Bracey For NEA Director, Prep Time, & Prepped For 2021-22

I continue to claim that teachers have the most positive impact on learning when there’s ample time to reflect and prepare. It sounds basic, but this isn’t reality for most. Ideally, for every class hour taught, there should be at least 30min prep time, and bonus if it’s 1:1 (e.g. teach four classes, have four hours to plan, every day). This probably sounds insane, but only because most teachers have been working insane schedules. It’s unhealthy. Most teachers put up with the madness of something like one guaranteed prep period a day, etc., which leaves them kind of screwed if they teach more than one course, which is almost everyone, especially teachers of less-commonly taught languages (LCTL) who prep all levels as a department of one. No wonder there hasn’t been much innovation in education, there’s no time for it! The solution? First of all, teachers should streamline their practices so they don’t waste that precious time doing something like grading, or giving the same feedback over and over that students won’t read, or pretending their code system will make any difference. Beyond that, it takes adequate funding to hire more teachers. That should be a reasonable ask, and is just one of the many reasons why I’m supporting John Bracey as NEA Director in the runoff, who’s vying for fully-funded public schools in Massachusetts among other crucial fights. It’s ridiculous this even has to be part of any campaign at all, right? Fully-funded public education should be the unquestionable foundation of society, period. Vote Bracey. He’ll get that job done.

Anyway, I’ve finally made it to a point in my career where in these last weeks I get everything ready for the fall. I’ve been close to accomplishing that in the past, but there’s always been this August calendar event I set up that goes something like “read this, review that, create this, think about that,” yet there’s usually no time, even for someone like me hyperaware of prep time. Guess what? I already did all that stuff, and consolidated the ideas into this one post so the work is truly done to start 2021-22.

Posters
I sat in the middle of the room, looked around as if I were a student, and updated every poster that was hard to read. Really, what’s the point of having them if kids can’t see them?! Most are now on 11×17 at 120-pt font, with 80-pt English given below the Latin. Clarity is key, and so is comprehension. I’ll be pointing to these posters a LOT to establish meaning, and then even more when cuing it. I’ve also took down posters I couldn’t remember using. Some posters are nice in concept, but I’m just not gonna refer to fractions in Latin, etc. Also, I’ve redesigned my numbers, and put up my “who needs a boost” and “what would you like?” The latter are actually my first new practices I’ll have to be mindful of, which deserves a number, and bold color to draw attention when I check back in here come August. 1) Use Boosts & Quid velīs?

quālitātēs
Since the cognate list has grown to over 700 words, I updated quālitātēs to have *only* cognates, and dropped the English. There are 19 pages with about 160 words organized by positive, neutral, and negative adjectives. My plan is to show students how much Latin they probably already understand, while at the same time introduce English words not in their vocabulary. For example, diabolicum is just too good of a word to avoid using (any fans of The Boys out there?). I’m also going to use these lists more deliberately, like when we describe characters during storytelling. This is another new practice. 2) Use quālitātēs.

Password Now “Weekly Word(s)
This one’s simple. I used to stop students at the door requiring a rotating class password (but really for a quick check-in), and I wouldn’t let them in if they forgot the password. It was kinda fun except for when it wasn’t. The update is a reframing. No passwords, just weekly words now, but I’ll use the same words/phrases that went over well in the past. The very first one has always been “salvē!” which makes sense. However, I’m adding “…sum [___]” to the end so I get to hear how students pronounce their own name for a week. Can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this sooner!

DEA (Daily Engagement Agreements) Now “Look, Listen, Ask
The update to collecting gradebook evidence that now has a weekly focus on Look, Listen, and Ask means I won’t need to refer to these the way I used to. I’m not even gonna mention the word “rule.” Also, it’s a good thing I wrote about this, because I hadn’t made that Google Form yet. Check! 3) Use new form to collect gradebook evidence on focus areas.

TPR Wall
I’ve never really had much success with Total Physical Response, and haven’t been around students who like to act during collaborative storytelling either (i.e. so no TPRS for me). I’ve just removed all expectations (hopes?) for these things. It’s not the culture here. I’m not gonna force it. Therefore, I cleared up a whole wall that had TPR words, and moved the Look, Listen, and Ask posters over there.

