Monday, September 17, 2018

Report from the field: My Daily Routine

Recently, I posted about Monday tips and tricks and included John Piazza's weekly schedule. Last week, John Foulk, my colleague and friend, posted about finding support for the CI classroom.

I want to further that discussion a bit and talk about my daily schedule. I am going to skip my history with it... although, if you are interested in it you can check out our subscription service and our recent summer reflection series where I discuss in length.

My Schedule

My schedule this year is a little different in that last year and the previous year (when I started this), I had one prep. This year, as I am in charge of Latin IV (and we have 2 classes of Latin IV), I am also teaching one class of Latin II and two classes of Latin I. This has created a need (for me) for regular routine. My IVs were already used to the way I do things by now, but the IIs and Is have never had me before and so this was brand new to them (in the way that I do it). 

Daily Breakdown - ALL CLASSES

There are a few things that I do with all my classes. Variations (or lack thereof) are highlighted in orange.

Telephone Ritual

I give credit to Robert Patrick for this routine. I used to do it as needed, but now it is the first thing we do every day. In Latin, we go through where our phones should be and where they shouldn't be. Of course, this looks a little different by level:

Latin IV

These students know this by now and this serves merely as a reminder. We go through this quickly. 

Latin II

These students are used to it, but still need regular reminders. We go through it together, saying the words at the same time. 

Latin I

For these students, what I am asking is new. We go through each one and we do hand signals to show that we are ready for class. 


I do the date in Latin in every class, no matter what. It is done the same way in every class, but in my lower levels I sometimes break in English to make sure we understand or to ask follow up questions. I do not do the old Roman calendar. I see its benefits, but find it more useful to my students today that they use our calendar for the date. 

I don't vary this. We do it the same way every time because I want my students to feel this routine so that when I'm not here or when we do timed writes, they can do it on their own with little thought. 


We do the weather every day in my class. Last year I did not vary how we did it, but took advantage of the.... interesting weather we had: an eclipse, a hurricane, ice, snow, etc. But, this year... things have been relatively... stagnant, with the exception of rain, so I've gotten creative. Here are some variations I've done with a brief follow up on each. 
  1. with pictures - I started this way in August for my ones, who had never done this before. This was a way to provide some circling and give them visual input. My upper level also benefited from this. Each day I added a new picture. The first day was just the sun. The second day was the sun and clouds. The third day added hot and cold. The fourth day added wind, and so on. This led into a few days of slides with just the questions, no pictures on them. 
  2. with seasons - we are smack in the middle of changing seasons. In one month, fall officially begins (yay sweater and chili season). Most of my students are tired of the heat and the humidity and are hoping for some relief. This provided an opportunity to put up the seasons and discuss them and their differences. Day 1 included the change from summer to fall. Day 2 included all four seasons and a discussion of who liked what. Day 3 (tomorrow for me) will include all four seasons and the typical weather one finds in each season. 
  3. with the world - This may be one of my favourite ways to do weather right now. Here in Georgia, we are getting two types of weather: hot and sunny... and hot and humid... It gets boring. So, I picked some other kinds of weather (tornadoes, hurricanes, snow, monsoon, flood, lightning, etc.) and we talk about where in the world those things are happening. We've talked about Hurricane Lane, snow in the mountains in South America and Europe, lightning in Germany and Italy, and dust storms in Arizona. 

Daily Breakdown - Some classes Some Days

There are a few other things I do, but they don't happen every day or in every class. I've highlighted class specifics in blue and day specifics in green. Variations appear in orange. 

Nuntium - News

I only do the news in Latin II and IV. Originally, I had only intended to do it in Latin IV, but recently I accidentally showed the IIs the slide and they got really excited.... so now we do the news in Latin II as well. We do a news item on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. I choose news items that I hear on my way in on the radio or that I have heard about recently. This year alone we've talked about Hurricane Lane, a robbery of a lemonade stand in North Carolina, the fire in California, and Senator John McCain's death. Typically I will  I do it a bit differently in these classes:

  1. Latin IV - This is done entirely in Latin. I usually try to include the grammar topics we are covering as well to provide an in context example. We will discuss as needed and sometimes we get into a debate or discussion about a variety of things. 
  2. Latin II - This is done part in Latin and part in English. Mostly my goal is to get them understanding things in Latin about our current world. 

Grammar Topics

This is only in my Latin IV class. They are ready to receive a bit of explicit grammar instruction, so on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we spend about 5-10 minutes discussing a topic. Last year, students covered all the declensions of nouns and all 7 cases. We also discussed sentence structure and poetry. This year, we've covered: ablative absolutes, fear clauses, ablative of time when, accusative of duration of time, ablative of description, subjunctive uses. However I should state that all of these things are not new. We've been using them in class as needed since day 1 of Latin I. In their first week of Latin I students saw an indirect statement. In Latin II we used the ablative repeatedly (including ablative absolutes) and worked with the supine. It is a common misconception that teachers who use CI do not use/teach grammar. We use grammar every day and our students see (often considered) complex grammar structures before their traditional class counterparts, however we don't explicitly talk about it until the students are ready. 

