Marcus has lost something valuable containing a secret message that once belonged to Julius Caesar. Even worse, it was passed down to Marcus’ father for safekeeping, and he doesn’t know it’s missing! As Marcus and his friend, Soeris, search Alexandria for clues of its whereabouts, hieroglyphs keep appearing magically. Yet, are they to help, or to hinder? Can Marcus decipher the hieroglyphs with Soeris’ help, and find Caesar’s secret message?
Of all the novellas we’ve read this year in Latin 1, Marcus has been the most enjoyed character and story overall. When I showed students the proof copy of Marcus’ new saga, one class even applauded. That’s the kind of program buy-in we’re building with consistent independent reading (below- or at-level), and that’s why I continue writing these kinds of books. The new Mārcus doesn’t disappoint. As stated in the preface…
“the purpose of including hieroglyphs throughout this book is not to teach the ancient Egyptian language. Instead, the purpose is to introduce students to the alphabet so they can begin to recognize them, not unlike exploring ancient Greek for short unit, as is common in many Latin courses. More broadly, the idea behind learning these alphabets is to introduce students to the ancient world beyond Rome, which tends to get all the attention when it comes to antiquity. So, I hope you enjoy this introduction to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs via Latin!”
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:
Like grades, homework in school is just as expected as yellow buses, questionable cafeteria lunch, rank & file desks, band, and of course, football. Homework is such a part of school culture that it’s hardly given a second thought by the teachers who assign it. I’m sure there’s the following definition somewhere, too:
teacher (n.) = Overqualified and underpaid professional who assigns homework over vacation
Unlike using the lens of standards-based grading (SBG) to illustrate the inequity of late work, the inequity of homework should be self-evident: we cannot monitor student learning, and the home environment—if there is a home—differs from student to student. Some of those environments are conducive to learning, and others not so much. When teachers grade homework, they contribute to keeping those with privilege soaring high while those without get hit with more obstacles. Most teachers not giving homework much thought at least understood how to play the school game (whether or not they did it as students, themselves). Therefore, I’m guessing that the thought of not having a quiet space to do homework, the freedom of not needing to take care of family members, or responsibility of working at the family’s restaurant is questioned by probably just 1% of teachers assigning it. And it’s quite possible that in some communities these situations are completely unheard of. Or, they’re just lurking in the shadows, still there.
For the second week, I polled a Facebook group of 12,600 language teachers, this time on their homework grading policies. After about a week, 625 responded. A little under a quarter (139) grade homework one way or another (e.g., completion, rubric, etc.), with the majority of them (109) dropping a zero in the gradebook if not done.
Like usual, it took me a matter of minutes the other day to create the next day’s class agenda. Oh, you wanna know the trick to that? There are lots of them, but it all starts with a good grading system and ends with the basic Talk & Read format.Then, I try not to plan too far out knowing that something ALWAYS changes last-minute, and about 20% of our weeks aren’t even the typical schedule to begin with. I have a rough idea what’s coming up in following weeks, but never anything set in stone. Printing much ahead of time? Forget it. I’ve recycled WAY too many reams of no-longer-relevant activity sheets to know better. Anyway, I felt good about the time spent during my planning period, and had a solid idea of how class would go. The plans were simple and straightforward.
Yet, why was I exhausted by the end classes today?!
It turns out that low-prep isn’t always as easy as it seems to carry out. The good news is that it doesn’t take much more effort to avoid a draining class. In this post, you’ll find a list of the best low-prep AND low-energy-demanding activities generated from my input-based strategies & activities and how to get texts lists. Those lists have also been updated with the “EZ” code showing low-energy-demand typically required to carry them out.
