A Year in F7 – Week 9 (end of the first quarter)

Latin I

Note: This was a very short week.  Only three days of class.

Monday, October 1st, Day 38

  1. Calendar Talk

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Student Interview

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Quick Quiz: based on the student interviews

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Storytelling with Actors (introduction to the “Gladiator” Movie Talk)

Prep Time: 10 minutes (creating a short story script based vocabulary of the Movie Talk—and              past vocabulary as well)

  1. Write and Discuss

Prep Time: 0 minutes


Tuesday, October 2nd, Day 39

  1. Calendar Talk

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Storytelling with Actors (Part II)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Write and Discuss

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Karaoke Translation

Prep Time: 10 minutes(formatting story for projection)

  1. Movie Talk – Part I (based on the clip: “Gladiator: Battle with a Retired Gladiator”)

Wednesday, October 3rd, Day 40

  1. Calendar Talk

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Movie Talk (“Gladiator: Battle with a Retired Gladiator”– Part II)

Prep Time: 0 minutes (movie talk was prepared last year)

  1. Read and Discuss (time permitting)/Dictatio

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Timed Write

Prep Time: 0 minutes


Reflection: One quarter down this week! It’s been quite a ride, but I finally feel like the wrinkles are starting to get ironed out.  I’m toying with the idea of introducing some Roman culture (via Magister Craft) starting next week, and cycling that in with student-created content  CI-based instruction can almost feel like a slow, steady drip, and week after week it can be unclear if the water level in the bucket is rising at all.  As teachers, we tend to put ourselves on our own time schedules.  I always want things to move faster and faster.  I pay too much attention to the product, when really my attention should be on the process.  What’s my goal every day? Communication and providing comprehensible messages to my students.  If I have been maximizing opportunities for input, I’ve done all I can help my students grow in proficiency.

One thing that I want to change/add: I would like to add two things to my rotation that I have neglected so far this year: Storytelling and Kindergarten Day-style reading.  I recently bought Lance Piantaggini’s excellent book “Quintus et Nox Horrifica” and will read the first two chapters with my students next week.  Over the next quarter, I’m going to experiment with different ways of simply telling or reading a story to my students in order to add some much-needed variety.


A Week in F7 – Week 8

Latin I

Monday, September 24th, Day 33

  1. Calendar Talk

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Quick Quiz – True or False: “Dragonboy” ending

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. OWI (inanimate object)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

I created a list of predetermined questions to ask to create the character.  As we developed details of the story, I answered the questions in writing on the board.  This helped guide the discussion, and helped slow down the conversation, and allow processing time.

  1. Write and Discuss

Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Prep Time: 20 minutes


Tuesday, Sept. 25th, Day 34

  1. PictureTalk: Review the Character using the artist’s picture.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Student Interview

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Interview Quiz

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. OWI story

This week, I decided (based on the types of characters that the students created), to create a plot in which the main character is kidnapped and has to escape somehow.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Write and Discuss (3 sentences) – Time permitting

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 0 minutes


Wednesday, Sept. 26th, Day 35

  1. Calendar Talk

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. OWI-based Picture Talk

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  1. OWI Story: complete the plot

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Write and Discuss

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Instant Replay

re-enactment of the OWI story with student actors

Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 10 minutes


Thursday, Sept. 27th, Day 36

  1. Calendar Talk

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Dictatio (short)/Short Translation Assessment

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  1. Character Picture Talk

based on the artist’s pictures of the student-created OWI for earlier in the week.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  1. Quizlet Live (class stories)

Prep Time: 10 minutes per class

  1. Alea Iacta Est Game (Time permitting)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep time: 50 minutes


Friday, Sept. 28th, Day 37

  1. introduce the student-illustrated reader templates, and who to create them.
  2. Read and Draw – student-illustrated readers, based on Mike Peto’s cartoon template.

draw and color random pages to put together into booklets.

students who get done early can start illustrating other classes’ stories, earlier class stories, movie talk scripts, etc./designing a cover on card stock, etc.

collect students work and begin to compile them into booklets (FVR with these stories will commence after the break (3 days per week)

have all previously written stories ready, as well as cardstock (for covers), colored pencils (interiors) and markers (for covers).  invest in some pencil sharpeners.