Free Voluntary Reading

I promise I am working on a post about how I do this. In fact, it should come out some time in October! But... in the meanwhile. I do free voluntary reading across the board, however it starts at different times of the year. Once we start it, we do it every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I've broken down how I do it (or plan to do it) below by level. 
  1. Latin IV - These students have been doing this now for 3 years. They started reading this year in the first week. Right now (August 2018), they read on Mondays for 10 minutes, Wednesday for 12+ minutes, and on Fridays we hold a class "book club". We talk about what we are reading, what we like, and other things like this. 
  2. Latin II - these students are in their first year of FVR with me. They started reading last week. Right now (August 2018), they read on Mondays for 5 minutes, Wednesdays for 5+ minutes, and on Fridays we hold a class "book club" (see above.)
  3. Latin I - These students have not started FVR. They are still acquiring basics and I won't start FVR until probably January of next year (2019). When we start, we'll read on Mondays for 5 minutes, Wednesdays for 5+ minutes, and on Fridays we'll hold "book club" (see above). 
I posted a few weeks ago on the FVR project my IVS did. You can read it here. Be on the lookout in October for my post of posts on FVR!


I am loving my daily routine right now. It keeps me accountable to (a) start class on time and (b) get us into the swing of Latin. Right now, my IVs are comfortable with 90%+ time in Latin. My IIs just experienced their first few days of 80%+ in Latin, and my ones are averaging about 50%+ in Latin right now. I credit this, in part, to my daily routine. It gets us speaking Latin right off the bat and sets clear expectations for class. If I don't have all the pieces ready, the kids know and they ask about it. 

This is something I will definitely continue doing and I am excited by some of the unique things my colleagues are coming up with! I'm hoping he'll post on it, but Keith has us doing things with "quot videtis" (how many do you see) and visual illusions as well as "quid hoc die accidit" what happened on this day. 

Do you have a daily routine? What is it like?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Invisibles - Who, What, Where, When, How

The Invisibles. It kind of sounds like a weird sports team that is probably the biggest underdog you've ever seen... in reality, it is has become one of my "go to" plans for just about everything.


Firstly, I must give a shout out and credit due to Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden for creating the Invisibles. You should head over to Facebook and check out their group CI Liftoff (also available on Instagram where I follow them), and you can check out Ben Slavic's website:

I'm going to go ahead and also ask their forgiveness for a few things:
  1. I am not fully untargeted. :)
  2. I may not get everything perfect. If I miss something, please leave a comment so I can update and get it right.


An image from a Latin II student.
We were working with fantastical
creatures and unique body parts
and stories. 
To put it briefly, Invisibles are (essentially) student creations of characters that don't really exist in the physical world. Ben Slavic writes that there are a few iterations of these in the original process:

  1. One Word Image creation (all class)
  2. Invisibles stories from the OWI
  3. Kids are invited to create their own individually created characters
  4. More stories come from the newly created images.
One thing is key, however, the invisible must be fully created. For the original process, this means that they have a bio/backstory and a problem needing to be solved. (1)


According to Ben and Tina's original plan, as I understand it, this is both a whole class thing (steps 1-2, 4) and an individually based thing (step 3). For me, this is a.... 

  • whole class thing (although I don't do this often)
  • a group thing
  • an individual thing
  • a sub thing


That's one of the things I love about the Invisibles... it is completely workable into any lesson and plan. It is often one of my go tos for sub plans because it gives me lots of good material to use when I get back, and I often do!
This student added a "like" of their
Invisible. This Invisible likes to eat
hot wings. 

One thing I will say is that if this is done in the lower levels, you may have to provide some lexical support for them as they create, if you are asking them to also work with the language. This may be in vocabulary and translation support. This is an activity that I will do with my ones this year, but not until a little later after we've gotten more vocabulary under our belts. 


If this is your first encounter with the invisibles. I strongly recommend you check out Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden's work. They are the original creators of the texts involving the Invisibles. There is lots of discussion on this on the Facebook group CI Liftoff and on Ben Slavic's website as well. 

As for the how, I've done this a few ways and I really like the variety I can get from it. Below are some of my variations on doing the Invisibles.

Before I share, please allow me to remind us that I am not fully untargeted. You will see elements of both some of my targets and the untargeted-ness (if you will) that is the nature of the Invisibles.

Variation 1: completely individual

This may be good for lower levels and is GREAT for a day when you are worn out or for a sub day:
  1. students are given a document that walks them through choosing aspects that you might be targeting, like:
    1. body parts, number of body parts, colours, shapes, places, names, etc. 
  2. After students decide the details, they draw a detailed image of their invisible and label everything as they had decided it. 
  3. optional have students use the building sheet from step 1 to write a few sentences describing their Invisible. 

