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.