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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blogs I Follow


This is just a quick post to gather a list of some of my favorite blogs.  This is by no means comprehensive, but I tried to choose some blogs that have given me much to ponder, items to use in my classroom, and tend to post regularly.

So, in the hopes of boosting readership for the amazing bloggers below and also of helping others find blogs that can help them gain great ideas and insight, here are some of the blogs I follow closely:

General Education Blogs

Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension is Pernille Ripp's insightful and out-of-the-box thoughts on teaching her grade school classes.  Even though I have never taught anyone younger than 13, I still find a lot to think about when I read her blog.
Crazy Teaching focuses mostly on the flipped classroom, what that means, and breaking the rules of traditional education.
The Innovative Educator is actually a homeschooling blog, but she offers not only great ideas for innovative classroom teaching but is also tuned in to politics and testing issues, so if you are interested in those things, you can find writing on them here.
The Nerdy Teacher is creative and often incorporates technology into his teaching.  To the point I debated whether he belonged in the category below.

Technology Related

Educational Technology Guy is great about just offer gobs and gobs of new technology, quick reviews, and some shortly-described educational uses.
Hack Education is one of the first educational blogs I started reading and I gladly recommend reading Audrey Watters' blog.  She offers deep insight into the technology trends in education.

Language-Related

The Everyday Language Learner is a great place to go to see new technology, new thoughts, and new approaches to language learning (which I can then turn towards language teaching!).

Latin and Comprehensible Input

Todally Comprehensible Latin is a new blog by Keith Toda (@keithtoda) and is following his exploration into a Latin class based solely on comprehensible input.  A great read and already prolific.
Imparting Fluency is a great Latin blog by another comprehensible input Latinist, James Hosler.  He also incorporates videos of his teaching to help show his approaches in action.

Latin in General

in aversa charta is a blog that offers a wide sampling of writing in Latin over various topics and student-created stories.  Some stories are not perfectly school-appropriate, so definitely pre-read anything you decide to use in your class.
Techna Virumque Cano is a blog by one of the creators of Operation LAPIS, a game-based method for teaching Latin.  Very interesting stuff here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Untextbooking: What Does the Fox Say?

I've been feeling the need for something bigger lately. Teaching chapter-to-chapter has ceased to be all that fulfilling. I tend to feel like my students are missing out on a bigger picture, and that I am failing to offer them Latin as a complete experience. Luckily, I've recently received some divine aid from Muse #10, the much-ignored muse of teaching.

Since it's nigh unavoidable, I assume many of you have heard this song:


I was exposed to it as the song gained popularity as a youtube sensation and internet meme--and now I even hear it periodically on the radio, which is worth mentioning because it is really just a funny parody song by a Norwegian comedian.

However, I was suddenly inspired one day while I listened to some students attempting to sing the song. It's basically a bunch of animal names and sounds, all of which would make a great foundation for some Aesop. In case you're not familiar (my husband assures me that you probably are), Aesop recorded common Greek fables that were also popular in Rome. They highlight common Greek and Roman values, customs, and assumptions about social order, and a good percentage do so by using animals as main characters. These make for a great way to keep culture contextualized and in the language.

So now I have some end goals, and even one of my steps on the way. But I've had those before. The thing that has changed is my own knowledge of activities and methods to bring students to Latin that contains new vocabulary and new grammatical structures without it being hard.

I've practiced TPRS (for our write-ups of various aspects go here, here, here, here, and here) for ten years now in my Latin classes, and enjoy it.  And I've felt that it's possible that TPRS alone would let me prepare students for Classical Latin authors, even with their huge and varied vocabularies and grammar.  However I never took the plunge; it seemed like a huge change and too much work, I was comfortable and familiar with my textbook, what if I was wrong and ruined a whole generation of students--there were a lot of excuses not to do it.

