Week 1 – Days 2 and 3 – Latin III/IV



  1. Calendar Talk (10 minutes)

Prep Time: 5 minutes (finding a blank calendar)

  1. OWI (One Word Image) with student artist (35 minutes)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Picture Talk (looking at and discussing the student artwork)

Prep Time: 0 minutes (the student does the drawing)

Total prep time: 5 minutes

Reflection: Calendar Talk was a big hit! We have discussed the calendar before here and there, but in each class this lasted 20-25.  We discussed the days of the week, the god or goddess that that day is named for.  We talked student birthdays.  We even included parents and sibling’s birthdays.  Something that seemed very mundane (to me), ended up being very engaging to the students.  This will be a recurring activity.  Because of this, we did not have time to even begin a Picture Talk after we finished creating a OWI.


Notice in the picture above the student has written some Latin labels on her picture.  What she got right–and the small errors that she made–were actually very interesting to me.  This is a student with two years in a CI-focused classroom.  I particularly am intrigued by the emerging–and therefore inconsistent in places–case usage, and I’m really digging “nympha dentium invenire non potest.” At no time during the discussion did I have any text other than a few new vocab words posted.  This is my first year of Latin III students who have had two years of non-traditional methodology.


  1. Write and Discuss: OWI character recaps (25 minutes)

Process: the students examine the student-drawn character portrait, and I lead a Write and Discuss, reconstruction and summarizing yesterday’s OWI session.

Afterwards, the students will look at the other Latin III/IV class’ picture and discuss the details that we see.

Nota bene: I planned a lot of time for this activity, because I am challenging myself to still go slow, circle new vocabulary, engage students with questions, try to work in as much natural repetition as possible.  In the upper levels I tend to sometimes forget what works in the lower levels.  Part of my brain reverts back to that anxiety about how much “content I’m covering,” and I feel like I constantly need to refocus myself on the process of language acquisition, and not the content.

Prep Time: 0 minutes (both pictures were created by students in class the day before, and the text is written live and co-created with the students).

  1. Read and Draw – Jason and the Argonauts (from Ritchie’s Fabulae Faciles)

Geoffrey Steadman has prepared an excellent reading version with vocabulary and grammar notes.  It’s also published as Fabulae Graecae.

Over the course of the next 5-6 weeks, my students will read tiered versions of selections of this text.  (I hope to publish my tiered versions later in the semester).

Process: Student hear the first tier, and then read and illustrate the second tier on whiteboards, one sentence at a time, adding to their picture as each new bit of information is revealed.


Prep Time: 20 minutes (creating two tiered versions for class that are projector-friendly).

Total prep time: 20 minutes

Reflection: Looking back at the student created characters brought a lot of joy to the class, especially when one class would try to figure out what was going on in the other class’ picture. In both class Write and Discuss lasted more than 30 minutes, and we only read two sentences of “Jason” (but that just means less planning for Monday).  I felt that introducing the reading as a Write and Discuss activity was a bit stale, but I was trying to end with a reading activity.  I presented them with the original text and some glosses, but there were a few odd phrases/words that were a bit more trouble than they were worth.  For next week, I’m going to tier and adapt this text (mostly by swapping out some of the more arcane vocabulary with higher frequency verbs).

Overall, a good—though exhausting!—week.


Week 1 – Day 2 and 3

Latin I


  1. Remind students about classroom procedures (5 minutes)
  2. Card Talk (25 minutes)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

target vocabulary: habet: has, vult: wants

  1. TPR (20 minutes)

Prep Time: 10 minutes (creating a list of verbs that I wanted to target)

Target vocabulary: surgit: stands up, considit: sets down, ambulat: walks

Total prep time: 10 minutes

Reflection: Today we REALLY began Latin.

