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.

Writing Requires Focus: Weekly MGMT Sheets

I’ve known for some time that ending class with Write & Discuss is a great way to focus students’ attention on the target language. I’ve also known that a simple dictation is pacifying, albeit boring (hence why I think I’ve done only one of these this year). Both of these activities require students to write, and both of these activities are nearly distraction-free because students have a writing task to do. It comes as no surprise, then, that we should be using writing as a MGMT tool…

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Pronunciation & Poetry Quizzes

māter ārtium necessitās

It’s rare that I begin a blog post with some pretentious Latin quote that might as well have been in that Tombstone scene. However, it really fits nicely. Why? It seems that every time I experience unwanted confusion, additional work, changes of plans, and really just negōtium in general, I have an idea. The fruit of this day’s frustration is two additional sneaky quizzes to add to the Quick Quiz family. Besides, with Poetry Of The Week now underway for about a month, these have even more purpose…

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Why Is Language Class So Different?

 

It’s taken years to develop my practices, so there’s no reason students should understand them all after 7 weeks. I’m using these comics to reinforce rules & routines, and to help students understand why their language class looks so different from other classes in school. 

1) Tests, Quizzes, “Assessments”
When students respond—even non-verbally—it’s like they’ve selected a multiple choice, or completed a fill-in-the-blank test item. Rather than score/”correct” each individual student’s test, the real time interaction provides immediate feedback to everyone in the room. This saves a massive amount of teacher time, typically redundant in nature (e.g. giving the same feedback over and over, possibly resorting to using comment codes, etc.). It’s actually the most natural form of a batch assessment, and it takes place all class long!

There’s no need to give tests when every utterance provides a) me with comprehension data, and b) students with immediate feedback. I do, however, need to train students to listen as if they were taking a test. That’s easier said than done, but not impossible. Aside from maintaining consistent classroom rules & routines that support language acquisition, statements like the ones in the comics help to explicitly connect SLA principles with school expectations in a student-friendly way.

2) Reading Expectations
I don’t give homework, but reading at home is a daily expectation, period. Without a product attached to reading, though, the concept of “we have Latin reading every night” is tough for 9th graders. Surely, I don’t want to contribute to readicide, but students do need it spelled out for them. The math on input is clear. If we spend 10min. reading in class each day, reading at home for another 10min. doubles the input for the whole year.

The power of reading at home cannot be emphasized enough, and reading what is understood is paramount. This means providing students with level-appropriate, or even below-level reading since doing so independently at home lacks any possibility for negotiating and clarifying meaning. Like novellas used for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), students are able to read far less on their own vs. the support available during whole-class, or partner-reading activities.

Picture & Classroom Quick Quizzes

**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:

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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:

Quick Quiz
Vocab Quick Quiz
K-F-D 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.

Basics: Current Ideas & Summary of Recurring Blog Posts

All Of My Daily Activities, etc.
– input-based strategies & activities
– how to get texts

If this stuff interests you, consider putting a few things in place to support the move towards a more comprehension-based and communicative approach. Here are the practices fundamental to my teaching, making the daily stuff possible:

Grammar
Textbooks
Curriculum
Grading
Course Grade
D.E.A.
Assessments
Speaking & Writing

Continue reading for explanations of each…

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Quick Quizzes – Contextualized Vocab

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%).

That’s it!

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!

Averaging & Delayed Assessments

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!