Thursday, October 8, 2020

Teaching Digitally as an Adventure (Part 3)

It's that time again! When I realize I have postponed posting too long and now have a lot to update--but less than I should because honestly I felt a little lost off and on recently. 

I think that's okay.

I think this year, if we don't treat ourselves with grace, we are going to implode.

So I don't have as much, but I did create a couple of new things and I'm going to continue to share all my stories with you because..I don't know what might or might not inspire and if what I have can help someone, then I want it to be out there!

I changed the organization this time because it has been so long that I just figured it would be easier to wade through the things I have made that way.

The Story So Far
Here is the story of Andromeda so far. I have illustrated parts 1-3 and not part 4. There are definitely going to be mistakes because sometimes I am throwing this thing together at the last minute. But I am excited to be working on this thing.

  1. Andromeda Prima (illustrated Google Slide) (text)
  2. Andromeda Secunda (illustrated Google Slide) (text)
  3. Andromeda Tertia (illustrated Google Slide) (text)

Vocabulary Activities

  1. Match Cards (and template) I made a board using Google Slides that is based on the Memory 
    card game. The basic set up is simple: they have "cards" that they move, and below each is a picture or word. They are to match the Latin words to their meanings, either as pictures or English words. Setting up the board was a little more complex because I wanted them to be able to work independently of me and I wanted each student or group of students to be able to progress at their own pace. So I designed this so that you can set up three different memory boards and the students can change to a new board as soon as they finish the old one! To edit the boards does take a little finessing, since you are going to create a background that you then add to one of the master layouts, but I have included a video below to help you out. This game is best used shared with all students able to edit the same Google Slides.
  2. Vocabulary Categories I made a simple template for students to organize the vocabulary we
    were working on into categories that can be used in various ways. You can leave it as a basic exercise in thinking more deeply about the vocabulary itself or you can make it a competition (one I learned from my friend Patrick Yaggy): If students hit on the same category, they get points for any vocabulary words they used that no one else did in that category; if they come up with a completely unique category, they get points for all the words in that category. This template is ready to use! If you want, you can edit the Instructions in the master view and other parts, etc., to be in your target language. This activity is best used in Google Class as a copy for each student.
  3. Vocabulary Drawings This is a mashup of Keith Toda's Vocabulary Olympics and my Read, Draw, and Discuss. Basically, using (thanks, Meredith White!), I gave students
    nonsense sentences to draw on whiteboards that only I could see, then I would clip two images per sentence, put them on a slide, and discuss them with the class to review the sentence and the vocabulary. This is easy to prep: put sentences that will create fun images on Google slides that also use the vocabulary you want to focus on. This activity is best used shared with all students able to view the same Google Slides.
Reinforcing the Story
  1. SNAP (and template) I made a new game! I can't help myself. I get bored with old games. This
    one is meant to be a replacement for Slap Jack, which I created last year to be a more accessible version of Flyswatter. The basic idea is that I put sentences that describe pictures--some from the story and some vocabulary-based pictures--on "cards" that I could read aloud and show students, and I put the pictures in groups, lumped together in order so that students can self-select what level of difficulty they are playing at. To help explain game play and game setup, I have created a video below! This template is easy to edit for your class needs by just changing out the pictures and sentences. This game is best used shared with all students able to edit the same Google Slides.
  2. Class-Sourced Video I just learned about Screencastify Submit so I of course immediately created an activity for it. This is not an especially deep concept. Students each are assigned a sentence of a story we've been studying. They create a video using the link to Screencastify Submit that I provide. Their videos end up in a folder together, then I put all the videos in Screencastify's video editor and made it into one video that we watched as a class! voila! 
  3. Quis Dixit The last story-related thing for this post will be Quis Dixit, inspired by an activity
    John Foulk made where students chose which sentence went with a picture. I wanted to dig a little deeper into their character knowledge since we're three stories in, so I gave students either direct quotes from the stories or quotes that could have been said by characters. I also used images of the characters as the background, and on each slide, students were to match the statements to the correct characters. The activity is modified similarly to other activities such as SNAP and Match Cards: go into the Master View and to change out the character images and names (I have them grouped--you can ungroup them with a right click), then in regular view you can change out the quotes all you want. This activity is best used in Google Class as a copy for each student.
Culture: Connecting to the Modern World
I was thinking about how little choice Andromeda has in anything that happens to her in this entire story and that made me start singing some stuff from SiX: The Musical so then all the stuff below happened.
  1. Letter from Catherine Parr Students read this for independent work one afternoon. It is just an excerpt from the song "I Don't Need Your Love" put on a pretty background. I put this on Google Classroom as a material to view.
  2. Exploring Catherine Parr I had students use this as a guide for discussion. We broke into discussion groups via breakout rooms in Zoom and in class. Students were expected to fill out the form with their answers individually. Between each boxed "breakout" we reconvened as a class to discuss their answers to the questions. We also watched the song in context on youtube and therefore got the entire song that way. I put this on Google Classroom as a copy for each student.
  3. Gallery of Choice (and template) After we did the class discussion, I had students take the final
    question of the discussion and enter it into a Google question on Google classroom. I used those answers to fill frames in my gallery so students could explore each other's ideas about other modern stories with a similar theme. We then were able to discuss these as a class. I also got a new book to read! This is not too hard to set up and personalize, but to make sure I made a video for you below. This is best offered to students to view on their own at their own pace.
Now, for the best clarity for a few items, I thought it was most prudent to offer some videos. (I also may have been reading some Jane Austen recently so my vernacular may be a little affected.)

