Friday, January 20, 2017

How to develop a brand new CI activity without even trying

Here is something that happened by accident one day..

1st class PQA: what do you make & bring to a party? qualem cibum facis et ad festam fers? K says salad. I ask her if there are vegetables in the salad. No. I ask if there is fruit. No. I ask if there is meat. No. I ask if there are sweets. No. I ask if she had anything in mind at all. No. Okay, I say, let's make a salad together then. What does K put in her salad everyone? A few ideas. Not much response.

2nd class: Let's make a salad. What do you want to put in it? One idea each. I write them on the board. A few ideas, then one kid says 'broken glass.' Okay, new rule, you can put something in OR take something out. visne aliquid imponere an extrahere? The world's worst salad thus forms and is fixed and forms anew. Someone chooses to remove shrimp rather than the broken glass. We get lots of reps of imponere and extrahere. After kids add things, others respond with "bene sapit!" or "male sapit!" Everyone is delighted. And LOUD.

3rd class, boy this would be easier if I had Latin terms for all the food oh hey VERBA cards what's up. I pick out cards with foods and a bunch of animals and also stuff like tears, paint, love, etc.: Also, we've been using the word for soup this week, so we make soup instead. We sit on the rugs. Everyone has four randomly dealt cards. Same deal. They make a terrible soup but seem fairly pleased with it.

4th class, smallest class, things go smoothly. Not much to say. They mostly make a pretty decent soup, except for the time when someone puts in a heart, and the next person puts in love, and then the third person takes out love (but leaves the heart...).

5th class, my largest & most troublesome class. Not as much listening going on, but even the kid who literally never does anything says imponere in Latin when I ask him visne aliquid imponere an extrahere? and then he adds some batteries. I call that a win.

You can't plan this stuff. Thanks, K, for not having a plan for your salad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Biduum Noveboracense 2017

Salvete omnes!

I am just back from the first Biduum Noveboracense, held in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY. I thought I'd share my experience and tell you some neat things I learned. It was about a four hour drive from my school, which wasn't ideal, but it was a heck of a lot closer than the other SALVI event I've been to in West Virginia! I wrote about that here. SALVI is also hoping to build regional nodes of itself so they can hold more Bidua throughout the country. So far they've had them in Los Angeles and Oklahoma, and they're planning more. Definitely subscribe to their blog if you're interested.

The basic deal with SALVI events is this: come make friends in Latin. That's basically it. I mean, there's a whole philosophical and pedagogical agenda to it, but what makes SALVI special is the atmosphere. I've heard Rusticatio described as "a big week-long house party in Latin." That's about right, minus the parts of a house party that are scariest to homebodies like me. The atmosphere is summed up with three dicta, thus:
regulae SALVIenses
serva patientiam!
Be patient, especially with yourself, but also with others. You will make a zillion mistakes, but that's okay. No one cares as much as you do. Keep trying.

mitte difficiliora - dic quod potes!
Throw out what's too hard, and say what you can. If you can't remember the exact word for what you want, find another way. For example, maybe you don't know how to say "Open the drawer please and get me a hand towel." That's fine. Instead, try this: quaeso, aperi hoc :points at drawer: et da mihi :mimes drying hands:. aqua in manibus est." Pointing and grunting is also a valid strategy.

memento te versari apud amicos
Remember that you're among friends. This is the big thing I like about SALVI. Sure, there're always be people you "click" with better than others. The expectation however is that we put that aside and treat one another kindly. The staff is explicitly there to HELP you through the experience, and not just to TEACH you something.

This Biduum was different from Rusticatio Veteranorum in a couple of key ways. First, it was Friday night through Sunday morning, so it was a LOT shorter. That length difference was my least favorite thing. bi is not enough duum! But that's a necessary limitation of doing these things during the school year. 

Secondly, there was more of a mix of proficiencies. Since RV is aimed at people with higher speaking & reading proficiencies, and Biduum is a mix, that's to be expected. I didn't mind this at all. In fact, it was kind of fun to hang out with people who hadn't done much spoken Latin and get to be one of the friendly (I hope) faces helping (I hope) them lose some of their shyness. At both RV and the Biduum, I felt totally safe asking questions during reading sessions.

Third, at RV, there is staff that feeds you. This is awesome. I was NOT looking forward to helping in the kitchen at Biduum because I am lazy. However, what I'd forgotten is that I like cooking and helping. I managed not to do a single dish the entire weekend, but I helped out a fair bit and definitely learned a LOT of useful words & expressions for food and cooking. 

Fourth, and this isn't a normal difference, but one notable difference between RV and this particular Biduum was BABIES! There were twin one year olds and a three month old, and they were so cute. If babies aren't your thing, not to worry; they are not a default feature of SALVI events. I did feel relieved, however, because I thought this would be my last immersion event for several years due to the kid I'm expecting in June. Now I feel like it doesn't have to be. I also learned some useful words for diapers and what babies do to them and so on, which will come in handy with my kid when I'm indoctrinating him/her into Latin nerddom enriching his/her brain by speaking Latin. The fact that there were babies running around was awesome for me personally, but it also expresses something about the comfiness of the atmosphere.