Safety Nets
I’ve already written about this, but it’s worth a reminder that I won’t have to establish the routine.

Digital Fluency Write/Timed Write Form
I’ve been having students type Latin into a Google Form, then count up their words (responses from each class section all link to the same spreadsheet). It turns out there’s a formula =IF(C2=””,””,COUNTA(SPLIT(C2,” “))) that takes care of the counting. Drop it into a column in the spreadsheet, and you’re all set. Check out how close it comes to students counting one-by-one! I still review the student’s writing and adjust for only Latin words & names in that last column, but the formula skips the step of students counting—and miscounting—after writing.

Eval
I’ve been using timed writes for years to show growth. However, I haven’t been totally happy with the measurements used in the teacher evaluation goal setting. For example, if it’s by percentage, some students have increased their word count 1250%, while others by just 5%. If it’s by total word count, some students are writing 89 words, while others are still writing 10. If it’s by word increase, some students have written 74 more words than their first, and others just one or two. Regardless of the measurement, some students start writing a LOT right away, and don’t make much progress because most are just in that plateau of hanging out at Novice High or something. Therefore, I need a more variable goal that takes into account all these situations based on an average of the first three writing samples:

Under 10 will double.
10-30 will increase by 50%.
Over 30 will increase by 25%.

Also, I’ll have to get writing samples early on within a few weeks (not months) so I have a more accurate baseline. I’m also adding two new practices to help increase comprehension when reading, lead to acquisition, and result in higher output. These are alternating between 4) Code-switched Readings and Facing English in addition to full glossaries. Every text will include at least one of these three supports.

Activities
Due to remote teaching, I haven’t had much experience with a lot of things on my lists of input-based strategies & activities, and how to get texts. Therefore, I’m not ready to ditch any of them. Also, we’ll have more classes in what should be a more typical year, so I might need to draw from those lists to keep things novel. In particular, I’m thinking of varying reading activities considerably more. So, I’ll be sure to consult the lists when planning. 5) Check lists, weekly.

Syllabus/Learning Plan
For the first time ever in my teaching career, I had the opportunity to review the entire year’s class agendas! I thought I’d end up with a long list of activities and a rough sequence for the year, but no. First of all, I don’t plan more than a day or two in advance, and certainly not more than a week out. Second of all, it turns out I already did some of that work when creating my core practices! However, until I’m familiar with the whole teaching thing next fall—because I DO forget how to teach, every single year—I’ll make it a point to review all those practices: 6) Check out core practices, weekly. Still, looking back at the entire year’s class agendas was helpful. Hands down, I’m keeping “hodiē,” the one doc I open each day and work from, for organization (although I’ll be created a new Google Classroom assignment each week to better help students keep track). Here are some other routines and ideas I found from reviewing the agendas that I want to make sure I include next year:

  • A basic Talk & Read format to each class
  • Start class with date + something else to copy into notebook (statement, story, excerpt, etc.)
  • Use digital class libraries (only print for certain activities)
  • Build in time to read on own (since no more expectations of reading at home)
  • Occasional Flashcard Blitz
  • Brain Breaks
    • JUST a break…lap around school, etc.
    • Rock, Paper, Scissors
    • Higher/Lower prediction w/ cards
    • Which Would You Choose?
    • Fun Facts (but ask as if they were T/F)
  • Use general prompts during novella month (February)
  • Consider January a “reset,” spiraling back down to lower level texts & novellas
  • Do a 1-class CALP more often, and after each novella (poll students on some related topic from the book)

Blog Posts
Also a first in my career, I reviewed every blog post I wrote since last August. Here are various reminders and ideas that might influence the year to come:

Summary
So, here I am. There’s a LOT of stuff in this one post to review come August. After all, I plan to take a full summer break. No PD. No posts?! Maybe. Who knows, but having all my work done in order to set up next year’s success feels real good, and maybe the consolidated resources will help you, too.

