Thursday, December 6, 2018


This year I am working on my gifted certification. With that comes weekly classes and a requirement of outside hours that include case studies, lesson planning, and implementation of strategies and activities. Recently we had one that was very similar to something Rachel had done previously in the year with post its. I was already intrigued by what she did and so I decided to give this a try. I found that I was pleasantly surprised and the students really enjoyed it and found it helpful.

Intro and Purpose

The basic premise of this activity is that students get up and mark their level of agreement with certain sentences and questions. What you do with the information can lead to discussion or a follow up activity of sorts. 

The purpose of this activity is to get kids moving and thinking. It also serves as a formative assessment and a survey of students' thoughts an opinions. 

Set Up and Preparation

The set up for this can be quite simple, or, if you want to provide the students with stickers to mark their answers, it can take longer. I've done this activity 3 times now. The first time, I just asked kids to mark with markers. This was easy for me (set up took about 5 minutes). The second time, I wanted to give kids stickers to mark their answers. Stickers are fun and I also have a large collection. this took longer - about an hour to set up and cut out groups of stickers. 

Teacher Prep 

  1. Decide on an appropriate amount of sentences/questions. I would choose between 10-12.
  2. Write the sentences/questions. You could...
    1. ask survey style questions to gauge the pace, comfort, community of your class. 
    2. write vocab words for kids to tell you how well they know each word
    3. write true/false statements about a story and kids decided how true or how false
    4. write open ended statements/questions that students can agree or disagree with. 
  3. The design of the papers is up to you. you can see how I did it with the sample images on this post. I might design it a different way next time. 
  4. Post them on the room. You want to vary where they are so students have to walk around and look, rather than follow each other in a single line. I placed mine:
  5. 90 sets of 12 stickers each!
    1. on various bulletin boards
    2. on the back of the door
    3. on my cabinet
    4. on the white board
    5. on top of a bookshelf
    6. on my desk
    7. on my stool
    8. on the computer desk
  6. Decide how kids will mark their responses. If you choose with a pen or marker, set up is done here. If you choose stickers, you'll need to make enough sets of stickers for each student. I did this with 3 classes in one day, so I cut out 90 sets of 12 stickers each. It took me an hour, but was worth it in my opinion. 
    1. The plus to stickers is that kids have an easy way to tell if they are done... If they are out of stickers... they are done!

Student Prep

These are the instructions I gave the students:
A false statement that was made clear in the story.
  • Around the room are 12 statements
  • Read each and decide to what degree you agree/disagree with each statement based on our story.
  • Mark your agreement with your marker/sticker.
  • When you run out of stickers, sit down.
A true statement that was made clear in the story.

These two images (above and below) were not clear in the story.
Students had to make a judgement based on what
they understood.

Follow Up

So far, I used this information to inform a simple follow up discussion on an points in the story that were unclear. Other ways you might follow up 
Students were unclear on this one. 
  • create an "alternate universe" type activity or reading from the false statements to compare and contrast
  • use the survey responses to adapt and change your teaching
  • use the "unknown" vocab and sentences to frame review or other follow up activities. 
  • use the true statements to build a timeline
  • ask students to back up true statements with evidence
  • as students to prove false statements false with evidence

What other things can you do with this? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Read, DRAW, and Discuss: A New, Easy Classroom Discussion Starter

I thought I'd write this up because I've had great success in both Latin I and II with this and I honestly made it up on the fly one day when I simply wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my classes, didn't feel like I had enough planned, wanted to stretch the lesson out a bit, AND wanted to make sure we got more repetitions in without it feeling too forced.

So instead of doing a basic Read, Discuss, and Draw (you can see a quick overview of that activity here), I did choral reading (I read a sentence or clause in Latin, then we translate together as a class) with students over small sections of the stories we were focusing on. Then I had them draw on white boards to represent the scenes. The goal was to have them show the entire section of the story in one scene, throwing in as much detail as possible. If they were too stressed by this, of course, I allowed students to break up their drawings into multiple panels.

Then I asked students to volunteer to let me show their pictures to the class. You'd be surprised how many students are willing to do this, and which students are willing to do this. I accept any and all pictures, and do my best to interpret them well. I point at the images and use this as a means of getting more repetitions. Students are eager to see each others' art, so the activity is naturally compelling (as long as you don't do it too often) and so if I show 3 or so pictures with each section of the story, I can easily get a good amount of repetition in without sounding repetitious, which is important, because sounding repetitious is death to student attention spans.