But now, with a larger toolbox I'll discuss below, I have fewer excuses and more drive to leave the textbook behind.  As I write this, the unit I'm creating is just that--in the process of being created--and so as I finish aspects of this unit I'll add their links to this post.  Miriam and I are both experimenting with big ideas this semester, and I'm as excited about her Google project as she is about untextbooking (not a term I made up, but one I'm totally taking over for my purposes).  Having a great friend to support me in this endeavor helps stoke my courage.

The Toolbox


My list of tools is actually still growing.  I have a wonderful group of friends and colleagues who also read research and blogs, and are willing to experiment with their classes to figure out what works for them and what doesn't.  They also share their knowledge (thankfully!) so I get to benefit from it.

I have two tools that are currently the center of my untextbooking: dictationes and embedded stories.  Each tool, when added to CI techniques like TPRS and WAYK (we have posts here, here, here, and here), allows for even more repetitions of the vocabulary and a really strong reinforcement of the grammar I choose to focus on.

Dictatio

Dictationes are what they sound like: I dictate sentences to students, they write them.  That might feel like nothing new, but it gives students a chance to gauge their spelling and aural comprehension of Latin, and, since I have them check their own spelling and we review through the sentences to make sure students understand every word, dictationes become a great way to introduce new vocabulary and grammar structures (a great detailed explanation is offered here).

For my current purposes I am actually creating sentences that specifically cater to the grammar structure I want to emphasize and repeat the vocabulary words I think my students need most.  I like to start a unit with a dictatio as a great intensive introduction to the new forms.

Embedded Stories

Like the dictatio, embedded stories are not my creation.  I think every TPRS-based teacher has blundered into something close at times, but not as a concerted effort and not in an organized way, so I really appreciate this form of Comprehensible Input.  Embedded stories are really the tool that caused me to realize that I can leave the textbook behind.

Embedded stories can be traced back to Laurie Clarcq (she has a very charming story about her inspiration here), and they are wonderful tools to scaffold the more difficult texts I want my students to read.  As I started using them to scaffold the longer texts in my students' textbook (which is rarely difficult grammatically, but tends to throw an overwhelming amount of vocabulary at students), I started realizing that the embedded stories could empower me to tackle pretty much any text I wanted my students to read.  That's when the discontent I'd been feeling towards the textbook (I have yet to meet a Latin textbook that aligns to CI, limits its vocabulary, or moves away from strict grammar sequencing) finally came to a head.  I got permission to start this semester with my own units, created with authentic Latin texts in mind, and I started creating the unit that I will be posting here.

Image Property of Wikipedia

So, What Does the Fox Say?


It barks.  Just in case you weren't sure.  But for my purposes, it's an ancient mystery that my students will be expected to unfold and, yes, sing as a means to learn animal names and sounds.  Once students have worked their way through the song, they'll read two of my favorite Aesop's fables: "The Fox and the Cat" (wherein the fox brags about her many skills but the cat's one skill turns out to be the most useful one) and "The Frog and the Bull" (wherein the frog blows herself up in order to be as big as a bull).  We'll talk about the cultural significance of the fables' morals.  We'll play with the fables, perhaps draw them or simplify them into children's books (that part of my lesson plan isn't formed as of this writing).  Throughout, students will be inducted into much more "difficult" vocabulary and grammar than they had worked with before.

After the fables, I am planning to introduce them to the "scientific" thought of Pliny the Elder by choosing a relevant animal passage or two.  This will have to be seriously scaffolded, but I believe that by the time we arrive at the actual Pliny passages, my students will be ready to read and comprehend them.  This will be the end of the most comprehensive and well-rounded yet cohesive unit I have ever taught.  I am really excited.

So far, my students have done the dictatio and worked on the vocabulary.  I gave them a handout and they figured out quickly what they were learning.  There were groans ("I hate that song!") and sounds of glee ("This is your best lesson so far!"), both of which are great--they imply an emotional reaction to something they are reading in Latin.

