Welcome to our Latin Comprehensible Input Resources website!

Each posting on this site contains a method, technique or description that you can put to use in your Latin classroom.

These postings are also searchable according to tags on the right hand column.

Don’t forget to visit our Downloadable Materials page for additional resources This is where you will find information and research about Comprehensible Input, to educate school administrators, colleagues and parents.

We encourage you to post comments or suggestions on our Latin–Best Practices forum.

For more information on how to use this site, please visit the “About” link at the top of this page.

Thanks for visiting.

Bob Patrick, John Piazza and David Maust (co-moderators of Latin–Best Practices)

Timed Writes, Free Writes and that Whole Grammar Thing

If you know how we do timed and free writes using portfolios and portfolio analysis you may be interested in these ongoing reflections and evolving ideas about students writing in the target language and what we as language teachers do with grammar–teaching and assessing.

I’ve just finished reading my seniors’ portfolio analyses in Latin 4.  They have been in our program for four years and had three of us for teachers (including myself, Caroline Miklosovic and Rachel Ash).  The version of the portfolio analysis is a little different for the senior year (one of the evolutions of the process), and it can be found here.  I found the consistency of the comments made to be fascinating and instructive to me as I continue to teach in a CI Latin program.  I share them here for what they are worth.  What is increasingly clear is that teaching with CI is never a fixed process.  It always involves evolving as we learn and listen to the experience of students acquiring language.

Students wrote the following things in their end of year analysis, with my reflections.  Used here with their permissions.

“I am surprised by the difficulty of concentrating when trying to focus on grammar and ideas rather than content. . . I was so focused on grammar that I disregarded time management.”

In the fourth year, I have done more regular direct grammar instruction which I invite them to take note of in these notebooks.  I promise two things:  I will  never test you on grammar, and you may use these grammar notes whenever you write in Latin.  Why would a Latin teacher ever say such things?  Teaching with CI and its guiding principles has convinced me that direct grammar instruction does not help a learner make any advances in language acquisition, and that the value of grammar itself is in the editing process.  In order to use grammar well for editing our own writing, we must know the rules and have the opportunity and time to apply them to our writing.  This is exactly now what my work with grammar has become.  I show them the structures.  Give them examples from literature.  They take notes, and they reference them while writing and editing their own work.  In short, they are creating their own in-notebook grammar to reference when needed.  They had other comments about this process.

“When we took two days to do a writing and were able to write, read and revise, that was really helpful.”

“Taking two days for a rough draft and then to work out a final draft allowed for thought and reflection on grammar–particularly verbs, and to include information about the story/writing that was left out in the rough draft.”

This was echoed again and again by students.  I gave free write assignments which came at the end of a reading and which allowed for one full class time to write extensively and without concern for editing the first day–that is, a rough draft.  On the second day, they were asked to read that draft and re-write it using their grammar notes and thoughtful reflection to make it their best.  Almost to a student, they identified those as their “best writings.” Krashen notes in his research what I have come to see for myself.  Writing more does not make writing better.  But there is value in writing.  Writing is communication with others and with the self.  My students seem to really value the communications they were seeing from themselves to themselves about all that we had read this year in Latin through their own words.

“I used to think that how many words I wrote was a sign of how good my writing was, but now at the end of four years, I realize that it’s the quality of the writing and not the quantity that really matters.”

“I’ve realized that we have begun caring less about writing sentences and counting words and more about our responses to the questions presented to us.”

The fact is that early on–in Latin 1 and 2 and probably most of 3–the only measure of writing in our program is the number of words they write.  Teachers do read some of the writes, but we don’t grade for errors.  We look to see if they are re-telling the story, adding a detail, reflecting on a part of the story–in Latin.  And, we look to see if their word counts are increasing.  Errors?  Of course there are, just as one would expect from baby language learners.  We also know that time taken to correct errors is wasted both by the teacher and on the student.  There is no evidence at all that for normal learners error correction makes any difference at all in language acquisition unless it’s this:  error correction by the teacher tends to make students less willing to take risks with language.  They keep their writing safe, simple and undeveloped out of fear of the error corrections (and lower grades!).  In these comments, students are recognizing for themselves–after four years of Latin–that it’s about the ability to begin communicating about what they have read to others but mostly to themselves that matters.  Quality is more important than quantity, and many students found that when they allowed themselves to write for quality, their word counts did go down a bit.