After showing the pictures and discussing them, we move on to the next section of the story!

This keeps everything broken down and comprehensible to the students as well. It's a great way to find out who knows the story, via the reading out loud and by then watching what they draw and whether they capture the entire section of the story. It also lets you focus in on anything they struggled with afterward when you are discussing the drawings.

So, tl/dr:
1. Read a section of story together
2. Students draw the section
3. You use some student drawings to spark discussion and repetition

One of the best things is that this activity doesn't require any preparation and has a fairly high yield in terms of engagement and repetitions!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The New Kid in Town: Gimkit instead of Kahoot

This is really not the post I was planning to write this week--hopefully I'll write that one later--but I was inspired because of something Miriam did yesterday to try the same thing today, and it's gone over really well with my students, so I thought I'd write it up and share it. It's especially good this time of year when we and the kids are all exhausted and maybe just need a low-energy activity that the kids can enjoy and we can run without tiring ourselves even further.

Gimkit is produced by the same people as Kahoot, but it brings a lot more to the table. Many thanks to Keith Toda (@silvius_toda) for introducing us to this new and amazing resource, because Kahoot is played out. The kids have played it with all of their teachers in all of their classes, and it's not new anymore.

Plus it takes forever to write a Kahoot game. It's tedious.

Thank you, Gimkit, for solving both of those problems! Gimkit is awesome in that it allows you to upload a .cvs file (which you can turn any excel or spreadsheet file into) of questions and answers and it will create the game from that file. That means that something that used to take 30-45 min to make now takes me around 5 min!

It also has changed the way quiz games are played. Students earn "money" when they answer questions right. Once they earn enough ($10), they can buy their first enhancement, which improves how much money they earn per question. There are multiple enhancements as well as attacks students can buy (though if you are worried about negative feelings, you can turn off the ability to use attacks). So players can work their way up to earning $200,000 per question or more, from a beginning of $1 per question. When they first play, you'll have to help them see this option, because they'll go into automatic question-answering mode and not look at the button that says "shop," but once they see there's strategy involved, they really get into it. This has enhanced online quiz play in my classes in a huge way and students are much more interested than they have been in almost three years.

Additionally, you can input classes and assign the quizzes as homework, just like you can in other online quiz programs.

So yay, Gimkit, in general! if you are interested.

The only con I have is that you are only allowed five trial "kits," or must pay the annual fee of $60.00. It's worth it in my opinion. Not only does this have less stress on kids to be the quickest (because often it's more about the strategy), but the questions are on students' phones instead of on the board, so there are less mistakes, and those students who struggle are often able to interface with this a lot better than even paper and pencil. Miriam has even had success using Gimkit in a very controlled manner to test a student with severe test anxiety.

So.... on to the actual thing she did yesterday and I did today with Gimkit!

Taking it to the next level
Once in a while on Kahoot I like to join in just to mess with students. The problem is that aside from speed there is nothing to keep me from winning the game. However, in Gimkit, there are several ways to attack other players, and this makes it much more fun to join in, because students have a fighting chance to take me out.

So Miriam upped the ante yesterday, and I followed suit. After doing a warm-up round to give students a chance to settle into the the questions on the game, we both offered a trade: if students could keep us out of the top five of the leaderboard then we would give them a 100% on an equivalent assignment. Otherwise, they would have to do the assignment for the grade.

Students really got into the idea. And it was a fight. And I got "pied" a lot (pies take you out of the game for 15 seconds). And they got 100%!

This was a great, fun break for them and me to beat the doldrums that always set in right before Thanksgiving break, when most teachers are testing like crazy and they are usually really stressed out. We all had a good time, and they loved it when I groaned about a "reducer" or a pie and had to work harder to try to keep up on the leaderboard.

Even if you're not ready to challenge your students yourself, I recommend Gimkit as a new and much improved online quizzing option!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Report from the field: on the occasion of the full moon and other tasty tidbits

It's 7:11 and I'm sitting at my desk, cup of hot coffee in hand. The weather is finally cooling down, and the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner (yes, Halloween... but also.... winter!) I find myself, in this quiet moment before my kids come in for their midterm exam, strangely relaxed. Maybe it's my coffee, maybe it's my finally organised bullet journal, or maybe it's the full moon.

