Discipulī et Magistrī Illustrēs: A Guessing Game

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).

WOWATS & Other Collaborative Storytelling Options

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…

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Zōdiacī & Weekly Routines

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

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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Getting Texts: Companion Post to Input-Based Strategies & Activities

**Check out the EZ conversions for remote learning!**
**Updated 2.24.2020 with Discipulī et Magistrī Illustrēs**

See this post for all the input-based activities you can do with a text. But how do we end up with a text in the first place?! Here are all the ways I’ve been collecting:

**N.B. Many interactive ways to get texts require you to write something down during the school day, else you might forget details! If you can’t create the text during a planning period within an hour or two of the events, jot down notes right after class (as the next group of students line up for the Class Password?), or consider integrating a student job.**

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Comprehensible Online 2018 Takeaways

In its debut year, Comprehensible Online offered a different kind of PD, allowing participants to watch as many presentations over three weeks as they could from their computers and phones. #pdinpajamas was trending for many teachers sneaking in loads of PD from the comfort of their own home. In fact, I was able to watch most videos during my part-time job (shhh)!

Like other conference takeaways, I’ll consult this post over the years, and the info will be here to share with all. I have a code system to help me spot new things to try, and others to update. High-leverage strategies I consider “non-negotiable” for my own teaching are “NN.” Strategies to update or re-implement are “Update!,” and those I’d like to try for the first time are “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways from some of the presentations I got to, organized by presenter:

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Sample CI Schedule: The Week & The Day

**Use this schedule with the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) Updated 2.4.18**

Shifting one’s practice towards providing more input can feel like it’s a daunting task. All of a sudden, certain routines and practices don’t seem to make much sense, especially after looking at how few messages in the target language there might have been on a daily basis! The big picture of what a CI year looks like should be liberating and alleviate concern. Still, there are questions about what happens daily throughout the week…

The Week
– Telling/Asking stories, then reading them
– Learning details about students
– 1-3 unannounced “open-book” Quick Quizzes

The Day
– Routines
– Reading
– Students
– Stories
Write & Discuss! (Added 3.10.18)

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Picture Talk: A Discipulus Illustris Follow-Up

Adriana Ramirez shared videos of her and her students doing Picture Talk on Facebook. I apologize if you can’t see them, but the reality is that most of my professional groups have now migrated to FB, which is becoming THE way to remain current in the field, apparently.

Adriana used old family photos for Picture Talk topics of conversation (keeping in mind “conversations” with Novice language learners are interactive, yet require just a few words from students. The teacher—to the dismay of evaluators in the dark—SHOULD be doing most of the talking, here). Once her students developed a higher proficiency level by the end of the second year, she had them bring in their own pictures to talk about. I find it amazing that Adriana continued to provide input, and encourage interaction all throughout the “presentation” of the main student by engaging the class with questions, and checking back in with the main student—basically using Storyasking actor questioning techniques. In a more conventional rule-based language classroom, the teacher would be hands-off, and other students likely bored after 5 or 6 presentations. Not in Adriana’s class.

I instantly thought of how this could follow up Discipulus Illustris (one of 7 language versions of La Persona Especial). Although Adriana had second year students do the presenting, you could do this early on with students of lower proficiency—just be the one providing input and encouraging interaction. To do this, a student emails you a pic to use as a prop. Yes, students are great props, but something novel to look at should grab the attention of others just because it’s different, and fools the mind into thinking the activity is completely different while you could be asking the very same Discipulus Illustris questions about the picture!

I love how it’s no-prep. Actually, it’s can’t-prep, which is exciting on its own. Sure, you could preview the pic (especially if you have students engaging in tomfoolery often), but part of the fun is keeping it lively with unexpected, compelling diversions from what is likely a boring school day. Teachers need to feel energized as well, so try something new.

NTPRS 2016: More Changes, More Thoughts

After attending iFLT, I spent another week in Reno at NTPRS. While iFLT offered more opportunities to observe teachers teaching students, NTPRS offered more opportunities to actually BE a student for those of us in the Experienced track. I appreciated the short demos that most presenters gave, even when the workshops were not titled “___ language demo.” There are some game changes here that warrant their own posts  (e.g. embedded readings straight from the source, Michele, Whaley), but I have much  else to report on. Like last week’s iFLT post, this one includes more of what I intend to think about and/or change for 2016-17. They’re organized by presenter:

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