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)

What a student told me: Why it matters

I have gone back and forth in my mind about whether to write this post. I hope that if you are pursuing a CI framed way of teaching, and if you have doubts about whether what you are doing is the right way or not that you may take some encouragement from this.

My hesitation has been that this comes from a letter I received recently from a student, and it is largely a letter of gratitude and appreciation for me. So, it’s personal. Her letter was one of those moments that all of us have if we teach long enough–a student giving us the feedback we’d like to have every day but which comes along once or twice a year if we are lucky. She wrote to say “thank you for what you do,” and it means the world to me. But, she also gave me some “data” if you will, some qualitative feedback about what I do and how that has impacted her. I don’t do what I do alone–even if I were a singleton teacher. I teach with a team, and we all help and influence each other. All of us who read this blog and participate in the LBP FB group help and influence each other. Perhaps her feedback about my teaching is helpful to you, too.

Here are ten things she told me about what I do in her own words, unchanged. Beneath her words in italics are a few thoughts from me about why it matters.

You push your students to learn everyday while at the same time making it interactive so that students actually perform well in the language.

Choosing to teach with a CI framework really changes almost everything about traditional Latin and language teaching, and the first criticism most of us have heard is some version of “you are dumbing down” Latin.

Some of the teaching methods you use such as drawing pictures with captions, writing prompts using our own words, and reading over and over have been very useful to me. 

I worry that even though there are dozens of practices and activities that are informed by CI, I tend to use a smaller subset over and over again and that doing so risks boredom. On the other hand, when you find things that work for all kinds of learners, why not use them?

I am trying to improve my reading and writing skills in Vietnamese, and I sometimes use those same methods you use in class simply because they work for me.

A long time ago, even though I am a classicist with all the credentials to prove it, I began to identify as a language teacher (not all Latin teachers do). As a teacher of a language, I believe I can do nothing better but to hand on language learning skills to students who will then continue to use them to explore and acquire other languages.

The fact that you have brag and vent discussions in class is also a stress reliever, and it helps the class get closer and more comfortable with each other. 

This practice of starting EVERY class every day with 5 minutes of “brags and vents” led by a member of the class allows students to tell each other what’s doing on in their lives from the apparently trivial to the deep and serious. Nothing I’ve ever done has helped such a solid sense of community in each class. I give total credit to Christopher Emdin for helping me develop this practice.

Just continue what you’re doing because you make the class enjoyable.

Even though I have a sense that what I do on a daily basis is working, I’m human.  I need some feedback that says–hey, this is working for ME.

Sometimes diverting to current and past cultural traditions and worldwide events like that day spent on patriarchy is refreshing to me because we stop our routine work for just a moment. 

Am I being a bad language teacher if I spend a whole class session or two entirely in English talking about a cultural, cross-cultural, inter-cultural issue? I’d be the first to argue that there’s a fine line and it’s too easy for Latin teachers in particular to cross over it. It’s our comfort zone.  But, this day we spent talking about patriarchy, then and now, probably counts as one of the pivotal moments of the entire year.

I also like how you explained to us the underlying psychology beneath the methods you use in the Latin program which is probably why some of the majors I am interested in are psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology. 

Good to know.  I do take time every so often to tell them not only WHAT we are going to do and HOW we are going to do it, but WHY we are doing it.

Even though I don’t think I will study Latin in college, probably another Romance language like French, I know that Latin will help me in those future goals. I really want their teaching methods to be similar to yours although that’s very unlikely. 

So, this is bitter-sweet information, for me, mostly because of the last part.  She is right.  She likely will take on French or some other language, and the experience will not be much like how she learned Latin. Still, she has learned some things from me about language, and if she can apply them to Vietnamese, she can apply them to French.

As a whole, you emanate positivity, high morality, and deep affection and respect for others. You have been a great role model in that way. 

I’d love to have a conversation with her about this. I want to know how she estimates positivity, high morality, deep affection and respect for others. I “think” that most of that comes from the last thing.  I do try, very hard, to make respect for others the singular rule of my classroom, and it’s always a two way street.  I can never expect them to respect me if I don’t respect them. I don’t always feel positive, but I work at it. I think high morality is about social justice which bleeds through everything I do. I am deeply grateful to the universe that she perceives deep affection in my towards my students.  That’s what I want to demonstrate, but I don’t know that I “feel” it every day.

I can guarantee you that many of your students will say the same. You have no idea how much of a positive influence you have had on me and probably other students as well.

She’s right.  I don’t know.  And I don’t know how many students I’ve hurt or offended even if unintentionally.  What she reminds me and I hope us of is that we have an effect. We have an influence. We are modeling things. Whether they tell us or not, this is true. We really do have some of the most amazing opportunities in the world of work.  I am deeply grateful.

Bob Patrick

Vocabulary Driven Curriculum

You will find along with this post, four Latin level specific high frequency vocabulary lists.  I have been asked to share them, and I have do so with the following backstory on where they came from, how they were created and for what purposes. Every published Latin textbook (and other languages as well) that I know about structures itself around a grammar syllabus.  This, unfortunately, defies what we know about language acquisition–that it has a natural order in which learners who are given understandable messages in the target language with compelling material and a low stress environment will acquire language structures when they are ready to and not according to what is explicitly taught to them. 

Because our district (Gwinnett County Public Schools) is one of the largest in the country requiring some forms of equity and “quality assurance” between its many schools and programs, a team was assembled a few years ago to create district resources for Latin teachers to use.  These include semester exams and one district assessment used as a pre and post test for the entire year–for all levels of Latin, 1, 2, 3 and 4.  (Our program also includes Latin 5, and other programs include AP Latin. Those courses create a vocabulary specific to what they are reading at that level all built on these four vocabulary lists). 