After a quick reminder of what the students should be doing (“Try to understand the MESSAGE.”), we began card talk. I planned on 25 minutes, but in each class, the activity lasted almost the entire time.  And we never did get to discussing sports (question #2).  In each class I talked to three students, discussing whether they had cats or dogs, elaborating where appropriate (names of pets, size, color).

And I spoke . . . very . . . slow . . . ly.  This time I remembered to breathe.   I remembered to teach to the eyes.   I checked for comprehension at least three times in each class—though I feel like I should have checked more often in the second half.  I asked a lot of confirmation questions in English.  And it’s really true: pausing and talking S-L-O-W-L-Y is a CI-focused teacher’s strongest and most effective classroom management tool.  There were some glorious moments where I was pausing and pointing to words, talking slowly, teaching to eyes, and the entire class was hanging on my every word.  Those moments were magical!

We’ll see if it lasts more than one day . . .



  1. Write and Discuss (10-15) – recap yesterday’s discussion about pets

Prep Time: 0 minutes (I create the text with the students live)

  1. TPR

Target vocabulary: aspicit ad: looks at, currit: runs

(inspired by Karen Rowan’s Fluency Fast video)

NB: I used “aspicit” over “videt” in order to use ad + someone’s name. Exempi gratiaaspicit ad Frank, aspicit ad Rachel, etc.  In my experience the students pick this up more quickly, and videt is so high frequency that they tend to acquire that one pretty early.

         Prep Time: 10 minutes (I premade a slide with the target vocabulary and the English translation, along with some adverbs to make the actions more interesting)

  1. Choral Reading – text that we wrote at the beginning of the class

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Goal: I wanted the students to leave for the weekend realizing that they can understand quite a bit of Latin after only two classes.

Total prep time: 10 minutes

Reflection: The first activity was an experiment. I’ve never tried a Write and Discuss activity on the second day, but I will add this to my regular repertoire for now on.  The students enthusiastically recounted the events of the previous day.  In one period this lasted for over twenty minutes, and I ended up cutting it short, because the text was getting long.

Here’s the Latin text (I changed the student’s names):

Rachel ūnum canem habet, et fēlem nōn habet.  Eric ūnum canem nōn habet, sed duōs canēs habet.  Frank canēs nōn habet et fēlēs nōn habet.  ēheu!

Frank animal habet.  animal nōn est ōrdinārium.  Frank dinosaurum habet, sed dinosaurus nōn est ōrdinārius.  dinosaūrī sunt magnī! Frank dinosaurum parvum habet, quī multōs caprōs comēdit.

English text:

Rachel has one dog and does not have a cat.  Eric does not have one cat but has two dogs.  Frank does not have dogs and does not have cats! Oh no! Frank has an animal.  The animal is not ordinary.  Frank has a dinosaur, but the dinosaur is not ordinary.  Dinosaurs are large! Frank has a small dinosaur, who eats many goats.

We built the text phrase by phrase, as I asked the students questions, gave them choices, pointed to words, etc.  Since this was co-created with the students and about the students, they were highly interested and invested in the story.  They insisted that I get every detail just right.  At the end of class, we did a Choral translation (I called it “Karaoke Translation”) and participating and comprehension was extremely high.  I noticed some students for the first time really buying in to what we were doing in class. So far, Latin I is off to a great start.

Latin III/IV’s lesson plans will be posted soon . . .

A Year In F7 – Week 1, Day 1

One day down!

The first week is a bit of a slow start with two days of student orientation—so no Latin Monday and Tuesday.  The first real class (Wednesday) was mostly taken up with boring procedural/syllabus stuff.  I did assign them a password (a simple “salve!”), which I will begin using tomorrow. I also made use of Bob Patrick’s “ubi sunt telephona?” script when going over my cellphone policy.

The script goes . . .

ubi sunt telephona? where are your phones?

in manibus? in your hands?

minime! no!

in gremio? in your lap?


in fundis? in your pockets?


in sacellis? in your bookbags?


