Monday, March 2, 2020

Update Regarding Stepping into CI Subscription Service

Good morning Stepping into CI!

After discussion and thought, we have decided to cancel the pay portion of our website at this time. This is partially due to the fact that, as providers, we have not been as active as in past years on the website and we do not want to charge anyone if we are not fulfilling our end of the bargain. Rather, we'd like to focus back in on our origins, the blog, and share there while we continue to focus on our own professional development and program. This is not the end of PBP or Stepping into CI, for sure.

We want to thank you all for your unending support and love as we've embarked on this journey! Without you all, our website, podcast, CI Bites, or units would never have happened. Thank you!

 After March, those subscription portions of the website will close and content will potentially be offered elsewhere depending on the creator's choice. More information on those offerings and anything new we come up with will be announced, as always, on the blog.

Thank you! We hope we have and will continue to serve you well.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Norms, Expectations, and SEL

This year I took a different approach to classroom norms and expectations (often called classroom rules, or daily expectations, etc). I created a series of promises that students and I made to each other. In August, we had a day where we discussed these expectations and agreed to work together toward these goals. You can see these in the presentation below.


After taking a course on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and giving it some consideration, I decided to do something new in January. Below is my reflection on how it went in each class and I've included some pictures of their work.

Supplies used in class

  • foam poster board (can stand on its own; is more durable)
  • markers, pencils, crayons, etc.
  • permanent marker
  • white board and markers
  • google survey
  • extra decorations:
    • shout out cutouts
    • washi tape
    • stickers
    • stamps
    • highlighters

Steps taken in each class:

  1. survey reflection on August norms/expectations
  2. brainstorm key words and phrases that are important to the class
  3. class discussion and review of norms and expectations
  4. creative design of class poster board detailing the new norms and expectations for the class. 

1st period 

First period, like I imagine most first periods to be, is relatively quiet. Students are, at best, mostly awake and, at worst, completely asleep. Many didn't eat breakfast or are panicking about a test or assignment for a later class. 

To the right, you can see the key words the class came up with. It took some prodding, but eventually
IMG: A whiteboard with multi-coloured words on it. Words are:
different, honesty, respect, community, ready to learn, kind,
responsibility, supportive, self-control, unique, productive,
safe, engaging, jokes, awake, details, considerate, open,
positive, and creative.
they started to come up and write on the board. What was key for them was seeing me write as well and include my thoughts. I wrote words like "awake", "safe", and "fun". Others wrote words like "respect", "community", and "jokes". These key words helped us come up with unique norms for 1st period. 

After discussion, the class decided on 4 detailed norms/expectations. Personally while I prefer a simpler, if longer list, this class decided to include the ideas in the details. The class did not finish creating their poster, so we will pick up on Monday. I'll post their final draft on Twitter (@miriampatrick). 

2nd period

IMG: A whiteboard with multi-coloured words on it. Words are:
democracy, be fun, be fye as frick, Latin, positive, lit, be nice,
happiness, games, no communism, share, no cussing, no bugs,
don't be wack yo, open minded, respect, talking, diplomacy,
communication, listen to each other, and clean.
My second period class is smaller than my first, but also a Latin II class. While these students are certainly more awake, they can also be very quiet. That being said, when given the opportunity to fill the board, every single one of them came up and started writing almost immediately. They engaged in conversation much more openly and quickly than my first period, but this fits their general personalities and relationships with each other. This class enjoys joking with each other and some of the words on their board reflected that conversation.

This class also used a lot of colloquial language and inside jokes that are unique to their community. Words like fye, frick, wack, lit, and even communism have unique meanings to this group of students. While these words did not necessarily make it into their list of norms and expectations, they were an important part of our discussion and their desires. Fye and frick together refer to engaging and participation. Wack refers to respect, communication, and kindness. Communism is obviously a reference to current situations and expresses students desires to be unique, individual, and open. Similarly, however, they also recognised that sharing and equity were also very important and that this space belongs to us all and we need to work together to create and good space.
IMG: a white poster board with brightly coloured rules (listed
in blog) entitled Class Norms. 

This class came up with 7 unique rules. (1) Listen to each other. (2) Be open to what others have to
say. (3) Everyone has their own voice. (4) Participate to the BEST of your ability. (5) Respect the classroom space. (6) Leave the room better than you came! (7) Leave your issues at the door.

