Monday, February 22, 2021

More Observations about Student Grammar Errors

This semester, I am focusing on having students do free writes for their writings. Previously during a normal face-to-face teaching setting, I would have students retell the particular story in Latin which we had been going over for that unit by writing it down in a composition book. Since we had reviewed the story so much as input, writing would be a natural way for output to occur. However, in this digital setting and having students type out their writings of the stories on a Google Document, I soon found that many students were just copying and pasting from digital copies of the story which were already on Google Classroom from previous assignments and submitting that as their writings. As a result, I decided to focus on free writes, where I give students a prompt for them to complete, and their job is create a sequel to the story on their own from that prompt.

Here are some examples of Latin 3 student writing based on the prompt which my colleague John Foulk created: Monstrum et puer nunc sunt amīcī. Cum monstrum et puer aquae appropinquant, subitō…

Example 1

Monstrum gaudet. Monstrum est laetus. Monstrum est lateus qoud amici habet. Monstrum numcam habet amici. Monstrum non queritur dentes e ocolus. Subitio de aquae Peppa pig surgit. Peppa vult cibum. Peppa dicit “puer dat cibum NUNC!” Puer timet. Monstum non placet Peppa.Puer est eius amici, non vult puer timit sed vult puer lateus. Monstrum petit Peppa. Peppa  pettit monstrum. Petit e petit e petit Subito Peppa cadit in Aquea et perit. Puer est lateus sed non iam timet. Peur est latues quod oculous habet et puer potest videre monstrum est un amici.Monstrum et Puer ambulat ad tabernam. Subito Peppa surgit et didct “redibo”. “Non iam pax in gens sed bellum, bellum gerit contra puer et monstrum.”

Example 2

Puer cadit in aquae. Puer non potest natare. Puer est patitur. Monstrum nonscivit liberate puer. Monstrum parat videt mortuus est puer. Monstrum est tristis et patitur, videt drowning puer. Monstrum tristissimus et fugit ex from aquae. Monstrum in dolore et searches for miles ut liberate puer. Monstrum et miles fugit ad puer, sed puer non iam in aquae. Iam puer cum piratae. Piratae liberavit puer et nunc puer est piratae. Pirataes non placet monstrum. Pirataes bellum gerit monstrum. Sed Monstrum fortissimus. Monstrum caedet pirataes et pirataes nunc mortuom. Monstrum vicit pirataes et nunc odit puer. Puer est vulneratus et non iam placet Monstrum. Puer odit Monstrum. Puer fugit ab ex monstrum. Puer videt aliud monstrum sed non amici est. Nunc Puer odit et ab fugit omnes monstrum.

Example 3

Imperator appropinquant. Imperator fortis et audax. Imperator habet arma et vult bellum gerit. Imperator of Bikini Bottom ingens et cancer. Monstrum et puer timet. Monstrum et puer vult pax, non vult proelio. Monstrum iubet ut pax. Imperator iratus et non vult pax. Imperator cadit in terra. Imperator manet in terra. Imperator patitur sed imperator vulneteratus. Imperator non iam vult bellum gerrit. Monstrum, puer, et imperator nunc sunt amici. Subito, regina Sandy appropinquant. Sandy considit in terra, Bikini Bottom. Monstrum, puer, et imperator considit in terra. Imperator audit Patrick et SpongeBob mortus. Imperator iratus et non lauetus. Imperator in dolore. Monstrum et puer in dolore. Omnes Bikini Bottom patitur. Pauci homines such as Squidward non patitur et guadit. Squidward laetus et canit carmen. Monstrum, imperator, puer, et Sandy non nunc sunt amici with Squidward. Omnes iratus at Squidward. Imperator et Sandy videt taberna. Imperator, Sandy, monstrum, et puer vult comedere.

Now if you are familiar with Latin, the first thing which I am sure that stands out to you is the SHEER AMOUNT of grammar and spelling errors! And I am certain that for many of you, it is very PAINFUL to read. However, if I view these writings through the lens of a sympathetic reader (an ACTFL term), then wow, these students are communicating in the language! Even though these are Latin 3 students, in terms of language acquisition, knowledge, and grammar control, they are novice-high/intermediate-low writers. If my students were children learning their first language, they would be equivalent to 2-3 year-olds. As a result, their language is going to be incredibly MESSY! To use an example from Bill Van Patten, when a 2-year old says, "Mommy go bye-bye," do you correct that child's grammar and choice of vocabulary? Absolutely not, because you as a sympathetic listener know exactly what that child is attempting to communicate. That child is piecing together whatever vocabulary has been acquired to communicate. You can try to correct that child, but we know that the child's language will improve over time with more input and exposure.

I have used this illustration before, but it is so true!

Why can I relate to the above illustraion? Because the first time I truly spoke Latin in 2010 at Rusticatio, a weeklong immersion event, everything that came out of my mouth was in the nominative case and in infintives. Keep in mind, I have my Masters in Latin, but when it came to truly speaking in Latin for the purpose of communication and conversation (something which I had never done before), I was a novice - a very LOW novice. My grammar was horrible! Case endings, verb endings, and subject/verb agreement went out the window, because all i could do was just get vocabuary to come out of my mouth - any vocabulary!! 

I love Nancy Llewellyn's quote which she traditionally gave in her opening talk at Rusticatio:

You are going to make the same kinds of grammar errors that if your own students were to make them, you would skin your knees running to grab a red pen to correct them. So be patient with yourself.

