Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Necessity for i-1 in Reading

(Unbeknownst to either of us, Eric Richards has recently posted something very similiar on his blog about this topic - "Why Level-Appropriate Reading?" Take some to read it - very good and has research to back it up!)

If you are familiar with Krashen's theories related to Comprehensible Input, you should know the concept of "i+1 (input plus one)" - according to this hypothesis, Krashen states that while comprehensible and understandable input (i) is 100% necessary for language acqusistion, the "+1" represents the next level of understanding which is needed for a learner to progress in the language. Without oversimplifying this concept, our goal should then be to deliver messages and content which are completely comprehensible for students but also slightly (key word is slightly) challenge their current level of understanding in order for them to progress.

In this blog post, however, I am going to argue the absolute vital necessity for the opposite: i-1 (input MINUS one) when it comes to reading, especially Free Voluntary Reading (FVR).

Krashen is a HUGE advocate of reading and firmly believes that this is a major component  of language acquisition:

"Our reading ability, our ability to write in an acceptable writing style, our spelling ability, vocabulary knowledge, and our ability to handle complex syntax is the result of reading."

"The ability to speak is the result of listening [and] the result of reading." 

I have heard many CI/ADI teachers say that when we have students read L2, our goal for them should be that those messages translate into "moving pictures in their heads," i.e., that these messages should go beyond just words to them. While I am fully on board with this goal, I will also argue though that as novice language learners, our brains will automatically translate L2 messages into L1 (whether we like it or not), because our brains are trying to create mental representations of that L2. In order for our brains to transform L2 messages into "moving pictures in our heads," those messages then need to be BELOW our current level of reading proficiency so that these messages immediately "translate into images."

When novice language learners read messages in L2, numerous brain functions are occurring simultaneously:

  • what does this individual word mean? (meaning)
  • what does the form of the word tell me? (grammar and syntax)
  • what do I do with this word? How do I put all of these words together to create overall meaning? (translation)

As a result, reading can be very overwhelming for novice language learners (and they may already struggle with reading in their L1) if too much is going on in their brains. When students encounter unknown vocabulary and forms, this can impede reading flow, because they are forced to stop to establish meaning. While some students are meta enough to persist in establishing meaning, most will not. 

When a reading is targeted at i-1, although the reading is targeted at a level below students' current reading proficiency, students are receiving repetitions and robust exposure to language with which they are already familiar, thus refnforcing the subconscious nature of the language acquisition process. When learners have constant robust exposure to vocabulary, the words can move from just being words to now "images in their heads." 

So when it comes to FVR (Free Voluntary Reading), although we want students to read for pleasure to reinforce language acquisition, the messages which they are reading need to be 100% understandable. In your own experiences, do you tend to read for pleasure messages which are above your current reading profciency? I would argue that most people do not. For the record, People Magazine is written at an 8th grade reading level.

Here is an example from my own experience. I HATE reading research articles; to me, these articles are written at a i+100 level!! If you want to torture me, forget waterboarding - force me to read academic articles! Whenever I read research articles, I can definitely tell you that there are NO MOVING PICTURES IN MY HEAD! Honestly, I am doing everything which I can to stay afloat in comprehension when it comes to reading scholarly material, because it is so above my reading proficiency level. To me, reading academic material is like translating one of Cicero's Latin speeches into English (Latin folks, you will understand that reference).

I would love to hear your take on "i-1 in reading" in the comments!

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Strive to be THAT Class!

I am now in week 5 of the school year - while I am still setting up classroom routines and expectations, I finally feel like I am back in the swing of things. However, I also know that many teachers have just completed their summer vacation (finally!) and are starting back up again in the classroom. The start of the school year can be an exciting time, because it represents a new beginning. There is still hope in the air, and the sky is the limit for what can be accomplished before reality sets in. I had a great summer of in-person professional development, serving at Acquisition Academy, CI Summit, and Fluency Matters Conference. As a result, there is so much which I want to implement that I learned from these CI/ADI conferences.

However, what is my overarching goal for this school year? Simply this: Strive to be THAT class (in no particular order)...

  • where language learning seems effortless to students, because the emphasis is on subconscious language acquisition by means of comprehensible input.
  • where both students and I each do our 50% to succeed in the classroom. 
  • where my classroom space is a communal safe space for everyone.
  • where students can learn about each other and the world through the use of the target language.
  • where the classroom emphasis is on language proficiency, not on language performance.
  • where I celebrate what it is that students CAN do with the language and not focus solely on what they cannot.
  • where while I may not always agree with every student politically, those students know that I still love them.
  • where students are praised for asking questions or clarifications.
  • where students are given TONS of different opportunities and ways with which to interact and to play with the language.
  • where students can expect and anticipate brain breaks (hopefully daily).

I am quite certain that I am missing some other important goals in the above list at the moment. What is your overarching goal for the school year?

Monday, August 28, 2023

TPR/Gesturing Vocabulary

For the past ten years, I have been very familiar with using TPR/gestures to teach many basic verbs e.g., want, give, take, has, etc., using ASL signs. Whenever I have taught Latin 1 in the past, I have definitely used TPR/gestures for students to learn basic vocabulary. However, Latin 1 was the only level where I have done this, because I thought, "Honestly, do upper level students need TPR/gestures to associate with vocabulary? Aren't they kind of 'past' that? They are no longer Latin 1 students - TPR/gestures is so basic!" Boy, was I wrong!! Because TPR/gestures are so basic, they are a great way to teach any type of vocabulary regardless of the level.

These past few summers at IFLT and CI Summit, I have had the great opportunity to be part of a cohort team led by Gary DiBianca. Gary has demonstrated using TPR/gestures to preteach Spanish vocabulary for a future reading. Since I do not know Spanish, I definitely took an active part in doing the gestures. Soon I realized that I had acquired these vocabulary words/phrases in Spanish because deep down inside I knew them, and that it was all based on muscle memory from TPR/gestures!