“The point of the class is to be able to understand what is being said, and my writings show that I am actually doing that and not just copying down words that I memorized.”  (This student notes that earlier he was doing that–memorizing and copying, but that he has shifted to a lower word count but a greater level of understanding.  Increasingly challenging reading (via Harrius Potter) is what he credits to this shift.)  He goes on to observe about his own writing:

“Some writings show an increase in grammar (Itinera Petri) and others an increase in vocabulary (Harrius Potter).”

Several students noted the huge leap in new and strange vocabulary in Harrius Potter.  That’s why we spent the better part of the semester reading just one chapter (along with other kinds of readings).  It is interesting to me that they felt they gained more in grammar use and understanding from reading Itinera Petri which sheltered vocabulary but not grammar, but when it came to HP all they could do was think about the new vocab, which exploded.

After I had read all of their analyses, I had a discussion with them.  I wanted to know what they thought about the “grammar days” and taking notes.  Without an exception, the high flyers liked the grammar days and note taking and the more normal learners  largely still found grammar confusing or irrelevant.

So, I asked them: without exception you all say that you are clear that your grammar has improved–how do you know and how did that happen?  They gave this evidence of improved grammar:

“When I’m writing, I don’t have to reference my grammar notes as much.”

“My sentences have become more complex.”

” My number of words may drop but the quality of the writing and things expressed goes up.”

“I feel freer to write around words I don’t know using other words.”

“I know that when I can write about Roman virtues in Harry Potter or in a fable of Aesop and express an opinion or an argument all in Latin–and that when I re-read it weeks later I can understand it–I know that my grammar has improved.”

I can attest that all of these things are true about their writing, and it does indicate more control over the grammar and vocabulary (the monitor for Latin is strengthening in them), and they still make mistakes.  The mistakes are normal and appropriate for just four years of study (more like 360 hours of instruction).

What caused their grammar improve?  When I asked that question they almost answered with one unified voice:

“Reading and speaking Latin!”  

One added: “When you speak and we speak back to you, it helps hearing you repeat it correctly.”  This was held in contrast to calling students out, pointing out their mistake and embarrassing them.  “You just say it again correctly, and we can hear that.”  In my opinion, they have become better at hearing that.  In their first and second year, there is less evidence that they are hearing that which only argues for more time with them.

Another:  “After a while–reading and speaking, some things just begin to sound right and wrong.”

At this point, I thought I might just openly weep for joy.  Without knowing, per se, my CI agenda, they were telling me exactly how CI works for them.  

Even as I rejoice over how CI is working across 4 years for our students, I have to honest to say that I am also still left living with a traditional Latin teacher’s brain.  What does that mean?  It means that I continue to experience doubts about what I am doing.  Shouldn’t I be testing them on grammar?  Shouldn’t I be correcting their writing errors? Doesn’t misuse of grammar mean that they aren’t learning Latin?  

Likewise, when I am among a larger group of Latin teachers outside of my program, I find myself lost as teachers talk about a “dative worksheet” or mnemonics for remembering deponent verbs.  I once did all of those things, and I don’t anymore.  I can offer them while doing a “grammar day” but they are no longer standard fair in my classroom. Sometimes I feel guilty about that, and sometimes I feel cognitive dissonance when I hear Latin teachers talking about that.

This CI work works, and it’s changing me.  The change is slow.  As I look back, I have interfered with what I know to work because that traditional Latin teacher brain objects.  I think that’s happening less now, but it’s still a process.

No student makes progress in the language from writing or speaking.  Their writing and speaking are evidence of the interesting and understandable listening and reading they receive.  There is value, then, in writing for two things:

  1. It lets me know how effective my speaking in Latin and reading choices for them are.
  2. It allows them to communicate with themselves in this language about the things we read the conversations we have.

Bob Patrick

Writing Analysis–for level 4

This is a slightly different take on the portfolio analysis that we use in our CI Latin program.  Seniors in Latin 4 keep a composition notebook in which they do timed writes, free writes, take grammar notes and any other notes that they think will be helpful when they do writing in Latin.  They can use anything in the notebook when they write.  The composition notebooks stay in the room all year long.  Here’s what they do at the end of each semester.

