Monday, October 16, 2017

Sentence Picture Relay

This is a great post-reading activity which I learned from my colleague Rachel Ash, who has her own write up about how to do it. There is a degree of work on the front end, but the actual activity is a great cooperative way for students to demonstrate comprehension of a known reading.

Pre-Activity Preparation

  1. Take a story familiar to students, and divide it into 10-15 sentences.
  2. Draw pictures for each of the sentences. It does not have to be anything elaborate. To quote the great Latin teacher Sally Davis, "everyone can draw stick figures." Example of my pictures. I created a table on a document to draw the pictures.
  3. Type up the sentences. I created table on a document to type up the sentences. 
  4. Make 10 copies (for a class of 30) of the pictures and sentences onto cardstock. You can use regular paper, but the cardstock makes the pictures/sentences sturdy.
  5. Cut up the sentences and pictures - this is what will take up the most time in preparation. I had students cut these up for me.

In-Class Directions

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3. There may be groups of 4, but that can be kind of big.
  2. On a table/desk, mix all of the sentences together so that it is one big pile. On another table/desk, separately mix all of the pictures together so that it is one big pile.
  3. Explain to students:
    • Their job is to match sentences to pictures. There are ____ sentences/pictures pairs.
    • As a relay, one team member at a time will grab 2 pictures, 2 sentences or 1 of each and bring them back to the team.
    • The next team member will grab 2 pictures, 2 sentences or 1 of each and bring them back to the team and so on.
    • As a team, members will try to match sentences with pictures, as more sentences and pictures are added.
    • As more pictures and sentences are added, team members will need to determine specific sentences or pictures which need to be gathered.
    • If a team receives a duplicate of a sentence or picture, then the team needs to send it back with their next "runner."
    • Teams will have to match the sentences with the pictures AND to put the story in order.
    • First team to complete the activity “wins”!
  1. When explaining the activity to students, it does not make much sense, but once it begins and students begin to bring pictures/sentences to their teams, students understand how the activity works.
  2. This can get VERY competitive depending on your students. 
  3. I love hearing students communicate with their runners, "Bring back the picture with _________" or "We need the sentence that says _________," as they now need specific sentences/pictures to complete the activity.
  4. The activity took about 10 minutes. I thought that it would take longer but because students were very familiar with the story in the target language, they did not think that the activity was difficult to do.
  5. Remind students that part of the task is to put the story in order! Many get caught up in the matching that they forget this part.
  6. Alternate version - I have done this activity where I broke up pictures and sentences into clauses, instead of full sentences so that students were focusing on specific parts of the sentence.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Using Book Snaps/SnapChat

Although I have my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology and am quite versed in the application of technology to one's curriculum "for the creation of a student-centered, 21st-century, blended-learning, critical-thinking classroom environment" (that last phrase sounds very Educationese, because I constantly had to use those buzzwords in my degree program), at the same time, I have been somewhat hesitant to implement technology in a CI-based setting for the following reasons:
  1. Most world language technology is incomprehensible for novice-level students or focuses on forced output.
  2. The majority of classroom technology focuses on low-levels of critical thinking, operates at a Substitution level on the SAMR model, and/or serves more as entertainment than true engagement.
(see here for my posts on Technology in a CI Classroom, part 1 and Technology in a CI Classroom, part 2)

Earlier this year, Meredith White, a Spanish CI teacher in my district, demonstrated how she uses SnapChat in her classroom, and while I was VERY impressed with how it can be implemented, I was also a bit tentative in utilizing it for both professional reasons (how can social media be properly applied to the classroom without crossing the line?) and personal reasons (what the heck is SnapChat, since I myself have never used it?).

This past summer, I learned about Book Snaps and realized that this is definitely something which can be applied to the CI Classroom. Essentially, Book Snaps is a SnapChat involving a reading of some kind. It is primarily used for students to interact with, to write commentary on, and to react to a text (think of students writing comments on sticky notes in a text but with SnapChat). Once I learned about this, I realized that Book Snaps could be used for students to "illustrate" sentences from a story!

