Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Top 5 of 2022

As I now take my regularly-scheduled December sabbatical from blogging, I wanted to share with you my annual "Top 5 Most Read Blog Posts" from this past year. Thanks for your support in reading this blog, and I hope that you will both end the year strongly and will recuperate much over the break. See you in 2023!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Summer 2023 CI/ADI Conferences

As 2022 winds down, it is not too early to start thinking about the possible CI/ADI conferences offered next summer in 2023:

Lots of good opportunities (in-person and virtual) both to learn about and to further your development as a CI/ADI teacher!

Are they any which I have missed and should be included?

Hope that you will consider attending one of these, and if I am there at that conference, please say hi!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Thank You - 2022

For this particular blog post, as we are now in Thanksgiving week, I wanted to write a message of thanks and gratitude as a CI teacher. Although I wrote a "thank you" post in 2016 (and all of that still rings true six years later!), since it has been six years, I want to write a follow up:

I am thankful for:

  1. My CI Family Tree - these are those teachers who were an incredible influence on my development as a CI/ADI teacher and still continue to inspire me to become a better language teacher. 
  2. The fellow members of my CI Latin department at Parkview High School - Rachel Ash, Liz Davidson, John Foulk, and Miriam Patrick.
  3. Those, who although are not named in my CI Family Tree, are ones from whom I have learned and am still learning so much about CI/ADI: (in no particular order) Martina Bex, Elicia Cardenas, Janet Holzer, Amy Marshall, Christina Bacca, Ariene Borutzki, Teri Wiechart, Annabelle Williamson, Jason Fritze, Michelle Kindt, Karen Rowan, Gary DiBianca, Amy Wopat, Andrea Schweitzer, Michele Whaley, John Bracey, Lance Piantaggini, Justin Slocum Bailey, Haiyun Lu, Mira Canion, Cindy Hitz, Bess Hayles, Carol Hill, Clarice Swaney, Allison Litten, Donna Tatum-Johns, Kelly Ferguson, Sarah Breckley (love her vlogs), Carrie Toth and Kristy Placido (for the CI Diaries podcast), Erica Burge, JJ Epperson, Diane Neubauer - I am certain that I have left out so many other people in that list. For the record, I still totally fanboy over these people when I see them and cannot believe that they know my name.
  4. The opportunities to serve as a coach for Acquisition Boot Camp (ABC) and IFLT and that they trust me to work with others on guiding them as CI/ADI teachers! 
Most of all, I am thankful for you my readers - this blog has over 880,000 page views since December 2013. To the twelve of you who regularly read my blog, you are the ones who keep me motivated to share my thoughts and activities. As I always say, thank you for thinking that I have something to say!

Monday, November 14, 2022

Strip/Rip BINGO

This is a quick listening activity which I found out by accident a few months ago, and I do not know why I had not heard about this earlier! Not too long ago, in response to a tweet of mine about the "Sex Game," someone replied the following: "Hopefully you're not referencing Strip BINGO in the same sentence lol!" I was completely unaware of Strip/Rip BINGO, so of course, the name alone caught my interest - I just HAD learn about this activity. Much like the Sex Game, Strip/Rip BINGO is a lot more innocent than the name entails. Here are Martina Bex's write up and directions.


  1. Target language word - have students write down the target language words, and read the story aloud to the class in the target language. When you get to a specific Strip/Rip BINGO word, pause, and have class chorally give the English meaning. If a student has that word on an edge of the strip, then that student can also rip it off the strip.
  2. English meaning - have students write down the English meaning, and read the story aloud in the target language. When students hear the target language word aloud, they can rip off the English meaning if it is an edge word on their strips.


  1. This activity lasted about 5 minutes and was a quick way to review a story in a different way.
  2. I did the English meaning variation and loved that this was a new and different way to do a listening activity combined with BINGO! It was a close-listening activity.
  3. I loved that this required me to read the story around 1.5 times - students heard repetitions of the story but with a goal of being able to rip off their strips in order to get BINGO!
  4. After a student got BINGO, I actually had students ask me to keep reading the story so that they could get BINGO too! Of course, I did not refuse - this does not happen often at all! I am not a fool to refuse getting in more repetitions of language at their request!!
  5. Now that students are familiar with the game and know "how" to game it (i.e., pick words which appear early in the story to put on the edges), future variations are to read a sight story, to start in the middle or end of the story, or to not use a story with a lot of repetitive vocabulary.

Monday, November 7, 2022

The Power of "Rewind"

This past summer at IFLT, I served as a Cohort Team member for the Intermediate Low cohort. Gary DiBianca was the our cohort leader and led the daily sessions on CI/ADI strategies and implementation. As one of the Cohort Team members, I demonstrated many of these strategies which I conducted in Latin. Since the majority (if not all) of the participants in the cohort did not know any Latin, it allowed them to experience CI/ADI as language learning students themselves.

On one of the days, I demo'd a Movie Talk in Latin and kept it very basic, sheltering/limiting vocabulary. In the debrief afterwards where I asked participants what did I do to make the Movie Talk understandable and comprehensible for them, one participant remarked, "I liked how you kept going back and reviewing in Latin the previous parts of the Movie Talk before you moved onto the next part." Quite honestly, I was completely unaware that I was doing that - I was just repeating parts solely to make the movie talk last longer! However, aware of that comment, I notice now when teaching that I do go back and repeat previous parts of the story when doing Movie Talks, Story Listening, and Telling a Story aloud - all subconsciously and not intently. 

"Rewinding" or repeating previous statements in stories can be a very powerful tool:

  • It allows for repetitions of understandable messages.
  • It lends itself to repetitions of language which slower processors may need to comprehend what is being said.
  • It keeps already-stated messages still at the forefront of learners' minds.
  • It allows for a place to park and to conduct a Personalized Question and Answer (PQA).
You can also ask students to help do the "rewind" with you, starting it off with a sentence, and then asking, "Who can then tell me what happened next (in the target language)?"

While many of you may think that "rewinding" is overkill for students, there are many who actually need it and will benefit from it!

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Teaching is What I Do, Not Who I Am

For months, I have debated whether or not to post this. However, after recently listening to an episode on Annabelle Williamson's podcast Listening to Your Gut, what Annabelle had to say really resonated with me.

One of my favorite TV shows is Abbott Elementary. Not only do I find the show absolutely hilarious, but I think that it actually captures what teaching and school life is like as a teacher (as opposed to a show years ago called Boston Public which I felt got it so wrong). One of the aspects which I love most about Abbott Elementary is how it portrays the dynamics between the younger, newer teachers and the older generation of teachers. The younger teachers, with only a year or two of teaching under their belts, view the older teachers as cynical and uncaring about issues in education, while the older teachers view their younger counterparts as idealistic and unrealistic. However, what the younger teachers soon realize is that the older teachers do indeed care about education but after years of experience, they now realize which battles are worth fighting and which are not - these older teachers understand the reality of the teaching workplace. 

