Cognate Concerns? It Must Be January…

This year’s Annual Criticism of Latin, or ACL for short, is about a month early. It’s been the same old gripes with the same old assumptions going back to 2018 or so. Almost every concern rests on the assumptions that a student will continue Latin in college and will be negatively impacted somehow by the decisions modern Latin authors have made. That’s two biggies: continue Latin, and be negatively impacted.

Continue reading

Quizzing For Learning vs. Quizzing To Get A Grade

I was talking to a colleague about an assessment idea I had. The scenario began “if I were a math teacher…,” but really, this idea applies to anyone who gives quizzes. Many teachers I observe who assess like this usually hang out at their desk while students take the quiz. Sometimes it’s timed. Sometimes there are “after the quiz…” instructions on the board. In the literature, this is called an obtrusive assessment, with class on pause, sometimes the entire time.

So, if I were to ever assess like that, instead of hanging out at my desk, I’d start circulating the room, stopping at each student to point out a quiz item they should review (e.g., “Ja’den, spend more time on #3”). And I’d do this the entire time, just walking around, essentially doing all the correcting I would’ve done during my planning period, and even providing some feedback. It’s kind of like a more involved individualized Monitor Assessment. My colleague was wondering how this “real-time rolling assessment” would really show what students know and can do. We talked a bit. Questions were asked like “with so much scaffolding, how do we know the student can do anything on their own?” The truth is, they might not, but how is that any different? In fact, during that whole discussion I forgot to consider what the “real-time rolling assessment” was being compared to. That is, how is a give quiz/collect/correct/hand back procedure any different, really, for finding out what a student knows or can do?

It comes down to process.

Continue reading

Independent Reading Lessons

When it comes to the fairly recent phenomenon of independent choice reading for Latin, how do students choose what to read, and what do they do when flipping through the book? These simple lessons get students thinking about why we want them reading level-appropriate books and to understand how important it is to choose ones that feel easy, as well as what we mean by actual reading (vs. some other close reading, skimming, etc.). Most importantly, perhaps, we want to show students the difference between what a translating experience and a reading one is. These two lessons are scalable, but I recommend taking at least 15 minutes.

A) How To Choose A Book (requires novellas with full glossaries)

  1. Students choose 3 random books from the library.
  2. Read/”read” that book, using the glossary for unknown words (~3 minutes).
  3. Count up total words read/”read.”
  4. Repeat with other two books.
  5. Share & Discuss.

Students should have a range of words read (e.g., 20 to 200). Mention that some might have been unlucky enough to have chosen the three highest level books. Obviously, they’re not gonna get as much out of a higher level book. The main thing to point out is that the book each student read the most of should be the kind of one they choose during independent reading. Strategies like “if you have to keep flipping,” or “if it feels too much like work” should send the message to get a book that’s at- or below-level, resulting in optimized input. N.B. get this poster from Eric Herman if you don’t already have it. I constantly point to it during class to show priorities (i.e., 1 = lots of Latin, 2 = must be comprehensible…). Once they get the idea of which kind of reading level will be most helpful, because you still get a lot out of books that are easily read and below-level (see Bill’s tweet below), do another mini lesson on how to read.

B) How To Read (or, Reading vs. Translating)

  1. Read book as fast as possible, skimming and getting the gist of what’s going on (~1 minute).
  2. Count up total words read.
  3. Go back and read for understanding, as if they had to tell someone who didn’t know Latin a) what the story is about, and b) what’s happening right now in the chapter (~1 minute).
  4. Go back and read as if to memorize and describe everything with incredible detail! (~1 minute).
  5. Share & Discuss.

The main point to make is that #1 is waaaay too fast. All that input doesn’t matter if students can’t recall what happened, or have no idea what’s going on. #3 is waaaaay too slow. They’ll never get enough input reading with that much attention to detail while trying to memorize. #2 is what we’re going for: reading with enough comprehension to retell the story to someone else.