Here is a video explaining how to make a Book Snap:

For the past few days, I have been going over the following story with students (it is based on a Movie Talk), so today, I had students create Book Snaps of the story:

Rock, Paper, Scissors Story
Ecce saxum. Terra saxum generat. Subito saxum aliquid audit. Aliquid magnos sonos facit. Saxum surgit ut videat quid magnos sonos faciat. Ecce puella in silva! Silva puellam generat. Puella est chartacea, et magnos sonos facit. Saxum puellam chartaceam videt, et credit puellam chartaceam esse valde pulchram.

Ecce forfex in silva! Saxum valde timet, quod videt puellam chartaceam et credit forficem velle occidere puellam chartaceam. Saxum in silvam cadit. Forfex multas arbores occidit. Saxum credit forficem velle occidere puellam chartaceam. Saxum vult fugere cum puella chartacea, sed puella chartacea non vult fugere cum saxo. Puella non credit forficem velle occidere eam (her). Eheu! Saxum puellam chartaceam tangit, et succumbit. Saxum et puella chartacea in silva fugiunt, quod credunt forficem velle occidere eos (them). Vis est forfici, quod occidit multas arbores in silva.

Eheu! Forfex puellam chartaceam occidit. Saxum credit puellam chartaceam esse mortuam, et est valde iratum. Saxum vult occidere forficem! Vis est saxo, et occidit forficem. Forfex est mortua. Saxum est valde triste, quod puella chartacea est mortua. Saxum vult servare (to rescue) puellam chartaceam, sed si (if) tanget puellam chartaceam, succumbet...

Assignment directions
Choose ONE of the following options:

Book Snaps
  1. Using SnapChat, take a picture of the story text. This will serve as your background.
  2. Type in the text of a sentence or two. NOTE - you cannot use sentences with the word ecce.
  3. Adjust where you want the text to be on your picture.
  4. Insert emojis, bitmojis, stickers, which apply to the text which you chose. NOTE - As this is an assignment, these emojis, stickers, bitmojis MUST BE SCHOOL APPROPRIATE.
  5. You may also write or draw pictures onto your Book Snap.
  6. When finished, save to your phone’s photo album.
  7. Submit your SnapChat photo to me using your eClass Dropbox for Latin 2.
  1. Using SnapChat, take a picture with you as a character depicting a particular sentence in the story. Either take a selfie or have someone take the picture for you. There may be other people in your picture but each person is turning in his/her own picture.
  2. Type in the text of a sentence or two. NOTE - you cannot use sentences with the word ecce. 
  3. Adjust where you want the text to be on your picture.
  4. Insert emojis, bitmojis, stickers, which apply to the text which you chose. NOTE - As this is an assignment, these emojis, stickers, bitmojis MUST BE SCHOOL APPROPRIATE.
  5. You may also write or draw pictures onto your Book Snap.
  6. When finished, save to your phone’s photo album.
  7. Submit your SnapChat photo to me using your eClass Dropbox for Latin 2.
Here are some examples of students Book Snaps based on the story:

My goal is now to create a Google Slides presentation of these slides and show them in class.


  1. Most students opted to do a Book Snap, instead of a SnapChat. I do not know why (considering how often they take selfies in class!).
  2. This is another way for students to demonstrate comprehension of a reading.
  3. Even though students are very well-versed in SnapChat, I was surprised at how long it took students to create a Book Snap. I thought it would take 5-10 minutes to create a single Book Snap, but it took roughly 10-20 minutes.
  4. Even though many students created Book Snaps of the same sentence, no two were alike; many students were very creative!
  5. This was definitely another way for students to re-read the story to choose a sentence, thus getting in more subconscious repetitions of the language.
  6. For those students who did not have access to a device or SnapChat, I had them illustrate a sentence on paper.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Read, Write, Draw, Pass

This is another awesome post-reading activity which I learned from Linda Li this past summer (Martina Bex also has a great post about this activity). It is loosely based on a party game called Paper Telephone/Telephone Pictionary, and it works great as a way to get students to review a known reading.