Variation 2: Individual + Group

This works much like the previous one, but for step 3, have them get with a partner and choose 1 image to write about. They can work together to create a description and, in higher levels also provide:
  • back story in TL
  • problem
  • full problem and story (solved)

Variation 3: individual-ish + Group

  1. Students are given a document that asks them to choose 1 thing about their Invisible.
  2. Students trade papers.
  3. Students choose a second thing, on a new document. 
  4. Students trade papers.
  5. Process continues until all aspects of Invisible are chosen. 
  6. Students get their paper back and illustrate the Invisible. 
  7. Students get with a partner and together pick one to write a story about/describe. 
I like this for a day when I need a break and also, if I have a sub I know will do it the way intended, I might leave this for a sub. Doing it this way takes the entire class, for sure, and provides some truly unique images. 


One of the BIGGEST pay offs for me and my kids with the Invisibles is what I do after. Sometimes we will create a story, but I admit that I am not that great at, nor do I have the skill to follow through and remember them so well. Rather, I like to use Invisibles with a picture description follow up. Here is my general process. 
  1. Choose 3-5 images that are clear and unique and write descriptions of them. 
  2. I read the descriptions 3 times, slowly, to my students who listen and attempt to draw the image. 
    1. 1st time - listen only
    2. 2nd-3rd time - draw and edit drawing
  3. I project the image. We check our work and discuss. 
I love this. It can take an entire period and the students LOVE seeing their work on the screen. I like
watching them listen and draw. Sometimes they'll figure out it is their image and get excited. It is the best. 

The discussion can range from the very concrete (what's in the image) to the abstract and imaginary. It is a great discussion, gets more reps in, and is enjoyable by all. 

How are you doing Invisibles (if at all)? I'd love to hear about it! Comment below. 

(1) credit to Ben Slavic's post on Invisibles.  

Monday, September 3, 2018

Post-its and Classroom Community: Quick Vocabulary Check-in

Shortly into the school year, I wanted some quick and easy feedback from my Latin I students to find out what, out of the new vocabulary, they felt like they really knew and what they felt like needed more work. That way I could focus the beginning of the next week on the vocabulary they needed most, and I would be building trust with them that their input is valuable to me. Wins all around.

Okay, so that's partially a lie.

I really wanted an excuse to try out a new toy: printed post-its!

The fabulous Meredith White (@PRHSspanish) has been sharing some of the things she's been doing with printed post-its on Facebook and Twitter lately, and I just wanted to try out the new technology. You can find the tutorial she shared on printing post-its here.

I quickly printed the template, put my own post-it notes on the template, and then put important vocabulary from the first couple of weeks on a word document, spaced out so it would end up on the post-it notes, and, ecce! printed post-its!

At the end of each Latin I class, I asked students to divide into groups of 5-6 and gave each group a set of post-its. I also posted the following papers that said the following around the room:
1. I really know this
2. I sort of know this
3. I don't know this

Students were told to discuss the words in their groups, then stick the notes around the papers that best applied. Afterwards, I took pictures of the results to be my notes for planning the next week! Much easier than rifling through a bunch of papers. Sadly I don't have any images from the prep--I was too focused on putting everything together, but I do have a couple of pictures after the first class to offer (I figured you didn't need three sets of Latin I results).

I took the pictures, re-sorted the post-its, and reused them for each Latin I class.

I then used the results--especially that "dat," "dies," and "cape" were commonly in the "sort of" know or "don't know" categories--to design a story for the next week so we could focus on those words.

Miriam and I are now planning to print more post-its for much more intriguing uses--with templates that we'll share with you in future posts!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Saving the Latin Novella--A Small Service

So there was a small fire that started over the "merger" (read: takeover or buyout, but inside the same company) between Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing and the short of it is that Latin as a language is not supported by Kindle--which is why Pomegranate Beginnings Publishing has never published in Kindle.

It honestly makes no sense. We use the Latin alphabet to write English, so it is not a difficult thing to publish in Latin, and adding an alphabet to a program is amazingly simple nowadays, for other considerations (i.e., macrons).

Our conversations with the companies in question have been confusing, at best. Attempts to contact Createspace have resulted in responses that do nothing more than to clarify that the company knows little, if anything, about what KDP intends to do about publishing currently unsupported languages. Contacting KDP does seem to be more promising; both Miriam and another independent Latin publisher have received affirmatives that Kindle Direct Publishing will offer Latin publishing in the future.

The issue is that "the future" is an undefined time frame and no one is willing to close the parameters further. Miriam pressed, but was given nothing more. This leaves KDP a lot of leeway to put us off indefinitely and, without some pressure from us, they are unlikely to feel like they need to do more than make a vague promise.

So here is what I'd like from you, wonderful and lovely readers and supporters of not just PBP but Latin and Latin novellas and CI and opportunities for student-centered growth:

Click on the tweets below and click "like." If you are feeling especially productive and supportive, retweet them. That's it. We just need Kindle Direct Publishing to see that there is a large number of people out there who care about the availability of independent Latin publishing.

