Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Resources & Variants: Quizlet Live

Salvēte omnēs!

This blog is now one year old! I am grateful for your support and readership and am looking forward to more posts in 2018. Today we're taking a look at Quizlet Live in the 'Resources & Variants' format. Quizlet Live is probably familiar to you, so the idea is for me to offer up something to make it easier for a teacher to implement in the classroom (resources), and provide options to help fit the activity with your class or help keep things interesting when returning to the activity over and over. Today's is a little light on the resources and a little heavier on the variants. For the original R&V post, click here. And if you are not familiar with Quizlet Live, check out Quizlet's official introduction here.


All I've got is a pre-made template to use when keeping track of times within or between class periods. Yes, you can write this on the board too. But what if a little board-erasing bad guy comes along and wipes them away while you're not looking?

Also, I've got the scoresheet set up with a larger font (for projecting), with easy number formatting, and it should automatically highlight the best time in each row and in each column so it is easy to see who is ahead.
The template will automatically highlight the best score

 N.B. - The only times I really use this template is when I'm playing '11', a more cooperative variant that was posted on Quizlet's own blog.

 Gameplay Variants:
'11' - As I mentioned, I did not create this variant. If your students already know how to play Quizlet Live, it can take some retraining to get it right. The basic idea is that the goal of the class (not individual teams) is to get every team to have '11' questions correct in as fast a time as possible. You can frame it as either a competition against other sections of the same course (if you have them) or a challenge to keep improving. I love this twist for four major reasons: 
  • It removes the sting of competing against all the students in the room and replaces it with cheering for everyone to do well. 
  • It fosters the quality conversation and teachable moments that make this kind of cooperative gaming (like what Bob Patrick calls 'The Word Chunk Game"), so fruitful. 
  • It keeps the replay value high for a Quizlet set because the class is excited to play again and demonstrate their growth rather than craving the novelty of a different challenge or activity.
  • It models a Growth Mindset for students. 
'Silent Round' - The '11' Quizlet blog post showed this too on its version of the scoresheet. I don't play Quizlet Live this way often, but when I do, I provide students with scrap paper or sticky notes so that they do something to process. We then use those 'cheat sheets' of notes in other rounds. 

'Magic Word' - This begins similarly to a 'Silent Round.' However, before the game, there is a 'magic word' posted on the board. Once a team correctly answers that word, they may begin speaking. 

'Only Captain Can' - This is a variant on 'Magic Word'. The difference is that whomever clicks the 'Magic Word' becomes the team captain and that student is the only one who can speak, others must remain silent. This works at altering the dynamics of teams without having to reshuffle students around the room into new teams. 

'Story Sequence' - This variant also requires a scrap paper or sticky note - teams must write down the sequence of words they answer. If they miss, they start the whole sequence again. The winning sequence gets put on the board and becomes a prompt to write a story. Some quick suggestions:
  • Of course the words can appear multiple times in the story, but their first appearance must match the prompted sequence. 
  • I have found this works the fastest and best with partners writing the stories instead of groups of 3 or 4 as Quizlet Live requires. 
  • You can play this as a race to finish as well, just know that the quality of the stories in that case will probably suffer.
  • In essence, this is a variation on One Word At A Time Stories and works well with the picture version too.

'Double Up' - This one can be very fun, but you need the right numbers in a class (something divisible by 4). I have done this successfully with 8 students and 16 students. You also need students with two browsers on their laptops or with two separate devices. Why? Because each student is two players! Caveat Temptor! So here's the steps:

  1. Students login as normally, putting L (short for left) after their name
  2. Students open second browser and login normally, putting R (short for right) after their name
  3. You the teacher assign teams in advance, putting students in pairs.
  4. You the teacher give each team a number. 
  5. You the teacher select the option that allows you to customize teams so students can login to the correct team together. Randomized teams won't work! 
  6. Allow students time to set up their screens so that they can see both their 'players' at the same time. 
  7. Start the game!
Here are some helpful images to guide you through, just in case:

Each student logs in as two players, left and right
Teacher selects 'custom teams'

students enter their team numbers so that their name appears twice on a single team

students set up their screens to show both players at the same time

      Each student plays as two players in each round!
      Option: You can also have them put S (short for sinister) and D (short for dexter) once students understand how to play this way.

      Naming Variants:
      Whenever my class plays Quizlet Live or Kahoot, they know that I will give them a formula to create an interesting name. I do this to encourage creativity, connect class to other topics, add some whimsy, and build search and thinking skills. Here is the format I almost always use: 
      • Their name must start with the first letter of their first name
      • It must fit into a topic, like the name of a mountain or a type of candy
      So a student named Freddie Jones might be named 'Fuji' in our mountain game or 'Fifth Avenue' in our candy game. Using the first letter helps me figure out who is who without using their real names, while using the topic helps students have a bit more fun with the sign-in process and gives them an outlet for expression so they don't try to do the 'naughty name' thing. If they find something they like, they immediately have great pride in it and most students enjoy their temporary name because of the Name-letter Effect. Occasionally, and depending on a little advance research on the topic, I may switch it to the first letter of their Latin name or the last letter of their last name.

