Quīntus et nox horrifica Audiobook + 7 New Audio Albums

This is pretty spooky.

I teamed up with Michael Sintros (Duinneall) to create an audiobook accompanying Quintus’ scary night home alone, a personal favorite of my novellas. The ambient music makes for quite the cinematic experience when listening (with or without reading). Just like interactive sound effect reading in the classroom, this audiobook helps “play a movie in your mind” of what you’re listening to/reading—a true sign of comprehension. The music and effects could be straight out of a suspense film. In fact, listen to this at home, in the dark. I dare you! I can’t wait to get back to the classroom next year, set up chairs in a circle, turn off the lights, close the blinds, and recreate a bit of “campfire fright!” Until then, students can stream the audio at home…

Prologue Excerpt
Chapter 3 Excerpt
Chapter 4 Excerpt
Chapter 6 Excerpt

This audiobook is available on Bandcamp. If you’re not familiar with that site, it’s basically a donation-based way of musicians getting their music to fans. There’s a suggested cost, usually much lower than its value, so fans can choose to throw a few more dollars towards the musicians if they want to support them a bit more. One great feature is that you can stream the tracks a few times before Bandcamp gets sad. That means students can listen to this Latin without any cost to them whatsoever! Obviously, this is a helpful option right now during remote learning. Back in the classroom, though, you might want to have the albums downloaded so you always have them ready to queue up.

Alternatively, I can send USB thumbdrives with any (or all) of the audio on them. Find those on my Square site with discounts for packs and sets, here.

New Audio Albums
For a few years now, there have been three different kinds of audio albums available: an audiobook for Rūfus et arma ātra, a complete Latin learning course for Agrippīna: māter fortis, and rhythmic accompaniment to the poetry of Pīsō Ille Poētulus. Over the past weeks, I’ve added seven additional audio albums of a fourth kind: just narration. These albums give students the opportunity to hear Latin that’s not your voice, which we know is novel in itself. When used in the classroom, these albums can also give you a break, reserving your energy for questions, etc. That’s how I’ve been using the Rūfus et arma ātra Audiobook for the past few years, and will continue to do so with the new albums. Here’s a list of what’s available:

Using Audio
Audio resources have been catching on a bit more now that remote learning plans have been rolled out. However, there are other classroom uses as well. Here’s a short list:

  • Just listen!
  • Listen while reading along
  • Listen & Draw
    • a scene
    • a character
    • a mashup/smashdoodle/collage of the chapter
    • as evidence of understanding, learning activity, or both

Things I Don’t Do (That Many Teachers Do)

Technology
I haven’t asked students to take out a phone, computer, or interact with tech in over 6 years. Quite frankly, there are too many constant problems and disruptions right down to not having any battery life, and students are getting smacked in the face with tech the rest of the school day. I’m over wasting all that time. I, personally, use free web-based tools daily, like Google Docs, but there aren’t any laptop days, computer lab time, Kahoot, etc. Less is more!

Grade (especially at home)
I don’t really do this at all. Anything with a score is done as a whole-class, anything collected is marked as completed, and any rubric resulting in the course grade is self-assessed by students (I just check those afterwards).

Quiz/Test Prep
I don’t create any quizzes or tests. Any quick quiz in class is determined on the spot, is input-based, and is scored together, making it part of class. These are also collected and reported as evidence, but don’t impact a student’s grade. Instead, they’re used to show trends of understanding (e.g. a lot of 3s out of possible 4 means “most.” This could fulfill evidence for a rubric showing a course grade of an A that expects a student to understand “most” Latin).

Lesson Planning
Talk & Read covers everything students need. The rest is just rotating out weekly routines, and giving a new activity a try every now and then. The more variety a teacher has actually means the less experience they have with those activities! There’s a healthy limit to novelty. Don’t underestimate the power of simple practices.

Different Learning Targets/Objectives
I don’t create new ones specific to each day. Mine never change. The point/reason for/target/goal/objective/etc. of each class is that at least one of three communicative purposes (entertainment, learning, creating) is being met. So, I make sure there’s a reason for all that input & interaction during class, and keep things comprehensible. There’s actually no evidence that different objectives make any difference in student learning, let alone acquiring a language! In fact, if any measurement shows that learning has taken place after just one class/lesson based on an objective, don’t trust it! Delay testing, and give no advance warning. That will tell you what’s been learned and acquired, and what hasn’t.

Speaking The Target Language
If a student responds in English, that’s evidence they’ve comprehended. Case closed, folks! I don’t need to play mind games. There’s actually no legit reason for speaking the target language in class when everyone shares another language that’s easier to communicate in…unless one wants to. Some students want to. Others don’t. To recognize the classroom as any other context would be role-play (i.e. pretending you don’t speak another language). I don’t pretend. I do have systems in place to encourage target language use, as well as curb chatter and lengthy story-like responses in English, as well as stay focused on input, but naw, I don’t need to hear Latin to know students know Latin.

Corrective Feedback
C’mon, self-explanatory. The evidence is really piling up by now!

