Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Monday Night Musing #4 - What To Invest In Next Year

Salvēte omnēs!

I am back at the blog again - the new habit is working pretty well! And for tonight's post, I am going to veer away from CI & activities, although I promise not to totally ignore the student angle. Personally, blogging is hard for me. While I have much to share, the written format is not the best for much of it, and it is easy to hold what I publish to a high standard and therefore not publish things are not 'good enough'. So I am using this Monday Night Musings to improve on that. And so far, having a specific time and time limit to write has been helpful.

So, speaking of habits, there's this author, Gretchen Rubin, who has a book about habits and another book about what works for different people and a podcast, and other books as well. If you're not familiar with them, here's a quick rundown - Rubin writes a book about habits that people like. In the process, she discovers that what works for her does not work for everyone, because although readers like her habit book, her metohds fail them. So Rubin digs deeper and thinks some more and invents an organizational system for how people operate relative to expectations, which she calls the 'Four Tendencies'. It is not foolproof, but it is useful.

One of these tendencies is called an upholder. This person responds to both outer expectations (what others want you to do) and inner expectations (what you want yourself to do). Rubin is an upholder, and you can probably think of someone right now who just gets things done, doesn't let anyone down, but doesn't put themself last either.

Okay, let's stop a second. Why would I bring this up if I'm not an upholder? In general, school works for upholders. It is filled with rules and procedures. But having rules, procedures, and relationships in place also benefits other tendencies, specifically obligers and questioners. And that should cover most of your student population.

But it matters how you set these things up - questioners need to know why the rules and procedures are what they are. For example, I end every class with a two minute warning before dismissal- time to organize the classroom, for students to gather their own belongings, for me to have a last conversation with individual students. And because I have gone over with students in detail why I do this, even taking their questions on the subject, asking them to explain the reasons back to me, brainstorming alternate reasons why I might do this, they continue to follow through even with only days left in the school year. And because I almost always have a short, generally positive conversation with an individual student during that time, each student has throughout the year had direct experience with one of the benefits of the two minute warning - relationship-building! And in this way, even questioners like me (could you guess?) stick with the routine because they can now explain why they value it.

So as we all dream of a beautiful beginning to next year, I challenge you to think deeply about what to invest in that will pay off all the way to the end of the year, and especially how you can invest in it so that it works for as many students as possible, perhaps even all students.

Okay, time's up for this week! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Monday Night Musing #3 - Text Evidence

Salvēte omnēs!

Tonight's post is a quick one about the value of having students re-read a known text to show they can do something more than summarize or give the English when required to do so. A few of my classes have been working with a version of the Little Red Hen, and today was our final day reading the 'original' version - i.e., the one where they know the plot already. A few students grumbled about doing a partner translation / volleyball reading with the text. When I asked why, they explained that they already knew what happened in the story. So I pointed them to the follow-up questions I had printed on the back of the paper.

Here are those questions (with English for blog readers who don't read Latin):
  1. Why do you think the liberī non respondent ? (the children don't reply)
  2. How many times did agnus respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō”?  (the lamb replies, "I will not help)
  3. List the steps the gallīna (hen) explained to be necessary:
The directions: Support your answers by using evidence from the text.

Many, many students told me they completely understood the story but could not find the answer the #1 in the text. Can you?

in Galliā est parva gallīna rubra. gallīna habet trēs līberōs et trēs amīcōs. amīcī sunt feles, agnus, et porcus. sed amīcī sunt ignavī.

1. ūnō diē, gallīna spectat terram et invenit grāna grana.png in terra. gallīna amīcīs dicit, “necesse est ponere grana in terram. quis adiuvābit mē?”  feles respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.” agnus respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.” porcus respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.”  itaque gallīna sōla in terram ponit grāna.

2. “nunc necesse est dare aquam aqua.jpg grānīs sub terra,” gallīna amīcīs dicit, “quis adiuvābit mē?”  feles respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.” agnus respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.”  porcus respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.” itaque gallīna sōla aquam grānīs dat.