That is everything I am going to put into this one humongous post! I hope you find something helpful in it! Let me know if you use something in it or if you have questions! And good luck. We all need it right now.

Want more ideas? Check out my previous posts here:
Posts by others:
Todally Comprehensible Latin Keith's blog has been basically completely focused on online teaching activities.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Why I don't do RRR days anymore (kind of)

 Previous posts

  1. Everyone needs a little R, R, and R
  2. R, R, R update
RRR was a plan/activity/what not that I came up with many years ago. I presented it to my team as we embarked into Standards Based Grading and it was incredibly useful. In the past two years, however, I have all but stopped using it. In fact, last year I did not have a single RRR day for my kids. So, what changed? 

The original idea behind the RRR day (originally rest, reach, and remediate) was to allow students who were comfortable with material to get enrichment, students who had missed work to catch up, and students who needed individual support to get it. This is, as any teacher will tell you, no easy task on the best of days. With ~30 students in a room it can be quiet difficult. So, as we worked with my original framework, we experimented with a few things:
  • making a list of activities students needed to do for each standard - This was always outside of normally assigned work. The problem with this is that it put exponential amounts of work on us to create these new materials. 
  • making a list of options for students for each standard - This was easier in that I would provide a choice of a general activity (e.g. make a comic strip of our most recent story), but still required extra work on my part. It also sparked questions and, on occasion, confusion for students. 
  • RRR days on a schedule - Originally I really wanted to do these days every other week. The problem I found was that some students developed a sense of entitlement that we'd have this day and they didn't need to pay attention or work any other day because they could just get me to explain it to them on this day. For other students, the entitlement came in the form of wanting a "day off".*
  • Extra Grading - This was a major issue. I would find myself grading entire assignments just to move a grade from a 99 to a 100. Again, some sense of entitlement came out when, a few times, a student would say that I was preventing them from having a 100 or ruining GPA because I wasn't giving them a perfect score on RRR work: "But... I did the thing. That's a 100 right?"

* I don't use the word entitlement easily. It is a word often used against my generation. I want to be clear that I always try to give students the benefit of the doubt for as long as I can. Once a pattern becomes apparent, however, I will take appropriate action. 

So, I got rid of it. I started by saying that we'd have an RRR day when the grades showed we needed it. This didn't go over too well for some students. I found myself battling between letting certain students have a "free day" so that I could work with others and give them the support they needed. I was suddenly trying to manage behaviour while trying to do good work with students who needed it. 

And so, last year, I decided I would not do a single RRR day. Not a single one. Now, let's break that down. Let me address some of the very questions I got when I announced this to students:
  1. So does this mean we can't redo any work? No, not at all. There will always be opportunities for resubmission and opportunities to try again. It will, however, look different. 
  2. What about free days? I think I may have laughed out loud. I'm not super proud of that.... but I did. I don't do movies 99% of the time. The exception to this is that I occasionally do a movie short and sometimes I'll show an episode of Class of the Titans (NOT Clash). Even then, they don't take the entire period. This is not a slight on teachers who do show movies. I have on occasion shown one. It is a reflection, rather, of what I think I can do better. I can do a better job supporting the students in my room. That is what I'm always working on: how better can I support the students I see in my room. 
  3. But XX does RRR days!?!?! And that's fine. My teammates can still do RRR, and some do. For me, I feel I can meet my students needs better in a different way now.
But... how did I address all the concerns that RRR is meant to address? Well...
  • I always reserve the right to let students resubmit the exact same assignment at any time. If a student needs to fix something, or understands something new that they didn't before, of course I'm going to let them redo an assignment. I reserve this, however, and this is not available for every thing every day. This is simply for my sanity. 
  • Instead... I ensure that I make plans to reassess things as part of class. If I notice that a majority of students did poorly or missed something I will adjust and reassess again shortly after (see post: the fault in our plans)
    • Sometimes I'll even say, "check your grades. If you are missing or would like me to reconsider your grade for Standard XX, make sure you turn this in. 
  • I set my focus on accommodations. My focus is becoming more and more centralised on what accommodations I need to make for any and all of my students. Some of these include small group or one on one instruction, alternative formatting, student choice, representation, etc. 

Ultimately I am doing a little bit more to make sure that students are accommodated in my class. By doing that and regularly reassessing through my lessons, we don't need to set aside a day for them to catch up and I ultimately have less work overall. Now, if we needed one, I would have no problem doing so. But I've found that I can accomplish RRR without needing to set aside a day 99.9% of the time simply by focusing my day on accommodations. If you're sensing a shift in the way I talk about things and how I go about things, you are correct. It's a shift I've always been pointed towards, but now I am actively on this path and I haven't ever loved my job more. <3

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Teaching Digitally as an Adventure (Part 2)

Time for an update! I have done a lot of things since my last update--it's been two weeks. (See my first week entry here)

First, I continue to really enjoy the challenge. I won't pretend to be okay; no teacher is right now, in the midst of a deluge of anger, vitriol, and disregard. But I can find some sparks of happiness in my day-to-day purpose, and that is not a surprise. I am a teacher by calling, not by circumstance or necessity. It's my passion.

I love my students. I am getting the chance to get to know them and I am working on building relationships, even from a distance. I asked them to fill out a form today to just tell me "vents and brags," and while I haven't finished reading their responses, one of the best things has been finding out that all the work I'm putting into the digital lessons has been noticed. That wasn't the goal of vents and brags (a term I got from Bob Patrick), but it was so encouraging to read. 

