Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Post for the Singleton Teacher -- An Invitation for All!

This guest post by Robert Patrick, Ph.D. addresses issues that are common to CI/TPRS beginners in general and singleton Latin teachers in specific. Dr. Patrick has been teaching for 27 years and has been using CI approaches for 15 years.

By now you may have been in school for 2-3 weeks or even 2 months.  If you are the singleton Latin teacher (that would be most Latin teachers) who has decided to take on CI/TPRS and/or an Untextbook approach in your program, you might be feeling everything from nagging fatigue to panic induced by extreme exhaustion.  How many more weeks until Thanksgiving break?

This business of how to go CI/TPRS and Untextbook while being a singleton teacher can be an almost instant crazy maker.  The common story of such teachers (there are many of us) includes wishing for the textbook, going back to the textbook, going back to grammar-translation, depression,  and leaving the profession.  And those are just the things I’ve experienced and heard about from those who are in contact with me.  

At this writing, I’ve heard from three teachers just this week from different parts of the country who fit this description in one way or another, and I’ve been averaging that number of contacts for several weeks now.  From my perspective, abandoning the profession, if you truly love teaching and feel “called” to teaching, is not the answer.  Abandoning CI/TPRS for grammar-translation is not the answer if you want all of your students to make progress and if you want your program to grow.  Continuing what you are doing is not the answer because the toll on you is destructive, and fatigued, exhausted, panic-stricken teachers don’t help themselves or their students. So, what to do?  

Here’s what I have to offer that may give you a better way for yourself and your students.  Each of these principal ideas/practices may well be parts of things that you mix and match to create what will work for you.  They may also give you ideas for something else that works that I have not considered.  Then, please share!  

1. Collaboration.  The "easiest" thing for you to do is to find another Latin teacher (or four) who have flexibility in their programs (to use CI/TPRS and to Untextbook) and begin sharing files.  If there are 4 of you, each becomes responsible for writing lesson plans, activities and assessments for just ONE level of Latin.  Do this in google docs and share with each other.  Then, while you are each teaching 4 or 5 levels of Latin each day, you are only preparing materials for one and EACH is receiving those same kinds of materials from the others.  This may require a few phone or google hangout sessions to work it out, and it’s a little heavy on the set up, but once you set up this kind of collaboration, you will never go back to “going it alone.”  You will wonder why in the digital world you never did this before.  What will you lose if you do this?  You will lose an hour or two of prep time every day.  You will lose awake hours and replace them for sleep hours.  And there’s this.  You will have to give up some ego control that may be attached to the martyr that you have naturally become as a singleton teacher.  I mean this, and it’s worth taking seriously.  We get some mileage out of the sympathy some people pay us when they see how hard we work, and we attach a certain amount of pride to be “the only Latin teacher.”  Let it go.  Find some willing collaborators.  I promise you, you will be much more proud of what you can do together than what you think you are doing alone.

2. Work Smarter.  Not to imply that you work dumb, but working smarter for singleton teachers in particular is not intuitive for most of us and goes against what most of us think we should be doing.  Quick examples of working smarter:

A. Teach the same content at every level that you teach but appropriate to their development and proficiency levels.  Think of an Ovidian story from the Metamorphoses.  You can teach that same story at every level with everything from short cartoon “like” snippets for elementary or lower middle school and LOTS of drawing (which students do, not you) all the way to the original or near original version with Latin 4/5 students.  You create variations of simplicity and complexity in between.  That way, you really are only prepping one content, but in multiple levels.  Combine this approach with collaboration and each of you is prepping a different Ovidian story for multiple units across all the levels you teach.  And, while doing this, use the same activities each day.  If you are asking a story, ask it in all levels.  If you are doing a movie talk, do it in all levels.  If you are doing a dictatio, do it in all levels--but in all of these, at the level that is appropriate for their proficiency.

B. Never grade anything by yourself. (Okay, almost never). Get a classroom set of red pens and have students always grade their own work with your pens while you pace around the room discussing answers and corrections.  This is NOT students grading their neighbor's paper.  They grade their own paper.  Of course you are going to go over them, very quickly, but this works, cheating is almost non-existent.  They get immediate feedback which we all know is essential, and what would take you hours takes a few minutes.  I've been doing it for years now, and I NEVER take papers home. (Okay, almost never, but that’s far different from you who are taking papers home every day).

C. Have a collection of "breather" activities that you can do anytime you are feeling overwhelmed.  Like Publius Publicanus (aka Pancho Comancho), or Dictatio, or Same Story or Pictionary.  A "breather" activity requires very little of the teacher but continues to supply some time of CI to students. You can look up these activities in this blog, in the Latin Best Practices CI Resources blog, in Keith Toda’s blog, or in almost any CI blog around.  