If Latin isn't available by November, which I offer as a due date because of ACTFL and Black Friday/Cyber Monday, then I recommend we organize into a twitter storm. We can organize to tweet non-stop, over and over, for a concentrated five minutes, and trend, if only for an instant. Hopefully it won't come to that. I'll do a follow-up blog if it looks like we need to do that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Guest Post - Finding Support and Avoiding Burnout

I am very pleased to share that my colleague and friend John Foulk has written today's blog post. It is a description, play by play, and debrief from his and my presentation this summer for our district on finding support for teachers who use Comprehensible Input. Thank you John for this wonderful post!

Everything is exciting when you are a teacher beginning to use CI in your classroom. You are having fun with your students as you all use the target language in fun and enriching ways - Total Physical Response (TPR), Movie Talks, Reader’s Theatre, you name it! You become the facilitator of all this fun and the language expert for your students. Your students depend on you each and every day to make your messages in the target language comprehensible and compelling and to slow down when they do not understand. As much fun as you and your students are having and as much as they are acquiring the language, you carry a great responsibility and you will inevitably need resources for inspiration and for your own sanity. The purpose of this post is to show you that you are not alone as a CI teacher, whether you’re a newbie or a veteran. It can be exhausting being the language acquisition facilitator in your classroom and that is normal! Few, if any, of us learned our language with CI, so our CI teaching experiences have been a mix of successes and failures and of trial and error. Whether you’re the only language teacher in your school (or of your particular language) or one of a large foreign language department, we all need support and resources upon which we may depend.


The fact that you’re reading a CI blog like this in the first place shows that you are already taking the wise first step to seek support! There are MANY CI blogs out there, so check them out and find ones you like! Blogs are great resources for activities (often with materials for free!) and units and provide an opportunity for you to read about other teachers’ experiences. Many blogs are specific to a particular language, but many are not. If you teach German, still consult blogs for CI Spanish because many activities will work regardless of the language you teach. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the multitude of blogs, but go at your own pace. Consult them with a specific goal in mind (e.g. looking for writing activities, how to teach family vocabulary, et al.), then find your favorites, and then read further when you have the time. Simply put, go at your own pace.

Recommended CI Blogs:

Blog Name
Latin Best Practices

Also on Facebook
Run by Bob Patrick, John Piazza, and David Maust; Latin examples, but all languages are welcome
The Comprehensible Classroom
Run by Martina Bex. Spanish specific, but.. LOTS of great stuff for all languages
Bryce Hedstrom
While Bryce is a Spanish teacher, he works to ensure that materials are available in a variety of languages!
Stephen Krashen
Krashen makes as much of his research available for FREE as possible!
Todally Comprehensible Latin
Run by Keith Toda. This is a great place to get step by step walk throughs of activities.
TRPS for Chinese
Run by a variety of people and examples are given in Chinese, but I get a lot of activities and variations from this site!
La Maestra Loca
By Annabelle Allen. Spanish specific, but materials are applicable to all languages.
Fluency Matters Blog
Fluency Matters provides materials, publishes novellas, and sponsors the annual iFLT (International Forum on Language Teaching) Conference.
Hearts for Teaching Blog
By Laurie Clarcq, an experienced CI/TPRS teacher and trainer. Provides materials for activities, strategies, and support.
Terry Waltz
By Terry Waltz, an experienced CI teacher and trainer. Chinese specific, but materials and resources are applicable to all languages.
Spice Up Your Latin!
Shameless plug for my own blog.

Elsewhere online, there are plenty of social media groups and hashtags to follow. If you are on Facebook, join the CI Liftoff, IFLT/NTPRS, and Story Listening groups. These groups all have active userbases who are willing to answer your questions and provide materials and inspiration. If you are on Twitter, follow your favorite CI gurus! If you are already reading a CI blog, chances are the owner is also active on Twitter. Follow and participate in #langchat, a hashtag with which language teachers from all over discuss a different language teaching topic every week. Search #langchat on Twitter to check out previous topics.

The Internet can only teach you so much, so try to attend CI workshops and conferences when you can. IFLT (International Forum on Language Teaching) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) offer institutes every summer. In 2019, the National TPRS Conference will be in Chicago from July 8-12. Be sure to seek out CI-related presentations and workshops at language-specific conferences and at regional and national conferences like ACTFL. Many of these conferences offer sessions in which you can be the student in a CI classroom to see what CI is like from your students’ point of view. Last February, I attended a session with Terry Waltz and learned some Hawaiian, including some written characters! Have something to share? Give a CI-related presentation yourself!

Low, No, and Sub Activities:

It’s Monday. Or it’s Wednesday - and you have the worst headache. Or it’s Friday and you are worn out from being the enthusiastic language facilitator all week. THAT IS OKAY! We have all been there! Teaching with CI does not mean that you have to be on each and every day. And what about those days when you have a substitute?! Who will be the language expert then?! There are plenty of activities that provide input to your students and require little or no preparation.