I SO relate to both sets of teachers in Abbot Elementary! I can vividly remember in my first year of teaching as a 27-year old listening to an older teacher named Herb in his 50's ramble on about how much education had changed and how SO MUCH MORE was being added/expected of teachers in addition to teaching without anything else being taken away, AND I can vividly remember my reaction being, "Gosh, this is man is old and all he does is complain - he needs to retire." Fast forward 24 years later - I am now Herb!!  Chalk it up to that I am in a completely different age and stage than I was in my first year of teaching at the age of 27, and the scope of education has changed so much since 1997. If only Herb were to see now what we teachers are required to do now 24-25 years later! 

You may view this blog post as ramblings of a grumpy "old man" (how i can remember thinking that 52 was old when I was in my 20's!), but now that I am in my last 1/3 of my teaching career, there is so much which I view differently now than even 5-10 years ago. I am so grateful for the pandemic lockdown and the year of hybrid teaching, because everything came to a screeching halt, and I had to re-evaluate myself. One of the biggest lessons which I have come to learn: Teaching is what I do but it is not at all who I am. 

I had to go through a shift in my mindset to come to that conclusion, and like I said (and also as shown on Abbott Elementary), so much of it is a result of my age and stage. Here is how I now keep perspective:

  • It is perfectly okay to look out for yourself first, because that is healthyI think that it is very easy to blur the lines between our professional and personal lives and that so often, our professional pursuits/lives slowly bleed into our personal lives until there is no real distinction between the two. I firmly believe that as teachers, we are incredibly passionate people (or else we would not be teachers) and that we are very giving of ourselves to our students and to the profession. Yet, whenever I hear teachers say that they are staying in the profession for their students (because "if they as teachers leave, who will be there for their students?"), then I become dismayed, because that it is a "savior mentality" thinking. While students indeed should be a priority, you yourself are priority number one! If you are at the point that you feel you need to leave teaching, then do it! Teaching will always be there to return back to again - focus on yourself first. 
  • Boundaries are SO important - please draw them, and stick to them! I am no longer serving on any more boards as a member or officer - being a new department head is more than enough to fill my plate. I am now incredibly selective with what conferences I will attend and present at. Years ago, I felt like that attending/presenting at conferences was my life, and I really enjoyed it - it brought me pleasure. But that was the problem - my professional life became my personal life. 
  • Leaving work at work. I love that I have a true personal life now!
  • Choose your battles carefully - big picture, not every hill is worth dying on. 
  • Find out who you are outside of teaching. Again, once I made a distinct boundary between my professional and personal life, I could focus on me outside of anything related to the classroom. I am learning that I enjoy traveling and cruising (on a ship, not in a car down a street lol)!
This is not to say that I have lost my passion for teaching - far from it! I still want to be the best teacher whom I can be and wish to continue to grow. However, because of this perspective, I am able to enjoy teaching in this last 1/3 of my professional career and to avoid burnout.

Anyone else love watching Abbott Elementary too?

Monday, October 24, 2022

Spellbound - Movie Talk

Here is a Movie Talk which I just recently did a few weeks ago. I was wanting to introduce the vocabulary words plus (more), minus (less), conspicatus (having caught sight of), plurimus (very many), and invidiosus (jealous). When I did a Google search of "jealous animated short," this particular animated short came up - it worked perfectly for the words which I was wanting to introduce and for those targeted words which I was wanting to recycle. 

  1. I liked this animated short - it is not long at all, so I was able to do a Write and Discuss immediately afterwards.
  2. Quite ironically, I had been targeting the word "odi (I hate)" for a few weeks in our readings, so it was nice to do a movie talk which allowed me to recycle that word.
  3. This is a great movie short to discuss how "words hurt" but also how "words can heal."

Monday, October 17, 2022

Three-Minute Brain Break - Lists

Apparently, I have been slack on brain breaks in my classes, because today a few students "cared very loudly" that we have not been doing them. Since we were doing a Write and Discuss AND I did not want to waste too much time doing a brain break AND students had pencil/paper, I made up this one in the moment based on a previous brain break - lists

It was 3rd period and I was hungry, so I announced to the class, "You have one minute to write down as many restaurants (fast food and sit down) as you can that serve hamburgers. I am going to write down a list too. After a minute, I am going to read my list, and let's see how many of them you match up with me."

For a minute, we all wrote down our list of places which served hamburgers, and wow, that minute went by fast! I read my list to the class, and students matched their answers with me. However, afterwards, I asked for places which they had written down that I had not mentioned. This was where the fun began, because students began sharing names of places which I had completely forgotten about. In turn, students also began to say, "Oh that's right - I forgot about that place too." A number of students shared regional places, e.g., Whataburger (Texas), Checkers (the south) vs. Rally's (the west), Hardees (the south) vs. Karl's Jr (the west), etc. NOTE - Del Taco does serve hamburgers, but Taco Bell does not. Lots of fun!

This all lasted around 3 minute. Afterwards, students were satisfied, and we were able to return to our Write and Discuss. Good times.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Protecting your Bandwidth

I am a new department head this year, and at times, it has felt overwhelming, because everything in this position is a "first time" for me. I am definitely learning a lot so far. Last Friday right after school, three issues suddenly were brought to my attention as department head. But I was so tired and weary from the week already that I decided to wait until Monday to address them, since quite honestly, I did not possess either the emotional or mental bandwidth to deal with them. Since they did not need my immediate attention, I put it off until Monday - these concerns would still be there on that day, and I would have the adequate emotional and mental capacity to address them.

I have come to the conclusion that there are certain things over which I am not going to waste any mental, physical, or emotional bandwidth when it comes to my professional life, because big picture, it is not that big of a deal (or at least not a big of a deal to me any longer). I am now entering into my 24th year of teaching, and it has taken me so long to learn this. Although this may sound blasphemous, the lockdown and hybrid teaching were probably some of the best things to happen in my professional career, because they truly made me stand back, look at myself as a teacher, and reprioritize everything. Some of this is also due to my age and stage - I am 52 and can retire in 5-6 years, so my perspective is probably different from 2nd/3rd year teachers in their 20's.

Here are some ways in which I have learned to preserve my bandwidth:

  • You do not have to grade everything you assign. I no longer assign homework in my classes. While I know that there are huge debates about assigning/not assigning homework, I do not assign homework for one simple reason: I do NOT want to grade it. Yes, my reason for doing this can be interpreted as selfish, but this is a personal boundary for me. However, since I do not assign homework, then it is imperative that I am 100% faithful with my classroom time with students. There are a number of things which I do assign that while I may not give a grade to them, they serve as formative check-in's for me to see what it is that students know and to inform me if I can move forward with the material or if I need to address gaps.
  • Majoring on the majors, and minoring on the minors when it comes to my classroom setup. Even though I have 7 days of pre-planning, there is still never enough time to get everything done which I need to do. As a result, getting my classroom decorated and set up is low on my list of priorities during that time. I moved to a new classroom this year so my walls are pretty bare. In my early years of teaching, I can remember coming in on the weekends to get my classroom walls covered with posters and decorations, but now, as long as I have 32 chairs in my room on the first day of school, then that is a win for me. I can decorate and cover my walls eventually, and I am so okay with that.
  • Leaving work at work. During the year of hybrid teaching, that became standard practice for me. I will do some light planning on the weekends, but my goal is not to grade anything away from work. 
  • Learning to say no. Maybe it is because of my age and stage, but saying no to requests of my time has never been easier and more satisfying! 
  • Teaching is what I do, not whom I am. I will admit that earlier in my teaching career, I was all about learning how to be a better Latin teacher, attended conferences, voraciously read pedagogical blogs, etc. This is not to say that I am still not interested in bettering myself as a teacher today - the difference is that it is just not consuming my time and effort like it did before and taking over my life. Maybe I was younger and had more energy and interest to do so then.
I hope that you are learning to protect your bandwidth too!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Cherishing the Few Specks of Time

