this way I could get in more repetitions of language in a new context. Having those repetitions of exact sentences from part 1 actually helped students feel successful when reading part 2 (and repeat them again for those who may have struggled when reading part 1 the first time).
  4. Because I had limited vocabulary, I was able to use circling, processing questions, and PQAs as a way to get in lots of oral/aural repetitions of the words in many different ways which did not seem repetitive.
  5. Because I had limited vocabulary but not grammar in the readings, I was able to get in a lot of different language structures and throw in pop-up grammar timeouts. Because so many of my students were digital last year and since I do not know what language they acquired, I have made many of my students be the grammar experts for particular language structures. Every time I want to ask about a particular structure, I call on that student to tell me about it. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Feeling Rusty

I have now been back face-to-face with students (in a completely masked classroom setting) for almost three weeks now, and I am SO glad to be teaching again where I am no longer bound to remaining behind my desk in front of a computer Zooming my lessons! After 18 months of digital/hybrid teaching, I feel like I have been chomping away at the bit like a racehorse ready to blast away at the starting gate, just waiting for the opportunity. I have SO missed teaching the way in which I was accustomed pre-Covid. I have missed being able to interact with students and to get them to interact with each other and with readings in the target language.

However, at the same time, I have noticed that I am SO rusty in many ways when it comes to teaching face-to-face again. I have been trying to get back into circling, asking processing questions, and doing PQA's, and often I find myself asking, "Now how I do this again? How did I ask questions before?" This past summer, I had served as a coach both for the online Acquisition Boot Camp summer class and for the IFLT Conference, where we addressed how to ask questions and I even demo'd how to do them many times this summer. But now face-to-face real time with students, I find myself hesitating at times, asking, "So what comes next again? What kind of question do I want to ask?"

But I also know this: it is perfectly okay to feel rusty doing this. Much like an athlete feels rusty in spring training after not having competed in a few months, so will I when it comes to teaching. If I as the teacher am feeling rusty asking processing/PQA questions in the target language, I am certain that students are definitely feeling rusty answering them! Heck, considering that I know that several of them NEVER showed up for a synchronous Zoom session last year, for many of them, they have not even heard Latin for 18 months!

I am finding myself re-reading so many past posts from my own blog both for instruction and for inspiration. This is the post which I have been re-reading to get myself back into circling, asking processing questions, and doing PQA's.
Most likely, I will write up a script of questions to use as a reference until I start feeling like I have regained my foundation. 

Where are you feeling rusty?

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Back to School - 2nd week Observations

On May 4, I wrote the following blog post: I am So Ready. Now 4 1/2 months later, I am back to teaching face-to-face (in a masked classroom), and I am LOVING it. Everything which I had listed in that blog post (outside of teaching wearing a mask) I am finally able to do again! After two weeks, I am so feeling like myself again as a teacher after the weirdness of last year known as hybrid teaching. This week, one of my students whom I had last year in-person but still hybrid-taught said to me, "You are SO different as a face-to-face teacher. You're a lot more fun, and you talk to us much more." I had to laugh, because what else could I do but congratulate him on his remarkable perception?

However, as COVID cases continue to rise and the uncertainty of how this new wave of the pandemic is going to play out, I am learning to cherish the moments which I do currently have with my students in a face-to-face setting. I am savoring the types of learning activities and language interactions which I am able to have with students which I was not able to facilitate at all last year. As the possibility of going digital again for a time looms overhead, I am definitely not taking this time for granted. I am truly enjoying my students and my time as a face-to-face teacher. Maybe I am still in the honeymoon phase of it all and perhaps the novelty has not worn off yet, but I am still going to treasure this window of opportunity for as long as I can.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Brags and Vents

As we return back to face-to-face classrooms after such a disruptive year of hybrid teaching, it is incredibly important that we focus on creating community once again in our classrooms. Even if we had students who were in-person last year, our classroom culture was so unlike to what we were accustomed. Honestly, last year I found it so difficult to establish any type of connection and relationship with any of my students (digital or in-person), because I never left from behind my desk! 