Flash forward to two weeks ago: After a 1.5 weeks of "getting back into Latin" with my students, I wanted to begin a cultural reading about Roman holidays in my Latin 2 Honors classes. I also wanted to throw in some new vocabulary, which I would both shelter in the passage (but not the grammar) and get in lots of robust exposure within the passage. The four Latin words which I chose to TPR/gesture (the ASL signs are listed too) were:

NOTE - when using ASL signs to teach as vocabulary, be sure to inform your students that you are NOT teaching them ASL per se, since that is its own linguistic system with its own set of grammatical rules and structures.

Now the key to teaching TPR/gestures lies in the sheer number of repetitions of doing the TPR/gestures so that eventually students associate these words/meanings with muscle memory. In working with Gary DiBianca these past few summers at IFLT where he demonstrated TPR/gestures with our cohorts, I learned a way to do this. In turn, Gary learned this from Teri Wiechart.

1) Say 1 and you model

2) Say 1 and they do

3) Say 2 in a row and they do

4) Say 2 in a row with their eyes closed

5) Say 3 in a row and they do

6) Say 3 in a row with their eyes closed

6) Say 4 in a row and they do

Use the grid as means of helping you add variety of order in calling out which words to TPR/gesture.

dies festus






dies festus



dies festus






dies festus


  1. I know from my own experience in language learning that TPR/gestures works!
  2. TPR/gestures are a great way to teach L2 phrases which seem very specific or "weird" to students. This summer at CI Summit, I taught my cohort the phrase "along the shore/coast" using TPR/gestures because I needed to preview it for a reading. I just ended up combining two ASL signs, and it did not present a problem.
  3. It is important to review the TPR/gestures constantly. In the beginning, students will associate the gesture with L1 to establish meaning, but eventually, the L2 association will kick in, but you as the teacher need to get in lots robust exposure of these signs with both L1 and L2..

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Quick Draw - Senora Chase Version

Here is a fun, post-reading activity which I recently saw on a blog post by Gary DiBianca. which he in turn got from Anne Marie Chase (Senora Chase). I recently did it with a few of my classes, and it went really well!

Quick Draw directions (Senora Chase)


  1. This is a great post-reading activity, because it forces students to re-read a passage many times, thus receiving continued robust exposure and repetitions to understandable language.
  2. Students need to have a great deal of familiarity with the passage, since it is a race. I did it immediately after a Treasure Hunt Writing, and that was a great setup for this activity since students were already familiar with how the passage was arranged.
  3. When I first did this activity, it was with my first period class. No one was in the mood at 7:15am to say anything, let alone to be the first person to say the sentence from the passage aloud first. As a result, I had them find the sentence and WRITE it down, with the goal of being the first person to write the correct sentence. I found that many students preferred this way. However, with other classes, I found that students did not have a problem with being the first one to say the correct sentence aloud! Either way has its benefits.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Treasure Hunt - Writing

 At this summer's CI Summit in Savannah, I attended Eric Richards' presentation "Writing Strategies for the ADI Classroom" (based on his book, Grafted Writing - get this book!!) - for me, easily this was the BEST presentation which I attended that week (tied with Annabelle Williamson's "Brain Breaks," because 1) it was all about brain breaks and 2) it was freakin' Annabelle Williamson!). Eric presented SO MANY really practical ways to get students to write in the target language which are very easy to incorporate into one's curriculum.

One of the activities from Eric's presentation which I recently used with a few of my classes was Treasure Hunt Writing, and it is exactly that: a "treasure hunt" for students to find and copy down specific sentences from a reading based on a number of categories.


  1. Using a known passage, create your categories. The categories can be structures, certain vocabulary words, or details. Pick categories for which students can find more than one sentence, i.e., do not pick an esoteric category for which there is only one sentence. 
  2. If you want to give students additional parameters, tell students that they need to find X number of sentences for a category.
  3. Give students a copy of the reading, as well as a whiteboard and marker (everything is made better with whiteboards, just like bacon!)
  4. Project a category, and give students time to copy down the sentences based on the category.
  5. As a group, review the sentences which students found.
  6. Have students erase their whiteboards, and project a new category. 
  7. Repeat again.
  8. Variation - you can divide students into groups, and project all categories at once. Each group is in charge of finding sentences for that category. Students can then share and compare their sentences within their groups.
Below is an example which I used - mine was in Latin, but it is in English for you (this passage is actually based on a PQA which Eric demonstrated with our cohort group)

Cooper is not happy, because Kevin is a better basketball player than Cooper. Cooper wants to be a better basketball player than Kevin, but Kevin is the best. Kevin plays basketball very well! Cooper is athletic, but Kevin is more athletic than Cooper. When people see Kevin playing basketball, they shout, "Kevin is the best!" and they celebrate! When people see Cooper playing basketball, they do not shout and they do not celebrate.

Cooper has an elephant. The elephant is big and athletic. The elephant does not play basketball but plays soccer. When people see the elephant playing soccer, they shout, "The elephant is the best!" and they celebrate! Cooper does not want the elephant to play soccer. Cooper wants the elephant to play basketball. Cooper wants the people to shout, "The elephant is the best basketball player!"

Cooper wants the elephant to be a better basketball player than Kevin. Cooper wants the elephant to be more athletic than Kevin. Cooper trains the elephant to play basketball. Cooper trains the elephant to be a better basketball player than Kevin! But the elephant is not happy - it does not want to play basketball! The elephant wants to play soccer!

  1. Copy down FOUR sentences from the story which contain the Latin word “want”
  2. Copy down THREE sentences from the story which describe Kevin as a basketball player.
  3. Copy down THREE sentences from the story which describe actual or possible crowd reaction.
  1. This is a great post-reading activity!!
  2. Students need to have some degree of familiarity with the passage, because this involves close reading. This is not at all something which I would do after introducing a passage unless it was very readable and 100% comprehensible for students.
  3. Some may be wondering, "Where is the CI aspect of this? Aren't students just copying down sentences from the reading?" My response: "There is SO MUCH CI going on here!" First off, students are receiving understandable messages in reading/re-reading this familiar passage - lots of robust exposure to familiar language. Secondly, in copying down the sentences, students are receiving more comprehensible input, because they should be understanding the meaning in L1 as they copy down each word; if they are not, then to them they are just writing down "nonsense words."
  4. I love that this is very low-prep activity! All that I had to do was to create 3-4 "categories" for students to find sentences based on the reading.
  5. This is also a great higher-order thinking activity, because for those categories asking for a specific detail, students have to truly read the passage and to use their judgment to determine if a sentence fits that category.
  6. I was surprised at how engaged students actually were in this!
Give this one a try - it is a definite keeper! Thanks, Eric!!