  1. Every student needs paper, pen/pencil, and the reading passage which you want to review.
  2. Divide students into groups of six. There may be groups of seven or as little as four, but try to avoid groups of three. Arrange students in a circle.
  3. Have students fold paper vertically/hot-dog style. Tell students that they will only be drawing on one side of the paper.
  4. Tell students to pick ONE sentence from the story and to write it at the top of their paper. Write it as it appears in the story, i.e. students are NOT to translate the sentence.
  5. Have students PASS their paper to the person on their left. 
  6. Now have students draw a visual representation of that sentence underneath it. Leave some space between the sentence and picture.
  7. Stop students after 45 seconds, and have students FOLD the sentence over the back of the paper so that it cannot be seen. Only the picture should be showing.
  8. Have students PASS their paper to the person to their left. It is important that students do NOT pass until you say so.
  9. Now have students find the ONE sentence from the reading that matches the drawing. Students are to write the sentence underneath the picture. Leave some space between the picture and the sentence.
  10. Stop students after 45 seconds, and have students FOLD the picture over to the back so that only the sentence is showing.
  11. Have students PASS their paper to the person on their left. It is important that students do not pass until you say so.
  12. Continue this pattern of drawing, passing, writing, and passing until students in a group of six have their original paper - it should be a total of six passes. For groups smaller than six, then they will continue to pass until the sixth pass. For groups larger than six, they will not get their original paper back so they will have to find theirs.
  13. Tell students to unfold their papers to see how accurate others were with drawing pictures/writing sentences for their original sentence.
  1. Having taken part in this activity myself when learning Mandarin from Linda Li, I can tell you that it is great activity for post-reading on so many different levels: re-reading of a known text (thus getting in more repetitions of language), comprehension of what is being read demonstrated non-verbally through a picture, comprehension of what is being communicated in a picture and writing that in the target language via the story/passage.
  2. Depending on students' interpretation of the pictures/sentences given to them, this activity mimics the game Telephone, because the sentences and pictures can begin to change. It is always fun to hear some students at the end talk about how their original sentence changed. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Immersion Can Turn into Submersion

In previous posts, I have blogged about my experience this summer learning Mandarin with Linda Li in a 4-day Fluency Fast class. Since then, my goal has been to continue acquiring Mandarin when I have time. Recently, I found a video on YouTube of a first day high school Mandarin 1 class, so thinking this video would be a great place for me to continue my language acquisition, I began to watch it. What I saw was that this teacher was using an 100% immersion approach on day 1. While there is nothing wrong with that per se, there was no attempt to establish any type of meaning in English, outside of gestures and handouts with Mandarin phrases where students filled in the English meaning during the class. In the video, when the teacher began to speak in Mandarin after the bell rings and asked the class to stand up, immediately you could see the confusion among the students, and only a few students caught onto what he was asking them to do. I am certain that affective filters immediately went through the roof with those students, because mine certainly did just watching it (and I was familiar with what he was saying in Mandarin!). For the remainder of the video, the teacher employed a traditional approach to an immersion classroom, with lots of the teacher saying phrases, students repeating after him (I wonder how many of those students actually understood what they were saying in Mandarin), and him correcting their pronunciation. Occasionally, the teacher would ask students (in Mandarin) to define words in English. While for me, much of what he said in the video was somewhat comprehensible (due to my limited Mandarin), I can guarantee that for most of the students in that classroom, it was not.

In reflecting on my experience with Linda Li this summer, I realize that from Day 1 of our Fluency Fast course, she could have employed a 100% immersion experience like the above teacher, but Linda also knew that this approach with beginning Mandarin students would not have been successful for every learner in our class. That is not to say that Linda did not utilize much more Mandarin as the class progressed, but it was not immediate from the first hour.

