Here…We…GO!

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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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.

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:

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