Basics: Current Ideas & Summary of Recurring Blog Posts

All Of My Daily Activities, etc.
– input-based strategies & activities

If this stuff interests you, consider putting a few things in place to support the move towards a more comprehension-based and communicative approach. Here are the practices fundamental to my teaching, making the daily stuff possible:

Core Practices
CI
Grammar
Textbooks
Curriculum
Grading
Look, Listen, Ask
Course Grade
Assessments
Speaking & Writing

Continue reading for explanations of each…

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Year In Review: Updated Grading w/ Standards

My one-standard-self-assessed grading system of receiving input (re: Input Expectations rubric) has been working out just fine for several years now. “Fine” is…well…fine…but we as educators should be open to refining practices whenever we get new data, especially whenever “fine” has the opportunity to become something awesome. This year I was able to do something better, getting ever so close to that awesome. If what I’ve been doing could be considered 85% of the way towards equitable, time-saving grading that shifts focus to learning, I’m now at probably 90%.

These updates are the result of some research I’ve been doing using primary sources from Grading For Equity (Feldman, 2018), Fair Isn’t Always Equal (Wormeli, 2018), Assessment 3.0 (Barnes, 2015), Hacking Assessment (Sackstein, 2015), and Ungrading (Blum & Kohn, 2020), along with 20 or so additional research reports on related topics. Updates included introducing new standards one-by-one, and their values changed throughout the year. The system also moved from 100% self-graded to 100% teacher-graded. I’m keeping some of these updates for next year, but more on that later on. Let’s take a look at those standards, first…

Process
Process refers to the things students *must* do to acquire language. It’s basically what the Input Expectations rubric was all along years before. Rather than a set of bias-ridden controlling rules that have circulated the language teaching profession for some time, though (e.g., “eyes up front, nothing in laps/on desk, intent to understand,” etc.), there is no dispute that students need input, and there are only three modes of doing so: reading, viewing, and listening. That’s it, and there’s no way to distill it further. Since a focus on providing input requires plenty of time and energy, there’s not much convincing reason to do or grade much else. Therefore, my grading system aligns with the instructional design 1:1.

The processes found in the older Input Expectations rubric have been 100% of my students’ grade for years. Students self-assess how well they’ve been receiving input about four times per year, and that’s it. How do they receive input? Well, I’ve been working under the Look, Listen, Ask framework, but have now separated out the latter into a workflow of Respond/Show/Ask. If students Respond (target language takes priority, but English is fine), we’re good to go. If they can’t, students Show their understanding (e.g., gestures, expressions, etc.). If students can’t do either, though, then it’s time to Ask. This update has the benefit of getting more engagement from students without requiring some kind of “choral response” rule. Also, the students who can respond—but choose not to—start to realize it’s easier to do so rather than having me check their comprehension (because I didn’t get any data and no data is bad).

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Pre-, Dum-, and Post-Reading Cycles

In a Latin Best Practices Facebook group discussion months back, I shared that I wasn’t sure I do any pre- or post-reading. I just have a bunch of…activities. While I still think that’s true, I’ve decided to consolidate and organize everything under the pre/dum(during)/post categories to make planning even easier.

I almost can’t believe I just typed that. Planning—for me—already takes mere minutes. With broad Class Day and Culture Day unit plans established for reference, I’ve had no need to plan the class agenda more than a day or two in advance. In fact, doing so becomes a waste of time as things become irrelevant, or causes frustration when plans—inevitably—must change. N.B. I’m able to plan this way because I work under a “forward procedure” approach, which I highly recommend. Still, if there’s a way to reduce planning even further, I’m game.

I hear teachers talk about cycles a lot these days, which are kind of like longer planning routines. Since my school went to A/B day block schedule, the whole “Monday = ____ day” is pointless, and the longer 84 minute classes really messed with how I structured it all. This year was a big adjustment to say the least. So next year, I’m gonna give the cycle thing a try as it pertains to pre-, dum-, and post-reading sequences within a single class. This differs from what Elizabeth Davidson shared, noting that her sequence typically lasts 4-6 days. These past weeks, though, I’ve been using the sequences when reading a short text, such as a novella chapter, in one class. As such, the amount of pre- needed for the reading (dum-) is far more limited, as well as the scope of a post-reading wrap-up (usually a game). For the descriptions of everything that follows, see this updated list of activities, which is now organized by timing, not prep…

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Classroom Management (MGMT): Let. It. Go.