I am NOT saying that a classroom immersion environment in and of itself is a bad or terrible thing, but incomprehensible classroom immersion where the burden is completely 100% on students to establish and to negotiate meaning on their own in a "sink or swim" environment is where I have a problem. I have been in those types of immersion experiences, and I can definitely say that my affective filter went through the roof to the point of "fight or flight." Not every learner can succeed in that type of environment, and if equity in the classroom is our goal for all students, then a "survival of the fittest" attitude only excludes learners, as only "certain" types of learners end up finding success. Although we as teachers may have the best intentions in implementing an immersion approach, if we are not careful, immersion can quickly turn into submersion for students. When students do not perform well in this setting, our tendency is to to blame the students as being lazy or not trying (or even worse, that only certain students should take language, since not everyone can keep up in an immersion classroom). The reality is that students are not doing well, because we ourselves have not set them up properly for success in an immersion setting. An incomprehensible immersion environment is simply just noise to students.

In order to guarantee success for students in an immersion setting, then I feel that we as teachers must establish the following environment:
  1. Create a safety net for students. In my opinion, this is vital. A safety net empowers ALL students to inform you as the teacher NON-VERBALLY that they are not understanding what you are saying, that they need you to go slower, that their affective filters are skyrocketing, etc. It is very easy to get a false impression of what students are understanding or processing in an immersion environment if we are only relying on the fast processors to inform us. Even counting "1, 2, 3" aloud after you ask a question can greatly slow things down in an immersion setting in order to give ALL students time to process what has been asked (thank you, Annabelle Allen, for teaching me this).
  2. Strive to be 100% comprehensible by establishing meaning in L1. Nothing divides immersion-based teachers more than the topic of establishing meaning in L1. Some feel that this has absolutely no place in an immersion environment, as their argument is that students will figure out and determine meaning on their own or that students will be thinking in L1, instead of L2, if meaning is given in L1. Others feel that meaning can be established through props or pictures but still no L1. I am of the mindset that we teachers need to establish meaning in L1 if our goal is to be 100% comprehensible to learners. When understandable messages are delivered, then language acquisition can occur. In my language learning experiences with both Linda Li (Mandarin) and Betsy Paskvan (Japanese), each of them established meaning in L1 by writing any unknown language words on the board, having the English definitions next to them, and pointing/pausing when referring to them. I am so grateful that they did, because it made what was being said understandable to me. Yes, it was so helpful to have those words and meanings there as a reference, and yes, I was thinking in L1 during that time. To be honest, since I was negotiating meaning, it was necessary for me to think in L1. As the class progressed, I found that I no longer needed to refer to the words (although they were there if needed) and that I was starting to think in L2, instead of L1. Some may say, "If a student does not know a word in L2, can't just you explain the meaning in L2, instead of L1?" I have been in immersion environments where when I asked for a meaning of a word, the meaning was given to me in L2. Although these people had the best of intentions, i was already frustrated, because I did not know what the original word meant, so explaining the meaning in L2 only frustrated me more, thus raising my affective filter higher. In these situations, my thinking has always been "Just tell me what the d@*n word means in English, so that I can move on."
  3. Facilitate constant comprehension checks. This is a key point, because comprehension checks give students an opportunity to let you know what they think that you are saying and give you the teacher a chance to see if you are truly understandable. This can be done very quickly and easily either in L1 or L2 by simply asking, "When I said that, what did I mean?" Depending on their answer, this feedback can tell you whether to move forward or to "circle the plane a bit," since students are not understanding what you are communicating.
What are some tools and strategies which you implement in an immersion setting in order to guarantee success for all learners?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Assessing Students

When I have delivered presentations on Comprehensible Input at conferences, one of the questions which I usually get asked is, "So how do you test students on this? What does an assessment look like?" One of the main issues of which we need to let go is the concept of the traditional chapter/unit test. Assessments do not have to be long 4-page documents, which take students 30-45 minutes to complete. Rather, assessments can be short, to-the-point, and completed by students in less than 10-minutes.