Monday, August 7, 2023

Returning to School after a CI/ADI Conference - What Now?

This past summer, I attended and served as part of the team for three conferences: Acquisition Academy in Dallas, the CI Summit in Savannah, and the Fluency Matters Conference in St. Petersburg. Even though I was in a "staff position," I still was able to attend presentations and language labs like other participants, and I walked away with so much which I am wanting to do now in my classroom.

Maybe like me, you also attended a summer CI/ADI training conference of some kind and want to apply what you learned with your students. Whether you are a novice or an experienced user, it is very easy to get overwhelmed by wanting to do it all or not even knowing where to start.

Here is my advice: Keep doing whatever it is that you are doing in your classroom (even if that is the textbook), but…

  1. “Pick the low-hanging fruit” & look for where you can start implementing that. In other words, what kinds of CI/ADI strategies do you feel that are within your own individual reach to facilitate based on your familiarity with CI/ADI? There is no rush to change things right away. Do what you can with what you feel comfortable.
  2. Build up your foundation. Again, there is no rush to go "all-in" with CI/ADI instruction if there is no foundation. Get a strong foundation and move on from there. Even if you are an experienced CI/ADI practitioner, sometimes your foundation can get a bit rusty over the summer.
  3. Manage your expectations of your progress. Be aware that things may go well and that things may not go as expected with CI/ADI. If something does not go well, that is okay. Reflect on why and try it out again or maybe try a different CI/ADI strategy. I am not a big fan of TPRS/Storyasking because there are too many unknown variables going on, but I love doing One Word Image (which is loosely based on TPRS/Storyasking).
  4. Be curious, not judgmental. I love this quote from Ted Lasso, because it sums up a growth mindset. Strive to learn more about CI/ADI before you dismiss it as trendy or that it does not "work"
Here is my list of "low-hanging fruit" which I want to implement:
  1. Get students writing at least once/twice a week. This writing does not have to be formal or a timed write, but I want students interacting with writing the language, even if it is just copying sentences from a reading.
  2. Implement more PQAs and questioning of my students in Latin as warmups to engage in purposeful communication. 
  3. Continue "communicatifying" existing activities, including brain breaks.
What is your low-hanging fruit which you plan to implement in your classroom?

Friday, July 28, 2023

Musings on Introduction to CI/ADI Theory

Last week, I attended the Fluency Matters Conference in St. Petersburg, and I served as a Strand Guide for one of the Beginners/Novice strands. During those three days, these participants were exposed to A LOT about CI/ADI instruction and theory - I am certain that it felt like drinking from a fire house during those three days! Since it was a strand for beginners/seekers to CI/ADI, there often is a lot of resistance (which is perfectly okay. I was once one of the biggest advocates AGAINST CI/ADI). On the final session, as part of a gallery walk reflection, using post-its I asked my strand participants to write a short answer reflection on a number of questions. These are some of their responses to the following question:

How has your view of Second Language Acquisition and CI/ADI theories grown over the past week? 

  • Grammatical accuracy is a result of acquisition, not the means of it
  • It has deepened my confidence that this is the way to go
  • Realizing that I can do this - just not all at once
  • I now understand this is a long process. It just takes time. Just like when little kids are developing language
  • I have a deeper understanding of how CI activities and strategies can be used together to help acquire a new language
  • It can be changed little by little
  • Less focus on grammar, but it is not "the enemy"
  • I feel better equipped to use CI and challenge my students w/ higher level of questioning at the proper level
  • SLA knowledge has grown from near nothing to mid-level understanding
  • I can incorporate CI with activities which I already do in class
I love these responses, especially that many people realized that the transition to a CI/ADI classroom is gradual and takes time! 

So to anyone wanting to start their CI/ADI journey or who have been journeying for awhile, be aware that it is a continuous process - I feel that my view of CI/ADI continues to grow and to expand every year! The above responses definitely motivate me!

Friday, July 21, 2023

How to be Comprehensible in Class - Sarah Breckley video

I have just returned from the Fluency Matters Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida where I served as a Strand Guide for Novice/Beginners. My fellow Strand Guide Andrea Schweitzer shared this video with me to show my strand of participants on the last day. I only showed the first 3 minutes of it (it is 57 minutes long), but it is a really good primer on how to be comprehensible in the classroom. Sarah Breckley created this video (she too was a Strand Guide), and she says A LOT of very good and necessary things about the need to be comprehensible in the target language and what are ways in which we can achieve this.

So if you are a beginner, seeker, or advanced user of CI/ADI, pull up a seat and watch this - good stuff!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

CI Summit 2023 Report (LONG)

The CI Summit in Savannah, GA ended yesterday, and I am still basking in the afterglow from it all. This weeklong conference is dedicated to "offer[ing] World Language teachers in-depth training and support for acquisition-driven instruction and comprehensible input [with the intent that] more teachers can bring these effective and equitable techniques back to the classroom." Thanks to Voces Digital for a wonderful week!  