Last week, I began to implement a "check in" activity called "Brags and Vents," and it is exactly what the title implies: a time for students to brag and to vent about themselves, stuff in their lives, etc. I learned this activity from Christopher Emdin's book called For White Folks Who Teach in the ‘Hood And All the Rest of Y’all: Reality Pedagogy, which my instructional team read a few years ago as professional development. My colleagues Bob Patrick and Miriam Patrick have been regularly doing this in their classes as a way to build community in their classes. I had tried it out before with less than success in my classes, so I had put it on hold. 

However, upon returning to the classroom, I noticed that due to the disruption in schooling, many students really did not know each other in my classes. In many of my classes, students were silent and did not talk to each other - granted this could have been for many reasons: introverted personalities, not knowing anyone in the class, and just adjusting to being in a classroom of 30 other students again. But an unexpected rain storm (we are talking a HUGE downpour) one afternoon which happened right when school let out led to a perfect opportunity to begin doing Brags and Vents. Since this was a common experience shared by all students where most students were drenched, the next day I decided to let students talk about it in class. Wow - every student wanted to vent about their experience of getting caught in the rain. For times sake, I only allowed a few students to share, but gosh, it really got students talking because they all had a common, shared experience about which to share. Now I am seeing students beginning to feel comfortable in the class with each other and with me. 

How to lead a Brag and Vents

  1. Set a time limit for Brags and Vents - I set a timer for 2 minutes for brags and 3 minutes for vents. To me, the time limit is very important, because it is very easy to get sidetracked with this if you do not set a timer. 
  2. At the beginning of the class, explain that you are going to give students a few minutes to share a celebration or brag about something IN ENGLISH. It just so happened that the first time I did this last week, it was a student's 16th birthday, which led me to ask when he was going to get his driver's license. That then led to a student sharing that she was getting her driver's license that day. In each of those instances, it gave me a chance to ask them some questions and to guide their brags some. 
  3. When the two minutes are up, explain that you are going to give students a few minutes to vent about something. This first time, I simply asked, "So who got caught in the rain yesterday at the end of school." Immediately everyone felt like they had something to share since it was a common shared experience.
Observations
  1. This has been a great way for me to get to know students, for them to know each other, and to feel comfortable just back in a classroom again. 
  2. So far, I have only done this 2-3 times a week in order to preserve the novelty. Some teachers do it daily.
  3. I am loving what I am learning about students during the brag time: one student told me that he is involved with a male roller derby association in Atlanta (I did not know that one even existed!) and is now a junior referee! Another student told me that he just got his first job. I probably never would have learned this about these students nor would their classmates have. 
  4. Look for students who are involved in extra-curricular activities such as athletics, band, drama, etc., and during the brags, give them an opportunity to tell about their games, concerts, etc.
  5. Before class when students share something with me, such as getting their driver's license or their team winning a game, I now tell them to save it for Brags and Vents so that they can tell the whole class.
  6. It is important to set rules and parameters for this activity:
    • Only one person speaking at a time.
    • The timer is king, i.e., I tell students that since we are bound by a timer, please be brief in their brags/vents so that others have a chance. Once the timer rings, we are done. 
    • For vents, I give them a topic or two so that there is some degree of commonality during that time (or else, students will be all over the place with their vents). Topics which I have done: Who had multiple tests or quizzes today? Tell me about the traffic in the morning. How is your lunch period in the cafeteria? Who has first lunch vs. who has 6th lunch? Is it difficult getting to class on time?
    • Students cannot make an ad hominem vent about a particular teacher or person, i.e. no naming of names! 


Consider doing Brags and Vents in your classes - the activity has really helped establish community in my classes after these past 18 months of weirdness, and you and your students wil learn much about each other.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Back to School - 1st Week Observations

Today, I am finishing up six days of classes with students (we began last Wednesday with a staggered face-to-face return of students. Monday was my first official face-to-face day with all students). After 18 months of digital/hybrid teaching, I am SO ready to return back to a "normal," face-to-face teaching environment where I am no longer teaching hybrid completely behind a desk. I have felt SO FREE to be able to move around the (masked) classroom and to teach how I did pre-Covid.

