Demonstrations: Providing Compelling Input

I’ve known that Krashen et al. suggested long ago that using Total Physical Response (TPR) to teach basic dance steps, martial arts, magic tricks, etc. results in compelling input. I’ve seen presenters talk about the idea of doing so, but haven’t really seen it much in classrooms. Now, I’ve performed one of Eric Herman’s magic tricks, but I didn’t really think I knew how to do anything that I could instruct students to do.

However, Tuesday was one of those perfect times to try something new during a weird day because the rest of the week was midterms. Since I got into archery this year, I decided to bring in my bow to demonstrate basic assembly, shot cycle, and target point values. Yes, I cleared this with security as well as admin, and no, I didn’t bring any arrows.

The experience was fantastic.

Students were captivated for a solid 45 minutes, and there’s no surprise why. Humans are naturally curious learners. It’s just that the school system has destroyed the joy of learning. If we can pause that “school feeling” for a moment, we bring back the joy. After my demo using common vocab, I projected a list of archery-specific phrases, and we co-created a quick text on archery. From there, I put together a more comprehensive packet. However, I wasn’t teaching words. I was teaching about archery. That’s the content.

In pedagogical terms, this is content-based instruction (CBI). Students asked a lot of questions about the bow. Why? It’s cool. In comparison, though, they didn’t ask as much about Roman apartment buildings last month. Why? That’s kind of boring, no matter how well we connect the content to their lives. Of course, exploring Roman content works the same way as exploring archery. It’s just that it takes someone with particular interests to get as excited about Romans. However, I’m not convinced that this should be either/or. I’ll both continue to explore Roman content (in Latin), as well as teach about other content (in Latin).

I’m now looking for other things to demo. Drumming might be one. After performing that card trick, I suppose I could teach it. In all of this, I’m reminded of how beneficial it is to include students in the demo process (e.g. distribute toy bows, drum sticks, decks of cards, etc.).

So, What could you teach your students?

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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Are My Students Reading Every Day?

No? Why not?

After thinking it over—and I can think things over for a long, long time—I can’t find a compelling reason why students shouldn’t be reading every day, either independently, in pairs/groups/whole class, or both. This year’s students have already read independently for twice as long as last year’s students did…by the end of Quarter 1!!!!

Reading is probably the best source of input, and although I value class time interaction, the reason for all that interaction amounts to being able to read Latin. In fact, I would still place all my eggs in the reading basket when teaching a modern language, too, knowing that interpersonal communication *might* occur outside of the classroom, but that it also might not. However, books can accompany us wherever we go, and literacy is probably the most important skill to promote and build across all content areas, as well as language class.

Bottom line, reading is paramount. Looking back at last year’s plans, there were days when students didn’t read, but I can’t justify that, even for a few minutes at some point between activities. Therefore, I’ve now built reading time into my plans for each day…like…ALL of them…! How?!

Halfway through class, and before ANY reading or any other input-based activity, students read independently for 3 minutes. That’s it!

For example, last week I finished class with TPR (Total Physical Response), but guess what? Students had 3 minutes of independent reading time with their first text. This was after a brain break in the middle of class, and that’s in 40 to 44 minute classes. If I still taught for 1 hour, I’d set a timer for 25, quick break, then read. Every. Day.

Of course, the insistence on this routine means I need a text every day, but that doesn’t mean the text must be long. That also doesn’t mean that a new text is needed every day. While students certainly could be given new text daily, especially with judicious use of copying a text written/typed out during class (i.e. Write & Discuss), a longer text could last a couple days, or even the whole week.

So, if your students aren’t reading every day, what can you do to build in this time?


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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Bountiful Brain Breaks & Bursts

I’ve seen pictures of brain breaks & bursts written on Popsicle sticks for students to draw at random. This, or some other system of randomly selecting one, is an excellent idea…

No Popsicle sticks?
Just write on folded paper!

At a certain point, we don’t ever need to plan a break/burst, or specify what kind on our agenda. How? It’s simple. Once a brain break makes its way into the rotation, write it on a stick, or tiny piece of paper to put in a hat (or drum, Corinthian helmet, etc.). When students begin to lose steam, have someone choose the next break, or burst. That’s it. This especially helps for brain bursts when I’m not feeling creative in the moment. In fact, why not do the same for all TPR, pre-writing funny chain commands ready-to-go? You could also use separate hats/drums/helmets for the bursts (e.g. the one pictured that lasts just seconds), and other breaks that might take longer (e.g. draw/color for 2 minutes).

Recently, I took inventory of my breaks & bursts, making note of the ones I no longer use at the end of the list. Some of those were helpful when I first began comprehension-based communicative language teaching (CCLT), and couldn’t really sustain an hour-long class in the target language. Others just weren’t that fun. However, give them a try and see how they work in your context.

Forgetting How To Teach…Again

eyeearCapture5Even a teacher who’s been in the classroom for 6 years has only started the school year a maximum of 6 times, and there’s a good chance that none of those years began the same way. That’s not a lot of practice!

As annual amnesia sets in, I do a LOT more scripting, thinking, planning, confusing, etc. all at the start of the year. If Kids lose knowledge after 3 months; teachers lose flow. In fact, I just posted a video to the Latin Best Practices Facebook group sharing how I ended up stuck one day during some Total Physical Response (TPR) I’ve been using as brain breaks. Naturally, I’m more aware of my teaching since there hasn’t been enough time for anything to stack up, so I’ve been thinking about the start to this year… Continue reading

TPR Wall Reboot & TPR Upgrade: Don’t Laugh!

Last year, I ditched the TPR Word Wall for a bottom-up Word Wall (i.e. blank at start of year, then add as you go). This year, I’ll have both. As such, my TPR Word Wall just had a reboot, now featuring English meanings, pictures when possible, new verbs (that I know I’ll use more), and a cleaner look. Oh, and these posters are primarily to help me do TPR, not as a learner reference on the wall. With everything up there, all I have to do is combine things to form novel chain commands, and hilarious 3 Ring Circus scenes (i.e. assign chain commands/actions that a few learners then loop)!

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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:


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.