Prep Time: about 20 minutes per class (spread out over the week.  After I finished typing up the stories, I formatted them for illustration).

NOTE: This activity was more prep intensive that usual, but hopefully at the end I will have short, student-illustrated readers based on the class story that I can use for Kindergarten Day/and or Storytelling.  Hopefully the student-created content will be a way to hook student interest and investment in the story.

  1. Reverse Pictionary (Time permitting)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: about 1 hour and 20 minutes

Reflection: Creating the booklets worked well in some classes but not in others.  I think future, I think that I will only have students create four pictures instead of eight.  Also, some of the stories ended up having too many new words which added to some confusion when students were drawing them.  I’m going to hold on to these for later reading (in a few weeks they should be more comprehensible).  They really were more invested in the pictures when (a) they knew that other students were going to read their work, and (b) they were able to add color to the pictures.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll try another ask-a-story, and when we create the booklets again, I’ll assign fewer panels to each student.

Also, I can use one class’ pictures to narrate their unique story to the other classes. Storytelling is an activity that I definitely need to add more of to my classes.

A Year in F7 – Week 7 (Latin I)

password for this week: veni vidi vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)

Monday, Sept. 17, Day 28

  1. Calendar Talk

Instead of just talking about the date, weather, birthdays, etc. and pointing to the calendar, I started class everyday filling out this sheet (which I wrote in OneNote as I projected the text)

I then called on two students, one boy and one girl, one older student and one younger student, and asked each the following questions, filling in blanks and circling responses as I went. My classes have grade ranges from 8th grade through 12th grade.

I think that I will continue this again next week but will ask different some different questions.  I even may begin discussing the student’s weekends, maybe starting with a simple questionnaire or card-talk.  It wasn’t until this week (after a year(?) or so of trying) that I’ve been able to sustain Calendar/Weather talk for more than two minutes or so with some genuine student interest.  For instance, we had a good discussion (in Latin) about who had the most tests or quizzes on a certain day, if they were prepared, and which quizzes were more difficult (I think the debate really raged between Biology and Physics).  In fact, I had to stop them frequently from calling out in English, which to me is a good sign, because it shows that the topic was actually one that they had a lot to say about.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

  1. Digitis micare/”morra (a ancient game similar to “Rock, Paper, Scissors” but one in which students have to be fairly quick with their numbers 1-10).

We will do a “digitis micare” tournament sometimes as a Brain Break.  They new all of their cardinal numbers 0-10 already (just having picked them up from classroom conversation).

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Movie Talk: “Dragon Boy (first half)

This short film is a favorite among my students.  I started with Keith Toda’s script, but I ended up with this story after by Thursday.  I tailored the Movie Talk to my students, and took every opportunity to repeat/reuse words from previous stories.

               Prep Time: 10 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 20 minutes

Tuesday, Sept. 18, Day 29

  1. Calendar Talk

A quick recap of yesterday’s calendar talk, and then continued with today, using the same prompts.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Movie Talk (Dragon Boy) – Part II

We watched everything except the ending.  I wanted to try an activity on Wednesday where we predict the ending of the movie.

               Prep Time: 15 minutes

  1. Interview #5

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. 4-Word Image/Picture Stories

Rather than take a quiz after the interview, I selected some of the new words from the Movie Talk, and had students create 4-Word Images.  I will use some of them in class tomorrow for a Picture Talk.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes


Wednesday, Sept. 19, Day 30

  1. Interview Quiz

a follow-up from yesterday’s interview. Afterwards, we checked the quiz.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Picture Talk (2-3 “4-Word Image” pictures from the day before)

               Prep Time: 15 minutes

  1. “Predict the ending”

One at a time I projected a list of possible endings for “Dragonboy.”  Students responded (on paper):

certum est, probabile est, possibile sed non probabile, impossibile est

The subsequent conversation allowed me to use for repetitions of “putat” and indirect statement.

exempla: quis putat certum esse? Landon putat probabile esse, etc.