A few things about my assessments:
  1. I assess students every 5-7 days.
  2. They are ALWAYS unannounced, outside of the midterm and final exam (since those dates are set by my department and school). However, I will only assess when I think that 80% of my students will score an 80% or higher. Usually, the reality is 90% of my students will score a 90% or higher. Setting a date for an assessment does nothing really other than letting you know who prepared and studied for it, but it does not tell you who retained the material afterwards. When we begin to assess on students' timelines instead of on our own as teachers is when we will see increased student success and mastery of material.
  3. They are always based upon a reading/story which we have been doing in class. In other words, it is never a sight passage.
  4. My Latin department implements standards-based grading, instead of the traditional grading system. In other words, students are assessed according to their proficiency in a number of various standards. I will save this topic for a later blog post.
  5. Students have unlimited retakes if they do not do well, as my goal is student proficiency in the language, not performance.
  1. I love doing these types of assessments, because they are fast! Before when administering a unit/chapter test, it would take the entire period. These type of assessments take less than 15-minutes for students to complete, meaning I can do other activities besides assess!
  2. Even though my assessments are unannounced, rarely do I have students complain about it. Most find them very easy and have told me that they like that they never have to "study" for this class. My response to students: if you do your 50% and if I do my 50% in class, then you never will have to study for these assessments!
Below are some actual ways in which I have assessed students this year. NOTE - The standards which I am assessing are at the top of each section. F = Formative (quiz grade), S = Summative (test grade). Notice that assessments usually have both formative and summative standards addressed:

Assessment #1

Iuppiter et Iuno duōs filiōs habent: Mars et Vulcanus. Mars est deus bellī. Mars est pulcher et torosus. Iuno Martem amat, quod Mars est pulcher et torosus.

Vulcanus est deus ignis. Vulcanus est torosus, sed non est pulcher. Iuno Vulcanum non amat, quod Vulcanus non est pulcher. Eheu! Iuno est irata, quod Vulcanus non est pulcher. Iuno Vulcanum e Monte Olympo ad terram deicit. Vulcanus est vulneratus in terrā, et est tristis.
F3  I can recognize isolated words and high-frequency phrases when supported by context.
Provide an English definition of FIVE of the underlined words. You may answer more than five as backup credit.

1) Mars est torosus.
2) Iuno Martem amat, quod Mars est pulcher.
3) Iuno Martem amat.
4) Vulcanus non est pulcher.
5) Vulcanus est torosus, sed non est pulcher.
6) Iuno est irata.
7) Vulcanus est vulneratus in terra.

S3  I can demonstrate understanding of authentic and adapted Latin passages when read.

Answer TWO of the following questions IN ENGLISH. You may answer more than two as backup credit.

1. Describe how Mars and Vulcan differ from each other in terms of physical appearance.
a. Mars

b. Vulcan
2. Describe the difference in how Juno reacts to Mars and to Vulcan AND why she reacts that way.
a. Mars

b. Vulcan
3. Give TWO reasons why Vulcan is tristis at the end of the story.

Assessment #2
Vulcanus Victor - Assessment
Vulcanus est valde peritus faber. Vulcanus sellam facit; sella est valde pulchra. Vulcanus sellam ad Montem Olympum mittit. Iuno pulchram sellam videt, et considit in sellā. Subito, sella Iunonem capit! Iuno non potest surgere e sellā! Iuno est captiva!

Quod Vulcanus est faber, Iuppiter eum ad Montem Olympum fert. Vulcanus Iunonem e sellā liberat, et Venus datur ut coniunx. Vulcanus est valde laetus, quod est in Monte Olympo, et Venus est coniunx. Venus Vulcanum non amat, quod Vulcanus non est pulcher. Venus Martem amat, quod Mars est valde pulcher.

F4     I can read and understand short stories and conversations.
Pick THREE of the following statements, and find the sentence IN LATIN from the story above which supports that statement. You may do more than three as backup credit.

1)  Juno likes pretty things.

2) Vulcan receives two rewards for freeing his mother from the chair.

3) Vulcan has a wife.

4) Due to his looks, once again someone rejects Vulcan.

S4 I can provide accurate, written translations of authentic and adapted passages in Latin.
Pick THREE of the following statements, and write out a translation into “good English.” You may do more than three as backup credit.

1) Vulcanus sellam ad Montem Olympum mittit.

2) Iuno non potest surgere e sellā! Iuno est captiva!

3) Venus Vulcanum non amat, quod Vulcanus non est pulcher.