Keith Toda often quotes Carol Gaab, "the brain craves novelty." I have done my best to keep that in mind as I plan my digital lessons this year and create activities that are engaging and feel different every day. I have worked to make every plan feel authentic to the space we're in, instead of trying to translate my in-person activities directly, though that doesn't mean I don't take inspiration from things I've done in my classes.

All that to say, here is what I've been doing in Latin IV!

Latin II is not my own lesson plan right now, so I don't feel comfortable sharing it. But you can mod these templates to work for you. Many things are made to work with Google Classroom because it is magical. Others work with Zoom. Hopefully you can see ways to adapt all!

At the bottom of the page are a quick couple of videos, including one to demonstrate how to modify these templates to fit your personal needs. I know that it's not perfectly intuitive and I want you to be able to use these successfully.

Introducing the Story: Engaging Background Vocabulary
It's been a while since these kids have had Latin in a classroom environment and we were mostly winging teaching online starting in March, so to make sure they are prepared to read anything, I can't assume they all know the vocabulary they were "taught" so it was important to me to make sure we did some things to find out what they did know and to reinforce it. Yes, that included Gimkit, an online resource that is always evolving. But I am not willing to use it exclusively. Here are the other things I did:

  1. Vocabulary Know-it Board I filtered out the vocabulary that I knew was supposed to be new to
    students and set it aside. For literally every other word, including words like "in," I asked students to sort the vocabulary into piles of words "I know," "I really know," "I kind of know," and "I don't know." From there, I created a database of words they did not know and kind of knew and used that information to decide: 25 important words to review (they went into the Gimkit) and the 10 most important words to review (they are brought into focus by me on a repeated basis in context). This template is easy to modify for your own use; you can clear out any group of words and change the words to words you need your students to sort through. If you copy one of the rectangles and then press ctrl+v it will paste in this lovely diagonal design. I simply did that over and over while typing a new word each time. Then I would select the entire stack of ten and move them where I wanted. This board is best used in Google Class as a copy for each student.
  2. Vocabulary Bricks I took the 25 important words I got from the Vocabulary Know-it Board and
    I created a game where students could compete to collect words. This was loosely inspired by the Vocabulary Highlighter Game but I needed a way to play in the current digital environment. So I created a game board with a goal space for two players and boxes for each word. Students choose a slide to pair up on, put their names as either Player 1 or Player 2, and listen for me to call out words in English. When I called out a word, students grabbed the Latin word and dragged it to their goal on the slide. We were on the Zoom meeting together, but we all looked at the slide instead while we played. (If you would like to add visual support, please watch the demonstration on how to easily do so on the video for Accidit Romae below.) This template is also easy to modify for your own use; simply change out my words for your own on one of the student slides, then copy that slide and paste it several times--enough for your class to be divided into teams of two. This game is best used shared with all students able to edit the same Google Slides. 
  3. Vocabulary Puzzle This is one of the few times I literally took a game I play in class and put it
    in a digital format! It just works so effortlessly as a digital manipulative. This one I gave out to students and had them do on their own, although I encouraged them to give a friend a link to their own puzzle to help each other and then they could jump to the friend's puzzle to complete it too. The template I am giving you has the easy-to-edit format first, and then an example of how I stacked the pieces once I was done. To edit the puzzle, just double-click on the words and replace them with your own. Remember that students are trying to match the Latin with the English meaning. This puzzle can host 24 vocabulary words. Then turn the puzzle pieces different directions and stack them in a random order or lay them randomly around the board--however you would like to mix them up. You don't need two slides; I included the second slide so you can see what I did. This puzzle is best used in Google Class as a copy for each student.
Introducing the Story: New Vocabulary
Of course, there is new vocabulary as well. I employed some usual CI approaches that I thought might translate well as well as some brand new ideas.
  1. Venatio Traditionally the school year for most of my classes starts with Circling with Balls. It's a
    quick get-to-know you routine that lets me find out more about my students and lets them find out more about each other while speaking Latin. However, this year we are in a different format, the flow of class is different, and getting students to answer questions in a digital class without feeling so much more on the spot and uncomfortable (trust me, I have attended many classes online, and I am not usually afraid to be the center of attention) is just harder. I don't want my class to be something my students dread. So this was one of those things that I stepped back from, thought about the purpose, and reconfigured. The purpose of Circling with Balls is to get to know my students and provide clear, comprehensible, repetitive Latin. So I decided I could do something similar with a scavenger hunt. I don't want it to be all period, but doing a simple class opening where I ask students to find one thing that fits thematically with the vocabulary we are studying, and then discussing what they show me, gives me the chance to get a similar feel that makes sense in our digital environment. On the first day, we did a super easy sentence that all kids would know: Find something you love. I got lots of pets, a couple of siblings, some sports balls and phones, and a lot of smiles. To modify this for yourself, simply write a sentence for each day that incorporates one word that you want to focus on, but make sure everything else is completely comprehensible. You can make a virtual slide if you want and let it be your background in Zoom, like I did, or you can write it on the board behind you, or on paper, etc., and then repeat it and make sure students know what they are searching for. Make it vague enough for more than one answer (the one I am showing here is: Find a thing you have too much of) so you can have interesting responses from the students. This is best used live in session when you can see all of your students.
  2. Vocabulary Slides I have already made a post about this type of activity before. These are just the vocabulary slides I created to go with the beginning of this particular story. This is best used live in session with teacher leading and discussing in the target language.
  3. Vocabulary Scenes Instead of OWATS, which can be easily collaborative (I am still always
    looking for ways to help students find community in this setting), I decided to ask students to create Vocabulary Scenes using a Google Slide that I had set up for them. I put them into Zoom breakout rooms randomly so that it would assign them partners and a "room number," then asked them to find the slide marked with the same room number and work on it. They were to create a scene using the five words on the slide and vocabulary they knew from previous years of Latin. I spent the class period jumping from breakout room to breakout room answering questions and making sure students were safe and on task. After they were done, I took the scenes they created and added sentences and used these as simple introductions to class and reminders of the new vocabulary, three scenes at a time. To modify this for yourself, just figure out how many rooms you might need and change the focus words on the right of the student slides! This activity is best used shared with all students able to edit the same Google Slides. 
  4. Sentence Frames So this idea is honestly one of my early ideas with manipulatives. I still think it
    was a good idea, but I made a big error when composing this: I focused so much on pushing some of the more challenging aspects of the upcoming reading that I made this activity incomprehensible--the opposite of CI. I still feel it has potential, which is why I am sharing it here. But it is one that I will be more careful about in the future. Generally I created sentences that students could either fill in or slide answers to, then illustrate in the open white spaces below. What I have linked is a finished version with a template slide included; I will include how to modify it in the video below, because it is more complex than the activities above. This activity is best used in Google Class as a copy for each student.
Reading the Story
When you finally get to the story, one of the important things to do is to make sure you have a chance to repeat the story many times without feeling repetitive. With that in mind, I combined several approaches, some simple CI approaches from the classroom that transfer fairly comfortably to a Zoom classroom setting, and some I definitely really had to change or create fresh for the digital class. A side note: I decided to keep this first story quite short while I gage the students' capabilities and ease them into our current setting.
  1. Picture Story This is a link to the the story I told to my class using pictures. We are starting a