               Prep Time: 15 minutes

  1. Movie Talk – DragonBoy (ending) – Watch/Discuss the end of the movie

We compared the actual ending with the students predictions.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 30 minutes


Thursday, Sept. 20, Day 31

  1. Calendar Talk

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Picture Matching Quiz (10 minutes) – Based on the “Dragonboy” movie

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Dragonboy Story – Reader’s theater re-enactment

I had two actors play all of the props, characters, and scenery in the movie.  I projected the story, and read it in Latin, sentence by sentence, pausing to allow the actors to create a “freeze frame” picture.  The actors were allowed props.  They weren’t allowed to touch.  In each class is a frantic and engaging 10 minutes.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Alea Iacta Est”: My variation of the classic “Word Chunk Game.”

I have NEVER had success playing the traditional “Word Chunk Game.” There was low student interest and A LOT of downtime.  I fully realize I’m probably just playing it wrong, as I have never actually seen someone play it.  I’ve just read the rules.  So this version developed as a way to increase student engagement, and eliminate downtime. I will write up a post about this game soon.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 0 minutes


Friday, Sept. 21, Day 32

  1. Calendar Talk

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Dictatio

10 sentences selected from the “Dragonboy” story

               Prep Time: 10 minutes

  1. Ridiculum: my version of “Stultus”

The text was the same 10 sentences that the students just read.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Whole-Class OWI: “Create-a-dragon”

The student drew a picture of a dragon as we created the details on the fly. We would discuss the details, then I would say “pingite . . .” and the students would draw the detail that we agreed one.  I found it very important to draw everyone’s attention to “pingite,” because sometimes students would start drawing before the class reached a consensus. They found this more engaging than “Read and Draw” (probably because it gave them more choice about the content of the pictures).  I will use some of these pictures next week for a Picture Talk or two.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. 5-minute Timed Write

I plan on sharing some sample results at the end of the first quarter (after 9 weeks)

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 10 minutes

A Year in F7 – Week 6 (Latin I)

Monday, Sept. 10th – Day 23

  1. Picture Matching Quiz

An unexpected hit. I used pictures that the students drew last week.

               Prep Time: 20 minutes (choosing pictures and preparing them for presentation)

  1. end of Yoda Story – “Yoda est pater”

Kindergarten/Storytelling with pictures (begin with the pictures from the quiz)

This is simple drawing pictures while telling the story and asking students questions.  I will have to establish that for this there is a definite story already established.  I will ask the students what they think will happen, but I have a definite plot.  This is like an activity used in the Story Listening method of teaching.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. OWI – familia
  2. set up student jobs/parameters
  3. create “OWI” family

I’m trying to work to get a OWI created and ready for a story in 15 minutes.   This is going to be tricky because there will be multiple members of the family.  We will create a nuclear family for now, though we may bring in extended family members in the future.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Write and Discuss – description of the family (5 – 10 minutes) [Time permitting]
  2. exit quiz – verum and falsum (description of the family) [Time permitting]

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 20 minutes


Tuesday, Sept. 11th – Day 24

  1. Write and Discuss (a description of the family)

I had the students copy down what I wrote on the board (this was more of a classroom-management thing than an acquisition thing).  In each class I was able to keep this going for about thirty minutes.  At first, I was elated—what great, extended, focused input! But then I began to worry a bit.  If I make Write and Discuss an extended activity, the students may begin to dread it over time.  I may want to back off in the future.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Student Interview #3

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

I asked a couple of new follow-up questions, such as names of siblings and pets.

  1. Student Interview #3 Exit Quiz

As usual, I had the students write in full sentences.  This was not forced output—all of the elements that needed to express the thought was projected as part of the interview and quiz.  I’ve never done this before, and I’m curious to see if it has any eventual effect on their writing or production further down the line.  It is at least a good classroom management tool—they have to stay with me or I will change the slide before they are finished.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 0 minutes


Wednesday, Sept. 12th – Day 25

  1. Picture Talk (3 Familiae Ridiculae)

               We look at each class’ family OWI portraits and compare the families.  We ran into a bit of difficult with 7th period’s portrait as the family members names weren’t labelled.  I need to remember to add that as a requirement in the future.