Low-Prep Activities:
  • Draw, Discuss, Read
  • Dictations
  • Word Chunk Game
  • Either Or

No Prep Activities:
  • Invisibles
  • Star Student (Discipulus Illustris/La persona especial)
  • Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)
  • Calendar Talk

Sub Day Activities:
  • Cartoon Strip
  • 4-Word Picture Story
  • Pictionary Dictionary
  • Re-reading a story already known
    • True/False statements
    • Comprehension questions

Avoiding Burnout:

When you start teaching with CI, you are probably full of enthusiasm and ideas. But what do you do to maintain that momentum? Take some of the burden off of yourself! Again, go slow. You are learning to teach with CI, so you will have successes and make mistakes. You do not need to go full CI when you start. Afraid to let go of teaching explicit grammar? Find a balance! When I first started teaching with CI, it felt great that my students were so comfortable with Latin and had acquired so much vocabulary, but I was worried because by the end of Latin I they only had readings with verbs in the third person. Compare that to my own experience of learning Latin, when I was conjugating verbs in the present tense in all persons and numbers in the first week! My point is, you will feel like a failure at times, but a lot of teaching with CI is simply trusting that you are doing what is best for your students and their language acquisition.
Routines help. Many CI teachers (myself included) start class with Calendar Talk. Last year, my Latin I students knew when they entered my classroom to grab a whiteboard and a marker to write the date and weather in Latin. (The only downside to this was that I was going through dry erase markers like water - so writing in notebooks might work better for you!) Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) is a great way to give students input on a regular basis with no additional effort on your part. Other routines like Circling with Balls and Star Student help build community and serve as comfortable routines for you and your students. Many CI teachers have student jobs in the classroom, such as a brain break reminder, weather/calendar person, timer for the amount of time everyone is 100% in the target language, supplies distributer and/or collector, among others. Student jobs are a great way to relieve yourself of all the classroom responsibilities while also allowing your students to take responsibility for their classroom environment and build a sense of belonging.
Remember the value of low- and no-prep activities too. Just because an activity requires little preparation on your part does not mean that you are not providing valuable comprehensible input to your students and/or practice in the target language. Monday-friendly activities like dictations, TPR, pictionary dictionary, and 4-word picture stories have their place. Our students, like us, appreciate down time too.

Your CI journey will be filled with ups and downs, but remember to go at your own pace, seek out support, and be yourself! Some activities and procedures will suit your teaching style and others will not - and that is okay! Just remember that you and your students will have fun and enjoy the language acquisition experience much more than before!

Monday, August 20, 2018

FVR - a project in three parts

I have started and deleted many a post on Free Voluntary Reading (FVR). In fact, I have a draft sitting there which goes through the last 3 years of iterations of FVR in my classroom that... one day.... I swear I'll publish. Today, however, I want to detail the project I gave my current IVs this year. I am quite impressed with how it has gone and, I'll admit, part of me wants to post this to brag on my students and how well they are able to handle things because I really am impressed. We are two weeks into the school year and my IVs keep impressing me more every day. I'm so stinking proud of them :)

Some Background

A few things you should know before I tell you what I did. 
  • My IVs started FVR in Latin II Spring semester. First they started in groups, then individually with small group discussions, and now individually with whole class discussions. 
  • We try to buy all the novellas as they come out, after the teachers read them and determine if we think our kids will like them. 
  • Right now we have a wide variety of novellas (although not all or enough in my opinion) and the list of Latin novellas is growing daily! I am so excited.

The Premise

Last year, Rachel and I did a book study on The Reading Whisperer and Readicide. You can listen to our book study and see our notes here. In May, I spoke to our team (Keith Toda, Robert Patrick, Rachel Ash, and John Foulk) about the possibility of doing a project based on The Reading Whisperer and what she does with her elementary students to get them interested in reading. I expanded it because we are reading in a second language and sometimes it can be daunting trying to figure out if a novella is (a) interesting to you and (b) appropriate for your level of proficiency. 

The Process

Desired Result

a catalog of the novellas we currently have that includes all the details a student might want to determine if this book was one they wanted to read:
  1. title + author
  2. description of cover
  3. number of pages...
    1. in the book
    2. in each chapter (average)
    3. of chapters
  4. genre
  5. details about the dictionary
    1. on the page
    2. in the back
  6. a short description in English no spoilers

A Process in 3 Parts 

We completed this process in three pieces and this took us about 7 days (15-20 min per day) over the course of 2 weeks. 

Part 1

Students worked individually for ~3 days with the novellas. They took a novella that they hadn't read in the past (ideally) and took notes on the basics of the novella (title, author, pages, etc) and then some other notes on the feel and idea of the book including the difficulty/ease of reading and notes on the dictionary.

Part 2

Students got into groups of 2-3 and worked together on the books they'd done to get all the information asked for (including the English summary) and submitted it to a survey online. Between 2 classes of Latin IV students, I got ~75 responses over the course of another ~3 days. 

