Tuesday, January 9, 2018

4-Word Story/Snapchat 2.0

Here is a new twist on 4-Word Story which I implemented last week. It was the second day back from winter break, so I wanted to do some review with my Latin 2 students but not make it feel like it was review. I felt that doing 4-Word story would be a non-threatening way to get students back into Latin, but I wanted to change it up a bit to preserve the novelty. For this, instead of having students draw pictures to go with their sentences, I had them create Booksnaps/Snapchats, since we had already been using this tool in class. 

Students turned in their Snapchats and sentences online to our class Dropbox so that I could edit their sentences grammatically and then cut/paste them onto Google Slides so that I could show them in class. 

Student directions
  1. Create/illustrate an ORIGINAL 4-frame story which uses at least FOUR of the following words:
    • in silva
    • vis est
    • dat
    • occidit
    • cibus
    • avis
    • saxum
     2. Write a sentence or two IN LATIN which narrates your illustration for each frame.
NOTE - you may only use KNOWN words, i.e., you may only use words which we
have learned in class these past two semesters or from last year. Any words which we
have not done this past semester or from last year are OFF LIMITS.
     3. Create a BookSnap/Snapchat for each of your sentences. You must have a minimum 
     4. This is YOUR OWN original work!

Student examples:

  1. Because students were already familiar with both 4-Word Story and creating Booksnaps/Snapchat, melding the two activities did not seem to confuse them. 
  2. The new piece of the puzzle was that students had to submit their sentences separately (instead of writing them on their Booksnaps/Snapchats), because I wanted to edit them and to cut/paste them to create a slideshow. I implemented our class dropbox for this.
  3. As you can see, some students wrote at a novice level (basic sentences), while others were able to write at an intermediate level (compound sentences, using clauses). That is perfectly fine. All that matters to me is that students are making an attempt at  communicating in the language.
  4. Those students who did not have access to a phone or to Snapchat had to do a paper copy of the activity.
  5. Going over the stories in class is a great way to get in more repetitions of the language in a compelling way. 
  6. Because the stories are student-created/teacher-edited, they are written at a very comprehensible level for students.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Last year was quite a year for me in terms of conferences and presentations. In 2017, I attended SEVEN conferences (local, state, regional, and national) and delivered NINE different CI-related presentations, in addition to co-leading a full-day CI in-service for a school in my district. All I can say is that as a result of all that, I am completely conferenced-out at the moment.

On the one hand, this was a rather easy conclusion for me to arrive at, considering the conference schedule which I gave myself last year. On the other hand, however, I absolutely LOVE presenting. Whenever I present, I feel like I come alive. While I know that many people absolutely dread public speaking, communicating to an audience comes very natural to me. It is very easy for me to read an audience, so connecting with a crowd when speaking in public is very natural for me. When I took a "match-your-personality-to-a-job" battery test in high school, my three top job matches were 1) company spokesperson  2) politician and  3) religious leader (like as in a cult?), since all of those positions involve public speaking. I feel so incredibly comfortable when speaking to crowds. In fact, in many ways I am more at ease talking to a large audience (or communicating via this blog) than I do when talking one-on-one individually to someone. 

It is easy to see why attending conferences has its draw for me if I get the chance to present at them. However, I feel like I need to draw some boundaries for myself in order to take a break from it all for now. So this year, my goal is to take some time off from attending conferences and presenting. Outside of my CI-Italy tour with the Vergilian Society this summer, I am going to try to keep a low profile for the year when it comes to conferences and presentations in order to recharge my "conference batteries."

I am looking forward to this respite, but I cannot wait until 2019 to start back up again! 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Top 5 of 2017

With final exams coming up next week, this will be my last blog post for 2017 before I take a holiday hiatus. As I have traditionally done at the end of each year on my blog, below are my top 5 viewed posts for 2017:
  1. QR Code Running Dictation
  2. 4-Word Picture Stories
  3. Technology in a CI Classroom, part 1
  4. Focusing on the Basics of CI
  5. Presentations
This blog is now four years old. In December 2013, I began this blog, and quite honestly, I never envisioned so many people would be reading it. I am always so humbled to meet people in person at conferences who tell me that they read my blog and have found what I write to be very useful.

