Monday, January 7, 2019

Post-Winter Break Vocabulary Recall

The holidays have come and gone, including my winter break, which consisted mostly of...

Back to reality, I always like to do some review before moving on to new material. One no-prep activity that I have loved doing (second time, as of today) is asking students to generate a list of as many words as they can remember in Latin. This is a great activity for after winter break because it gets students back into thinking in Latin and, best of all, it reminds them that they know more Latin than they think they do. This reassurance is essential for level one learners, which is why I love to do it with my Latin I classes the most. It's also great to use at the beginning of the school year with level two for many of the same reasons (which I did last year). 

Here's how I structure the activity:
  • I randomly divide the class into groups of 3. (I use this website to create the groups. If you know of an even better one - let me know!) I will adjust the groups to make them more mixed by ability and gender and to prevent behavioral issues.
  • Each group gets a whiteboard, a marker, and a rag.
  • Each group must come up with as many Latin words as they can remember and write their list on their whiteboard.
  • To add some competition, the group that remembers the highest number of words gets a prize (candy or stickers). As the day progresses, I challenge the groups to outdo not only one another but also the record set by my previous classes.
  • As for timing, I will check in on the class, but most groups will need to be stopped - so this is a great activity to fill an entire class period. 
  • When there are about 15 minutes left in class, I will stop the activity. Then each group will count up the number of words they remembered. The group that remembered the highest number of words will share their list aloud while I type and project it in a Google Sheets file.
  • I will then share this Google Sheets file with my students as a reference.

Here are the word counts (combined from every group's list, minus duplicates of course) for my three Latin I classes today: 169, 247, and 221. 

Here is the Google Sheets file with the vocabulary lists. I have added the English meaning and additional forms for student reference.

The goal in our Latin program is for students to acquire around 100 words per semester, so I am so proud that my students have exceeded this goal! This is language acquisition in action! 😁

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Year in Review

2018 has (almost) gone, so I'd like to reflect briefly on some of the highlights of my year. 

2017 was a year of life-changing highs and lows. I passed the edTPA, got and accepted my job in Georgia, completed student teaching and my Masters, moved to Georgia, and finished my first semester in my new job. All these helped me through 2017, my most painful year personally. 2018 has had its ups and downs too, but I am grateful to be in an even better place now.

2018 was my first calendar year as a Latin teacher at Parkview and as a 100% CI teacher, so it's overwhelming to narrow down a list of highlights. 

  • TPR - I first used TPR in 2017, but I did not feel that I was as successful as I wished to be. This past August, I really felt successful doing it again. See my post about it here.
  • Brain Breaks - I first used Brain Breaks in 2017, but did not implement them consistently. Starting in August, I have made them a routine. See my post about it here.
  • Writing my own novice-level Latin texts - Most of these have been translated and adapted from primary sources like Hesiod's Theogony (Saturn's overthrow of Uranus, the Titanomachy) and Homer's Iliad (Jupiter, Neptune, and Hades drawing lots) for Latin I students.
  • Modifications for special ed. students - Miriam Patrick and I have been working closely to create activities and supports for our special education students, especially in Latin I. More details to come in a future post!
  • Acting in the faculty play - Students invited several of us faculty to star in Check, Please, a play about a series of blind dates gone horribly-yet-humorously wrong. I played the role of Tod, a little boy who fools a woman into a date. 
    At 29 I could still pass for a kid. Yes, I am wearing a Mickey Mouse hat. Thanks for the youthful genes, Mom and Dad!
  • Dressing up as Luigi for Halloween!
    Luigi forgoes Italian for the day because of half-off burritos at Chipotle on Halloween!