What I love most about conferences like CI Summit is seeing teachers suddenly experience the a-ha moments like I did at my first NTPRS conference in 2014, and although this is my eighth CI/ADI summer conference which I have attended since then, it never gets old for me. I always walk away with my cup refilled! Even though I was serving in the role as a coach/cohort team member at the CI Summit, I still was able to experience the conference as a participant and to attend many sessions and language labs. As I reflect on and decompress from the week, here is my report of the sessions and language labs which I attended:
  • My Cohort - Level 2 - At the CI Summit, I served as a cohort team member/coach for level 2. This group was for participants who have had some exposure to CI/ADI through attending a workshop/conference and possess some experience implementing a few CI/ADI skills but need more exposure and refinement. Gary DiBianca served as our cohort leader, with team members Andrea Schweitzer, Eric Richards, and me. We only had roughly 12 hours of instructional time over 4 days with our cohort participants, and we definitely used every minute of it. The theme for our cohort was volcanos and how we need to nurture our inner volcanos to eventually erupt our CI lava flow (yes, on paper, that may sound corny but it makes so much sense!) In many ways, I am certain that our participants felt like they were drinking from a fire hose, because we threw a lot at them. However, they were able to experience SO much as students! Eric began each day with questioning/PQAs in German and scaffolded it in such a way that by the last day participants were able to do some simple writing on their own in the language which they had acquired in that time! In Latin, I demonstrated TPR, a 3-place story, and post-reading strategies all for the purpose of previewing vocabulary and structures for a Latin cultural reading on Mount Vesuvius at the end of the week. Meanwhile interspersed through all of this, Gary and Andrea demonstrated other strategies such as One-Word Image, a volcano-related Movie Talk/Clip Chat (The Floor is Lava game) in Spanish and how to put it all together as a unit lesson. Oh, and did I mention that we also broke up into groups to work on skill-based practice such as circling/asking processing questions, storytelling, storyasking, etc.? By the end of it all, our cohort participants had so many a-ha moments! The majority of them had never experienced learning Latin or German before, but by the end, they had subconsciously acquired the target vocabulary/structures through interaction and robust exposure with the languages. Many of them did not realize that Latin could be spoken as a living language, so I am glad that I was able to expose them to that. 

  • My Fellow Cohort 2 Team Members -  However, as much as I loved the participants in my cohort and what they got from our time together, I absolutely LOVED my other team members even more: Gary, Andrea, and Eric. We worked so well together, and our individuals strengths naturally complemented each other in what we each contributed during our cohort time. Gary, Andrea, and Eric are master teachers, and I learned SO MUCH from each of them in their demo sections.
The dream team: Andrea, me, Eric, and Gary
  • Language Labs (Elementary school-aged students Spanish - Annabelle Williamson & Middle school-aged students Spanish - Skip Crosby) - I cannot get enough of the language labs! I love being able to observe CI/ADI instruction in action with real students, especially a language class where I do not know the language (which is pretty much all of them) so that I can experience learning like one of my own students - that makes such a HUGE difference. The labs are where the magic happens! I will always observe Annabelle whenever I can, and this year, I also observed Skip Crosby since I was serving as his lab debrief facilitator. The labs can be tricky since the instructors only have roughly 90 minutes of instructional time/day with their students for 4 days (while being observed!), but neither Annabelle nor Skip disappointed! While I definitely was able to see them demonstrate CI/ADI skills in their Spanish classrooms, what I loved most was their intentional effort to establish relationships with their students. During the first debrief session on Day 1, a teacher asked Skip, "How long have you known these students? You have such a good relationship with them." His response: "Just today. My goal today was just to love on them." Another thing which I absolutely loved about observing Annabelle and Skip over multiple days was me actually getting attached to their students - I felt like I had such a vested interest in them (even though I never interacted with them). Each day Skip would note to us observers that the "flowers were starting open up more" as students began to trust him more and to become more involved with him and the Spanish. I loved that I was able to witness this!!
  • Brain Breaks presentation - Annabelle Williamson - If you have read my blog, you know that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Annabelle. I love that we share such a tremendous, profound, deep respect for each other, and I will always walk away learning something from her. I first learned about brain breaks from Annabelle back at the 2016 IFLT in Chattanooga, and she is a master of them! Although I came halfway to her presentation this year, I still walked away with my mind absolutely full of new ideas. However, my main takeaways from her presentation were that brain breaks need to be a minute or less, i.e., they are quick; because if they are longer, then they are a game, and games and brain breaks are two completely different things! Wow - I need to remember this! We played so many of these brain breaks with her, and I am certain that in the upcoming months I will blog about some of these new brain breaks which I learned as I try them out with my students. Annabelle also touched on how we can "communicatify" our brain breaks to engage our students with purposeful communication - I love this!
  • Writing Strategies for the ADI Classroom - Eric Richards - My mind was absolutely blown in this workshop presentation - I feel like I am still processing everything! This has utterly changed the way in which I view writing in an ADI classrom. Eric is a GREAT presenter, and he demonstrated/had us take part in many simple, level-appropriate writing activities which we can implement immediately in our level 1 classes. The best part is how simple and low affective filter-raising these strategies are! Like what I learned from Annabelle, I am certain that I will be blogging about many of these in the upcoming year as I implement them. Let me plug his book Grafted Writing, which has these activities and so many more!
  • Whiteboards - Although this was not a presentation, I will say that whiteboards were the MVP of the CI Summit. Because CI Summit was in Savannah and I am in the metro-Atlanta area, I drove to the conference. Innocently, I told my cohort team that I was going to bring my classroom set of whiteboards, markers, and rags since I wanted to use them for a possible activity in my part of the week's lesson. Because I was driving, it would be no big deal for me to bring them. Let me tell you: everything can be made better with whiteboards (just like bacon)! Eric used them during his daily questioning/PQA time in our cohort time and and then asked to borrow them for his writing strategies workshop presentation, and I used them in my cohort presentations. The whiteboards just raised everything to a new level - now I know why students love it when we use them in class! Gary, Andrea, Eric, and I have already talked about who of us will bring whiteboards to next year's CI Summit! 
If you were at the CI Summit, what did you get out of it? Were there any presentations, observations, or cohort time where you experienced any a-ha moments? What presentations did you attend where you walked away with some good ideas?

Hope to see you all next year in Philadelphia for CI Summit 2024!