Recently I saw the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, and oh my gosh, I was completely blown away by it! I kind of had an idea of what the movie was about, but wow, it was SO MUCH more than that. The basic plot is about a Chinese immigrant mother (played by Michelle Yeoh) who is recruited to save the universe from a major evil villain who is determined to destroy the multiverses. Yes, it sounds like an action, comic-book kind of movie, but it is an incredibly absurd but such a deep, moving film - for the last 20 minutes, I was both laughing hysterically and crying through it all. I can honestly say that it was one of my all-time favorite movies now!

Meanwhile, I am in my 7th week of school with students. By this time, everyone (teachers, students, administrators) is SO TIRED and already burned out to a degree. The novelty has definitely worn off for all parties involved, and now it flat out feels like work for everyone. Throw in that I am also a new department head, so I feel like I am learning everything as I go. So much of it is all "first times" for me - first time leading a department meeting, first time having to call a parent who wanted to talk with me about a teacher issue, first time dealing with teacher "concerns/complaints/gripes," etc. Honestly, it has been very hard!

When it comes to teaching, here are some "truths" which I have learned:

  • There are days which are going to be just flat out poopy. I hate this reality.
  • Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. Again, I hate this reality too, because it means that there are going to be LOTS of poopy days over a long period of time. I just want to get through it all quickly!
  • Students and teachers were affected deeply in so many ways since March 2020, and it may take YEARS to figure it all out and to see those effects. So as we enter this post-pandemic phase, in my opinion to expect that everything will suddenly return to normal is not realistic. Quite honestly, I still feel that I have tinges of PTSD on so many levels from these past 2.5 years (personal and professional) as we maneuvered through the uncertainty of it all.

However, without spoiling Everything Everywhere All at Once (I hope that I am not), one of the messages in the film is learning to "cherish the few specks of time that have any meaning." This is definitely something which I trying to take in:

  • Since victories may be few and far-between, I need to look for them. Because if I am not careful, I will develop a bitter spirit, and I refuse to allow that to happen.
  • I truly need to celebrate any and all victories no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. For example, in one of my "lesser-involved" classes where I feel like I have been struggling these past few weeks to engage, I was very impressed with their first timed write of the year. Some of my other classes were really engaged communicatively in the Unfair Game. Another couple of my classes did a great job with a recent Write and Discuss. Some students made me laugh out loud the other day.
I wish that I could say that every day I am hitting homeruns in my classes - instead, I feel like there are many days where I am getting hit by a pitch! But I am looking for those days where I get a hit when I am up to bat, and if it ends up being a bunt single, I will take it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022


This is another communicative-based activity which I learned from Andrea Schweitzer this summer at IFLT. It is very much like the Word Chunk Game/Trashketball but with a twist. The setup itself is the same like the Word Chunk Game/Trashketball, but the difference is that in Grudgeball, students can give points to other teams points or most likely take them away!. Martina Bex has a great writeup here with directions, so I will not waste blog space here rehashing her directions. You will learn that this activity is called Grudgeball for a reason!

Like the Word Chunk Game/Trashketball, I love how Andrea "communicatified" this game. If a team answered the question correctly, I asked in Latin "________, who will lose points? Team #1, Team #2, Team #3..." If a team answered the question incorrectly, I asked in Latin, "_________, who will receive points? Team #1, Team #2, Team #3..." And much like Word Chunk Game/Trashketball, I asked the class in Latin before the student attempted to score, "Class, do you think that ______ will score?" Previously in Word Chunk Game/Trashketball where most students would respond "Minime (no)!!", however because in this game there was the taking away of points of another team depending on the basket, most students yelled out, "Certe (yes)!" because they wanted to get on the good side of the student so that the student would NOT take away any of their points. Like earlier, I was able to ask again in Latin, "______, who will lose the points? Team #1, Team #2, Team #3..." This gave me an excuse to say the team numbers again in Latin for repetition.


  1. In terms of a lesson plan, this activity took place late in the scaffolding of a reading. By the time we had played Grudgeball, students were quite familiar with both the English and Latin for the story.
  2. In her presentation, Andrea said that when we facilitate "communicatified" games like Trashketball, Grudgeball, and The Unfair Game, although we are asking students questions to answer, our focus actually should be on engaging students in communication - asking the class to predict if a student is going to make a basket in the target language and then interacting with those responses are a great way to begin!

Monday, August 29, 2022

Starting Off Your School Year with CI

I have been back with students for almost a month (my first day back for pre-planning was July 25, and the first day of school was August 5). However, I am still basking in my IFLT high from everything which I learned (and re-learned!) a month ago and from being with such awesome people, most of whom I am still fanboying over. 

Meanwhile, I know that there are many of you who have just started the school year or are beginning after Labor Day. How should you start off the school year when it comes to CI/ADI instruction? Regardless of your familiarity with CI (for Star Wars fans like me, allow me to use Star Wars language: are you a force-seeker, Padawan, or a Jedi Master?) or your number of years as a CI/ADI teacher, this is my advice for anyone starting out the school year when it comes to CI: Take just a few new CI/ADI strategies which you wish to try out, and run with them. Build upon your previous foundation (if any). Exercise your CI muscles, and establish that new foundation. It may be that you wish to try out using processing questions or a Movie Talk/Clip Chat, or maybe you wish to focus on proficiency instead of performance. Maybe you want to try out a novella with your classes. Whatever it is, focus on those. But do not bite off more than you can handle. So often, novice teachers return from conferences and want to implement so much, but they do not possess the necessary foundation yet and burn out as a result. There is no rush to go all-in with CI if you are not ready for it. Once you feel comfortable with facilitating those strategies and have built up that foundation, then possibly add some new ones, and begin the process again.

Based on what I learned at IFLT in July, here are my CI/ADI strategies which I wish to try out this year (some of these I have already tried out in this first month of school and have blogged about):

  1. Communicative-based activities and "communicatifying" existing ones
  2. Write and Discuss
  3. Associating vocabulary with gestures
  4. Classroom passwords for previewing vocabulary
What are some CI/ADI strategies which you are wanting to try out this school year?

Monday, August 22, 2022

Write and Discuss - the OG version!

This summer I attended IFLT (the first in-person IFLT since 2019), and I did not realize just how much I needed IFLT to "refill my cup"- I came away with a renewed spirit for the school year and so many new activities (specifically communicative-based) which I cannot wait to try out in my classes. I have already blogged about "communicatifying" existing activities, and now I want to add Write and Discuss - the OG version.