Greek & Latin:
  • Biduum Georgianum - I had so much fun! I would love to do the longer immersion programs for both Latin AND Ancient Greek! See my post about it here. 
  • Batrachomyomachia - I read two Greek texts this past year. First was the Batrachomyomachia, an epic poem that parodies Homer's Iliad. Instead of Greeks vs. Trojans, it's mice vs. frogs. I loved it - especially the deus ex machina ending!
  • Digenes Akrites - The second Greek text I read was Digenes Akrites, a Byzantine poem about the life and adventures of Digenes Akrites ('Biracial Frontiersman'), a half-Arab, half-Roman hero who lives on the nearly-lawless eastern frontier of the empire (eastern Turkey today) and fights wild beasts, a dragon, and guerrillas. I graciously consulted Elizabeth Jeffrey's editions and translations of the Grottaferrata and Escorial manuscripts. This experience was a fun introduction to demotic Byzantine Greek and I'd love to learn more Modern Greek!


  • The Midwest - In May and June, I enjoyed a nice roadtrip through the Midwest (Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio) with my girlfriend. It was great to see my family and best friends again in the Chicago area. Cedar Point was AMAZING! The best amusement park I've ever been to!
  • Egypt - Also in June, my lifelong dream of going to Egypt came true and it was everything I had hoped for and more. Let me travel geek right now - I stayed in Cairo (just blocks from Tahrir Square!), Aswan (on Elephantine Island!), Luxor (steps from the Nile!), and Alexandria (right across from the Mediterranean!). I saw and did so much and I can't wait to go back!
    The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza! I went inside too!
  • Istanbul - Coming back home, I had a long layover in Istanbul thanks to flying Turkish Airlines, one of my favorite airlines. Since it is Istanbul - AKA my favorite place in the world - I had to go see it even for those brief hours I was there. I got on the metro shortly after it starts at 6:00 AM and explored the city on foot. I checked out some Byzantine churches, walked along the Sea of Marmara, and visited Hagia Sophia (my eleventh visit - yes, I'm shamelessly obsessed!) - all with more than enough time to hop back on to the metro and return to the airport to fly home. 
    Under Hagia Sophia's legendary dome for the eleventh time, but just as excited as ever!

Annum novum faustum felicem tibi, lector!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Timed Writes & Student Choice

Timed Writes are a great way for students to produce written output and demonstrate to us teachers and to themselves what they can do with the target language in a quantifiable manner (i.e. the time limit of the write itself and the word count that they produce). Like all forms of output, students will need to have acquired sufficient input. For this reason, I use Timed Writes as the culminating piece of units, which are either short stories or cultural topics. Normally Timed Writes take on two forms in my classes: retelling stories we have read in their own words OR writing original stories based on a given prompt. This past month I decided to mix things up.

A few weeks ago, my Latin I students completed their second Timed Write to close our unit on the basics of ancient Rome (daily life and the topography and architecture of the city). We toured the important sights like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Circus Maximus; we explored how the ancient Romans met their basic needs like food, water, and - everyone's favorite - going to the bathroom; and we discussed the differences between the lives of most Romans and of the wealthy. In many Latin classes, including my own, this usually includes the differences between the two main types of Roman housing, insulae (apartment buildings) and domus (houses). We watched Magister Craft's amazing videos on both the insula and the domus, read the scripts of both videos in Latin, and looked at the remains of such structures. 

I initially planned to conclude this unit with a Timed Write that would require that students compare and contrast insulae and domus in Latin. Inspired by my Gifted endorsement course, I decided to give my students more options - especially those that would challenge my students to think beyond simply comparing and contrasting. 

This is how the week went:

Monday: I put students into groups to generate similarities and differences between insulae and domus in English and, if they so desired, in Latin. Then each group shared their lists and as a class we came up with how to word the lists in Latin, which I typed and projected simultaneously for them to copy down.

Tuesday: I presented the Timed Write prompts and students had time to choose their prompt and generate a list of Latin words/phrases that they would need to answer their prompt.

