…we’re doing something wrong.
If we spend an hour preparing to teach, that hour should at least result in an entire class’ worth of content, activities, etc., and bonus if it gets us a couple more. In other words, the fruit of an hour’s labor should not result in a single activity lasting just 10-15 minutes, or a quiz that lasts the same time but adds another hour for us to check/enter in gradebook/follow up with. Even spending an hour on something that lasts half as much time in the classroom—physical, virtual, live, or asynchronous—isn’t enough juice for the squeeze, and we got alotta lemons this year…
At least half a dozen times now, I’ve sent a message to other Latin teachers with something like “wow, I really gotta get back into storytelling, with shorter stories, and a lot of them.” Well, now’s the perfect time for that…
After sharing the strong start to the year from just the first 12 minutes of day 1, and results of a textbook comparison from the first 4 weeks, I’ve now got some stats from Quarter 1. Having arrived at the first 10 week mark of the year (36 hours), the total words read is now 6,500. But that figure isn’t really what I find most remarkable. How about the fact that 39% of the total input was read in just these last two weeks, from novellas alone…
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…
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…
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:
- Do Now
- Activity 1 (or first part of a longer activity)
- READ (independently)
- 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…
This trick gets you immediate content to discuss, and then X new drawings (whereas X is the class size) used for other input-based activities.
- Get a picture.
- Crop it.
- Make copies, and have students draw the missing parts.
- Project several drawings, and describe them.
For those who have read Rūfus et arma ātra, here’s a large Crixaflamma to print out. Also, input hypermiling combos include:
- Write & Discuss (or type up on your own)
- Print and give to students to read (i.e. up to a complete Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) packet of drawings and descriptions).
- Project as Timed Write prompt (i.e. “Write a story about…”
- Print and give to students to read (i.e. up to a complete FVR packet of drawings and descriptions).
- Flyswatter Picture Talk (using two drawings side-by-side)
Last week, I shared the process of using writing to refocus students throughout class. Here’s how I’ve used them this week…
**See these examples of how weekly sheets have been used**
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…
Here are 4 sneaky activities that don’t seem like input at first glance. I call them “admin-friendly” because when there’s conflict over providing CI, it’s usually someone in a position of power who just wants to see the kind of schoolwork that makes more sense/is familiar to them. Unfortunately, that kind of observable schoolwork is output, or something completely non-communicative, or not even in the target language. I must admit that these 4 activities appear output-heavy, but they aren’t, so pay attention…