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!

A Year in F7 – Week 3 – Latin I

Lesson Plans

shlubi saves the dayShlubi the isopod saves the day . . . 

Monday – Day 9

  1. Calendar Talk (5 – 10 minutes)

Targets: hodie, cras, heri, erit, erat, numbers (in context)

Sing “felicem natalem tibi” as needed

Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Ask-a-Story (in two 12-15 minute sections)

assign new student jobs: scriba (scribe), custos temporis (time keeper), pictor (artist), iudex (question writer), magister/magistra secunda (teacher number two, the settler of disputes), histriones (actors)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Note about prep time: although I have no physical materials to create ahead of time, I do spend some prep time going over possible question sequences in my head, rehearsing creating a story to an empty room, watching video of other teachers. After a while, most of my prep time is taken up with thinking through the activity and practicing my skills—almost like an actor rehearsing for a part in an improvised show (can you tell I have a bit of a theater background?).

  1. Brain Break (as needed): TPR Review
  2. Ask-a-Story Quizverum an falsum (true or false)

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 0 minutes


Tuesday – Day 10

I felt that Monday’s class got a little out of hand.  A most of the were caused (I feel) by unclear expectations (what behavior constitutes “blurting,” and what doesn’t) and by attempting to introduce too many words too quickly.  I saw some confused students towards the end of class. I decided therefore to not continue with the story, but to give the students more exposure to the structures and phrases introduced yesterday.

  1. Write and Discuss/Read and Draw
  2. Vocabulary Game “Reverse Pictionary”

Really the point is to practice procedures necessary for passing out the whiteboards, markers, and erasers and putting them back.

  1. Picture Talk: from student work produced during the Read and Draw activity

This will allow me to work in more circle and repetition for less familiar words.

  1. Ask-a-Story (Part II) – continue yesterday’s story, time permitting.


Wednesday – Day 11

  1. Circling/Karaoke Translation

This is based on Tuesday’s Write and Discuss text.  I added some easy cognates and add more repetition.  I also add a few details to the story for novelty.  I just project the text, engage the whole class in a choral translation, and pause to circle words or phrases that the students are less confident about.

Prep Time: 20 minutes (time spent typing up and expanding the Write and Discuss texts from class).

  1. Ridiculum!

This is basically “stultus” (known by many other names depending on the language you teach).  My students generally think the word “ridiculum” is funny and enjoy shouting that out.  I have also made the phrase “ridiculum est!” and “absurdum est!”  Really any negative rejoinder will do.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

3. Ask-a-Story – Pars III (15 minutes)

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

               Total Prep Time: 20 minutes


Thursday – Day 12

  1. Picture Talk (add to pictures?)

               ask a lot of questions – tell students it is a quiz?

               student names on cards, collect cards, write down notes

  1. Alternate Story – Pictatio
  2. ActingAlternate Story (with Actors) – story from another period

continue the “quiz” (use the familiar academic school structure)

curious as to whether it just makes the students too nervous.

  1. Break Break (as needed)


Friday – Day 13

  1. Quizlet Live (using the diagram function)

The Word Chunk game is very popular among TPRS teachers (and others using communicative methods), but this game has never really clicked with me, or with my classes.  Since my school is a one-to-one school, I’ve used Quizlet live to do essentially the same thing as the Word Chunk game, only more efficiently (the game play is faster, there are way more reps, student engagement is high, each individual student plays each round). Switching up the teams every round keeps the students moving. Generally, we play for about twenty minutes (which means around 12-14 matches).  I usually have to stop them after twenty minutes—they always want to play another round.

               Prep Time: 10-15 minutes per text (x 3 classes)

  1. Dicatatio

A good cool-down activity after the frantic Quizlet Live.  The text is based on the Ask-A-Story text that each class created this week (and that the students just reviewed during the Quizlet Live game.

Prep Time: 5 minutes (text excerpted from the Quizlet Live text)

  1. “Timed” Translation

This is really just a vocabulary assessment to see what they know—again not really “acquisition” oriented.  “Timed” is in quotation marks because I will really give the students the time that they need, just want to see what words/phrases they have down cold and what words/phrases they only recall with effort. We do get some reps in when we check the quizzes.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Total Prep Time: 50 minutes


Reflection: Okay, the battle begins.  Monday was rough, I prepared too much, jumped into the storytelling too quickly without setting proper boundaries (i.e. what counts as providing the story with details vs interrupting/blurting), and, while I technically asked a story successfully in each class, after a while it was a struggle.  In the heat of the moment, I ended up adding too much to the story to try to win back the students’ attention.  Sometimes it worked, more often it didn’t.  I didn’t track my slower processors, and let the faster processors run the show.  In the end I had side conversations, interruptions, and a few confused students.  It wasn’t pretty.  At the end of the day on Monday, I was a bit discourages.