However, after these past six days of teaching, I have come to a number of realizations. For those of you who have yet to return to the classroom and want to know how it has been, let me pass along some observations/words of wisdom:

  • When it comes to COVID concerns and the classroom, you do you - In other words, based on your school's/district's COVID guidelines, do what you feel is best for you and your students. If you are face-to-face but do not feel comfortable teaching like you did pre-Covid, then don't. It is okay to teach still from behind your desk.
  • Have realistic expectations and goals for your students this year - Now is not the time to set high expectations and to expect all students to rise to a very lofty standard. Do not think at all that you will be able to pick up where you left off last year. Due to the variety of learning situations and environments which students have experienced since March 2020, a WIDE range of knowledge gaps exists among them. Spend the first few weeks finding those gaps and holes - heck it may take all semester. Fill those holes which are necessary, and do not worry about those which are not. Most likely, your curriculum coverage for this year will definitely look different from past years.
  • Have a realistic outlook about last year's learning situation - Every year, I have students in the beginning of the school year who will say to me, "I do not remember any Latin from last year." Pre-Covid, my response would always be, "You remember more Latin than you think you do." This year, my gut feeling is, "Yep, that is probably true."
  • Therefore, if ever there was a time for this, SHELTER VOCABULARY AND NOT GRAMMAR! Just because you "covered" vocabulary last year does not mean at all that students ever acquired those words. Most likely, the majority of students did not. Although students may have completed assignments digitally, that is the extent of what they did - they completed the assignments, and that is probably as far as the acqusition process went. Therefore, focus on a limited amount of target/necessary/high frequency words in the beginning and milk the heck out of these words grammatically to ease students back into language so that they can feel successful again.
  • Ease students into routines and your expectations - Today in my upper level classes, I began doing circling, asking processing questions, and doing PQAs with students. Since I had not done this in-person for 18 months, I went all-in with it! However, I quickly realized that many students were not ready for it and became overwhelmed. Although I was certainly ready for them to get back into hearing Latin and interacting with the language again, many were not after not having been in-person on campus for 18 months. 
  • Survey your students about their language learning experience last year - This was one of the first things which I did with students, and I was very surprised at their honesty about how it was very difficult learning in a digital environment (even if hybrid) and that many relied heavily on Google Translate. A number of them were nervous about not remembering anything from last year. Here are questions which I asked students:
    • What was your learning situation last year?
    • How was your Latin learning experience last year? Be honest!
    • What did your teacher do last year which helped you acquire Latin?
    • What is something which you liked about your Latin teacher last year? Be positive!
  • Last year was traumatic for us as teachers - Last year's teaching situation was unlike anything which we had ever encountered before. When it came to teaching, the name of the game last year was simply survival, trying to come up with lessons which would work digitally, how to reach students, what to do with students who never showed up for Zoom sessions and never turned in any work, etc. I think that we are still healing from all of that. 
  • Love your students right where they are at!
For those of you who begin after Labor Day, enjoy your last weeks of summer!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

"Is This Relevant?" Activity

This is a really great post-reading strategy which I learned from Carol Gaab back in 2014. I have not implemented it in years and just flat out forgot out about it (hence I had not written up about it here on my blog), but in looking over past years' lesson plans (as I prepare to teach face-to-face again. I feel like I am having to reteach myself how to do it all again after 15 months of digital/hybrid), I came across it again. I absolutely LOVE this activity.

The premise of this activity is quite simple: based on a reading which you have been reviewing, project a list of additional "facts" onto your screen and ask students if that fact is particularly relevant to the story or helps explain something or why characters act/react the way in which they do.

Example:

Latin (adapted from CLC Stage 7 Model Sentences):

Grumio et Clemens per viam ambulabant. canis subito latravit. Grumio canem timebat. "pestis!" clamavit Grumio. Clemens erat fortis. sed canis Clementem superavit. Quintus per viam ambulabat, et clamorem audivit. canis Clementem vexabat. Quintus canem pulsavit. Grumio et Clemens erant laeti, et Quintum laudaverunt.

English:

Grumio and Clemens were walking through the road. Suddenly a dog barked. Grumio was afraid of the dog. "Pest!" shouted Grumio. Clemens was brave, but the dog overcame Clemens. Quintus was walking through the road, and heard a shout. The dog was harassing Clemens. Quintus punched the dog. Grumio and Clemens were happy and praised Quintus.