    series of stories about Andromeda, the Ethiopian princess rescued by Perseus, but told from her point of view. Circling (asking questions to emphasize and reinforce vocabulary) is clunky at best in this setting, so instead I did my best to elaborate using the picture as a jumping-off point. To make your own, this is more labor-intensive, in that you will need to create your own images and take pictures and insert them or draw images on an app and insert them. However, images are useful not only for clarifying a story but for creating discussion. This is best used live in session with teacher leading and discussing in the target language.
  2. "Choral" Reading I need a better name for this. We did not read chorally. I was inspired by choral reading to create a space in class for me to find out who knew the story, who understood the story, and yet still make sure that I was clarifying the meaning. What I did, which worked very well, actually, was highlight a section, ask students to type the meaning in the chat (which I have programmed in Zoom to only send to me, so it is not public. This has been a wonderful feature because students who are sometimes afraid to speak up in class are much more comfortable in this setting), and then clarify the meaning after I got student input. It was slow, but that was also kind of nice for students who are slow processors, and it allowed those who are fast processors to get their answers in there asap and be proud they were able to write everything probably before everyone else. Then, afterward, I just opened the chat log (which I have Zoom set to save) and I had a grade ready to go! Prep is easy--a nice, large font version of your story! This is best used live in session with teacher leading and clarifying the meaning in English. 
  3. Accidit Romae (and question template) Okay, so stay with me here. I was inspired by the Las
    Vegas game that Meredith White had shared last year among a pile of review games she enjoyed. The basis is simple: students, paired up, ante up bets on how likely they think they will be able to answer the next question. The question is posted with an A,B,C,D answer option and they pick one. The answer is revealed and whoever gets it right gets the pot. All of this is done with pretend money, obviously. However, I wanted to figure out how to do this digitally. So I created a board with two players and an A,B,C,D setup, made stacks of 10 denarii apiece so each side has a total of 50, and then I had to figure out how to show them questions. The answer became this: I need a master slide that I can edit live. I have a video below to show you what I mean, and how to run the game. It was very successful! If you teach another language, watch the modifying templates video to learn how to change this game to work with your own language. This game is best used shared with all students able to edit the same Google Slides. 
  4. Andromeda Prima: Interpreting the Reading Finally, after reading the story twice and playing
    a game to make sure students understood the story overall, and a gimkit that I didn't link here because that is something that we have all been doing in our classes before this whole thing happened, it was time to do an activity that required a little bit deeper reading and asked students to use quotes from the story to support their opinions. This is a really easy activity to set up; if you read the instructions you can see that you can ask for whatever types of details you want students to find within the text. I do recommend showing students how to create comments; even after doing so, a surprising number still had trouble and placed their comments in interesting spots and almost received lower grades than they deserved when I couldn't find them at first. That said, it was a pleasure to read and grade. This activity is best used in Google Class as a copy for each student.
How Do I Do Make These Things Work for Me?
That is such a good question. I know I just threw a lot at you at once. Here are two videos to help.

Hopefully this extremely long post has helped you get started on some fun ways to expand the activities in your digital classroom! I'll keep posting as I come up with more ideas!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Choice and Consequence

Yesterday evening I gave a three-minute "comment" at my board meeting to try to make a case for protecting students, staff, and faculty, while slowing community spread, by maintaining digital learning until scientific data shows the time is correct for opening schools. It is hard to fit all of that into three minutes. I have embedded and linked a video of my speech below, and beneath that is a full transcript of the speech for the hearing impaired or those who prefer to read.

View on YouTube Here

Thank you for hearing me. My son is a Gwinnett senior this year, and he has worked very hard to create his perfect senior year. Starting in his Freshman year, he has taken extra classes so that he could create a schedule with room for two musical courses, Latin, and an environmental engineering course that he has been excited about since January. Seeing his senior year ruined is enraging. My son has repeatedly made hard choices to arrive here.

