Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Version of "Who is This?"

Here is a fun, quick take on the "Who is This?" assessment, which can be used as a warmup, bellringer, ticket out the door, etc. It is a listening comprehension activity involving whiteboards and characters from a reading/novella. It only lasts 5-10 minutes.

  1. Write 3 VERY short descriptions in target language of one character, where the 1st description is most general ,and the 3rd is most specific, i.e., by the third description, it should be obvious who the character is.
  2.  Do this for three or more different characters.
  1. Have students get a whiteboards and dry-erase markers. Students can also use pencil and paper for this, but it is not as fun.
  2. Have students number 1-3 on their paper or whiteboard
  3. Explain to students that you are going to read a series of descriptions and after each description, they should write the name of the character whom they think it is. All three descriptions are about the same character.
  4. After reading the 3rd description, ask students in the target language “who is it?” and have them respond. If they are using whiteboards, ask them to hold up their whiteboards so that you can see their series of answers.
  5. Continue with the next character.
Examples from the Aeneid
  1. Troianus vir (Trojan man)
  2. pater (father)
  3. a serpentibus interfectus (killed by snakes)
Answer - Laocoon
  1. deus (god)
  2. rex (king)
  3. mittit ventos (sends winds)
Answer - Aeolus
  1. femina (woman)
  2. in Italia (in Italy)
  3. sacerdos Apollonis (priestess of Apollo)
Answer - the Sibyl
  1. Troianus vir (Trojan man)
  2. fidelis amicus (loyal friend)
  3. rare loquitur (rarely speaks)
Answer - Achates

  1. This is actually a very fun activity to do. Years ago, I demonstrated this in a presentation at an American Classical League Summer Institute with Latin teachers using characters from the Aeneid, and they did not want to stop playing this and wanted me to keep giving them character descriptions, even though I had run out of them.
  2. The shorter the descriptions are, the better. Since it is a quick activity, to give students long descriptions makes the activity drag. Vocabulary words and short phrases work best.
  3. The more characters from which to choose, the better. If your reading only has four characters, then it becomes obvious VERY quickly whom the description is describing.
  4. I have found that students turn this into a competition to see if they can get the answer right based on the first, most general description.
  5. I like the class to show me their whiteboards after they write down the character after the last description so that I can see their "train of thought" - it is fun for me as a teacher to see them be able to narrow down who they think that the character is based on the names which they wrote down.
  6. If you are a Latin teacher who uses the Cambridge Latin Course, this is a great activity, since there are so many characters in the readings.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Taking a Huge Plunge

I am headed back to graduate school! This week, I found out that I have been accepted into the Doctoral of Education program in Instructional Technology at Kennesaw State University. It is an online degree program, and I had received my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology from this same university back in July 2016; as a result, I can transfer many of my credits to this new program. Because it is an online program, I will still be in the classroom full-time but taking courses simultaneously.

Now that the initial shock and excitement have worn off, part of me is thinking, "Oh my gosh, what the heck am I getting myself into? A lot is going to change in my life as a result of this." Pursuing a doctorate means:
  • taking coursework and now pursuing a doctorate, in addition to working a full-time teaching job.
  • no longer having the free time which I enjoy now but rather instead having to be incredibly disciplined with my time.
  • at least three years of commitment to an academic degree program which now includes a writing a dissertation. 
  • cutting back big time on attending conferences and giving presentations and instead having to be rather selective in which ones I attend and to which ones I submit proposals.
  • entering the realm of academic research (both qualitative and quantitative), something which after writing my M.A thesis over 20 years ago I thought was behind me.
At the same time, the chance to pursue further and deeper knowledge in the field excites me. I think that it is incredibly short-sighted for people to disqualify technology's place in education, because whether we like it or not, industries are changing so rapidly due to technology. As a result, I would much rather be on the proactive side and on the cutting edge of proper educational technology implementation instead of being on the "reactive" end. However, I am also savvy enough to understand that technology is not a panacea and should never replace the needed humanity of teachers in the classroom.