I attended a session called "Write and Discuss with Sprinkles" given by Caitlin McKinney, who addressed how to do a basic Write and Discuss and then gave many variations of it. In the session, we actually took part in the basic Write and Discuss and other variations in English as if we were students. Although I had already blogged about my experience with Write and Discuss, I did not have much knowledge or experience with the original way to do a Write and Discuss, and I learned that there are SO many different ways to do one (hence, the "sprinkles" which Caitlyn presented also). Therefore, I will call this blog post "Write and Discuss - the OG version" and call my previous blog post about the activity "Write and Discuss as PreWriting".

A Write and Discuss (OG version) is another way to review a reading/story, and it is done quite early in the scaffolding process of a reading. Following a story introduction (such as a movie talk, picture talk, TPRS story, etc), ask students to tell you corporately what happened in the story in the target language for the purpose of creating a class recap. You can ask students processing questions to guide students and to garner responses. As students give you responses, you will type out the sentence out on a projected document for the class so that they can see what you are writing (Caitlin used a Google Slide for this, and that works great, but I can also see using Google Docs or some type of document). As students recap what happened in the story and continue to contribute, you can also give students the option to add sentences of events or descriptions which happened prior in the story (filling in the gaps) or they can continue moving forward with the story. When you are finished, now you have a class-created document of the story which you can then review the next day with students as a warm up.

Last week, my colleague John Foulk and I did a Write and Discuss (OG version) for the first time. We did this activity with our Latin 3 classes immediately following a Movie Talk (Sand Castle) but because it was an upper level class, we added a new element. The movie talk itself took about 30 minutes, so immediately afterwards we projected the vocabulary from the movie talk and told students that they had five minutes to write in Latin what they could about the movie talk (which hopefully was fresh in their minds since we had just completed it). We then collected their writings and read over what they had written to get an idea of what students were communicating. Then the next day, we returned their writings and showed the movie short again (to rejog memories and for those students who were absent the day before). Following that, using a projected Google Slide, we began the Write and Discuss:

We then asked students or called upon student volunteers one at a time to give us a single sentence in order to construct what happened in the story based on what they had written the day before. The first student had it the easiest, because that student just had to tell the opening of the story. As students told us sentences (either filling in the gaps or moving forward with the story), we typed up the story, serving as grammar and spelling editors while typing it up but not changing the student messages themselves.

I loved this activity so much, because although each class came up with the basic recounting of the Movie Talk, each class also differed in what they corporately wrote up. Below are my three different Latin 3 classes with their versions of the story:
  1. Oh my gosh, I love this! What a great way to recap a story and have students do it for you, with you serving as their guide.
  2. I like that what I am dictating from students is being projected for students to see. 
  3. I felt that this was another way for students both to interact with the passage in the target language and to receive more understandable repetitions of the language.
  4. Because this was a Latin 3 class, students were comfortable writing in the language prior to the Write and Discuss. NOTE - lower levels may not feel so comfortable doing a prewriting before the activity, so use your teacher discretion. Prewriting is not a requirement of a Write and Discuss. When Caitlin demonstrated a Write and Discuss in her presentation, I felt successful as a "student" with her just asking us questions aloud to elicit responses. 
  5. It was John's idea for students do a writing of the story for five minutes immediately after the movie talk and prior to the Write and Discuss. When we did the Write and Discuss, students actually had something to which to refer when giving suggestions for the next sentence to add. 
  6. I was surprised at how many students actually volunteered to provide a sentence. Again, maybe because they had already written something, this lowered their affective filters in offering a sentence instead of having to create/remember a sentence on the spot in Latin or answer me asking processing questions.
  7. Many students wanted to "fill in the gaps" with their own sentences between sentences which had already been provided - wow, I was impressed!
  8. I was surprised by how many students used vocabulary beyond what was provided for them or created their own sentences which were not originally from the Movie Talk.
So consider doing a Write and Discuss with your students (you do not have to do the prewriting portion that John and I did - a Write and Discuss functions just as well without it), because it is another great way to conduct a post-reading, communicative-based activity.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


Communicatify is my new word for this school year! I can take absolutely no credit for that word - I learned it a month ago at IFLT from Andrea Schweitzer, who was my fellow co-member of the Intermediate-Low Cohort coaching team (along with Amy Wopat and Gary DiBianca, our leader). Andrea presented this topic to our cohort, as well as gave this presentation for the general IFLT audience.  Andrea's main message in her presentation was that although we may have a giant toolbox of activities which we do with our students, how many of these are actually communicative in purpose

However, there is no need to re-invent the wheel with our activities, because all we need to do is to modify them so that they now lead to purposeful communication. Andrea taught us two "words" and their purposes: 

  • Communicatify: Make changes to shift the overall purpose of the game to that of communication as the means to achieve the overall goal of the game
  • Vehiclize: Use the game as a vehicle for creating contextualized communication with your students (sort of like picture talk or movie talk etc).

These two words definitely have resonated with me, as I strive to create a communicative-based classroom and to facilitate activities which are rooted in purposeful communication. Not an easy task, but I am taking steps (baby steps, shall I say?) toward those ends! 

Last week in my Latin 3 classes, I played the Word Chunk Game/Trashketball. To be honest, I have never been a huge fan of this activity, but I would play it probably once a semester to give students both a break and a novel way with which to interact with a reading. However, Andrea showed us how we could communicatify and vehiclize this activity. The activity itself is still the same, but we can shift the game towards purposeful communication when it comes to students "shooting a basket" by asking students in the target language to predict if they think that the student will "make the basket/score a point". That seems like such a small, uneventful modification, but wow, when I asked students in Latin, "Do you think [student] will score a point?", I got a ton of participation from students answering yes or no!! I was then able to play with that, asking students questions and teaching them rejoinders for "go" and "boo". Suddenly, students were invested in the game IN LATIN!! Suddenly the activity was not about reviewing the reading per se (which was the vehicle) but about engaging students in conversation and providing understandable input for them with which to interact and to respond.

Here is an example in Spanish of how Andrea has "communicatifized" Trashketball in her classes (start video around 12:59):


  1. In her demonstration of Trashketball, Andrea has a 2-point, 4-point, and 6-point line from which students can attempt a basket (with two chances), so in Latin I was also able to ask the student who was about to shoot a basket, "How many points do you want to score? Do you want to score 2 points? Are you sure you want to score 2 points? Maybe you want to score 4 points?" Meanwhile students of their own accord began yelling out, "Six points" IN LATIN to the student! And if a student missed the first shot, I could say in Latin, "Do you still want to score 4 points? Maybe you want to score 2 points." But students on their own were still yelling "Six points" IN LATIN! And then I could restart the whole questioning again, "Do you think Student A will score X points?"
  2. I made a change to my original Word Chunk Game based on Andrea's example. I will still pull out a student's name from a bag and ask them a question. However, now the team can pick one person to be its representative to shoot a basket. This makes the conversation more focused when I ask the class if they think Student A will score points, and most likely, the student who is attempting the shot is okay with being the center of attention.
  3. Wow, such a small change to Word Chunk Game/Trashketball suddenly made this a communicative-based activity, because I was able to engage in conversations with students in a very understandable way and to continue giving them comprehensible input.
I now love the Word Chunk Game/Trashketball and cannot wait to play it again with students. Last week, after I had played this new "communicatifized" version of the game, I texted Andrea, Gary, and Amy about my experience and profusely thanked Andrea for showing us this!