You have made choices to arrive here too. Some have made me proud—such as the bus-based food distribution program—and some have shamed me. Throughout the entirety of the summer, you chose not to address the county’s virtual infrastructure so we could teach digitally with success. You chose not to purchase enough chromebooks for students without home devices to provide equal access to digital learning. You chose to sit and hope that instead of increasing, the cases of Covid would decline, and you could simply open the schools.

You chose inaction.

And you chose to justify your inaction with two-month old surveys, outdated research, pandemic advice from an OB/GYN, bully tactics, and an increasingly incredulous obliviousness of the experiments already running in Paulding and Cherokee County.

By opening schools, you are making a new choice. A choice to ignore the current science. A choice to ignore the CDC’s recommendations for—not even the “best-case scenario,” as it is worded in your own reopening plan—but the bare minimum for safely reopening. A choice to put teachers and their families at risk. A choice to put bus drivers and school staff at risk.

But most importantly, and the reason I cannot comprehend how you can claim to care about the well-being of the students you govern, this is a choice to put children at risk. A choice that will result in child illness.

Yes, there is risk in everything. But there is a difference in driving a car with the knowledge I might someday be in an accident and driving a car knowing today is the day.

Statistics are clean. They are faceless. But know that in this room are people who have lost family members to Covid-19. Look at our faces and tell us you choose us as your sacrifice. You choose our families.

You choose our children.

My son’s senior year should have been his best. But I choose his life over his convenience and momentary happiness. I choose people over politics. My hope is you can choose the same.

Thank you.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The New Frontier: Teaching Digitally as an Adventure (Part 1)

Look, I don't want you to see my title and run away because it's so positive and you're already worn out by the peppy, faux-positive, "we can do this" posts that paint teachers as go-getters who conquer all obstacles because we're just so darn selfless. 

That's not me. I'm also angry.

But, I like challenges and puzzles and technology, and here I am, with a huge Gordian Knot plopped in my lap, and I can't resist the chance to pull at the edges, work the thread, and pry it until it starts to soften and reveal what's inside. Plus, my kids deserve great teaching from me.

And if I can deliver great digital teaching, doesn't that prove that perhaps we can wait to open schools until it's safe?

So I have a lot of reasons to work on this.

If I'm truly honest, though, I am more excited about teaching than I have been in a while. I have missed the intellectual challenge of a conundrum this big. I love the kids, so emotionally I have been fulfilled. But figuring out how to create digital community is fun.

Okay. Enough about me. 

Making a Google Classroom
When I started posting about how much I'm enjoying my digital days, people started asking if I would share the things I'm creating. My answer: absolutely! Why should anyone else have to create stuff again? So if you already have a Google Classroom, skip the video below to the couple of goodies. If you don't, watch the video below to find out how to create a Google Classroom in the quickest way possible.

Assignment Option: Favorite Things Introduction Slide
So my main goal overall this first half week of instruction has been to help students get used to Zoom, get on my Remind, join my Google Class, and learn how to use Google Classroom effectively. That means that we have done some simple activities to help them learn how to use different functions. The video above discusses the Stream and assigning questions and material. 

This assignment is meant to be assigned as a copy for all students. It's independent work. I was inspired by a video like this one to think about how I could make things editable for the kids without them messing up the parts I want them to leave alone. There is a second approach aside from inserting the image in the background, by the way. I made this slide and the following one by editing the slide in Master View because it lets me add more elements. Then I added the parts I want them to be able to change in the regular view of the slide.

Favorite Things Introduction Slides

Opinion Board
I also wanted to try out the concept of a shared document that students all edit together. Honestly, this spawned from the fact I wanted to build class community, but I will get to more of that later. Below you will find what I created as a result: 

an Opinion Board. The opinion board construction is based heavily on things I learned from this video, and it honestly was so much fun. I asked questions in Latin, students moved tokens to their preferred answers, and eventually started moving each other's tokens. If you worry about them posting inappropriate things on a shared document like this, Google's "version history" is what protects you. Just click the link at the top that tells you when the "last edit" was made and you will be taken to the version history of the document. It will list when every student edited the document and whenever you hover over a name you can see what their contribution is. I warned students this was the case so they wouldn't get carried away. I also used this to keep restoring the document to my original version to "reset" it so we could ask another question. The students laughed and enjoyed themselves and one class was inspired to trade social media account information. This created class community on the second day of digital learning.

To change the options on the Opinion Board, open the Master View and edit the words there.

Opinion Board

Final Thoughts--For Now
I have a lot of these. Honestly. First of all, I love what Google Classroom is letting me do. I could gush on and on, but I won't. I will just say that it feels like freedom.

But. More importantly. The biggest mistake you can make when trying to create digital lessons and digital classes is to think of it as simply taking your regular, face-to-face classes and putting them on the computer. That way is pure frustration for you and your students. The setting is different. You're different. They're different. The best thing you can do is recognize that.

Instead, think, what is the point of this activity that I would normally do? What is its function? What are its key components?

Then look for ways to fill those needs with technology. It will feel more authentic.

Lastly, I named this Part 1, because I plan to keep sharing what I learn and what I make. This is a year where we will all be trying new things, learning as we go, and hopefully becoming better teachers against all odds and with public opinion, as always it seems, against us. We can at least support each other!

(I wrote a follow-up with more templates! See Part 2 here)

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Teaching Virtually: A TPR alternative

 This year I am teaching Latin I again. I am so excited, but we are starting, if briefly, online. Total Physical Response (TPR) is still part of our plans, but we need to be creative. A few realities:

  1. We cannot, in any way, see 30+ videos all at once to ensure that students are hearing and understanding us. 
  2. Some students may not have their video on (a point for another time). 
  3. We are using web cams and it will be difficult to get them to film us doing actions. 
  4. Gauging comprehension is going to be... interesting. To say the least. 