These were the prompts:
  1.  Create your own Roman family and describe their living situation. What are their names and how are the family members related to one another? Do they live in an insula or in a domus? Where do they sleep? Where do they get their food from and where do they eat it? Where do they go to the bathroom? 
  2. Archaeologists in Pompeii have discovered the ruins of a building and they believe that it is either an insula or a domus. You have looked over the floor plan and you know what it is, but you have to convince the archaeologists. Describe what the building is and support your argument based on what you know about Roman housing. If you argue that the building is a domus, why? Why is the building not an insula? If you argue that the building is an insula, why? Why is the building not a domus?
  3. Compare and contrast living in the insula and living in the domus. How are the insula and the domus similar? In what ways are they different? Consider the following: rooms/size, food/eating, bathrooms. Make sure that your descriptions of the domus and the insula are thorough (describe all the rooms of the domus).

Wednesday - break for Halloween!

Thursday: Each student received an Essential Words worksheet, where they placed necessary Latin words in the given boxes. Students were allowed to use these worksheets during the Timed Write, provided they followed the instructions and completed them appropriately. If students had time, they wrote rough drafts of the Timed Writes and could get feedback from me.

A shorter version of the Essential Words worksheet

Friday: Day of the Timed Write! Students had 8 minutes to answer their chosen prompt in their own words in Latin in as many words as possible. 

Results: I was pleasantly surprised by the Timed Write results! The time that I allotted to students to prepare themselves was worth it. As I said above, this was only the second Timed Write that they have ever produced, so they are still learning how Timed Writes work. The Timed Writes demonstrated thought and care and were more grammatically accurate than I had expected. I was also surprised at the prompts that students chose. Since we had spent a considerable amount of time to comparing and contrasting insulae and domus, I expected most students to select the third prompt. That was not the case. The first and second prompts were more popular, the former in particular. 

Several students wrote more than 100 words. I expect a pace of about 10 words per minute for Timed Writes, but for the first semester of Latin I, I expect a more flexible range of 5-10 words per minute. My word count expectations are also lower for Free Writes because they are open-ended. The highest word count was 180 words, so that comes down to 22.5 words per minute - in less than three months of Latin! This student remarked that his hand started cramping - talk about dedication! 

After the Timed Write, I asked that students answer the following reflection questions:

  1. How many words did you write?
  2. What did you do well in this Timed Write?
  3. With what did you struggle in this Timed Write?
  4. How did your preparations help you? What did you do specifically? 
  5. How would you like to improve for your next Timed Write?

Some responses reflect the students' comfort with the target language to such a degree that they focus less on the daunting task of writing in the target language and instead have ideas for improvement. Here are some of my favorites:

  • "[I would like to] use/know connecting/transitional phrases/words."
  • "[I would like to explicitly] learn past and present tenses."
  • "I would like to write using more varieties of sentences."

Since Timed Writes are a tangible reminder to students of their proficiency and growth in the target language, I want students to take pride in their Timed Writes and find them compelling to write and read again at a later date. Hereafter I plan to continue to offer more choices for Timed Writes. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Storyboard That - Werewolf Story from Petronius

Happy Halloween, everyone! Thanks to Keith Toda, I recently learned about Storyboard That, a website in which, as the name suggests, you can make storyboards. Since most of my teaching is based in stories (often Greco-Roman myths, original contemporary stories, or original scripts based on films used for Movie Talks), I was eager to use a tool that combines the text of a story with visuals. Not only does this satisfy my creative and visual side, but also provides an additional support for my students' comprehension of the text. 

In Latin II, Keith recently made a storyboard for the story that we are currently reading (about Aeneas and his journey from Troy to the Sibyl). I really liked how his storyboard turned out, so yesterday I decided to check out Storyboard That for myself. 

Here are pros and cons I've found so far from using it over the past day:


  • Easy to use (with some degree of a learning curve)
  • Lots of options for graphics. It comes with tons of backgrounds, characters, symbols, et al. Characters can show emotions, motion, face forward/backward/to the side, and more.
  • Lots of culturally-based graphics like ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the European Middle Ages.
  • Lots of options for customization (e.g. changing colors, sizes)
  • Lots of options for exporting (.pdf, PowerPoint, image files)

  • The free version is severely limited, so I bought a subscription.
  • The subscription is pretty expensive (You can buy a teacher membership for 12 months for $71.88.)
  • Perhaps it was my connection, but the website is pretty slow at times.
  • I wish there was an easier share option. Maybe I haven't found it yet, but all I've been able to do is share the link to my storyboard.
  • Some tools could use some refining to make them faster to do (copying and deleting cells, adding images).