3rd Period

My 3rd period is a Latin I class with a vocabulary unique to them; so much so that I had to ask what a few words meant. This class is large and vocal. There a quite a few students who needed a gentle reminder that this was an activity that required their individual and serious participation. Once we go into discussion, however, we came up with a wide variety of things that all centered around creating family. This class, as negative as they can each be about anything, really want to be a family. This circled around ideas like protection, support, and acceptance. This was a really good conversation to hear them have.

6th Period

My 6th period is my smallest class. They are the most vocal when it comes to how they feel (positively or negatively). They are also the most skilled at successfully encouraging me to go off topic! They are also all friends, so this was quick work for them. After some joking around they got right to the task and finished brainstorming quickly. They then began work on the poster, ultimately deciding upon four classroom norms: (1) Have fun and laugh. (2) Help others. (3) Respect and listen to everyone. (4) Work together to stay focused. 

They even worked to figure out, to the best of their ability, how to say "We love Latin." While not 100% correct, this is their own work and I am incredibly proud of them!

IMG: A large white posterboard with class norms listed in
shoutouts. The posterboard is decorated with stickers
stamps and markers and includes "nos amat Latinam". 

IMG: A whiteboard covered in words: Love, Latin, Play,
clean, respect, learning, intellectual, contribute, gimkit,
awareness, cooperation, people, English, friendly,
games, no sleep, awake, chill, nice, communicate,
fun, normal, crazy, engaged, respectful, funny,
enjoyable, good energy, good vibes, pay attention,
clean, honesty, creative, engaging, and listen to each other. 

7th period

My last class of the day is my largest. This class included just about any student you can think of. It took a little longer for them to collect ideas and to understand what I was asking, but when they did, we got a board FULL of words and phrases! Their expectations focused on working together to create a fun and interactive environment. 

They are still working on their poster, but their brainstormed is pictured left. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Waiting for Summer: The Detrimental Effects of Putting Work Before Yourself

I wrote a while back about my struggle with PMDD. Untreated, I spiral into depressions, anxiety, and panic attacks. I have trouble believing myself likable; I tend to think most friendships based on pity or a need to avoid an awkward conversation.

A couple of years ago I was put on seizure medicine, and, as per usual, my body took on many of the more rare side-effects. Most of these have been allayed by adjusting the dosage, but one that I did not realize at the time was interference with my birth control, which I was taking to control my PMDD.

I mean, I was unusually stressed in November, but that could be explained by outside factors. I didn't fully recover over winter break, but maybe that was because break was shorter last year and I didn't really get a lot of downtime, so it made sense that I was feeling a little defeated. I had lots of reasons to tell myself that my feelings made sense and weren't out of the ordinary considering all of the factors I could point out to myself. I just needed to keep going and when summer came, I could rest.

Until February. February 2019 was not a special month at all. Nothing happened that I could point to. I just started spiraling out of control. Crying on the way to work and sometimes in my empty classroom. Crying on my way home--basically whenever I was alone.

I finally decided to talk to my doctor. That summer.

I was way too busy to go right then.

March brought with it a new level of depression and anxiety, and with it, a sensation I hadn't experienced since I was in fifth grade: the wish to die. If you haven't experienced that level of depression, you will mistake it for being suicidal. There is a difference. I didn't wish to take my own life. I was just okay with my life ending, and not having to face the world anymore. The line between these two things seems thin, but it's large and important. Still, it's not healthy, and I let my husband know I was in a bad place and that I was definitely going to see my doctor because I was pretty sure the hormones were not working anymore.

As soon as I could get in to see her that summer.

March is a very busy month.

I somehow stumbled through April and May, crying, wishing to die, and being possibly the worst teacher I have been in my life--I had trouble making myself go to work, so trying to do much more some days was almost beyond me--and finally made it to the summer.

I saw my doctor. She was aghast that I'd waited. She could tell by my demeanor that I was not myself.

I got a new prescription that I had to wait to start.

I had to go be professional before I got to start my prescription and had a depressive attack publicly. I think mostly only good friends realized it happened. I still feel ashamed that it happened and that I lost control in that setting.

I am ashamed of the teacher I was last year. I feel like I let students and my teammates down. I definitely let myself down.