NOTA BENE: I then have my student put their cellphones in their book bags, and put their bags in a designated part of the room, out of the way.  That becomes the first thing that they do every day when they enter the room (after the password).

I also spent a good deal of time discussing (in incredibly basic terms) how CI-based, communicative language teaching works, and described what the students should be doing when we are interacting in Latin. For example:

DON’T . . .

(1) try to memorize all the words on the board.  If you are mentally focused on memorizing, you are not receiving any messages.

(2)  worry if you don’t know why something means this or that (or how the sentence works).  Some students struggle (especially if they have analytical-type brains) with trying to figure out how everything works, and it can be hard for them to just relax and listen.

(3) write anything down unless I tell you to.

DO . . .

  1. Focus on the message. Did you understand the message (i.e. was the input comprehendED? Then you are doing what you need to do to acquire Latin.
  2. Respond to prompts. This doesn’t have to be output. Interaction can be a prescripted response (e.g. “certe” or “minime”) a nod, a look of bewilderment—all of that is interaction.

I passed out index cards to prepare for Card Talk (also called “Circling with Balls”), and just barely had enough time to collect the cards before the end of class.  But now I have something strong with which to start tomorrow’s class.

The questions I asked (adapted from Bob Patrick and Lance Piantaggini) were . . .


  1. Why did you sign up for Latin this year?
  2. Tell me what pet(s) you have OR what pet(s) you don’t have, but what to have.
  3. Tell me what you play (sports, games, instruments, activities) OR what sports/games/instruments/ you want to play, but don’t.

With my advanced students (Latin III/IV), I decided to try “Two Truths and a Lie” for some more open-ended Card Talk.  I asked them to write two statements about their summer that are true, and one that is false.  They were permitted to write in English or Latin (most chose to write in Latin).  To create some boundaries for their output and the subsequent discussion, I posted a list of suggested verbs to get them started.  The list was:

iter fēcī: I travelled

vīsitāvī: I visited

lūsī: I played

spectāvī: I watched

lēgī: I read

dormīvī: I slept

versātus/a sum: I hung out/spent time

labōrāvī: I worked

We ended up playing most of the class period (after the syllabus business was taken care of).  I read someone’s statements in Latin, and the students wrote the sentence which they believed was false on a whiteboard.  Afterwards, I briefly interviewed the person whose statements I read, expanding on interesting and amusing details.  The students had a lot of expose to less common past tense forms (especially the first and second person perfect and imperfect). Students always want to play this game again the next day, and I often must be careful not to overuse it.  It is a bit of an “advanced” CI game (for the teacher), because it can involve some extemporizing.  A less confident teacher might want to collect the cards at the end of one class period, in order to prepare statements for the next (that’s what I used to do until I got more comfortable).  After class, I typed up some of the sentences and changed some details for a quick “Verum an Falsum” opener for tomorrow’s class.

So, my prep time getting ready for Day 2 was . . .

Latin I: 0 minutes (I have their cards ready for Card Talk tomorrow)

Latin III/IV: 15 minutes

  1. creating some “Verum an Falsum” statements for tomorrow (10 minutes)
  2. finding a blank calendar for Calendar Talk (5 minutes)

Total Prep Time: 15 minutes

Plenty of time left over to start studying my seating chart and start learning some of my new student’s names . . .

Week 0 – Classroom Setup

This post will be brief and mostly in pictures.  My room is set up and ready to go.

My classroom is “deskless” (since January 2017), and I just got some brand new chairs that have much better back support.


Each of the rows have colored felt on the bottom (to prevent scuffing the floor).  Each row has a unique color (this year it’s red, blue, green, and yellow).



Each row has its own designated crate of dry erase lapboards.IMG_0979

This is my classroom library for student-choice reading.


My easel for One-Word-Image activities.


I have both a large white board and large drawing pad for artists.  In the background you can see my shelf-o-props for actors and storytelling/story-asking activities.