Love Stories

Wait…next week is Valentine’s Day already?! Crazy. Also, it’s kind of a terrible holiday, though isn’t it? My best memories are of the perforated cards you’d exchange in elementary school just hoping one kid had cool enough parents to buy them the Valentines that had Thundercats or GI Joe characters being all lovey on them. Never liked the heart candy; those were just awful. Anyway, if you have the following books on hand, consider reading them to students this week, or scoop up one of the new eBooks so students can read on their own. Here are novellas that contain stories about the joys of relationships, as well as their challenges:

Sitne amor? (Amazon, eBook Polyglots, eBook on Storylabs)
For first year Latin students, there’s the LGBTQ-friendly book of 2400 words about desire, and discovery, in which Piso crashes and burns when he’s around Syra.

Pluto: fabula amoris (Amazon)
For first or second year Latin students looking for a quick read in a book of 1070 words, there’s this take on the Pluto & Proserpina myth.

Pandora (Amazon, eBook Polyglots, eBook on Storylabs)
For first year Latin students looking for a longer novella of 4200 total words, there’s the adaptation of the Pandora myth.

Ovidius Mus (Amazon)
The three stories based on Ovid in this book 1075 words are designed for readers at the end of their first year.

Unguentum (Amazon)
This book of 1575 words is an adaptation of Catullus 13, and includes tiered versions of the original.

Euryidice: fabula amoris (Amazon)
This book, much like its prequel Pluto, includes a different take on the Eurydice & Orpheus myth.

Medea et Peregrinus Pulcherrimus (Amazon)
A Latin III book of 7500 words in this adaptation of the Golden Fleece.

Carmen Megilli (Amazon)
A Latin III book of 9300 words in this that includes an LGBTQ-friendly love story.

Cupid et Psyche (Amazon)
A Latin III/IV book of 8800 words in this adaptation of of Apuleius.

Ira Veneris (Amazon)
A Latin III/IV book of 11000 words in this follow-up to Cupid & Psyche.

Student Ownership: Prompts & Novella Month

You’re looking at one of my student’s illustrations. The prompt was to read a description and draw the cover of a new book (coming laaaaaaate spring, btw):

Marcus likes being a young Roman mage, but such a conspicuous combo presents problems in provincial Egypt after he and his parents relocate from Rome. Despite generously offering magical medicine to the locals, this young mage feels like an obvious outsider, sometimes wishing he were invisible. Have you ever felt that way? Marcus searches Egypt for a place to be openly accepted, and even has a run-in with the famously fiendish Sphinx! Can Marcus escape unscathed?

The result in all classes was some pretty amazing buy-in before we even got to the first page! The prompt I chose also generated class content—the source of that class’ Picture Talk—for which students don’t have to be artists like this one; stick figures are great, especially the really silly ones that get everyone laughing…

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Agrippīna aurīga, Mārcus magulus & mȳthos malus: convīvium Terregis

New year, new books!

My observations after reading novellas *as a whole class* during COVID-19 remote learning has convinced me that audiobooks make for the best experience in that format. Narration has its value, sure, but for whole-class reading, the books with sound effects, character voices, and music, really do up the game. I’ve got three novellas coming up this spring, all with accompanying audiobooks. There will be more details upon publication of each, but here are some brief descriptions…

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Collaborative Storytelling: Whole-Class Writing

Back in June, I did this test of what collaborative storytelling could look like for asynchronous learning. However, the process can be used during class for even more interaction, and more story variations. This format also has the benefit of modeling writing, which can become new sources of input with timed writes typed up, edited, and read in class. This is not innovative. I’ve seen teachers do this live in the classroom. However, you might have stepped away from collaborative storytelling for a bit, or just forgotten how easy and enjoyable it can be. I’d recommend getting back into it, keeping it a regular activity throughout the year. Here are my current favorite collaborative storytelling formats for live remote learning:

Whole-Class Writing
Using the super simple story script sequence, write a story by providing either/or details for students to choose, or blank spaces for students to fill-in their own. Share out, step-by-step as teacher restates in target language, and/or submit so teacher can edit, type up, and share back to whole class. You get up to as many new stories as you have students, although I found success projecting just 2 stories; one from the class, and one from another class.