Prep Time: 15 minutes (getting  PowerPoint slides together to display the family portraits)

  1. Choral Translation/Ridiculum

we use this to review the text created Monday and Tuesday in class.

Prep Time: 5 minutes (preparing a text for projection)

Brain Break

  1. Storytelling/Ask-a-Story – based on the OWI family portrait.

We began by discussing a few plot point in English, deciding on which character in the family we wanted to focus on.  We determined a family secret that the main character was ignorant of, and how the main character discovered the secret.  Then I began asking the story using the parameters that we discussed as a class (as opposed to a generic TPRS plot).  Towards the end of the day, this activity went a bit off the rails, but the students were interested in the creation process, and at the end of the 10-15 minute session, I ended up with a concrete plot that was completely unique for each class.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 20 minutes

Thursday – Sept. 13th – Day 26

  1. Read and Discuss: story based on the OWI “family”

check/verifty the new details of the story.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Dictatio/Read and Draw – based on the OWI story
  2. first a dictatio (8 sentences derived from the class story)
  3. after I dictate each sentence three times and the students have copied down the text, they spend a few minutes illustrating.

Next week I may go back to a separate Read and Draw Activity and Dictatio.  The combination is   fairly good for classroom management (and a change of pace), but the artwork, which is             inevitably done in great haste, are almost all but unusable to for a picture talk or storytelling        later.

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes (per class)

  1. Write and Discuss – quickly conclude the story

Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 5-10 minutes per class


Friday, Sept. 14th, Day 27

  1. Student Interview #4

I added new questions about places where the student used to live, about playing sports, and about how many hours of sleep they get during the school week as opposed to the weekend. I also removed some of the English help from a couple sides, and I asked a few easier questions that didn’t have any vocabulary provided.  The goal is to change up the questions every couple of interviews until by the end of the year an  entire interview can be conducted in Latin with very little vocabulary help.

               Prep Time: 10 minutes (adjusting the existing slides and adding some new questions)

  1. Reading Assessment – Speed Date Reading

each reading passage was approximately 200 word longs, with vocabulary limited to the story         which we created as a class this week using the OWI characters from Monday.

               Prep Time: 15 minutes per class (tying up the class stories)

  1. Brain Break
  2. Choral Translation (“familia” story)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Student Interview Quiz
  2. students have to write in complete sentences. Note: this is an input activity because all the Latin that would need to state the information in sentence form is provided on the screen when I ask the question.
  3. I will have the students exchange their quizzes and we will check them as a class if time permits.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 1 hour


I feel like the kinks are starting to work themselves out.  We had a very creative week.  I hadn’t planned on the family OWIs lasting more than a day or two, and while the final stories began to ramble a bit towards the end, I feel like I was able to much better balance taking the students ideas and converting it into a comprehensible Latin narrative that only occasionally when out of bounds.  I used to get frustrated with OWI, because I would drag them on too long.

My first ever class-created story (about a three-legged giraffe named Walter) went on for four weeks straight, to the point that many students began to lose interest in it towards the end.  Now the narratives are tighter, more focused, and more varied.  The partner reading activity on Friday went very smoothly.  The majority of the students were able to easily read the majority of the text in a short amount of time (about 200 words in 7-8 minutes—and that includes time taken for reading the entire text aloud in Latin, and taking time to switch partners ever two minutes).  Some of my classes can still be a handful due to unfortunate timeslots (right before lunch and the last period of the day).  But things are coming along.  Each week is better than the one before. I feel that this year I’m growing in leaps and bounds as communicative language teacher. But I also still feel that I have a long way to go.

I decided to try to focus on one skill a week to improve.  Next week’s skill to improve: creating a strong cycle of instruction for the week.  I think my main event is going to be a Movie Talk.  I also want to include a couple of student interviews.  I want to end with a Timed Write on Friday.  I want to select or develop strong input-oriented activities to help support or supplement the Movie Talk.  I’m toying right now attempting a Story Listening-style activity (maybe on Wednesday).  Last time I tried this, it lasted two class periods, which I felt like was waaaaaaaaaay too long.  I was able to keep the classes attention, but I just ended up circling and asking students questions—I wasn’t really just telling a story anymore.