So here it is, as it develops (remember that I will keep adding to it as I develop aspects of it--and since it's on Google Drive, I'll also be adding to each page and correcting any mistakes I notice along the way)*:
Overarching Lesson Plan
"The Fox"
Materials Created for the Song 
Handout for Students
"The Fox and the Cat"
Materials (Including the Story, Embedded Version, and Dictatio)
Handout for Students (Writing these)
"The Frog and the Bull"
(These materials will be written next)
Pliny the Elder
Did I mention I'm excited?  Because I'm excited.  And as we all know, an excited teacher is a better teacher.  I think these lessons will be the best I've ever offered in my classes.

*Edit: I should mention that the non-handout materials are basically not formatted because they're the notes I keep to teach from.  Also, there are contributions (none attributed because I am a poor friend) by Miriam Patrick here and there.

Friday, January 10, 2014

80% of me, 20% of you - adapting Google's 20% time idea to the classroom

For a while both Rachel and I have wanted to try out Google's idea of 20% innovation time in our classrooms. We did the research, but were waiting for a final push to try it out. Between frustration with textbooks, testing, and what we were able to look at this past fall at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language's 2013 conference, we have finally decided to give it a try.

This Spring, I am piloting my version of the 80/20 project with my Latin IIIs, IV, and AP students. I will be posting, hopefully, regularly on the process and the reviews. I intend to have students fill out surveys every few weeks to check in on their progress, but also get their feedback on the project itself. In this post, I'm going to set forward the premise of the project and talk about my initial reactions.

This link goes to my outline of the project. Students are being given an entire semester worth of 20% of time to work on this project and I will be using it as half of their final exam (we have to give performance exams each semester measuring speaking and writing progress). I don't want to repeat what is in the document, so I will try and address some of the questions they asked me instead while we went over it:

Frequently Asked Questions by Students
  1. What will we be turning in?Students will be turning in almost a portfolio of their project. They will need to have a presentation to share, a physical product to show, notes, cited resources, and their correspondence with their CC. I will use all of these elements to grade them using the rubric in the link. 
  2. How long does our correspondence have to be? I do not expect, especially in the beginning, long correspondence each time. Some times will be longer than others. In the beginning, they will introduce themselves and their ideas and as they research, their ability to discuss should grow (ergo, they will be making progress in their writing)
  3. So, the topics must relate to Rome? Not necessarily. The topics must relate to our classroom. For example, a student may take a survey of the class and find out their favourite movies/shows/music/etc. Then, they may look to see how much of an influence Roman culture, history, and language have in our modern media. Another student may be interested in cooking. They may look into Ancient recipes, or perhaps look to see how differently we do things or compare health standards or, just for fun, might try to cook modern recipes using only ancient methods. Students may create games for the class to play, videos to watch, etc. 
  4. Why can't we just know the day we're presenting now? I have found that students who know they are going the last day will wait until the last day to be done and, if we have extra time for example on a previous day, they will not be ready and will be upset. By asking each student to be ready the first day, I can go ahead and collect certain aspects (notes and correspondence) and begin building my grade that day. Everyone will have the exact same amount of time to prepare. 
Today I took my students to the lab for their first 20% day. They were given the period to pick a topic and complete their first survey. Below are my observations:
  • Some students will really struggle with the freedom. This is okay, and they need to know that it is okay. I sat with a few students who had no idea where to begin. I asked them what they liked to do or really enjoyed learning about. For the most part the response was, "but there is nothing Roman about..." So, we went over the connection part again. All my students ended up with a topic in the end and a clear connection.
  • I would change my initial survey to include a question about what resources they know they'll need. This will help me create resources more quickly and with more accuracy. 
  • Students were surprisingly excited to find out who their Classroom Comrades were (one of my favourite words, plus the alliteration is magical). They will find out over the weekend and be asked to begin communication ASAP. 
  • The students researched the entire period. Only once did I have to ask a student to focus. Since this project really focuses on their interests and their likes, I think, and hope, it will turn out to be easy work for them.
In my next post, I plan to update you on the progress of the project and take a look at the resources I am providing to my students. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Tech Take on Review Stations

Teachers are constantly bombarded with the questions "How are you differentiating?" and the inevitable follow-up, "yes, but how are you individualising?" You may remember last Spring my presentation on differentiation for the Foreign Language Association's 2013 conference in Augusta, GA.

