Monday, April 23, 2018

Movie Talks and Novellas: CI Articles in Teaching Classical Languages

Movie Talks
I am excited to share with you that I had an article published in Teaching Classical Languages, CAMWS's peer-reviewed journal. I presented over the usefulness of Movie Talks and how to prepare and deliver Movie Talks a couple of years ago at ACL Institute, and was approached by John Gruber-Miller to write an article, so I am really pleased that I got this opportunity to publish my article.

My article begins with Comprehensible Input theory and a little discussion of Second Language Acquisition, and it is really the place where, at least to myself, I first articulated the three C's of CI: Comprehensible, Compelling, and Caring. Since then, we (Keith, Miriam, Bob, and myself) have spent a lot of time supporting that triple structure because I think it resonates with all of us, but it was in writing this article that I was able to simplify the concepts into those three words.

After that, the article clarifies how Movie Talks apply CI theory to concrete teaching practice and gets to work describing them and how to write and deliver them effectively in the classroom. I provided examples, all linked in the article, which is why I haven't written about them here--I didn't want to post anything I had already promised to the article.

If you want to read more, you can find the article here:
The MovieTalk: A Practical Application of Comprehensible Input Theory

In addition, John Piazza, another awesome CI Latin teacher had an article published in this issue of Teaching Classical Languages. His article discusses the recent rise of Latin novellas and their potential uses in the Latin classroom. When explaining why the novellas had been written, I especially appreciated Piazza's emphasis on the difference between extensive (a lot of Latin with repetitive, sheltered vocabulary) and intensive (varied vocabulary and emphasis on close interpretation of grammar, etc.) readings, and the lack of extensive reading provided by current textbooks.

Piazza then describes ways to use novellas in class. He points out that one of the strengths of using a novella that allows all students to comprehend the story is (158)
that the successful reading of a chapter or a passage, or the entire novel itself, is not the end, but rather the beginning or midpoint of a process whose outcome is the interpersonal and creative use of the language as communication. Once basic understanding has been achieved, students are encouraged to use the text as a means to demonstrate a broader form of creative proficiency that is not limited to the book or the text or the vocabulary specific to that book.
In addition to discussing use of novellas as whole-class readings, Piazza describes Free Voluntary Reading and how he has organized it in his classes, and even provides an overview of Latin novellas that have been published. Piazza intersperses all with links to activities for using these novellas in classrooms, how he has used them in his own classes, how others have used them, and a page that he keeps up-to-date concerning Latin novellas.

To read the full article, you can find it here:
Beginner Latin Novels, a General Overview

Definitely an article worth reading!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

An Open Letter: to myself

Dear Miriam,

I can't help but notice that, right at this time, you are feeling down and stressed. You've spent this semester working with brand new authors, teaching things you've never taught before and are uncomfortable with, attending conferences (and presenting), and working with three clubs. And so, here you are. You are tired, frustrated, and angry -- mostly with yourself. Why? A few thoughts come to mind.

  • You aren't getting enough sleep and it makes you grumpy.
  • You have over extended yourself in some areas and are struggling to meet deadlines. 
  • You have explained things 20+ times and yet, people still ask the same questions. 
  • If others don't meet their deadlines, you can't meet yours. 
  • You are working with brand new material - just WHAT have you gotten yourself into? (hint: upcoming blog post alert!)
  • Given all the above, and the fact you are dedicated to your job, you find yourself missing time at home with loved ones. 
Why do you blame yourself for all these things, especially when most are not your own doing? Because you care. I get it. But... also allow me to remind you of a few things:

  1. Sleep is good. So is coffee. Don't feel badly about that second cup, or sleeping in on the weekend. 
  2. Okay, so you are a "yes" person. There isn't anything wrong with that, in that it allows you to show your skill, grow professionally, and feel productive. 
  3. Look at you go. You are finding news ways to communicate with all kinds of people. :)
  4. There is always a way. Kids are kids, even when they are nearing 18. Don't feel badly for making changes and accommodations you would appreciate yourself. It doesn't make you a bad person or teacher. 
  5. WOW.... you are working with brand new material, that you've never read before. 
  6. You are a dedicated person. You can apply that same love and passion to your loved ones and relationships as you do work. 
Are there areas for growth? Sure, but before I get to those, remember this:

There is an ebb and flow to life. Remember those days when you wished and hoped for something to do, well here they are. They will come again. There is always a busy season and, yes, sometimes they overlap. The key to it all is: balance. Sometimes we say "yes" to too many things. The question is no longer, "how do I say 'no'?", but, "how do I honour my commitments and honour myself?" That is how you handle this - by moving forward, one step at a time: one plan, one moment, one day. So, Miriam, tired teacher.... A few points to work on:

  1. Make a morning routine and stick to it. On the weekends, say "yes" to that extra hour and "heck yes" to that nap. This too shall pass. 
  2. In the future, you must learn to say "no" - with gusto. You have made so much progress, but there is still more to do. Saying "no" to someone else means saying "yes" to yourself.
  3. Remember: you love these kiddos. Their brains are not fully formed yet and they need extra guidance sometimes. 
  4. See above. 
  5. Be proud of the work you do, no matter how messy it is. You are growing as a teacher, and student. You are becoming an avid reader of Latin. 
  6. If your loved ones are asking for you, make the time. Say no to someone else. Do it. 
And... a few life reminders:
  • Say yes to water. 
  • Say yes to a movie. 
  • Say yes to extra kitten and puppy snuggles. 
  • Say yes to self care.
Remember: you are a good teacher and this moment of self doubt, stress, and general busy-ness will pass. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How I Use Frequency Lists

This post is in partnership with our latest podcast (will post before 9:00 pm TONIGHT) which you can check out over at In our podcast, we were discussing Bob Patrick's idea of Collective Memory which we all use in a variety of ways at our school. What came from this is the ultimate question of how we choose vocabulary to focus on and why.