  1. Take about 20 minutes to read through ALL of your entries in your composition notebook.
  2. Do all of your analysis on a fresh page in it.  Date it at the top with the title “Composition Analysis–(today’s date)
  3. After your read through, what are you noticing about your writing that surprises you?  Surprises should be both about progress and perhaps some shortcomings.  Explain with examples.
  4. Which of your writings is your best?  Identify it by title and date, and explain with examples why it is your best?
  5. Pretend that this composition notebook were the only evidence of your progress in Latin over the last 4 years.  Write a summary description of what that progress means and looks like.  Write it third person about yourself, and include examples from your writing this semester.
  6. Give yourself a numeric grade for your performance in Latin this semester based only on what is in this notebook.  Give an explanation for this grade.
  7. When finished, fold the pages of this analysis over in half, close your notebook, and return it to the front of the room.

DRAW 1-2-3

This is a reading, drawing, critical thinking and writing activity.  It begins with whatever reading you have students doing.  After using other CI activities to establish meaning, read and discuss the story, you may want to us DRAW 1-2-3 to deepen the activity.

Instructions to students:

After you completely understand the story, prepare the following on a clean sheet of paper.

  1. Draw ONE scene that represents what fascinates you the most about the story.
  2. Include TWO talking bubbles or thought bubbles.  The content of those bubbles MUST be copied directly from the story.  
  3. Write a THREE sentence caption under your drawing.  The THREE sentences must be taken directly from the story and combined in a way that they give some insight or cause some thought about your drawing.

Options for the teacher:

  1. Take the finished products and select the 2-3 that are the most intriguing and put them on the screen in the next class period of segment of your class.  Create a conversation around each picture, almost like a movie talk but with this still picture that includes two bubbles and a caption of three sentences.  How did the creator change or enhance the story by choosing this picture, these bubbles, these sentences.  Of course, you could do more than 2-3.  You could spend days doing these if they are compelling enough.
  2. Or, give every student in the room someone else’s DRAW 1-2-3.  Give them a few minutes to read and think about it, and then partner with another students where they each describe the picture they have been given.  This could also be done with each student describing his/her own to another student.
  3. Have each student holding her/his own and have students move through the room in pop-corn reading style only they are describing their own DRAW 1-2-3 to each other in L2.
  4. End any of these activities with a timed or free write in which they summarize the original story and write about a fascinating take on the story they encountered in a DRAW 1-2-3, their own or another’s.

Assessing Grammar: Three Time Frames

To demonstrate increasing skill in identified grammar topics

This is one of the standards that I have my Latin 4 students working toward.  One of those identified grammar topics is to recognize and understand readings in three time frames (generally, past, present and future, though this could include some subjunctive and imperative use as well).

I think that for most of us, a first reaction–certainly mine has been–“well, of course they should be able to.”  In fact, we might think that such a task is more fitting for lower levels–not fourth year students.  My own growing experience is that while I might expect students to easily understand and identify–even produce–three time frames through verb tenses and moods, that the expectation is not very realistic.  Here’s the journey of my own understanding about this.

Show and Drill

For many years, regarding grammar, especially verbs, I would show students how verb tenses were formed, four principal parts on the board, stems, connecting vowels, endings, etc.   I had them takes notes.  I made them practice. We drilled.  And then, when it came to translating a text, it was if none of that had happened.  Intensifying my efforts made virtually no difference.  Only a handful ever seemed to be able to gain control over these verb forms.

Read and Write

When I moved into more of a reading approach, I thought that having students write in Latin would somehow help them gain control over the verb and noun inflections.  I still demonstrated how those changes happened, gave them ample notes, allowed them to use their notes (a change from show and drill), but writing for most of them was painful and tedious, and their control over forms did not show much increase.

Read and Understand

Since I have been using approaches that qualify as Comprehensible Input, my attention with students has shifted dramatically to giving them input that they can understand (speaking to them in Latin that they can understand, placing readings in front of them that they can understand).  It took a while for me to catch on that these forms of input also needed to be interesting, i.e. compelling.  To complicate matters (as well as keep them interesting) what one group of students finds compelling doesn’t always insure that the next group will find the same compelling.  I’ve found that if the input is compelling and understandable, students begin to gain a sense of the meaning of verbs, time frames and inflections of nouns (and it is increasingly my sense that they acquire verb inflections more readily than noun inflections).  I still, from time to time, show them how to create verb forms as I always have.  I invite them to create their own “working grammar” which they are always allowed to access during writing assignments.  I would also allow them to use those notes on tests, but I no longer “test” grammar per se.  I am always teaching it.  I never test it, and students are always adding to their personal grammars the notes they might want to access.

