A Year in F7 – Week 32

Monday, April 15th, Day 143 through Wednesday, April 17th, Day 145

So, the week before Easter, I attempted the Storybook Project, as laid out in The Natural Approach to the Year (a book, by the way, that anyone trying to teach in a communicative way should have on their shelf).  I struggled with this project (and continue to struggle—as will be apparent later in this post, and in future posts).

The sources of the struggle:

(1) it takes a while for the students to write,

(2) it is output heavy

(3) the student stories end up being similar

(4) students write the stories in English and then translate from English to Latin, creating really long, tortuous, sometimes nonsensical Latin sentences that are incredibly difficult to edit.

(5) editing these stories takes up SO. MUCH. TIME. (with a baby in the house, this is time that I don’t have.

(6) I am overly ambitious (personal struggle).

So here is how I tried to address the problems this year.  This attempt this week was actually highly unsuccessful, to the point that I nearly decided to just scrap the whole idea.  So this post will describe how not to do this project.  Hopefully teachers can learn from my failure and avoid the pitfalls.

Problem 1: it takes a while for students to write. 

Proposed Solution: I made the stories very, very short.  The target was round 15-20 sentences total for the whole story, so around 90-100 words (some kids have 5-minute timed writes longer than that).

Result: Lo-o-o-ong sentences, many of which were incomprehensible.

Additional Problem: Technology.  I had the students type these up on their Surface Tablets (we’re a 1-to-1 Microsoft school), thinking it would be easier because they would do the hard work of typing things up, and I would just have to tweak their grammar, right? Wrong.  Did some students not turn in their typed stories? Of course! Did students save their work in the wrong spot? Yes.  Did some student not have working tablets? Yes! Did some students write a story in English and then just run the text through Google Translate? Now you’re getting it.

It was a mess.  It took me thirty minutes to edit ONE STORY. Using the school’s tech did NOT make this project easier or more streamlined for anybody (except maybe the students using Google translate). I essentially had to retype every sentence anyway.

Problem 2: It’s output heavy.

No real solution for this.  It is basically just output, but the idea is that I everyone is making texts, in the end there will be a pile of readable, high-interest texts.  Magister P has written here about using a small amount of output to create a huge amount of input.  So looking at it that way, the output here will lead to more texts, which in turn will lead to more acquisition.

Problem 3: The student stories end up being similar. 

I did have a creative solution for this: use story dice.  I took a picture of different Story Dice configurations and had students use the dice to tell the story.  Here’s an example of one possible combination:

Story Dice Demo

The student’s story were definitely NOT all identical, but many students complained about being constrained by the dice. Furthermore, I noticed that dice just lead to a lot of “out-of-bounds” language in the story, which could have been the primary culprit for Problem #4.

Did I mention that these stories ended up being difficult to edit?

Problem 4: Students write the stories in English and then translate from English to Latin.

Of course, kids wasted writing time in class only to dash off a weak English story and run it through Google Translate during the final 15 minutes.  They also didn’t really seem to care about their own stories.  This is probably again due to using the Story Dice; students felt like I was pushing a story line on them, or constraining them to arbitrary boundaries, when I was only trying to spur on their creativity.

Problem 5: editing these stories takes up SO. MUCH. TIME.

I wasted two whole planning periods editing three stories and trying to track down who just used Google Translate.  I refused to devote my nights and weekends to typing up student stories, but I did the math and didn’t have enough planning time to finish editing.  Hence my decision to scrap the project, after wasting two class periods writing.  That’s what bugged me the most: the wasted time.

Problem 6: I am overly ambitious. 

I was trying to integrate technology to save me time, and to provide students with creative story starters.  I kind of blew up in my face, though.  I thought I had scaled the project back from last year, but looking at it afterwards, it was still too ambitious.

So I scrapped the project, cut my losses, and said that I would never attempt the storybook project again!

SPOILER: In a future post, I will discuss how I attempt the project again with much better success, and I will even post a few examples of the finished product, as well as the workflow detailing how I created the books.  Don’t worry, it has a happy ending.


Thursday, April 18th, Day 146

Reflection: This ended up being a good day, even though I went in to it fuming about the failed Storybook projects.  The story of Orpheus, however, was a home run.  I was able to draw it out over a couple of weeks, and maintain student interest almost the entire time.

1.) FVR

2.) Picture Talk: “Orpheus”

I used stills from this video to introduce the characters.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

3.) Movie Talk/Watch and Discuss: “The Tragic Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice”

We just watched the first minute or so, with no sound.  This entire TEDed series about mythology is actually fantastic because it is just a silent cartoon with narration.  Students didn’t complain about not hearing the music or the sound, because there really isn’t much anyway.  I just dropped the English narration and added my own Latin narration and interaction with the video.  And there is a whole series of these mythology based videos.  And the art style makes excellent still.

I used a simplified version of Magister Craft’s script as a starting point.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

3.) Timed Write Assessment

Prep Time: 0 minutes


Friday, April 19th

No School.  Good Friday