Monday, August 8, 2022

Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs)

Often times I get asked what is the purpose of circling and asking students questions in class, especially when it starts to become really monotonous and repetitive for students. Essentially, asking questions is a great way to assess comprehension in the moment among students, since it can be very easy for students to "fake" understanding. If I ask a target language question, and students mis-answer, then I know right away there has been a breakdown somewhere in the comprehensibility of my messages. As a result, I can re-adjust in the moment. Also, asking questions is another way to continue the current dialogue in the class. I have heard Ben Slavic compare the process to a balloon which we are trying to keep in the air. The more we can dialogue with students using comprehensible language about a sentence/topic, the longer the "balloon can stay in the air." Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs) are a great way to do this. But honestly, I feel like I am horrible at PQAs.

I do have Ben Slavic's PQA in a Wink (a great resource), but when it comes to questioning, I feel like my questioning just peters out after awhile because I do not know where to go with it or students begin to tire of it. However, as I look over what kinds of questions I ask students, I realize that I actually do ask a lot of PQAs and that PQAs can take a lot of different forms:
  • Do you like/have/want? - In many ways, this is a natural personal question to ask students such as do you like to eat pizza, do you have a dog, do you want a lion? But again, these questions can get really old with students even if you add details to them such as do you like to eat pizza at night or in the morning, do you have a big dog or a small dog, do you want a big lion or a small lion? So as extension questions, consider asking...
  • Would you... - In the summer of 2021, I was serving as a cohort coach for the virtual IFLT Conference. I was coaching teachers on circling, and a teacher had volunteered to do be coached on circling using the structure "eats". She did the basic, "Maria eats insects. Does Maria eat insects? Does Maria eat insects or Takis? Does Maria eat Takis?" However, then immediately she turned the structure into a PQA, directing it to a "student," asking "Do you eat insects? Would you eat insects? Would you eat insects for $100?" Now the questioning became interesting! I wanted to know how the student would respond! Moreover, this teacher was demonstrating how to shelter vocabulary, not grammar by keeping the vocabulary word "eat" but now changing it to a subjunctive form for the purpose of communication. This teacher did a great job of keeping the "balloon" in the air!
  • Asking for examples - Very often, I like to ask students to give me examples of something based on a vocabulary word for which I want to get in lots of repetitions or where I think we can get in some good discussion. For example, for a movie talk where the word "witch" was being introduced, I asked students to give me an example of a witch in a book, TV show, or movie. Wow, students were volunteering answers left and right (I did not realize that there were so many), because for many, this was a personal question of interest. I could extend the questioning to be "What witch did Carson suggest?" "Who suggested Glinda as a witch?" A student suggested Mary Poppins as a witch, and suddenly that became a question for discussion - "Who of you thinks that Mary Poppins is a witch? Or is she just magical?"
  • Predictions - In a Movie Talk or a reading which we are doing at sight, I like to ask students to predict what they think will happen next, "What will happen next?" "Do you think that X will be happy?" "How will X respond?" Once I get a response from a student, I can then ask the class, "Who else thinks this?" or "Who here does not think this?"  Again, this can be a personal question of interest for many. 
So consider using many of these different types of PQAs with your students!

Monday, August 1, 2022

"I Can" Writing Proficiency Check-ins

This is a type of writing check-in/assessment which I have learned while serving as a coach for Martina Bex and Elicia Cardenas' Acquisition Boot Camp (which by the way is a GREAT course for those wanting to learn more about CI/ADI instruction). I am not going to spend time here describing this type of assessment, because Martina does such a good job of this in her blog. Essentially it is a writing check-in/assessment over a current reading where students can choose at which level of writing proficiency with which they are most comfortable for that particular reading. However, to use this type of assessment, a teacher truly must have a good understanding of language proficiency. With what degree of language control are students able to communicate? Words? Simple sentences? Create new language?

Whenever it comes to language output with novice and intermediate language learners, we as teachers need to expect errors (and lots of them!). We need to realize that grammatical mistakes and shaky language control are typical in these proficiency levels; therefore, they are expected and okay! As a result, we need to focus on what it is that students are able to communicate and what we as sympathetic receptors can understand from their messages.

  1. I absolutely love this how this is set up - thanks, Martina!
  2. I view this type of "assessment" as merely a check-in for students to let me know where they are with the material - what have they acquired so far with the new material? Where are they with language output? Simply, it is a snapshot of their proficiency at the moment, and the snapshot is neither good nor bad. It is simply to inform me (and hopefully students) of where they are at. 
  3. Personally, I do not grade these, but I definitely do look at them. If you look at Martina's original directions, you will see how she grades these according to a proficiency-based rubric.
  4. I like the choice aspect of this, because it gives students permission to proceed at their preferred level of comfort when it comes to written output. Also, within each level, there is a degree of choice so that students can choose those options which will best display their mastery. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

CI/ADI Podcasts & Vlogs

I have COVID. And if it had not been for some post-nasal drip and slight chest congestion, I would have chalked it up to either a very slight cold or allergies. But to play it safe, I took a home COVID test and indeed, I tested positive (and the COVID line on the test was SO faint to read. Can these home tests be more user-friendly by using emojis or something instead of the lines and letters C & T? 😀 = negative, 🤮 = positive). So now I am forced to stay home (darn, right? lol) with a few mild symptoms - as a result, I am ordering pizza and binge-watching TV - not a bad situation, huh?

So among the many things which I am binge-listening are podcasts! Podcasts are great, because I can listen to them whenever I want and as many times as I want in as many ways as I want wherever I want. Even though my schedule is incredibly busy, podcasts are an easy resource to implement. I can listen to them in my car as I drive, or at the gym, or at my computer as I work. To be honest, there are very few podcasts which I actually listen to regularly, outside of The Real Brady Bros, a Brady Bunch podcast by actors Barry Williams (Greg) and Christopher Knight (Peter), because I am a HUGE Brady Bunch fan. However, last week at IFLT, I discovered two podcasts dedicated to CI/ADI instruction:

  1. CI Diaries by Kristy Placido and Carrie Toth
  2. Teaching La Vida Loca by Annabelle Williamson
I had known about CI Diaries prior to IFLT, but I had never really listened to it. However, Kristy and Carrie did a live episode from IFLT, so I decided to check it out, and it is really good! I knew nothing about Annabelle's podcast until she told me about it last week, and hers is absolute gold too (she does brain breaks in the middle of her podcasts!!)!

And while I was binge-listening these podcasts, I have also binge-watched Sarah Breckley's vlogs - she has so many of them to watch! Vlogs are great tools, because they are visual in nature and allow for the vlogger to connect personally with viewers. Sarah has so many good CI/ADI ideas here which she showcases with video demonstrations.