As you can probably guess, my two specific areas of interest in Instructional Technology are: 
  1. the proper implementation of technology for the delivery of Comprehensible Input in a world language classroom. This was my Capstone project for my Ed.S degree, and quite honestly, there is little current research out there on this topic. Krashen has written a few short articles recently on the topic, but most "research" out there is quite outdated when addressing current technologies. Unfortunately, technology has an incredible short shelf life, and nowhere do we see that more prevalent than in today's world where the average lifespan of a gaming app is two weeks (which explains the perpetual need for updates). Also, note the emphasis on the word proper - most teachers have NEVER received any training on how to facilitate technology properly and are rather implementing it at an incredibly low level of critical thinking. 
  2. the use of technology for the delivery of extended staff development. I wrote a blog post a few years ago on this topic. 
Quite honestly, I do not know if in pursuing this degree that I will eventually leave the classroom as a Latin teacher and will become a school technology coordinator - I cannot rule out this option (my colleague and department head Bob Patrick has explicitly told me that I must give him a year's notice if I choose this path!).

I will still continue to blog here, but you may notice that my posts will begin to have a technology angle to them. I do not begin my graduate program until August, so I have a few more months both to prepare and to enjoy my life before it changes. Here's to my next few months!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Find the Sentence using Emojis

Recently, Kristy Placido posted on Twitter a Find the Sentence post-reading activity involving emojis, so last week, I decided to give it a try with my Latin 2 classes. We had been going over the Perseus story which deals with Andromeda and how Perseus rescues her, so using emojis was definitely a novel post-reading activity. It went quite well.

In order to do this activity, you will need to type emojis using a keyboard. See below how to do this using Windows 10.
Once you activate your emoji keyboard,
  1. Take known sentences from a story which you have been reviewing, and emoji-ize them, i.e., write the sentence on a document using ONLY emojis. NOTE - most likely, the sentences will not be a true one-to-one with emojis, because there are a number of words for which there are no emojis. My goal was to get the gist of the sentence as closely as possible.
  2. If you wish, scramble the emoji sentences so that they are not in order of the story.
  3. Project the emoji sentences OR print them out for students.
  4. Give students a copy of the passage from which the sentences come.
  5. Students are to find the sentence which the emojis best communicate and to write down that sentence.
  6. Review when students are done.
Extension activity - Give sentences from the story to students for them emoji-ize.

Here is the Emoji Find the Sentence activity which I did. I have included the Latin sentences and English translations for you.

  1. This was definitely a novel way for students to review a story, because it forced them to re-read the story to find the sentence. 
  2. Emojis are a great way to deliver additional comprehensible input. They are compelling and are already a "language" with which students use to communicate. 
  3. Be aware that students are not familiar with every emoji out there. If you have students create their own sentences to emoji-ize, you may have to help them out finding emojis.
  4. Unfortunately like when using pictures to deliver input, emojis can be interpreted differently by students. What seems obvious in meaning to one student is not always to another. It may be necessary to establish meaning for some of the emojis.
  5. If you print your sentences in black/white (as I did), sometimes meaning is lost, since the original emojis are in color. You may want to project your emoji sentences instead or to print them in color.
  6. For those students who did not have access to a smartphone, I had them use the classroom student computer and activate the emoji keyboard so that they could type out their sentences.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Nearing the End Zone

Yep, it is the end of the school year, with just three weeks left in the semester for me. If you are like me, you absolutely dread this time of the year. Instruction becomes disrupted by standardized End of Course testing, AP testing, and end-of-the-year activities (yearbook distribution, senior activities, graduation practice). It becomes a balancing act of trying to get in last bits of instruction, of keeping track of what students will be missing class on which days due to testing, and of trying to remain somewhat motivated. In addition, let me say for the record: I am tired of students, and students are tired of me. That is not to say that I dislike students or hate teaching. It is just that it is the time of the year where all parties involved are ready for a much needed break from each other.

I am weary and exhausted. I know that it must be the end of the school year, because every day for the past few weeks, I have taken a nap when I come home from work - I only nap like this at the start and at the end of the school year. As I have written before, I feel like I am in zombie mode during these last weeks of the year, because I am physically teaching, but my heart, mind, and emotions are not always fully present.

