Thursday, August 18, 2016

Just Apply Pressure - keeping me accountable

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

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

Keeping Magistra Patrick Accountable

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

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

Technique 1: The DEA

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

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

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

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

One Change

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

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

Technique 2: Discipulus Illustris

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

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

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

P.S. - Reflection

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

Technique 3: Scripts

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

Asking stories

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

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

Movie Shorts

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

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

Technique 4: Jobs

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

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

The Physical Set Up

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

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

The Mental Set Up (me)

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

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

The Mental Set Up (students)

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

Hopes and Dreams

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

P.S. - Day 1

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

The Big Picture

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

Latin by Numbers

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

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


Via Song

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

Decem in Lecto

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

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

Decem Ursulae

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

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

Via Counting

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

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

Then.... we make a deal

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

Via Math

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

The Set Up

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

The Game

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

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

The Added Bonus

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


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

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

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Creating a Welcoming Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Supporting TPR - quick suggestions to change it up!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The First Ten - TPR in Two Weeks

I am often asked how I start a level I class (or any level) using Comprehensible Input and using no textbook. Certainly the beginning of the year is overwhelming, even ignoring the question of what your curriculum/vocabulary list may be, so my hope is that this post provides some insight into what I do, and why I do it, as well as an easy to follow lesson plan for those who with to make use of it.

The What

TPR stands for Total Physical Response. There are a variety of ways this is employed, but the key components of this technique involve spoken language and/or commands in the target language and a physical response, usually involving the entire body. The benefits of this technique vary, depending on the way you do it. For this post, I am going to talk about a basic version that involves giving commands and completing actions in various ways (whole body response). Other ways of doing this include:

  • using American Sign Language or another form of sign language to communicate while speaking in the target language.* 
  • assigning gestures and signs (often made up by the class) to teach vocabulary and communicate.*
  • assigning gestures and signs to help students connect with grammar while communicating in the target language.* 
  • assigning gestures and whole body responses for key words to help tell a story
There are probably more ways to employ this technique, so feel free to share them in the comments! 

*I distinguish between ASL and gestures. ASL is a language and I treat it as such, employing communication using Latin and ASL. Gestures are non-ASL signs often made by particular teachers, groups, and/or students to serve a unique purpose. 

The Why

I love this technique. It is the first thing I did when I started teaching on the recommendation of my father because it was an easy way to give Comprehensible Input, builds community, and is a very easy way to quickly assess understanding. In addition to these reasons, I start every year with a little TPR because:

  • It give students quick and easy success, building language confidence and skill.
  • It serves to remind students of what they already know and our daily processes.
  • It sets the expectation for time in the target language. 
  • It allows first time students (whether you have a level I class, or some new additions) to quickly build vocabulary and early success (which I think is key for setting the tone for the year). 
  • It is easily changeable based on class size, ability, etc on a moment to moment basis. 
This is why I love TPR and use if often. It is a great activity for a day when I am feeling tired, or want to review vocabulary quickly. 

The How

To begin, I take stock of what's in my room and use this list that Bob Patrick shares to help form the vocabulary we'll learn during the two weeks (roughly 10 hours). There are some things I bear in mind when choosing which vocabulary to teach and focus on:

Is it high frequency AND/OR will we use it frequently in class? 

We base our vocabulary choices, in writing novellas, stories, and our lesson plans based on a few high frequency lists:
  1. Dickenson's Frequency List
  2. 50 Most Important Verbs
  3. Super Set Vocabulary (I developed this based on the frequency lists above AND on the Super Seven set that languages like Spanish and French have)
  4. Essential Latin Vocabulary
The second piece of this is to consider if we'll use it frequently in class. This will vary from class to class (e.g. if you have a window or separate chairs from desks), but the 50 Most Important Verbs can be very helpful here ask well. If it is high frequency and/or will be used often in class, I will teach it in the TPR session as an important word to know, rather than an icing word. 

Are there other words that go hand in hand?

This can be very useful when building which 4-5 words you will focus on in a day and can help with making connections. These can be verbs that work together or opposite each other, nouns and verbs that go together, etc. Some obvious pairs are:

  • open - close (door - window)
  • hit/knock - touch - demonstrate
  • draw - write - erase
  • marker - pen - pencil
  •  sit - stand (desk - chair)
  • floor - ceiling
  • walk - run

I may then teach these pairs on the same day or on subsequent days, which allows for review on a daily basis.

