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. 

Observations
  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.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cecilia the Balcony Girl - Movie Talk

This is a Movie Talk which I just did with my Latin 2 students this past Monday. It was the beginning of the second week of school, so I wanted to do a Movie Talk which would both recycle lots of words from last year but at the same time introduce some new words. It is actually a Movie Talk which I feel could be used in a level 1 class depending on which words you wanted to introduce, because one could introduce a lot of high frequency basic vocabulary through this movie short.

Cecilia the Balcony Girl - link

Latin script

English script

Observations
  1. I was really surprised at how engaged students were during this Movie Talk! This Movie Talk allows for a lot of predictions so that helped keep it engaging for students. Even though it is only a 3 1/2 minute movie short, the Movie Talk itself went for about 35-40 minutes. I myself was surprised in all of my classes how quickly the time went by.
  2. Students really liked the twist at the end.
  3. Even though I use what some teachers may feel are advanced structures for the 2nd week of Latin 2 (according to a traditional grammar-translation syllabus), as long as the message is understandable (in other words, meaning has been established), students will understand what is being communicated. Comprehension is the goal at this point, not production. 
This Movie Talk is a keeper and definitely one which I will use again in future years.

Monday, August 7, 2017

P.S. to Returning to Work

Normally, I do not post anything on my blog two days in a row, but after what I wrote yesterday, I felt like I needed to do a follow up. Yesterday, I wrote up a blog post where I detailed how I was dreading coming back to work today for the first day of school and how mentally, emotionally, and physically, I did not feel in the least bit prepared to teach, even after attending IFLT and taking a Fluency Fast course. Quite honestly, I was feeling rather defeated.

I am home now from the first day of school, and wow, what a difference a day can make. The impasse about teaching which I was experiencing yesterday has been broken through. I had a wonderful first day back with students! It was as if a switch had been turned on in me when that first period bell rang, because suddenly I was back into teacher mode. How I enjoyed interacting with my students from last year and with new ones! My mind is now back in "work mode," and "summer mode" has been filed away. While yesterday my mind was parched even entertaining the thought of teaching, it is as if the floodgates have been opened. Whereas yesterday, i was struggling and laboring to come up with any type lesson plans, now my mind is racing with ideas from this summer, as I try to think of how to incorporate what I learned from Linda Li in her Fluency Fast class and from observing Annabelle Allen at IFLT into my curriculum. Tomorrow my Latin 1 and 2 teams are going to be implementing Circling with Balls and TPR in our classrooms, and I am really looking forward to it. There is joy and excitement in me now when I think about teaching. 

I wish that I could pinpoint exactly what caused this shift in my mindset from yesterday to today. I do not feel like I had somehow built up all of this negativity in my mind to be something bigger than it actually was, nor do I feel that I was over-reacting. I can tell you with confidence what I was feeling was quite real. Maybe I just needed to dive into it all head first. Maybe it was being back with students. Maybe it was feeling like a united team with my fellow Latin teachers. Maybe my years of teaching just kicked in and took over instinctually.

Teaching is a series of good days and bad days. That is something which I just need to accept, as I cannot expect to hit a homerun every day. We, however, cannot experience the fullness of those good days without the bad days. Therefore, I look forward to the good, the mediocre, and the bad days which I will experience this upcoming school year.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Returning to Work

Tomorrow is the first day of school for students. Last week, I had a full week of pre-planning, which consisted of meetings, in-services, a motivational speaker, time in my classroom, and seeing students and parents as they came to visit on registration day. 

This summer, I was pretty much a bum. Since I was finishing up my Ed.S degree last summer, this summer I was determined to take it easy. I deliberately stayed at home and enjoyed my time off doing nothing. In terms of professional development, though, it was busy for a 2-week span, as I delivered CI presentations at both the ACL Summer Institute and IFLT, served as a coach at IFLT, and took a 4-day Fluency Fast course in Mandarin with Linda Li. I got the chance both to teach others about CI and to experience CI myself firsthand, as well as learn many new strategies and ideas which I plan to implement in my classroom. Overall, I had a great summer.

After all that, one would think that I am ready and refreshed to teach students. The truth is: I am not. Far from it. Mentally and emotionally, I do not feel ready to teach or to see students. I feel like I am laboring to create lesson plans. Scaffolding and even knowing where to start as a beginning point with my lesson plans feels difficult for me, because I am out of sync. The idea of seeing 150 students tomorrow throughout the day seems a bit daunting to me. Quite honestly, I want to be feeling joy and excitement, instead of knowing that regardless of how early I go to bed tonight, I am not going to be able to get to sleep.

Now to be honest, I feel this way to a degree EVERY year before the first day of school, and I do eventually get back into the swing of things. I also know that the best thing for me is just to dive back into it all, and that like riding a bike, it will all come back to me. I am just out of rhythm.

My accounting friends always tell me that they envy my job, because "there is a definite beginning, middle, and an end." While I definitely celebrate the "end," do I celebrate the "beginning"? A beginning means a clean slate - I can start anew; where I fell short last year, I can strive to improve this round. I just wish my mind and emotions could embrace that at the moment.

So I write this to say that even after over 20 years of teaching, I still get nervous about the beginning of the school year. I guess that it is just part of being a teacher.