3. Compromise.  Despite the suggestions above, maybe you have just taken on too much, too quickly.  You may need to go back to the textbook.  You can do CI/TPRS with a textbook.  I did it for years.  I never dared leave the textbook until I had some collaborators in place, and I began working smarter with the ideas above while using a textbook.  Many who are being successful with CI/TPRS are easing themselves into it by going Untextbook with their Level 1 while they continue to teach with the textbook in upper levels.  The point of compromise takes me back to some original issues:  do you love teaching?  Do you want all of your students to make progress and grow your program?  If your answers really are “yes” then you must do whatever you have to do to take care of yourself.  CI/TPRS is completely centered in your ability to deliver understandable messages in Latin.  If you are worn out, exhausted and depressed, you will not be able to do that well, if at all.  So, decide what changes you are going to make for your good and then the good of your students.  

If this article raises questions for you, don’t hesitate to ask.  There is a growing community of CI/TPRS Latin teachers and teachers of other languages.  Our experiences are very common and similar to yours.  Making curiosity one of your leading traits will help and relieve you.  Ask questions.  Ask for help.  Ask to use other people’s materials.  Ask for collaborators.  And when you need to, ask for a day off!


An Invitation -- Pomegranate Beginnings will be hosting a Q and A session on Facebook live next week. Tuesday evening (4 October 2016), from 8:00-8:30 pm, we’ll be live on Facebook to answer questions about CI, Untextbooking, and collaboration! Join us and join the discussion.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Round Table Discussion: an every time of year activity

The round table discussion is one I've been doing for years and one I love. I openly admit it isn't my own activity. My first year teaching, I was looking for new ideas and I came across the Scottish government's website on education. It has since been revamped (and finding this original reference was hard), but included in it were videos from a Latin classroom. Here is the original video I watched 5 years ago. She called it a clipboard quiz, but, with the number of students in my classroom, I changed the name to a round table discussion. While I don't do this (or any of the activities found here really) exactly the way they do it, I love looking for options.

The Set Up

I like my students to be in small groups for this; the deeper/high level the question is, the more students I allow in a group. I don't like more than 4 in a group for this, however. 

I then write as many questions as there will be groups (of course smaller classes won't see all the questions). I will say more about these below.

I prefer my questions to be related to the upcoming test or the story we've been reading. I also allow students to use their notes or stories for this activity, especially if the questions are more open ended or of a higher level thinking. 

The Questions

Having played this game (of sorts) more than a few times, I've started to notice which questions work and which don't. This year, in looking back at K-5 strategies, I've started to adjust the kinds of questions that I write. Below are some of the types of questions I've used or have thought about using: ones that I know work, ones that sometimes work, and ones that don't
  • Quid Significat (what does it mean) questions: These work rarely, but they do work. They work for words that have multiple meanings that students know. I have used this for words like petere, umbra, and other words whose meaning depends on context. 
  • Culture Questions with open answers: These are great if they are open. Questions about products, perspectives, and practices are great. Questions about the hero's journey are also good. 
  • Culture Questions with single answers: These don't work since they have one answer. What ends up happening is groups who get this question quickly check the right answer and then check out of class. Questions like these involve dates, names, or single vocabulary words involving culture. 
  • Comprehension Questions: These are the kind I have usually used and I quickly learned that some don't work. Like with the culture questions, comprehension questions with single answers don't work. Rather, focus on higher level questions or questions where a list is involved. Students won't have time to list everything out, and then they have to read each other's responses. 
  • Words we know Questions: These are great. You can have a single question where they must like a word or two and what it means, or you can do it by categories (write one word we know that has to do with.... houses/school/war/etc.)

The Process

Round 1

Students receive their resources and the question. They are given a set amount of time to answer the question. 

Round 2 - the end

Students rotate papers and receive a new question. They have a set amount of time to review the previous and write their own answers/thoughts. 

Reviewing Other Answers

When students review each others answers, they need to mark one of two things:

  1. ✔ - This signifies that students agree with the answer; that is is correct or plausible.
  2. X - This signifies that students do not agree with the answer; that it is incorrect or not possible.

Changes to the Game

In the past, I've done this for a final exam review and have allowed students to take pictures of answers or I posted answers online. This year, for at least this round, I have changed it up. Instead of giving definitive answers, I've typed up each class's answers and agreements in a document and posted it online. I've left it open to comment for students to take a look at and comment what they want. I also included some notes to point to answers that may not be correct.

Thoughts and Reflection

I have grown to really like this activity. I can use it as a formative assessment, pull assessment questions from it, or use it to inform study guides and notes.