Part 3

Once I got all the responses, I compiled them into lists by novella. I gave each group 2-3 novellas. Their job was to compile all the information into 1 single entry about the novella. They wrote it out and gave it to me. This took about ~30-40 minutes on 1 day. 

Follow Up

So, what am I doing with all this info? Well, a few things;

A grade

Students received a grade for the notes they took in the beginning. I looked to see whether students communicated how difficult the book was and what notes they took on the subject of the book. 

A catalog

I compiled all their notes into one single catalog. Then, we printed QR codes to go on the backs of the books and had them taped on. Now, any time a kid wants to read a book, but isn't sure what it is about, they can scan the code and get a quick view of all the details of the book. 

It's a win/win :) 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Serving Poetry 6 Ways

This post is a long time coming. I actually wrote the title and left the post blank over a year ago. I took the pictures a year ago too. That's how long this post has taken for me to write it.

It's not that the post itself has been insanely hard, just that life, especially the way that I live it, tends to get busy, because I tend to be a passionate teacher who takes on a lot of things that I believe need to be taken on--I honestly do all the things I do because I believe in them, care about them, and want everyone and everything I'm involved with to be successful, so I can't just halfway do them. And sometimes something slips. Like this blog post.

So I'll #failforward and write it now, over a year later.

We read a little Catullus, a fun poet, especially for teenagers, because he's extremely #relatable (I hope my son sees that) and I wanted to help students delve a little deeper into his mindset, but approach him in their own ways and comfort zones. The poem is Catullus 70, and if you are not a Latinist, it expresses doubt about how much his girlfriend truly feels about him.

What is cool about this activity is it is a chance for students to self-select their approach based on their own strengths, and it is very independent, so it is a break for you, the teacher, so you get to mostly overview but don't have to be the focus the entire time--a great thing to bring out on a day when you might not have the energy to lead the class but you still want meaningful engagement with the language and text!

I set up six stations around the room and set up signs directing students to choose a station based on their interests. Here are the focuses I came up with:
  • Art: Pingite Carmen! Illustrate the poem in enough detail that it will be clear. The final form needs to be in color. Choose one butcher paper sheet.
  • Music: Cantate Carmen! Set the poem to music--it has to be recognizable as actual music and flow well with the words. Be ready to demonstrate the song.
  • Acting: Carmen Agite! Act out the poem--must be practiced and ready to perform. Should make the poem crystal clear.
  • Poetry: Scribite Carmen--Anglice! Translate the poem into poetic English--must clearly represent the same themes. Choose one butcher paper sheet to write the poem on.
  • Analyze: Componite Carmen! Compare the poem to two other poems or songs. Explain the connections between the poems and songs. Choose one butcher paper sheet to write the comparisons on.
  • Emote: Scribite de Carmine! Write a reaction to the poem that explains the thoughts it connects to or inspires. Any connections are fine. Choose one butcher paper sheet to write your reactions on.
Afterwards students presented their takes on Catullus' angst to the class and I got to hang up some great interpretations. One of my favorites was a poem that felt like it was straight out of So, I Married an Axe Murderer.

Fun, easy, and full of repetitions and automatically required us to delve deeper into the reading. This is something I had even forgotten I had done and will probably be using soon with my Latin I and II classes!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Monday Tips and Tricks

The New Year is coming. Just kidding, it's here! For those of us in the South, the new school year is underway or near abouts. I thought I'd share a short post on the tips and tricks I live by on Mondays:

For a tired Monday. 

  • Dictationes are my friend. When I am particularly tired or I know my kids are, I will turn to a dictatio. They are calm, focused, and quiet. (Here is the write up from Latin Best Practices)
  • OWATS are also a good friend. These are great to review or use new words and get material for following days. 
  • Picture Descriptions are another low key activity. They allow more discussion in the target language than the previous two options. 

For a "get up and go" Monday. 

  • The QR code dictatio is a great Monday activity. It gets kids up and moving, requires little of you in the moment, and ignites excitement about things to come. 
  • Total Physical Response is another great moving activity. You can use this on Mondays to assess, review, and teach. 

For the Monday after a break. 

  • Collective Memory is an awesome way to get kids back into the groove after a break. We often do collective memory in August, January, and after Spring Break
  • "Quid Agis?" activities are also great for this kind of Monday. You can teach holiday words, find out who traveled, and use key verbs to discuss what is important to kids. 
  • You can also do discipulus illustris (la persona especial) on a Monday like this. It is a great way to get kids involved and engaged. 
  • Personalised Question and Answer is another play on a lot of this list. It can be a great Monday activity. 

Links to Other Schedules.

What do you like to do on Mondays?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Changes and Updates to PBP and Stepping into CI

Hello all!

