Basics: Current Ideas & Summary of Recurring Blog Posts

All Of My Daily Activities, etc.
– input-based strategies & activities
– how to get texts

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:

Grammar
Textbooks
Curriculum
Grading
Course Grade
D.E.A.
Assessments
Speaking & Writing

Continue reading for explanations of each…

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No-Prep Planning: Using The School’s Calendar

On my school’s calendar, there are 10 vacation days, holidays, or 3-day weekends before the school week that lend themselves to a “what was X like?” no-prep discussion. That leaves roughly 25 other days back from the weekend. There’s the classic Calendar Talk, or Weekend Chat, but what else is there? For example, I have a poetry routine, which if started in January leaves only 10 remaining Mondays to actually plan for.

That’s it…10!

With classes meeting 5x/wk, the combination above just took care of all Mondays (i.e. 20% of planning)! This year, I plan to look at the school year more like this, especially as a department, seeing what events naturally lend themselves to providing content (e.g. big sports games, Superbowl, dances, election day, community parades, etc.). Also, that’s just everything we know about ahead of time, let alone any weekend events that get people buzzing (e.g. Notre Dame, community announcements, etc.).

So, how can you use the school calendar to gain even MORE planning and personal time?

Do Now & Text-Generating Routines

Classes feel a bit different this year—to say the least—meeting between just 40 and 44 minutes daily. That certainly doesn’t sound like much time for high school, but it’s growing on me. In fact, I’d even say that this is an ideal amount of time to spend in a second language each day, so no complaints, here. Due to the need for super efficient timing, though, my daily structure now looks like this:

  1. Do Now
  2. Activity 1 (or first part of a longer activity)
    -Brain Break-
  3. READ (independently)
  4. Activity 2 (or second part of a longer activity)

To give you a sense of how this looks, on Tuesday we held the first round of student interviews (i.e. Discipulus Illustris/Persona Especial), students read about last Friday’s basketball game, then I asked questions about what we learned from the student in the spotlight, typing into a Google Doc as students copied the Latin into their notebooks (i.e. Write & Discuss). That was it! Thinking of the class day as two parts is really easy to plan for. Also, since classes meet daily, I’ve decided to alternate activities. This makes the week feel like there’s more variety without adding too much. Here are my alternating daily routines for these first weeks of school…

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Are My Students Reading Every Day?

No? Why not?

After thinking it over—and I can think things over for a long, long time—I can’t find a compelling reason why students shouldn’t be reading every day, either independently, in pairs/groups/whole class, or both. This year’s students have already read independently for twice as long as last year’s students did…by the end of Quarter 1!!!!

Reading is probably the best source of input, and although I value class time interaction, the reason for all that interaction amounts to being able to read Latin. In fact, I would still place all my eggs in the reading basket when teaching a modern language, too, knowing that interpersonal communication *might* occur outside of the classroom, but that it also might not. However, books can accompany us wherever we go, and literacy is probably the most important skill to promote and build across all content areas, as well as language class.

Bottom line, reading is paramount. Looking back at last year’s plans, there were days when students didn’t read, but I can’t justify that, even for a few minutes at some point between activities. Therefore, I’ve now built reading time into my plans for each day…like…ALL of them…! How?!

Halfway through class, and before ANY reading or any other input-based activity, students read independently for 3 minutes. That’s it!

For example, last week I finished class with TPR (Total Physical Response), but guess what? Students had 3 minutes of independent reading time with their first text. This was after a brain break in the middle of class, and that’s in 40 to 44 minute classes. If I still taught for 1 hour, I’d set a timer for 25, quick break, then read. Every. Day.

Of course, the insistence on this routine means I need a text every day, but that doesn’t mean the text must be long. That also doesn’t mean that a new text is needed every day. While students certainly could be given new text daily, especially with judicious use of copying a text written/typed out during class (i.e. Write & Discuss), a longer text could last a couple days, or even the whole week.

So, if your students aren’t reading every day, what can you do to build in this time?

Fill-In Choral Translation

One issue that makes Choral Translation boring is the slow, drudging nature of translating word for word. When overused, you can actually hear students dropping out of unison responses. Rather than pulling the “c’mon, guys” pep talk that fails nearly every time, try Fill-In Choral Translation instead…

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First Text: A Year To Year Comparison

After the first orientation day of just 12 minute “classes,” I typed up statements using the drawings students did while responding to “what do you like/like to do?” Even though I followed the same plan for the first day as last year, the higher execution of it this year has been…well…crazy.

Last year, each class section read just 50 total words of Latin (10 unique words). This year? There’s 520 total words using 54 unique (17 of which cognates)!!!! Yeah. That’s how much Latin I’ll be able to provide this week after just one very brief meeting, and a decent number of hours writing/typing. Oh, and I’m not keeping track of that kind of work at this point in the school year, doing what I need to do to start off in a calm and confident manner, putting in any extra time beyond the school day I need.

So, how does this year end up including SOOOOO much more input?! First of all, I made sure every 9th grade student was included in the text, clearing the time needed to write about them. Otherwise, I updated a few things. This post looks at those changes…

sample of 2018-19 first text
sample of this year’s first text

The differences you can probably see between the two comparison pics are the following…

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Here…We…GO!

For all my tips, tricks, and sneaky systems, I do a LOT of scripting and detailed planning the first weeks of school in order to feel prepared. Last year, I wrote about “annual amnesia,” and this year is no different. Granted, I’m reaaaaally on top of certain things, like creating a giant colored-coded poster with class END times near the clock to reference while teaching, and other odds ‘n ends. But then there’s Monday…

“What the HELL am I actually going to DO in class?!”

OK OK, it’s not that bad. However, I did need to set aside time to think things through, all outlined in this post…

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