Pimsleur: How Much Input?

Preparation for a road trip down to New Orleans only meant one thing: 5 Pimsleur language learning courses checked out from our local library! To be clear, Pimsleur courses are not effective in the long run, but there’s input nonetheless. Still, how much input is there…really?

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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!

Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) Myths & Starting Your Library For $0 – $215

Myth 1“My students aren’t ready.”
Face it, this is a myth. Your students might not be ready to spend 15min/day reading 300-word, 5k length novels, but they’re probably ready to begin self-selecting short texts like class stories to read very early on. Once you have about 5-10 class stories, make some booklets and start FVR for a few minutes 1x/week. For this reason, I intend to make TPRS a priority early in the year after some TPR. In the past, I’ve built this up too much, spending a whole class or two on a story. My new plan is more shorter stories, at least 2/week.

Myth 2 – “There aren’t enough resources.
Curating that collection of class stories takes care of this second myth, at least for a while. Also, don’t forget about writing/adapting short texts yourself! This is an excellent way to practice writing for the novice, even if it takes you some planning time to write just a paragraph. Remember, if YOU have the time, you could expose students to the vocabulary they already understand in new contexts by writing texts outside of their class time. Even one short text that’s new to every section of Latin 1, for example, is enough novelty to get the most out of your class story FVR library.

However, let’s say you want to get some books, but your language is seriously lacking. Latin is a great example. There are 20 novellas written with sheltered vocabulary as of right now. Sure, most of them aren’t readable by first year students at the start of the year, but making those booklets of class stories should buy you some time. Rūfus lutulentus (20), Pīsō perturbātus (36), and Rūfus et arma ātra (40) are among the easiest novellas to read. After months of class story FVR, those three should provide some scaffolded reading opportunity. There are also the tiered readings in the Student FVR readers to accompany Rūfus et arma ātra. What’s special about these? Students can read 7 more expanded scenes/stories based on Rūfus topics without any additional cognitive demand (i.e. the first Expansion for each chapter introduces super clear cognates only). The rest of the Expansions with 21 more scenes/stories, could bring students up to an understandable vocabulary of 104. If students spend FVR time with this book, exposed to more sheltered vocabulary repeated in different contexts, it would bring them closer to comprehending other Pisoverse books at a similar level (i.e. Drūsilla et convīvium magārum (58), and Agrippīna: māter fortis (65) novellas), as well as ones from other authors.

So, the Rūfus et arma ātra Student FVR readers not only serve as a stepping stone, but they also contain the most variety of story lines! For teachers filling their shelves with Latin novellas to provide options, this resource has 28 scenes and stories under one cover! The stories are short, which makes them more approachable and manageable within a single FVR session (vs. starting a 3,000 word novella, for example).

Myth 3 – “I’ll never have enough funds for physical copies of books!
OK, so this one is probably true, but I have a possible solution. Buying 5 copies of every current Latin novella would run ~$700. That’s nothing compared to some workbook/textbook budgets, but still seems steep if you don’t have funding. N.B. look for mini grants offered by your school’s parents association, or local support organization; it’s not uncommon to find them around $500. That amount would still cover 5 copies of the 14 most appropriate novellas for the students you teach. Still a bit beyond your school’s budget? So, a possible solution?

How about all 8 Pisoverse novellas/readers for $215?

Yep! That’s $75 less than it should be for 5 copies of all 7 Pisoverse novellas (+ the Rufus FVR Reader). This, as well as other Classroom Specials are available:

1) Order online now!
2) Email me a Purchase Order to poetuluspublishing@gmail.com

Pīsō perturbātus: Published!

Hot on the heels of Drūsilla et convīvium magārum published last month, Pīsō perturbātus is the latest to emerge from the Pisoverse. It fills the need of beginning texts to read, and is on par with Rūfus et arma ātra, yet a couple hundred words longerThis book is silly, whimsical even, and completely inspired by the letters P and Q (and C)! Before he can actually compose poetry, and before even Rufus is around, Piso is seen as a very young boy with the crankiness of an old man. Oh, and there’s literally A LOT of alliteration!

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Piso minds his Ps and Qs..(and Cs…and Ns and Os) in this alliterative tongue-twisting tale touching upon the Roman concepts of ōtium and negōtium. Before Piso becomes a little poet, early signs of an old curmudgeon can be seen.

Pīsō perturbātus can be read by the novice student known to curiously continue comprehending even the campiest content in the classroom. It has a unique word count of 36 (excluding different forms of the same word, names, and meaning established within the text), nearly all of which can be found in the novella’s final sentence of Ciceronian length!

Pīsō perturbātus is 1450 words in total length, and even features two nearly completed lines of dactylic hexameter. It’s available…

1) This weekend’s CANE’s Annual Meeting, University of RI, March 16-17
2) Classroom Set Specials (up to $80 off!)
3) On Amazon
4) As a free preview through Chapter 4 (of 8)
5) Email me for Purchase Orders and classroom set discounts

Drūsilla et convīvium magārum: Published!

Here’s the latest compelling, comprehensible text written with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary to provide more understandable reading material for the beginning Latin student. Drūsilla et convīvium magārum features mages (i.e. witches, sorcerers, etc.), serpents, a dinner party, peacocks, and potentially pooping in a cooking-pot (fūfae! = gross!). Fun for everyone, right?


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Drūsilla is the longest Pisoverse novella to date, finishing at over 3400 total words in length. That’s over 500 words longer than Pīsō Ille Poētulus, but with half the vocab! It’s the first Pisoverse novella to venture into magic and the occult, making for quite the compelling narrative, yet still within the context of ancient Rome.

Drusilla lives next to Piso. Like many Romans, she likes to eat, especially peacocks! As the Roman army returns, she awaits a big dinner party celebrating her father’s homecoming. One day, however, she sees a suspicious figure give something to her brother. Who was it? Is her brother in danger? Is she in danger?

Drūsilla et convīvium magārum contains 58 unique words (excluding names, different forms of words, and meaning established within the text), and works well with any Roman daily life unit (e.g. home, family, food, etc.) in Latin class.

Drūsilla et convīvium magārum is available…

1) Classroom Set Specials (up to $80 off!)
2) On Amazon
3) As a free preview of the first 7 chapters (of 17)
4) Email me for Purchase Orders and classroom set discounts

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