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. 


  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!


  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 


  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.


  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 paragraph/sentences 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 to tell in Latin what they had drawn or point to specific parts of the picture and to use the Latin from the projected reading. If they wanted, they could also write the Latin on their picture with arrows pointing at the specifics.
  7. I then have students show me their pictures. 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.
  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.