Students like this activity. It is collaborative and low pressure, even with the time limit, since they get to see others' answers and evaluate them. Students also know I tend to pull questions from it for our assessments, so it allows for transparency.

I really like using this activity when we have questions whose answers require reflection and evidence. It sparks great discussions! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Going Back to Basics - Teaching with Novellas

A lot of us, whether teachers of Latin, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, etc., are working with novellas this year. Some are published, and some are still in beta testing (if you will). As we venture into this new territory, my colleagues and I have often mused on, asked, discussed, and angered over this idea of "how to teach with a novella"? Rachel and I have shared some ideas already (linked below), but this year, I considered some new ideas. I'd like to share them with you in this post. Some are still in research, others are already being implemented and edited, and others are things that we have already tried and plan to continue.

Links to Previous Posts

In Study

Rachel and I have spent quite a bit of time trying to brainstorm and share ideas on teaching a novella. After teaching both adapted and original stories, we've already gathered a few ready to go activities, but we wanted more, especially when it came to initial readings of chapters. To this end, I went to my mother, Lydia Patrick, who has been an elementary teacher for as long as I can remember. She's taught a variety of grades and now works in technology in the classroom. I asked for her help because I realised:
  1. Elementary teachers have been teaching with novellas for years! 
  2. Elementary teachers, even though they are working with (often) students' first language, they are still teaching the very basics of reading and discussion. 
She directed me to some resources for elementary teachers and I pulled it all. I am still sifting through this and other resources from Foreign Language teachers, but here are the ideas I've taken so far.* I'd love to hear what you all are doing with these, if you are already working on these, and what you've discovered! 
  • Reading Experts
  • Reading Workshops (sometimes called Kindergarten Day from what I can see so far)
  • Novella Studies (taken from a FL teacher, similar to a Reading workshop)
  • Reading and Writing Workshop (a website dedicated to these types of activities)
  • Using K-5 strategies to develop higher level discussion skills (looking for clues, asking deep questions, personal reflection, etc.)
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Round Table Discussion
* I will update this post with links to the discussions on these ideas as I have them. 

In Practice

Since I am going to post on many of these ideas, this is a place for introduction and reflection. Please comment with any questions and I will try to answer them in the comments or in the post on that topic!

Reading Experts and Workshops

This is the first activity I've borrowed from the elementary level and am working to put into work in the high school FL classroom. The main idea is that students become an expert in a certain category or field of the story. There are many you could try but I focused on these areas: character development, storyline, translation, vocabulary. Each group had a certain activity. On day 2, the kids were put in groups so that each group had 1-2 of each expert and they were to work on a variety of activities. I am posting on this in detail, so here were some observations I made:

  • I am still working out the idea of a reading workshop. I really like this idea, but self admittedly, I am not sold on the way it has been implemented thus far in FL classrooms. This is not a reflection of the teachers, but rather my own understanding of the practice. 
  • The Reading Experts activity wen well, but it had some kinks. Students were eager to work and said they greatly appreciated this two day activity, but they often moved quickly and missed essential steps. 
  • Students responded well to this and, while as a whole the seemed to find it precarious, they sought me out to say individually how much they liked it (peer pressure?)

Reader's Theatre

I am not great at this. I want to love it.... I was a theatre major in high school and my kids are always commenting on my voices, accents, and "acting skills". And yet... I don't love this activity. There have been new ways of doing it and allowing students to have some freedom with this, so I've been trying my hand at those. In an upcoming post I will discuss these. Here are some thoughts I have now, as I work out these kinks:
  • repetitions are nice, but... without some kind of differentiation, they become boring.
  • lengthy scenes become boring fast!
  • variations tried: freeze frame, silent scenes, video recording, same conversation
  • previous write up: Reader's Theatre

Round Table Discussion

This is the activity I tried today. I have been doing this activity for years, but I have begun playing with it and messing with it. Mostly I have become aware of what questions work and what questions don't. Working with the K-5 strategies has helped me even more. A few basics on this activity since it is often used in different ways.
  • I create questions in the target language and English about a reading.
  • I put students in groups. They get around 3-5 minutes to answer the question.
  • Students pass the questions to a new group.
  • Students get 3-5 minutes to agree/disagree with previous answer(s) and add a new one. 

In Closing

I am really trying to make novella reading useful to my students. I have seen a great many discussions on the use of novellas, Free Voluntary Reading, and Comprehensible Input. I have seen a great many discussions on the use (and place) of history, grammar, and culture in a classroom. From this comes my own inner discussion and debate. I'd love to share these thoughts, but also hear from others. :) 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Just Apply Pressure - keeping me accountable

Based on feedback from last year, I have set a goal for myself of 90% Latin. Using more Latin has always been an underlying goal, but I wanted something I could track using data that was pertinent to me. So, a few things to bear in mind with my goal:
  1. Students asked for more daily Latin. 
  2. My first and foremost goal is to deliver Comprehensible Input (understandable messages) to my students in Latin. 
  3. I want my classroom to remain as low pressure as possible.