So, I’m going to think through all this during the weekend (including what Movie Talk to select), and I will begin selecting a more creative range of support activities for this week.

I feel like I’m getting in to a bit of a rut (and it’s only September!). I need to start planning some novelty on purpose.

5-Minute Mysteries in L2

A novel way to provide engaging input and interaction in a meaningful communicative context.

I’m a huge fan of mysteries and riddles.  The more challenging, the better.  They are highly engaging, interesting, and encourage creative thinking.

When I was a kid I used to play a lot of Mind Trap.  Well, play probably isn’t he best word.  My friends and I used to read the cards and challenge each other.  Often I would pass the time by reading the mysteries to myself and refusing to look at the answer until I was sure of the solution.  I would play this “game” for hours and hours.  I was also a fan of Encyclopedia Brown and 5-Minute Mysteries-type books.

I’m surprised that it took so long for my love of riddles and mysteries to be joined with my almost daily quest to provide interesting (and low-prep!) sources of comprehensible input.

Here is the mystery I presented to my students (Latin III and IV) today:


est conclāve.  conclāve est parvum et obscūrum.  conclāve ūnam iānuam et ūnam fenestram habet.  in conclāvī est sella et lectus et mēnsa.  in terrā conclāvis est basipila et magna cōpia aquae et multa fragmenta vitrī.  fenestra est frācta, et sunt fragmenta vitrī prope fenestram frāctam.  in mediō conclāvī est cadāver.  est Robertus.  Robertus mortuus est!

discipulī, quōmodo Robertus necātus est?


There is a room.  The room is small and dark.  The room has one door and one window.  In the room is a chair and a couch and a table.  on the ground of the room is a baseball, a great amount of water, and many pieces of glass.  The window has been broken and there are pieces of glass near the broken window.  In the middle of the room is a body.  It’s Robert.  Robert is dead!

Students, how was Robert killed?


I could have used this riddle in any level (with a few adjustments).  I also had my students draw the details as I narrated them to them.  I did not prepare a script ahead of time, but just told them a riddle that I knew and phrased in a way that they could understand.  I also let them ask questions about the riddle until they figured it out. This provided a lot of repetitions and it was a way a personalize the input, especially when they wanted to know details about things that ultimately were irrelevant to solving the riddle. I did have to give the students a hint before they could solve it.

Do you know how Robert was killed?

(I’ll post the solution later in the comments section)

A Year in F7 – Latin I (Week 5)


This week’s password: “tempus fugit”

Inspired by Bryce Hedstrom’s use of passwords.  This is something I’ve been doing for over a year, and it has been a non-negotiable in my classroom.

Monday, Sep. 3rd – Labor Day (no school)

Tuesday, Sept 4th – Day 19

  1. Calendar Talk

discuss the day of the week (“dies Martis”)

discuss the holiday (heri erat . . . )

discuss September birthdays or any other important days (including Homecoming).

Prep Time: 5 minutes

  1. Picture Talk – Review of “puella et elephans” alternate story (periods 4th – 7th)

(1st Period – Tell the story using the pictures)

Prep Time: 15 minutes: choosing and scanning examples of student work from last week.

  1. Student interview/discipulus illustris #2

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Student interview follow-up – Write and Discuss and/or quiz

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 20 minutes


Wednesday, Sep 5th – Day 20

Students need their notebooks

  1. quis diceret?: Student interview 1 and 2 review

I read ten sentences from the typed transcripts of interviews 1 and 2, and students responded with the name of the student who said the statement.  The students seemed greatly interested in this activity—perhaps because of the novelty of an “academic” exercise being about the students? Furthermore, in one class I did have a student blurt out: “I really like this quiz.” That was a first.

prep time: 5 minutes (choosing sentences to read)

  1. choral translation/”ridiculum” (student interview #2)

prep time: 20 minutes (typing up student interviews from all three Latin I classes)

  1. TPRS/Ask-a-Story: Yoda in Love (from Keith Toda’s Story Library)

prep time: 10 minutes (creating a PowerPoint Presentation with the target vocabulary)

  1. Write and Discuss (Yoda – Part 1) – Summarize the Yoda Story so far (time permitting)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 35 minutes


Thursday, Sep. 6th – Day 21

  1. Read and Discuss: Review of Yoda – Pars I

Story told in the past tense.