Apparently, this topic must be an important one to me, because I have blogged about it almost yearly, sharing the same feelings and sentiments. At the same time, I am glad that I have, because in my reading over these past posts, in hindsight it demonstrates to me that every year I have indeed gotten through and survived all of the craziness, received much needed rest over the summer, and returned re-energized for the new school year.  

I am constantly reminded that teaching is a marathon and not a sprint. I have never run a marathon, but I can imagine that the last few miles are absolutely brutal to complete as one's body begins to shut down and to fight back against the effort. As the end of the school year draws near, I find myself laboring (and sometimes crawling) to cross the finish line. Although I may be battered and bruised, I will still cross it.

I write this post not to vent nor to complain but rather to encourage others who are feeling this way that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is okay and normal to be feeling this way. So many times we are expected to be super heroes in the classroom, but we must remember that we are also human. The end is in sight...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Laundry Quandary - Movie Talk

Here is a fun Movie Talk which I did last week. With my Latin 2 classes, I am finishing up the last section of the Perseus myth (the part which deals him with rescuing Andromeda from the monster) which I have adapted, and I needed to preview the words in periculo (in danger) and servat (rescue/save). Once again, using Jason Fritze's National Movie Talk database, I was able to find a Movie Talk which addressed these words in a very humorous way.

The movie short is called Laundry Quandary, and it is about a superhero whose service is needed on his laundry day.

Latin script

English script

  1. Lots of good discussion on superheroes in the target language during the Movie Talk! I could have done a whole period of PQA's just on superheroes.
  2. I was kind of disappointed with the end of the movie short, as the woman ends up becoming all "fan girl" over Captain Beautiful. I would have liked to have seen the woman end up being a superhero and her saving the city.
  3. A number of students really liked the soundtrack - a couple students said to me, "You have picked some really good movie talks lately - they have had good music."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More Thoughts on Sheltering Vocabulary

Some random thoughts about sheltering vocabulary but not grammar:

1. Back in February, we were doing registration at my school. One of my Latin 2 students remarked to me how someone in her Advisement class asked her if Latin was easy; her response was "Yeah, it is super easy. We learn words through stories, and then those words appear in the next story along with some new words and then those words are in the next story, and so on. We never have stupid vocabulary lists to memorize. We never have fake dialogues like they do in other language classes. We learn vocabulary through stories and movie clips and through using them in conversation. It never feels like learning." In a roundabout way, unknowingly my student just explained many aspects of CI. I also find it interesting that my student never mentioned anything about grammar in her response, such as conjugating verbs and grammar drills.

2. As I become more versed in sheltering vocabulary but not grammar, I cannot help at times second-guessing myself when it comes to using CI. More than often I feel like I am short-changing my students in terms of the amount of words which they know. Of course, that is the old textbook side of me talking, where vocabulary acquisition was dictated by the lists which the textbook provided (which is usually around 20-30 words per chapter). Then, although I am focusing on high frequency words, I wonder if they are the right high frequency words. There are Latin high frequency lists out there, but they are based on frequency appearance in classical literature - should I focus on that? or on high frequency in language in general? I am still trying to find that sweet spot. I am reminded of the truth that Latin teachers probably know five different Latin words for catapult, but most do not know vocabulary related to themselves or to their daily life in the language. 

3. Just recently, Anthony Gibbins, a dear friend of mine from Rusticatio (Antonius Australianus is his Latin name - you may know him better as Legionum, the one who tweets Latin using Legoes), tweeted the following. It is a great example of sheltering vocabulary but not grammar. If you are a Latin teacher who uses The Cambridge Latin Course, then you will recognize the opening sentences.

English translation of above
Caecilius is in the garden. Caecilius is sitting in the garden. Are you able to see Caecilius sitting in the garden? Do you know why Caecilius is sitting in the garden? Perhaps someone ordered Caecilius to sit in the garden. Perhaps it is very pleasing to Caecilius to sit in the garden. Only I know that Caecilius is sitting in the garden. Where are you sitting?

The basic phrase which Anthony uses is Caecilius is sitting in the garden, but look how many different ways grammatically he uses that phrase in the passage. From a Latin teacher perspective, Anthony incorporates a present participle, indirect statements, an indirect question, and some infinitive usage with the verb iussit and the impersonal form perplacet. He then ends it with a PQA. 