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Embedding a Textbook Dialogue - Example

When we engage in communication with our students, the goal should be that it be purposeful in nature. According to Bill Van Patten, "Communication is the interpretation, expression, and/or negotiation of meaning for a purpose, in a given context." How do textbook dialogues align with this definition of communication?

By nature, textbook dialogues are artificial, because no true purposeful communication is occurring. Yes, there appears to be an exchange of dialogue, but most likely, when we have students recite textbook dialogues, that is all it is: reciting. It is memorization and contrived communication. 

In addition, many textbook dialogues are set in environments outside of the classroom, which contributes to its artificiality. To quote something which I had written in an earlier post about purposeful communication:

[Purposeful] communication needs to occur in a realistic context and setting. Therefore, since we as teachers are communicating in a classroom, our communication needs to reflect what would occur in a classroom. The traditional textbook dialogues/role plays of "a trip to the doctor's office," "ordering a train ticket," and "maneuvering through the airport" are not truly communicative, because they are artificially set and delivered in a classroom context (and not in a doctor's office, train station, airport). If you wish to do those dialogues, then students need to be in those actual environments for these activities to have a true setting.

By no means does this mean that textbook dialogues are bad per se, but if you wish to align them with purposeful communication, then do the following: embed them into a reading, such as a story, diary entry, letter, etc. In doing so, now the textbook dialogues are in the realistic context of a classroom and can therefore be discussed in a classroom setting.

Below is an example of a reading which I created back in 2015 (before I even knew about purposeful communication) - it is translated from Latin into English. It incorporated greetings into a reading, and it was about two students of mine named Ian and Mustafa. I know that there is a similar Spanish version of this story out there, since Meredith White took my story and adapted it into Spanish: 

Ian sees a girl. The girl is beautiful. Ian loves the girl. Ian says, “O girl, hello. How are you? My name is Ian. What is your name?” The girl says, “Hello, Ian. I am fine. My name is Go Away! Goodbye!” Ian is sad.

Mustafa says, “What is her name?” Ian responds, “Her name is Go Away!”

Ian sees another girl. The girl is beautiful. Ian loves the girl. Ian says, “O girl, hello, my name is Ian.  What is your name?” The girl says, “Hello, Ian. I am very well.  My name is You are Annoying. Goodbye!” Ian is sad.

Mustafa says, "What is her name?” Ian responds, “Her name is You Are Annoying!”

Since these greetings were set in a reading, as a class we could discuss and review them in a classroom setting much beyond the traditional way of simply saying hello to students and asking what their names are and how they are doing.

Consider embedding textbook dialogues into readings to create purposeful communication!

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The End of Another School Year

My school year has now come to an end. Finals have been graded. Grades have been posted. Graduation has commenced. My classroom has been packed away for the next few months. I am now officially on summer vacation.

I do not know if it has truly hit me that the school year is over. It is always feels weird to transition from the frantic rush of the end of the year with finals, graduation, and post-planning to now suddenly having two months off. When I look back at it all, I cannot help but feel such a sense of accomplishment: I got through it. And every year I do get through it. Albeit battered, bruised, and emotionally tired, I get through it. 

The words of a former college roommate annually replay in my mind at this time of the year. Over twenty years ago he and I were discussing our lives then since I was a teacher and he was a CPA. He said to me, "I envy you, because [your job] has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. My job is a constant series of projects." In my early years of teaching, I did not quite understand his statement, but now as I get older and gain more life experience, I truly treasure his words, because they ring truth.

I do not know if non-teachers understand why teachers need a summer vacation. It is so that we can put closure on the past school year. It is so that we have time away from students. It is so that we can heal and re-energize for when students return. It is so that we do not have to be teachers and can focus back on ourselves.

As always. this summer I am looking forward to not being Keith Toda, teacher, or Keith Toda, department head. I can simply just be Keith Toda. For a few weeks I will be Keith Toda, coach, at the Acquisition Academy in June and CI Summit in July, and Keith Toda, strand guide at the Fluency Matters Conference (so if you are at any of these, please say hi!). Outside of those three commitments, I will have no professional responsibilities, can just stay under the radar without any titles/designations, and can deteriorate - I hope you will do the same!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Translation is Not Bad...But...

The following post is directed more at Latin teachers than anyone else. This reflects my own personal views on the matter and not necessarily those of the CI/ADI Latin community.

Often I get asked "Why do you consider translation to be bad/wrong?" And my response is simply, "I do not think that it is bad at all...but..." Let me clarify:

  • Translation in and of itself is NOT bad - in fact, it is 100% necessary! Translation from L2 into L1 establishes meaning. I do know that there are those who think that putting L2 into L1 is absolutely wrong (I have many colleagues in the spoken Latin community who feel that L1 is wrong when teaching Latin - in their words, "The ancient Romans never knew puella meant girl - puella meant puella to them!") While I can understand their sentiments, whether we like it or not, when learning a language, our brains are constantly trying to make connections between L2 and L1 when creating a mental representation of L2 and as a result will default to L1 for meaning. 
  • However, big picture, translation is considered a low-level, thinking process. If you look at Bloom's taxonomy, translation is a level-2 function (Understand level), because what you are simply doing is taking L2 and putting it into L1. While there may be some "high level processes" going on to create the L1 translation, in the end all you have is the original L2 now in L1. You have not created any new meaning on your own. You have the author's original meaning now put into your own L1.
  • One can translate something from L2 into L1 but have NO IDEA what is being communicated. When I translate Cicero, his sentence structures are so complex and the vocabulary is way beyond me to such a degree that I must have a Loeb or an English translation to guide me. When I translate his works, although I may have the words and grammar correct (based on my own personal shorthand), I do not always understand the meaning.
  • Translation focuses on accuracy/performance and not on proficiency.
  • But discussing an L2 reading in L2 is actually a high level skill. Even ACTFL and college programs recognize this. After 3-4 years of language instruction, the expected proficiency level for these learners will be Intermediate-Mid, which means being able to answer comprehension questions, to ask questions, and to have a basic low-level discussion. Being able to create responses needed for a higher level discussion in L2 and possessing the language control needed for this are signs of Advanced level proficiency. I consider myself to be at an Intermediate High/Advanced Low level Latin speaker, and I do not think that I could carry on a high level discussion at all in Latin about a passage - that requires a great deal of language control and knowledge of vocabulary. 
  • As a result, our higher level discussions end up being in L1 about the L2 passage. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but for example, when I see what the AP Latin exam essays are asking students to do, the focus becomes more on L1 with support from L2.