The Moral of the Story

Luckily, once I started my new prescription, things changed. To a huge degree. I have since realized that my depression had started even before November. This school year I missed half of pre-planning and expected to start school even more exhausted and unmotivated than last year. Last year I missed no pre-planning, I just got back to the state right before pre-planning and I was uninspired. I liked my students--that has remained unchanged throughout all of this, thank goodness--but I could not get excited about any aspect of teaching.

This year I was excited. I wrote stories and plans and created things to share with the other teachers in my department. I have finished another unit for Stepping Into CI and am thinking about finally finishing a novella I started a year and a half ago. I have been inventing games again. I am slowly becoming my old self again.

And I compare that to where I started the school year last August and I realize that I was already sinking. I was already viewing things negatively.

I waited almost a year to get help for myself.

I waited until summer.

And that was so very dangerous.

We are trained as teachers to put our jobs, our careers, ahead of ourselves. And I am an especially driven teacher; at least half of my identity is wrapped up in being a teacher (a good part of what remains is being a mother, with some little bit left over for being a wife--my poor husband). It feels wrong to me to give up time to almost anything, including doctor's visits, when I've scheduled things like board meetings, or I need to grade, or plan, and I am almost unable to take a day off for that purpose (the one exception being to take my son to the doctor).

Yet imagine if I had gone at the first sign of danger in November, or when I really realized things were wrong in February. Imagine how much better my classes would have been if I had gone to get help in March when things were irrefutably wrong.

Who else out there should be getting help now, but is waiting for winter break? spring break?

Who else out there is waiting for summer?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Slap Jack: A Small Group Alternative to Flyswatter

Almost every teacher has played a version of Flyswatter. If you haven't, it basically goes:
  1. Project information on the board/screen.
  2. Divide the class into two teams.
  3. Give representatives from each team a flyswatter.
  4. Have students hit the correct information with said flyswatters based on clues.
  5. Hilarity ensues.
I have played this game with my students off and on for sixteen years. I generally have enjoyed it, and there have been some nice improvements on the game, such as Keith Toda's move toward pictures and sentences instead of just vocabulary.

However, as my classes have grown in size and, to be honest, changed in demographic from students who are super engaged in school to students who feel much less represented and are therefore largely disaffected with academia, I find that flyswatter leads to poor classroom management that, at best, means a bunch of students are sitting around not paying attention for large sections of class time and, at worst, means juggling student behavior while still trying to keep a semblance of a "fun review."

So, simply, I stopped using it. But I missed it.

I also wanted to do something that would allow students to self-select a difficulty level and provide a means of differentiation as my classes and those of my colleagues have grown more inclusive of students with learning differences.

Here's my solution: Slap Jack!

I took the images I would have used in a round of Flyswatter and made them into images I could cut out, then created a ppt with sentences to go with the images, and voila! A small-group version where all students are engaged.

Slap Jack
  1. Gather images and sentences you would like to use. I used images and sentences from some short vocabulary stories we had recently read in preparation for a myth we were about to read.
  2. Divide the images into 4-5 groups. For this one, I made four groups. Mark the backs of the images with the number of their group so you can keep track. For example, if there are six images that will be called out first, they are in group 1 and need to have "1" written on the back of their pictures.
  3. Make a powerpoint or Google slides that coordinates with the group numbers (without putting group numbers on it). So the first six sentences are all for group 1 images (I put the answers on the ppt as well), and the second six (or whatever number you set) are for group 2 images, etc.
  4. Cut the images out and put them in envelopes marked with the group numbers. This is the most tedious part of preparation. I made ten sets of images so I could have nine groups and an emergency set.
  1. Put the ppt on the board and give students a chance to choose how hard to make their game. 1 envelope = easiest setting, 2 envelopes = medium, all envelopes = hardest. Make sure they know to keep the envelopes in order and that they need to open them and use them in order.
  2. Have students take their chosen number of envelopes and put out the images face up between them all.
  3. When the sentence goes on the board, say it out loud. The first student in each group to slap the right image gets to hold on to that image.
  4. Whenever you finish a group, give time for setup for any groups who are doing one envelope at a time.
  5. When you finish all the images, students count their images to find out who got the most points in each group. You can give prizes if you want to.
  1. Cleanup is pretty easy--have students look at the numbers on the backs of the pictures and put them in the correct envelopes!
I wish I had taken some pictures but I was just caught up in the moment so I didn't. Sorry. What I can offer is the Google slides and document I made for the game we played earlier this year.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Interactive Vocabulary - a New Take

Firstly, let's start with credits!