Prep Time: 10 minutes (reworking my typed script into the past tense)

  1. TPRS/Ask-a-Story (continued from yesterday) (Yoda in Love – Part II)

Prep Time: 10 minutes (adding the verbs “capit” and “dat” to my Yoda PowerPoint)

  1. Dictatio/Read and Draw – (Yoda in Love – Part III)

This activity was used NO PREP TIME (other than having copier paper ready for the students to draw on). In each class, using student input, I improvised a 4-6 sentence conclusion to the story.  Each time the story ended in a slightly different way.  Afterwards, I typed up each different ending (using the students’ pictures).  Now, for Monday I have three alternate endings to the story with student artwork to accompany each conclusion.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 20 minutes


Friday, Sept 7th – Day 22

  1. MovieTalk: “Ursulus (racoon) cibum capit.” (10 minutes) – using this video.

A short communicative activity that reinforces known vocabulary.  Target structures are:

capit: grabs, seizes, captures               ursulus: little bear, racoon

cibum vult: wants food                 fugit: runs away           consumit: consumes, eats

ponit: puts, places                          in aquā: in the water           feles: cat

Prep Time: 15 minutes (watched the movie a couple times and made a list of target phrases.  I also like to practice talking through the movie once or twice, so that I can remember to use the target words naturally without having to refer to notes or to the board too frequently)

  1. Quizlet Live (using the Diagram feature)

Review of the Yoda Story (from Keith Toda’s blog, adapted using vocabulary familiar to my  students)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  1. Choral Translation – Tier 2 (optional)

Either a choral translation (and discuss) or a quick game of “Ridiculum!” depending on how much time remains.  I am going to need at least 12 minutes for the first timed write (a story retell)

NB: In most classes, I ended up skipping this.  Instead, I will use the Yoda text as review on Monday morning.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

4.Timed Write – Story Retell (in journals) – Using pictures from the Read and Draw activity (from Thursday)

For timed writes, I take my students outside of the classroom (in the hallway or in the neighboring cafeteria).  This way students aren’t distracted by the word walls and recent vocabulary words.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 25 minutes



I started out this week a bit discouraged.  Looking back on the previous year, it felt like “we were were we needed to be” (there’s that annoying curriculum voice again).  Last year’s class “knew” more words by now.  They had “mastered” structures that I haven’t really introduced in my current class yet.  Their stories were more “complex.” Maybe last year’s class was more “advanced.”  Was I more “rigorous” last year? Did I expect more from them? Where my students more “accountable,” and therefore “achieved” more.  Do my students this year need “motivation?”

(Am I overdoing it with the “quotation marks?”)

The comparing and despairing lasted only as long as it took me actually start thinking more objectively and logically.  True, on a certain day last year, the story had certain language features that my story this year does not have.  But I am forgetting the fact that last year, in NOVEMBER, there came a huge reckoning when I discovered that a large percentage of what I was doing was incomprehensible to many students.  “Discovered” is maybe too mild of a term.  Blindsided feels more correct.  I remember the feeling of scrambling to try to figure out what happened and how to fix it.  I felt irresponsible as a teacher (how I could I overlook something so obvious for so long?).

Eventually, I just course-corrected, and in a month or so everything was fine. I had many more students on board.  I started teaching more to the eyes, and engaging students that seems to be either drifting or “faking” attention (just repeating what others were saying without comprehension).  I was more aware of what was really going on—though I certainly wasn’t perfect.  Overall, I’m very proud what my students achieved by the end of Latin I last year.

This year: so far, no surprises.  In fact, that’s probably why this year seems much more difficult.  Now I understand how to move at a slower pace, and really get a lot of mileage out of a few words or phrases. I’m picking up on the warning signs earlier, and course correcting immediately, instead of letting things slip for weeks or months.  I feel like I’m getting to know my students earlier and faster this year.  (by the first week, I had my student’s names down cold, with only the occasional lapse). Do anticipate that unforeseen problems will emerge this year? Sure! I’m still honing my craft as a communicative teacher.  Will I catch everything? Not a chance.