Thanks to all of you who read this blog and keep encouraging me to post. I appreciate that you think that I actually have something of value to say. Thanks also to all those CI teachers whom I so admire (see the sidebar for their blogs) and from whom I have learned so much - you are the ones whose voices are coming through in my posts.

Here's to continuing my CI journey in 2018!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2018 Latin Comprehensible Input Summer Study/Tour of Italy

Allow me an excursus here to do some self-promotion.

Are you a Latin teacher who has heard about Comprehensible Input, read posts about it on blogs, seen presentations at conferences but have never received any formal training? Are you a Latin teacher who has dabbled some in Comprehensible Input but still are trying to figure out how it all works and how it applies to the bigger picture of teaching Latin? If anything in those two sentences applies to you AND you would like to tour Italy while learning about Comprehensible Input, then read on!

Next summer (July 10-21, 2018), I will be leading a 12-day CI workshop/tour of Italy sponsored by the Vergilian Society. Below is the official write up as found on the Vergilian Society's website:
This 12-day tour is designed to teach Comprehensible Input pedagogy to Latin teachers and to demonstrate how Comprehensible Input methodology can be applied to the teaching of Roman authors. The tour will include travel to sites relevant to Roman authors and textbook readings. Workshop sessions will alternate with visits to sites and museums such as the Colosseum, Capitoline Museums, Vatican City, Pompeii, and Capri. 25-30 hours of classroom instruction will be included, and workshop topics cover an overview of Comprehensible Input theory, demonstration of Comprehensible Input techniques/strategies, such as Total Physical Response (TPR), storyasking, circling, dictations, Movie Talk, embedded readings, Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs), incorporating technology into the delivery of Comprehensible Input, and numerous activities related to pre-reading, reading, and post-reading activities. Other topics will include Sequencing and Scaffolding of a Comprehensible Input Lesson, Grammar in a Comprehensible Input classroom, and Teaching Upper Level Authors/the AP Syllabus with Comprehensible Input
. The program features 3 days in Rome and the remainder in Campania at the Harry Wilks Study Center at the Villa Vergiliana.
Price: $2,895 (does not include travel to/from Italy) - there are lots of scholarships out there!
  • All prices are per person for double accommodations;
  • All programs are contingent upon enrollment; Do not make flight arrangements until you are alerted that we have sufficient participants!
  • All prices include a $200 tax-deductible contribution to the Vergilian Society.
  • Breakfast is included in all tours. Lunch and dinner are included in days spent at the Villa Vergiliana. Some meals may be included on tours that are not staying at the Villa. 
I am looking forward to be doing this for the Vergilian Society, since I love teaching others about Comprehensible Input, and I have traveled to/led numerous student tours to Italy (this will be my 12th time to Italy!). If you are interested in Latin in the Comprehensible Input classroom, truly consider this opportunity.

Links of interest

Tour page (itinerary soon to be added)

Tour application

Vergilian Society Scholarship application - The Vergilian Society (sponsor of the tour) offers many full/partial scholarships for its tours. Application deadline is March 1. Definitely consider applying!

Other Scholarship opportunities - there are LOTS of scholarship opportunities out there for classical-related travel/study from national, regional, and state classical associations. Some national scholarships of particular interest are:
If you have any questions about this summer tour, please contact me off-blog at kttoda@hotmail.com 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vocabulary Highlighter Game

Exams are coming up in a few weeks for my students, so every day this week, I have been trying to do some quick vocabulary review activities (such as Hot Seat and Quick Draw) that will both engage students in order to prepare them for the exam and will not take up more than 15 minutes of time. This is a popular activity which I learned from a colleague at my former school. Though not necessarily a CI activity per se, it is quick and engaging for students, and it involves highlighters!

For this, you will need to create a word cloud of vocabulary words which you want to review. I have found that 25 words is a good amount. Unfortunately, finding a website/extension for the creation of word clouds has been difficult, because many websites like Wordle do not work on Chrome or are not compatible with Windows 10. I use a MS Word extension to create my word clouds. Google Docs also has an extension for word clouds, but I have found that MS Word has more capabilities.

Below is a video for creating a word cloud on MS Word.