This year has been full of challenges so far, but they are challenges that, for the first time in two years, I've felt that I can face head on. I am inspired in ways that I haven't needed to be inspired in a while. By that I mean, I've always been inspired by my students to do my best for them and to create compelling materials, but this year has required some extra creativity to provide the support and input needed for my students to succeed. If I sit and think about it, it quickly becomes overwhelming between testing (in all forms), processing concerns, teaching three preps for the first time in four years, "8th period" classes, and all the other things teachers face every day. And yet, here I sit, now watching my students file in, completely relaxed. side note: this post may be considered a prequel to my upcoming post on the curriculum for my IVs this semester.

I will spend today testing every student that I teach and, on the surface, it is gearing up to be a very monotonous day. But let's break that down for a minute. Today is also a day where:

  1. I will get to do a "check in" with every student and where they are, individually, in the "grand scheme" of their program this year. 
  2. I will get to watch them test, see where they get frustrated, see what classroom factors affect them, and adjust accordingly. Perhaps they'll need extra time, maybe they need a quieter space, maybe they need the test in a different format. Some of these I've already addressed, but I know (and my kids know) that more adjustments can and will be made as needed. 
  3. My colleagues and I will likely discuss the results of the testing today and in the coming days. We will discuss what went well, and what we want to change for next time. This discussion, I have found is key to success. A few years ago, we messed up with the Latin I midterm. We've learned since then. You can read about our experiences here: Part I, Part II
  4.   I will reflect. I often find testing days to be very productive, but also very reflective. I am known for reading too much into everything. I analyse every piece I can in the hopes of improving and being a better (teacher, colleague, friend, partner, person, etc). I will take each piece of information I receive today and consider what it's telling me about my teaching, my students, and our program. 
I often wonder if other teachers take in class testing the way I do. Is it just the anxious part of my being that causes me to look deeply into all these things, or is this all teachers? 

I need to pause here, as I begin to close my thoughts in this post, and (if you haven't seen my tweets this morning) give a major message of gratitude to my colleagues. Without Rachel Ash, Keith Toda, John Foulk, Robert Patrick, and Brent Cavedo, I would not be where I am, have the confidence I do, or likely be able to tackle all this head on.  So, to them.... THANK YOU! You make teaching very enjoyable for me and I love working with a group of amazing teachers. 

Now, to my closing... I'd like to challenge us to look at our classroom assessments as something more than grades and extra work. I'd like to challenge us to really listen to what these things tell us. The message may not be what you expect. In this year alone, my assessments have told me such things as:
  • who needs extra assistance
  • who is having a bad day
  • who is going through something outside of class
  • who is scared
  • who is confident
  • whether I am actually preparing my students
  • to be clearer in some instructions
  • to trust my students more
  • to trust the pace at which I am moving
  • that my gut and instincts are often correct and I should listen more

What are your assessments telling you? How can you use them to change for the better (and no, I'm not talking about typical data here.... :) ) Share in the comments below or tag us #steppingintoci

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Draw, Write, and Pass - Variations

In class, as part of our medicine unit in Latin III, I decided to do a variation of the write, draw, and pass activities. As my students worked, it occurred to me that there are a variety of activities like this and they each serve different purposes. In this round up of activities, I've tried to find and list as many as possible. If you can think of others, please comment them below or tweet us #steppingintoci.

Our Activity - Draw, Write, Pass (medicine unit)

When in the Unit: The day before our assessment

  1. Students draw a disease from a box and draw an image of someone with the disease, NO labels or writing. 
  2. Pass papers. Now, students write a sentence in the target language about the disease. They can describe the symptoms or identify it if they know it. 
  3. Pass papers. Now, students will draw 3 remedies and draw them on the second half of the paper, NO labels or writing. I circled three times and had them draw a different remedy each time. 
  4. Pass papers. Now, students will write a sentence about the correct remedy for the disease. If the remedy is present on the paper, they may circle it. If it isn't, they should do nothing. 
  5. Pass papers. Now, students will label everything in the image. They may also edit or add to any of the writing. 
  6. optional. If time, project/show the papers to the class. Discuss the disease in the target language and the symptoms. Then, go over the remedies and what the correct one is. 
Here is a link to my full instructions and the resources I created for this activity. 

Round Up

Here are link to other types of activities like this. Check out these posts and descriptions! 

Relay Races 

I thought I'd include these too. They are a different kind of "pass", but I like them. 
What other relay/passing activities do you know? Comment below!

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!