But this year, overall, things are going better.  Students are receiving and interacting with more message in the target language.  My course is even more focused providing input, the real catalyst of language acquisition.

I’m not going to worry about what I did or what other teachers in other programs are doing.  I’m going to seek out advice and learn from those who do it better than me with the goal of being a better teacher next week than I was this week.

A Year in F7 – Week 4

Lesson Plans – Latin I


Monday – Day 14

  1. Calendar Talk (5 minutes)

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Card Talk

Targets: “placet” and “non placet”

I devised this PowerPoint to give our conversation about likes and dislikes.  We did not go through every picture, just enough until student interest waned, and then we moved on the One Word Image.  The students did get in a lot of reps.

NB: I have removed all the images from the presentation for copyright reasons, although you can easily add your own pictures.

               Prep Time: 60 – 90 minutes (I really spent too much time adjusting the pictures and formatting. A similar presentation could be put together much more quickly)

  1. OWI Character #2 creation

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 60-90 minutes


Tuesday – Day 15

  1. Card Talk – “placet/non placet”

I used a couple of slides from my “placet/non placet” discussion starter, and had the students record their responses.  I plan to type up a few of them, and pose them as verum/falsum questions.  Exempli gratia: “Martino placet Taylor Swift.  verum an falsum?” After the students commit a guess to paper, I ask Martin, “o Martine, placetne tibi Taylor Swift?” while the class listens (generally intently) to see if they guessed correctly).

Prep Time: 0 minutes (I already has this PowerPoint prepared)

  1. Student Interview 1

I devised this PowerPoint for the first interview which only includes a few general questions based mostly on vocabulary that is already somewhat familiar, though “frater” and “soror” is new to them, among others.  I hope to add and modify questions on a monthly (or even weekly) basis in order to (a) keep the interviews novel and interesting, and (b) to reinforce structures that have been popping up other places in class discussions or activities.

               Prep Time: 15-20 minutes (modifying and updating an existing PowerPoint slide)

  1. Quiz – Student interview

Exit quiz immediately following the Student Interview.

Prep Time: 0 minutes (quiz invented on the spot from the scriba’s script)

Total Prep Time: 15-20 minutes


Wednesday – Day 16

  1. Card Talk – Placet/non placet (continued from yesterday)
  2. Movie Talk – The Present – Part 1 (Stills/Screen caps)

I’m planning to introduce the first MovieTalk this year with stills/screencaps instead of beginning with the movie.  My students tend to get a bit restless when I pause a movie clip too much, but only get restless during a PictureTalk if I stay on the same picture for too long (more than 2-3 minutes).

Prep Time: 20 minutes

  1. Choral (Karaoke) Translation – The Present – Tier 2

Note: I adapted Lance Piantaggini’s MovieTalk script, which he uses much earlier in the school year (Day 4 or so, I believe).

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Prep Time: 25 minutes


Thursday – Day 17

  1. 1. verum et falsum quiz – based on “The Present” MovieTalk

Kahoot-based.  I read a short sentence based on the story, and the students choose “verum” or “falsum.” Internet connection is a bit spotty in my room, and often Kahoot creates more student frustration than anything else.  Also, I’m pretty sure that some kids just press a random button as quickly as possible and hope for the best.  Making the choices a predictable “verum” or “falsum” seems to curb that a bit.  My students seems to favor Quizlet-Live more, although an oral Kahoot quiz provides more input.  We’ll see how this plays out over the rest of the year.

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

  1. Read and Discuss – MovieTalk script

6-frame, traditional Read and Discuss.  Made an aggravatingly rookie mistake first period by having too much going on in each frame.  I pared it down for my next class, and it work well.  I did expand it to 8 frames.

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes (reworking the MovieTalk script and dividing it into 6 frames.  Sometimes I like to think up a twist ending).

