Monday, January 31, 2022

Sight Reading Comprehension Assessment

Often I have struggled with how to give a true reading comprehension assessment, asking myself, "Should it be over a known, familiar passage? Should it be a seen passage? How many questions should it be? How long should the passage be? What exactly am I assessing in reading comprehension - what are the skills I am wanting to see in students when they read?" 

I have been a coach for Martina Bex and Elicia Cardenas' Acquisition Boot Camp (ABC), and the final week of lessons addresses assessments and various ways to evaluate presentational, interpretive, and interpersonal modes. One of the assessments discussed is reading comprehension, and I absolutely love how they present it, because it addressed all of my concerns.

Essentially, you give students a sight passage in the target language to read, but this passage uses known, targeted vocabulary/cognates with some unknown words glossed. Students will answer questions about the passage IN ENGLISH in 5 categories: 

  • Main Idea - What happens? What is the author telling us?
  • Details - Find three details which support the main idea.
  • Translation - Translate the following sentences into English
  • Inferences - Based on the context of X sentence, what do you think that this unknown word means? Since X word is a cognate, what do you think that it means? 
  • Drawing Conclusions - Why do you think that X person does (Y thing) - support with details from the story.

Recently, I gave my Latin 2 classes a sight reading comprehension assessment based on the above. We are currently reading Emma Vanderpool's novella Incitatus, so I wrote up a passage which incorporated the targeted vocabulary and lots of similar sentences (if not identical) to the Incitatus chapter which we had just finished.

I only did three of the categories (main idea, details, drawing conclusions) for the assessment, but I like how Martina and Elicia have set up the categories.


  1. I was unsure how my Latin 2's would do on this, considering that this group of Latin 2's has been more like "Latin 1.5" in this post-hybrid educational setting (and there is nothing wrong with that, considering how things were last year!). As a result, I feel like I have been taking things much slower and really sheltering vocabulary (and not grammar) with them. However, based on student scores, outside of a few outliers, most students scored above 90. And for ​those who scored below a 70, it shows me that they need more work with the language. 
  2. Why do reading comprehension assessments in English and not in the target language? I think Martina Bex says it best here. Years ago, I used to assess reading comprehension in the target language, but after reading Martina's post, I immediately switched to English. 
  3. Why do a sight passage instead of an already-seen, familiar passage? A sight passage using known targeted vocabulary and some glossed words will let me know what students are understanding this semester based on something which they are reading for the first time using the language which we have been targeting thus far; therefore, it is VERY important that the passage is understandable and comprehensible for students. If I were to use an already-seen, familiar passage, then I am not truly assessing their reading skills - it ends up being a memory recall of what we have discussed and gone over in class, even if I were to include the text on the assessment. In other words, for many students it would not require them to even look at the passage at all, because they already know the answers. That is not the purpose of a reading comprehension assessment.
  4. I think formatives are good for already-seen, known passages, but I definitely like this format for summatives.
  5. I love the Inferences and Drawing Conclusions sections, because those are great ways to ask higher-order thinking questions based on a reading.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Movie Talk - FishWitch

This is a movie talk which I just created this week. My colleague Liz Davidson is writing up an adaptation of The Golden Ass for our Latin 3's to read this semester, so I decided to preview some of the vocabulary using this movie talk. This is now one of my new favorite movie talks, because I really like both the story and the animation (it is very old school Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer kind of feel). The words which I previewed were witch, to be afraid of (we were introducing the deponent verb vereri), curiosity, limbs (of a body), and to endure.

  1. Students REALLY liked this movie talk. It is a very good and thoughtful story. It is a bit on the long side (10 minutes - most movie shorts which I use are about 5-6 minutes) so I only covered the first 6-7 minutes, because by that point, I had covered what I needed in that time. Plus, I wanted to be able to finish the movie talk in one period.
  2. This movie short really lent itself to some good PQAs (personalized questions and answers) which seemed natural to the movie talk. As the teacher, I really got into the PQAs with students on this one and had fun!
  3. Students LOVED the merman - he is absolutely hilarious and clueless in an endearing way.
  4. The animation really lends itself to the feel of this animated short - the stop-animation is such a nice change from the 2D/3D animation.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Taking Care of Yourself

When I hear education experts speak of how we as teachers need to be mindful of trauma and anxiety which students have experienced over these past two years, so often I want to shout out, "Hey, let's not forget about us teachers! We have had to live through this pandemic too! We have experienced trauma too, so do not diminish our experiences!" Honestly I do feel that I have some degree of PTSD still from the sudden, unexpected switch to digital back in March 2020 and then teaching hybrid last year. During that time, I think that I just plowed through it all and never truly gave myself time to react emotionally to the situation while at the same time having to adjust (and still adjusting) to maneuvering through this pandemic and its constantly changing unknown.

So as you begin 2022 and a new semester of teaching and continue to adjust to this weird time in education, here are some pieces of advice for you (and for me) which I have learned during this time:

  1. Have a realistic view of your job and performance. One of the biggest revelations which has come to surface for me during this pandemic is that teaching is what I do but it is not who I am. So often our view of ourselves is based on what we do as teachers. Much of this change in my perspective is probably because I am now in my 50's and have taught for over 20 years; however, these past few years have really given me a completely different view on the profession. Now do not get me wrong: I still very much enjoy teaching and learning to become a better Latin teacher, BUT I also am not going to let this take over my life like it once did. This has meant cutting back on how much time I devote outside of the classroom to lesson preparation, the number of conferences I attend or present at, and how much personal time I devote to taking part in professional development and even reading others' blogs. I feel like as recent as 10 years ago, all of those things were my life - that what all I did. Granted those things did give me a great deal of pleasure, but now I am very much enjoying NOT doing them as much. Whatever you are doing in the classroom is your best at this time. I am also so enjoying now being an adequate teacher (NOTE - I am an overachiever, so my idea of "adequate" is probably what most consider to be "very good"). It is incredibly liberating.
  2. Do something daily for yourself completely unrelated to your job and education. I work out six days a week. While I have always enjoyed working out, even more now I need to do it for my own mental health. I need to put aside time for myself in doing something that I really enjoy that has NOTHING to do with teaching. During the lockdown, I went to Starbucks drive-thru every day at 3:00pm. Outside of the occasional trip to to the store, that was my one time I left the house during that time. That daily routine gave me something to look forward each day during the lockdown.
  3. Enjoy your interests. I love Star Wars - I consider myself one of its original fans, because I was seven years old when Star Wars - A New Hope came out, and I saw it seven times in the movie theater during the summer of 1977. I was the perfect age for all of the Star Wars toys and action figures that come out afterwards (yes, I still have them). However, I was not a huge fan of the prequel trilogy and absolutely hated what they did to the sequel trilogy - the last three movies pretty much killed what I had loved about the franchise. However, thanks to The Mandalorian, I fell in love again with Star Wars. During the lockdown and subsequent months afterwards while limiting my contact with others, I binge-watched the two animated series The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels on Disney Plus. Last summer, I faithfully watched The Bad Batch every Friday morning when a new episode was released, and now the Book of Boba Fett just started! Disney Plus has so many new Star Wars series coming out in 2022, so I am going to devote my Wednesdays when I come home from working out to watching whatever Star Wars series episode has come out that day. So while you may not like Star Wars at all, find what it is that you do like and geek out over it like I do with Star Wars!
Find out who you are outside of the classroom, and enjoy yourself!