      Well that wraps this one up for now. 

      Thursday, November 30, 2017

      Factum / Fictio

      Hello everyone!

      Here is an activity I like to use that gives a bit more structure and a different feel to a basic Picture Talk. You could also describe it as a blend of Picture Talk with Dictatio. For more on Picture Talk, I like Chris Stolz's post for beginners. For more on Dictatios, Rachel Ash has a neat post collecting many different variants to use and keep things fresh.

      The basic idea is that the disscusion about the picture follows a scripted format. We talk about 'a fact', followed by 'a fiction'. For my purposes, I kept the name of the game in the super simple cognate zone. If you'd rather do something like True/False, or use different terms, please do!

      Materials & Setup:
      You will need a picture showing multiple vocabulary terms that students can easily identify. They can  already know the terms, or you can introduce the terms during this lesson.
      This picture has so much fun stuff going on!
      It makes a great Factum / Fictio.
      It is especially helpful to have the terms listed somewhere in the classroom (written on another board, on a handout, etc.) The terms I use for the picture above are:

      • habet
      • dat
      • donum tibi habeo!
      • gratias!

      Students also need something to write down the facts - for this, I prefer an index card since they probably aren't going to write down more than 8 sentences.

      Lastly, the way I have always done this activity is by projecting the picture onto a whiteboard and then drawing onto the whiteboard/picture combo. This type of setup is kind of essential to the activity, but if you come up with another way, I'd love to hear about it!

      Running the Activity:

      In my classroom, this activity occurs in 'Zona Latina' - so no English is used. Adjust as needed for your and your students' comfort with time in target language.

      There are two phases to the activity, and students need to understand them well to be able to play along. The first phase is 'Factum' and the second is 'Fictio'. To make things more clear and more fun, we practice the 'special moves' below.

      1. Using at least one word from the list of targets, a student suggests one sentence that is clearly in the picture. Option: you can call them to the board to point it out in the picture.
      2. If you approve of the fact, lead students in doing the special move for 'Factum'. This official declares it as a fact. What is the special move? Using a professional announcer-type voice, announce 'Factum!' while pointing toward the sky from a powerful position. This move serves as their signal to write. 
      3. Students write down the fact in Latin. You will repeat it as many times as necessary for them to get it down. They spell as best as they can - the goal of the activity is input!
      1. Using the same word from the list of targets, a student suggests one sentence that is clearly not in the picture, but can be drawn into it. Option: you can call them to the board to draw it themselves or have the official class artist draw it or draw it yourself. 
      2. If you approve of the fiction, lead students in doing the special move for 'Fictio'. This officially declares it as a fiction. What is the special move? Using a jokey or creepy voice, dance like a jester while repeating 'Fictio'. This move serves as their signal to not write.
      3. Instead of writing, students call out encouragement & feedback to the person adding the drawing to the original image, e.g.: 
          • state the 'Fictio' over and over again
          • use positive rejoinders (euge! quam pulchra! ita vero!)
      4. Repeat the cycle by going back to the beginning of 'Factum'.
      What students love most about the activity is the end result - the picture filled with both facts and fictions. Here is the picture shown earlier as an example. Hopefully everyone can see the parts that are drawn into it. with the list of sentences below. 

      persona habet donum.
      persona dicit, "donum tibi habeo!" 
      persona dat donum. 
      persona non dicit, "gratias!"

      persona habet lightsabrem.
      latrina dicit, "donum tibi habeo!" 
      persona dat sellam. 
      persona dicit, "gratias!"

      I think that covers it. Let me know if you try it out - and if you have multiple sections of a course, a great follow-up activity for the next lesson involves comparing the facts & fictions written by the other classes. Should that appear next on the blog? Thanks for reading. 

      Thursday, September 21, 2017

      Secret Agent Sketch

      Salvēte omnēs!

      Here is an activity that I use as a whiteboard game, although the possibilities for what you can do with the pictures are many - I am excited to see if anyone else puts a different spin on it. And my standard disclaimer applies, I can't be sure I didn't borrow this from someone else, but to the best of my recollection, I developed it myself.

      So what's this about secret agents? Students, as much as they would like to, don't play the role of the secret agent - hidden letters do. To see what I mean, can you find all the letters of the alphabet hidden in this image?
      image credit:

      This is the kind of drawing students will be creating and inspecting.