Punished By Rewards & Advantages To The Single-Point Rubric

As if researching how to eliminate grading and reduce assessment couldn’t get much better, I’ve now got something else. Alfie Kohn’s 1993 masterpiece really ought to be required reading for every educator. Coming up on its 30 year anniversary, the author at the time reviewed studies dating just as far back to the 1960s. This post is gonna focus on self-assessments. When it comes to students self-assessing, evidence suggests that the more students think about HOW WELL they’re doing (vs. WHAT they’re doing), they do it poorly.

That’s crazy-unintuitive, right?!

Continue reading

Talk, Read & Reread

I’ve been using the basic Talk & Read class structure for a while (i.e., a greeting, quick discussion, and/or some activity “by ear” for about 5 to 20 minutes, then reading, reading, reading for the remainder). That was when I had 40 to 60 minute classes for years. However, switching to an 85-minute block schedule last year really fucked things up. Now, classes feel way too long, I’m exhausted, there’s too much time between class days (i.e., 48 hours) so “the din” of Latin in students’ minds grows dim, and absent kids miss out big time (i.e., now 96-120 hours from class to class if absent just one day).

It turns out that I didn’t write much about the block schedule messing with things last year aside from a blog post or two. Granted, 2021-22 was the first year back from remote learning. That came with unique challenges, and the schedule change didn’t help. Btw, this is my 10th year teaching and my 10th schedule. Even when I stayed at the same school for more than a year, the schedule changed each one. I’m now in the 6th year at the same school. 6 schedules. Anyone wanna place a bet as for next year will hold? So, 2021-22 was a big calibration year for all sorts of reasons, and it’s taken me until right now to actually identify how much the schedule has negatively impacted first year language students. But I have a solution…

Continue reading

Draw & Discuss [Collaborative] Storytelling

Last year, I observed Emma Vanderpool’s class for about 20 minutes of storytelling. What I saw was a combination of storytelling while drawing (e.g., Storylistening), and Write & Discuss/Type ‘n Talk. Emma told the story of Romulus & Remus as students listened as they copied her drawings and any Latin she wrote on the board to accompany the story. She asked questions between all the statements and drawing, and established meaning of new words right on the board. The result was a smash doodle kind of collage. The experience was input-rich and highly comprehensible. Students were actively listening, drawing, responding, and asking for clarification.

Last week, I observed my student teacher run the same activity for Latin 1 students with a version of Berg’s ursa story from this month’s Writing Challenge #2. The experience was a hit, and just as effective. It was almost pacifying, too, like a waaaaaaaaay more interesting dictatio, and I plan to do this a lot more throughout the year. I also got thinking how this could easily be turned into collaborative storytelling, giving each student something to do while the story unfolds: draw! Perhaps part the story is established, and I do Draw & Discuss for half the time, then start storyasking details. I draw, they draw, etc.

Writing Challenge #3: Description

As we’re winding down the month’s writing challenges, let’s recognize that over just a couple weeks, contributors produced nearly 3,000 words of Latin for the beginner. These short stories share some themes and common vocab. Not bad at all! While sheltering vocab is not everything, it’s most things, but let’s add something onto keeping word count low, shall we? Descriptions. Among other uses of description, a character’s quality or how they do some action becomes an instant question for students: “are you also like the character?” or “would you do things the same way?”

So, Challenge #3 is to write a highly descriptive short story using as few of the following core verbs and function words as possible in order to focus on description:

  • esse, habēre, velle, īre, placēre
  • et, quoque, quia, sed
  • ā/ab, ad, cum, ē/ex, in
  • ergō, iam, nōn, subitō, valdē

For Challenge #3, there will be an overall unique word limit (excluding names, and different forms of words). Also, don’t forget about referring to the cognate list for adjectives, and don’t forget to make adverbs from them!

BOSS level sheltering: no more than 15 words
CONFIDENT level sheltering: no more than 25 words
NOOB level sheltering: no more than 35 words

Here’s the link for Challenge #3. And here’s where I’ll put the stories once they start rolling in.