In what order will I teach these words?

If I bear in mind the goals of: being in Latin 90%+ of the day, giving kids easy and quick successes, and showing students they can understand Latin from the beginning, I will start with the very basics:

  • sit
  • stand
  • chair
  • desk
Already this builds for a very easy, and fun day. Especially if you add the icing words (words that you are using, but that kids don't need to know yet): quickly, slowly (more on this below). 

I will then build off that list and slowly add things so that each day I can review a little and introduce new things. 

The Plan

Below I link to and detail two lesson plans (Latin I and Latin II). I have left each document open to comments, so feel free to leave any comments or questions and I'll answer them on the document. Each lesson plan contains:
  1. key words in Latin
  2. icing words in Latin
  3. notes and sample scripts

Level I Class

Here is a link to the lesson plans I used last year when teaching Latin I using this TPR method for the first ten days (approximately 10 hours). I have left it so that anyone can comment on it. Please feel free to leave comments and questions. A few caveats to this link:
  • You'll notice the first day has more than 4-5 words. What we discovered was that this particular group of ones was ready that day for more and we improvised and then edited the list. You may find your students are also the same, OR that they need more limiting of vocabulary. 
  • We also required students to complete a picture dictionary that had to include: the Latin word, the English word, a picture defining the word. I maintained this the entire year. 
  • These words reflect the objects in my room. You may wish to edit the Bob Patrick's list (linked above) to make your own list. 
  • At the end of these two weeks, we did a TPR quiz. I took role this day (and, was also observed this day surprisingly) and when I called a student's name, I asked them to stand up and do something like open the door, demonstrate their pen, etc. 
Student progressed very quickly this year using this method. By the end, they knew a lot of words that were easily accessible to them and were used fairly regularly. 

During these two weeks, we also used "Circling with Balls" to teach words like to have, to want, to give, etc. You can see more on this below in the Latin II Class description. I like Circling with Balls (even though I don't use balls, but rather stuffed animals) because it lets individual students shine as well as allows for one on one interaction. I also like this because it forces me to learn student names actively, rather than looking at pictures, lists, or alphabetical things (which I'm not super at anyways). 

Here are some nifty things that I do to liven up class:
  • use adverbs to describe how students should sit/stand/run/walk/etc.
  • make students sit or stand VERY slowly or VERY quickly and scold if they do not follow exactly.
  • have students walk outside the room while people say goodbye
  • have students turn in circles while touching a desk or chair

Latin II Class

Here is a guide to the TPR I am doing currently with my IIs this year. Please note that this will update this and next week as I teach and add my notes. I have left it so that anyone can comment on it. Please feel free to leave comments and questions. I will answer them as I see them. I am really relying on circling this year, partially because I have new students whose names I want to learn and partially because I want to really drive home the idea of doing specific actions repeatedly in various contexts with students. Some caveats to these lessons:
  • I am working with my former students, students I inherited from my colleague, and a handful of students from other schools who have varying degrees of ability with CI, oral practice, etc. 
  • I am working with students who have a variety of vocabulary. For example, I usually use "sic" to mean yes, while some of my colleagues use "certe" or "ita". So, students are gaining some icing knowledge in how words are used differently. 
  • My colleagues this year are using a variety of ways to teach and review this vocabulary via my lessons. While I love TPR and circling, Rachel prefers TPRS, which works great for her and her students. We work together and collaborate, but still maintain freedom to work in a way best for us. 
This year relies heavily on Circling with Balls and uses TPR as an introduction and reinforcement of what we are doing. Students indicated one of their goals this year was to have more daily Latin and use Latin more often in our daily routine. To this end, I'm targeting words I know I will need to deliver instruction, help students get materials and complete assignments, etc. 


What you will find, in both years, is that certain students will lend themselves to being the "stars" of the day while others take a back seat and ride along This is okay! What this means is that some days will be really rich with circling and other days will rely on TPR and teacher direction. This may even vary from class to class. 

Some classes will move slowly and require some more prompting, and some classes will move quickly and may want more words or may be able to have a deeper discussion. This may also vary from day to day or student to student. Personally, I use those high flyers to deepen the discussion and provide more repetitions. 

Students LOVE stuffed animals. They like to hold them, play with them, tell stories with them, trade them, no matter the students' age. Use this to your advantage. 