  1. Grumio patrem canis necaverat (Grumio had killed the dog's father)
  2. Clemens felem habet (Clemens has a cat)
  3. Grumio fratrem habet (Grumio has a brother)
  4. Canis est rabiosus (the dog is rabid)
  5. Quintus est pugilosus (Quintus is a boxer)
  6. Quintus in magna domo habitat (Quintus lives in a big house)

Observations

  1. What I like most about this activity is that it truly facilitates higher-order thinking in students. However students respond (yes or no), they have to justify their answer.
  2. This activity leads to some great discussion either in L1 or L2.
  3. Many times, students come up with valid reasons for yes or no which others (even I as the teacher) in the class did not think of.
  4. Often, students will change their minds after hearing the arguments of their fellow students.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

I Got Through It

My school year has come to an end...finally, and quite honestly, I am currently running a gamut of emotions about it all. The following best describes how I feel about this past year:


Now that I have slowed down and am beginning to process it all, I feel raw. I feel like I am suffering some small form of PTSD, because I am finally allowing myself to feel all that I experienced this year. I feel mad. I feel frustrated. I guess that I did a good job of repressing all that I was feeling and just plowed through this year.   

  • Was this year ideal? ABSOLUTELY NOT IN ANY WAY! 
  • Did I "lose" many students in this digital setting whom I probably wouldn't have in a regular, face-to-face setting? ABSOLUTELY!
  • Did I experience frustration in administrative policies during this pandemic? ABSOLUTELY!
  • Did I have a clue of what I was doing in the classroom? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

In the moment of it all, these past 10 months have been SO HARD as a teacher, because I have never had to do something like this before while simultaneously also adapting to a pandemic. There were so many times where I wanted to leave the world of education during this and questioned my role as a teacher.

BUT when I take a step back from it all and truly reflect on these past 10 months, I am absolutely amazed, because quite honestly, I got through it. As I have said before, there is only so much which I can control, but I can control my own actions and reactions. And if I do not look for the positives in all of this, then I will become bitter and will not be able to move on, since I will still be stuck in this moment. I need to celebrate my victories here (because they certainly do exist in this situation) so that later on, I can reflect back on this and realize that this situation has created a foundation for me and has prepared me for future "get-through-its."

Quite honestly, I have learned that life is a continuous series of "get-through-its," of which some are small, some are large, some are daily, some occur sporadically, and some are long-term. As much as we want to deny this, no one is every going to be immune from any type of trial, tribulation, or suffering. But I am learning to "welcome" (and I use that word loosely with much hesitancy) "get-through-its," because trials, tribulations, and suffering will show you exactly of what you are made. If you allow them, trials and tribulations will cause your own personal shortcomings and faults to come to the surface - and this is not a bad thing. Covid caused everything to come to a standstill for me as a teacher and to take a long look at how I was reacting, to give up control over so much of this, to throw out that which was chaff, and to make firm that which needed to remain. I also know that I will have a TON of "get-through-its" in my future, so I may as well accept it.

That is why it is important for me to look back at my "got-through-its" and to celebrate my victories as a teacher this year:

  • I did the best that I could in light of the situation, and very early on, I resolved to be an "adequate" teacher this year. As a result of those self-imposed boundaries, I felt so free from any internal pressures and self-imposed expectations which I would place on myself as in past years.
  • I was truly stretched as a teacher this year in how to teach concurrently and to adapt my curriculum to this weird, hybrid learning environment, but wow, I learned just how "stretchable" I am. Because this pandemic situation has been so fluid these past 15 months, so has teaching. However, much like muscles adapt to more weight over time, I have learned that my borders of what I am capable are so much further than they were previously.
  • Apparently students got something out of my class, as these past few days, I have received a great number of emails and Remind messages from students, thanking me for being their teacher this year. Honestly, pre-Covid when we were 100% face-to-face, I rarely received any type of thank-you message at the end of the year, so I am cherishing these.
  • Back in July, I truly did not think that I would be able to do this. Fast forward ten months later, and it is over. There is a sense of accomplishment and joy in that. I got through it. 

This summer I do not want to think about anything academic or lesson planning for next year. I need time to heal. I need time away as a teacher. I need some space from education.

So for those of you who have yet to finish the school year, it is almost over, and the end is in sight. I completely understand and empathize that you feel emotionally raw and wounded, and so many of those wounds are still hemorrhaging. And as you drag yourself towards that finish line, clawing into that ground with every ounce of strength, I will be there cheering you on with this simple message: you can get through this.

As you reflect on this past year, what victories can you celebrate?

