Saturday, March 18, 2017

OWAT Story Scavenger Hunt: A thing you can do on sub days

I think I invented this activity, but I'm not sure. It's basically a gallery walk type thing that you can do the day after you do some One Word at a Time Stories. The best thing about it is that you can assign it as a sub plan and know the kids are still getting input. It also requires them to get up and move around the room, which is sometimes desirable. And it's personalized because it's kids' output! And if you're 6 months pregnant you can sit down for most of it!

Day 1: (15-20 minutes)

  • Maybe you're there, maybe you're not. 
  • Prep cards for OWAT. 
  • Print out these worksheets... or don't. I made up these worksheets this past time because I got tired of repeating the directions, and also it makes it clear how many sentences there are supposed to be at the end. Oh, and unlike Keith, I never do this in groups of more than 2 people.
  • Have kids do the activity. 
    • Encourage them to use Latin words they know as much as possible. You want to keep the stories comprehensible for their level, so if you have to add a bunch of extra vocabulary it's a pain in the butt.
  • Outside of class time, read them over and pick the easiest and frankly most coherent ones. 
  • Type them out, correcting grammar as you go. 
    • You might need to simplify the story or change things a bit.
    • I recommend changing the story as little as possible because some kids get mad when you change their stories. 
    • I don't keep the author names on the stories, but you can if you want.
    • Number each story.
  • Make Scavenger Hunt questions about them. 
    • You can use this worksheet as a template, but sadly you're going to have to change the clues to fit the stories you get, of course.
    • Definitely make them write down the sentence that gave them the answer or they will write random numbers.
    • Adding the vocab is a new idea this time and I think it's a good one. I don't actually know how this went because I'm not at Day 3 yet :) Especially if you've used this to introduce newish vocab, they will need the help.
    • Here are the stories that go with the above worksheet, for your reference. These aren't the best stories I've ever gotten but I wanted to use something recent. The more decent stories you get, the longer you can make the activity last. And the more input they'll get, which I'm sure is the more virtuous goal... but listen, I'm tired.
  • Print out the stories out in BIG text.
    • Use different colors of text or paper to differentiate between levels. On days I use this, I use it for all my levels.
  • Pin/magnet the stories up around the room wherever you can.
    • Try to spread them out and put them up a bit high because students will crowd around them and it can be hard for them to see.

Day 2: (15-20 minutes)

  • Give the sub some instructions like these: 

  1. Hand out One Word At a Time Scavenger Hunt worksheets. 
  2. Remind them to put their names on the papers.
  3. Go over instructions with students. They will not get credit for random answers.
  4. Direct students’ attention to the stories pinned up around the room. Be sure students know that Latin I stories are in RED TEXT, and to ignore the other ones.
  5. Students should individually follow the instructions and walk around the room looking for the stories that fit the descriptions on their worksheets.
Day 3 or whatever: (15ish minutes)

  • Mark the papers at least for completion.
  • Re-read the stories together. Project them, or if you have a small enough class, walk around the room together and choral read and/or choral translate them.
  • Ask your scavenger hunt questions in TL or in L1, whatever works best for you. 
  • Have kids correct their own papers as you go, if you want.
  • If you want, collect the papers again & mark them for interpretive proficiency.
There. Your lesson plan for parts of 3 days. Surround it with more input on the same structures. 

Bonus question: This particular iteration of an OWAT Scavenger Hunt sequence was aimed at a particular text. Do you know which chapter/unit/story I was targeting? The winner gets gloria immortalis! (My kids never get concrete prizes. KLEOS ONLY!) 

Friday, February 24, 2017

News, news, news!

1) Website!
I now have a real website with like resources and stuff. This blog might eventually move over there, but that's extra work so we'll see. It's not pretty yet- no pictures or color to speak of. There are definitely formatting inconsistencies. BUT it's more or less together and I feel mostly okay about using it to link people to resources now. If you have a chance, please take a look and let me know what you think. Is it easy to find what you're looking for? Does the organization make sense at all? Any glaring omissions? Any formatting things that need fixing? I want it to be useful to people like YOU so please be as critical as you can!

It can be found at

2) Mille Noctes hits the big time
Mille Noctes used to be a sad little blog where I posted some stories sometimes. Then I got volunteers like Allyson Bunch and Mark Christiansen and stuff got real. Check it out here. It's not done yet, but it's sooooooo much more useful than it was. As a bonus, it also has tabs for Activities & Teaching Techniques and will eventually have a separate general Materials tag as well. I've been using it for a couple of weeks and LOVE it. I know, everyone thinks their own baby is the most beautiful, but trust me. It's beautiful.

Creating CI materials

You can’t.

Well, bye everyone!

Well, okay, since you’re here, I guess I could explain what I mean. Recently I was asked if I could write some short informational “CI” texts to include in a packet to be distributed to various Latin teachers. I said no, partly because I’m overcommitted as it is, and partly because I’d have had to like, research stuff, which is effort.