      This is a low-prep activity, at least the way I use it. All you need are:
      • Student hand-held whiteboards
      • A list of vocabulary words that are easily 'drawable'
      It is also helpful to have students sit next to a partner (although they all do their own work), but you can have them move around the room too if that works with your class energy levels.


      1. Give students a word to draw - make sure it is spelled out on the board / projector / word wall.
      2. Give them 2 minutes to draw a picture of the word (i.e., what the word means).
      3. They should also hide 'secret agents' in their sketch - the letters of the Latin word.

      example sketch of 'videt' (sees)
      Can you find all the letters?
      4. When the 2 minutes is up, students switch whiteboards with the partner.
      5. Students then try to find the letters of the word in order in their partner's sketch, circling them as they go.
      6. Lastly, they review the letters & meaning with the partner before switching back their boards for the next word.

      I hope this is a helpful tool! I find it pretty great as second activity to do with new vocabulary, especially if you limit yourself to 3 or 4 words. Let me know if you try anything different with it.

      Thursday, September 7, 2017

      A Twist On New Classical Standards

      Salvēte omnēs!

      Don't let today's title fool you! Although I am deeply grateful for the work done on the New Standards for Classical Language Learning (which you can check out on the ACL's page here), our topic today is more of a construction project.

      First, the story. A few years ago, I came across the idea of rejoinders (hat tip Bryce Hedstrom & Grant Boulanger), and had already incorporated the idea of staying within the target language in my classroom. When class was expected to 'stay in Latin', I simply flipped the 'zona Latina' sign seen at right, which was held by magnet to my whiteboard. As I started thinking about including rejoinders, I was pretty low on board/display space in my classroom. And I knew from stuffed animals/circling with balls/props that students loved to hold things. This led me to thinking about signs that didn't go on the wall - it led me to thinking about hand-held signs, like Roman military standards. It took me a bit of trial and error, but I came up with a quick and relatively painless way to construct something that works.

      Here's what you will need to make your own:

      • A wooden yard stick
      • packing/moving tape
      • the front flap of a 3-ring binder
        • N.B. - you will specifically need the kind that has a plastic film around the outside which creates a pocket on the front of the flap
        • my teaching partner and I collect student binders at the end of the year to reuse them for ourselves, so all my standards are made from binder flaps that would otherwise have been trash!
      • scissors/box cutter
      • an large, old cardboard box (optional)
        • I use this as a workstation to protect myself and the floor from the box cutter and the packing tape

      Here's the construction process:

      1. First, center the yardstick on the back of the binder flap, ensuring that the top of the stick is flush with the top of the flap.

      2. Now attach the stick to the flap using a serious amount of tape. First, tape vertically along the sides of the yardstick, trying to keep the tape flush with the sides of the yardstick.

      3. Next, tape in rows, starting from the top, and maximize the surface area in contact with the tape.

      4. Cut the tape along the edges of the binder flap.

      5. Test your standard by holding it in the air, waving it, trying to wiggle the binder flap. Drop it in an accidental way to make sure it is sturdy.

      6. Slide a printout or something into the front pocket of the binder flap so it is visibile when the standard is displayed. Now it is ready to use! 

      And a final note - once you start making these, your students will want more of them.

      We store our standards in a 'milk crate' with file slots.

      Monday, July 24, 2017

      Brain Break: Paper Cup Columns

      Hello again!

      Today's post is a quick one. It works both as a Brain Break and as a more standard lesson-type activity, depending on how you use it. It's fun and engaging. Plus, as a bonus - it incorporates a buzzword from the past few years of education - STEAM. For more info on Brain Breaks, see my previous post about the Sticky Step. For more information on STEAM, check out this short page on STEAM Basics.

      Preparation: You will need some specific materials, and students assigned to groups (or maybe partners if necessary)
      Stacking the Cups
      • Paper Dixie Cups (5 oz. size) - 15 per group
      • Scissors - 2/3 pairs per group
      • Students will also need prior knowledge about the three major classical orders or an explainer sheet (see picture at right)

      Goal of the Activity:
      Build 3 columns, one Doric, one Ionic, and one Corinthian.

      Sample Columns
      A majestic Corinthian column
      A simple, free-standing Doric column

      Victory criteria: 
      • The different capitals on the columns must demonstrate knowledge of their features.
      • Each column must be 5 cups tall.
      • Each column must be free-standing.

      Some notes:
      • The first time students do this activity, they will probably find it difficult.
      •  many of STEAM or STEM activities, you can run it as a
        • race (first team to finish wins!)
        • challenge (every team that completes the activity wins!) 
      • You can increase the difficulty of the activity by adding to the height of each column. 
      • If you use it as a Brain Break, you can recycle the cups!
      • If, by chance, you used paper cups with the Solo Jazz design, that would be the bomb. :-)
      classic, but not classical, cups from the ’90s

      Monday, July 3, 2017

      ACL Institute Recap

      Salvēte omnēs!