I have writing space on both the front and back walls, although there really is no “front” or “back” to the classroom.


I have various word walls posted that I made with PowerPoint and Microsoft Word.

I see students in two days! I’m ready for them!


An Experiment, Week O

It’s that time of year again.

Here in Georgia school begins next week.  After hours of toil my classroom is all set up and ready to go.  This year my Latin program has expanded to the point that last April we hired a second Latin teacher.  In the process of showing the new teacher the “CI” ropes, it dawned on me that much of what we were discussing could possibly be of use to other world language teachers out there, especially those who are the only CI-focused, communication-based teacher in the department—as I used to be.

So, I have decided to undertake a new project this year. I will focus on just one class (my three sections of Latin III) and post my lesson plans for that week.  I will try to post in some detail, with links to other blogs and resources that can further explain a theory, technique or activity. I will also post my own variations on classic activities and practices.  Along with the lesson plan, I will post class materials and student work as well in order to give the reader a good idea of what my students saw, and what kind of output/responses they produced.  Most importantly I will also provide personal commentary on what works—and what doesn’t.  I really want to a provide a play-by-play, warts-and-all picture of what a year in my classroom is like.  I also want to give teachers who are new to using CI-based methods some concrete lesson plans and curriculum ideas.

Without much further ado . . .

Week 0: Preplanning

First, I took mental inventory of what I perceived my strengths and weaknesses to be, and set some goals for myself to improve my weaknesses as a  CI-focused teacher.  I came up with the following list:

Weakness 1: Classroom Management

While I don’t typically have major behavioral issues in my classroom, I feel that I lose a lot of the small battles early (disengaged students, side conversations, etc.), and (predictably) these behaviors got worse as the year continues.  Last year, I was able to bounce back with some classroom management basics that I read in Fred Jones’ Tools for Teaching and in Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden’s The Natural Approach to the Year.  I’m not a believer in the silent classroom; however, I know that if some students are disengaged or attempting to derail what’s going on, that’s going to interfere with the input and interaction in the L2 that I’m trying to facilitate for them.  If they are not getting comprehended input, then acquisition is not happening.

So, what’s my goal? Clearly posted classroom rules and consistent enforcement.  My rules this year are stated in this way:


  1. LISTEN with the intent to understand
  2. Always CONTRIBUTE to the flow of the conversation
  3. Always RESPOND appropriately to questions and prompts
  4. SIGNAL to the teacher when you don’t understand.
  5. Actor and Artists: SYNCHRONIZE your actions to the teacher’s words
  6. INTERACT positively with others and the teacher.

As you can see, this year I’m focusing on rules that describe what I WANT the students to due, rather than what I DON’T WANT them to do (in fact, I don’t even call them rules this year).  The goal is to have clear expectations, and to spend the first week or two intentionally setting the tone for what I want our interactions to be throughout the year.

Which leads to a second goal. After having read through (for the third time!) Alfie Kohn’s PHENOMINAL book Punished By Rewards and (for the first time) Ken Robinson’s Creative Schools, I’m really determined to remove competition, rewards, and incentives (including grades) from my classroom culture as much as possible while still operating within a school environment.   It was eye-opening for me to realize that, ironically, some of my classroom management issues might have been caused by the very competitions and incentives I had established in order to improve student engagement.

But this will probably need its own future post.

Weakness #2: Finishing a Story

I’ve been using CI-based activities in my class for three years (this is my fourth year coming up), and I still cannot start and end “asking a story” or a One Word Image on the same day, or even over the span of two days.  Same thing with my MovieTalks (though this year I am adopting the term “Watch and Discuss” to describe what I do).  Things just get dragged out.  In the worse cases, there may be two long narratives going on simultaneously during the same week.  Usually it’s because my students still show interest and I just go with it, but ultimately what happens is that after a few long stories/movies, my students are apprehensive about beginning something else, because they know that it is going to be long and drawn out.  I’ve realized that a short, simple, funny, surprising story that you can tell to or co-create with your students in just one or two class periods is a practiced skill.  Therefore, my goal this year is for every story, character, or movie to feel TOO SHORT for the students.  I want to leave them at the end of class wanting more—another story with that character, another similar movie—rather than marveling in the long, complicated narrative that we created, but not really wanting to start another one.