Produce?  Only with Time and Purpose

I still ask students to write.  I am still interested in my Latin 4 students gaining increasing skill with grammatical topics, particularly around time frames.  My current set of priorities looks like this, in this order:

A. Lots of understandable, compelling input from me making rich use of the grammar of the language, but with a limited vocabulary.  Vocabulary increases, of course, over 4 years, but much more slowly than in a traditional program.  The question is not how many words they “know” but how well they can understand Latin as they hear and read it.  What’s the point of them “knowing” a lot of individual words if they cannot understand Latin writing?

B. When students ask about a verb form, I use that as an opportunity to demonstrate how to form verbs.  I try to keep it short and poignant to the context.  I ask them to take notes in their personal grammar for later reference.

C. I ask them from time to time to produce Latin in speaking and writing.  When they speak and make mistakes, I simply repeat what they’ve said back to them correctly.  When they write, I give them LOTS of time and ask them to use their personal grammar notes to help them.  I allow them to ask me questions while they are writing.  This, I am convinced, is the only way to “do” or “use” grammar for most students.  I. They have to have access to the rules (their personal grammar notes).  II. They have to have time to create and then edit their own work.  III. They have to find the work interesting enough to engage it.

To that last piece:  I try to make their writing assignments related to any compelling reading we have recently done. That also means that their grammar notes will contain examples of the words and phrases used in those recent stories.  Their notes will feel familiar.  The content will still hold some interest from the reading, and if I ask them to add a critical or creative piece to the writing, even more so.

Most recently, after reading the first 7 chapters if Itinera PetriI asked Latin 4 students to do a two part writing:

A. Give a breviarium of the book thus far (this, I hoped, would tap into their current interest in the story).

B. Choose EITHER one of the 16 Roman virtues or qualities that we have been focusing on all year and trace it through the story, OR trace the role of magia through the story and its significance.

Students worked on this with their personal grammar notes open for almost an hour.  No one finished early, and the next day, I was able to begin class, Latine tantum, by asking them to tell me about the virtue/quality or role of magic in the story.    As I read their writings, what I am seeing is some increasing control over Latin verbs and time frames.

Today, after reading chapter 8 of the book, I asked them to break into small groups and, in English, discuss the significance of “time frames” in the chapter.  As a whole class, they were able to assemble on the board three time frames represented by one instance of the present tense, one future active participle, and the perfect and pluperfect tenses.  They also drew attention to how even in a past time frame the reader could be made to feel like the event was happening all over again.

Bob Patrick

Better Learners–Better Teachers–Better Leaders

I am posting this on January 1, 2016, so Happy New Year to everyone!  I recently read an article on the Harvard Business Review  entitled “Four Ways to Become A Better Learner.”  I wondered if it would be a good article to share with my advisement students.  Then, I read the article! Wow, this is really about being a better teacher, and these four ways of becoming better learners are aimed at leaders and teachers as leaders!  They are core to what teaching with Comprehensible Input is about.  In fact, these four keys to becoming “better learners” really echo the findings of CI research and teacher experiences who use it.  So, while I am not very keen on New Year’s Resolutions, I am very keen on learning how to do what I do better.

Take a look at what the author calls “learning agility.”  The best deal is to follow the link above and read the article for yourself.  Here’s my quick summary.

Learning agility “is the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience.”  Learning agility includes:

  • making connections across experiences
  • letting go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful
  • unlearning things when new solutions are required
  • focusing on learning goals and new experiences
  • experimenting, seeking feedback, reflecting
  • acquiring new skills and mastering new situations is core to learning agility
  • enjoying the process of learning itself
  • willing to take risks and not becoming defensive

There are four ways to develop learning agility:

  1. Ask for feedback
  2. Experiment with new approaches or behaviors
  3. Look for connections across seemingly unrelated areas
  4. Make time for reflection

If you read the entire article, you will see that this was written for corporate executives, but, in fact, it was written for those involved in leadership.  In my opinion, a teacher who does not see him/herself involved in leadership has missed something core to teaching and learning.  “Educate” from the Latin educare implies leading people out and growing them up, and that requires leadership.  Those of us involved in teaching second languages with Comprehensible Input will see the close connections between CI theory/pratice and learning agility even through my simple outline above.