So, Tuesday I did a hard reset.  We did not add any details to the story.  I went over the rules.  I explicitly stated what blurting/interrupting was and what it wasn’t.  I went more slowly.  I paused.  I remembered to teach to the eyes.  Also, as you can see in the lesson plan for Tuesday, I brought the energy down.  We did a Write and Discuss (in two halves).  After half of the text was written, I had the students draw the text.  That turned into a brief picture talk.  The written text really helped squirmy, high-energy classes focus.  I was able work in lots of repetitions today and didn’t have to expend a lot of energy.

On Wednesday, we were able to successfully pick the story back up.  My main criticism of my pacing this time is that the ending was close, but not quite right.  I added too much vocab for the ending, which made for a better story, but really didn’t reinforce anything that had come before, and most of it wasn’t repeated (in the interest of not belaboring the end of the story).   Overall though, I’d say that I’m satisfied with asking a complete story over the course of thirty minutes spread over two class periods. (not including reviewing known information and backtracking).  I can definitely feel my TPRS skills improving.

Thursday: I’m still establishing rules and boundaries, and I’ve never actually spent this long working on this aspect of class, but I am glad that I have invested the time.  I remember being very frustrated and tired around October last year, and there was a good bit of time during that semester where I felt I had only tenuous control over my classes.  Things turned around in January when I posted my classroom rules and reset everything.  So, I feel much more on top of things this year, even though I’m still getting some resistance.  After a couple of comprehension checks today (which I really need to remember to do every day) I am continuing to see a correlation between students being distracted and me moving too far too quickly.  Slowing it down and adding reps has been my best classroom management policy.

Friday: Had great success with the Quizlet Live Activity using the Diagrams function.  And while the activity is not strictly communicative (it’s closer to a traditional translation/vocabulary review activity), the students did have to frequently refer to the original story during the game.  After the dictatio, I have the students the “timed” translation.  I gave them 5 minutes to translate the ten sentences, which actually ended up being too long.  Most students finished in 2 minutes, while even my slower processors and/or slower readers were able to finish before the time limit.  I did not count this activity as a quiz, but it was an interesting glimpse into how my students are processing Latin right now.

A Year in F7 – Week 2 (Latin III/IV)

Lesson Plans

MONDAY – Day 4

This Weeks Target Texts: “Jason and the Argonauts” (Ritchie), sections 1 and 2

  1. Review Quiz: Quis diceret? (regarding “Iason” first two sentences)

Prep Time: 0 minutes (I make up the questions on the spot)

2.Reader’s Theater Performance: “Jason and the Argonauts” 1st Section.

Two actors, text projected, I read the text, circle new/difficult words, the actors perform the text as I read

Prep Time: 3 minutes (preparing a copy of the text for projection)

  1. Choral (Karaoke) Translation: “Iason et Argonautae” 1st section

Prep Time: 3 minutes (preparing a copy of the text for projection)

Total Prep Time: 6 minutes

Reflection: The first hiccup of the year: the Seniors were out on a retreat, so approximately half of my class was absent.  I decided to stick with the plan and continue with the “reader’s theater” style performance for “Jason and the Argonauts.” My tweak to reader’s theater is that I primarily read (though I frequently extemporize some lines for the actors, which the actors just repeat after me).  My actors don’t hold scripts and just read the text.  Also, by “directing” the scene—i.e. having actors do an action over again or in a different way—creates multiple novel exposures of the text.  At a later time I will post some of my “director’s cues” and some examples of how I use them.



  1. Card Talk: “Quid egisti pridie?”

Instructions: students draw a picture of what they did the day before.

Three possibilities:

  1. Seniors on the retreat drew the most memorable event from the trip.
  2. The other students who were in class drew a picture summary of the story.
  3. Students who were absent and not on the retreat just drew a picture of something that they did

the day before.

I then project some of the cards using my IPEVO document camera.  I then use the pictures for a     whole class Picture Talk.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. Storytelling Read and Draw/Pictatio: “Iason” Section 1 – Review

Prep Time: 5 minutes (printing a section of the story to read aloud)

Note: A pictatio is a listening exercise where I read a sentence in the Latin repeatedly and the students draw the details that they hear in the sentence. I know I didn’t coin the term, but for I forget exactly where I heard it first.  I want to say Keith Toda’s blog, but I’m not sure.

  1. Introduce “Iason” Part II – One-Sandaled Man Oracle

               Prep Time: 15 minutes: creating a tiered version of the story and preparing the text for projection.

               Total Prep Time: 20 minutes

Reflection: Students were highly interested in the Picture Talk activity, as many of the seniors really wanted to share some amusing highlights from the trip but lacked the confidence to fully explain in Latin what happened.  I was also able to draw the students in by first asking the non-senior students what they saw in the picture, and what they thought was going on.