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

End of the Year Survey - The Hybrid Year

Normally at the end of every school year, I give my students a survey to garner feedback about the past school year in terms of what activities worked in helping them acquire the language, what do they want to to see more of next year, what they enjoyed, etc. This year, because of the teaching situation, I was very hesitant to give students a survey since this school year was, for lack of better words, so weird and as a teacher, I really had no clue what I was doing. However, I still gave the survey to my Latin 3 students (I only teach Latin 2 and 3 this year, and we have not done a survey for Latin 2) but with revised questions. I was very surprised and touched by their responses. Let me share what some of my Latin 3 students had to say about this year in Latin:

1) This year's Latin class has been very different from your previous Latin classes due to the pandemic. What are some digital activities which you enjoyed or helped you learn Latin?

  • The Gimkit and the Pictionary dictionary really helped with learning the words and phrases.
  • The Nearpod assignments helped a lot they engaged me and also taught me the Latin.
  •  I enjoyed playing Gmkits (sic). It was a fun competitive game that allowed us to compete while still learning.
  • i thought that the assesment where we would hear the reading and have to match it with the correct sentence helped a whole lot for my understanding of the passage.
  • I enjoyed booksnaps because I am a visual learner.
  • The assignments involving getting pictures and being creative
  • I enjoyed doing dictionary pictionaries and answering questions about the readings on Google Forms. 

2) What are some face-to-face activities from previous Latin classes which you missed this year and would like to see return next year?

  • Latin bingo, story scavenger hunt
  • Some Face to face activities which we missed this year due to covid, that I would like to see return for other students next year, i'm graduating so I won't be here, is the activity where we used whiteboards with expo markers to illustrate sentences from stories. I missed doing that. Also when we would draw the definition of words and then they would be pasted on the wall for future references, which was a cool little activity as well.
  • The highlighter game
  • I miss that drawing game where there would be teams, and each team would have to draw a specific scenario, and one team wins best drawing. I also miss the basketball game. I also would like to see that guessing game with the people who sit at the front draw, and the teams guess.
  • The thing that I really missed was just being able to work in groups and the group activities.
  • To be honest, I don't really miss any of the physical activities we did the last few years in Latin class. This new chill atmosphere to the class is what I prefer most.
  • I missed Hot Seat, Trashketball, and teaming up and drawing pictures that represented the sentences on the projector. 
  • Brain breaks and drawing stuff on whiteboards.

3) As difficult as this school year has been in many ways, what did you enjoy most about Latin class this year?

  • I enjoyed the stories. This year had the most interesting stories. I also appreciated the use of different learning platforms like gimkit, nearpod, and more. 
  • I enjoyed the short assignments on google classroom, they were easy, not much writing involved. 
  • The fact the assignments could be done at many times and in many places, there was the time in school but nothing held anyone back from doing it whenever they thought was best.
  • It was still very fun and engaging 
  • I enjoyed that the class was fun even though it was digital.
  • the flexibility with due dates and how we can resubmit our assignments to get a higher score.
  • I loved how Mr. Toda was very chill and understanding while making sure we were actually learning and having  fun. 
  • Having some asynchronous days for when the workload for other classes can sometime pile up.
  • I enjoyed the versatility this year. The activities ranged from drawing to answering questions and it was doable. This class, unlike many others, was easygoing and it wasn't so much of a load. It was definitely a class that helped to relax a little bit in that I could find images or draw. This is what I mostly enjoyed. 

So now as this school year is ending and as I begin to look ahead to the next school year, based on this feedback, the question for me is what will my post-digital classroom look like? What are digital aspects which I wish to keep, because they worked and students found helpful?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Is My Classroom Better Now Because of Technology?

These past months of teaching digitally in a hybrid learning environment and of having to rely so heavily now on technology for delivery of instruction and for digital assignments have definitely taught me a lot. I will say that I am quite proficient now in Google Classroom and Zoom, two web app tools which I had never used before July 2020! So now with only 1.5 weeks left in the school year and as I look ahead to next year, I have to ask myself: Is my classroom better now because of technology?

As I ask myself this question, keep in my mind that I am viewing this through my own lens of personal classroom experience and of having a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, so I have both personal experience and academic theoretical knowledge on the topic. 