  1. OWI #2 (Time permitting)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 30-40 minutes


Friday – Day 18

NOTE: Senior Convocation is today, meaning that I don’t have all of my Latin classes (and in my seventh period class I expect a high amount of absenteeism).

  1. Calendar Talk – Discuss the upcoming Labor Day holiday

NOTA BENE: For those interested in how I sustained this conversation in Latin . . .

exempli gratia:

M: “discipuli, hodie est . . .”

D: “dies Veneris.”

M: “Eugepae! dies Veneris est.  Omnes gaudent!”

D: “eugepae!”

M: “discipuli, cras (pointing to my word wall) erit . . . dies Lunae?”

D: “minime!”

M: “qui dies erit? dies Saturni?”

D: “certe!”

M: “eruntne discipuli in schola die Saturni?”

D: “minime!”

M: “discipuli non erunt in schola die Saturni! [rem] ridiculam!”

[I basically repeat the same thing for Sunday, and when we get to Monday . . . ]

M: “eruntne discipuli in schola die Lunae?”

D: [mixed “certe” and “minime” responses because students honestly didn’t know about the long weekend, or responded without thinking]

M: “minime! ridiculam! dies Lunae erit dies Laboris! disipuli et magister non erunt in schola! eugepae!”

And so on.  They were pretty excited about the long weekend, and I was able to milk this conversation longer than I thought.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Read and Discuss (and Dramatize): Alternate Version of “The Present”

Again I adapted Lance’s awesome alternate reading—with a dash of Keith Toda’s signature humor.  This way, the classes that I do have get more exposure the main structures in the “Present” MovieTalk, but I can also treat it as a one-off class period (though I may share it with my 1st period class next Tuesday, as my other classes seemed to like it).

I provide my version here.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

  1. Dictatio (based on the alternate version, but with a twist ending). I experimented in my 7th period class (who didn’t get a chance to do the Write and Discuss on Thursday) with merging Dictatio and Read and Draw into . . . Dictatio and Draw. Having to quiet back down and listen to the next “caption” every few minutes helped from a classroom management standpoint.  They were focused all the way until the bell, right before a three-day weekend.  They must have found it engaging to be distracted from THAT.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Prep Time: 30 minutes


Reflection: Okay, the honeymoon is officially OVER. We’ve moved to the testing phase.

Students are testing me.

Testing my limits.  Testing my rules.  Testing to see what they can do without actually crossing the line.  Testing to see if I really mean it when I say I want to teach to their eyes, and that any extraneous conversation or comment meant to steer the conversation somewhere else is an interruption, even if they are making a positive comment.

This week, there’s lots of rule pointing.  Lots of me having to stop talking.  Lots of false starts.  I just kept breathing and try to stay calm.

It’s said that this is the time when many communicative/TCI/TPRS teachers face a real crisis.  The teacher thinks: but it’s been four weeks.  Surely, they should know more than this after four whole weeks! Is this working? Should we just memorize words? Should I start drilling? Should I quiz more for content knowledge? Now, where are those textbooks? But the pre-packed structure and illusion of forward momentum which they provide is so comforting . . . Can we JUST PICK UP THE PACE??


It’s that little explicit teacher voice again, insisting that since we cover this material, the students should have mastered it and now it’s time to move on to the next bit of material.

I just have to choose not to listen.  Explicit knowledge of language is not acquisition.  The effects of explicit instruction fade quickly.  This is a marathon.  I’m in it for the long game.  So what if it is getting difficult? This “testing” period is natural, happens every year around this time, and eventually fades—though never soon enough!  I’m going to stick to my policies, shrug it off if we don’t do every activity, and conference with student habitually showing problem behavior.

Now, to be fair, some of this (much of this?) was on me this week.  Every year during this time I tend to overestimate what they can do.  I move too fast.  I focus on coverage.  I forget about the learners’ experience.  My students need repetition and novel exposures to the same structures.  Once I dialed it back a bit and slowed down, I got more student engagement. Moral:  I. NEED. TO. SLOW. DOWN.

I need to focus on the process (of acquisition), not the product (which I ultimately can’t control anyway).

I’m going to breathe . . . and enjoy my long weekend!