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.
It’s been years since I’ve given a quiz. I know that seems crazy coming from a teacher, but there are just so many other ways to get evidence of learning, like The Monitor Assessment, that I haven’t had to bother with quizzes much at all. When I did give them, they were sneaky ways of reading and rereading. In other words, all my quizzes were input-based. This meant that the learning experience (i.e., of receiving input) took place during the assessment. In the literature, this is known as an UNOBTRUSIVE assessment, whereas an obtrusive one would be when there’s an abrupt stop to input and interaction so testing can occur. This is bad. It literally takes away time from learning, an no one wants (or needs) that. A couple examples of obtrusive assessments would be like pulling kids into the hall for some speaking test while who-knows-what is going in the classroom, or holding a “unit test day” that’s really just 20min of testing, then free time or busywork for those who finish. With unobtrusive input-based assessments, however, the learning (i.e., receiving of input) continues, and it’s not a complete waste of time.
I enjoy not wasting time. Don’t you?
Teachers unaccustomed to speaking the target language in class are often a bit lost when it comes to providing input. Instead, the more familiar rule-based lectures and paired speaking activities of PPP (present, practice, produce), target culture projects, and perhaps target language movies all become quite alluring, seducing teachers back to the pedagogy of yore. Here’s a way to conceptualize class in a clearer way that maximizes input:
- Talk about something
- Read something
Now, from the student perspective, this would be “listen & read,” but the “talk” portion of class is very much led by the teacher, especially in beginning years, so it’s easier to think of this in terms of what you, the teacher, must do. Don’t get fooled by anyone thinking this is the kind of “teacher-centered” lesson that’s frowned upon. The content is student-centered, it’s just that students can’t express themselves fully in the target language. They don’t have to, and this is expected. They need input. Case closed. The “read” portion could be any reading activity, either independent, led by you, in pairs, groups, or all of the above…
**See a recent post adding the Tense Test**
Picture Quick Quiz
Project a picture, then make 4 True/False statements about it. You could use a screenshot from a MovieTalk you just finished (e.g. choose a random point in the timeline), whatever you were discussing during PictureTalk, or an entirely new image. Here’s an example:
1) The Roman is wearing a shirt.
2) The Roman’s shirt is black.
3) The Roman’s shirt is blue.
4) The statue is seated.
Classroom Quick Quiz
Make 4 True/False statements about anything in the room! Have a map? Say something about a location. Have a Word Wall? Say something about a word. Have furniture? Talk about its size, or shape. Being observed? Talk about that person. Want to walk around? Narrate what it is you’re doing (i.e. TPR).
With the addition of these two, the total no-prep quizzes comes to 5, which you can read more about on the Input-Based Strategies & Activities post:
Vocab Quick Quiz
Picture Quick Quiz
Classroom Quick Quiz
To review, the Quiz process (aside from K-F-D Quizzes) is a) make 4 True/False statements, b) pass out colored pens and “correct” in class (in the target language, with PQA), and c) report the scores in the 0% grading category. That’s it.
This is not an audiobook with sound effects or music. It’s not just narration. It’s definitely not repeat-after-me.
This release is part of a new series of audio, Learning Latin via, planned for other Pisoverse novellas. This series assumes a listener with ZERO prior Latin can maintain comprehension and confidence while listening to any book! If you listen to this while following along with the novella (or maybe even without the text!?), you WILL start to pick up Latin.
The audio to accompany Agrippīna: māter fortis is the first offered in the series. There are over 1500 Latin messages, some of which are comprised of 10+ words—none of that isolate word-list, or “repeat-after-me” stuff! This contains 6 hours of Latin! Each chapter has the following 3 tracks:
**Updated 1.13.22 with the “EZ” code showing low-energy-demand**
**Check out the companion post on Getting Texts!**
**Here’s the list of older ones I haven’t used in a while**
When choosing the class agenda beyond each particular day’s routine, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember all my favorite activities. Thus, here are the input-based strategies & activities I’ve collected over the years, all in one place. Although this began as only reading activities, I decided that it didn’t matter as much whether students were reading or listening. Why? These input-based activities start with some kind of text either way, so beyond variety, what really matters most to me when planning for class is providing students with input, and what kind of prep goes into getting the text/activity. Everything is organized by prep, whether no instructions, no prep, printing only, or low prep. You won’t find prep-intensive activities here beyond typing, copying, and cutting paper. Oh, and for ways to get that one text to start, try here. Enjoy!
**N.B. Any activity with the word “translation” in it means translating what is already understood. This should NOT be confused with the more conventional practice of translating in order to understand.**
Here’s a variation on the 4 statement T/F Quick Quizzes that have freed me from unnecessary quizzes and tests; I’m able to focus on providing input, and making that input comprehensible.
Instead of T/F statements, this is a contextualized vocab quiz. Project a text, ask students to read it, and then underline, circle, or just tell them which words/phrases to write an L1 equivalent for. Upgrade? If you have time, write a parallel story based on whatever text students have already read. As always, these should be self-scored by students using some colored pens along with a discussion in the target language, which you then collect and put into the gradebook with 0% weight (e.g. a “Portfolio” grading category set to 0%).
Use these input-based quizzes along with the original T/F Quick Quizzes and the K-F-D Quizzes, and you’ve now varied your assessments a tad more without any sacrifice to best practices in providing input. They also might make for a quick follow up to a Discipulus Illustris Truths & Lies!
Here are more thoughts on assessment in addition to yesterday’s post. They should be timely seeing as teachers are talking about end of quarter exams, and upcoming mid-terms.
So, individually assessing student speaking one-at-a-time in the hall? This is a big waste of time, and here’s why…
My interest in assessment & grading began shortly after the first few months of teaching right out of grad school. I noticed that some students did well with the content from the first few textbook chapters, but others didn’t do so well at all. Thus, beginning the year with low self-efficacy that was hard to turn around. By November, I realized that students were comfortable with the vocabulary and grammar from the first few chapters of the textbook. Then hit me; if I had just delayed those first assessments by a month or so, ALL STUDENTS would have aced them! What is more, the students who actually improved had that lower 1st quarter grade (e.g. C) averaged with the new, higher grade (e.g. A), producing a skewed reflection of their ability (e.g. B). None of this made sense; I was playing gods & goddesses with my students’ GPA.
I began researching how to arrive at a course grade that actually reflected ability—not just the averaging I was familiar with and somehow never questioned (or was even taught about in grad school). I spent months reading up on grading from experts like Marzano, O’Connor, and even some stuff from Alfie Kohn. I moved towards a system that showed where students were at the very moment of the grading term’s end without penalizing them for understanding the content slowly at first, or even having those bad days that students inevitably have. This was how I came to use Proficiency-Based Grading (PBG), and subsequently the kind of no-prep quizzes that haven’t added anything to my planning time in years.
If you’re ready for that, hooray! If not, at least consider 1) NOT averaging grades, as well as 2) delaying your assessments until students have already shown you that they understand the content!