Weakness #3: My Own Latinitas

It’s getting better every year, and I know more Latin than my students, but it’s nowhere near where I would want it to be.  I catch myself going through stages of acquisition, where for a while I would be totally oblivious to a mistake I’m making, but suddenly notice it and make a correction.  This year I will share these struggles as I go, because I know that this insecurity must be one of the biggest reasons teachers don’t take the plunge and change some of their methodology, even when they are otherwise convinced that a more active, Comprehensible-Input-rich environment is what they want to create for their students.

For now, my goal is to provide extensive input for myself through reading Latin and listening to Latin podcasts.  I’m also working on a new novella or two. Since I am no longer running a theater department this year, I hope to have some more time to devote to my own need for consistent CI.  Though right now I’m also expecting my first child—a boy!—in January, so plans may change (!).

I will see students in 48 hours.  I will post about Week 1 soon.  I’m optimistic that this could be my best year of teaching yet!

We’ll see if I still feel that way in September . . .

Rethinking Culture

roman house

This coming year I’m rethinking how I teach Roman culture.  Next year I’m planning to  teach middle school Latin (a one semester class) with no “cultural” units.  I’m also planning on teaching first semester Latin I (maybe much of the second semester as well) with no explicit cultural/historical component.

My thinking may change on this before August rolls around, but for now I’m resolved.

I never took Latin in high school, nor as an undergrad.   My first exposure to the Classics was a Koine Greek class I took my senior year.  When I started teaching Latin, I was also working on a Master’s degree in Latin, after having mostly learned Latin on my own.

Talking with the other Latin teachers in the program, I realized I was missing something. Culture.  What does a typical Roman domus look like? What are the rooms in a Roman bath? Who were the seven kings of Rome? What is the name of that thing that a slave used in the thermae to scrape the oil off a nobleman’s back? I knew Latin, could read it, understand it a bit, write as much as I need to.  I had the grammar down, and could parse with the best of them.  But what was up with all this trivia?  All the other Latin teachers seemed to know it.

I quickly realized that culture didn’t really lead to a better understanding of Latin, but was it’s own separate thing.  It’s a separate section on the National Latin Exam (you know, distinct from the part where you actually have to know some Latin), It’s also generally crammed into textbooks in the form of short passages (in English) sandwiched between often unrelated passages in Latin.

Now that my classroom is centered around communication, I have a hard time figuring out what to do with the trivia.  When are my students going to learn the difference between a triclinium and an atrium? What if my students leave my class without rattling off the names of the kings?

This year, I started to figure it out.  The trivia doesn’t matter.  It’s student interest and communication that matters.  The students need to interact with comprehensible (and comprehended) messages in a communicative context. That’s what really drives acquisition.  Anything that does not drive acquisition can be let go. A lot of these “cultural” topics are a relic from more traditional, academic methods and were originally a “break” from Latin.  Something else to do.  Sure some textbook integrate cultural topics better than others, but it’s still meant to be something separate.

What is more important to than cultural topics? In Latin I, it’s classroom community.  Building trust.  Learning to listen, interact, and contribute.  Learning the flow of the class.  Getting lots and lots of (comprehended) messages.  Getting lots of repeated yet novel exposure to familiar language.  It takes time for the students to see the power of communication in building proficiency.  I discovered this year that I could actually ignore that nagging voice in the back of the head that said: “teach them the Latin names of the Olympian gods!” Did we ever learn them? Some of them.  In context.  When there was a reason.