It may shock people, but I actually do a lot of translation into L1 in my classes! However, it is solely used to establish meaning, and I implement this very early in a unit lesson plan to expose everyone in the classroom with the L1 meaning. Where I disagree with translation is that when that is the sole end goal and there is no movement up Bloom's Taxonomy with the end goal (or eventual goal) of creating new meaning with that L2 at an appropriate proficiency level.

Essentially, it comes down to what your goals are. If the goal for your students are to be able to translate Latin into English, especially classical literature after 3-4 years and the AP Latin syllabus and then discuss the Latin in English, then your end goal will be translation. The AP Latin syllabus already is a bear to get through in a year as a translation model, so an attempt to create any new meaning in L2 over what is covered in that syllabus is counterproductive to what will be assessed on the AP Latin exam.

To break out of a translation model is very hard for us Latin teachers to do when quite honestly, that is all we know and have really ever known about Latin. Also throw in that this is what goes on in the college/university Latin classes and what Classics program are wanting incoming majors to master. For many Latin teachers, this is what they want Latin to be. If that is you, then great - go out and prosper. I know for myself, I want my students to do more with the language than just L1 translation, and it has taken me YEARS to come to this point. 

So I write this blog post not as an attack on grammar-translationists but rather as a way to clarify for you my own views on translation and what is my motivation behind it.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Where has the Middle Gone?

The following is based on my own observations and does not represent the opinions and experiences of the CI/ADI community as a whole. I am only speaking for myself here.

One of the tenets which I leaned when adopting a CI/ADI-based classroom was "teach to the middle" - teach to those students who are between the high-flying, achieving 4%ers and those not doing well in our classes. I like how Judith Dubois puts it in her blog: 

[The middle] are students who have difficulties but are willing and make an effort as long as they can understand. When the teacher sees that they are not understanding, [the teacher] backtracks so that the entire class can follow.

Many times we refer to these students as our barometer students, those students to whom we look to tell us how well the class is understanding something and when we can move forward. These are our target students when teaching.

However, since the return to a post-COVID/hybrid classroom, I am struggling with teaching to the middle. Upon the return to full in-person last year, I anticipated that there would be major knowledge gaps in my Latin classes, especially in my Latin 2 classes, since most had been digital students for Latin 1. And indeed, there were as I had anticipated. Therefore, I knew to manage my expectations. I moved at a slower pace to fill in knowledge gaps while moving forward with new material. I moved the goalposts from previous years of what I normally would be able to cover to an adapted curriculum which truly focused on sheltering vocabulary and not grammar - almost to a overly nauseating degree!

Flash forward to this year, and something with which many others and I are being confronted head on in our current levels 1 and 2: there is no more middle. Before COVID, while classes still had high flyers and struggling students, it seemed that there was a distinct middle to whom to teach and to target. Now post-hybrid, there is a WIDE chasm between the high-flyers and those struggling, with very few students who can serve as barometer students. I feel like I have students falling into two categoies: those who are doing very well in my class and those who are failing very well. I have never seen it before to this extreme. 

So I have to ask myself the following questions:

  1. Just how much are we still dealing with knowledge and behavioral gaps from hybrid/digital teaching? These level 1 and 2 students never took language digitally/hybrid but were here for level 1 in full in-person classrooms, i.e., there were no L2 knowledge gaps per se to fill due to hybrid/digital. Many of these students were in middle school during hybrid/digital teaching.
  2. Are there literacy issues involved? Am I dealing with something which is bigger than I can address on own and needs to be addressed by special education? 
  3. Have we conditioned/trained students to think that they are not responsible per se for their learning? I will admit that during hybrid and last year to a degree as a teacher I was accepting missing work MONTHS LATE and lowered my expectations of what a passing student was. But the reality is that it is no longer 2021-2022 - is it wrong for me to expect a pre-Covid academic setting since things appear to be back to normal (or as normal as they are going to get)?
  4. Do I need to adjust my view of what doing my 50% and what students' 50% mean?

These are questions which I am asking myself so that I can determine where I need to manage my expectations. What observations have you noticed about the middle?

Monday, April 17, 2023

The Theory of Ordered Development

Over the past years, I have served as a coach at a number of CI/ADI training conferences and online courses. I know that for the most part, things will go fine with participants as they begin learning about CI. Many participants will be "This is great - I am with you this! Keep preaching!" But I also know that there will be certain topics which will "challenge" many teachers' views on language learning. This is one of them: the Theory of Ordered Development (also known as the Order of Acquisition theory or the Natural Order Theory). 

Essentially, this theory states that learners acquire language structures in a particular order (NOTE - when I use the term acquire, without oversimplifying the language process, I use it to mean that students are independently able to wield that particular language structure in their output, because they have internalized it without necessarily knowing the whys behind that structure). In his book "While We're on the Topic," Bill Van Patten gives an example of how these stages appear in students learning Spanish:

For the longest time, I could not understand why my Latin students would constantly leave out the verb and incorrectly write what I considered something very basic - something which I had felt that they had received tons of input, e.g., instead of canis est laetus, they would write canis laetus, i.e., they were leaving out the verb est (which to me seemed so incredibly basic, since est = is). Now I understand why! And what my students were demonstrating in this "error" was just purely confirming the theory of ordered development.

Long (1997) states that “the idea that what you teach is what [students] learn, and when you teach [x grammar topic] is when they learn it, is not just simplistic, it is wrong."