In creating a MS word cloud for this activity, I use the following settings:
  1. Font: Arial
  2. Colors: Black on White
  3. Layout: Half on Half (this will allow for words to be both horizontal and vertical)
  4. Case: Intelligent
Here is a MS word cloud which I made for my Latin 2 students

  1. Pair up students.
  2. You can have students either sit next to each other or across from each other.
  3. Students will need a common surface between them. It can be a desk, or if your class is deskless like mine, then I had students sit on the floor with a whiteboard between them.
  4. Each student in a pair needs to have a different-colored highlighter, i.e., no two students who are paired up can have the same color highlighter.
  5. Give each student a handout of the word cloud.
  6. There will be two different rounds of play, so have each pair of students use only one of the word clouds for the first round.
  7. Have each pair place the word cloud between them, and give students roughly 30-45 seconds to look at the words in order to familiarize themselves with both the words and the layout.
  8. You as the teacher call out a definition in English.
  9. The goal for each student is to be the first person to highlight the correct word.
  10. After about 9-10 words, now tell students that they have to use their NON-DOMINANT hands to highlight the correct word. Do this for about 9-10 words.
  11. After most of the words have been called, have students count how many words they each got correct. They will know based on the color of their highlighter. 
  12. To start the second round, students will now use the other word cloud.
  13. Tell students that they need to put this word cloud in a new orientation, i.e., if it was laid out horizontal before, now it needs to be vertical. This makes the second round more challenging, since although students know what words to expect, the words are in a "different place," since the orientation is different.
  14. Repeat steps 8-10 again.
  15. When finished, have students create their final totals for both rounds.
  1. As I said, this is a fast, quick activity. It lasts about 10 minutes. 
  2. Depending on your students, it can get VERY competitive.
  3. I have a tub of different-colored highlighters in the event that students have the same color or do not have a highlighter. I suppose one can use markers for this activity.
  4. Having students use their non-dominant hand for part of it adds to the novelty of the activity.
  5. Variation: Because vocabulary does not exist in a language isolated outside of a context, you can make a word cloud out of phrases in the target language. I know that Wordle will allow you to do this.
  6. It is not really a CI activity, but it is definitely fun to watch!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Majoring on the Majors, and Minoring on the Minors

I have returned from the 2017 ACTFL Convention in Nashville, and as always, wow, what a conference! Even though it was a quick trip (I was just there for all-day Friday and part of Saturday morning), I got the chance to attend some great presentations and co-presented a presentation on Tasks and Communicating in the Comprehensible Input Classroom with Rachel Ash, Bob Patrick, and Miriam Patrick, in addition to squeezing in some quick hi's and hugs with folks whom I have not seen in awhile. 

Although conferences like this are great for a gathering of world language teachers from across the nation in one place, unwittingly, it is brings up debates (sometimes heated) about teaching, pedagogy, etc. Unfortunately, the CI community of teachers is not immune from these disagreements, such as:
  • TPRS should be the sole way of delivering comprehensible input in the classroom, since story-telling is engaging.
  • TPRS is one of many methods of delivering comprehensible input, so we should not pigeonhole ourselves to just this.
  • If you want to implement CI in your classroom, then you need to go all-in. There is no room for dabbling or transitioning. Using CI methods while still teaching grammar-translation is wrong.
  • If you are a newbie to CI, do not go all-in, because you are going to burn out. Instead, dabble/transition in order to build your CI foundation.
  • I teach with CI novellas as part of my curriculum.
  • I do not use novellas and think that they should only be used for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR).
  • I do not think that we should use authentic resources, since most are incomprehensibe, are full of native idioms, and do not use high-frequency vocabulary.
  • I think that authentic resources are fine as long as they are adapted and/or are language appropriate.
  • We as CI teachers should be using targeted vocabulary and structures, because that helps keeps things focused.
  • We as CI teachers should focus on untargeted vocabulary and structures, since we want students to determine the focus of what we discuss.
  • We should strive to be 90% in the target language at all times.
  • 90% target language usage is a suggestion, not a prescription.
  • I only attend NTPRS and not IFLT, because ________________.
  • I only attend IFLT and not NTPRS, because _______________.
  • (For Latinists), we should only be using classical literature in our classes, since that is our standard. Anything non-classical related has no place.
  • (For Latinists), the Latin language spans over 2,000 years of usage. Why are we limiting ourselves to an ancient time period when Latin is still spoken today in the modern world? Language is fluid and changes. Why keep Latin stuck in the 1st century?
You get the picture. As you read the above, you may have very, strong views one way or the other on those topics. Unfortunately, what i have seen come from these debates is the emergence of camps. While I am not naive enough to think that differences in opinion will not arise, I also think that these disagreements keep us from our guiding focus and become divisive.