3. “nunc necesse est colligere frūmentum,” gallīna amīcīs dicit, “quis adiuvābit mē?”  feles respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.” agnus respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.”  porcus respondet, “ego nōn adiuvābō.” itaque gallīna sōla frūmentum collegit.

4. “nunc necesse est coquere panem ,” gallīna amīcīs dicit, “quis adiuvābit mē?”  feles, porcus, et agnus respondent, “nōs nōn adiuvābimus.”  itaque gallīna sōla panem coquit.

5. nunc necesse est devorāre panem,” gallīna amīcīs dicit, “quis adiuvābit mē?”  feles respondet, “ita - ego adiuvābō.” agnus respondet, “ita - ego adiuvābō.” porcus respondet, “ita - ego adiuvābō.”  gallīna dīcit, “minimē! vōs estis ignāvī! ego et meī liberī devōrābimus panem! nōn necesse est amīcīs adiuvāre.”

Now you may have noticed that it does not directly state the answer with a phrase like liberi non respondet quod... Of course, the text does provide the answer, in fact it provides it a whopping five times!

The children don't answer because the hen keeps speaking to the friends (gallīna amīcīs dicit, “quis adiuvābit mē?”) Approximately 85% of my students did not get this the first time, even though they knew the story.

There is a similar trick with #2 - if students aren't paying attention, they will not notice that the correct answer is 3 times instead of five. (when the bread is ready of course the lamb agrees to help, and another time all the animals answer together).

How often do you ask students these kinds of questions? I find them incredibly valuable for myself as a formative assessment. And while students may be less than pleased that the answer doesn't jump out to them right away, I do believe this type of thinking and re-reading has a benefit. Until next week!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Monday Night Musing #2 - Spring Time & OWATPS

Salvēte omnēs!

One of the great joys of teaching CI in the springtime is using OWATPS (One Word At A Time Picture Stories), a more beginner-friendly version of OWATS. I always use Google Drive to make this happen in my classroom and have recently been using Team Drives with great success. I am fortunate that my students bring their own laptops to school each day. Using these in the spring is great for many reasons:

1. It capitalizes on the classroom culture and groupwork skills that you have built throughout the year - all that work pays off!

2. It gives you a chance to be facilitator instead of performer - low energy teachers can do OWATPS!

3. It gives students a substantial amount of voice, especially because the picture component supports a greater sharing of workload within the group.

4. It covers a large swath of planning if needed. My students almost always need two days of writing to create something worth reading, and it almost always works out that two days are needed to read most (but probably not all) OWATPS.

5. It can introduce or review vocabulary or serve as a break in the middle of a unit when they crave novelty but haven't had enough repetitions to move on yet. So it fits anywhere in a unit!

6. It works great for shortened class periods, standardized testing days, etc.

7. Students use the word wall and their memories to recycle numerous old vocabulary items!

8. It provides some nice evidence of their growth through the year, especially in areas like circumlocution and complexity of sentence structure.

However, OWATPS is not all sunshine & adorable puppies. Sometimes groups have difficulty working together respectfully. Sometimes students need a lot of guidance on how to work with their peers instead of just the computer. Some of the stories aren't going to be great. But no activity is perfect.

To wrap it up, if you are unfamiliar with OWATPS and teach beginners, it would be a great time to try it out. You may want to do the tech thing if your students are familiar with that, or you may want to do it more traditionally. Only you know what's best for your classroom.

And to finish it off, here are two fun example pictures from my students' recent creations:

Until next week!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Monday Night Musing #1: Serpens & Student Choice

Salvēte omnēs!

I'm starting up a new series with the goal of getting more posts. It's called 'Monday Night Musings' - each Monday from now until the end of June, I will set a timer for 15 minutes and write about something on my mind that day. These may not be everyone's cup of tea and they will lack much of the detail and forethought that goes into a longer post. But hey, you're here, so let's get to it!

