NTPRS 2018 Takeaways & Presentations

These are my updated presentations from the conference:

No-Prep Grading & Assessment 2018
Questioning Is Core
Optimizing Your Classroom Setup For MGMT

Here are my own takeaways organized by presenter, whether a) directly used by them during the conference, or b) inspired by something similar they did that got me thinking and I’ve adapted:

Adriana Ramirez

  • Verb Endings Chart Adriana points to verb endings in order to help make form-meaning connections to what learners are hearing. She has noticed an increase of accuracy in both comprehension and production of forms other than the most common present tense, and 3rd person. As an actor in her Fluency Fast class, I was able to respond easily with a complete thought (for the other learners to hear) by her pointing to the expected native-like ending, and it in no way felt forced. There was no correction, just assistance. I’m considering doing something like this since it might help reduce so much writing on the board considering how many inflected forms come up during any given Latin class!
  • Picture Presentations & Picture Talk Combo In the second year, learners present a chosen picture of themselves to the class by just talking about it—no preparation. Adriana is there to provide support if needed, and then also engages the class with questions about it (i.e. Picture Talk). This builds community (and gets you a text if you then type it up!).
  • Read & Discuss VideoTalk This is way easier than MovieTalk! Instead of narrating during a video clip on the spot, just choose a video, write a text/embedded readings, and read & discuss (perhaps the final embedded reading). After reading & discussing a sentence or section, play that part of the video. Pause, read & discuss, then repeat.

Jason Fritze

  • “Withdraw the Love” For rule violations, or other MGMT issues that don’t need an explicit or strong response, just stop class, go blank, and wait. Give the love back when they’re ready, or after learners self-police each other (e.g. “dude, be quiet, look at Mr P!”).
  • No-Prep MovieTalk Slides There are built-in slides during any video clip. Instead of preparing them ahead of time, just click a random place on the timeline, then narrate! Have learners call out a timestamp (e.g. one way to expose learners to numbers), or roll dice to make things novel.
  • Safe Brain Break Output In order to avoid forced output with quick brain breaks during which learners say something, tell them “if you’re not ready, just listen to what others are saying.”
  • Delayed Recast Jason once tracked his recasts, then asked learners how they felt about them. ALL of the learners hated it, and one reported knowing that her utterance had developmental forms/structures (i.e. formerly known as “errors”) the moment she said it, and “didn’t need to feel corrected.” As a result, Jason now engages a different learner with a PQA comparison, and does the recast on that new learner. That way, everyone receives the recast input, but not in any way that feels like a correction, especially because explicit correction doesn’t work!
  • Sneaky Fishing Keep getting answers that won’t work well in a story? Have learners yell out their answers all at once, acknowledge a few you hear, but then point somewhere and just use your own, attributing it to one of the learner suggests. Smoke & mirrors.

Linda Li

  • TPR Group Retells Have an entire TPR group (e.g. left side/right side) act out what a character does via gestures.
  • Cadence Vary speech rate by asking rapid questions that are easily answerable, then pausing and pointing, going slow, and adding pauses between phrases.
  • “Talk to the Hand” For a quick brain break, have learners say something to their own hand (instead of a partner) on a topic (i.e. “tell your hand as much as you know about Character X”).

Von Ray

  • “I’d like to order a dramatization, but hold the Circling, please” Von doesn’t circle when he’s got actors dramatizing a story. He finds that it slows the pace down. Any circling (cued by when learners hesitate to respond) is done before actors dramatize the action(s).
  • Actor Roles & Rules Have actors sit, or kneel until their part is needed.
  • 4 Principles of Dramatization
    • make a statement & have learners repeat with emotion
    • include dialogue between 2+ learners
    • have awareness to dramatize anything,
    • improvise (i.e. go with compelling diversions and anything the class reacts to)

Blaine Ray

  • Triangling Using the you, s/he, and I conjugated forms exposes hesitancy from learner responses, showing how much longer to park and provide more exposure.
  • Inside/Outside Box Train learners to think outside the box for faster, more engaging stories, but sometimes go back in the box and go with something expected “just to surprise them!”


Picture & Classroom Quick Quizzes

Picture Quick Quiz
Project a picture, then make 4 True/False statements about it. You could use a screenshot from a MovieTalk you just finished (e.g. choose a random point in the timeline), whatever you were discussing during PictureTalk, or an entirely new image. Here’s an example:


1) The Roman is wearing a shirt.
2) The Roman’s shirt is black.
3) The Roman’s shirt is blue.
4) The statue is seated.

Classroom Quick Quiz
Make 4 True/False statements about anything in the room! Have a map? Say something about a location. Have a Word Wall? Say something about a word. Have furniture? Talk about its size, or shape. Being observed? Talk about that person.  Want to walk around? Narrate what it is you’re doing (i.e. TPR).