It dawned on me that I have zero management issues right now. Zero. Yeah, it feels like the Twilight Zone. In fact, the only classroom management issue close to what I used to experience years ago was something mask-related, and took place way back in the fall while I was covering for another teacher. But classroom management in Latin class? It has felt almost like an afterthought. How is this possible, especially after a year…”off”…with virtually (hehe) no problems?!

At the start of the year, MGMT was an area of my teaching that I felt was completely inadequate from lack of practice re: COVID and remote teaching. I certainly had what I used to consider “one of those classes” at the start of the year, but in hindsight, it still didn’t take much effort to manage, not really, and in February when I began writing this post it was hardly unnoticeable, and just not a thing at this point. Why is that?! Has my teaching fundamentally changed since 2018-19? Let’s look into that…

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As Many Students As Possible (AMSAP) Stories

I asked the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook group for ideas on how to get one massive story with every student starring in it. I was able to get a LOT of students into their own story back in the fall, but then storytelling kind of tapered off like it usually does. I still haven’t found a way to keep storytelling going throughout the year with all the other stuff we have to read, so that might just be my M.O., but I’m not ready to just accept things as-is. Besides, I’m more than enthusiastic about stories and am always on the lookout for collaborative storytelling options that don’t have any acting. The following idea is a combination of Mike Peto’s and Karen Rowan’s suggestions:

Prep:

  • On index cards, students write their name, something they like/like to do, and a role they’d like to have in a multiverse where anything’s possible.
  • Collect cards.
  • Put students into groups.
  • Shuffle and redistribute cards to groups.
  • Groups brainstorm possible connections and story elements based on card info.

There are two different ways to play: either the class works together and story isn’t done until all cards are gone (or class ends if doing this in one block), or the first group to get all their students in the story wins. I asked my students which one they wanted. All classes chose to collaborate, and got between 7 to 13 students into a story in about 30-40 minute. I also began by showing subsequent class sections the other class stories. By doing so, a competition emerged naturally where students to get more students into their story than the other classes.

Process:

  1. Pose a question (e.g., “Where were they?”).
  2. Give students time to discuss in their groups.
  3. Accept one group’s suggestion, or class votes.
  4. Repeat.

Notes:
– It will help to have one rule: a group can only suggest a single student at a time. This avoids a “who were they with?” question resulting in a list of all the students, lol.
– The group brainstorm and discussion result should help create a more coherent narrative.
– Even in the group-only win condition, a teacher goal could be to get every student into the story, so when you accept suggestions from groups, do so evenly, or at least don’t take them from just one or two groups. The winner should definitely be the group that contributes to making the most enjoyable story, but you can extend the storyasking process to include many students, their interests, and roles within the fantasy world.
– Use a target-language, or code-switch format depending on level.

Olianna et sandalia extraōrdināria: Published!

Olianna learns more about herself and her family in this psychological thriller continuation of “Olianna et obiectum magicum.” We begin at a critical moment in the original, yet in this new tale, not only does the magical object appear to Olianna, but so do a pair of extraordinary sandals! Olianna has some choices to make. How will her decisions affect the timeline? Will things ever get back to normal? If so, is that for the better, or worse?


20 cognates, 20 other words
1500 total length

While many Pisoverse novellas contain references to each other, none of them are what I would consider a sequel. This new book is different, though, picking up immediately in mediās rēs of an event towards the end of Olianna et obiectum magicum. As a true sequel, then, Olianna et sandalia extraōrdināria was deliberately written to include almost all the vocab from the original. The result is a book with 40 words, but just half are new. This reduces the vocab burden for any reader already familiar with the first book.

  1. For Sets, Packs, and eBooks order here
  2. Amazon
  3. eBooks: Storylabs

Rethinking “CALP”

A few years ago, second language teachers I knew began borrowing terms and concepts from the English Learner (EL) world. I teamed up with John Bracey, John Piazza, and David Maust to present some of these ideas to Latin teachers at ACL’s 100th Annual Meeting in New York. The biggest impact the four of us found was looking at how to explore Roman topics as a class in Latin (vs. English), and we did this using a CALP (cognitive academic language proficiency) framework. It turns out that CALP is an older term that could use some updating.

CALP was originally conceived by Cummings in 1980/81 to describe the kind of language that students encounter in an academic setting as opposed to BICS (basic interpersonal communication skills) used for socializing. Within that framework, Cummings wrote that there’s social language and academic language, and that the latter is more complex and advanced than the former. However, critics such as Scarcella (2003), MacSwan & Rolstad (2003), and Bailey (2007) pointed out the deficit mindset in characterizing social language as inferior to academic language. Therefore, lest we continue to build walls, it’s time to update the term, and we’ve got options…

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Common Ground (Henshaw & Hawkins, 2022): First 30 Pages All Language Teachers Should Read

This post includes practical ideas I got from Florencia Henshaw’s and Maris Hawkins’ theory-to-practice SLA (second language acquisition) book. The preface and first chapter contain what’s probably among the best 30 pages a language teacher could read, especially one having little familiarity with SLA, and/or those who missed the Tea with BVP train, and While We’re On The Topic.