My first storyboard with Storyboard That was a slightly condensed version of the werewolf story in Petronius' Satyricon. In case you are not familiar with the story, the characters Encolpius and Ascyltos attend a lavish dinner party hosted by the decadent freedman Trimalchio. One of the guests, a freedman named Niceros, tells a story about how, when he was still a slave, he went to the house of his girlfriend Melissa one night while his master was away. Along the way, Niceros and his companion, a soldier, stop by some graves along the road. The soldier stops to relieve himself beside the graves (a fairly common practice in antiquity), but then undresses, places his clothing beside the road, urinates around them, turns into a wolf, and runs off. Niceros tries to pick up the clothes, but they have turned to stone. Niceros eventually reaches the villa where Melissa lives (she is also a slave), who tells him that a wolf had attacked the livestock on the villa, but another slave managed to wound the wolf with a lance. Frightened at the fate of his companion, Niceros returns to the site of the clothes and finds blood there instead. Niceros then returns home where he finds the soldier in bed being treated by a doctor.

Here is the storyboard I created:

Click image to enlarge

I must confess that I am proud of my portrayal of "circumminxit." 😜

A subscription to Storyboard That is expensive, but since my curriculum is mostly stories anyway, I plan to make full use of it and create storyboards for every story that we read in Latin I this year. I hope to have an updated review in the spring after I have used this service more. 

Enjoy my favorite holiday!

Cum fratre

Friday, September 28, 2018

Brain Breaks

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year I have been implementing Brain Breaks more regularly than last year - and with considerable success!

How I do Brain Breaks

I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes after I take attendance and do my no-phone ritual at the beginning of class. When the timer goes off, we stop what we are doing and do the Brain Break or do it as soon as we finish the activity we were doing. I do not do Brain Breaks when students are working independently because of the self-paced nature of such activities.

What I like about Brain Breaks

They refresh the students' brains - and mine! - to continue what we were doing - receiving comprehensible input in Latin. I also like to remind my students that Brain Breaks are a chance for me to make my students' well-being a priority. Our students are in class for 6+ hours with little downtime (they have to be "learning from bell to bell," remember?). Let's not forget the immense pressure on students to be involved in extracurricular activities, do homework, study, hold jobs, and tend to the needs of their families. Brain Breaks are my way of telling my students, "Downtime is a good thing. It is okay to take a break."

Some Brain Breaks I love (so far)
  • Tangite (Touch) - kind of like Simon Says, but without the tricking. In the first week of Latin I, I introduced three body parts (head, nose, chin). Every week I introduce a new body part, so students are getting repeated input of body parts without having to have a body parts unit or requiring the students to memorize body parts vocabulary.
  • Name Game - I like to do this one within the first week of school. I select a student in one corner of the room. They say their name. Then their neighbor has to say the first student's name and then their own name. The third person then says the previous two students' names and then their own name. And so on until we go through all the students. Then I have to name all the students in order. This helps me put names to faces. That I have to do it last and know all the names takes the pressure off of the students too.
  • Sentence-by-Sentence Story - The students make their own story. I start with one student, who says one word. The next student adds another word to the student and so on. Since I teach Latin I and II, I have only done this in English, but I may try it in Latin with my Latin II students in the spring.
  • Line Up - The students have to line up based on a particular criterion, such as height, age, hair length, et al.
  • Class Wave - The class does the wave from one end of the classroom and back. I have also done a variation on this with clapping; one student claps, the next student claps twice, the third student claps once, the fourth student claps twice, and so on.
  • 4 Corners - The students move to a corner of the room depending on how they answer a question (so the question must have four answers or 3 answers and an "other" answer). Questions I've used are: what is your favorite color? Favorite time of day? Favorite season? Birth month? Favorite sport? Favorite pet? Favorite type of movie?
  • Would you rather? - I project two options in Latin, count the number of students who choose each option, state the number of students in Latin (e.g. Duodecim discipuli malunt habere pecuniam.). Questions I've used include: Would you rather have true love or money? Know the day when you will die or how you will die? Have more time or more money?
  • Do Nothing for 2 Minutes - Just as the title states. If students do anything (e.g. talk, eat, make noise), then we resume class. I project this on my screen:
  • Silent Ball - The students throw a ball to each other, but they cannot talk or noise. If they do, the Brain Break ends.