With the addition of these two, the total no-prep quizzes comes to 5, which you can read more about on the Input-Based Strategies & Activities post:

Quick Quiz
Vocab Quick Quiz
K-F-D Quiz
Picture Quick Quiz
Classroom Quick Quiz

To review, the Quiz process (aside from K-F-D Quizzes) is a) make 4 True/False statements, b) pass out colored pens and “correct” in class (in the target language, with PQA), and c) report the scores in the 0% grading category. That’s it.

Input-Based Strategies & Activities

**Updated 6.23.18**
**Check out the companion post on Getting Texts!**

When choosing the class agenda beyond each particular day’s routine, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember all my favorite activities. Thus, here are the input-based strategies & activities I’ve collected over the years, all in one place. Although this began as only reading activities, I decided that it didn’t matter as much whether students were reading or listening. Why? These input-based activities start with some kind of text either way, so beyond variety, what really matters most to me when planning for class is providing students with input, and what kind of prep goes into getting the text/activity. Everything is organized by prep, whether no instructions, no prep, printing only, or low prep. You won’t find prep-intensive activities here beyond typing, copying, and cutting paper. Oh, and for ways to get that one text to start, try here. Enjoy!

**N.B. Any activity with the word “translation” in it means translating what is already understood. This should NOT be confused with the more conventional practice of translating in order to understand.**

Continue reading

Can-Do Statements vs. Objectives vs. Agendas

Here’s some clarification on related ideas that are often confused:

Can-Do Statements
“Can-Do Statements describe what learners can do consistently over time.” (p. 4)
Don’t use these as your daily objectives. Students can’t meet them after a class hour. If they can, you’ve written them wrong.

“Students will be able to X.”
Don’t spend time on these. These are particular goals for the day, but are largely a fake school thing that have almost no effect on learning, and zero on acquisition (especially if the point is to create a more implicit environment free of metacognicide). Post them if you have to, but use a Google Doc or something (vs. spending any amount of time whatsoever writing on the board). Better yet, use one that could apply to any class (e.g. “Students will understand new words used to discuss [target culture idea].” If someone tries to give you the Wiggins & McTighe “understand is not a good/measurable objective,” just say something in the target language they don’t understand, and draw attention to that). The only people who care about objectives are teachers who buy into skill-building, or teachers who prefer to teach language itself as content matter, as well as administrators who have been told that their teachers need objectives, but not students (see below). If you’re in a real bind, use Terry Waltz’ random objective generator.

“MovieTalk, Team Game, Survey, Quiz, etc.”
The day’s agenda is pretty much all that matters to students. It answers the question “what are we doing today?” and not “what skills will I develop as a result of your planning today’s lesson, o teacher mine?”

Teachers spend far too much time writing Can-Dos and Objectives when just a solid Agenda is needed. This allows maximum flexibility, and affords time to develop strategies to provide CI, as well as writing/adapting texts for the novice—the real high-leverage classroom practices. I’ve been implementing this in the daily & weekly schedule used in the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC).


post scriptum – Objective Traps
Cavē! The tendency to be satisfied—proud, even—with “students being able to X” on any given day has disastrous effects. If the skill or content is isolated, the day’s “mastery” means almost nothing in the long run. Take, for example, the K-12+ Spanish student in highly interactive, yet student-student focused classes (i.e. forced speech paired activities). Despite any success, or meeting of those daily objectives, she might later study abroad in Spain only to find out that she has limited communicative ability, and must undergo a silent period. How did all this—from an A+ student—go unaddressed? It’s simple; all those activities designed to meet objectives gave teachers the wrong impression from the wrong data! Furthermore, teachers tend to USE data like this as evidence when discussing best practices. Don’t fall into that trap!

Comprehension Checks as MGMT

Classroom Management is paramount. Without it, none of the strategies to provide students with CI stand a chance. They don’t stand a chance because students who aren’t paying attention aren’t receiving any input (I) at all, let alone input that’s comprehensible (C)! Of aaaaaaaall the systems in place to manage the classroom, though, comprehension checks are probably the most effective, yet most overlooked…

Continue reading

Quick Quizzes – Contextualized Vocab

Here’s a variation on the 4 statement T/F Quick Quizzes that have freed me from unnecessary quizzes and tests; I’m able to focus on providing input, and making that input comprehensible.

Instead of T/F statements, this is a contextualized vocab quiz. Project a text, ask students to read it, and then underline, circle, or just tell them which words/phrases to write an L1 equivalent for. Upgrade? If you have time, write a parallel story based on whatever text students have already read. As always, these should be self-scored by students using some colored pens along with a discussion in the target language, which you then collect and put into the gradebook with 0% weight (e.g. a “Portfolio” grading category set to 0%).

That’s it!

Use these input-based quizzes along with the original T/F Quick Quizzes and the K-F-D Quizzes, and you’ve now varied your assessments a tad more without any sacrifice to best practices in providing input. They also might make for a quick follow up to a Discipulus Illustris Truths & Lies!