I think that we need to be careful when we think about technology facilitation in our curriculum because it is easy to make a blanket statement by responding with a hearty "yes, my classroom is better now because of technology. Look at what I am using!" Rather, we should divide our technology implementation into two categories: 

  1. Technology which makes my job easier as a teacher.
  2. Technology which aids in student acquistion of material, raising critical thinking among students, and allowing students to create new meaning with the material.
Allow me to explain this further. When implementing any type of technology or web app tool, the question to ask is cui bono - who's to gain from this? And honestly, there is no clear cut answer for this when evaluating technology facilitation because in and of itself, hopefully classroom technology usage fulfills both categories when used properly. However, just because one may use a learning management system such as Google Classroom, that does not necessarily equate to facilitating student learning; its primary student usage may be solely for turning in digital assignments and viewing grades. Throwing technology at students does not equal proper implementation.

if I am going to assess my own technology implementation this year, here is what it looks like:

Technology which makes my job easier as a teacher

Technology which aids in student acquistion of material, raising critical thinking among students, and allowing students to create new meaning with the material

  1. Google Classroom

  2. Zoom

  3. Brightspace learning management system

  4. Remind

  1. GimKit

  2. Blooket

  3. Movie Talks

  4. EdPuzzle

  5. Whiteboard.fi

  6. Screencastify

  7. Google Docs

  8. Google Slides

  9. Nearpod

  10. YouTube


While I can pride myself in that the 2nd column is longer than the first, I must then ask myself: how closely did these web app tools correspond with the higher levels of the SAMR model (the Bloom's taxonomy model for Instructional Technology)? Did thse web app tools actually lead to student acquisition of material? Or was I just entertaining students? Could I have achieved the same student learning outcome without technology? Was only lower-order thinking activated in students when using these web app tools?

Of course, this past year's teaching situation dictated a full "technology-centered" classroom, but next year looks like we will be returning to a somewhat, pre-Covid, face-to-face learning environment. What are web app tools which I will continue to use? What are web app tools which I will bring back that this year's teaching situation would not allow?

I do not profess to have any answers to my original question of "Is my classroom better now because of technology?" but this type of reflection has been very helpful to me as I look ahead to next year. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

I am So Ready

With just 3 weeks left in the semester,

  • I am so ready for this hybrid teaching situation to be over.
  • I am so ready to NOT be "chained" to my laptop screen in order to teach both in-person and digital students simultaneously.
  • I am so ready to be mobile again in order to interact with students, instead of being 100% stationary behind my desk.
  • I am so ready to be "teaching to the eyes" again, because quite honestly in this hybrid situation, I have NO clue what students (especially Zoom students) are understanding and not understanding.
  • I am so ready to tell a story to students in the target language, to have them act it out, to ask them questions, and to do PQA's AND to move around when I do all of that.
  • I am so ready to NOT have to rely completely 100% on digital assignments and activities in order to accommodate both in-person and digital assignments at the same time.
  • I am so ready to finally get to know my students personally and to learn of their interests and strengths and for them to get to know me.
  • I am so ready to do face-to-face interactive activities with students again which Covid, Zoom, and hybrid-teaching have made impossible.
  • I am so ready for my classroom to be arranged like it was pre-Covid and not be spaced out in the way which it is now where I feel like students are so distant from me.
  • I am so ready to not be teaching wearing a mask which I feel so impedes my level of communication and comprehensibility.
I also understand that this time will eventually come. I just need to be patient.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Smoke Seller - Movie Talk

Here is another one of my go-to movie talks which I tend to use quite regularly over the years, because I like the plot and because I can manipulate the animated short to fit the vocabulary which I need for a particular reading. Words which can be targeted in this movie talk are young man, old woman, dog, drives a car, city/town, approaches, goes/comes to, sells, life, miserable, better than, citizens/people, wears clothes, transforms/changes, and airplane.



Observations

  1. I really like the music in this animated short!
  2. I think that this is made by the same animators as Snack Attack, because the young men in both animated shorts look strikingly similar! I did not catch that, but students have certainly pointed that out to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dragonboy - Movie Talk

This is one of my all-time, go-to movie talks. I really like the story, and because I have done this movie talk so many times, I can manipulate it to preview whatever vocabulary words which I need. I just have to remember which levels have seen this Movie Talk and when! It is a great animated short for level 1 for basic words like boy, girl, take, flower, make, see, love, wants, has, happy, sad, and angry, but I have also used it in upper levels for very specialized words such as attack, punch, seek out, chase, pretend, princess/queen, leader, kingdom, dragon, roar, and cruel. 