If you use TPR in a different way or have other reflections, I'd love to hear them! I'd also love to see some discussions on the documents on how we can use this and expand this! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pokémon Go: Gotta Catch Them All (in the TL)

Even if you've been living under a rock, hiding in a cave, or raised in a barn (I ran out of locational clichés, sorry), you not only have heard of Pokémon Go, you have either started playing it yourself or encountered one of the millions of players strolling and staring fixedly at their phones. There are hotspots, benefiting local small businesses, that are full of Pokestops and Gyms and crowds of players helping each other out with Lures and shouts of "Squirtle is over here!" Pokémon Go is everywhere and usually accompanied by good will.

Pokémon Go is so ubiquitous, so popular, that it seems a shame not to figure out a way to exploit--I mean utilize--it (*edit: I made the same joke Laura Sexton did a week ago in her own Pokémon Go post! ignosce mihi!) to help my students re-familiarize themselves with Latin and gain a little more publicity for my program.

Almost from day 1 of its American release, I started wondering how I could bring it to my classroom. I wanted to create something that feels like the game, so Pokémon-themed worksheets were out, as were any regular class activities with a Pokémon face-lift: those would be obvious ploys. Instead, I wanted something that captures the feeling of hunting for Pokémon and "capturing" them while negotiating meaning in Latin, and I came up with this scavenger hunt approach.

Developing the Game
I named my Latin version Pokémon I ("I" means "Go" in Latin) and decided to make it volunteer-only. I don't like the thought of my students running all over campus during class, so they have to play the game before and after school or between classes. They can work in teams, and I limited the number of Pokémon to 27 for my own sanity's sake.

I looked into scavenger hunt apps, which could keep track of the team scores for me, but the free versions of each app were generally severely limited (we have 700 Latin students in our school, so even light limiting might be difficult) and the pay versions were too expensive for a one-shot event that I'd need to pay for myself. So Google Sheets will have to do for creating the scoreboard and the clues, and good old-fashioned star stickers for marking successfully "captured" Pokémon. Pokémon will be captured via good new-fashioned smartphone photography, and my current thought is that students will just bring their phones to me and show me the pictures (I have no idea how many students out of the 700 will sign up to play. If it's a ton, I might figure out a better way to turn in images).

So basically students will read Latin clues, use them to find Pokémon, take a picture, and turn in the picture to prove that they've captured them. I then mark their captured Pokémon on a spreadsheet, and the first team to "catch 'em all" wins.

Game Materials

The Pokémon. I printed these in color (for a small fee) in our media center, cut them out (without leaving the media center because I wanted to make sure they got in for lamination as quickly as possible), and had them laminated. Then I distributed them around the school, three in each Latin teacher's room (to make our students meet as many of us as possible) and in other various places as permission was given. I should add that I got permission from my principal (who is awesome) to set up the game in the first place. As I placed Pokémon, I wrote notes about each location.

The Flier. To get students started, I'm giving them a week to form teams and register with me. Since I'm planning to run the game for all five of our Latin classrooms, I created a flier that each of us can post in our rooms and advertise as much or little as we want. The flier lays out the rules of the game and registration for the game.

The Score Sheet. I created a score sheet that records the names of Pokémon, the number of points each is worth, team names, and team member names. My plan is to check off any Pokémon found by the various teams, then put a gold star in the team slots for easy at-a-glance reference and score tallying.

The Clues. I made a sample clue sheet to share with you as well as the official clue sheet (which is still being made, and will probably be in progress for much of the coming week) so you could see my eventual plan for the sheet. My clues won't be useful for you, except as examples.

The Vocabulary. This is something I'm sharing with my students as an aside, but Miriam created a Pokémon Go vocabulary list that students can use to discuss Pokémon Go in Latin, and I love the chance to involve Latin in something they do for fun on their own as well.

Feel free to make your own copy of any of these items and shape them for your own classes!

The Problem with Posting Ideas Instead of Results

I have no idea how well this will go. I'm hoping well, since I've put some real time into figuring it out and setting it up. I know that students who walked in on me cutting out Pokémon figures were intrigued and excited by the idea, and my son asked to come to the school to help me hide the Pokémon because he thinks the idea is great. But that doesn't mean it will be a success.

However, for things like this, it's best to strike while the iron is hot, and I thought some of you might want to do something similar, so it was important to offer this up when it would still be timely.

If you choose to do a Pokémon scavenger hunt, I'd love to hear how it goes for you! I'll post an update once I have results myself.