I will do my best to link to all my resources as well as others that I know of at the bottom of the post. If you can think of others (for any language), link to them below!

What kind of frequency list do you have? What kind of frequency list should I have?

There are a lot of frequency lists out there. They all serve different purposes and have different origins. So, the tempting answer is, "ALL OF THEM!" Of course, this isn't practical and I certainly do not look into each frequency list when I create or adapt material. Rather, I look into some favourites depending on my purpose and what I'm creating. That being said, there are many types of frequency lists and we should know about them:

  1. Teacher Created - This can be any kind of frequency list that teachers have had a hand in creating. Latin has the 50 Most Important Verbs and many languages have "super seven" or "fab five" sets of verbs that are fairly common.
  2. District/Locally Created - This may be a list of words that you must look at when teaching/preparing a lesson. They may be agreed upon at a variety of levels. 
  3. Literature Based - This is the vast majority of frequency lists. They are based in frequency of words in certain types of literature. Here are a few types within the Latin language
    1. Classical Literature - There are a good number of lists like this. They often take their frequency numbers from a given number of authors within the Classical Canon. 
    2. Medieval Literature - There are some lists like this that, unlike the previous, focus on literature solely from the Medieval period. 
    3. Mixed Literature - There are a growing number of lists that use authors from both the Classical and Medieval period. These are the lists I prefer. 
  4. Author Based - These lists are ones based solely on a singular author. They tend to take into account an author's entire body of work (if available) to create frequency lists. 
  5. Novella Based - Often these lists make use of other frequency lists and are more a vocabulary list than a frequency list. However, slowly, we are beginning to see requests for and examples of frequency lists within novellas. They are based solely on a single book and its uses of various words. 

So... Which ones do you use and when?

Ultimately it boils down to what I am doing/creating, but I do have a few tried and true frequency lists that I really like:

  • Essential Latin Vocabulary by Mark A. E. Williams - I use this one for almost every project. I like the way it is divided up by frequency, alphabet, and in categories. It did have a learning curve to using it, but once I got that down, it was very easy to use. I often pair this up with Lewis and Short's dictionary. I like the combination because I can check both the frequency and uses of a word to ensure it is the right word that I'd like. I also use it when working with authors. I can check the frequency of the words they use to determine if I need to adapt a piece of writing. 
  • 50 Most Important Verbs - This was created with much discussion by a group of Latin teachers. It is a really good list of words that most often come up within classroom discussions. It is not based on frequency of text/literature, but what we find kids most often wanted to use in our rooms and what we needed to communicate with them. I like this list when I am beginning with a new group of kids or when we are discussing things we've done, like to do, etc. 
  • Dickinson's Core Vocabulary - This list is quite long, and I have not explored all its uses, but I do like to use it when I'm looking for a particularly frequent word from Classical Literature. 

Okay, well, how do you use them, especially together?

When I use a frequency list it is to: adapt a piece of literature, write a novella, or create a vocabulary list for a unit. Here is a quick rundown of how I might use these resources in each of the instances. 

Adaptation of Literature

  1. Read the literature as is, with a translation next to it (make your own). 
  2. Make notes on the words your students already know. 
  3. With the remaining words, check frequency and categorise them: words to target, icing words, words to change
    1. Words to target become your vocabulary words. They are high frequency and/or key to understanding the unit as a whole. 
    2. Icing words are words that are key to the literature, but have little/no use outside of it for your students. They are fine to acquire, but not required. 
    3. Words to change are words that are not high frequency and have an alternative word that is high frequency. You will want to check the dictionary for these changes to ensure your new words mean the same thing (i.e. is the word used in the same way? is it used with similar words?) 

Writing a Novella

  1. In this instance, I'll start with the 50 MIV. I usually start here because I know it is a list that many teachers reference and many students will already know/be learning. 
  2. If I need a verb/word not on the list, I will usually go to the vocabulary lists my students already have. 
  3. When considering other words, my first stop is the Essential Latin Vocabulary to check for frequency and see other words that might work and then I go to Lewis and Short to look at its uses and other synonyms. 

Preparing a Unit for Students

This process is a little more free for me. When it comes to conversation, we'll use what words we need and want. I am not too picky about frequency, unless...
  • I know what literature is coming up. 
  • I know already that a word is high frequency.
Either way, I almost always, if I'm not sure, check the dictionary for uses of the word to help make sure I'm using it correctly. 

List of resources

  1. 50 Most Important Verbs
  2. Essential Latin Vocabulary
  3. Dickinson's Frequency List
  4. Dickinson's Vergil Frequency List
  5. Super Seven (listed in many languages)
What other frequency lists do you know about? Share them below or on social media with the hashtag #steppingintoci