So please check out these podcasts and vlogs - these two types of tools are great uses of instructional technology and can go so much deeper in content than a regular blog. And no, I will never do a podcast or a vlog, because honestly, I do not like the sound of my voice nor do I want to watch myself on video over and over again. Please stay healthy!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Sex Game 2.0

I am currently at IFLT at the moment, and literally 30 minutes ago, I had a conversation with one of my absolutely favorite people in the world, Annabelle Williamson! Annabelle teaches a Spanish language lab for elementary school students at IFLT, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE watching her with those students, because I learn so much from observing her (as well as some Spanish). Anyhow, I told her that I had stopped by her lab briefly to see what she was doing. She then asked, "Did you see [the students] play your Seis game? I do something different with it." (The Seis Game is the Sex Game in Spanish. Again, in Latin, the word "sex" means "six"!!!). Immediately that got my attention, and Annabelle then showed me what she does with the game - I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS IDEA, AND I AM NOW GOING TO DO IT THIS WAY!! I just had to blog about it immediately!!

So the set up of the game is still the same involving dice and a text. The rules themselves have not changed, i.e., students will roll a dice and if they roll a six, they begin writing. However, the difference now is in the worksheet given to students. The way I learned it was to give students sentences in the target language from a known/seen reading, and the goal was to translate the sentences into English as quickly as possible. Annabelle has turned the activity into a reading game instead of one based on translation - she has the story written out for students but now it consists of a cloze sentences with a word bank at the top! So now when students roll a six, they have to pick the missing word from the word bank to complete the sentence and will continue to do this with other sentences until another student rolls a six and relinquishes control of the pen/pencil. Annabelle said to me, "Now it is a reading activity, because students have to read the sentences to know what word is missing."

My example of a Sex Game 2.0 sheet (added 8/12/22)

I am loving this change to the Sex Game, because:

  1. like Annabelle says, the focus for students is on reading and not on translation itself. Thus, Annabelle's modification has transformed this activity into one based on purposeful communication.
  2. it keeps the activity in the target language.
  3. due to the cloze sentence aspect, it requires some higher order thinking for students.
  4. students are receiving repetitions of understandable messages in re-reading the sentences from the story.
So consider using the Sex Game 2.0 version with your students - there is nothing wrong with the original version, and I will still continue to use it. I would love to hear how version 2.0 goes with your students. Thanks, Annabelle!!

Monday, July 11, 2022

Writing Activities

 I have compiled a list of writing activities about which I have posted on this blog and have put this list on a separate page. It now has its own heading on the menu on the blog home page. You may also access it below:

Writing Activities

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

What Does Level 2 Look Like?

As a CI Latin teacher, often I get asked by CI-seekers, "So what does level (insert number) look like in a CI classroom?" On the one hand, I completely understand the practicalities which these educators are asking, but at the same time, I see a mindset which is rampant in world language teaching which needs to be addressed. 

The issue at hand is that we world language teachers tend to view language teaching and acquisition through the lens of textbooks. This view considers language learning to be linear in nature, and that acquisition occurs on a straight-line continuum and that language concepts and vocabulary introduced on Monday will be mastered by Friday. While I can understand the need for textbooks to do this in order to make material orderly and "efficiently-delivered," the truth is that this is not how language is acquired. Textbooks are set up to "shelter grammar, not vocabulary," e.g., if the grammatical topic for the chapter is the imperfect tense, the imperfect tense is pretty much all that is presented in that chapter (with other learned tenses as a contrast) with a LONG list of new vocabulary. As a result, then we assume that like most other disciplines, language acquisition can mastered in a straight-line method. Also when we view language levels through the lens of textbooks, we tend to associate certain grammatical structures with specific levels, e.g., that the subjunctive, gerunds, and gerundives are not topics covered in lower levels but are reserved for upper levels since that is how textbooks arrange their sequence of "acquisition".

So before you dismiss me as a textbook basher, I am not at all, because I understand why teachers use textbooks (I used one and was also a textbook trainer for years!). I am also a firm believer that one can adapt CI principles to the textbook and does not need to completely abandon it. But as someone who has "untextbooked" and does not view levels via a textbook lens, I will say this: language levels are not determined by complexity of language structures per se but maybe more by the level of proficiency in the "amount" of language which students can intake and can output. If CI teachers adhere to the "shelter vocabulary, not grammar" concept, then those language structures which we tend to think are too difficult can actually be introduced in level 1 as part of regular communication. This past year, I went all-in with "sheltering vocabulary, not grammar" with my Latin 2 classes, and I remember thinking halfway through the first semester, "Why do we not introduce cum clauses with subjunctives, indirect statements, and present participles in Latin 1? If I am 'sheltering vocabulary, not grammar,' it seems so natural because these are high frequency structures." And if we stay away from lengthy grammar discussions of these topics, then it is no problem for students to understand them when they encounter them.

When I say that language levels are determined more by the level of proficiency in the amount of classroom language which students can receive and can output, what a level 3 student experiences in the classroom vs a level 1 student will be different purely due to the amount of language to which those students have already been exposed over time. Even ACTFL notes this in that as learners progress in their language learning, the amount of language output and the level of learner language control will increase: from words to simple sentences to more complex sentences to ordered, sequenced paragraphs. ACTFL never mentions that knowledge and use of certain grammatical structures are what determine a level of proficiency! Accuracy itself of the delivered message does not determine language levels per se but rather was the communication at the novice/intermediate levels successfully understood by a sympathetic receptor? Cultural topics will also be probably different between levels, as lower levels focus on "self" and continue to expand to "the community at large" in upper levels. 

To address the original question then of "What does level (insert number) look like in a CI classroom?" In the fall, I will be teaching Latin 2 and 3. In many ways, the two levels will still incorporate the same types of activities and will still be using novellas for their readings. The difference, however, will be in existing student language knowledge, reading ability and output in the language, and my own personal expectations of their proficiency levels. The novellas themselves will be what dictates the specific vocabulary and language structures which I need to cover in class.

So in this blog post, I hope that I have given you something to think about. Believe me, I am still trying to figure it all out too!

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Doing Your 50%

I always find it funny when students tell me, "Latin is SO easy," because my immediate response is "Well, you don't know how HARD I have to work to make it easy for you." Another comment which I like to hear from students is "I don't understand how there are students who are failing Latin. All you have to do is pay attention in class, and you will get the material. It isn't that hard." This comment brings a smile to my face, because this student has just explained a basic tenet of Comprehensible Input without even knowing it: that language acquisition is subconscious.  

I learned the following from Bob Patrick. At the beginning of every school year in August, I always tell my students that I expect them to do their 50% in class, which is simply paying attention in class, and I will do my own 50% of supplying them with understandable input in different ways. If we both do our 50%, then they will be successful in my class. However I also tell them that I will not do more than my 50% - that is my boundary. I will do everything I can to help out students up to that boundary. 