I polled a Facebook group of 12,600 language teachers on their late work grading policies. After about a week, 585 responded. A little under half (255) apply some kind of penalty, whether work is accepted through the entire grading term, within some window or not at all after its due date. If we look at this practice from the perspective of grading standards (vs. completion, or whatever else), it can shed light on how inequitable late work penalties are…
TLDR; Set up a portfolio in the gradebook to collect evidence that has no direct impact on a student’s grade. I should sound like a broken record for those who have known me for the past decade or so, but it’s an iron-clad solution. Here it is in just four steps:
Abbi Holt had a great thread sharing a 6-year progression of practices that have made even teaching through a pandemic tolerable! Here it is with some commentary on why you should look into doing similar things, if not the very same…
Why This Works? #1 Not only is moving slowly and steadily a more responsive approach to teaching learners in the room, but reducing grading is crucial in carving out space for everything that positively impacts teaching and learning.
Here’s a competitive reading activity I came up with on the fly the other day. You could consider it one of those “sneaky” re-reading strategies, almost like an annotation task, but more fun. It’s no frills, has an element of chance (like Lucky Reading Game), and adds a novel twist to reading any text. Here are the instructions I project:
In your notebook, write down as many X as you can, in English.
When the time is up, we’ll review, and you get a point for each detail the teacher calls out.
Most points wins!
What’s “X?” Anything you want.We just read about Sagittarius from sīgna zōdiaca Vol. II, so X was “facts about Sagittarius.” Students feverishly read through pages to scoop up details.
What Details Get Points? Anything you want. In the zodiac example, I set a timer for 5 minutes, then started reading back from the beginning, making up points as I went (e.g., “If you wrote down something about Sagittarius being the 9th sign, give yourself a point). Just like The Monitor Assessment, I also gave points for details as a way to check comprehension.
What Do Students Win? My go-to reward is “glory and honor,” which honestly is enough for students. Besides, they get a laugh out of the fanfare knowing I won’t try to bribe them into playing games with anything other than winning as the purpose.
John Piazza shared how he moved his Independent Points Grade away from a homework-onlysystem to a something regularly-scheduled during class time, mostly for equity reasons. These are good reasons. I’ve borrowed from this idea to create a new routine, just without the points…
I asked a giant Facebook group of 12,600 language teachers how they redirect attention away from phones in a way that doesn’t address rule-breaking. Despite that last part, common comments included restating the phone policy, stopping class to talk about phone use (often directed at whole class instead of individuals), confiscating the contraband, or a point system that rewards not breaking the rule. More than one comment involved a direct negative impact to a student’s course grade (maybe check this out?). Some of those practices do redirect a student in the sense of changing the course of their attention, but in a way that directly addressesthe rule. I’m more interested in ways to manage behavior during class without much fanfare or acknowledgment…”sneaky”…if you will. I’m interested in masterful redirections so seamless that students don’t know they’re happening. In this post, I list all the comments that were about redirecting student attention. But first…
Not much was known about The Architects—guardians of the stars—until their diaries were found in dark caves sometime during the Tenth Age. Explore their mysterious observations from the Seventh Age (after the Necessary Conflict)—a time just before all evidence of their existence vanished for millennia! What happened to The Architects? Can you reconstruct the events that led to the disappearance of this ancient culture?
60-100 words, half cognates (i.e., 30-50)! 1000-3200 total length
Of all my books, I’m most excited for this one. Why? It’s my first completely new work of speculative fiction. What’s speculative fiction? It’s got elements from various genres, no-doubt SCI-FI, but without certain connotations one might expect, like being a nerdy genre. I like its characterization as “modern mythmaking,” and this book does just that. In diāria sīderum, I’ve created a new culture not connected to ours or the Romans, yet still plausibly within our universe somewhere along some an ancient timeline in the future. In fact, I approached the details of The Architects with intercultural competence in mind. What might their products and practices tell us? How are known cultures similar? How are they different?
I’m not gonna say anything else. Just know that there’s a LOT of details lurking about in this book that a beginner Latin reader could pick up on, especially if they spend some FVR time (Free Voluntary Reading) after you start the first section as a whole class. Besides, it’s a “who-dun-it?” of sorts, with a clear trail waiting to be discovered. Don’t skip the audio on this one, either. Enjoy!