Like usual, it took me a matter of minutes the other day to create the next day’s class agenda. Oh, you wanna know the trick to that? There are lots of them, but it all starts with a good grading system and ends with the basic Talk & Read format.Then, I try not to plan too far out knowing that something ALWAYS changes last-minute, and about 20% of our weeks aren’t even the typical schedule to begin with. I have a rough idea what’s coming up in following weeks, but never anything set in stone. Printing much ahead of time? Forget it. I’ve recycled WAY too many reams of no-longer-relevant activity sheets to know better. Anyway, I felt good about the time spent during my planning period, and had a solid idea of how class would go. The plans were simple and straightforward.
Yet, why was I exhausted by the end classes today?!
It turns out that low-prep isn’t always as easy as it seems to carry out. The good news is that it doesn’t take much more effort to avoid a draining class. In this post, you’ll find a list of the best low-prep AND low-energy-demanding activities generated from my input-based strategies & activities and how to get texts lists. Those lists have also been updated with the “EZ” code showing low-energy-demand typically required to carry them out.
Considering how impersonal the year felt, the responses from this end-of-year survey support an early prediction many of us had that learning and growth/development would take place this year after all, though certainly different from what we’ve expected in the past. To be clear, “learning loss” is a myth, and you should stop anyone trying to talk about that dead in their tracks. You simply cannot lose what you never had in the first place. It was a talking point used to get kids into schools ASAP, and nothing more. If students, or even just their learning were truly the priority, the conversation would be about improving living conditions for families at the societal level, as well as fully-funding our public schools.
Anyway, let’s start with the first question on my mind: grading. I’ve settled on the system after experience with a LOT of different ones, but what about students? The open-ended responses explaining what kind of grading students preferred are quite genuine. Scroll through the slideshow to see:
I got thinking about what I’d say my core practices were if anyone wanted to learn more about CI and get an overview of what comprehension-based and communicative language teaching (CCLT) looks like. Would it be a list of 10? Could I get that down to five? Might it be better to prioritize some practices like the top 5, 8, and 16 verbs (i.e. quaint quīnque, awesome octō, and sweet sēdecim)? Would I go specific, with concrete activities? Or, would I go broad and global, starting with principles and ideas?
I highly recommend that you do this just as an exercise during a planning period this week, making a quick list of your core practices. Doing so required me to sort out a few things in the process, and helped organize and align my practices to certain principles. Of course, terms and definitions can get tricky, here. I just saw that Reed Riggs and Diane Neubauer refer to “instructional activities (IA),” which covers a lot of what goes on in the classroom. It’s a good term. I’m using “practices” in a similar way to refer to many different methods, strategies, techniques, and activities that all fall under a CCLT approach, as well as general “teacher stuff” I find to be core as well.
Another reason for this post is that I’ve seen the “CI umbrella” graphic shared before, but that doesn’t quite fit with my understanding of things. Rather than practices falling under a CI umbrella, I envision CI instead as the result of practices under the umbrella of CCLT. I also consider such an approach a defense against incomprehensibility—the first obstacle that needs to be removed—and I thought a more aggressive graphic of a “CI shield” might best represent that.
Here’s a list of how to easily convert tried-and-true activities to the digital space during our remote learning. For a list of all original in-person ways to get texts and input-based activities, see this post.
If we spend an hour preparing to teach, that hour should at least result in an entire class’ worth of content, activities, etc., and bonus if it gets us a couple more. In other words, the fruit of an hour’s labor should not result in a single activity lasting just 10-15 minutes, or a quiz that lasts the same time but adds another hour for us to check/enter in gradebook/follow up with. Even spending an hour on something that lasts half as much time in the classroom—physical, virtual, live, or asynchronous—isn’t enough juice for the squeeze, and we got alotta lemons this year…
On Facebook, I shared my variation on the student interview program Discipulus Illustris (i.e. Special Person) of getting teacher colleagues to choose and answer questions that I put into Google Slides to play “guess the teacher” with classes. Given the size of our staff, I have every Tuesday covered for the rest of the year. Students have enjoyed the process, but they wanted more. Therefore, instead of conducting the typical student interviews on Thursdays, from this point onward, we’ll play “guess the student.”
Setting it up was easy. Last week, all students chose 5-10 questions to answer (from the list they, themselves, generated earlier in the year), and turned them in. I selected a few at random, and put them into Google Slides. I also assigned point values decreasing with each question, a bit like a Kahoot alternative, as well as 15 seconds between each slide. This game runs itself aside from teams guessing a student on the paper, writing the number (of points) shown on the slide at the time, and dropping it into a hat. This awards teams points that correctly guess the student the fastest, or who take the risk if unsure. I can do three each class, so three rounds of this game will be played each Thursday (until the end of school). Most points out of all three rounds wins.