To this end, I'm implementing a variety of things to keep me accountable and to be transparent with students. I am a firm believer that in order to establish a classroom of respect between students and teachers, they need to see me work and know that I take my job seriously. Ergo....

Keeping Magistra Patrick Accountable

As I said, I have always tried to hold myself accountable, in various ways. I've used jobs before sporadically, surveyed students, and timed myself, but this year I really want to meet my goals and have steady and consistent feedback for my own data purposes. Before I share, I want to call out a few people for being my source and inspiration in this madness:

  1. Bryce Hedstrom - Bryce is the basis of a lot of the things I'm doing here. I have taken his hard work and edited it for my classroom. Please check out his work and blog; great stuff there!
  2. Lance Piantaggini - Lance worked with some of Bryce's things to create some of the materials I am using in Latin II. 
  3. Keith Toda - Keith is my colleague at my local school, and he brought some great ideas with him, many of which I've taken and edited for Latin II. 
  4. Bob Patrick - Both my colleague and father, he has always shared resources and materials with me and this year is no exception. Thanks to him and Keith and their knowledge from some summer, I am super excited to try some new things out! 

Technique 1: The DEA

I've posted on this before and nothing has changed. I still use this daily with my students to keep us all accountable. I find out what is important to my students and, often, I'll reference it with them. I love learning about them. 

This year, I am placing an even bigger emphasis on the hand signals and Latin time. The difference is, however, that that emphasis is being placed on me instead of the students. In doing this, the pressure gets put on me where, in my opinion, it should rightly be. 
My DEA rules posted in my room

I told my students when we went over the DEA that, if they didn't understand Latin, it was my fault. They were very hesitant to agree to this, even after the conditions of "as long as you are here and do your 50%"  were given. I explained that it isn't their job to know Latin. They are to learn Latin through Comprehensible Input, through me. We talked about this for a bit and how they could help keep me accountable using the DEA by:

  1. Using hand signals and the safety net to demonstrate understanding or a lack thereof -- Using hand signals are an easy way to catch my eye. A lot of my signals are based on American Sign Language. Additionally, see below under the job descriptions for more information on how I use hand signals in the classroom
  2. Square shoulders and eye contact -- I can usually look at a student's eyes and see whether or not they understand. I need their eyes! 
  3. Respond One and All -- A student who isn't responding either is confused or not listening. I use this to help determine whether I need to go over things again or if we need to move on. Again, see the jobs list below for more information on how this plays a role. 
By using their own DEA to make myself accountable to them, I've taken some of the pressure off them and given them the DEA in a new light.

One Change

 One change we did make was in the safety net. In the past, student have said, "non intellego" if they didn't understand. This year, we've decided to change this to "me confundis". My rationale for this change is: if it is my job to deliver understandable messages and my fault if a student doesn't understand, then it isn't that they don't understand (non intellego), but rather that I've confused them (me confundis).

Students seemed okay with, and in some cases, pleased with the change. 

Technique 2: Discipulus Illustris

I have Bryce, Lance, Keith, and Bob to thank for this. Bob and Keith brought this back from a summer session and, while nervous about it at first, I am ready to give it a go in Latin II. Bryce's website (linked above and below) provides a variety of materials in a variety of languages. Bob and Keith are already doing this in Latin I and I felt more ready and sure after watching Bob do this with his students. 

I won't go too much into the technique here, and will direct you to Bryce's great free resources, but I will say that I will be calling on a student daily to share with us some information and, via circling, the class will get to know this student and practice Latin using Comprehensible Input in a real context. 

My hope in using this technique is to foster a greater sense of community and citizenship in the classroom. For my goals, my hope is that this technique will allow us all to become more ready on a daily basis to speak Latin and feel comfortable doing so. 

P.S. - Reflection

I started this today with my IIs. My mind is, honestly, blown. Not only was this super easy to implement from a teacher perspective, but it was super easy for them. At first they were nervous, but when they saw the safety net I'd built in the presentation of the question, circling, etc. they really enjoyed it and aced it. The process I took was: interview student and circle each question asked, review all questions with the class, turn to a partner and practice, write the interview down, check your neighbour's work, review one more time as a class. I'd say it took 10 minutes, at most, and was completely worth every bit of prep I'd put in. 