Differentiation is something I am constantly working for. In a perfect world, each student would have an individualised lesson plan, one on one time with the teacher, meaningful group work, reflective individual time, and a myriad of experiences and lessons in between. But, we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world, at least in the United States where, all too often, the narrative is about a single teacher placed in a room with 30+ kids for one hour each day, a strict pacing guide, a pre-written final, and evaluation standards written by people who make the rules, but don't have to live by them. It creates a hectic, frustrating, non-conducive to learning environment for both teachers and students.

As teachers, we have the power to create the context within which our students learn and (hopefully) thrive. This year, I decided to play around with this a little in my final exam review. I wanted it to be personal to the students, but there needed to be accountability and I wanted students to work with different people each day. Our school is also beginning to use a "Bring Your Own Device" program where the kids can get WiFi access, so I wanted to test its capabilities too. Here is what I came up with:

The Idea
I decided to do a series of review stations. Each station would be able to be done in groups or individually and they would each have a piece of accountability. Students would be able to choose which station to do each day (in a 50 minute period, they could complete roughly 3-4 stations depending on their speed) based upon what they and/or their group members felt they needed to review. I wanted to test out the BYOD, so I knew I also wanted to incorporate technology as much as possible. This also would serve to cut down on the physical prep I had to do and the amount of clean up afterwards.

The Materials
I separated the test into four basic sections: Comprehension, Grammar, Culture, and Vocabulary. Then, I put 2-4 activities in each section. This is a list of the materials I used, related links (where needed), and what area they were used for:


The Prep
I set up multiple stations within each section as follows. Some, like the presentations, were student created, so little prep was needed on my part. Others, like the Quia and Socrative activities were teacher created, so they did require a little effort on my part. 

Comprehension
  1. Comic Strips - Students were given a list of stories to access in their texts or notes and created comic strips detailing the story. I took these, scanned them into the computer, and created a Google Presentation for students to review on their own/in groups to connect the images with the stories (total prep time: 5 minutes for each story)
  2. Character Analysis - Students were given a list of characters we'd learned about in our stories. They could use the stories in our books and culture section to create a character analysis and draw a picture. I scanned the pictures in and typed in the information to create a Google Presentation for students to review on their own/in groups (total prep time: 5 minutes for each character)
  3. Discussion - Students used the QR code to access the Google Presentations. Students would discuss in Latin what they'd learned (total prep time: 2 minutes


Grammar
  1. Quia Activities - Students would use the computer to access our classroom in Quia and to play a variety of games that went over grammar topics for the final. Students were to take diligent notes during this. (total prep time: 10-20 minutes per game throughout the semester)


Culture
  1. Socrative - Students would scan the QR code which would take them to the student link for socrative. They would enter my room and race against others in the space race I'd set up (upcoming post on this!) Socrative allowed me to download results. This was combined with the vocabulary (total prep time: 20 minutes)
  2. Flash Cards - Students would create flashcards for important topics in the culture section. One side would have the term/location/person/etc. and the flip side would have 5+ facts about them. (total prep time: 0 minutes)

Space Race on Socrative

Vocabulary
  1. Socrative - Students would scan the QR code which would take them to the student link for socrative. They would enter my room and race against others in the space race I'd set up (upcoming post on this!) Socrative allowed me to download results. This was combined with the culture. (total prep time: 20 minutes)
  2. Flash Cards - Students would create flashcards for vocabulary words. On one side would be the word and on the flip side would be: a picture, a derivative, any synonyms/antonyms in Latin, and a sentence in Latin. (total prep time: 0 minutes)


The Results
Overall, I would count this as a HUGE success. There were a few stumbling blocks, but overall both the students and I really enjoyed this. The students were able to focus on what they felt the need to. I was nervous that they would all just do vocabulary and culture or they would all freak out about grammar, but there was a steady stream of activities and everyone always had something to do. I was easily able to keep the kids accountable and work with those who needed extra guidance. Some students chose to work on their own, which was fine. It met their needs and no one minded because they all had the option. I got quite a bit of material to save electronically for next time and they all enjoyed looking at their work online. 