The thing that’s stuck with me though is the idea that we can include “CI materials” in such packets. I don’t think there’s such a thing as “CI materials.” There’s definitely such a thing as “I” materials, that is, materials that provide input in the target language. The “C” is as usual the difficult part. The reason you can’t make “CI materials” as such is that you can’t make something and guarantee it’ll be comprehensible to all parties.  I’m comfortable writing for my own students because I have a decent idea of what’s known versus unknown to them. When writing Cloelia or other stuff for public consumption, however, I don’t have that knowledge. That’s why I don’t want to be known as someone who writes “CI novellas” or “CI texts.”

There are certainly things you can do to make materials that are CI-friendly, however. What I mean by CI-friendly, or CI-oriented, is this: the texts (or videos whatever) are designed with the end goal of comprehensibility in mind, and are presented in ways that make that goal as easy to attain as possible… assuming the teacher & students put the work in to make it there.
Here are some ways you can make materials CI-friendly.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Follow up to raw feelings post

Okay, here's the promised followup. What am I doing wrong, and how can I fix it?

The problem here is, sadly, not actually the students. Well, it’s some of them. But most of them are perfectly capable of buckling down, listening, and learning. They’re even mostly willing. The problem is that I do not provide a strong enough structure to keep them on task. When I have all my activities ready to go and lined up and I time things, things go well. When I don’t, and I leave down-time in between getting Kahoot up on the projector or handing out copies or whatever… I lose them. Every day. Probably five or six times a class, I get them and then lose them because I’m not prepared.

Raw feelings.

I wasn't sure if I was going to post this or not, but I think it might be helpful to some other people to know how I'm feeling. Maybe you feel this way too, sometimes.

leo miser vulneratus
a magistra nunc celatus
nec a pueris sat amatus :(
When I tell stories, they don't listen. When I ask stories, they don't answer. When I do PQA, they talk over me, or talk to each other in English about their answers. When they act stories, they do not act what I say. When we play games, they talk instead of playing. When we play phone games, they go on SnapChat instead. When I let them play with stuffed animals, they rip them.

They don't have homework. They don't have vocab lists to memorize. They don't have quizzes. They don't have grammar lessons. They don't have dialogues to recite. They don't have tests. All they have to do is listen, and respond, or at least stay awake. But they don't like listening, and they don't like responding, and they don't like staying awake.

They don't like stories. They don't like reading. They don’t like books. They don't like worksheets. They don't like games. They don't like myth. They don't like culture. They don't like anything I do. Why do I do it? I do not know. I really don't know right now.

Right now I don't know what to do. Or rather, I do. There is one very home point here, and that is that they don't respect me. There is only one reason they don't respect me: me. Arguably, another reason is that they do not know what respect looks like because they have precious few examples. It would help a lot if I were strong and positive enough to treat them respectfully at all times and thus set an example. I am not, not in the face of this kind of behavior for five periods a day. Even those who love me talk over me and give me attitude and ask me extremely personal questions. Those who do not love me are much worse, but it hurts less.

I have thought a lot about some solutions to this. It's also worth saying that this is probably a minority of students. In my next post I'll talk about some of my potential solutions, but for right now I just want to say this: teaching is hard. A lot of the time online it looks like CI classrooms are all perfect wonderlands of happy little children who love learning. They're not. Everyone has hard days, weeks, or months, even the veterans. Keep it up, as much as you can, and forgive yourself when you can't. You're not alone.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Let's steal activities from SEI! Ping Pong Sentence Frames

I'm taking a very short SEI course on PD days at school. I'm actually finding it vaguely interesting and useful, which is nice! Here's a thing I just learned and then immediately turned around and used for Latin.

It was presented as one option for Step Six in this Seven Step model for vocabulary introduction, which is designed to take less than 3 minutes per word and be usable for any subject. The instructor didn't really give it a name but she did use the word "ping-pong" and it involved a sentence frame kinda thing so we'll go with that.

Ping Pong Sentence Frames

1. Teacher provides some kind of sentence frame. We were practicing with "transform," and she used the frame, "A __________ can transform into a __________."

2. Teacher sets a one-minute timer, and starts: "A caterpillar can transform into a butterfly."

3. Designated student gives their own version, "A tadpole can transform into a frog." Teacher & student continue, giving as many examples as possible in one minute.
"A bad student can transform into a good student."
"A bad teacher can transform into a good teacher."
"An ice cube can transform into a puddle."
"An egg can transform into a chicken."

etc. They don't really have to even be true, so long as they follow the pattern and make SOME kind of sense.

The next day, I tried it with my kids. I didn't time us (mistake- the urgency would have helped) and I didn't make it one versus one. Instead, I took answers from anyone who was ready. Some classes got into it more than others, but it totally got in reps and we had fun.
___________ contra _____________ bellum gerit.
Americans contra British bellum gerit.
Trump contra Hilary bellum gerit.
Japanese contra Americans bellum gerit.
America contra terrorism bellum gerit.

We also did some with servat: Superman Lois Lane servat. Spiderman "that ginger" servat. Batman his parents NON servat. Tom Brady Patriots servat. etc.