Technique 3: Scripts

When I first began teaching and using CI, I used scripts all the time. I kept a key ring with index cards of classroom vocabulary colour coded by type so that I could quickly lead TPR sessions without missing a beat. I also printed a reminder of how to circle questions and put it on the back wall nestled between two posters so students wouldn't see it. Since then, I've ditched the key ring and the circling reminder, but I still use scripts to various degrees. 

Asking stories

A story I "asked" from my Latin II class last year. 
I am, admittedly, not very good at asking stories in class. I much prefer TPR or a written story or even a discussion in the target language. That being said, I will still try them on occasion and do my best with them, but I still will have a small script with me reminding me of the structures/vocab I've set for the day. I might also have students draw the story on the board for us as we tell it so that I have something visual I can quickly look at and reference when I want to circle what we've done or remind myself of the details of a story.
Chapter 2 of Magus Mirabilis in Oz

In reality, I probably do storytelling more when I want to rebuild a story or already have a picture in mind. Last year when we read Magus Mirabilis in Oz, I had students rebuild chapters through re-asking the story of them. I would draw on the board and then have a visual script I could circle from very easily.  

Movie Shorts

Movie shorts* are, by far, my most favourite way of telling stories and working with vocabulary. I love deciding which one to use, fitting vocabulary in, everything. I still write scripts for these and I probably always will. I like scripts because I like to get my scene down to the second. I like to also write notes on where students struggle, where classes stop, and where I decided to do more circling or expand a discussion. Having a script also keeps me accountable to make sure that each class gets the same content when it comes to repetitions regarding new vocabulary while still allowing me to personalise for each class. 

* Some people use different terms to refer to the same activity. You may have heard about this using terms like movie talks, pixar shorts, or movie clips.

Technique 4: Jobs

Thanks again to Bryce Hedstrom, I have found a way to streamline my classroom and ensure I follow my own rules when it comes to Latin time. Bob shared Bryce's thoughts on jobs in the classroom with me. Admittedly, I was sceptical at first given my past experience giving out jobs, but I quickly found that he'd managed jobs the way I'd dreamed of it. So, I've spent the last week or two trying to edit and manipulate Bryce's work to fit in my own classroom. What I came up with was the following: 

The way I am implementing this in my classroom did take some prep, I won't lie. It also requires me to give up some control, but I managed to maintain a good bit of it in the prep and specifications I gave to my students:

The Physical Set Up

Supply box showing accountant and date master supplies and job description cards
flies for weather king/queen
and keeper of words

Here are the supplies I obtained/created and how we are using them:
  • Supply Box - This box contains the laminated description cards, vocab reminders, noise makers, markers, etc. Everything any student needs to complete a job. 
  • Laminated description cards - These are little laminated cards that list and describe the duties of a job. This way, I don't have to print them every time jobs change and substitutes can easily access a description without needed a whole list. Also, the accountants will use the laminated descriptions of their jobs to keep count
  • 2+ whiteboard markers - for the accountants to keep track of the words I say on their laminated paper (easily erasable) 
  • noise maker - This can be anything you want. I used to use a bell, but I've decided to change it up for the cat herder. (S)he can use the noise maker or any verbal cue from the Words Chest to gather student attention.
  • Words Chest - the list of words and cues that the keeper of words uses. 
  • Weather Vocab - for the weather king/queen to make sure the weather is written correctly
  • Calendar Magnets - for the date master to easily put the date up
  • Weather Magnets - for the weather king/queen to easily put up pictures of the weather. 
It did not take long to do this, with the exception of the date and weather magnets. Those took some time, but, again, no regrets. 

The Mental Set Up (me)

I  had to relinquish some control here. It was hard. I am still not fully on board with giving it up, but I really want to meet my goals and my students are on board, so I'm willing to give it a try. I kept control, to an extent by:

  • providing the vocabulary lists to limit vocabulary
  • providing a specific noise maker that is a noise I can stand
  • providing very detailed descriptions for students
  • limiting when the English Police, for example, can throw something at me
Similarly, however, I am kept accountable by these same things, additionally:
  • specific visual and vocal clues make sure I reach all students, keep all students engaged, and meet all student needs
  • English Police keep me in Latin. 
  • The Time Lord keeps me in Latin. 
  • Eliminating my own time wasters and distractions (gathering papers, dealing with the door, turning on and off lights) keeps me focused on the Latin

The Mental Set Up (students)

Most students were on board with this the moment I mentioned it. A few are taking some convincing. One student suggested that these jobs would keep them from being students. I pointed out the specific purpose of them and how directly related they were to the content, which changed their mind:
  • Accountants keep count of repetitions of new words, ensuring that the class understands and retains the vocabulary.
  • Prop Master keeps the content compelling to the class, allowing for more acquisition. 
  • The Actors also keep the content compelling and provide another means of Comprehensible Input.
  • The Story writer and Artist record details during class, providing more opportunity for Comprehensible Input that or the next day along with materials students can use to study at home. 
  • The English Police, Time Lord, etc. keep me focused, which will help keep them focused, and streamline class. 