Time ran out before the “Pictatio” was completely finished, so the second part of the story will have to wait until tomorrow.



  1. SSR (5-7 minutes)

I may take a few minutes at the beginning of class to introduce the novellas which were recently published this summer.

               Prep Time: 0 minutes

  1. One Word at a Time (OWAT story)

Target Vocabulary: words from the next two sections of Jason that I know my students either have no exposure to, or I anticipate that they are going to misunderstand.

               Prep Time: 10 minutes: (reading through

  1. PictureTalk Storytelling Activity: “Jason and the Argonauts – Part II (“The Oracle”)

               Prep Time: 15 minutes (finding five or six pictures on Google images as a basis for the storytelling.  I’m going to use a simpler tiered version of the story as a basis of the storytelling)

Total Prep Time: 25 minutes

Reflection: I ended up adding some Calendar Talk to the beginning of class, which turned into a 10-15 minute discussion (in both classes) about how many people have August birthdays.  After reading, we began the OWAT story, with great success.  I had each pair or group type their stories in Latin as they wrote them (we are a one-to-school), providing an English translation as they went (this helps me edit the texts later).  In one class we did end up talking about the Oracle of Delphi (in Latin) to set up the next section of “Jason.”



  1. OWAT Storytelling – Fabula Prima: Using student actors and props.

               Nota bene: I may do this for two or three shorter stories in my second period class (which has          twice as many students and therefore twice as many stories)

Prep Time: 30-40 minutes: Editing student stories.  The time investment is worth it, though.  Typically, students find these stories fascinating (even when the plot doesn’t exactly go anywhere), and a short, incomplete story just provides the class with an opportunity to create an exciting ending for it.

2. Read and Draw: — Fabula Secunda:

I divide the story into four sections, and students read the projected text one section at a time,  illustrating each section in order to demonstrate their comprehension.

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes (preparing a text for projection)

  1. Brain Break: Video: “Oracle of Delphi” (from Horrible Histories).

Short clip (2-3 min), very funny, lots of historical references, lots of opportunity for improvising        some brief movie talk.  If we run out of time, I will move this to tomorrow.

Note: There used to be a clip of this one Youtube, but it was taken down. Fortunately, I     downloaded it years ago.  I believe that skit is from Horrible Histories Season 2, episode 2, and is          available online on various platforms.  If you have never seen Horrible Histories before, it’s a        British sketch comedy show designed to teach kids about history.  Lots of funny presentations of                Roman culture. It’s very easy for one of these clips to turn into an impromptu Watch and        Discuss.

Reflection: Spent the entire class period telling student stories with actors and props.  Because they wrote them, the students were excited to see their stories featured in class, complete with actors and silly props.  Here’s an example of one of their silly OWAT stories (the target vocabulary words from the game are in bold):

It was a good day—lots of communication, lots of laughter, lots of moments where students got lost in the storytelling.  It’s days like this that remind me why some of the extra work that communicative language teaching requires (personalizing stories, editing student work for whole class presentation) is worth it.  My students in my old traditional program would not have been able to handle two or three texts of this complexity in a single class period.  They would not have been able to listen to and processes continuous sentences in Latin (even if there were very simple). And they certainly wouldn’t have been able to understand without their dictionaries and glossaries.


FRIDAY – Day 8

  1. OWAT Stories (continued): Read and Draw

Prep Time: 0 minutes (already edited student stories)

  1. Dictatio

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  1. Storytelling: “Jason and the Argonauts” – Part II

Prep Time: 0 minutes: I’m using the text that I prepared earlier in the week

Total Prep Time: 10 minutes

Reflection: I ended up using actors again for the “Jason” storytelling, though I had pictures prepared for a Picture Talk.  So far this year, I feel like I’ve utilized student actors well.  I remember previous years using students actually tanked more often than it succeeded.  The key for me has been viewing the actors as props for my storytelling.  Directing the actor causes me to slow down, to establish meaning before the action, to redo an action in different (sometimes humorous) ways to enhance the input.  This is my fourth year teaching communicatively (technically—though the first year was more about dabbling) and finally I feel like my upper level classes are fully buying in to the methodology.  I’m sure this has everything to do with the fact that my seniors (Latin IV) have had now four years (or so) of comprehensible input, whereas my previous advanced classes had a year or two (or three!) of grammar-translation before I took the leap.  I’m excited to be able to enjoy for the first time a fully transitioned program.  I do have a (somewhat flexible) schedule to stick to as my advanced class is dual enrollment and, though I created the syllabus myself, I did have to get plan ahead of time which texts we are going to read.  It will be an interesting experiment to read excerpts of authentic Latin literature with students who have never had any exposure to the grammar-translation method.

On to Week 3!