4) Vulcanus est valde laetus, quod est in Monte Olympo, et Venus est coniunx.

Assessment #3 - Drawing Dictation
S2 I can demonstrate understanding of a Latin text/passage when heard.

(taken from a Movie Talk called MonsterBox)
  1. Ecce puella et duo monstra: parvum monstrum et mediocre monstrum! 
  2. Faber facit casam parvo monstro 
  3. Puella est laeta, quod monstro placet casa 
  4. Ecce puella et tria monstra: parvum monstrum, mediocre monstrum, et magnum monstrum.
  5. Faber facit casam mediocri monstro.
  6. Faber non facit casam magno monstro, quod magnum monstrum est molestum.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Drawing Dictation

This is a great listening comprehension activity, which I learned this summer from Linda Li in her Fluency Fast Mandarin class. It is very much like a regular dictation, but the difference though is that instead of having students write down the target language sentences as you say them, they draw them! I would recommend that you do this as a post-reading activity, instead of as a pre-reading activity.

  1. Take 6 sentences from a story which you have been going over in class. These sentences need to be "drawable."
  2. If needed, write any target vocabulary on the board with their English meaning.
  3. On a sheet of paper, tell students to draw a 2x3 grid which should fill the entire paper.
  4. Have students number each box from 1-6.
  5. Tell students “I will say a sentence, and your job is to draw a visual representation of that sentence. You will have 2-3 minutes to draw.” 
  6. Begin reading the first sentence slowly. It will be necessary to repeat the sentence many times. 
  7. Continue with the other sentences. Remind students that words are on the board if they need them.
  8. At the end, repeat the sentences and tell students to check their drawings to ensure that they have drawn everything needed.
Alternate version - ask students to draw their visual representations with their NON-DOMINANT hand. This will take a lot more time for students to complete and will cause them to focus more on what they are drawing (which means you saying more repetitions of the sentence).

  1. The sentences need to be very comprehensible, because students are drawing what they hear. If the sentences are too long or are incomprehensible, students will become frustrated.
  2. Students were much more engaged with this type of dictation instead of a regular one, since it involved them having to draw a visual representation of what they heard, as opposed to just writing down words. 
  3. Because students had to draw what they heard, it was necessary for me to repeat the sentences many times, which meant LOTS of great repetitions. 
  4. Students did not complain about doing this type of dictation, because it did not "feel" like a regular dictation.  
  5. Because students were already familiar with the story and vocabulary, it was not a difficult activity for them to do.
  6. This is another great post-reading activity for going over a story and to get in more repetitions.
Example (taken from a Movie Talk called MonsterBox)
  1. Ecce puella et duo monstra: parvum monstrum et mediocre monstrum! (Behold a girl and two monsters: a small monster and a medium monster)
  2. Faber facit casam parvo monstro (The craftsman makes a house for the small monster)
  3. Puella est laeta, quod monstro placet casa (The girl is happy, because the monster likes the house)
  4. Ecce puella et tria monstra: parvum monstrum, mediocre monstrum, et magnum monstrum. (Behold the girl and three monster: a small monster, a medium monster, and a big monster).
  5. Faber facit casam mediocri monstro (The craftsman makes a house for the medium monster).
  6. Faber non facit casam magno monstro, quod magnum monstrum est molestum (The craftsman does not make a house for the big monster, because the big monster is annoying).

Monday, August 28, 2017

Interactive Student Responses

If you are looking for a way to get your students to participate in a story beyond the basic "Ohhh" response in a TPRS story, here are some ways in which I get students to respond whenever I say particular vocabulary words:

Examples of class responses
  1. subito (suddenly) - entire class gasps aloud.
  2. sed (but) - entire class says "BUUUUT" in their most, sarcastic, valley girl, middle school way. I learned this from Annabelle Allen.
  3. tamen (however/neverthless) - entire class sings "tamen, tamen means however, however; tamen tamen, means nevertheless" to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus. I learned this from Karen Rowan who did it in Spanish and from Miriam Patrick who then adapted it into Latin.
  4. eheu (oh no) - entire class says "Oh no!" very dramatically.
Examples of individual student responses
  1. apparet/apparent (appears) - student's job is to say "POOF."
  2. quis/quae/qui (who) - student's job is to hoot "Hoo hoo" like an owl. I learned this from Ben Wang and Linda Li.
  3. quid (what) - student's job is to say "what WHAAAT."
Now these are different from rejoinders which students can yell out depending on what is being discussed, since these are specific responses to vocabulary words. 