Observations

  1. I have found that students really like this animated short. 
  2. Every time I do this Movie Talk, students will always ask, "Where the heck is the teacher during the play?! Are there any grownups there?!!!"

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Using Blooket

I feel like I have totally come late to the party on this web app tool, but near the end of last semester, I was introduced to the website Blooket. Around November 2020, the German teacher at my school shared it with my department, and Rachel Ash (one of my Latin colleagues) then created a novella chapter review for our Latin 2 team. My students really enjoyed the different activities which we played, so it is now one of my digital web app tools which I use for review. 


Blooket has so many different games and activities which you can assign students to play either as a whole group or as individual work. The best part is that you only have to create one set of questions, and then you can choose which activities you want to do with those questions.


I will usually do 2-3 different activities in a classroom lesson.

Racing
Usually, I will first start out with Racing, which is simply students answering questions, and if they answer correctly, they can move forward one space in the race course. The more quickly one answers questions correctly, the faster one will move across the screen. However, as you answer questions, you gain chances for random rewards, which can move players up a space, players can choose to move leaders back a space, and players can shield themselves from attacks. I like doing this activity first, because it exposes students to the questions in a quick 4-5 minute game. This will prepare them for the longer game which we will play next (I learned this from Rachel too).

Gold Quest
This is a really fun game to play for about 7-9 minutes! I tell students that they will either love this game or absolutely hate it, because it is all based on chance and just because one may know all of the answers, it does not mean that person will necessarily win. 

The premise is very simple: players will answer a question and if they answer correctly, they can choose from one of three treasure chests. Each of the treasure chests has a different reward or "punishment," e.g., 100 gold pieces, lose 10% of your gold, triple your gold, take 25% of another player's gold, swap gold with another player, etc. Because this is based on chance, no one has an advantage over another in terms of being able to win. It all depends on which treasure chests the players choose.

There was a holiday version of Gold Quest released for December, and that was a lot of fun to play!

Observations
  1. I will usually make about 35-45 questions, which means that students are getting LOTS of repetitions of questions during an activity.
  2. I have found that students enjoy playing Blooket more than GimKit. I think because it does not necessarily cater to the students who know how to "game" GimKit to get to a million points within a minute, so it seems more fair. Also depending on the game, everyone has a fair shot at winning due to the chance factor.
  3. I always play along with students. Just because I know all of the answers (and questions!) does not mean that I will win the game. On the contrary, I usually am the one who ends up doing all of the heavy lifting, only to have my points taken away from me by other players. 
  4. Some of the games have rewards such as blurring everyone else's screen so that they cannot read what is on it, putting trees all over the screen, minimzing screens, turning the screen upside down, icing players' moves for 10 seconds. It is a lot of fun! 
  5. During this hybrid teaching situation, Blooket has been a godsend!
  6. Although it is "free," there is a limit to how many "blooks" you can create with a free account. For a price, you can upgrade to an unlimited amount of blooks and exclusive features. I suppose you could rewrite existing blooks to make new ones?
  7. A lot of these activities can be assigned as individual homework - great for asynchronous learning days!
  8. Much like GimKit, I will do Blooket every 5-6 weeks in order to preserve the novelty.
Have you used any of the other Blooket activities in your classes such as Cafe or Battle Royale? Let me know how your students liked them.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

GimKit - Draw That

Just recently, I tried out the new Draw That game on GimKit. In this current hybrid teaching situation of trying to balance in-person and digital students and of me remaining 100% seated behind my desk in front of a screen, so many face-to-face activities which were mainstays of my CI-driven classroom have been pushed aside for another day. Even GimKit has gotten a bit stale with students, so this new drawing game could not have come at a better time!