I am collaborating with two colleagues this year for Latin I: Bob Patrick and Liz Davidson and we've been meeting regularly to figure out what we will do. Yesterday we met to discuss the plans for next week and Bob came in with six words: canis, leo, serpens and currere, ire + ad, stare*. He said that his thought was that these six words would be easy to work with and do some TPR in some way. 

We discussed the idea of an asynchronous scavenger hunt where we'd give commands in Latin and students would use picture or video evidence to show them doing the actions. This excites us because it gets kids moving, involves their personal lives and choices in class, and requires movement, rather than sitting in front of a PC all day. 

But, the question remained. How do we establish meaning? How do we provide enough comprehensible and compelling input BEFORE the TPR? 

So, we added to the list. Those six words are our target words, or the words we are going to require. We came up with approximately nine more to be icing words... BUT... here's the kicker --> ALL the words came from our county vocabulary list! This means that even those these words are not targeted now, they will be later and, by then, the kids will already have acquired them at least somewhat! We added words like pulcher, laetus, iratus, medius, anxius, silva, and via+.

Bob had talked about these six words being perfect for an action story. So, we took a few minutes and wrote three different stories, each focusing on a specific animal. The word list we'd come up with were the only words we wanted to use and, while 1-2 more words were needed, they still fit. 

What came out of this work were three very simple stories and from that a natural order (which we did not plan) to those stories. First, our students will read my story, the story of a canis who is in the road, but wants to be in the forest with the lion and the snak. Second, our students will read Liz's story, the story of the serpens who is sad that he cannot run, but whom the dog finds beautiful. Third, our students will read Bob's story, the story of the leo who is already friends with the dog, but is afraid of the snake. The dog connects the two and they all become friends. Again, we did not plan our stories to connect in such a way, but the did naturally and that felt wonderful. 

Lastly, we finished our meeting by deciding that we'd each create a series of activities for our stories. As individual teachers we can choose which activities we like for each story, but all our students will be reading the same story. We also decided on a comprehension check for Friday. 

This is not the only way to collab, but I was so inspired by what happened naturally that I thought I'd share. I've boiled it down to 5 simple steps which I've shared below. :) 

* canis - dog, leo - lion, serpens - snake and currere - to run, ire + ad - to go to, stare - to stand still
+ pulcher - beautiful, laetus - happy, iratus - angry, medius - middle, anxius - worried, silva - forest, and via - road
(1) Identify target words (2) Add complementary icing words (not required) (3) Write simple stories (4) Determine order of stories (5) Create and Collab on activities

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Announcement: Help during COVID!


In an effort to help support each other during this time, Pomegranate Beginnings Publishing is offering PDFs of any and all of our published books, for FREE, to teachers for use with classes! 

We ask two things in return: (1) That you do not share the PDF with others (except your students), and (2) That when we go back to class and you need copies of our books, you purchase them. 

As of now there is no time limit on this offer, as we want to do our best to support everyone. So... If you'd like to contact us for a PDF copy of any of our books. Click the image below :)

In addition to this, we offer a reading library on our main site:

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Politics Over People During a Pandemic

I have been angry since May. Strike that. I have been in a rage. I have watched the nation politicize the health and well-being of its citizens, politicize equal rights, and I reached a boiling point and have stayed there. I could possibly write a book over all of my feelings at this point, but for the purposes of this post I am going to focus on one topic: the rising numbers of infected people and the opening of schools.

My feelings on this matter are simple. Opening schools amid rising infection rates is a guaranteed death sentence. Some teachers will die. Some support staff will die. Worst of all, some students will die. Some teachers and staff and students will be infected and survive but have debilitating after-effects; coronavirus attacks the lungs, heart, brain, and immune system. Nick Cordero, the Broadway star whom Covid recently killed after a three month battle, had already lost a leg due to the virus before he died. Corona isn't the Spanish Flu. Corona is Polio. Even survival doesn't mean full recovery--it can mean a lifetime of disability.

And I lay these results at your feet, decision makers. School boards. State education boards. Anyone who could be stepping in--should be stepping in--to stop schools from opening, but would prefer to play politics and please both sides. Sometimes there aren't two sides. This is murder. Every life lost because you would rather please the people than make the right decision will be your fault. Every child hospitalized will owe their isolation and terror to you.

But that is not all I lay at your feet. Trauma and anxiety, the fear of attending school and bringing this epidemic back home to vulnerable siblings, parents, grandparents, I also lay at your feet. If a student infects their immuno-compromised mother, brother, grandfather, the student suffers a traumatic event. Are you prepared to provide the counseling students, teachers, and staff will need? Every aspect of school will remind students that they are in danger, every section of school will be regimented.

Inequitable access is your fault, too. Instead of insisting we return to school when the danger is so obvious, this time could be spent solving the problem of access for all. Funneling money towards 1:1 devices instead of new desk dividers. Devising an action plan for contacting and even visiting and equipping households with less engagement last year to make sure they have the tools and knowledge they need to be successful this year. When we inevitably revert to online classes due to opening schools too soon and the deaths that will be soon to follow, you will have provided no help to those families and they will be in the same place they were before.

Finally, when we revert, since it will again be sudden, teachers will again be forced to change modes suddenly, and lesson plans will have to adjust suddenly, instead of being planned meticulously for an online curriculum, which would be the ideal. You could allow teachers a month or more of real preparation for online teaching and quality instruction, but instead you are choosing to put us in the same position that befell us in March--except in March no one could blame you. This time you are choosing it.

