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


  1. Thanks! I'll probably update on our next steps soon!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I'm starting to think that maybe I can teach remotely.