Now that may seem "cruel" and that doing my 50% sounds uncaring, but it is far from it! Doing my 50% of the classroom effort actually means me doing my 100%! It is my job to provide as much compelling understandable input, to establish meaning, and to engage in active language repetition in as many different ways as I can in order to preserve novelty. That is no easy task!! Hence, my list of Comprehensible Input Reading Strategies

And while students' 50% part of the bargain may sound incredibly passive (since their task is to simply pay attention in class), it is not passive at all. In order for students to acquire language, they need to understand what is being communicated in whatever modality is being implemented. Students need to be "active intakers" of these messages, hence, the need to pay attention in class. And my 50% is to ensure that these messages are understandable to them!

One of the things which I like to do with students is to ask them how they know Latin and how they are able to understand what they are reading and hearing me say considering I have never assigned a vocabulary list to them for them to study (for the record, I do have vocabulary quizzes), have never assigned homework (I do not assign homework for the simple reason that I do not want to grade it. Yes, I am lazy, so if I am not going to assign homework, then I better be 100% faithful with my classroom time with students), and all assessments are unannounced. I love hearing students' responses and how it reinforces the idea of subconscious language acquisition:
  • "You go over the material so many different ways. It's hard NOT to learn it."
  • "I don't know how I know Latin - I just do."
  • "You're right - I just have to pay attention in class."
When students take a step back from their learning and really see that they have never had to actively study for the class but yet somehow know and have absorbed the material, they realize that indeed as long as they do their 50%, they will be successful in my class.

Are you and your students doing their/your 50%?

Monday, June 6, 2022

Observations from a Post-Hybrid Year

Now that I have been on summer vacation for a week, I am taking this time to reflect on the school year so that I can close that chapter and spend time away from anything academic for awhile. Here are some observations from a post-hybrid year. I only taught Latin 2 and 3 this year.


  • There were some MAJOR knowledge gaps in my Latin 2 classes.  My Latin 2 students were those who experienced Latin 1 in a hybrid environment, with most "learning" digitally at home. I did not teach Latin 1 last year, so I did not know any of my Latin 2 students this year. I quickly realized that although many of these students completed their digital assignments from last year and received A's, to a large degree, that actually did not mean much. Completion of assignments did not equal acquisition of material. This is not to blame the Latin 1 teachers but rather the hybrid learning environment itself.
  • As a result, I needed to have realistic expectations of student knowledge. My friend Edie always says "Disappointment is mismanaged expectations." We all know that the year of hybrid teaching was not effective at all, so it was best for me to accept it all for what it was and that it was rather pointless to place the blame on students or teachers. 
  • I had to reset my "goalposts" of what students should be able to acquire and to achieve. Once I viewed that Latin 2 was essentially going to be "Latin 1.5," it gave me somewhere to start. First semester was dedicated to filling in knowledge gaps and moving ahead much more slowly with new material.
  • I sheltered vocabulary, not grammar like crazy to help fill gaps for many students and to reinforce existing knowledge in others!
  • However, in my Latin 3 classes, I did not see such knowledge gaps like I saw in my Latin 2 students. I am wondering if it is because since Latin 3 is an upper-level elective, those students for whom knowledge gaps would have existed chose not to take Latin 3 and therefore self-weeded themselves out.
  1. We cannot assume that students in our classes for the near future will be like they were pre-pandemic. Even though our classrooms have returned to a "normal" face-to-face teaching environment, I firmly believe that it is going to be a number of years before any knowledge gaps in students caused by the pandemic interruption will be filled. And that is OKAY!!
  2. I am going to truly focus on sheltering vocabulary, not grammar. I had felt like I had done a good job of it before, but it was never my sole focus like it was this year. 
  3. There is NO rush to return to pre-pandemic expectations and standards. It is going to take a long time for both students and teachers to adjust back to a post-pandemic classroom, so let us this time to meet everyone where they are at and to go from there.  

Saturday, May 28, 2022

The School Year is Over

Yesterday was the last day of post-planning for me - I am now officially on summer vacation! At the end of every school year, I always experience such a range of emotions and feelings, primarily happiness and relief that it is all over. But as I reflect on these past two years, all I can really feel at the moment is, "Wow, I got through it. Yes, while the experience was very imperfect, I made it through." I cannot help but feel an incredible sense of accomplishment as I reflect on the sheer fact that I endured the storm. As I have stated before in this blog, one of the biggest things which I have learned about myself these past two years is just how resilient I am, since I have been stretched like I have never before.

So as we all begin to transition to summer vacation over the next month and experience time away from the classroom, my biggest piece of advice is this: Do something this summer which gives you joy and which has NOTHING to do with the classroom. Distance yourself from what defines you as a teacher. Normally I would say attend a conference, further your professional development, etc. But after these past two years of the pandemic, digital teaching, hybrid teaching, and transition back to face-to-face, more than ever I realize now that we as teachers need to heal and to remember who we are outside of the classroom. Use this summer to recharge and to heal.

My former college roommate once told me how he envied my professional career as a teacher in that my work calendar always has a definite beginning, middle, and end, while for most people, their career is a continuous series of projects with just two weeks off for vacation. I appreciate his comment more than ever now and recognize the wisdom in his statement.

As I am now beginning my summer vacation, I realize that for many of you, you still have a month left before the end of your school year and that the last thing you need to hear from me is that I am on break. Well, when I return back to work on July 25 for pre-planning, then you can tell me about how you still have a month left in your vacation!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Teaching while Burned Out during the End-of-the-Year

This time of the school is always difficult for teachers and students, because by this point, everyone is burned out. Even though I returned from Spring Break feeling incredibly rested, at the same time, the final 6.5 weeks is always a mess for everyone with standardized state testing, AP testing, senioritis, and just "not feeling it any more." By this point, students are so emotionally and mentally ready for final exams (probably not academically though), because they are simply tired of it all (we teachers feel the same way). It is difficult to lesson plan during this time, because as teachers, "the well has run dry" in terms of motivation. Everything now just seems to take a lot more effort to do, and if you have more than one prep, the burden just seems heavier.

I have two preps (thankfully), so to save my strength and mental bandwidth, my two preps are all doing the same activities on each day. While the readings may be different for each prep, the lessons themselves are the same. If my Latin 2 classes are doing a Read, Draw, and Discuss on Monday, then so are my Latin 3's. If my Latin 3's are doing on Thursday, then so are my Latin 2's. If my Latin 2's are doing a Movie Talk on Friday, then I am going to manipulate that same animated short so that I can do it with my Latin 3's too. This has made it so much easier for me these past few weeks, because then I feel like I am just planning for one prep.  

When I returned from Spring Break on April 11, I remember thinking, "We have 6.5 weeks left until the end of the school year. That is such a long time from now!" I remember telling my senior homeroom on that day, "The senior picnic and Prom are in 3 weeks," but inside saying to myself, "Oh my gosh, that seems so far away. It is going to take forever to get to those days." Fast forward to now - the senior picnic and Prom were last week, and in hindsight, I feel like those 3 weeks passed by very quickly. At the same time, it all happened one day at a time. And quite honestly, I can only be faithful with each day which I am given - worrying about tomorrow and trying to do tomorrow's work today is carrying a larger burden than is necessary. It is now May 3, and the last day of school/graduation is on May 25. Everything is all happening very quickly now, and the end is in sight. However, it will all happen one day at a time.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Runaway Train Has Begun

Graduation is one month from today in my school district (watch me do a cartwheel out of sheer joy), but the end of the school year is ALWAYS such a weird and stressful time for teachers. This week begins state End of Course tests for students in certain subject areas, and next week will start two weeks of AP testing. The next three weeks become a game of hit/miss to see which students will be in my classes on what days, which makes lesson planning incredibly difficult. Add in senioritis, Prom, burnout in both students and teachers, trying to get in teaching new material which will be on the final exam despite students being out for standardized testing, preparing students for final exams, and just end-of the-year stuff. It can be very overwhelming for everyone.

