Grouping/Seating Strategies

Do you have one set of cards taped to chairs, and distribute duplicate cards to students as they walk in for randomized seating? Do you have a left side/right side of the room labeled for Total Physical Response (TPR) groups? Try adding these for novelty…

Instead of cards taped to chairs, just shuffle and deal to students at the start of class (while they’re reading the one thing you’ve typed up?). Student pairs find each other, and either work together, or just sit next to one another for randomized seating.


Print and laminate images/names of things from the target language-speaking world. Keep them organized, and grab a new set every few days/week. For example, my room is labeled Rome and Pompeii for left/right, but I have other sets of cities, monsters, heroes, authors, social classes, etc. tucked away in a drawer. Next week, I could distribute 1/2 social class pulārēs and 1/2 optimātēs to the class, and have each sit on different sides of the room. This both mixes up the seating as well as gives new groups for TPR, etc. For small groups, say, One Word At a Time Stories (OWATS), I could distribute the chariot racing factions Alba, Russāta, Prasina, and Veneta, or just combine any pairs already formed, etc. This is just one more way to infuse target-culture into your class.


Required Homework: A Prep-Free Solution

My go-to homework is to read/reread a text from class. This is largely the honor system, banking on students finding the text compelling. There are those who want to see EVIDENCE that reading took place, though. Under such conditions, I don’t really want to hold a reading quiz the next day in order to catch and trap students who had too much Science the night before. Thus, I need a solution…

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Input Expectations: The Updated ONE Rubric

I’ve had great success reporting scores of any homework, assignments, and quizzes in a 0% grading category portfolio, and then using those scores as evidence to double check and confirm each student’s self-assessed course grade based on Proficiency Rubrics. However, I’m constantly open to streamlining any teaching practice, so I’ve just updated my rubrics, distilling them into a single one. Students still self-assess their own estimated ACTFL Proficiency Level, but that level is independent from the grade they also self-assess. So, what’s the grade based on? Instead of proficiency, it’s based on course expectations of receiving input! After all, input causes proficiency, so why not go right to the source?

Move over Proficiency-Based Grading (PBG)! Hello…Expectations…Based…Grading (EBG)? It’s not as wacky as it sounds, trust me. In fact, it’s probably the least-restrictive grading practice next to Pass/Fail, yet still holds students accountable and provides all the flexibility I’ve enjoyed thus far. Here’s the rubric:


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Super Posters (Sweet Sēdecim)

I recently updated my classroom posters as part of the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC). I now intend to focus more deliberately on those top 16 verbs each year, every year, using whatever else is needed for communication given various topics.

Here’s the next update…Super Posters!



These new posters not only have all the plural forms, but also the past tense on the back when printed double-sided! Now, I use the past tense aaaaaaaaall the time, right from the first day of Latin 1! In fact, there’s no legitimate reason not to when teaching in a comprehension-based communicative classroom (i.e. shelter vocabulary, not grammar). Usually, my signal for past tense (i.e. hand over shoulder) is enough to convey the meaning, but these new Super Posters will be particularly helpful when there’s a completely different-looking word (i.e. stem-change). My signal works, but there are those who would prefer to have the plural forms written as well. As such, I’ve added them as another set of posters, present tense, and plural. However, these words get quite long for a highly inflected language like Latin, so I won’t be using them, myself.


The plural forms of this word are quite long, and harder to see from the back of the room.

Due to that clutter from some verbs, my own plan is to continue posting the original ones with only singular. So, where do the Super Posters come into play? They’ve now become the laminated ones I hand out to students. In addition to holding up the poster when I use that verb, the student can flip it when they hear the past tense. Also, I can use one of these as-needed instead of writing any form students don’t understand.

I hope you find a use for these Super Posters, too!

N.B. Latin has a few past tenses. The most frequently used one, the perfect tense, has a completed aspect (like the Spanish preterite). The imperfect tense, with a continuous aspect, is used all the time, too. I chose mostly the perfect forms, especially since those can be completely different-looking from the present forms. Still, there are a few words I use mostly in the imperfect, so I included “erat” instead of “fuit,” and “sciēbat” instead of “scīvit.” If you want different tenses of any of these, make a copy of the Google doc and edit as you see fit. After all, these posters are to help YOU make Latin more comprehensible, and that might vary across different contexts.


Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) & Sweet Sēdecim (Sweet 16) Reboot

I’ve just decided to drop Obligation from the Awesome Octō (i.e. is, has, wants, likes, goes + says, thinks, owes/should), and replace it with Knowledge (i.e. knows/doesn’t know). Here are all the posters.