I'm always looking for more Brain Break ideas, so please share yours with me! 🧠

Friday, August 31, 2018

Latin 1 First Story of the Year

Many teachers who are new to CI, especially Latin teachers, ask the question, "How do you start level one?" The traditional way of teaching Latin typically jumps right into conjugating verbs. That's at least how my first few days of Latin went (to be fair, it was also at the college level). Our modern world language colleagues at least can start the year with the old standbys of greetings and simple expressions for interpersonal communication (e.g. talking about family, interests, and likes/dislikes). 

In my Latin 1 class, we do all of these (minus conjugating verbs), but I also like to get my students moving and engaging with one another via Total Physical Response (TPR). With TPR, I deliver simple messages in Latin to my students to perform simple actions with high-frequency verbs. To make it more engaging, we use stuffed animals.

"I ad ianuam!" "Go to the door!"
"Cape animal ex sacco!" "Take an animal out of the bag!"
"Fer leonem ad Amandam!" "Bring the animal to Amanda!"
"Marcus dat felem Liviae!" "Marcus gives the cat to Livia!"

All of this involves me narrating and ordering various actions while pausing to point at the words on the board with their accompanying English meaning.

This year, inspired by my colleagues Rachel Ash, Miriam Patrick, and Keith Toda, I decided to make my own story using the vocabulary words from our TPR activities. This way, my students can see and hear (as we read aloud the story) these high-frequency words, get as much exposure to and repetition of said words, and acquire words that will serve them for as long as they study Latin.

The story I wrote, titled Ubi est telephonum Mirandae? (Where Is Miranda's Phone?), was a surprise hit with my students! The story draws not only from our TPR word base, but also from our class cell phone procedure and rejoinders. I used Latin names (Miranda and Iulius - Julius in English) that are familiar in English to help my students see that many of us have Latin names and that the Latin-speaking past is not so distant. Here is what it looks like:

Hodie puella (girl) est in Lilburn. Nomen ei est Miranda. Miranda est discipula. Miranda intrat conclave (classroom). Miranda videt in tabulā: “Ubi sunt telephona?”

Ubi est telephonum Mirandae? Scilicet est in sacculō! Miranda videt in sacculō. Telephonum non est in sacculō! Miranda non habet telephonum! Ubi est telephonum Mirandae?! Miranda vult telephonum!

Miranda it ad armarium. Telephonum non est in armariō. Miranda it ad excipulum. Telephonum non est in excipulō. Miranda it ad mensam. Telephonum non est in mensā. Ubi est telephonum Mirandae? Miranda non habet telephonum. Miranda vult telephonum!

Miranda it ad ianuam. Iulius intrat conclave. Miranda inquit (said), “Ubi est meum (my) telephonum?”
Iulius inquit, “Visne telephonum? Da mihi (to me) stylum.” Miranda capit stylum. Miranda fert stylum. Miranda dat stylum Iuliō. Iulius habet stylum.

Iulius inquit, “Da mihi chartam.” Miranda capit chartam. Miranda fert chartam. Miranda dat chartam Iuliō. Iulius habet chartam.

Iulius scribit in chartā, “Te amo (I love you).” Iulius dat chartam Mirandae. Miranda capit chartam.