Comprehension Establishers & Question Types/Possibilities

I end up learning at least one thing each year from my student teachers, whether it’s some insight while observing, some reflection when we’re planning, or some new activity or strategy they suggest. Here’s a revelation worth looking into…

When scripting out some questions back in October, one example I gave was asking “class, which word means ‘again?’ Is it aliquid or iterum?” After a few more like this, my student teacher said “oh, it’s kind of like a comprehension check acting as a comprehension…establisher.” I paused for a moment, then realized yes, that’s exactly what that is. She put a name to what I’ve been doing for years, going way back to the 2016 sneaky quizzes when I’d use the T/F statements to establish meaning of words.

Comprehension Establishers establish meaning in the form of a question.

The difference in purpose between comprehension checks and establishers is subtle. Establishers aren’t intended to evaluate student understanding. They’re asked in a way that all but guarantees students make a form-meaning connection (e.g., “What word means ‘obscure,’ nocte or obscūra?”). A comprehension check, however, is often exactly that: to check whether a student understands, and if they don’t, then we establish meaning right away. In that sense, can an establisher bypass the check and then establishing meaning? Absolutely, but then there’s variety to consider. Might as well get some experience with both.

Question Types/Possibilities
Also discovered when scripting out some questions, it became clear to me that there are often too many possibilities. Instead of brainstorming every possible one, it’s probably more beneficial to settle on a couple question types and cycle through them while reading. For example, using one sentence, Mārcus ōrdinārius esse nōn vult, we could ask each of the following:

Contrary-To-Fact Personalized Q: vellēsne esse ōrdinārius?
Comprehension Establisher Q: Which word means “to be,” esse or vult?
Comprehension Checks: What does esse mean?
Content Q: What does Marcus not want?

But should we ask that many questions for one sentence? If so, should we ask all four questions for EVERY sentence in the chapter? I’m thinking “no,” and “no.” While on the one hand it would appear to provide the student with a great deal of support, on the other hand this process would drag out quite a bit. My recommendation would be to ask just ONE of those question types PER sentence and see how it feels. You might find that even one of those questions per sentence ends up being too many while reading. If so, scale it back to a question per section of two-three sentences, and then just cycle through the four question types. For example, if a short chapter has eight sections of sentences, you’ll ask a comprehension establisher q, a comprehension check, a contrary-to-fact personalized q, a content q, and then repeat. My advice is to identify the contrary-to-fact personalized q’s first, since it doesn’t always make sense to ask those. Then, fill in the rest. Print these out, and stick them in the book you’re reading. Remember, unused scripts already served a purpose: to get you thinking of how and what to ask students.

Pīsō senex et sempermūtābilisyllabī: Published!

Piso has grown old. For years, people have been telling Piso how to write his own poetry. They’ve wanted it to sound like the legendary poet, Vergilimartivenallus, widely considered the GOAT, but Piso doesn’t take suggestions from those who don’t write any poetry of their own. Besides, that would change Piso’s verses into something they aren’t—someone else’s. He’s got plenty of advocates, anyway. But the mob persists, and keeps trying to get Piso to change how he writes. Mysteriously, the more Piso tries to write in his own voice, the more things start to get a bit…Strange.

18 cognates, 26 other words
800 total length

Who wants satire? I do, I do! You should know that no hexameter was harmed in the writing of this novellula (<– that word is even in the subtitle). In fact, we skipped the meter [almost] entirely. That’s basically it. Oh, and if you’re familiar with Pīsō et Syra et pōtiōnēs mysticae, and/or a personal favorite, diāria sīderum, there’s some stuff in here for ya. So, let’s welcome another <50-word tiny little book to the collection.

  1. For Sets, Packs, and eBooks order here
  2. Amazon
  3. eBooks: Storylabs

Writing Workshop & Challenge #2

People have all sorts of things to say about the Latin being written these days. Sure enough, the vocabulary decisions I made for writing Challenge #1 were questioned almost immediately. While there’s no need to defend any of those decisions, it’s definitely worth looking at why those “core” 19 words were chosen and how they’re useful for storytelling. So before we get to Challenge #2, consider this a mini little writing workshop. Cui dono…? No one in particular. Let’s take a look at those words…

Continue reading