Hopes and Dreams

I am implementing this today. Students are excited for their jobs, even if they didn't quite get what they wanted this go around. I am excited to spend more time in Latin.

P.S. - Day 1

I started jobs today and, so far, they are going great. Students are counting my use of words and holding me accountable for Latin time. Even after 1st period I already have ways I can improve. We are saving time by having name keepers pass out composition notebooks and the keeper of the lights was on top of getting them on and off for our presentation. So far, so great! 

The Big Picture

So... why am I doing all this? I want to connect with students, deliver understandable message, and be a good teacher. I want to reach my goals and help my students achieve theirs. 

I didn't have to do all of these, and at first, I didn't want to do all of these, but I have chosen to take this on. I hope, if not everything appeals to you, some of these do and you check them out, leave comments, or email me! The more we share, the more we communicate, the better I think :) students and teachers alike. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Latin by Numbers

In Latin II this year, we are reviewing the numbers in Latin (cardinal, ordinal, and numerals). They learned 1-20 last year (and we looked at 30-100/1000). This year, we have taken a day to review them so that we can use them as part of our daily goal of 90+% Latin time.

In this post, I'm including a variety of activities and lesson materials that both Rachel and I have used to teach these lessons


Via Song

Last year, when I was teaching the ones, I worked with children's songs to help teach the numbers. I edited/translated two children's songs into Latin and recorded myself singing them. While translating them came fairly easily, I also edited them so that the Latin fit the meter. This proved slightly challenging, but fortunately Latin grammar made it very easy to work with:

Decem in Lecto

This song is based on the English song that goes, "There were ten in the bed and the little one said, 'roll over! roll over!' So they all rolled over and one fell out." And it goes to "There was one in the bed and the little one said...." And then you get variations in how the song ends, depending on the version of the nursery rhyme. 

  1. The Song - This is me singing using a website that provides free beats and background music depending on choices I make. There are lots of these for free online or for download if you have Windows. 
  2. The Lyrics - I passed this out to students. It has the Latin, English, and hand signals we used in class. 
When we did this song, we went over it together and then sang it until we understood it well and students could sing it on their own. 

Decem Ursulae

This song is based on the counting song that goes, "one little, two little, three little.." it usually goes to 20. I chose to use the term "little bears" and, at the end of each verse, "Romae" (in Rome). 

  1. The Song - Again, me singing, using the same website. This song definitely goes fast, but the students found it to be a fun challenge.
  2. The Lyrics - There are no hand signs for this. Since the song goes so fast, I chose not to include hand signs. What we did do, however, is counted using fingers. I counted using American Sign Language, allowing us to count to 20 on one hand. 
  3. The Activity - Rachel used a different method to teach this song to her class. She made signs of the lyrics (numbers, ursulae, Romae, etc.) and passed them out to each student. When they sing the song, and get to their number or word, they must hold it up. At first, she did this in order of their seats, but then she switched it up and students had to pay special attention to the sign they had and where in the song they were.

Via Counting

I stole this from a language teacher who taught me when I was younger and, while some kids find it a bit tedious sometimes, I always sweeten the pot with a potential "100" on a standard grade. 

  1. practice counting with students. Go up and down the rows/groups/etc of students and they count one at a time. For example, the first student says "unus", the second "duo", the third "tres", and so on.
  2. Every time someone messes up significantly (read: not on a minor pronunciation error), or forgets, the class helps and repeats the number, and we start counting from the beginning. 
  3. When we have gotten through everyone successfully, a small round of applause is given.

Then.... we make a deal

I give students a set amount of time to study the numbers and then we count again in a new order. If they get them all right (after a practice round of course), the entire class can earn a 100 on the appropriate standard. Students love this. It builds community and allows them a chance to show off their skills in what appears to be a high pressure situation, but in reality, is very low pressure. I make it low pressure by:
  1. first counting with them, as a class, and discussing the patterns within the number "formulas"
  2. counting repeatedly in the rows/groups/etc. allowing for errors and rewarding everyone for a job well done with applause.
  3. allowing them time to practice and study together and ask questions
  4. including a "surprise" practice round where I correct any major errors and they get to see where they will fall in line
  5. feigning "hearing problems" when mistakes are made.... For example:
    teacher: twenty one
    student: undeviginti (19)
    teacher: I'm sorry, I couldn't quite hear you.... 21?
    student: oh! viginti et unus
    teacher: ah, yes, 21 
My rationale (especially for number 5) is this. Numbers can be hard. We only use certain numbers regularly and, unless you are used to the patterns presented in the language, learning how to form numbers doesn't come naturally (think of someone learning English who might say, "oneteen" instead of "eleven" or saying "eleventy"). By providing these safety nets and feigning hearing issues, I ensure students will take the risk and succeed. There are plenty of other opportunities to reinforce the numbers. 