Grammar
I don’t expect students to develop any grammar knowledge. I certainly don’t test it. This is a liberating expectation! Grammar knowledge is unnecessary—in any language—and there’s enough to deal as it is with what’s actually necessary.

Homework
When working at a job, I don’t mess with anything that isn’t in my control. What goes on at home is completely out of my control as a teacher—no judgement—and I don’t need to punish and chase down students for not doing something that probably lacks a communicative purpose anyway. My only assignments involve reading, and no products are attached to that reading. **Just read.**

Projects
I don’t schedule any class time for projects. My experience is that most of the research and work is done in English, which is zero input, and most students get bored after a few of those summative presentations anyway. There needs to be input in the first place in order to make it more comprehensible, right?

From the looks of it, I bet it seems like I don’t do a friggin’ thing. But that’s not true. I spend most of the time creating personalized texts, adapting other texts, and seeking out constant PD—mostly grassroots, from teachers still teaching in the classroom, and who share the same *current* second language acquisition principles that I have. It’s a lot of work, actually, but focused, efficient, and enjoyable. Guess what? My students can read Latin. They even speak it. If that seems impossible—because teachers who do all those things above can have students who understand Latin, yet I do none and get the same results—there’s a magic ingredient. It’s actually the oldest source of success the spoken word has ever known:

Input.

We just have to tap into what all humans are hardwired for and prioritize CI, then the magic happens. Now, you might be a teacher who does, in fact, do all those things above, and likes doing them. Carry on. You might also be a teacher who likes some and not others. Unless you’re required—which might be in your control to change—know that you can drop the things you don’t like without any negative impact whatsoever. Try it.

I expect there might be questions. Let loose.

Specialized Vocab vs. High Frequency: “If You Need To Look Up A Word…”

Jim Wooldridge, aka Senor Wooly, once lamented over having to teach a unit on different kinds of fabric. That was his all time low in terms of thematic vocab textbook teaching. Thematic vocab teaching is basically mini units of specialized vocabulary. However, our reality—in a genuine communicative sense—is that people start getting into specialized vocab when they choose to do something…special…beyond common daily needs and experience.

Since archery is my latest thing, let’s use that as an example. There are a lot of specific terms in archery. Of course, if the purpose is to learn about archery in the target language, I’d probably be using that specialized vocabulary. But do I need them all? In a first year class, maybe I wouldn’t have to go quite as deep into the topic, therefore less-specialized vocab could suffice (e.g. “can you teach me how to hold X?” will be more useful to a student than “can you teach me how to string walk after nocking with a finger sling?”). So, not all of that vocab is necessary when exploring a specific topic to learn about the topic. That is, a particular topic explored lightly doesn’t require the use of highly-specialized vocab otherwise needed when exploring it deeply. Think of the kind of learning that goes on in a survey-level undergrad course vs. a very focused grad course. And in terms of vocab, our students are more like kindergartners!

In this post, I’m asking you to consider something, but only consider it…

Continue reading

The Cost Of Education: Value Analysis & Equity

Right now, I’m filling out our department wishlist request form for next school year. There are 81 novellas, and 10 textbooks for AP (five Caesar, five Virgil). The total cost of novellas is $691.91, and the total cost for the textbooks is $710. The $710 would cover five students enrolled in AP. The $691.91 will fill my FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) library to include everything currently published, as well as build two additional libraries in other teachers’ classrooms, covering all Latin students at our school.

This all got me thinking of some big questions.

  • When funds are tight, who do they tend to go to?
  • How many Latin programs would choose to fund the five AP students over the rest?
  • What does the decision to offer AP really cost a school beyond the $93 exam fee (i.e. teacher training, materials, etc.)?
  • Given what we know about AP Latin, how much time, effort, and money should be allocated?
  • How do we place value (beyond $) on different classroom materials?
  • Which materials provide the most purposeful CI?
  • What’s essential? What’s extra?

No Wonder Teachers Say They Have No Time…

I just provided feedback to all my students who completed a school-wide Google Form assignment this week. My feedback was a simple greeting that also referenced what was written in their reflection section of the Google Form. It took me hours. Hours. No wonder teachers who give written/typed feedback say they have no time to create or adapt texts!?!

Now that we’ve gone remote courtesy of COVID-19, this kind of feedback is the only way to connect with students asynchronously (aside from a personalized video…which would take even longer than typing). Of course, in typical teaching contexts, this written/typed feedback usually includes corrections. Let’s take a closer look at this practice that’s sapping a lot of time…

Continue reading

*THE* Time For Writing & Adapting Texts

In the COVID-19 scramble to replace classroom instruction, many teachers are tossing anything they can at students, often using materials someone else created. This might work out fine, but it also might not. Some of the texts are comprehensible. Some aren’t.

Of course, some students will do the enrichment work, and some won’t. That’s just our reality. Yet the K (constant) in all this is us. Teachers can use this time to hone their skills while also providing input—that students may or may not receive, which is completely out of our control (i.e. what used to be problems with homework is now the entire course content!)—ensuring more productive ways to spend our time…

Continue reading