The only real issues I found were with socrative. Some students had trouble accessing the site or the site was very slow. Sometimes it could easily be fixed, sometimes they had to choose a separate activity. That being said, it was easy to set up and the kids loved it! 

Next semester I think I will do this again, but switch out or add on some activities. It really seemed to get students' needs taken care of while allowing me the freedom to work with those who needed it or get other things done in the classroom. By the third day, it ran very smoothly and students didn't need very much direction. Even with the stumbling blocks, I would mark this as a successful review session!  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lessons I've Learned in Graduate School and Other Places

Okay, Confession: Rachel and I have been light on the posts this year. We are both feeling a little overwhelmed this year. I say this not as an excuse, but as an explanation and as an introduction for this post.

In addition to our full time teaching jobs (extended day in my case), both Rachel and I teach part time at an online school, are working on a new layout and pacing for said school, are in graduate school, work within our professional communities, and are planning on presenting and/or attending many conferences this year. What can I say? We like to keep busy. 

We knew what we were getting into when we signed up for all of these things, but I am not entirely sure either of us expected to feel so tired all the time. It has led to some serious thought on both of our parts as to what we can take away from this and how it is affecting our lives as teachers. So, I thought, what better way to consider these than with our professional learning network: you! So, below you will find some of the most common things I've thought or people have said to me and my reflections. I think you will find a little bit of personal reflection, professional growth, and political commentary. Happy Monday!
  • Wow you must be superwoman! How do you do it?
    • Large amounts of caffeine. Truth be told, I like to be busy. I like feeling organised and like I am bettering myself and my students. For anyone considering getting a higher degree or going to any conference or making any teaching career choice, I recommend these two questions below. I feel confident in my answers to these for the choices I've made and therefore, no matter how tired I feel, it is worth it. This being said, it is also important to have time for yourself. Both Rachel and I have been working together to ensure that neither of us goes until we crash and burn. We've been pretty good about being honest with each other and saying, "hey... um... you should take a break." No Superwomen here, just honest friends.
      • How will this help better me?
      • How will this help better my students?
  • So, do you want to go teach college or something?
    • No. There are some who want to teach at university, I am not one of those. I enjoy teaching high school and while I certainly would consider teaching at university if the opportunity presented itself, it is not the reason I'm getting a higher degree. I am choosing to do this, mainly, for my own mind. I really want to rebel against the idea that a higher degree is only useful at the university level. I like teaching high school and I feel like I can make more of a difference in a high school setting. Sure, it has its issues, and I know that most of my students will not go on to be Classics majors, but my job isn't to create Classics majors. My job is to teach Latin and having a higher degree helps teach and remind me of so many things! 
      • I am reminded of what it is like to be a student and the struggles that entails like being unsure if a teacher is being vague or if I wasn't listening carefully enough and, therefore, being hesitant to ask for help.
      • I am learning new techniques for teaching in general, but also teaching specific authors. I am going deeper into subjects that I may not have considered before. Even things that I think, "I'll never teach this" are giving me new perspectives. It is enjoyable.
      • I am learning about a new portion of my professional community. I am getting to know the people who will be making waves with me and who will be defending their ideas at the same time as me
      • I am reminded of and learning new techniques for studying and researching. I am being reminded of habits I had when I was in high school and it gives me new ways of reaching my students. 
  • You look exhausted. What's wrong?
    • Something one should never say to a person in grad school. Have a grad student? Know a grad student? Are a grad student? Then you know that we are always tired. We are always working and often, we look exhausted because we are, simple as that. I expect the same is true for our high school students - whether they were up playing games (and let's be honest, if Super Mario Bros came on our phones we'd probably have it and be up playing it all night long) or studying for their next test. Some days it is a blessing to be able to get the next thing on the list done. Others, I feel like I'm am more productive than I've ever been. It is the way it is. 
  • Why even bother with grad school? It isn't like it will affect your paycheck that much and you'll spend the rest of your life paying it off.
    • I've heard this more time than I care to think about. It is probably the one thing on this list guaranteed to fire me up enough to argue the point. The state in which I teach, Georgia, has placed severe limits on teachers who seek higher education. Not only have they lowered the amount of a raise you get for receiving a higher education degree, they have severely limited the types of degrees accepted and from where they accept them. What's the point if we're going to have to validate it time and time again anyways?
    • Furthermore, this is the only way to get a raise right now. I have 4 years teaching experience, but I am making a first year teacher's salary. Instead of keeping teachers from abusing the system, all this has done is turn teacher's against higher education and made them cynical about their own educational futures.Why should we if we can't afford it? 
    • I have looked into just about every grant and scholarship I could get. For Latin teachers, the list is already incredibly small. On top of that, most federal and state grants do not apply to us as we are not considered part of their "Modern language" or "language in need" category. So, that puts us in the category of people who take tens of thousands of dollars out to help support themselves while seeking higher education knowing full well that they will probably not get reimbursed and will be paying this off for quite a while. So... why do it?
The short answer for all of these questions and reflections is this: It makes us better teachers, better students, and better people. Rachel and I both love what we do, despite the massive amount of legislation brought against us. I believe that when a teacher stops being a student, (s)he stops being a good teacher. This is part of the reason why I try to be very active and why I decided to continue my education.

