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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“Edit The Task, Not The Text” & Other Major Failures In Second Language Teaching: Another Post On Reading (What Does That Mean?)

Eric Herman released memos 45 and 46 mid-March, and wow do they take “authentic texts”…to task! I’m not gonna post a bunch of juicy quotes from the 16 different authors cited in the articles. There’s plenty of convincing evidence to back up Eric’s claims, so go read the original if you’re a skeptic. Instead, here’s just one to get things started:

“They do not, however, provide any empirical evidence that this approach is more effective than adapting the texts themselves” (Gilmore, 2007, p. 109).

Gilmore is referring to advocates of the famous mantra that has led second language teachers astray for decades: “edit the task, not the text.” This push for “all-things-authentic,” a term for which there’s almost no consensus, has resulted in teachers justifying the use of unbelievably out-of-range texts given to language students to “read.” This by no means is unique to Latin teachers, but the kind of Latin that’s been given to students for centuries is probably the most extreme example of texts that no learner should have any business attempting to read. As a result, language development has suffered to the point of degree-holding teachers themselves being unable to read the very texts they’re giving their own students. Now that’s a trip. Eric goes on to offer some commentary on the situation:

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BURNout vs. BOREout

Someone online asked about routines last week or so, and I chimed in with my stock take about my own experience with things getting old, etc. and how the daily routine repeated weekly hasn’t worked out well for me in the past. A short while later, a friend gave pretty much the opposite advice. We’re both usually on the same page when it comes to prep and concern for burnout, so I was momentarily perplexed. Then it hit me: not only to teachers have to avoid burnout, but there’s also “boreout,” my word for stifling the joy in one’s day (for whatever reason). Both have the same outcome, which is leaving the profession at some point with a F^% it attitude. Quite plainly:

  • Too much planning = burnout
  • Too much of the same thing = boreout

For me, routines lead to boreout. I’ve done the Monday = X, and Tuesday = Y thing, but I haven’t had a daily school schedule making that possible for years. Last I did, though, the Monday “talk about weekend” thing got old. I’m not even talking about purely student interest, either. I got bored with it myself. I even get bored by the end of the third 84min. class plan that I teach straight in a row every other day, which is actually the fourth time I’ve taught it (i.e., four sections of Latin 1; one on A days, and the other three back-to-back on B days. Yeah, just put me to bed already, right?). It turns out that I’m prone to boreout just as much as burnout.

Daily routines and not-routines have a common goal. Both seek to avoid stressful, time-consuming, unnecessary planning. My friend has daily routines to reduce (eliminate?) all that. If Wednesday is always a quiz, Wednesday is always a quiz, right? For me, though, one thing I’ve run into is how even with a daily schedule, every Wednesday isn’t always a Wednesday. In fact, about 20% of the school year is irregular according to every calendar I’ve ever worked with given all the random days off, PD, snow days, testing, etc. That means one out of every five classes just…doesn’t happen. This displaces the routines and has caused me additional planning in the past. For example, if Wednesday is quiz day, and there’s no school Tuesday, it might not make sense to quiz anything.

Irregular weeks aside, even having a 2-week rotating activity schedule got old for me. I prefer a Talk & Read structure to every single class, as well as the “1-day-plan-ahead.” That is, each day, I look at a list of activities, noting what we haven’t done in a long time, etc., and plan for the following day. To be fair, I do roughly jot down the week’s possible agenda, or what I might want to do on Wed/Thurs, but it almost never quite stays the same once I get to the day before.

This also helps me be super-responsive to the class’ needs. For example, I did The Monitor Assessment recently and noticed far more incomprehension with one book’s chapter than the previous one. As a result, I adjusted by planning something to address all that in the next class. If I had the routines, and were expecting a quiz on Wednesday, that would’ve been harder to change things up. In sum, whatever time I spend picking out an activity or two for the next day and setting it up—which is usually 5-10 minutes—isn’t a problem for me. That certainly helps me avoid burnout, and has the benefit of keeping boreout at bay.