Miranda inquit, “Fufae!” Miranda ponit (puts) chartam in sacculum. Miranda videt aliquid (something) in sacculō sub (under) libellō. Miranda videt telephonum! Euge! Miranda habet telephonum!

Why was this simple story such a hit? The reference to our cell phone procedure was a nice inside joke (and a great way for me to remind my classes of my policy 😈). My students ate up the almost love story. Some felt bad for Iulius and his failed attempt to woo Miranda. Some commended him for his audacity. Some found his flirtations creepy. Some students made predictions about the location of Miranda's phone (one was correct!). One class wanted to know more about Miranda and Iulius' relationship and wondered if they had a past, which I will keep in mind in case I decide to write a continuation of this story.

Before I wrote this story, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of writing a narrative that both engaged my students and gave them sufficient exposure to and repetition of high-frequency words in Latin. I'm sure many new CI teachers share the same apprehension. After all, when I was a student - and later a teacher - in traditional Latin programs, I relied on textbook exercises (however absurd they may be - I'm looking at you, Dominus iacet in via!) and on adapted readings from classical literature for practice. I now plan to write more stories for my classes in the future. I can only hope that they will be just as fabulous.

Friday, August 24, 2018

First 3 Weeks of the School Year

The first three of weeks of the school have come and gone, so I'd like to reflect and write about my experiences so far. This year I am teaching three classes of Latin I and two of Latin II. I am also in charge of the Latin I curriculum this year. I'm not going to lie, I felt a lot of pressure to be in charge of level one. If I messed up and did not establish a solid foundation, I could jeopardize my students' Latin experience and fail to provide them with the skills to succeed in Latin. 

Thankfully, this has not been the case at all. In fact, I am having a blast with my Latin I students! I attribute part of this to my goal of having more consistent procedures in my classes this year. Just as in previous years, I open the class with "Salvete, omnes!", close with "Valete, omnes!", and expect my students to respond in Latin. To associate names with faces (and because admin insists that we take attendance within the first five minutes of class), I then do roll call and each student must say "adsum" if they are present. When a student is absent, we say, "(Insert student name) abest." 

To fight against the almighty cell phone, we then do a cell phone chant, as developed by Bob Patrick. I ask the class, "Ubi sunt telephona?!" Then we go through various locations where phones may be: "Non in manibus!" "Non in gremio!" "Non in sinibus!" "Non sub cruribus!", followed again by "Ubi sunt telephona?!" "Telephona sunt in sacculis!"

I have also implemented Calendar Talk more consistently this year, inspired by CI Liftoff (Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden). The students and I write and say the date in Latin (day of the week, date, month, and year). Then I ask about the day's weather and we discuss it in Latin. My Latin I students in particular are having fun with this. One class debates almost every day about whether it is humid or not. In another class, a certain student is always cold, so the rest of the class disagrees and tells her to wear layers! To take advantage of this enthusiasm, I lead class polls:

"Quis ex vobis putat hodie umidam esse?"
*Some students raise their hands and I count aloud in Latin*
"Undecim discipuli putant hodie umidam esse!"
"Quis ex vobis putat hodie non esse umidam?"
*Students raise their hands and I count aloud in Latin*
"Duodecim discipuli putant hodie non esse umidam!"

Compared to my own experiences as a Latin student, I love that my students are so comfortable and eager to listen to and interact in Latin. They also understand indirect statements! Yes, they cannot describe what indirect statements are or they function in Latin, but they understand what I am saying and that is all I want at this time for their level of proficiency.

Another change this year is Brain Breaks (more on this in a future post). I used Brain Breaks last year, but I placed them between activities. This year, instead, I set a timer for 15 minutes and we stop class and do them, no matter what. This change has made a HUGE difference! Last year, students felt like Brain Breaks were just another tedious activity to do, but this year, my students look forward to them. I have also noticed two benefits of Brain Breaks. First, my students and I are truly refreshed and ready to do more afterward. Second, and as a result, my students and I work more efficiently for the entire duration of the class period. 

Some aspects of my year have been off to rougher start, but overall I'm very satisfied.