Decision makers, school boards, state boards, national boards. You are choosing poor instruction. You are providing inequitable access. You are causing mental trauma. And you are killing people. Don't open schools because you choose politics over people during a pandemic.

A pandemic shouldn't be political.

It's that simple.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Covid 19 and Me: A Reflection

Where do I start with this? Right now it is cool for a summer evening on account of the storms that are rolling through. The sun is setting within an hour and I am sitting at my computer with a bottle of water playing video games and writing this post. I have dogs at my feet and cats in the cat tree behind me. Sounds like an excellent evening. And yet, I am terrified. 

To say that I did well during quarantine is an understatement. I am a solid introvert and in addition to chronic conditions like asthma and extra bones, I have both generalised and social anxiety. And... to just add a big ole cherry to that, I broke my foot severely in the fall and hadn't been able to walk for 6 months. Quarantine allowed my foot to heal, gave my anxiety fried nerves much needed rest, and allowed me to reset myself. I haven't had a really bad panic attack since February/early March. And yet, I am terrified. 

And... I am sad. I was in a trailer this last year and we were essentially told via automated phone system that we shouldn't return to school... at all. I finally got the okay to come clean out my trailer to move back into the building and I was met with a classroom ready to pick back up on a "next day" that never happened. I was greeted by unfinished artwork, tests that were never made up, and a list of notes of things to check in with students about. It felt like walking into a frozen scene where you expect things to start again any second. I remember packing up my room thinking, "at least next year I'll be in the building and I can start again.. right?" Now, I'm not so sure. 

And... I am angry. I am angry that we weren't better prepared. I am angry that this is still a joke to so many. I am angry that, back in March/April/May, people said teachers "needed a raise" but they were the first thing considered for budget cuts. I am angry that teachers were given little to no support (again) and expected to figure it out... and WE DID. Overnight, literally. We did everything we could to support the students we love with whatever support and guidance we could get. And now we are literally being given no real, viable options for the new year for our safety or our students safety. Options vary across the country, but the message is clear, "Get back in the classroom, with fewer resources, and do more". Any "lessons learned" during quarantine are gone it seems and it's "back to business as usual". And that's it isn't it? Business. Teachers have to go back and sacrifice their health and their students' health because business won't support families during this time. 

I don't want this post to turn into a rant that is angrier than it already is, so I want to look at a few things that are going to happen. Some are pulled from things I've seen online or things being "offered" to teachers. 

  • Those masks being given to teachers? I can tell you what we'll do with them. We'll wear them until someone comes into our room who needs one. Someone who is sick. Someone who needs protection. Then, we'll give them our mask. 
  • Those safety precautions? Those self checks? They'll work until someone is running late for work, gives their child some Tylenol and sends them to school. 
  • Those self isolation guidelines? Those will work, except... what happens if the schools aren't notified about illness and contamination? Where will we get the subs? I have some sick days built up, but the sick days teachers get every year don't even last for one full quarantine period. 
  • Buses are NOT going to be staggered, distanced, etc. That means that we are looking at 50+ students being exposed at any given moment on the bus. Those students then go into a room with 30+ others and a teacher. At the high schools, they'll meet 30+ new people in second period, and so on. 
  • Those "one direction hallways"? They'll work until J needs to talk with Mrs. X or with B. They'll work until Q needs to go to the bathroom, but it's behind them in the hallway. They'll work until the halls bottleneck and all of a sudden the bell rings and students are risking tardies and discipline. And that's NOT the kids fault. But... they'll bear the consequences. 
  • Those socially distanced, same way facing desks? Those are great... except C needs to fidget and H needs to stim. L needs help reading. Your teachers will have to choose to either let students work without help or break social distancing to help them make progress. That is not a fair position to be put in as a student or a teacher.
  • Oh, and all those things you KNOW we'll need to keep the kids safe? Hand sanitiser, gloves, masks, disinfectant spray, extra supplies so students don't share. That will most likely be provided by the teacher themselves, as usual. The difference now is that in some places, budgets are being cut and teachers will get no assistance.
And, on top of all that, many of us will be figuring out how to teach in person AND online, if we go back as planned. 

Do I want to go back? Yes. I want to see my kids. I want to teach, to do what I love. That is also what makes this so hard for us teachers. We WANT to be with the kids. We also want the kids to be safe and healthy. We can't teach your students if we are fighting for our lives. We can't support your students if we are stuck behind a glass wall six feet away. It isn't ideal, but we can try and support them online and we have been. I can do more for my kids on a computer and with a camera and my phone then I can wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away, in a classroom. Do I want to... NO! I want to be with your kids. I want to see their faces every day, give them high fives when they have successes, and, yes, I want to be there to listen to their woes and help them through their struggles.... But... Health comes first. 

I'll close with this. Everyone should take a look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Before we can meet their academic and creative needs, we must meet their basic needs of safety and health. We are woefully failing as a country right now in doing that. We have to start there. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Update Regarding Stepping into CI Subscription Service

Good morning Stepping into CI!

After discussion and thought, we have decided to cancel the pay portion of our website at this time. This is partially due to the fact that, as providers, we have not been as active as in past years on the website and we do not want to charge anyone if we are not fulfilling our end of the bargain. Rather, we'd like to focus back in on our origins, the blog, and share there while we continue to focus on our own professional development and program. This is not the end of PBP or Stepping into CI, for sure.

We want to thank you all for your unending support and love as we've embarked on this journey! Without you all, our website, podcast, CI Bites, or units would never have happened. Thank you!

