Lowering Anxiety & Priority #1: Every Kid Starring In Their Own Story

I had so much success with Slide Talk, the digital version of Card Talk, that I thought it would replace Card talk entirely. Well, some insight from Sr. Sedge has got me thinking that analog pencil—paper Card Talk still has it’s merits, especially at the start of the year.

Again, the digital Slide Talk is awesome for what kids bring to their slides (vs. stick figures), but I didn’t consider how I’d memorize names of students without a physical card right in front of me. After all, it will have been over two years since I began the school year in person, right?!

Starting Seating Plan & Starting Activity
In addition to learning names, there’s an idea Sr. Sedge brought up about a starting seating plan, and starting activity so kids just aren’t looking around. In fact, the First Day Anxieties is one of the more interesting pages I’ve seen on a CI site. The paper Sr. Sedge shares isn’t just Krashen this, and Krashen that. This is refreshing, not only because it’d be wise for many of us to expand our quote sources, but also because we know the affective filter is the least sciency part of the monitor model, and is an easy target for the haters. But lowering anxiety, in general, is a very good idea. I must admit that I never quite thought of how nervous it can be to walk in the room on the first day—a little late even—being told to choose a seat (“oh gods, just like the lunchroom!”), and then just sit there while we stall until it seems all students are there.

Class Photographer
This is an excellent class job for anyone doing some kind of collaborative storytelling with acting. To be honest, I don’t think it will work well in my context without actors. What would students take a picture of?!

Card Talk Stories & Everyone’s Awesome
This is it. This is the one. This is the one new take on something that makes the world of difference. Although we would scroll through student slides when fishing for details in a class story, Sr. Sedge uses Card Talk to write a story about each student! Now, I’ve had massive success at the start of the year by typing up details of students after the first day so we have a personalized class text right way. That’s a keeper, and that’s something I’ll spend prep time on, myself. However, it never occurred to me to turn student interests into mini story activity during class, even the type-up of the story. Amazing, right? N.B. unlike Write & Discuss/Type & talk, note-taking of the story is optional. I can understand that, especially if this ends up in a digital class library. This addition to the statements not only results in a lot more contextualized input, but it also begins to awaking creativity. All it takes is a few key words to make some comparisons because in these stories, everyone’s awesome at what they do in class. Sr. Sedge explicitly states that. So, you end up with a kid into soccer being better than a pro. You have a kid who likes to read end up reading more than everyone on Earth, etc. This is actually crucial when creating a nice little story. Watch Sr. Sedge explain.

Here’s an example story. The English translation follows below…

  • James plays a lot of video games (i.e., “Class, James plays a lot of video games. What kind?”).
  • James goes to a grocery store to the cereal section and plays Grand Theft Auto 5 (i.e., “Class, where is James? Where does James play video games?”).
  • Ellen DeGeneres comes in (i.e., “Class, who is James with?”).
  • Ellen asks what James is doing (i.e., “Class, what does Ellen say?”).
  • James says he’s playing Grand Theft Auto 5 (i.e., “Class, what does James say?”).
  • Ellen and James play (i.e., “Class, what does Ellen do?” or “Does Ellen play GTA5, too?”).
  • James wins (because every student is awesome).

Notice what few questions need to be asked in order to get at a simple story. I wouldn’t even say there’s a conflict in these short stories, and that’s fine. If the story is about sport, the kid wins. If the story is about food, the kid eats the food. Make sure to ask “where?,” and “with whom?,” and add a bit of dialogue. Just ask questions and use answers (AQUA). Also, don’t be afraid to add new details when typing up. That’s a classic way to keep interest going. Thanks Sr. Sedge!

Slide Talk Stories & Super Simple Story Script Sequence

After looking at all the collaborative storytelling options for our first class story, we decided Mike Peto’s simple structure of a 20min story—tops—was exactly what we were looking for. In preparation, I suggested that we script out some basic either/or detail options, one of which being a “shadow” (i.e. non-option), and the other what we think they’d likely choose. Student teacher Magister K suggested that we look to each class’ Slide Talk slides to find something they already liked…

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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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Total Words Read

Last year, I reported total words read up to holiday break, and it’s hard to believe that time of year is upon us again. Since part of my teacher eval goal is to increase input throughout the year, let’s compare numbers. 2018-19 students read over 20,000 total words of Latin by this time. However, this year’s students have read…uh oh…just 11,000?!?!

Hold up.

Something’s going on. I’m positive that students are reading more now, and for longer periods of time. Classes are now structured to be roughly half listening and half reading (i.e. Talk & Read), too. So…why don’t the numbers add up?! Surely there’s a reason. Let’s look into that, starting with this quote from last year’s post:

Over the 55 hours of CI starting in September up to the holiday break, students read on their own for 34 total minutes of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), and 49 minutes of Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)…

This year’s independent reading time has skyrocketed to 99 and 233. That’s nearly 5x more independent choice reading! Now, last year’s 20,000 figure included an estimated 1,900 from FVR. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to estimate that this year’s students have read something like 9,500 total words during FVR, which would be like reading a third of this paragraph worth of Latin per minute. If so, the year-to-year comparison would be very close (i.e. 20,000 vs. 20,500). However, I’d expect the numbers to be much higher now with even more of a focus on reading. Seeing as it’s really difficult to nail down a confident number during independent choice reading due to individual differences, then, let’s just subtract all that FVR time from both years, arriving at 18,100 to compare to this year’s 11,000, which is still quite the spread. Let’s do some digging…

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Do Now & Text-Generating Routines