My context is teaching first year Latin in a small public high school in a large city. Latin is required. It’s the only language offered. So there. I teach beginning students who have no choice (i.e., this often means no interest or any prior knowledge), and many of them didn’t have a second language experience in primary or middle school. Since “novice learners have a long way to go when it comes to developing a linguistic system” (p. 138), my focus is hardly on any output. Output “helps with the skill of accessing that system” (p. 138), which the beginner is still building, so it’s not a priority. This doesn’t mean no one speaks Latin (students do!). This doesn’t mean there isn’t any interaction. What this does mean is that I’m not thrown off by all the “Get students speaking the TL in just five easy steps!” messages that lead so many language teachers astray. Neither are the authors, although they’ve included stuff in the book for those who might be dealing with an IPA-heavy department (Integrated Performance Tasks), or who might be coming from a more traditional program and isn’t quite ready to give input its due attention. Input is key. I’d actually feel the same if I taught second year Latin as well, and maybe even year three. This would also hold true for any language. That is to say I think all Spanish I & II, or maybe even Korean III teachers would benefit from the same approach: a massive focus on input.

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Possession Expression: The “mihi” Game

The communicative purpose of this game is entertainment and winning, although a quick follow-up connection prompt or two gets students thinking about what they learned about each other (i.e., similarities and differences). This will work best introduced at the start of next year after Slide Talk and getting students their own story as work your way through the slides and personal interests (i.e., “Cui placet?” and students yelling out “mihi!”). Then, bring this game back throughout the year with other things students own (e.g., clothing colors, pens/pencils, backpack, iPhone series, book from ELA class, Science teacher, names even, etc.).

I got the idea for this when thinking of the three common ways to express ownership in Latin. While I vary my questions in class, I cannot say that I repeat questions about ownership in all three ways, Yet it would be helpful for the learner. It provides additional input to those ready, and gives processing time for those who need it. I remember this strategy being used quite a bit by Terrence Tunberg at Conventicula Lexingtoniense et Dickinsoniense.

Gameplay
Ask a question, and students race to be first to yell out “mihi/ego/meum!” earning a point. Most points wins. Alternatively, you could do a BINGO! thing and have everyone tally when the statement applies to them, and finding out who had the most at the end. For placet questions at the start of the year, the one response is mihi. After you move on to possession, vary the expression for more variety. Just project this chart showing each possession expression and their response, and pose a question to the class, such as “Cui est nōmen ‘Lailah?'” or “Quis librum The Hate U Give habet?” BONUS: Get students to look around and generate that list for you. EZPZ.

If you wanna increase the challenge, make sure the response matches the question, vary which one you use, and for upper levels ask for a longer response for Cūius questions (e.g., “meus liber est”). Although this game could be played with zero prep just observing similarities in the room, it might be a good idea to have a slide with some vocab handy (e.g., words for clothing, school supply vocab, etc.). After the game is over, have students write down a few similarities they had with other students, or do a Write & Discuss (Type ‘n Talk) as a whole class going over the comparisons.

MYSTĒRIUM: A Whodunnit Game In Latin

**Updated 5.9.22 with a new Whodunnit and its folder**

My students have had a decent time playing our RPG lite “The Game” series, so I went looking for something else with more interaction and collaboration that first year language students could handle on their own without me leading it like The Game. I stumbled across this first-day History class activity from a while back. To be clear, I loath group work for the sake of group work, and have found a lot of it to be a near-complete waste of time. Therefore, I didn’t just want a “who dunnit?” kind of game that meant nothing with barely any Latin processed. I also loath tasks using language that’s way too hard for students to understand. It’s pointless and frustrating, for all of us. That all brought me to coming up with a series of clues and distractions, all using high frequency Latin that first year students could understand in the second half of the year.

The idea behind this whodunnit is for a group of students to reconstruct the events of something—usually not good, but doesn’t have to be violent or upsetting—from a collection of clues. For this first one, I went with a basic print & distribute, although you could treat it almost like an escape room with puzzles getting solved and clues being turned into the teacher in order to move on to the next puzzle. Too much work if you ask me, though. Here’s the basic outline of what I gathered:

  • Culprit & their motive
  • Real clues
  • Distractions (e.g., contradicting statements, alibis, etc.)
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