I just wanted to document a few quick, but important changes to our websites:

  1. Contact Us is no longer located on the PBP blog (this site), but rather on the homepage of
  2. Links have been updated on the PBP blog (see page above). 
  3. Our Products page has moved to the Stepping into CI website! On this page you'll find
    1. information on all our currently published books
    2. options to shop by title or series
    3. a link to purchase order forms
    4. links to the Amazon pages for each product
    5. links to any free resources we offer for each product
  4. Our next Latin Radio Project is on its way out! Facies Mirabilis is currently in the publishing phase. Episode 1 is available for free and episode 2 is already published to our subscription service. 
  5. We've added a NEW resource for beginning CI teachers! Check out this work in progress here and let us know if we've missed anything!
Additionally, we are hearing your comments and working on ways to:
  • download audio (for our novellas or the Latin radio project)
  • publish our podcast on a popular podcast app
Finally, NEW books are coming soon! 
  • magus mirabilis in Oz (adapted and translated by Miriam Patrick)
  • Medea: fabula amoris (written and illustrated by Miriam Patrick)
  • Echo: fabula amoris (written by Rachel Ash)
  • Itinera Petri Book II (currently in writing process by Bob Patrick)

Thank you ALL for your support over this time! 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Any questions, comments or concerns?

It's the most wonderful time of the year..... (at least until August comes and we get all excited about the new year and new ideas and new kiddos)!

Many teachers give some kind of end of year survey to their kids to evaluate their experience and how they, as teachers, can improve. In this post, I wanted to give an overview of my experience with these, what I did this year, and the results I got from my kids. I also want to talk about what we do with these results - how we can use them and what we should take away from them.

The Past 

What I have asked:

I've been doing these surveys for years. I want to know what my kids like and what we've done well. I also want to get ideas for the next year. I've seen many iterations of this and have tried a few different ones myself.

  • a detailed questionnaire on specific things we've done - These often include questions about student motivations, studying, and grades. Personally, while these things are important on a case by case basis, they are not key when it comes to an end of the year survey for me. They are important when it comes to student evaluations for themselves, but it shouldn't play into my evaluation of me. 
  • Plus/Deltas - Not only have I done these, but I have posted about them. They work great, for some things, but I do not think they are most useful for a full semester review. If I were to do these, it would be for a specific activity or lesson. 
  • 3 questions - This is the most recent version (except what I did this year). It is what many of my colleagues use as well:
    • What is one thing we've done this year that has HELPED you?
    • What is one thing we've done this year that has NOT HELPED you?
    • If you could change, ONE THING about Latin class you'd change to help you make progress?

My experiences

  • Detailed survey
    • I found that if a student hadn't studied or didn't have the motivation I expected, I was tempted to ignore their feedback because, "hey, they didn't put in the time." But, if I think about it, this survey is about me and my class, not what they do in their own time. 
    • I found this to be too taxing on a kid. They'd get caught up in the other questions and we'd run out of time, or they'd rush through it, and I would be left trying to interpret less than clear answers.
  • Plus/Deltas
    • I found that it was really easy to go onto a side road that steered away from the focus. Often the focus would become things I couldn't change, or things that spoke about students, rather than the focus. 
    • I also found it was really easy to go negative and find yourself begging for a plus. That can be incredibly disheartening to both students and teachers. 
    • Lastly, since these tend to be done publicly, many students may not speak at all, for fear of criticism or ridicule and since the list is singular
  • 3 questions
    • I found myself focusing on the negative and sometimes, it was really hard to deal with. 
    • I found that often those negatives were written in a way meant to hurt me, or written in a way that didn't provide ways to improve at all. 
    • The "change" requested often had little to do with we did and more with things I could change like: the heat and AC in the classroom, the time of day I had X student, the class size, etc. 

The Present

What I asked this year

Last year, when I got some particularly negative feedback that had little to do with what I had done and felt personal, I decided to make a change. I really am dedicated to improving every year and so I wanted to find a way to ask for feedback, but try to avoid personal attacks on myself, my language, or other students. So, I came up with these three questions:
  1. What is something we've done this semester that you really LIKED?
  2. What is something we've done this semester that you feel HELPED you the most?
  3. If you could do more of any one thing, what would it be?
These questions focus on positives, but also reveal things I could improve on. I know what my lessons were, I can see how often I did things. I did this last fall and got some great feedback. I've worked to include it this semester. 

The Results

Last semester revealed that students really liked interactive things and were enjoying tasks over written assessments. It also revealed that students' skills were evolving and so should some of my lessons. I worked to make that happen this semester. 

This semester's results are linked here. You'll find in this list basic numbers of students who said these things were enjoyable, were helpful, and that they want more of. Please be aware that as of my reflection a number of students hadn't taken the survey (AP testing and such) and I threw out 1-2 responses that were less than helpful.


I just gave my survey this week. This year, I gave it on a google survey rather than on paper. I found it easier to collate responses that way. Overall, the responses were what I expected:
  • many kids like things like movie shorts, games, etc.
  • many kids felt like dictations were very helpful.
  • kids want more interactive things and more games
A few things surprised me:
  • the number of kids who liked timed writes went up from last year
  • where in previous years the focus was on specific activities, this year there was a lot of discussion of units we did that were enjoyed.
It was really nice to see how many kids have enjoyed what we did this year. It validates the way we do things here and the choice we give kids. 