Tonight I want to reflect on something simple - the idea of student choice. I have used the 'Serpens' assessment, first introduced by Rachel Ash on Pomegranate Beginnings, essentially since I read the original post. I have made many tweaks and adjustments and revisions to the process and tried it out with different units and levels of students. But the one reason I come back to it twice a year, even though I know it will be one of the most difficult things for me to get in the gradebook, is that it is built upon the idea of student choice, one of the elements of the innovative classroom. I try each day to incorporate many of these, knowing that you can't hit them all at once. But often when I incorporate student choice, it comes in the form of customization of stories and characters. Or in determining partners or groups. Sometimes they can choose between two parallel readings. Rarely do I give them a choice of the task they will be doing. Serpens is one of those times, and it is worth it!

My incomplete list of why it is worth using assessments that include student choice:

  1. When students see their options in front of them, they engage in a way that is different than if the lesson is challenging them or simply interesting to them.
  2. Students who normally feel put upon by school because of their struggles relative to their peers get an enormous sense of power than they don't usually experience.
  3. You as the teacher have a great chance to teach decision-making skills - obviously if students need help making choices, or even by interviewing them about why they've made their choices after the fact.
  4. Students compare themselves with others, but minus the typical level of judgment. In other words, they respect each other's choices much more easily because you are providing many good options.
  5. The assessments will all look a little bit different! When you're scoring them, sometimes that can be enough to keep your interest. 
  6. Students develop fond memories of work they've done on them - many students today recalled details from the last time they worked on 'Serpens' in the fall semester, and the tone was positive and light-hearted. 
Okay, the timer's telling me to stop, so that's it for now. How do you incorporate student choice in your classroom? Do you ever use it with assessments? 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Give Me A Break!

Salvēte omnēs!

Today's post won't go into a file of activities or things you can pull up when you need something for that one class. There are tons of other posts (here and elsewhere) for that. Today, I want to reflect on something that happened to me over my spring break.

To set things up, you should know that I went into spring break telling myself that I was truly taking a break - I did not make overly ambitious plans to catch up on schoolwork or forge ahead to prepare for the remainder of the year. Instead, I told myself I would treat it as a true break from school life. And that meant no working / no cheating. I did say that I could write a blog post that had been on the back burner for a while. And when I set a rule for myself like that, I'm pretty good at holding to it.

For the most part, it went great! I was able to resist doing work and ramp down into a more refreshing, relaxed pace of life. For almost the entire time I was devoted to doing less and breathing more.

Sound good to you? Break me off a piece of that!

Unfortunately, the piece I want to 'break off' is not a bite of crunchy chocolate nostalgia. Instead, it is a reflection on one of those moments of weakness. Many of us teachers use social media as part of our professional development network, much to our great benefit. But there is another side to the 'connect through technology' coin. I was taking a break from schoolwork - but social media is connected to both my personal and professional life, so I didn't stop myself from using it over break. And because social media has, by design, ways of making you do things without thinking, it was the gateway to sliding back. Fortunately for me, I was able to notice and hightail it right back out of there!

I will not use names here, but in my mindless scrolling and reading, I began reading posts within professional groups, including blog posts from some of my favorite colleagues. I came across a post asking for advice (like many do). The topic turned to homework and breaks. You see, students had requested homework over break. Why would they do that? Because they actually had downtime from extracurriculars and attending class, so they could actually do the work. The poster was seeking advice about that scenario, ex post facto. Comments and advice were given, probably more than the original poster bargained for, emotions got a bit rankled, at least as I perceived them. I'd seen that plenty of times before. I sympathized with the original poster as well as with the commenters, who were all giving of themselves and were trying their best to make good.

But what struck me swiftly and painfully was the idea that the students saw a break in their schedule where they had downtime, and rather than choose downtime, they chose work. Like our system has taught them to do. Like our system has taught us (teachers) to do. Some commenters on the post proposed the same idea that I went into my spring break clinging to - that a break could/should be a break! There's a catch, though. That only works if the humans are strong enough to insert a break in their work or life. If the humans (teachers, students, whomever) have already been broken by the work, then what?

I understand that we as teachers want to instill in our students a strong work ethic, and often we can accomplish that by modeling industrious habits and dedication. But if we, in the very human field of education, lose sight of the bigger picture of the field - people, then it is very easy to accidentally teach work without its opposite, rest. Or, as a Latinist might put it, negotium without otium. Friends, let's seek balance where we can.

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.