When it comes to teaching using Comprehensible Input, we need to determine what are non-negotiables - what is that MUST be implemented or has to occur in order for language acquisition to occur when facilitating Comprehensible Input? In my opinion, here is what I consider to be non-negotiables, and note - they are simply a summary of Krashen's Hypotheses:
  • Learners acquire language through the delivery of understandable messages and will progress in their knowledge when they comprehend language which is slightly more advanced than their current level, hence i+1. As a result of input, students will produce output when they are ready.
  • Language acquisition is subconscious, hence it is long-term memory. Language learning is explicit and conscious, but it is short-term memory. Our goal for students is language acquisition, not language learning.
  • Our focus should be on meaning and not form. Self-error correction only occurs through explicit language learning. In language acquisition, errors will occur, but our goal should be comprehensibility. Self-error correction will occur for learners on their own timeline.
  • When one's affective filter (or "stress") increases, learning decreases.
  • Learners pay attention more to compelling comprehensible messages than to less-compelling comprehensible messages.

To me, that is our foundation as CI teachers - those are the non-negotiables. Those are the major points on which we must both major and strive to protect in our classrooms. Focusing on the minor points and turning them into major points is where we begin to become divided. To discredit CI teachers solely because they are not implementing TPRS in their curriculum does not make sense to me. In good faith, we need to realize that these teachers are still delivering comprehensible and engaging input through other means.

Though we are all bound to have our opinions on the "best" way to implement Comprehensible Input, we all have the same end goal: student language acquisition. I think that these disagreements occur, because we as CI teachers are so passionate about what we do. However, when we learn to major on the majors and to minor on the minors is when we will gain perspective that we are all on this CI journey together.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Getting the Most out of Conferences

I leave for the national ACTFL Convention in a few days. This will be my third ACTFL convention which I have attended after having taken a 2-year hiatus (I have written a blog post about attending the 2014 ACTFL Convention), and I am looking forward to it. Because I have attended ACTFL Conventions before, I know exactly what to expect in terms of its overwhelmingly massive size and session offerings.

On last week's #langchat discussion on Twitter, the topic was the upcoming ACTFL convention, and folks were sharing their thoughts on numerous convention-related questions. This got me to thinking about what I have learned about how to survive conferences in general. Let's face it: conferences can be big, impersonal, and overwhelming. Here are my tips on how to get the most out of a conference:
  1. Do not feel like you have to attend every session. Pick and choose your sessions wisely. It is very easy to develop "information overload" from attending too many sessions and to burn out.
  2. Know your learning goals ahead of time. Is there a particular topic/strand which you wish to follow? This will help make selecting which sessions to attend much easier. For me, at this ACTFL Convention, I specifically want to attend sessions dealing with technology in the world language classroom. As I have a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, I want to learn more about new technologies for my curriculum but viewed through the lens of Comprehensible Input. 
  3. Take time for yourself. Take advantage of down-time if there is not a session which interests you. Grab a cup of coffee, tour the exhibit hall, find a place to plug in your phone, etc. Use this time to recharge yourself.
  4. Take time to network, to meet new people, and to reconnect with those whom you only see at conferences. There are so many people whom I know (or know of) that I only get to see at conferences. Some of my favorite times at conferences are when I am sitting alone off to the side at a conference in order to recharge myself or to prepare a upcoming presentation, and people will come/go at their leisure to talk with me. 
  5. If possible, share/discuss with others at the conference what you have learned. In turn, find out what sessions they attended and what they learned. Use that time to begin processing the conference.
  6. If there is something of great interest which you learned from a particular presenter, do some follow up. Talk to the presenter afterwards or contact him/her during/after the conference. Do not let your learning stop at the session door on the way out.
I hope to see and to meet many of you at ACTFL this weekend. Please take time to introduce yourself to me!