I will close by quickly offering some first steps for implementing learning agility in our teaching practices:

  1. Ask your students for feedback with three simple questions:  a) what have we been doing that HELPS you learn (language)?  b) What have we been doing that DOES NOT HELP you learn (language)?  c) If you could change one thing that would help you learn (language) better what would it be?  Promise to read and collate their advice, and implement the major trends.
  2. When you look at your practice of Comprehensible Input, what aspects of it do you tend to steer clear of or do less often than you think you should?  Make a committment to regularly including that one new thing in your teaching practice this spring semester.
  3. How often do you engage in conversation with teachers outside of your language or outside of your language department?  Identify one or two teachers whose good work is well known, and find time to go and observe them.  Find out what they are doing in their German class or their Chemistry class that might work back in your (language) class.
  4. At the end of each day, before you leave the campus (I do this while walking from my classroom to my car) ask yourself:  what worked today?  What didn’t work today?  How will I change this the next time I do this thing?  (see the connections between 1 and 4?).

I’m thinking of taking the bulleted items above–the qualities of an agile learner–and making a little poster–for myself.  I think I’ll hang it something in my classroom where I am likely to see it each day–just to keep the reflection going.  Am I this sort of learner?  Am I this sort of teacher?  Am I this sort of leader?

Bob Patrick

When the “Test” is just more great CI–a best practice

As Department Chair, one of my duties is to observe the members of my department and add my observations to those of administrators who do the same.  (See my document on the Downloadables page on the GA Performance Standards and what they look like in a CI classroom).

I want to share what I just observed one of my Spanish colleagues, Mr. George Brennen, doing in his Spanish 3 class.  It is an extraordinarily good example of technically assessing students on “animals” but in such a way that the testing event itself becomes just the next good example of providing students with tons of comprehensible input that is both broad and deep.  I want to do what he did!

Here’s what he did.  He stood before the class holding three index cards of different colors.  Everything I saw him do was entirely in Spanish.  He asked the students to choose a color. They chose purple.  He then began calling the numbered item, and then describing in great detail the animal–it’s size, colors, where it is found geographically (with descriptions of those geographical regions), the countries it was found in, its relationship to human beings, and other animals, its habitat and behaviors.  Students were literally leaning forward, glued to every word.  I have a degree in Spanish.  My Spanish is very rusty, though I read it and often understand it fairly well.  I understood every word.  All the students had to do was write down the name of the animal.  He was on animal number 12 when I had to leave.

In one assessment (which, BTW, will be super easy to grade) students received tons of understandable messages about animals, colors, sizes, geography, climate, countries, behaviors, habitats and relationships.  This is brilliant!  Technically students took a test on animals.  I am without doubt that these students left with more acquired Spanish today then when they came in.

So, CI teachers of any language:  how can we devise strategies of both teaching with understandable messages and assessments which integrate and pull together all kinds of language material/themes/vocabulary that requires the students largely to listen and comprehend while only writing down a word or two?

This is going to be my own personal challenge for the week.  I have a unit on Roman virtues that I am about to start.  I am now aiming for that day when I can have long, broad and deep discussion with students describing a virtue. They listen and then write down the one word.

Bob Patrick

Latin Version of Pancho Comancho

Publius Publicanus

This game or brain break originated as Pancho Comancho used in Spanish classrooms.  I have changed the name to something a little more Latiny–Publius Publicanus, Publius The Tax Collector.  

In the original game, five (more or less–I use five) stand across the front of the room holding large cards with nouns and adjectives on it.  The teacher begins by asking one of the students (who, for example is holding the word “puella”):

Teacher:  Johnny, est Publius Publicanus puella?

Johnny: Minime, Publius Publicanus non est puella.  Publius Publicanus est (looking at another player and his/her card) stultus.

Mary:  Minime, Publius Publicanus non est stultus, Publius Publicanus est (looking at another player) frater.

And so on.  The teacher has set a timer for 30 seconds or 1 minute or another period, randomly for each round.  When the timer goes off, the person who is talking must sit down.  This goes on until one is left standing.  If nothing else, it is an effective brain break from any other activity you are doing, but if you use recent new words in the game, it becomes an opportunity to get them repeated over and over, gives students a controlled setting for speaking Latin out loud with minimal stress because it’s fun.