Now in Latin 1, you probably would not present this full paragraph in the first weeks, but you can see in many ways how naturally you can take students through various structures with known vocabulary. Now you probably would not introduce all of these structures at once but in many instances, based on known vocabulary, new structures are very easy for students to comprehend based on context. I have found that present participles, indirect statements, and indirect questions are very quite easy for students to comprehend. We teachers are the ones who made them difficult for students, because we get caught up in teaching sequence of tenses, formation, stem change vowels, naming structures, making students parse the forms, etc.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


I have been thinking a lot about Jim Wooldridge's (Senor Wooly) opening address from last summer's IFLT, where he spoke on "Embracing Inauthenticity" (I list his main points here in my post about IFLT. You can also find blog post on the Fluency Matters website about Jim's talk)Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any recordings of Jim's talk, but I have found a vlog posting of his from 2012 which touches on some of what he addressed in his IFLT talk. The title of this particular vlog post is "Sr. Wooly vs. Native Speakers." I highly suggest that you take a look at it and that you consider what he has to say.

With the publication of many CI Latin novellas which are now available, there has been much discussion in the Latin teaching community regarding the level of Latinitas in these novellas, i.e, how well does the language in these novellas reflect authentic Latin. There has been much debate over specific word choices and whether these words are found in classical literature (for the record, Latin literature spans THOUSANDS of years, not just the classical period. Does this mean Medieval or Renaissance Latin is less because it is not classical? In keeping Latin to a specific time, are we stating that Latin is different from other languages, because it is not allowed to change or to develop over time? Enough of my soapbox).

While I will leave that debate for those who are more well-versed than I am (or for that matter, those who care to debate it), it does bring up an interesting point: How authentic is the Latin which I speak? I consider myself an Intermediate Mid-High speaker of Latin. I have attended numerous Latin immersion events (called Rusticationes) sponsored by SALVI, and although I would love for the Latin which comes out of mouth to flow perfectly in terms of nuance/aspect (proper word choice), perfect grammar choice, and sentence length. The truth is that it does NOT AT ALL. 

In many ways, for me, it comes down to the purpose of language: communication. Recently, I saw this on Twitter, and this simple message spoke volumes to me (as a Sesame Street fan, I will say that it is "Mr. Hooper," not "Mr. Cooper"):

I have heard prominent Latin speakers say "You should not say anything in Latin unless it is grammatically correct." Although I can understand the mindset of those saying this, I must completely disagree with that statement for this fact: if that were the case, I (and probably most wanting to try speaking Latin) would never make an attempt at saying something for fear of being incorrect and judged. As Jim Wooldridge states, this also communicates the idea that speaking a language is only reserved for those who can do it 100% correctly and that only those who can do it have a right to speak it. I would NEVER tell the ELL students in my classroom to not utter a sentence in my class unless it was 100% correct in English. All that matters to me is this: am I able to understand what they are saying even if it is not grammatically correct in English?

For me, this is why i so enjoy attending SALVI events like Rusticatio: I can be inauthentic with my spoken Latin, i.e. it is not going to resemble authentic Latin at all. That does not mean that I am not striving to be more correct and proficient in my speaking ability, but as an Intermediate speaker, inauthentic is where I am at. Most importantly, the attitude at a Rusticatio is that THIS IS OKAY because of my ability. In fact, SALVI prides itself in this, calling its programs "the safest introduction for spoken Latin on the planet." One of my favorite all-time quotes from Rusticatio is from Nancy Llewellyn's opening talk in English about what to expect for the week:
"(When speaking Latin here) you are probably going to make the same grammar mistakes that if your own students were to make it, you would skin your knees racing to grab a red pen in order to correct them." 
Yes, at Rusticatio, I am receiving authentic input from those more advanced speakers, but my output is going to be inauthentic probably in the moment. I am so okay with embracing my inauthenticity, because I am taking ownership of the language at the level where I am at. I can also say that I have come a long way in my speaking ability from 2010 when I had never spoken Latin before.

So I encourage you to view Jim Wooldridge's vlog called "Sr. Wooly vs. Native Speakers", and tell me what you think.