Despite all of the restrictions and difficulties put in my way, financially and legally, it is something I want to do. It is something that I know will help me and my students succeed and go further

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Two Sentence Horror Stories

Olim, fur villam magnificam direptam intravit quod
pecuniam vult et quaerit.  Sed postquam nox advenit,
sanguis effundit per ianuas et fur numquam revenit.
(Once, a thief entered a run-down magnificent house
because he wants and seeks money.  But after night
arrived, blood flowed through the doors and the thief
never returned)
A short, sweet, and easy Halloween activity.  Or anytime you feel like writing horror stories, really.

A few months ago, io9 published an article about a recent Reddit activity online.  Participants were asked to write horror stories and post them on Reddit.  The stipulation, however, was that they could only be two sentences long.

As difficult as that is to do, there were many takers and some really great fiction came out of the event.  Read the io9 article I linked above.  It's really amazing how much can be communicated in just a few words.  When I read it, a lightbulb went off in my head and the article was filed away in my brain somewhere under "There Has To Be Some Way I Can Use This In My Class" (long file name, longer file contents).

(I looked at my mirror.  I saw another man.)
Last week, inspired by the holiday and expecting my classes to be at least somewhat active (says ten years' previous Halloween experience--and who am I to argue with experience?), I decided that I had found the right moment to use this idea.

I began the class by handing out and going over a compilation of horror vocabulary, Vocabula Terrifica, that Miriam put together earlier this month.  After running quickly through the vocabulary, I told them about the io9 article and read a couple of the examples in English.  Then I put them into small groups, where they were asked to write Latin two sentence horror stories and illustrate them on a colored sheet of paper.  Lastly, they were asked to tape them on the wall when they finished.  The few groups who finished early were able to go around and read other groups' stories.

It was a nice way to spend Halloween.

My wall ended up so colorful!  As a bonus, my language arts students asked me to read them some of the stories.

(As a quick aside or caveat or the like, this is not really a comprehensible input activity.  However, it is a fun activity, and I have always believed that once in a while, something that is just fun is a fine way to spend a school day.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Grammar in a Comprehensible Input Classroom

Grammar.  Grammar is what I loved about Latin when I learned it in college.  I still love grammar.  I love it when I teach it to my Language Arts classes (I get excited about participles--I mean, verbs can be so versatile) and I love it when I teach it to my Latin classes.  I honestly love the little nitpicky bits that can be pulled apart and analyzed, then put back together, sometimes with greater and deeper meanings explored.  My heart skips a beat just writing about it here.