And some with vincit: Patriots Falcons vincit. Trump Hilary vincit. amor omnia vincit (okay, that was mine). etc.

It was a good way to kill a few minutes and get some nice contextual reps in of some new terms. All in all, totally worth adding to the toolbox.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I accidentally made a dictation compelling. This is my story.

So, dictation/dictatio. I love dictations because they are QUIET and I don't really have to grade them. They also really seem to help with spelling & listening, and they force the skimming kids to actually READ the Latin in front of them. Beautiful! But... the kids hate them. They're not especially comprehensible as input, especially if you're using new words. You have to use them s.p.a.r.i.n.g.l.y or else do them in more complex but totally awesome ways that I'd have to, like, prep for. I'm much too lazy for that (or alternatively, my brain is too full to learn any new activities at the moment).

The past two weeks I did two story listens. I liked doing them and the kids mostly liked doing them. They seemed to work pretty well for getting the vocab into their brains. They will be hella part of my rotation, which means it's all the more important that I not overdo them. This week I needed to do something else to do some kind of story about the gods. I decided to do a simplified version of the Cronos-baby-nomnoms story, because I think it's hilarious, and it's as good a place to start for the Olympians as anything else.

The way it played out in different classes... differed, depending on time and what other stuff I had to do with each class and all that. Some classes got straight out dictate ten sentences, then correct ten sentences, then translate & discuss ten sentences. Others got dictate one, correct one, then translate & discuss the whole thing at the end. Still others got dictate, correct, translate & discuss, repeat. (The latter is an idea I got from Chris Buczek, btw, who has a new blog and you should read it.)

Here are some things I did that made it work well.

1. The last order- dictate, correct, translate together & discuss- is definitely the best one. Why?

  • Seeing the corrections on each sentence means kids build confidence as they go. Even if Iuppiter sounds like nonsense the first time, after they've seen it in writing once, it goes much easier. 
  • The same thing builds comprehension as you go. For example, -que on the end of otherwise known words was upsetting and incomprehensible the first time they heard it, but once they'd seen it written and had it explained, the next five times were comprehensible input. 
  • It breaks up the tedious listening & writing.
  • It slows down the storytelling, which builds suspense, because they didn't get to find out what happened next until they'd heard & corrected another sentence.

2. Before we started, I brought out my big thing of colored pencils and said, "Come pick out a colored pencil to use for corrections." This tactic meant:

  • they had to move their butts out of their seats to walk over to my colored pencils before we did a long, seated activity.
  • they got to make a personal choice, even such an unimportant one as what color to use.
  • they got to use fun colors, which tbqh is the only way I get through grading. It is juvenile, but it really does make life cheerier.
3. This part was by accident. Here's the dictatio in English. The unknown words are in brackets. The Latin is here in a variety of formats & tenses. 
  1. Saturn is the [king] [of the gods], because he kills [his own] father.*
  2. Rhea, sister and wife of Saturn, is the [queen] [of the gods].
  3. Saturn and Rhea have many sons [and] daughters. (the "and" was a -que btw)
  4. Saturn eats his sons [and] daughters because he [fears] [them].
  5. Rhea [saves] one son.
  6. [That] son, Jupiter, attacks his father.
  7. Jupiter takes his brothers [and] sisters out of his father's stomach.
  8. Jupiter [saves] his brothers [and] sisters.
  9. Jupiter [wages] [war] [against] Saturn.
  10. Jupiter puts Saturn in Tartarus.
Sentences 1, 2, 4, and 7 (and to a lesser extent, 6) contain shocking details: patricide,* incest, cannibalism, taking people out of someone else's stomach. Thus, they are the most compelling sentences. Since those sentences also contained mostly known vocab, they were also the most comprehensible. Thus this result:
Sentence 1: ":mild shock:"
Sentence 2: "What?" "Eww!" "Incest?!"
Sentence 4ish: ":gasp:" "I think I understand a lot of what's going on, but it's really weird."
Setence 7: "STOMACH?" (stomachus) "But they're dead, right? How can they be fine?"

Entirely by accident, I managed to pepper the dictatio with built in "hooks" to engage the kids in the story while they did the tedious work of writing down what I said. I am TOTALLY doing that on purpose next time!

* yes I know he didn't kill Uranus, but I forgot while I was writing this, and also they don't know the verb "to castrate" or "to defeat." I casually added the castration part in as we translated. 

One thing I can't account for is that several of my literally-does-nothing-in-every-class kids participated and did the dictatio. Like, all of it. Even when I didn't finish on day 1 so it was two days in a row to some extent. I DO NOT KNOW WHY. We're talking three out of four kids who never do ANYTHING, in different sections of Latin 1. The fourth one is usually asleep and he slept through this too. If you have any ideas why dictatio was the thing that worked for them, I'd love to know. Maybe because it's a "free hundred." But so are my bell ringer activities, basically, and these kids don't do those... It's a mystery. A beautiful mystery.

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!