Not Just A Team Building Game This isn’t just a game. There’s input. I found it easy to type up student responses in Latin without vocab getting out of bounds. Where it would have, though, I just quoted the student’s response in English. I also removed the English support from the questions that appear on each slide, so students have 15 seconds in their group to process the input. Then, the response appears as they have 15 seconds to confer. In some cases, I took the class through a choral translation of the question, and/ore response. Everything is timed, so there’s a sense of urgency to earn the most points and win the game (i.e. communicative purpose is entertainment).
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?!?!
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…
This activity was shared quite some time ago. I didn’t look into it at the time, and just sent myself an email for whenever I had the chance. That chance was last week.
This game rules.
In short, it promotes reading, and highlights titles from your Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) library at the same time. Plus, even students who “don’t want to do the work” have a role that ends up bringing them into the fold (see below, *in bold*). This was my process for our team game after 10 minutes of independent reading (Free Reading Friday), also included in the Slides presentation you’ll find at the bottom of this post:
Students hold onto their books, forming teams (3+).
A prompt is revealed (e.g. “something you yell when you stub your toe”), then everyone has a minute or so to look for a word/phrase/quote from their book silently/independently.
Each student shares with their team. *Students who didn’t choose anything open to a random page and read a random sentence.*
After a count-off, teams vote for their favorite quote by pointing to whomever read it. Most votes wins.
Winner from each team shares their quote with the whole class.
A judge chooses best overall quote. That team gets a point, and becomes the next judge. Teacher chooses first judge to get things rolling.
Laugh and continue.
The process I listed above is a simple team-based version of the game I adapted from Jessie Oelke, with the presentation entirely in English. I figured that I’d end up spending more time trying to establish meaning of the prompts in Latin than we’d actually get to playing the game (i.e. students processing some input from their books). Otherwise, there’s this page from Senora Chase along with some Slides in various languages, as well as a longer story-based form of the game. You could always just collect a bunch of prompts that students create (much like Discipulus Illustris questions).
Last Wednesday, we did our first MovieTalk (yes, still calling it this because I have no intentions or expectations of students acquiring specific vocab, and that’s peachy according to Dr. Ashley Hastings’ 2018 note to teachers who were misinterpreting the method). Believe it or not, but Wednesday’s MovieTalk has been the *ONLY* story so far. Yep. Other than that, no stories. With student interviews (i.e. Discipulus Illustris/Special Person), discussions based on a simple prompt (i.e. Card Talk), and questions about the weekend and upcoming week (i.e. Weekend & Week Chat), class has been compelling enough without any narrative. But stories are awesome, and we have a ton of other MovieTalk texts already prepared for every other week, so I’m thinking now is a good time to get into collaborative storytelling…
After writing about the first weeks of routines, it’s clear that Total Physical Response (TPR) is now only effective as a brain break. After all, moving about and gesturing isn’t as compelling now that we can hold actual class discussions. When it comes to compelling topics, though, Discipulus Illustris is taking off with zodiac qualities right now in first place in terms of holding interest. As such, I’ve updated the 2019-20 PPT with links to two qualities for each sign:
The follow up question is something like “do you have similar, or different qualities?” This has been awesome. Otherwise, next week introduces MovieTalk, and new Card Talk prompts beyond the four like/like to do drawings we got from the very first class. Talk about a lot of mileage out of that one; it’s been 4 weeks! With these new daily routines comes new planning needs and changes. One change is reading the Tuesday/Thursday Write & Discuss as a whole class (instead of a Do Now). Also, the second half of class on Wednesday/Friday will be devoted to reading; independently, as a whole-class, and then in pairs/groups. Here’s the updated schedule for the next 4-5 weeks, and Do Now/Daily Prep below that:
Mondays: Do Now – Draw what you did/something you saw over the weekend Prep – Determine Tuesday’s Do Now drawing prompt
Tuesdays: Do Now – [Drawing prompt] Prep – 1) Wednesday’s MovieTalk screenshot 2) Type up text based on Do Now drawings, for Thursday
Wednesdays: Do Now – See|Think|Wonder (screenshot)
Thursdays: Do Now – In 1-2 sentences, summarize text (from Tuesday’s drawings) Prep – Determine Friday’s Card Talk prompt
Fridays: Do Now – [Card Talk prompt] Prep – Type up & print text based on Card Talk