But I have wrestled with the concept of teaching grammar for a decade now.

By my second year, I was dabbling in a comprehensible format for my classes.  I wanted all students to learn, not just the kids who have a natural knack for analyzing bits and putting them back together.  Those kids--kids like me--tend to have an easy time in school already, and the fact they could succeed in my class was really no great accomplishment on my part.  I wanted the regular kids to be able to learn and love Latin; more so I wanted the kids who struggle, whose talents tended to lie outside of sitting in rows quietly jotting down notes, to wear Latin like a badge of achievement.  Wow, you know Latin?  Isn't it hard?

However, Latin can be difficult in a comprehensible class.  Not impossible, and most definitely better comprehensibly than not, but the Latin language has a grammar that is distinctly foreign to a native English speaker.  It's inflected--the endings change based on what a word is doing in a sentence, and word order borders on a creative free-for-all.  While I can help my students learn vocabulary with ease, helping them to hear some of the more subtle grammar shifts sometimes can be difficult without moving into direct grammar instruction, which really only helps my logic-minded 4% of the class who are already scholastically successful.

I have found a compromise for myself over the last couple of years: I have slowly been making and compiling grammar powerpoints that offer the concept completely in context and leave me to decided how much explicit instruction to include (depending on the program I'm part of at the time).  My drawings are goofy and my stories are generally macabre (so is my sense of humor), but the repetition of form is serious, and I usually pair them with circling (described in this blog post) and focusing on the new grammatical structure, all in Latin, with some English translation so they can see the connection.

Recently, I wanted to work on genitives.  I always offer the name of the grammatical structure on the ppt for those kids who just really want to know grammar.  I don't require my students to know the name, though, just to be able to function within the structure, and that's loosely defined by what I see them as capable of at the time.

Here's the ppt I put up:



I then initiated a series of circling for each slide that went as follows:

classis!  erat canis pueri! (aaaaah!)
erat canis pueri quod puer canem habebat! (aaaah!)
canis puerum habebat an puer canem habebat? (puer canem habebat)
puer canem habebat? (ita/certe)
canis puerum habebat? (minime)
ita, puer canem habebat!  itaque, erat canis pueri! (aaaaah!)
erat canis pueri an matris? (pueri)
erat canis draconis? (minime)

And I would circle each slide in this manner.  The big goal was to create the connection between "puer canem habebat" and "erat canis pueri" because both have the same basic meaning and can form that connection for the kids.  The ppt offered me a visual to point to with each step, and the idea of a girl being the daughter of a dragon was absurd enough to bring them back when they began to lose focus (after all, repetition is repetitive).  The next day, when they came into class, they found this worksheet on their desks.  Since it was all about re-establishing the connection that I was building the previous day, most of my students found it very easy.  To double-check their understanding of the genitive phrases (and to reinforce it for students who perhaps didn't quite get it the day before) I had the classes translate the genitive phrases together.  They actually asked that there be questions like this on the test--some asked that this be the entire test.  The questions aren't overly hard, but the important thing is that they require a student to understand the fundamental relationship between a word and any genitive connected to it.

And I think (I am always learning and experimenting, so I won't pretend to know) this is what I want out of grammar instruction in Latin.  Contextualized relationship-building.  Understanding how words and forms connect to each other.

After years of teaching using comprehensible input, I am slowly working my way toward grammar instruction that I like and that makes grammar comprehensible to all students.

(Oh, and in case you want to use them, I have all of my grammar powerpoints available here.  At least, the ones I have completed.  Some of them need work, or I had to make them quickly, so they are short or have mistakes.  I know that, and appreciate it if you send me a mistake so I can correct it!  After I've finished making all of them, I'll go back through and start making them nicer.)