Does this mean that students go through Latin I not knowing anything about history of the language or the people that spoke it?  No, but all of that has it’s place.  Mythology and Fables? They are inherently interesting to many, so that’s great fodder for StoryListening and reading.  Roman art and architecture? That could make a good PictureTalk/MapTalk/MovieTalk, if the discussion is driven by the students and not by me trying to cover a syllabus.  Roman daily life? There are Magister Craft videos for that!

The bottom line: If the culture helps serve and enliven classroom communication, then it’s in.  If it’s a list of things that students are expected to know because that’s what Latin students do, then it’s out.  There’s no time for trivia.


Write & Discuss – “Guess the Ending”

A no-prep, high-input, highly-comprehensible, student-centered activity to follow-up any story.

This is an activity that I stumbled upon towards the end of second semester Latin I, when motivation (teacher and student) was low, the sun was shining outside, and classroom routines were beginning to get stale. Seeking inspiration, I decided to shift gears and begin a MovieTalk about the animated short “Laundry Quandary.” I used Keith Toda’s excellent Latin script  (adapted for my current students). However, I could tell that, while the students enjoyed the movie, the input activities I was using (pausing the movie, circling new words, PQA, discussing who was the best superhero, etc.) was getting predictable. The students were expecting it. Engagement was a struggle. The shine was wearing off. Most people’s minds were elsewhere. So I stopped, handed around some index cards, and gave the instructions:

Discipuli, depingite picturam in chartula: Quid accidebit in fine pelliculae? Depingite picturas. Nolite Latine scribere. Nolite Anglice scribere.”

Student weren’t expecting this, and eagerly began to draw. It was a great brain-break. I collected the cards after a few minutes. Only about 3-5 minutes of class time was spend drawing.

But instead of setting for a refreshing brain-break, after class I scanned the pictures. The next day projected them for the students.

Student picture samples

We talked about the pictures, guessing the artist, guessing who the characters were, guessing what exactly was going on. We stayed on a picture only as long as the students were interested. I tried to draw all of the details out them that I could, while still keeping the conversation 100% comprehensible, and using many reps of less familiar words.

Then, remembering something I had been reading about in A Natural Approach to the Year. I began a whole-class “Write and Discuss.” Mike Peto also talks a lot about this on his blog. I wrote the name “Captain Pulcher” (the superhero in the movie) on the board, and then I asked the students to start describing the ending that they liked the best. Their output in Latin I is very limited, but I really wasn’t interested in spontaneous output—I just waited for the next word. The catch is that the students had to copy down the new ending as we created it. It helped them to stay focused and engaged in the discussion, and the activity helped center the circling and discussion.

Each of my three Latin I classes created an alternate ending. Meaning, of course, now I had three alternate endings for reading and discussion, with no prep. Also, the Latin, while comprehensible, was way more complex than the original movie script that I had written out. And the pressure was off me to speak spontaneously. I had time to think between phrases as students wrote or reflected on what detail should come next. It slowed down the narrative. And slow (surprise, surprise) was better. I came to realize the lack of engagement might just have been my pacing. I was going too fast, and creating too much noise. Now through this “guess the ending” write-and-discuss activity, things were slower and more focused.  And the burden was off me to be quick on my feet with my Latin.

An example alternate ending:

Puella secretum habebat. Puella erat “SuperPuella.” Captain Pulcher secretum habebat–ille potestatem non habebat. Sed puella potestatem habebat–ea habebat potestatem volandi.   Captain Pulcher potestatem volandi non habebat. Puella in robotum puganvit. Robotum a puella forti interfectum est. Puella Captain Pulchrum et urbem servavit.

There were lots of reps. Lots of close attention to the words but in a communicative context. Lots of engagement. Lots of novelty. And lots of comprehended and contextualize use of what Latin teachers would considered advanced grammar. And the best part? A class period and a half of rich input and exposure to “advanced forms,” without the pressure on me to pre-write texts, compose zany alternate endings myself, or produce spontaneous Latin conversation.