  1. These are a great way to incorporate more student participation in class. In fact, as I introduce more of these in class, I will have students who will specifically ask me if they can have one of these "jobs." Even better is when I have more than one student wanting to do a particular response so that it becomes necessary to have "tryouts," which means more repetitions for the class to hear.
  2. The individual student responses requires those students who are assigned that job to be active listeners, because they are always on call. 
  3. I use these to introduce words which I know are important but may not be as easy for students to recall. Usually after awhile, I do not feel that it is necessary for students to say these responses, because I feel that they have acquired these words, but heaven forbid if I do not let students respond to them! It makes me laugh that students have taken such ownership of them that they demand the chance to respond. A few years ago, in one of my classes, I deliberately stopped using the word tamen, because I got tired of hearing the class sing the song so much! 
I love learning other responses from teachers. Alina Filipescu has a lot of them which I plan to steal! What are some which you use in your classroom?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pop-Up Theory

At IFLT this past summer, during the Q&A session with Stephen Krashen and Bill Van Patten, Krashen said that he felt that the CI movement had progressed enough in classrooms that one could now introduce "pop-up theory." Much like how CI teachers can give brief, 30-second "pop-up grammar" explanations during a lesson, Krashen expressed that one could now do the same with Comprehensible Input theory in a class and explain to students how language was acquired. I found Krashen's comment to be very interesting, because although I do try to establish a classroom environment (safety net) and student behaviors (being an active listener, teaching to the eyes, interaction with the target language) needed for acquiring a language, I had never really explained to students why all of this was necessary. 

Today in my Latin 1 class, I introduced students to their first reading. For the past two weeks, our Latin 1 instructional team (Bob Patrick, John Foulk, Rachel Ash and I) has been focusing on Circling with Balls and TPR, so Rachel wrote up a very short story using the vocabulary which had been introduced. I was a bit hesitant to show this reading to my students, because although the reading utilized limited vocabulary with lots of repetitions, in doing Circling with Balls and TPR, I had not been focusing specifically on these exact words per se. Instead, I had been doing more of an untargeted vocabulary approach and running with whatever words came up in class or were needed to keep the dialogue compelling and moving along. Imagine my surprise when as soon as I projected the reading, many students immediately began to translate it aloud without my prompting! We ended up doing a choral reading and a round of Stultus with it, and afterwards, I asked students to show me on their hands what they thought of it: 1 being very difficult to understand, and 5 being very easy to read. All students rated it a 4 or 5!

As a follow-up, I asked students, "So why was this so easy to read? This was your first time ever reading a Latin story. I never once gave you a list of Latin words to learn. I never once told you to make flashcards. Why do you know these words?" I got a bunch of blank stares, as students tried to process my question. A student then replied, "Well, you have been saying these words all the time these past few weeks." My response: "Exactly. All I have ever asked of you these past two weeks is to simply listen to me, to understand what I am saying to you in Latin, and to signal me when I am not understandable. You acquired these words SUBCONSCIOUSLY through listening to me and interacting with the language. These words are now inside you. That is how one acquires a language. When you say that this class is easy, it should be. Acquiring a language should not be difficult and should feel effortless if I am doing my job correctly." I could have gone on for awhile telling students about Comprehensible Input theory and the three C's of CI (heck, I gave a 5-minute lunchtime talk about this at IFLT, so I could have talked their ears off), but like Krashen said, "pop up theory" is all which students need. 

So I encourage you to introduce "pop-up theory" to your students. If students can start understanding their own language acquisition process through occasional short, 30-second explanations, they will more likely buy into what you are doing.