      Mea culpa! I didn't mean to be gone so long. And while I could spend a bunch of words discussing the reason for my lengthy, and certainly unintended, hiatus, I'm going to just jump right back in. In particular, today's post is about the 2017 American Classical League Institute at Grand Valley State University.

      I've often been told and shown that good teachers, after something has ended, reflect upon it. This has been emphasized by Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, by administrators who take stock of everyone's ideas before officially closing a meeting, by colleagues who model reflective blogging, among many other examples. And while I could write a quick summary of ideas and tips from presentations, instead I'd like to focus my reflection on one big takeaway from the past two Summer Institutes:

      Because as great as the tips, pedagogical ideas, new readings of literature, lesson plans, and tech tools shared during the scheduled sessions are, I am confident that most people's experience of ACL Institute can be pretty accurately described by the above quote.

      When I think about my friends who have been attending each year since before I was even an adult, they don't come back to hear their friends speak again, or watch their friends navigate an unfamiliar campus, they come back to feel as good as they did the last time they were together.

      When I think about the meritus/merita honorees, they almost always speak about the people who made them feel good and tell stories of the good times. They usually skip a greatest hits list of presentations they've attended or accomplishments they've valued the most.

      When I think about the teachers who attended for the first time, they want the professional development, but they also crave the connection and want to feel it again.

      When I think about what people take away from the Teaching Materials Exhibits, they may have books in their hands and ideas in their heads, but the positive vibes of the people in the physical space are what make shopping there better than Amazon.

      When I think about mentorship and supporting teachers, especially as the overall ACL as well as its sub-organizations have dedicated increasing effort to the cause, I realize the problem is an adaptive challenge. Technical solutions can only help so much, because the emotional well-being of other humans cannot be implemented by edict. The complex interactions, fostering of relationships, and most importantly, the people with the problem (those who need mentoring) being a part of the work solving it.

      At this year's Institute, I spent countless hours listening to others, but comparatively very few listening to presentations. I purposely spoke person-to-person with so many people, in an effort to make sure they felt heard. And I will tell you, that, although I took notes on many of these chats, I don't remember exactly everything they said or did. I made my best go at speaking with purpose, to ensure a connection of ideas. And I remember feeling awesome about these conversations!

      So, if you attended ACL Institute, I hope the time with colleagues fueled your fire, enriched your soul, and brought you joy. If you are going to return in the future, I hope you know what to look forward to. And if you are going to attend for the first time soon, I'll see you there, and afterward we can remember together how much we enjoyed it.

      Saturday, March 4, 2017

      Brain Break: Sticky Step

      Hello again!

      Today's post is a quick one - it's just about a single Brain Break. Brain Breaks are an awesome classroom management tool that can provide all kinds of wonderful things - a switch from sedentary mode into something physical, a way to transition from one type of activity to another, a chance to adjust the mood of the class in any direction, just to name a few. If you're interested in the topic, check out what the super Martina Bex wrote about them here, and dig even deeper into her references for other sources of inspiration.

      Here's how the Sticky Step works:

      1. Students need to have a 'used' sticky note (Post-It Note) that they will not need anymore. Rather than simply throw it away, put it on someone's back, or have it get stuffed in the bottom of a pencil pouch, we'll use it one last time.
      The Activity:
      Step 1:
      Attach sticky note to the bottom of one foot, but in a way that only half the sticky is under your foot. The other half peeks out between your feet.

      Step 2:
      Try to transfer the sticky note back and forth between your feet by simply stepping from one foot to the other. Each time you transfer, lift the sticky off the ground.

      Step 3:
      Count each lift.

      Here's a quick video demonstration:

      Sometimes students just enjoy a brain break because it is a change of pace. Other times, they need a way to measure or compete. If that's the case, I use two different ways to frame the competition:

      1. Count how many steps you can get in 10 seconds.
      2. Count how many steps you can get before the sticky note gives up.

      With these, I don't declare winners for the class or anything. It's simply to encourage students to try their own personal best.

      Some notes:
      • Students will try to switch feet without lifting, which takes away an accurate count and some of the challenge.
      • Students will try to 'cheat' by standing both feet on the sticky at the same time.
      • Students will also try to use their hands.
      Unlike a lot of Brain Breaks, this one does require some prior planning as far as classroom materials. It is a little easier for me to incorporate in my classroom because we use sticky notes (Post-It Notes) a lot and students generally have one on their desk or in their binder from a previous warm-up or temporary note-taking activity. I have a post coming in the future about all that sticky noting.