I'm not quite sure how these surveys will affect what I do next year. I do see that many of them are ready for more and more intensive timed writes (based on this and some discussions I've had), but that was already part of my plan for next year. I will need to sit more with these, but I will definitely reference them when the time comes to think about the fall. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Organisation in the CI classroom

It's May! If you're like me, you are already making plans for next year and those include ways to become more organised. Also, if you are like me, you have a Pinterest board full of ideas on how to do this. Lastly, if you are like me, you often start and fail to finish these ideas and get lost in all the options. My post today is another form of "round up" and discussion. I am sharing ideas for organisation in the CI classroom along with my personal experience with them. I'd love to hear your ideas for organisation and how you handle these issues.

My organisation system (for me)

I keep my organisation system in a very particular way. I've tried them all - desk calendars, Google calendar, agendas.... all of them. What I've come to settle on, and really enjoy is a bullet journal. Each morning I sit down and update my journal and add anything I think of right away. As the day goes on, I add things and mark them as appropriate. Right now on my weekly spread, I have my tasks and appointments, and a sticky note of grading I need to do. Bullet journals are great for those who love sticky notes like me. Below is a labeled picture of this week's spread. 

My organisation system (for lesson plans)

As many of you know, I collaborate with a number of other teachers. Over the years, it has included teachers of multiple languages, and in both person and online. To that end, I have a specific format that I use each week for lesson plans (pictured below). It lists the days, has a space for writing notes, and a final row for things I still need to do. 

My organisation system (for students and supplies)

I have tried a lot of systems for organising supplies and things I do with students. I have listed many of the more popular ones below. Now, my system is much more relaxed and consists of a few things:
  • sticky notes! I use sticky notes to mark papers for copying, and mark them for my substitutes. I will use different colours for different classes to help be clear. 
  • File Folders! I love folders. I use them everywhere. I have a different folder for each class, and they live in my desk drawer. When I pull thing for grading (see bullet point 3), and have graded them, I put them in these folders to remind me to pass them back out. 
  • Hanging file folders! I have a set of file folders that hang. When I pull the entire thing down, it folds into an expanding file easy to pack up. My students turn in their assignments here based on class period. You can find these files, here. 
  • A small set of drawers! I have a set of 3 drawers that are often shown on Pinterest as a "file, copy, grade" set. Instead, I have a "file" drawer and a drawer for things I use that I don't want out and about (masking tape, stapler, hole punch, etc.). My third drawer is kind of a "junk" drawer for things I need to go through like old posters, papers, etc. I clean these drawers out every year. 
  • Cell Phone Pockets! I have taken hanging shoe pockets and put them on the back wall. Each has a tag inside, numbered. Students may turn in their phones at the beginning of the period and take their tag (I give them a ticket they can use to charge their phones with). I also will tell students to turn their phones in to this system when: I see them out during class, during final exams, etc. 
  • Assignment Folders! I use file folders in a basket to leave work for students who are absent or who are resubmitting work. There is a file online where they can see what folder something is in. 
  • Point System! I use a variation of Lauren Watson's point system and Meredith White's ticket system. I am planning to edit it some for next year, but you can hear more about it in our podcast. Essentially the students earn points for speaking in Latin, using rejoinders, and leaving the space as it should be (and impressing me). When a class earns 100 points, we trade them in for a fun Friday. 

Organisation Round Up

Here we go! 
  • Student Jobs (and my previous organisation system) - This worked for a while (and we still do the date and weather every day, but that's for another post). Now I've changed what I do with jobs to only include what I need when (which is usually time keepers, note takers, etc.). You can read more about Bryce Hedstrom's resources with student jobs and classroom management here
  • File and Computer organisation - Martina Bex wrote a nice blog post on how she organises her files and her social media. Here are my thoughts
    • computer files - I solely use Google Drive. At home I have a Chromebook and I am fully on the Android train (sorry fam. I will never switch to Apple). I love Google drive and its capabilities. 
    • paper files - I get rid of these as much as possible. If it is something I want to keep, I will scan it and put it online. Otherwise, I recycle. 
    • Pinterest Boards - I love Pinterest. It is one of my two go-to social medias (Instagram being the other). I use Instagram and Pinterest for just about every aspect of my life, while something like Twitter and Facebook are solely professional (and Facebook is slowly dying from my life - sorry). I have boards and am in the process of organising those boards. Pinterest is great for ideas. 
  • Daily Engagement Assessment - You can read some of my thoughts on this in the first bullet point, but I still use the DEA regularly. I am considering some changes for next year, when I get first years again, but I consider this a staple in my class. 

Daily Rituals

Lastly, I want to take a second and talk about daily rituals. I have developed one this last year that I really like, but I have made changes to it. I will be posting on this later. For now, you can read Bob Patrick's thoughts and John Piazza's thoughts below.