Via Math

For this activity, I combined what is commonly called a "Tea Party" and math equations in the target language (only addition). Here is how it worked:

The Set Up

I made pairs of equations that had the same answer; for example: duo et tres = 5 = quattuor et unus. Then I cut up each equation separately. I wrote out to the side the answer in Roman numerals just to help me keep track of what I was doing. I mixed up the equations so that no two pairs were near each other. Then, I gave each student an equation.

The Game

I told students they had to find their "equation buddy", but there were rules. These are also the rules for the general "Tea Party" activity. 

  1.  Fine the person who has the matching piece to yours. 
  2. You may only speak Latin.
  3. You may only say what is on your card. 
  4. When you find your partner, sit down. 
So, for example. If I have the cad that says, "duo et tres". I need to find the person whose card matches (in answer) mine, but I can only say, "duo et tres" to each person. 

The Added Bonus

When students found their partners, I added a second step, with the promise of a sticker for the first 5 teams done. Students and their partners must solve the equation and write the answer in Roman numerals. So, students who had the example equation above would come show me the Roman numeral V.


Numbers can be interesting, and also boring, all at once. Often, since they aren't super high frequency, they are easily forgotten, and yet, at the same time, we need them, especially if we use the target language in our classroom every day. Class flew by today, for me and my students and they walked out feeling successful and having practiced numbers a variety of ways.

Building safety nets allows students to feel, and be, successful, which is key to learning. Allowing students to "make a deal" lets them be in control of their own learning and tells you about their confidence and skill level. "Making the deal" also lets you see how they work as a community. Hopefully, students will work together, lift each other up, support each other, and laugh together when mistakes are made. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Creating a Welcoming Classroom

This is usually me.
This is just a quick post to offer some ideas on classroom organization and design, because I have often found that I need ideas for this and have envied the beautiful classrooms I see on Pinterest and in blog posts and at elementary schools. Even when researching for ideas, the one high school classroom image I found seemed to lack something homey and welcoming that all of the elementary school rooms had. It was clean and well-organized, but somehow more bland and industrial-seeming than the others.

And I found, when setting up my room this year (I moved rooms! I have a window!), that even as I set up the room's furniture to maximize space and create a good flow for activity, the room still looked basic--it didn't look like it was "my room" or create a comfortable space where students could feel at ease.
Just your average, boring, gray metal
bookcase with all the shelves removed.
Then I had a sudden inspiration from the huge amount of home decor I've been researching on my down time (I am slowly fixing my fixer-upper home): much of the cookie-cutter effect was coming from the bookshelves, which were clearly collected at random. I had already separated them by type (the wooden bookshelf is near the wooden cabinet and the two metal bookshelves are around the reading nook), but they needed something more intentional. So I removed the shelves and papered the backs of the cases!
Red paper makes the case interesting.

It makes a world of difference. I was going to have to remove one shelf in order to fix it anyway; I can't stand a crooked shelf. So I just removed all the shelves and got the butcher paper that my school provides for our bulletin boards and taped it inside. My gray metal shelves now look like a set, and my wooden shelf seems like it fits with the room.

I also warmed up the room by getting some neat printed burlap to go on the bulletin board (I thought it would wear well and wouldn't be damaged by staples and push pins) and over the tops of the shelves to unify them.

The wooden shelf is my supply/student center shelf. This is an idea I got from Miriam--I had long kept a location for pencils and cobbled a location for loose-leaf paper students could use, but now it's a purposeful space with paper, pencils, erasers, staples, paperclips, tape, and a three-hole punch, plus anything else I find in my stores that I don't want to keep (right now it's a couple of folders, dividers, and plastic paper sleeves). Students are allowed to take items from that space any time they need anything, which does two things: lessens classroom interruptions and reduces embarrassment for students living in poverty. I also have my classroom supplies stored in that bookcase in see-through tubs (another idea taken from Miriam), so whenever we need markers or scissors or anything else, I can ask students to grab items without having to open my cabinet. The lumpy bag in the picture, because I feel the need to explain it, contains t-shirt rags that I give students as dry-erase markers. I like them better than paper towels because I just have to take them home and wash them, then we can reuse them.