I have been teaching now for almost 25 years, and although I know from experience that this is how this time of the year will always be, it still does not make it any easier to endure. I always liken the end of the school year to a runaway train - regardless of how I feel, the train is not going to stop whether I like it or not, so the only thing which I can do is to just hold on and to ride it out. Complaining and venting about it will not stop the train. 

However, at the same time, wow - I have almost made it through another rather somewhat-weird year of teaching (nothing like the previous two though!). I can celebrate that! Despite being on this runaway train, I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Embedded Writing

This week, I was cleaning out my files in my Google Drive and came across this activity which I had completely forgotten about and have not used for years. It is a post-reading, writing activity which I learned from a conversation that I had with Bess Hayles at NTPRS a number of years ago and then saw demonstrated by Betsy Paskvan. It is a very low-stress, low affective filter way to get students to write without overwhelming them into a full-blown timed/free write. It is very similar to an embedded reading, but this time, students are supplying the missing information. 

  1. Take a paragraph from a reading which you have been covering in class. 
  2. Type the sentences out on a document as a list but leave a lined space between each sentence. 
  3. The objective of the activity is very simple: Students' task is to write a sentence of their own in the target language in that lined space which makes sense between the two sentences. It can be an expansion of the sentence of previous sentence, be a transition between the two, or explain the need for the next sentence. Did something happen in the story between the two sentences that is missing? 
  1. I like this activity, because although students are writing in the target language, they also have parameters in adding new details and meaning to a story.
  2. For beginning levels, you may want to do this as a guided activity first to familiarize students with writing and with the activity itself. For example, for the sentence between #1 and #2, you could ask students aloud, "What is the boy or girl feeling? Happy? sad? Can you describe the boy or girl? Is the boy or girl doing anything?" This will help give students a number of different ideas and details which they could add. Many times I have found that it is not necessarily a lack of vocabulary knowledge which prevents students from writing but rather a lack of direction or ideas to follow.
  3. This is actually a very good higher-order thinking activity, because students must create a sentence of their own which makes sense between two other existing sentences.
  4. Depending on the level of the class and its familiarity with writing, you may choose to leave two lined spaces between each sentence as a higher-level challenge. Students must then write two sentences between each sentence.
  5. I would scaffold this late in a unit lesson plan, because students do need to be familiar enough with the story that they can add new details of their own.
  6. Variations of this activity could be pairing up students or having students pass their papers to another student after they complete writing a sentence, and the next student must write the next new sentence.
Again, I found this activity tucked away in a Google Drive file - I may need to see what else is in my Google Drive!

Friday, March 18, 2022

Dominoes - Putting the Story in Order #2

This is a great collaborative, tactile post-reading activity for students to apply their learning and knowledge of a particular reading using the target language. I learned this years ago at a Cambridge Latin Course workshop, and it was used in English as a culture review. However, I like doing this with a reading, since it is a twist on the "put the story in order" activity and is similar to dominoes. It requires students to recreate the story in the target language in word-for-word "chunks. NOTE - there is some prep involved prior to the activity.

  1. On a MS Word or Google Docs document, create a table in which the cells are long in height and resemble domino tiles. I usually do a table of 3x6 (18 cells) or 4x6 (24 cells).
  2. Print up the document.
  3. On the top left hand cell, on the side, handwrite "Start Here" 
  4. Now in that cell handwrite the first sentence of your reading but leave the last word blank. This may require you editing your sentence to fit the cell. NOTE - you do not always have to leave the last word blank, but I have found that visually it is easier for students to see than if a word in the middle is left blank.
  5. On the cell below it, at the TOP of that cell, write that missing word.
  6. Then below that word, write the next sentence from the story but leave the last word blank. Again, this may require you editing the sentence to fit the cell.
  7. On the cell below it, at the TOP of that cell, write that missing word.
  8. Continue this pattern.
  9. When you get to the last cell/sentence of the reading, the missing word will be written on the top of the "Start Here" cell.
  10. Make 10 copies of this table for a class of 30 - I usually use colored card stock, because card stock is firm and not flimsy like regular paper.
  11. Cut the cells into "domino tiles," and put each set in a separate plastic Ziploc bag (the snack-sized bags are good).
  1. Group students into 3's (a class of 30 would have 10 groups).
  2. Have students take the cards out of the bag and lay them out on a flat surface.
  3. Have them find the card which says "Start Here." 
  4. Tell them that their job is to recreate the reading by finding the missing word of that sentence. That word is found at the top of another card. 
  5. Like dominoes, students will line up that card underneath the "Start Here" card.
  6. Now students have a new sentence with a missing word, and their job is find that missing word.
  7. Tell students that the final card's missing word will be the one at the top of the "Start Here" card.
  8. As students begin to have less cards remaining, the activity should become easier.
  9. Optional competition - I have a bell at the front of my class that students ring when they think that they are done. I then will check that group's cards to make sure that the cards are correct.
  10. When the activity is done, have students scramble the cards before they return them so that they are out of order for the next class.
  1. I suppose one could create this digitally instead of handwriting the sentences. It would require you creating a fillable, set template where the parameters of the table do not change when typing in the sentences. If you can figure out how to do this, go for it.  
  2. This activity usually lasts around 5-10 minutes.
  3. 18-24 "cards" are a good amount - anything less than that is too quick and anything more can get long for students.
  4. You cannot have duplicate words on the tops of cards, because that would mess up groups' domino orders. Every word on the top of the cards must be distinct.
  5. Students can self-monitor their progress when they do this activity because if they "finish" but there are cards still remaining, then they have made a mistake somewhere.
  6. I have seen this activity adapted on Textivate. Since that is a pay-site, I have not used it.
  7. I have a deskless classroom, so this activity does not really lend itself well to playing on the floor since the cards are small. However, when I did have desks, I did this activity a lot!
  8. I found that students liked the tactile nature of the activity. Plus, it helped students see the story arranged visually.
  9. I like the collaborative nature of the activity, because students really do communicate with each other to find the next "domino" which completes the sentence.
  10. I do not understand why students like ringing the bell when they are finished but they do! Therefore, I have to ensure that even the last group to finish gets the chance to ring the bell.
  11. I would scaffold this activity for later in a reading's lesson plans, because students really need to know the reading well (and vocabulary) to be able to complete the sentence with the missing word.
  12. I do like how this requires students to re-read the story again in a completely different way (and to receive repetitions of understandable messages in their re-reading) but the focus isn't on comprehension anymore but on completing the sentence with the missing words.