In Lightbown (1984), "French-speaking students’ English output did not 'match' the input they were given.  Students “do not simply learn linguistic elements as they are taught– adding them one after another in neat progression.  Rather, the students process the input in ways which are more 'acquisition-like' and not often consistent with what the teacher intends for them to 'learn'.”

Van Patten ends by stating that no amount of explicit grammar instruction can alter this order of acquisition. 

As I stated earlier, the theory of ordered development always brings up a number of comments, such as "So what is my job as a teacher then if I do not team explicit grammar?" and "This lesson makes me feel like I am obsolete if I am not teaching grammar!" While I completely understand these sentiments, there are some foundational CI/ADI basics which need to be understood:

  • Language learning is not linear in nature. In other words, since language acquisition is unlike any other subject area, just because we introduce a grammar concept on Monday does not mean at all that students will have acquired and mastered it by Friday (unlike what textbooks want us to believe). 
  • Instead, language learning is more piecemeal in nature. Van Patten states, "Neither first nor second language learners get a 'particular thing' all at once. For example, learners of both first and second languages don't first learn present tense, then past tense, then future tense. Instead, they start with no tense marking, get part of what it means to mark present tense while they are learning to mark past tense, which in turn they only get partially."
  • Accuracy is the last component of language acquisition and will always be a process in progress. Think of how long you have been speaking your L1 - are you always 100% accurate grammatically when you speak or write?
Now please do not feel frustrated by this theory. If anything, it will help you manage your expectations about what you see with student output of language. Some tips:
  • You can still teach explicit grammar - it is just will not look like how you have done it before! Use grammar timeouts and pop-up grammar. Explain the grammar, but do not spend too much time on it - 10-15 seconds. In other words, do not make the grammar timeout the focus of the lesson. However, do it often to get in "repetitions" of those quick grammar explanations. 
  • Continue to give lots of level-appropriate understandable input. If language acquisition is subconscious in nature, then when we bathe students' minds with comprehensible messages, then output will be the overflow.
  • Shelter vocabulary, not grammar.  
  • Remember that our students most likely will be in Intermediate stage of "outputting" language after 4 years. Their output will be MESSY and probably strewn with grammatical errors. However, at this level, the question to ask yourself as outlined by ACTFL is this: are these students' messages understandable to a sympathetic listener/receiver, one who is accustomed to interacting with non-native L2 speakers?

One last comment: Why not teach a syllabus based completely on the theory of ordered development? While that would be an exhaustive syllabus, again, the mindset behind that question is that language learning is linear and that explicit grammar is the way to go. We must remember that learners are able comprehend a lot more language structures than they can actually output and produce on their own. As a result, we must not put the "cart before the horse," i.e., do not think that just because students have been exposed to a structure and are able to comprehend it when reading or listening that it also equates to their acquisition of that structure and being able to wield it properly and independently.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Post Covid/Hybrid Student

The following are my observations and by no means represent anyone else's views other than my own.

This past month marked the three-year anniversary of the lockdown. Since then, we as teacher have endured the sudden switch to digital learning during that time, the subsequent year of the hybrid classroom, and then last year's return back to full in-person teaching. I have noticed much about the post-Covid/Hybrid student and how much that student has changed since pre-Covid. Quite honestly, I am absolutely perplexed - here are some observations:

  • Technology has changed the way in which students view assignments and classwork. I am all for using technology in my classroom. I possess a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, so I understand the educational theory behind integrating technology into one's curriculum for the purpose of creating higher order, critical thinking in students. In other words, I am not one to just assign digital work for the sake of assigning digital work. Plus, I never assign homework which students must complete outside of class - I always give students ample time in class to do digital assignments. Also, this past year, my school went 1:1 with Chromebooks as a result of being unprepared for digital learning during the lockdown and hybrid teaching, so all of my students have access to technology. HOWEVER, in my observations, students seem to think that anything technology-related gives them the license not to complete work, to put it off for completion at a later time, or not to participate. If I ask students to fill out a quick online survey, to complete a digital assignment, or to take part in a digital activity, it is such a hassle to get them to complete it. However, if I give students something on paper to complete physically which they must turn in or we do a in-class group activity, then it does not seem to be an issue. I noticed this prior to hybrid teaching even as early as 2017, but it has magnified greatly since our return. 
  • Allowing students to turn in missing work and to retake assessments have shifted expectations. I firmly believe that we need to give students retake opportunities and remediation so that they can demonstrate proficiency and minimal mastery of the material. Once a month, I devote a classroom day to making up/retaking assessments and providing any needed remediation prior to retakes. Students also have until the end of the semester to complete any digital work. But in doing so, have I unexpectedly and unnecessarily created an expectation among students that they do not need to be "present in the moment" when it comes to turning in work and being accountable for knowing material? I will admit that during hybrid teaching, the name of the game was survival, so we teachers were allowing students to turn in late work, half-completed work, anything (!) just so that we could assign these students a grade of some kind and get them to pass the class. Are we as teachers still furthering this model which we created and in a sense are enabling students to further this behavior? Have we conditioned students to expect this? To be honest, there is a limit of how much grace which I can give students on my end.
  • I am seeing a lot more student absences than I did pre-Covid. More importantly, it is not a one-day absence, but more of a weekly "2 days at school, 3 days absent" pattern for certain students. Is it because the expectation now is that since much of student work is digital, students think that they do not need to be present in class any longer? As I stated earlier, I am all about giving students an opportunity to make up work and to retake/resubmit low-scoring assignments and assessments, but it is very difficult to do when students are not present in class.
  • I am definitely seeing an increase in student failures. The no-fail, CI-model which my Latin program had established years ago and had seen much success pre-Covid is no longer operational. Students cannot pass if they are not doing their 50% or are not present in class on a consistent basis. 
  • I have never had to battle cellphone and earbud/AirPod usage in class before like I am now. Daily I begin each class with my cellphone ritual (where in Latin I tell students to put away their phones into their bookbags) - because I do this daily, students know the routine. Plus, I put my phone away too in my bookbag along with them to model this expectation. However, I am amazed at how often I still have to tell students to put away their phones, to remove their earbuds/Airpods, and if they are wearing hoodies, to lower their hoodies so that they cannot hide these listening devices underneath. I am finding that personal devices are distracting students to such a degree that they feel like they cannot be without them at all times.