The pillows and rug are from Ross (total $35) and the lamp is
from Ikea ($15). An inviting reading space? Priceless.
The two metal shelves hold books for reading and Latin dictionaries. I really wanted to create a space that emphasized reading and also doubled as a safe space for students who are having a really rough day, so I got a rug, large pillow (technically a dog bed--but it's just a large pillow), and decorative pillow to make the area cozy. The bottom shelf near the reading nook is filled with stuffed animals that we can use in stories or students can grab as comfort items if they like. Eventually (my plan is to do this by the beginning of next week) I will add descriptions of the five Latin novellas I currently have access to (I know more are coming out!) on the bulletin board near that space and cement the reading focus.
You can see the reading selection
as it currently stands.

I got to decorate the rest of the room with my students' gifts and projects, and I think it looks amazing. Han Solo even has a convenient corner by my desk that keeps him out of the way and less likely to be damaged. The last thing that needed sprucing up was my whiteboard, which is old and really shows its shabbiness near the top--so I covered the top edge with the same trim I used on my bulletin board.
I left one wall blank--it will be my word wall. Maybe I'll post on that once I have it figured out. I plan to use an idea from Miriam (organize new vocabulary according to question words) and an idea from Traci Dougherty (set up my Latin II vocabulary on the back of my Latin III vocabulary so I can just flip the words over between classes) to make it work.

This is the most I've ever felt my classroom to feel like my own space, and I am excited to share it with my students.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Supporting TPR - quick suggestions to change it up!

This is a follow up to my previous post on the First Ten - TPR in the first two weeks. Total Physical Response (TPR) can often seem monotonous to the teacher and even to high flying students or students who have done it before. This post is all about quick ways to vary what you do that were not included in the first post and ways to make TPR more compelling to level II and above students:

  1. Write a story! In Latin I last year, and Latin II this year, we are including short, very easy stories to support 3-4 days worth of TPR. Last year, the stories revolved around students in the class and things they do in the classroom. This year, I am writing stories inspired by children's books about school and teachers, to, hopefully provide some comic relief after the first week or so in school.
  2. Interview your kids! Some colleagues of mine are using Bryce Hedstrom's La Persona Especial (Latin: Discipulus Illustris). Before I dive into that, I experimented today with an impromptu TPR assignment that turned into mini interviews in the class:

    * I "ordered" students TPR style to take out a piece of paper and a writing utensil. Then, I told them, in the target language, to write their name and their favourite book's name on the paper.
    * I then "ordered" students to give their paper to a friend and accept a paper from a friend.
    * I went around the room and asked students: "cuius chartam habes?" (whose paper do you have?) and then, "et quid est nomen libri optimi?" (what is the name of the best book?)*
    * Then I turned to the student whose paper it was and asked things like, "qualis liber est?" (what kind of book is it), "quis est heros libri?" (who is the hero of the book), etc.
    * Finally I told a brief story or asked the class comprehension questions using similar, but not the same information... For example: a student's favourite book was a graphic novel about a war. I then asked what other books about war kids knew about and the provided titles. This allowed me to check comprehension while engaging students in a deeper, higher level discussion in the target language. 
  3. Play with stuffed animals! While playing with words like give, take, accept, etc. I pulled key stuffed animals for us to pass around. Inevitably, someone who wanted one of the animals would steal it from another student and we'd have fun talking about stealing vs. giving. In one class, the entire class refused to say they say a student take the stuffed animal from another, leading to a rather hilarious discussion in the target language about giving, taking, and sharing. In another class, when it was clear that more students wanted to be the "star", I allowed them to tell me what they wanted and to go and pick an animal from the shelf. This was all done, of course, using TPR, commands, and in the target language.
  4. Send the kids on a scavenger hunt! At the end of the TPR cycle, you can put kids in groups with a list of descriptions. They must collect images of each item (through drawing or pictures) from around your classroom and their belongings. The vocabulary, of course, must be comprehensible, but it can serve as an activity that gives the teacher a break and serves as an assessment. If you use descriptions that are vague enough, this can serve as a higher level activity in that you could then discuss which objects fit that description and the variety between groups.
  5. Mix it up! Sometimes, I'll throw something really weird out there. I don't do it too often and, when I do, I make it really obvious what I mean. This mixes things up and lets kids have a little fun. Today, at the end of class, I had students put their supplies away, in Latin, and then I told them to take out their phones (which they loved) "et date magistrae" (give to the teacher). It took a brief second before they realised and we all enjoyed a laugh.
I hope these quick suggestions help liven up your room and I'd LOVE to hear about other ways you do this. 

* we learned the phrase, "liber optimus, in mea sententia" (best book, in my opinion)