Anyway, so those are some words about my Biduum experience. Soon hopefully I will post two entries about different teaching & reading techniques we used. I still have to write them though so no promises!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Getting teenagers interested in conjugation

Yesterday I was absent and the sub was-- well. I was absent. Anyway, so my Latin 3 class were apparently all on their phones. The principal walked into the room. One of my students whipped her phone away, and began loudly singing, PORTO, PORTAS, PORTAT and the entire class sung along, through all four conjugations, in sync. Although I don't know if he fell for it as them NOT being on their phones, I bet it was funny to witness. They do, for the record, know what they're saying, too- it's not just rote. Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes (a lot actually) I break the rules and do non-CI stuff. This technique for dealing with verb endings is one of my favorite things, and I strongly recommend it so long as you're willing to put away that pesky dignity and have fun with your kids.

Actually acquiring endings enough to use them for output is probably one of the hardest things we try to achieve through CI. CI-wise, I make an effort to use the other forms and clarify who the subject is by pointing at myself, at "you", at "y'all" etc. I'll still point at "portat - carries" (or better portare - to carry") on the board even as I say porto and point to myself, and the meaning gets through. TBQH, the kids don't really "hear" the endings for the most part anyway, especially -t vs -nt, so doing this doesn't confuse them. If you're having trouble fitting non-third person singular entries into your CI, it helps to make sure your stories, whether written or acted out,  have dialogue. Circling by subbing in multiple subjects also helps for plurals. Once they've heard the other endings some, I also use them in written stories and usually gloss them.

Then when they've heard the different endings a lot, I take a page out of my non-CI background and I teach them the present tense active indicative charts for all four conjugations. nefas! 

Now, calm down. I don't give chart quizzes (although I've done it before and I'm not against it really as a just for fun, make up until you get it perfect type grade), and I don't say "and this is first person present active indicative of the third conjugation, characterized by the null vowel sound which results in..." [I'm too lazy to find a picture of Ben Stein but imagine him doing his thing here]

What I do is I teach them a song, and we sing it and practice it with hand motions, and they (mostly) LOVE it. I do it partly because they love it. The other reason I do it is because now they have the endings in their brains for reference if they're confused, and they recognize that amo and amatis are "the same word" even though they look different. This is not CI. Charts in themselves are incomprehensible. It is, however, engaging, brain-sticky, and many students find it helpful and fun. The tune is the Mexican Hat Dance and the "words" are:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Classroom Setup 2016

Salvete omnes! It's been a while, I know. My beginning of year has been tiring for mostly classroom management reasons. It's not really getting any less tiring, so I'm doing a kind of "for fun" post which I hope you'll enjoy.

I'm pretty happy with how my classroom looks this year. I'm generally a very disorganized person so I have been trying to streamline things a bit. I've also tried to give my classroom a more unified aesthetic. Below the cut are some images of my room with descriptions of what you see and why. If it looks great to you, thanks, but remember that it took me halfway through October to get it /even this/ together. If not... well, be nice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What to do when everything is terrible

Salve! It’s the beginning of a new year, or almost the beginning, or was the beginning and now you’re getting into it a bit… regardless, if you’re new to CI, or new to teaching, or just trying one new thing… there’s a pretty solid chance you’re going to have some bad days. Hopefully you’ll also have some awesome days. But if you’re learning a new skill, like circling or PQA, the first few times are gonna be ROUGH.

In case you’re panicking, here are some steps.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

There will be no "Roman women" unit.

I’m pretty much constantly planning my curriculum and replanning it. I am trying to consciously integrate culture more this upcoming year, so I’ve been thinking about what units I might do. Right now, my list of units for Latin I looks something like this:

Roman names; Places & Time; Housing; Food & Clothing; Family; Slavery; Freedom; Entertainment; Death & the afterlife; Love & Marriage; The Olympian Gods; Origins & Transformations; Greek Heroes I & II; Roman Heroes I & II; What have the Romans ever done for us?

The order will almost certainly change and I may not get to everything. These are mostly drawn from the NLE syllabus. Each unit will only be two weeks or so and mostly in translation. I’m not going to be doing too much in-depth textual work with anything in particular except where the novellas align.

What’s missing is a unit on Roman women. Well, and on the military, but that’s not what this is about. Given Cloelia, you might find it surprising that I'm not focusing on women at any particular point in my curriculum. I’m not doing a unit on Roman women because as soon as you put women into a unit, you’re taking them out of the whole.*

Friday, August 19, 2016

Teaching Goals for 2016-2017

Every year, Keith Toda posts his teaching goals. Then at the end of the year, he posts how they went. This is a great example of reflective practice. I’m going to try it this year and see how it goes.

To begin with, my long term goal: by the end of my fifth year of teaching, I hope to have my act together. I’m about to head into my third year. My “act together” means basically being able to define myself as a good teacher. I do not feel I’m there yet. There are many things about me that are “good teacher” material, like a willingness to try new things and dedication to personal professional development. I’m absolutely a better teacher now than I was two years ago when I started.

BUUUUUUUUUUT. I’m not where I want to be yet. Some things that are wrong with my teaching: I don’t have a good handle on classroom management. My planning is… not. abest. I’m disorganized. Last year, I taught essentially no culture at all. For goodness’ sake, I still don’t know how I’m going to be grading students (yes, grading; assessment I have plans for. Grading, not so much.). I rarely make it to after school events. I’m dreadful at dealing with make ups and grading stuff on time. I’m lousy at follow-through generally.

Goals for 2016-2017 (in no particular order)