The Virtues Versions

In fourth year Latin, I introduce 15 Roman virtues as part of our discussion of various pieces of literature throughout the year.  I introduce them slowly, but after they have 5 of them, you can begin to use this brain break with them in a few ways.


Virtus ________ Publium Publicanum ennarat?

Minimie.  Virtus ______ Publium Publicanum non ennarat.  Virtus ______ Publium Publicanum ennarat.

(For this version, the virtues are all listed in the nominative singular on the cards).


Estne Publius Publicanus vir virtutis ________?  

Minime.  Publius Publicanus non est vir virtutis _______.  Publius Publicanus est vir virtutis ________.

(for this version, the virtues are listed in the genitive singular on the cards)


Publius Publicanus virtutem _________ demonstrat?

Minime.  Publius Publicanus virtutem _______ non demonstrat.Publius Publicanus virtutem ________ demonstrat.

(For this version, the virtues are listed in the accusative singular on the cards).

The point is not to turn this into a grammar lesson, but because this is upper level Latin, it occurred to me that we could do this more than one way.

Bob Patrick

A Story Writing Idea

I want to share with you a couple of ideas I’m working with for writing more short stories of the low-level, easy reading kind of thing that we are in such need of for Latin students.
“You can never have a reader that is too easy.”  Stephen Krashen
I heard this time and again at NTPRS 2015, and the simplicity just kept inspiring me.  For years, I thought of my beginning task with returning students in the Fall as reviewing grammar and vocabulary for several weeks before starting anything new.  They always came back saying that they had forgotten all their Latin (and it seemed to me that they had).  A few things have shifted for me over the years that seem to really benefit my students.
1. Since beginning CI work 15 years ago, my students are much less likely to complain that they have forgotten all their Latin.  Even if they come in at the beginning of the new year worried about that, it’s just not the case.  They actually forget very little if any that they learned through CI methods.  A fourth year student came in last fall really anxious that he had forgotten and begging me to let him drop the course.  I consoled him and refused to let him drop.  It was evident in just a couple of days that he had not forgotten anything, and he ended the year with a 96 in Latin 4.  This is not unusual.   This is common.
2. Since grammar is acquired best  unconsciously through story telling and reading, and since we are no longer sheltering grammar, reviewing grammar in the Fall is something I stopped doing years ago.
3. What we did start doing in our program a few years ago is to begin the new year in Latin 2, 3 and 4 with some easy reading that was “beneath them,” so to speak.  For example, we would take Latin 2 students to the computer lab and have them, over  two days, read all of Anthony Gibbons’s Gilbo Series found in the Tar Heel Reader online.  Even though it has 15 little chapters, they can devour it in two days AND, he wrote no ending to it, so it’s  the perfect invitation to go back into class on the third day and ask an ending to the story.  The Gilbo series is “too easy” for Latin 2 students, but, “there’s no such things as a reader that’s too easy.”  Most news stories, whether on paper or via the internet are written at 7th grade level, and none of us refuse to read  them because they are “beneath us.”  The “too  easy reading” is the perfect way to start the new year at every level (except 1, of  course).  It reassures students who are nervous that, in fact, they still have their Latin and that they can still continue doing this.
4.  But, class, there’s a problem!  In our Latin CI work, we have too few easy readers and stories.  So, here’s what I propose to do this year to help make a dent in that problem.  Carol Gaab and I had a conversation at NTPRS 2015 in which I told her about our 50 Most Important Verbs List.  She said, regarding easy, graded readers, that of course, 50 verbs is too many to work with.  “Choose 7 of those, or 14 or 20 at the most (for a novella), and work with those,” she said.
Here’s my idea:
I will have a class of Latin 4 students this year, and I’m going to divide them into teams of 3.  Each team will have a meeting with me twice over the semester.  Before each meeting, they will have to go into the 50 MIV list and pick out 7-10 verbs that they think are “most important.”  When they meet with me, they will have an hour (max) to tell me a story–in Latin and/or in English which only  uses those verbs.  A story–not a novella.  As they tell the story, I will type it up into a document.  This is an activity that is very much like the Language Experience model, which honestly, I’ve only used a time or two.  My goal at that sitting is to get  the basics of their story and any undeveloped ideas they may have.  Then, after they leave, I will polish the story into something that Latin 1 (second semester) students or beginning Latin 2 students could read and enjoy.  Over the course of the semester, we ought to be able to generate a dozen or more of these.  If several  of us did this sort of thing, and shared them, we’d have dozens in no time.
Whatever we are able to create this way, I will be sharing them, so stay tuned.  I’ll also report to the LBP list once this is underway so that we can have some discussions around it.  What I am imagining is starting school NEXT FALL in 2016 with dozens of “too easy readings” for any level that I teach.  Meanwhile, this little project will become part of my Latin 4 work this year.  If you are interested in this, you don’t have to have a Latin 4 class to do it.  You can do this with almost any level students beyond level 1.
Why all this talk of starting back to school in July?  Because in our district, teachers report a week from tomorrow–August 3.  The train is loading folks . . .
Bob Patrick