This is the first step towards updating and embracing the Sweet Sēdecim (+ sees, hears, comes, leaves, brings, puts, gives, is able) that many successful language teachers have been using for quite some time. The result will be focusing on a slightly larger core vocabulary—instead of just the top 8—over a longer period of time. These top 16 naturally occur across many communicative contexts. Thus, the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) is born.

In a nutshell, though…

  1. Can be used for ANY target language
  2. Curriculum is based on expanding vocabulary
  3. Content is driven by communication and student interests
  4. A repeating single-year organized into 2 units

Unit 1 Content, Years 1 – 4 (ACTFL’s Communication, Connections, and Communities)
“Who am I?”
“Who are we?”

  • Community: town(s), school, landmarks
  • Family: members, origin/ancestry, home
  • Self: age, likes/dislikes, wishes

Unit 2 Content, Varies each year (ACTFL’s Communication, Cultures, and Comparisons)
“Who were the target language speakers?”

  • establish suggested topics and poll students

Unit Test “Mastery” (UTM)

Unit Test “Mastery” (UTM) is a symptom many teachers and students suffer from. The teacher:

  1. presents content (Present)
  2. provides a learning experience (Practice)
  3. announces an assessment
  4. assesses students (Produce)
  5. chooses remediation based on low performance, or moves on
  6. repeat

The consequences of UTM is that students appear to “master” the content either right away or after the remediation, which itself is usually misinterpreted as assisting a “struggling student.” The teacher then moves on, and students seldom run into the same content, even from what you might expect from cumulative courses (e.g. one-off math/science concepts, or that perfunctory “transportation unit” in which students are given a vocabulary list for all possible—and likely outdated—ways to get around Madrid, etc.).

This is symptom seriously misleads the teacher. It’s one source of validating teaching practices that don’t actually produce results they seem to be producing. For example, most language teachers attribute their understanding of language to how they were taught, yet they’ve probably just been exposed to the language daily over time, teaching similar (same?) content year after year. This looks like proficiency, yet is probably just daily recall of translated and memorized information!

In reality, communication isn’t really something anyone can master, at least not in the subject-matter-learning sense used in other content areas. There’s a lot of pressure to make language courses fit what’s expected in school, but the model fails when we have inclusive classrooms based on universal human traits, and not intellectualizing language. The best teachers are able to resist that, educating their administration, or at least find the wiggle room to provide input and encourage interaction in a second language during the school day—something all humans are hardwired for.

I encourage everyone to find alternatives to traditional units accompanied by lessons with limited flexibility. Instead, meet students where they are, and move forward. One way to think about curriculum is basing it on vocabulary frequency, but not thematic (e.g. Greetings, Getting Around, Sports, etc.). Chris Stolz has shares how Mike Peto’s entire department has taken this to an extreme with fantastic results! All of these ideas are supported by what Eric Herman has coined “Forward Procedure:”

Forward procedure is process-oriented. It focuses on where students are. That doesn’t mean you can’t have tests, but those are not pre-determined. They are created in response to what has happened in class and tailored to where students are. If there had to be an element of “standardization” between sections, this would be to agree to use the same test format, but not the same content (e.g., sections hear a different story and do a timed rewrite). Rather than focus on something to cover, it focuses on giving students what they want and need in that moment to learn. It is the approach that makes a teacher most responsible to the learner. In a second language, communicative classroom, this is a much better fit. To quote Savignon (1976): “Above all, remember that for it to be real, communication must be a personalized, spontaneous event. It cannot be programmed – but you can make it happen” (p. 20).


Card Talk: What was good?

While Card Talk (formerly Circling with Balls) is great for establishing MGMT expectations by having students literally play ball on the first day of school, don’t forget about it the rest of the year! Write/project a prompt (as bell ringer/Do Now?), then talk about what students drew on their cards. This is no-prep, which sounds like juuuuuuuust the right thing to begin class once back from the holiday break, especially to reinforce class routines after being away for a bit. Aside from my new Brain Bursts, this is what I’ll do tomorrow, and it might even last the entire class!

Given the nature of holidays, instead of making things difficult for the less-privileged, or assuming who celebrates what, I’ll keep mine to a simple and global prompt:

Quid bonum erat? (What was good?)

Oh, and the student who draws nihil (nothing) actually helps us out. The “nothing” response makes it all the easier to launch into some non-examples, either/or questions, and Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) comparisons, as well as “I don’t believe you” and “liar” rejoinders that are instant hits that extend the conversation every time!