Credit to Suzy from TeachStudentSavvy for the idea for this activity. I found it originally on Pinterest, but her blog post explains it very well and gives visual samples! The links I link below are my own creations using Google Docs. You can find her original post here.

I came across this looking for ideas how to help a student with vocabulary. We were coming to a head on how to help them achieve their goals in Latin when our traditional CI strategies were not simply enough. I had looked at a few ideas on Pinterest, but I wanted something that provided extra support and could be a resources as needed in class. Then I found Suzy's idea: VocAPPulary!

Basically, the idea is that students create an interactive vocabulary sheet that has a variety of information on it. Suzy's examples are from science and mine are from Latin below.

Suzy put it best: "It combines the use of illustration, word walls, and flashcards in a trendy, student-friendly package." (TeachStudentSavvy, 2019).

You start with a blank cellphone template. Here is mine without boxes. Here is mine with 8 boxes already added. I drew these on my computer.

Students then add to this template the key vocabulary and notes. Here is an image of some I made for the first chapter of Pluto: fabula amoris. I colour coded my notes and included the following for each word: The Latin word, the definition in English, a note about derivatives, or categories, or similar words, and a note about a single Latin word that is related. Subsequent chapters make use of other primary colours for the Latin word and meaning.

The student then took blank boxes and drew a picture of the word. They cut those images out and taped them to the completed cell phone template.

Now, the student has a resource. They automatically see the words and the images. They can then flip up the image to find the definition and some notes.

In subsequent chapters I also considered including notes like:

  • other forms of the word
  • sentences using the word
  • personalised questions (What do you find beautiful? What do you like to do? etc)
  • examples
With this particular student, I slowly lessened the amount of notes I wrote for them. As we get further into the chapters, they will have to fill in more and more information with me, their teacher, or on their own. This is so that eventually they can make this on their own without my assistance.

If I were doing this with an entire class, we would take the notes together.

Here is the completed set of handouts I made for this activity including the phone template and empty boxes for drawing images and cutting and pasting.

Here is a completed example of the VocAPPulary using the same first chapter as above:

Monday, November 11, 2019

Standards Based Grading - I can take a grade for anything!

I thought I'd share quick ideas today on how to take standard grades without making formal activities or having loads of paperwork.

I try very hard to not take grading home. Firstly, I have 6 animals and they do not appreciate paperwork in the way I think my students would like. Secondly, I have a few chronic conditions that can make completing work difficult. So, I have to be careful with my time. I try to take grades whenever I can. This benefits everyone:

  • grades get updated regularly.
  • students who may not perform well all the time get may opportunities to reassess.
  • students' grades reflects real levels of proficiency repeatedly through the year. 
  • I get grades updated before the end of the school day and can go home a little lighter. 

So.... here are 10 ways you can quickly and easily input grades during class or informally:
  1. During a running dictation (or scrambled eggs or QR code dictation), include some commands. Watch your students and, as they complete those commands, you can give a grade for what they do. This could cover listening, speaking, writing, comprehension. 
  2. During a running dictation (etc.) listen for who is speaking in Latin, reading the sentences out loud. You can easily give them a grade for reading or speaking. 
  3. Students who ask questions in the target language can receive a grade for interpersonal interactions, speaking, gesturing, etc. 
  4. Students who use appropriate rejoinders in class can receive grades for interpersonal interactions, speaking, listening, comprehending, etc. 
  5. Students who complete a brain break that is in the target language might receive a grade for listening and comprehending. 
  6. Students who complete jobs in class using the target language can receive grades for interpersonal interactions, presentational interactions, speaking, listening, comprehending, etc.
  7. Use group work and class discussion specifically to listen for your students who may not present well on paper and vice versa. Fill in grades as you can. 
  8. Turn student work into a listening assessment. You can use student images or monsters created and use them to create descriptions in the target language. Students draw the image they hear and then you can project and discuss. This can be a listening, comprehending, TPR, discussion, etc grade.
  9. If you have a great convo with a kid in the hall or outside of class in the target language, give them a grade for it! They've earned it!
  10. A student who shows understanding non-verbally whether through action, picture, or writing should receive a grade for their ability to understand. It isn't output, but it is skill. Give them that grade as you can. Use that skill to build up their confidence! Applaud them!