 After March, those subscription portions of the website will close and content will potentially be offered elsewhere depending on the creator's choice. More information on those offerings and anything new we come up with will be announced, as always, on the blog.

Thank you! We hope we have and will continue to serve you well.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Norms, Expectations, and SEL

This year I took a different approach to classroom norms and expectations (often called classroom rules, or daily expectations, etc). I created a series of promises that students and I made to each other. In August, we had a day where we discussed these expectations and agreed to work together toward these goals. You can see these in the presentation below.


After taking a course on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and giving it some consideration, I decided to do something new in January. Below is my reflection on how it went in each class and I've included some pictures of their work.

Supplies used in class

  • foam poster board (can stand on its own; is more durable)
  • markers, pencils, crayons, etc.
  • permanent marker
  • white board and markers
  • google survey
  • extra decorations:
    • shout out cutouts
    • washi tape
    • stickers
    • stamps
    • highlighters

Steps taken in each class:

  1. survey reflection on August norms/expectations
  2. brainstorm key words and phrases that are important to the class
  3. class discussion and review of norms and expectations
  4. creative design of class poster board detailing the new norms and expectations for the class. 

1st period 

First period, like I imagine most first periods to be, is relatively quiet. Students are, at best, mostly awake and, at worst, completely asleep. Many didn't eat breakfast or are panicking about a test or assignment for a later class. 

To the right, you can see the key words the class came up with. It took some prodding, but eventually
IMG: A whiteboard with multi-coloured words on it. Words are:
different, honesty, respect, community, ready to learn, kind,
responsibility, supportive, self-control, unique, productive,
safe, engaging, jokes, awake, details, considerate, open,
positive, and creative.
they started to come up and write on the board. What was key for them was seeing me write as well and include my thoughts. I wrote words like "awake", "safe", and "fun". Others wrote words like "respect", "community", and "jokes". These key words helped us come up with unique norms for 1st period. 

After discussion, the class decided on 4 detailed norms/expectations. Personally while I prefer a simpler, if longer list, this class decided to include the ideas in the details. The class did not finish creating their poster, so we will pick up on Monday. I'll post their final draft on Twitter (@miriampatrick). 

2nd period

IMG: A whiteboard with multi-coloured words on it. Words are:
democracy, be fun, be fye as frick, Latin, positive, lit, be nice,
happiness, games, no communism, share, no cussing, no bugs,
don't be wack yo, open minded, respect, talking, diplomacy,
communication, listen to each other, and clean.
My second period class is smaller than my first, but also a Latin II class. While these students are certainly more awake, they can also be very quiet. That being said, when given the opportunity to fill the board, every single one of them came up and started writing almost immediately. They engaged in conversation much more openly and quickly than my first period, but this fits their general personalities and relationships with each other. This class enjoys joking with each other and some of the words on their board reflected that conversation.

This class also used a lot of colloquial language and inside jokes that are unique to their community. Words like fye, frick, wack, lit, and even communism have unique meanings to this group of students. While these words did not necessarily make it into their list of norms and expectations, they were an important part of our discussion and their desires. Fye and frick together refer to engaging and participation. Wack refers to respect, communication, and kindness. Communism is obviously a reference to current situations and expresses students desires to be unique, individual, and open. Similarly, however, they also recognised that sharing and equity were also very important and that this space belongs to us all and we need to work together to create and good space.
IMG: a white poster board with brightly coloured rules (listed
in blog) entitled Class Norms. 

This class came up with 7 unique rules. (1) Listen to each other. (2) Be open to what others have to
say. (3) Everyone has their own voice. (4) Participate to the BEST of your ability. (5) Respect the classroom space. (6) Leave the room better than you came! (7) Leave your issues at the door.

3rd Period

My 3rd period is a Latin I class with a vocabulary unique to them; so much so that I had to ask what a few words meant. This class is large and vocal. There a quite a few students who needed a gentle reminder that this was an activity that required their individual and serious participation. Once we go into discussion, however, we came up with a wide variety of things that all centered around creating family. This class, as negative as they can each be about anything, really want to be a family. This circled around ideas like protection, support, and acceptance. This was a really good conversation to hear them have.

6th Period

My 6th period is my smallest class. They are the most vocal when it comes to how they feel (positively or negatively). They are also the most skilled at successfully encouraging me to go off topic! They are also all friends, so this was quick work for them. After some joking around they got right to the task and finished brainstorming quickly. They then began work on the poster, ultimately deciding upon four classroom norms: (1) Have fun and laugh. (2) Help others. (3) Respect and listen to everyone. (4) Work together to stay focused. 

They even worked to figure out, to the best of their ability, how to say "We love Latin." While not 100% correct, this is their own work and I am incredibly proud of them!

IMG: A large white posterboard with class norms listed in
shoutouts. The posterboard is decorated with stickers
stamps and markers and includes "nos amat Latinam". 

IMG: A whiteboard covered in words: Love, Latin, Play,
clean, respect, learning, intellectual, contribute, gimkit,
awareness, cooperation, people, English, friendly,
games, no sleep, awake, chill, nice, communicate,
fun, normal, crazy, engaged, respectful, funny,
enjoyable, good energy, good vibes, pay attention,
clean, honesty, creative, engaging, and listen to each other. 

7th period

My last class of the day is my largest. This class included just about any student you can think of. It took a little longer for them to collect ideas and to understand what I was asking, but when they did, we got a board FULL of words and phrases! Their expectations focused on working together to create a fun and interactive environment. 

They are still working on their poster, but their brainstormed is pictured left.