Essentially, this game is a digital version of Pictionary, where a student draws a picture and in real time, it appears on everyone else's device screens. Meanwhile, the rest of the players guess the word by typing it in their devices


Observations

  1. Students loved this game! Being able to see the picture being drawn in real time is what made the activity so attractive and engaging for students.
  2. Like Pictionary, your choice of words need to be easily illustrated, i.e., don't pick a word like dignity.
  3. The only drawback I found with this was that it requires correct spelling of vocabulary words. For an inflected language like Latin, what form of the word should I pick? For nouns, just the nominative or should I pick a more common form with which students are more familiar from the readings? For verbs, should I pick the infinitive form or a particular form (tense, person) which they know better? For example, one of the words which students was guessing was urbs, but a lot of students were guessing urbe instead, since the readings tended to have the phrase in urbe more than urbs.
  4. Students found that when using a phone or tablet, autocorrect would change the spelling of the Latin word to an English word. I will play along with students, and when I typed in the word misit, autocorrect changed it to moist. 
  5. Because students knew that they could be called on next to draw, they had to pay attention and to be part of the game at all times!
  6. Now from a CI perspective, I prefer the Charlala Draw Room because I can have students illustrate full sentences instead of individual words and then they can choose which sentence they believe the picture is depicting. 
After we played it last week, a number of my Zoom students (who are normally very quiet) wrote in chat, "That was so much fun! Can we play it again?" As much as I love hearing that, my pat answer whenever I hear that is, "Yep...in 5-6 weeks (in order to preserve the novelty)." 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Car Park - Movie Talk

Here is another fun movie talk which I had done 4-5 years ago and had completely forgotten about but just recently found it in my Google Drive. It is called Car Park (this animated short was made in the UK, so a "car park" is what Americans call a "parking lot" - I had to explain that to students. I remember when I said that the movie talk was called "Car Park," a student innocently asked, "Is that like a dog park?"). The animated short is relatively brief but gets in a lot of repetitions. Target words for this movie talk are man, dog, barks/makes a loud noise, car, looks for, finds, through the window, frightens/scares, is frightened/is scared, hides, his (reflexive use of the possessive pronoun).





Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ormie the Pig - Movie Talk

Here is a fun Movie Talk which I had done many years ago, but I completely forgot about it. Just recently my colleague John Foulk reminded me about it. It is called Ormie the Pig (is he a character somewhere?) and his attempts to steal cookies from a cookie jar on top of a refrigerator. Again, the best movie talks are those with a lot of repetition in it in terms of action, and there is a lot of that here in this animated short. This is a good Movie Talk for words such as cookies, refrigeratorwant, steal/take, in order to, on top of.





Thursday, March 18, 2021

False Story Sentences using Google Forms

As it is now a year since I have begun some form of digital teaching, at this point, I feel like I am scraping the barrel for new, novel ways for students to review stories in an online setting. I have been dog paddling for a year with digital teaching, doing everything I can just to keep my head above water, and I am weary. I know that my students are weary too of this weird hybrid teaching situation. Because of this, I am trying to limit the web app tools which we are using in class so that there is familiarity for students in using them and that they do not have to learn a new tool on their own. I feel like I have been milking Google Forms to an extreme, trying to find different ways of using them for assignments and for students to demonstrate comprehension/mastery of material. 

My colleague John Foulk came up with a new way for students to review a reading: False Story Sentences. It is actually very simple and is a good way for them to demonstrate understanding and comprehension of a reading. If you are like me, one of the things which I hate about this hybrid teaching is that I really have NO CLUE if students are actually comprehending anything which we are doing. While they may be completing assignments, that does not tell me much per se, other than they completed the assignment. This use of false statements at least forces them to indicate meaning and understanding to me.

Directions

  1. Take 10 sentences from a reading, and change just one word in that sentence. Do not change more than one.
  2. Put those sentences in a Google Form, and put the answer setting as "Paragraph"
  3. Give students a copy of the reading. They will use this to find the correct sentence.
  4. Tell students that they are to figure out what is false in that sentence and then to write what is incorrect and what the sentence should say instead. Why in English? Because this is a comprehension activity. While students could tell me what the correct Latin word should be, e.g., the sentence should say "iratissimus" and not "laetissimus," that does not tell me whether students understood what they were actually reading. Considering that they have the actual reading as a resource, writing down the actual Latin word is nothing more than a copying exercise. 

Observations
  1. This definitely was a novel way for students to demonstrate comprehension while truly showing me what students understood and did not understand from the reading.
  2. Since I was able to print up students responses on a spreadsheet, it made grading very easy, because everything was in a grid. I was able to compare student answers against each other and to see where there were common student errors.
  3. This was a new way for me to use Google Forms - euge!!