Other Posts on SBG from PBP

Friday, September 27, 2019

Discipulus Illustris for Vocabulary Delivery

This year has been different than previous years as an Untextbooked language teacher--last year our school district decided to mandate a particular vocabulary list for each level of Latin and this year I am personally in charge of making sure our Latin one students are confidently able to function within that vocabulary list.

It means less flexibility, but I generally welcome new challenges, and I have already been thinking about how to get even more repetitions of vocabulary into my students' lives without it feeling like that's what I'm doing.

One way I've done that this year is to modify the idea of the Discipulus Illustris activity.

There are a lot (a LOT) of writings about and ideas about Discipulus Illustris. The basic idea of the activity is this: you choose one student at a time to be interviewed. The interview is extremely supported, with a guide on the board at all times for every question, answer, and discussion for the class. The teacher does some question and answer with the class over the student's replies, the students write up what amounts to a short paragraph about the student, and, finally, the student is thanked for his or her time.

For much more detailed writings about this activity, you can read the work Lance Piantaggini has done on Discipulus Illustris here and here. He has by and far done the most development on the activity!

Up to this point, however, Discipulus Illustris has generally featured generalized questions about random aspects of a student's life, such as preferred types of food, sports teams, and astrological sign. As interesting as these topics can be to my students, they haven't helped me forward my students' knowledge and prepare them for the readings I want them to be able to comprehend.

This summer I realized I still wanted to do Discipulus Illustris, but I wanted to overhaul the activity to better serve my program. So instead of having one basic interview setup, I started creating new Discipulus Illustris interviews based around the vocabulary I need students to learn for any given story.

It's already been paying dividends. Using "a quo venisti?" ("Where did you come from?") as one of my questions has helped students prompt each other if they get caught on the word "venit." My students can comfortably express the superlative "pulcherrimus" in addition to "pulcher" and they learned the family vocabulary quickly in relation to themselves.

Where do these fit? I interview one student at the beginning of class, then we move on. Sometimes we do vocabulary practice (via Cartoon Olympics or perhaps a silly story that I've made up to get more repetitions in or any other number of things), sometimes we do a pre-reading activity (a dictatio, jigsaw activity, or some other such activity), or sometimes we are reading that day. I consider Discipulus Illustris a warm-up activity to get my students into Latin mode, and they are used to it as such! Plus, since it relates, vocabulary-wise, to what we read, they see the connection.

Some things I think that are worth noting about the way I do Discipulus Illustris that may differ from the way others do it:
  • I don't force students to come to the front of the class. I allow them to, if they want, and I have a special chair for it, but some students are absolutely terrified of the limelight and we are consistently growing our number of special education students. Those students may be comfortable sharing from their seats, but feel differently about being in front of the other students.
  • I encourage students to be silly. There are several things I do to encourage this. I make it a rule that whatever is said in Latin is "true." So if they have twelve lions at home, I don't question it. If they are married to both Arianna Grande and Zendaya, I don't question it. It was said in Latin. I also give some samples when a question threatens to touch on some serious or uncomfortable territory. For example, the same question I mentioned above, "a quo venisti," can put many of my students in a tough spot, since they may or may not be asked a similar question in an implicitly racist (albeit sometimes unintentional) fashion outside my classroom. So I offer several options that let them decide how they want to answer: McDonalds, my bed, Georgia, 1st period, America, etc. That way, some of them really want to delve into the question in a serious way, but some of them have even offered the name of the hospital where they were born, and all of those answers have been validated. When we discuss their families, I ask if their sisters and brothers are good or bad and remind them that the sisters and brothers aren't there to hear them answer. I ask how many wives or husbands they want. Basically, I take questions that could be serious and push them into a different direction while still maintaining the interest of the class and in the same moment create a safer atmosphere for a bunch of teenagers who are still resolving how they want to appear to the world.
  • I keep it short and sweet. No more than 6-7 questions, and we filter in and out questions, keeping only the most popular questions in rotation while removing the ones that just don't get traction and replacing them with new questions that hopefully will intrigue the students while introducing new vocabulary.
This has honestly turned me around on what Discipulus Illustris can be for my classes. I was, at best, luke-warm on the activity, but I really find it to be an essential part of my classes now and I am currently working out the next set of questions with enthusiasm!