Slide Talk Stories
Screenshare/project the Slides, and scroll through to inspire story detail options. If you want students to compete over details a little more, choose two options from the Slides (e.g. “H.E.R. or Brent Faiyaz?”). Otherwise, choose one detail from the Slides, then whatever other shadow comes to mind. Use the script below for a home-run story.

WOWATS (Whole-class One Word At a Time Stories)
Generate a list of words (e.g. from most recent text, high frequency, all words students know, etc.), randomly choose one, collaborate to use the word in a story, and continue. Consider following Mike Peto’s story structure of limiting each story part to 5 minutes so ideas don’t go off the rails and it takes the whole class.

1) Who? Where? With Whom?
2) Problem
3) Fail to Solve
4) Solution

Word Wall (For Screen Sharing) & Class Bibliothēcae Docs

As a drummer, and former drum corps and marching band performer, coordination isn’t really a problem. However, the clickity clickness and toggling of teaching remotely via Zoom is enough to give me pause, and that’s no good. The One Doc setup has taken care of organization, sure. This latest update takes care of providing input during class with supports at-the-ready. Oh, and the class libraries are just a cool space for texts…

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Remote Learning: Different Kind Of Feedback That’s Actually Sustainable

As of right now, there’s no plan for what school looks like in the fall. Even if we were told one thing tomorrow, though, I’d take it with a grain of salt. Whatever fall teaching ends up being, it’s reasonable to expect there to be *some* level of asynchronous remote teaching, if not completely virtual. Reducing burnout in what might be an entirely new teaching environment should be on everyone’s mind. A change to providing feedback* is crucial. **Content-based feedback, NOT corrective. Don’t waste time on that**

One feature of providing input live during class is that all students receive it. Similar to batch quizzing that maximizes time and reduces burnout, the teacher does something just once that everyone in the room experiences, regardless of how many students there are. For example, the teacher can ask a question like “who thinks that…?” and instantly see hands raise, students nod, and/or hear responses. When providing feedback, such as reacting to the responses, addressing them, and/or restating one or two, everyone in the room hears that feedback at the same time (i.e. with 3 or 30 students in class, it’s still just one statement). This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of input and interaction during live teaching:

Even students not directly being addressed receive the input just like everyone else!

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Pisoverse eBooks Are Here!

**Updated 8.1.20 with this All-Access Pisoverse & Olimpi combo**

The world feels like it’s burning right now. Everyone should pay close attention to police brutality, those defending it, and so-called “leaders“ encouraging it and inciting further violence from white nationalists. If we can’t stand against systematic racism directly, we must be observant of what’s going on in solidarity. No one gets to tune this out, and if you do, recognize that privilege. So, this eBook announcement of mine is insignificant in comparison. Nonetheless, teachers’ attention at some point will have to shift to next year’s micro world of school and the classroom. This is what I have to offer when it comes to putting out some of those fires.

I’ve teamed up with Storylabs to offer the Pisoverse in digital form. All novellas are now available as an annual subscription for ALL your students (up to 180…and if you have more than 180, may the Olympian gods hep you!). Options include single books, packs of 3, or complete Pisoverse All Access. The eBooks are all web-based, and a school-safe certificate is on its way for a downloadable app.

Storylabs also has some tools for teachers, like tracking how long students spend reading, built-in notebooks, and the ability to create, share, and use resources other teachers have made for each book! If you have ideas, there’s a link to a Google form in each book’s Index Verbōrum. Or, fill that out directly, now. Unlike some textbook companies, we want to encourage collaboration between teachers sharing materials that support reading novellas. Just be sure to check first to see if you’re creating something that already exists in a Teacher’s Guide! Oh, and all the narration and Audiobooks I’ve recorded is included with the eBooks on Storylabs! Each student can listen to every chapter as many times as they want while reading at their own pace. There’s also built-in adorable Italian pronunciation for the few books I haven’t recorded, too!

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