Classes feel a bit different this year—to say the least—meeting between just 40 and 44 minutes daily. That certainly doesn’t sound like much time for high school, but it’s growing on me. In fact, I’d even say that this is an ideal amount of time to spend in a second language each day, so no complaints, here. Due to the need for super efficient timing, though, my daily structure now looks like this:

  1. Do Now
  2. Activity 1 (or first part of a longer activity)
    -Brain Break-
  3. READ (independently)
  4. Activity 2 (or second part of a longer activity)

To give you a sense of how this looks, on Tuesday we held the first round of student interviews (i.e. Discipulus Illustris/Persona Especial), students read about last Friday’s basketball game, then I asked questions about what we learned from the student in the spotlight, typing into a Google Doc as students copied the Latin into their notebooks (i.e. Write & Discuss). That was it! Thinking of the class day as two parts is really easy to plan for. Also, since classes meet daily, I’ve decided to alternate activities. This makes the week feel like there’s more variety without adding too much. Here are my alternating daily routines for these first weeks of school…

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For all my tips, tricks, and sneaky systems, I do a LOT of scripting and detailed planning the first weeks of school in order to feel prepared. Last year, I wrote about “annual amnesia,” and this year is no different. Granted, I’m reaaaaally on top of certain things, like creating a giant colored-coded poster with class END times near the clock to reference while teaching, and other odds ‘n ends. But then there’s Monday…

“What the HELL am I actually going to DO in class?!”

OK OK, it’s not that bad. However, I did need to set aside time to think things through, all outlined in this post…

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#teachersunday: No-Prep Monday

OK, so it’s still holiday break, but we can celebrate the third #teachersunday in a row, especially to get more teachers on board after the New Year (just post a pic of your Sunday in the Twitter sphere, and/or FB). Even though it’s still break, I’ve already heard teachers beginning to plan their upcoming week. Not me; I took care of that work—at work—before I left work. In fact, I’m not even sure what’s been planned, and don’t really need to know until school begins Wednesday. Come to think about it, I don’t even really have to plan for Mondays at all because the options are bountiful. Having some Monday routines on hand are a must for teacher sanity…

Before you check out my #teachersunday activities from this week, here are some favorite no-prep options for every Monday so you don’t have to think very hard on a Friday, and definitely not during a holiday…

  • Weekend Talk/Holiday Talk/Card Talk + Simple Survey (e.g. “What was good? What was bad?”)
  • Calendar Talk
  • Special Person Interviews
  • MovieTalk (always have the next one cued & printed)
  • One Word Image (OWI)
  • Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)

Also, whatever you do, make sure it’s something without printing (do all that by Friday). Heading to the copier Monday morning is about as bad an idea as driving back to any major city on a Sunday afternoon.

Making some house compound gin (i.e. legal infusing, not illegal distilling)
This ambient music show is free on Sundays, and you can stream the show all week free on the app.
OK, so watching double bass videos isn’t exactly relaxing, but #teachersunday is more about not planning for school than it is about chilling out. #teachersunday is about making sure you retain free time, and doing what you want with it.
Calm Quincy water from a cozy corner at Aunt Pat’s.


The most practical daily practices aren’t really taught to teachers. None of us received training in how to best take attendance, minimize the paper trail, organize digital files, or transition between classes. The lucky teachers have found a good system. Unlucky ones are still searching for more efficient systems, or don’t even know that alternatives exist at all! This is a companion post to How To Plan So Your Plans Never Get Messed Up with some tips on organization…

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Card Talk 2 for 1: Double The Input

This year, I’m very on top of providing learners with texts. Each class section has been reading at least a half page of Latin every class, which I’ve also been able to print (all during my planning periods!), and give to learners as reading options at home. These texts also double as what some schools call “Do Now” or “Activators” as the first thing we read in class.



The texts include somewhere between 50-70 total words every day. Since I always print extra copies, I’ve shown learners where to go to get new texts if they’ve already read the ones from their own class. Why would they? Well, the texts from each section has different content written with frequent vocabulary that all learners understand. For those who have read all the texts available from other classes, that’s about 1300 total words after just one week! It’s worth noting that almost all of the content is the product of Card Talk, and a single Picture Talk. These are extremely low prep; the work is just typing up what happened in class, made even easier when doing a Write & Discuss at the end of class. Also, in typing up today’s events, I just stumbled upon a way to double the input from any X Talk (e.g. Card, Picture, Calendar, Item, etc.)…

Extending the concept of parallel texts to Card Talk is an easy way to double the input. Say the day’s prompt is “draw up to 4 things you don’t like, and circle them.” In class, 5-10min could easily be spent comparing two learners, their drawings, and the thoughts of others.

Now, instead of typing up what everyone heard and learned in class, review other drawings and type THOSE up. Project, and/or read using your favorite input-based strategy and activity, and you will have doubled the input in a more communicative and compelling way (vs. reading content that learners already know).

That Day 1 Meet & Greet Adjusted Schedule: “Who am I? Who are we?”

This year, I’ll be teaching 4 sections of Latin 1 filled with brand new high school freshpeople. My first of 2 broad units in the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) is based on the questions “Who am I?” and “Who are we?” Since the first day of school is one of those adjusted schedules so every section meets, I have a PPT about myself using lots of cognates, and forms of just 1 verb, “to be,” as a way to introduce the course, as well as begin connecting with students.

After the section about me, I show a few pics of our school, a few of the city, and then they get a sneak peak at the Unit 2 Essential Q, “Who were the Romans?” then go back to the familiar with a slide including 4 things I like in the corners. This segues into Card Talk so I get a little bit of data in order to type up, talk about, and read their interests on the first full day. I probably won’t hand out the syllabus until the end of the first full class, too, even though other teachers might do so during this first orientation day. Here are screenshots from that PPT: