Friday, August 31, 2018

Saving the Latin Novella--A Small Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Guest Post - Finding Support and Avoiding Burnout

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

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


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

Recommended CI Blogs:

Blog Name
Latin Best Practices

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

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

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

Low, No, and Sub Activities:

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

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

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

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

Avoiding Burnout:

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

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

FVR - a project in three parts

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

Some Background

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

The Premise

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

The Process

Desired Result

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

A Process in 3 Parts 

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

Part 1

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

Part 2

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

Part 3

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

Follow Up

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

A grade

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

A catalog

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

It's a win/win :) 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Serving Poetry 6 Ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Monday Tips and Tricks

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

For a tired Monday. 

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

For a "get up and go" Monday. 

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

For the Monday after a break. 

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

Links to Other Schedules.

What do you like to do on Mondays?