OWAT P: One Word At a Time–Pictures

Jeff Brickler offers this evolution of OWATS:

I was thinking about this variation on OWATS (one word at a time stories).  In the lower levels (1-2), the OWATS might be too much output.  I thought that maybe we could do the same thing but have them draw pictures stories instead of written stories.  Then we could put them up on the screen with a document camera or take a picture of them and put them into a Presentation.  At this point, we could do a look and discuss with the class or we could work with the artist to ask questions to elicit his/her story.  This could prove to be compelling and comprehensible as it would have an image to help with comprehensibility.  During this session, we could have the scriba write down what we say and then give it back the next day as a warm up/review reading.

This could also serve as a review of vocabulary if we wanted a break from embedding readings and writing movie talks etc.  I could easily see this lasting a week if we choose 5-7 review structures.   With the drawing and discussing and reading of 5-7 stories from the class.  Then we could have a game where they match parts of stories to images.
Jeff Brickler

OWATS: One Word At a Time Stories

I work backwards from a story or reading that I want them to do. I identify the new words in it. Recently, this was a couple of fables linked Roman virtues. Based on a list of virtues, students searched through Laura Gibbs 1001 Fables and identified the stories they wanted to read.

Based on two fables, there were 21 words or phrases that they either didn’t know or were not very familiar with. I put the words into a table using a large font, and cut out miniature flash cards. The Latin was in large block with English in small underneath it. Remember, these were new words/phrases. (Don’t panic. I don’t use flash cards).

I had students sit in groups of 3 or 4, and explained the process to them:

  1. I would give each group a word.
  2. Working together on one sheet of paper with a pencil, they had to write one good sentence using that word.
  3. When done, they had to call me over to approve the sentence. If there were a problem, I gave a pop up grammar kind of fix for it, and then gave them another word.
  4. Their next sentence had to begin to make a story based on the first one.
  5. The process continued: they write a sentence, call me over, get any pop up grammar help, and then a new word, a new sentence that furthers the story.
  6. When I run out of words to hand out, they get their next word from another group and give them one of theirs.
  7. With 5 minutes left I tell them that with their next sentence or two, they should bring their story to a surprising end.
  8. I collect the stories and type them up into a power point and the next day, we read the stories together.


  1. Students were very excited about this work. It was like asking a story but in a much smaller group, and each student had more control over the story. This work was COMPELLING.
  2. Because I did this with more advanced students, the stress over language production was rather low.
  3. They got individual attention from me for anything they were not clear about.
  4. Grammar happened only in pop up fashion.
  5. They naturally begin to repeat the use of new words in subsequent sentences. So, there was even in the activity, much repetition. On the next day, reading and discussing the stories provided more comprehension. They remained compelling because they not only got to see their story on the “big screen” but others’ as well.
  6. I had fun! (that counts, especially this time of the semester)
  7. I shared this with a colleague who teaches Spanish 2 and one “trailer” course of Spanish 2 students who all failed last year. He tried this same activity today with them but only with words they had already been introduced to. He said it went over extremely well and that his most struggling students managed to put together a nice story.
  8. This strikes me as the kind of activity that could be done with new words for more advanced students and as review, repetition with any level.

The process, establishing meaning of each word, keeps things SLOW, is compelling, provides repetitions, can create embedded readings from the bottom up, and involves backward design.

Bob Patrick