I write all of this not to complain but rather to ask myself the following questions: Where is it that I need to manage my expectations and to adjust them to have a more realistic outlook about today's students? Last year, in our return back to in-person teaching, I adjusted my expectations of what students should know, moved the goalposts of how much material I would cover, and devoted the year to filling in any knowledge gaps. Do I need to continue? On the other hand, where is that students need to manage their expectations and to realize that the educational model which we had set up during hybrid and last year's rebuilding efforts were temporary and are no longer the norm? 

I do not profess to have any answers here. What are you seeing in the post-Covid/Hybrid student?

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Quick Grid BINGO Review

In my last blog post, I wrote about attending the Voces Digital Online Spring Conference and how I attended many great sessions and learned many new strategies. Here is one which Kara Jacobs demonstrated: Quick Grid BINGO.

This is an activity which can be found on Martina Bex's website, and it is a very easy to facilitate. The video below is Kara's demonstration of the activity in which I participated online, and yes, the Keith whom she is addressing in the demo is me!

I tried Quick Grid BINGO this week as a post-reading review of a chapter of Orpheus et Eurydice. Since I was trying this out for the first time, I focused on making it a review of the text as cloze sentences as well as some comprehension questions. Below is the list of terms which I projected at the beginning:

Below are examples of the questions asked:

  1. Wow - students were really engaged in this! I think that it was because although the ultimate goal was blackout, students could still get "BINGO" along the way (much like Kara demonstrated).
  2. This activity lasted around 30 minutes! I was able to get in a lot of review both in Latin and in English.
  3. In her directions, Martina Bex gives lots of different ways in which this activity can be used. I look forward to using this activity in those ways.
  4. This is a great way to play BINGO beyond just vocabulary, to use it as a review of a text, and to make it a more purposeful communicative activity. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Voces Digital - My Continued Need for Professional Development

Last week, Voces Digital sponsored a free weeklong (3-evening, 1-day) online virtual Comprehensible Input conference. Since I would be part of its CI Summit conference team this summer, I attended to support the company. However, I did not expect to get SO MUCH from attending! There were many great presenters (yes, I still fanboy over so many of them) and presentations - I attended Zoom sessions led by Allynn Lodge, Eric Richards, Paulino Brener, Annabelle Williamson, Bryan Kandel, and Kara Jacobs - I even learned how to make dumplings with Haiyun Lu! I am sure that I will blog about some of what I learned once I try out their strategies!


  • This online conference could not have come at a better time. If you are like me, you hit the February slumps where teaching is just plain HARD! School is burdensome for both teachers and students. This is always the time of the year where I annually question why I am a teacher. However, learning new strategies/activities and being among other CI/ADI teachers were very uplifting and motivating! Plus, with it being virtual, I could attend at home sitting at my kitchen table.
  • I was able to attend as myself. I was not Keith Toda - presenter. I was not Keith Toda - coach. I was simply Keith Toda - attendee and participant. In other words, I had no other responsibilities other than to learn and to be present in the moment with no other distractions.
  • We all need our CI/ADI cups filled and constantly refilled. Although I have been blogging about implementing CI/ADI for almost ten years, have attended numerous conferences, and have delivered numerous presentations on the topic, I am still constantly learning afresh so much about it. I am so grateful that there are people out there from whom I can learn and who motivate me to become a better CI/ADI teacher. I am also reminded that community is SO important - I need to be around other CI/ADI facilitators who "get me" pedagogically and can encourage me.

I challenge you to consider attending a CI/ADI conference this summer (here is a starting list), whether you are a beginner, dabbler/seeker, comfortable implementer, or advanced practitioner. I will be in-person at both the CI Summit and Fluency Matters Conference this summer - I hope to see you there. Get your cup filled along with others!

Friday, March 3, 2023

Social Emotional Learning - Post Hybrid/Covid

Since our return to full in-person instruction in Fall 2021, my district has been big on the term social emotional learning (SEL). If you are unfamiliar with the term, without oversimplifying it (it is big!), one of the components in a nutshell is that when students feel emotionally engaged with a subject, their peers, and their teacher, then they are more emotionally open and apt to learn from you the teacher and from each other - essentially, the building of a community and the creation/management of emotions needed to maintain it. Years ago, I had written a blog post about how I learned about social emotional learning from Betsy Paskvan at NTPRS and how she had used it in a Japanese lesson with us.

In light of students' return to school after a year of hybrid teaching (and for many students, it was roughly 1.5 years since they had actually been physically on campus since March 2020), the push in my district has been social emotional learning. When we began school last August, my district mandated that our first TWELVE days were dedicated to students doing video lessons learning about its importance (by day 2, they were tired of it already! Honestly I felt that these video lessons had the opposite effect for students, because they HATED them) and that we as teachers needed to dedicate time to incorporating SEL in our classrooms due to what students have experienced these past 2-3 years.

Recently in a live Acquisition Boot Camp session, I shared that while I do agree with the idea of social emotional learning in a post-hybrid/covid classroom, for the most part as CI/ADI language teachers, I firmly believe that we have been facilitating this concept with our students FOR YEARS way before that term became a buzzword - we just never called it that. Through Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs), we have been interacting with our students in the target language to learn about their interests and their lives. We have been personalizing our stories to include them by making them the main characters. Through TPRS/Story Asking, we have included students in our story creation process by asking them for suggestions. We have been delivering understandable messages in the target language to our students, implementing the establishment of meaning in L1 through pointing and pausing, associating vocabulary with gestures and signs through TPRS, creating a safety net for students, taking time out for brain breaks, etc. - all for the purpose of lowering students' affective filters. All along, our goal has been to create a classroom community for the purpose of learning.

So the next time your administrators and district leaders start pushing social emotional learning and that you need to attend professional development to learn more about it, tell them that you have been way ahead of the curve on this already!