“You teach the kids you have.” I like this nugget of wisdom. It doesn’t matter if previous classes of students did this or that. Everyone must teach the students they have in the room, not anticipated students, or former students. Sometimes what the students in the room don’t know can be surprising, but the only thing that matters is what we do about it. For example, I’ve been perplexed by the lack of digital literacy I’ve been seeing with incoming 9th grade students. Rather than shake my head, pretending that lack of skill isn’t my problem, I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to do something even if it has less to nothing to do with Latin. Why? Because I teach the kids I have, and these kids need to be able to navigate Google Classroom, and I’m tired of pretending it’s fine. The plan? Each week, students will have 20 minutes to organize their learning after another 20 minute independent learning session. The latter part isn’t really new, so let’s start with that:
This independent learning time worked out really well last year. I checked my planning doc and saw that between December and June we had Flex Time a total of eight times. I’ve curated the options, most recently removing Quizlet since I find it less useful when not immediately followed by a whole-class Live session before reading the text. New for this year will be to encourage an ongoing project. Is the goal to read as many novellas as possible? Is the goal to work through an entire textbook? Is the goal to learn about a specific Latin-related topic? Instead of bouncing around the Flex Time options every few weeks or so, students will now choose an ongoing option for this new weekly routine every Wed/Thurs. Yes, they can switch if they really want to, just as long as they reflect why (e.g., “I liked the idea of having textbook structure, but I think Caecilius is boring.”).
The second half of Wed/Thurs each week gives students time to check feedback and submit learning evidence (Google Classroom) for Latin class. Once done, or if already caught up, the remaining time is for checking school email (Gmail) and responding to other needs, such as correspondence with teachers, and/or completing other class Google Classroom assignments. No, it does not bother me if a student ends up doing 8 minutes of math at the end of Latin. I’m teaching the students I have, and it’s clear that they need something like this. What I will do is make sure this rolls out smoothly. What I won’t do is hang out at my desk and overestimate my student’s independent learning capability. This kind of work with 9th grade requires heavy monitoring, not unlike the first minutes of independent reading. That is, if I think students are going to magically grab a book and be quiet on their own within 10 seconds, I’m fooling myself. Yet every time I take those first moments to ensure the majority of students—yes, majority, because we can’t have it all, all the time, everywhere, all at once—settle into a task, I’m always rewarded with my own quiet time to read, with the occasional look up, make eye contact, and stare down the kid who’s goofing off until they get back to the book. It works. You just have to commit to both: monitor the room, getting kids on task at the start of an activity, and being unwavering with a teacher look at the ready.
So, the second 20 minutes of Wed/Thurs is also for students to add learning evidence, submitting work from the previous week in addition to what they did during Flex Time. For example, they could attach a notebook pic from Mon/Tues annotation task, as well as a statement about something they learned from their Flex Time findings, how much they read of a book, what they were working on, etc.