That was ten years ago. I can say that I am probably an Intermediate High level speaker now, but I still definitely struggle trying to put it all together with correct case endings, subject/verb agreement, correct usage of subjunctives, noun/adjective agreeement, pronunication, etc.

So when getting students to write in the target language, be sure that there has been plenty of input first so that there is a natural overflow of output, but be prepared for it to be messy. However, if you are viewing the output from a proficiency viewpoint instead of a performance lens, you will be amazed by what students are attempting to communicate in the language.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Reflections So Far

The following video describes how I feel about my current teaching situation:

Do you feel like this? That administrators, politicians, and parents want teachers to teach digitally/concurrently but yet no one knows what this means or looks like? But yet, we keep being told to teach this way?

I cannot believe that I have been doing concurrent/hybid teaching for the past 6 months now. Throw in the two months of shelter-in-place from last year, and I have been teaching in a digital environment for roughly 9 months. At the same time, I am trying to keep perspective. Yes, this is not at all an ideal situation. Yes, I have no training in this hybrid/concurrent situation. Heck, I have never lived through a pandemic before. 

I can place blame on district leaders, students, parents, politicians, anyone, etc., but big picture: there is only so much which I can control in all of this. What I can control though are my reactions and how I personally deal with the situation. As a result, I need to celebrate my victories no matter how small or insignificant you may think they are, because these truly are positives:

  • Over these past 11 months, I am amazed at how resilient I have been in all of this. I have always known that I am rather flexible in situations and that I am not one who initially over-reacts emotionally. So why have I not fallen apart in all of this? From personal experience, I know that life is always going to be a series of storms and of sunshine, and that no one is ever immune from hardships of any kind. I have endured the loss of both of my parents in the past 10 years to dementia and to cancer. I lived through both of those experiences, so I can certainly live and gain new perspective through all of this too. I look forward to a continued, future, even stronger resilience. 
  • I amazed at what I have learned to do with Google Classroom. If it had not been for the pandemic, I never would have learned how to use this learning management system. I can vividly remember during pre-planning watching videos on how to set up Google Classroom, create assignments, etc., and having no clue of what to do and being nervous about mis-steps. Now I look at myself and see just how saavy I have become with Google Classroom, and although I could say, "Wow, why was I even concerned about this, since it is so easy?", I realize that I need to say, "Wow, I truly have come a long way since July!"
  • This pandemic has brought to light a lot of "shortcomings" in my own nature. You can read about some of them here in this blog post. 

So what have I learned about digital teaching in all of this? I can definitely say that my views have completely changed over the past months. 

  • Do not worry about what students are not going to learn this year, because this is not a normal teaching situtation. To project that onto this current learning environment is not going to work. As a teacher, you are going to become frustrated, and students are going to get lost in the way.
  • Focus on deep and simple, and on what you can teach them. Now more than ever, I am truly learning this. By no means is this a normal learning environment for students - honestly, I really have no idea what language (if any) students are acquiring through all of this. I know that they are completing online assignments, but all that this tells me is that they completed it and did the work. In other words, it may be possible that no true long-term learning has occurred. As a result, I need to really go deep and simple with the material.
  • Less is more. What worked face-to-face probably will not work for every student in this digital setting. So many of my colleagues in the core areas have had to re-evaluate their own expectations of what can be accomplished and of what students are able to do in all of this, because what they would like to see and what is actually happening/what is realistic are two completely different things. 
  • When we do return to a "normal" teaching situation, I will evaluate what it is that students know and adjust my curriculum based on that. 
Talk to me in 6 months, and let us see if I still feel this way...

Monday, February 8, 2021

Digital Word Cloud "Predict the Story"

I am currently taking a district-level, learning management system professional development, and one of our assignments dealt with creating a digital lesson demonstrating concept attainment/application/prediction (yes, very Educationese terms) which would use with our students. Rather than invent and learn a new web app tool, I decided to revise/adapt an already existing strategy to a digital setting: Word Clouds.

I am introducing a new reading with students, so I created a word cloud for students involving words which would be in this passage (see here for how to create a word cloud using MS Word). Based on the word cloud, students are to predict what they think will happen in the story which they will be reading soon. 

In creating the word cloud, I found using Dark City color format was easier for students to distinguish the words. I also set the layout to Horizontal. 


  1. On a Google Form, insert your word cloud as an image/picture.
  2. The directions are simple: ONLY using the words from the word cloud, write your FOUR sentences in ENGLISH below. Be sure to number your sentences. 
Why respond in English and not in the target language? Because this is a prediction activity using vocabulary, I need for them to respond in English to demonstrate comprehension of those words. If I asked them to respond purely in the target language, I would get students who would put the Latin words together to form a sentence, but if the sentence were not to make any sense, I would not know why: did they just throw Latin words together just to complete the assignment? Did they not understand the meaning of a particular word which then impedes my comprehension of what they wrote? What if students just created a sentence which was all nouns or all verbs? By having them respond in English, I can at least tell that students are demonstrating comprehension of the given vocabulary words.

  1. This was a very easy digital assignment for students to complete, but it still involved some degree of higher-level thinking, as it was dealing with prediction based on given information.
  2. This was a very easy digital assignment for me to create. Probably creating the word cloud took the most time.
  3. I enjoyed reading student responses. Many students tried to predict the entire story, but most just wrote four random sentences (which is perfectly okay!).
  4. Students told me that they liked the assignment, because it was short!