Some in our district use CLC, and some are untextbook, some very grammar based, others frame our programs with CI principles and some are doing some sort of hybrid of the two. We all follow the district standards which are built off of the Five C’s of ACTFL. 

The driving goal for the team was to create resources that would be a benefit to ALL teachers, students and programs and in which none could be proverbially thrown under the bus.  The way we achieved this was to build a basic vocabulary list for each level that consists of highest frequency words. In doing that, we had to establish some working principles:

  1. There are many high frequency vocab lists for Latin, and the great difference in all of them is the question of which authors are included.  We chose to work with the broadest of such lists, the one done by Mark A.E. Williams, Essential Latin Vocabulary. His work catalogs vocab by frequency in over 200 Latin authors.  Almost all of the others that we consulted focused on a much narrower set of authors from the classical period. Since our driving motivation was to support and not hinder, we went with Williams’ work.  His work has been criticized for some typographical errors, but otherwise, we found it to be very helpful, and we strongly recommend it. There were moments when we all scratched our heads–really, THAT word is more frequently used than THIS word?  We created the lists word by word with discussion around each. We learned so much from spending our first hours for each level doing this work.
  2. We wanted to create a bottom line kind of list–that is, students at this level will know these words, and teachers are free to teach any others they like.  However, all district materials, assessments, etc, will be based on these words. That assures that there are no vocabulary surprises on district materials. We arrived at 150 words per level. We chose to identify which words would be taught first semester and which second, but there is no magic to that, and those who use these lists should make such decisions locally.
  3. We agreed that since we do not all follow a grammar syllabus, but that grammar is important to us all, our assessments would make use of any grammar needed for good writing, but adhere to the words for that level and below (e.g. Latin 2 assessments could make use of vocab for Latin 1 and 2). If we used a grammatical construction that did not communicate easily even with known vocabulary, we offered a gloss in district materials.
  4. Again, to guide our assessment writing, we agreed that we would only assess comprehension.  There were no explicit grammar, history or culture questions, though the stories we wrote based on the vocabularies were always set in ancient Roman settings that conveyed history and culture.  So, while grammar, history and culture were present, they were not explicitly tested.


In our untextbook, Comprehensible Input Latin program at Parkview High School, we determined some years ago that with 52 minute classes meeting 5 days a week, and accounting for the kinds of predictable interruptions that happen, we could reasonable teach for acquisition about 100 words per semester to all kinds of learners.  These lists provide 75 words per semester toward that goal for us leaving room for “above and beyond” locally in contrast to the district assessments. 

You will find all four lists attached here as PDF documents. Our committee began as a group of 6, and has remained a group of 4 of the originals over the last three years. I strongly encourage collaborative work like this specifically on vocabulary at whatever levels Latin teachers are able to work.  Because we chose to begin and be motivated by work that would serve and support ALL teachers and programs, it has created a deep sense of good will among us. I am grateful for the opportunity to do this work, and while our creation of district materials continues, I look forward to each meeting. To save us all the trouble, I must tell you that the district created materials are not items that I can share.  But, with these words lists, you can create your own and build a curriculum around vocabulary that you know is high frequency across a wide array of Latin authors. 

Bob Patrick

Latin 4 Latin 3 Latin 2 Latin 1


Of Methods and Principles: Is There Only One Right Way?

We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from those actions are controlled by principles.
Stephen R. Covey

I’ve been at the work of teaching Latin for 30 years now, and the last 20 of those have involved growing into the use of Comprehensible Input as a framework for what I do.

One of the insights I’ve gained from teaching graduate courses over the last 6 years–all focused on some aspect of Comprehensible Input for teachers of second languages is just how much of a paradigm shift CI offers to us, and most teachers do not understand them well or quickly. I certainly didn’t, and even the very best and astute teachers in my graduate classes struggle to understand CI principles. It takes time. It takes making mistakes and running into some brick walls. It definitely requires a sense of humor!

Recently, I found a rather good blog post on my news feed.  The blog had nothing to do with language teaching, but the dynamics that the author focused on are exactly those involved in teaching languages. One observation in particular, which the author makes based on some ideas from Stephen Covey rang the bell for me. I hope that what follows is helpful in grasping the principles of Comprehensible Input for however you practice the art and skill of teaching languages.

From Covey: We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from those actions are controlled by principles.

From Hardy: The only way to avoid negative consequences, then, is to understand the principles governing natural consequences. Hence, highly successful people are continually learning and striving to better understand the world around them.

First a caveat.  We have to disavow the way the word “consequences” is used in school-talk.  In traditional school-talk, consequences means the way a teacher, or a school or a school system will punish you if you break one of the published rules.  In Covey’s original, in Hardy’s blog, and here in this post, consequences means those things that naturally result from our actions. They may be positive or negative or neutral.  If I wash my hands, I am less likely to catch the flu.  Good consequence.  If I ignore that warning, I may catch the flu. Bad consequence. And so forth. No rule keeper standing around to reward or punish.  Just the things that result from what we choose to do.

1. We can choose what to do in various circumstances, but we are not free to choose the consequences.  Consequences are governed by principles. This is key to a useful understanding of Comprehensible Input.  CI is made up of several principles that describe the consequences of certain actions regarding the learning of languages. There are many, many ways to teach languages, various methods, applications, activities, exercises, projects and procedures.  We who teach are free to choose among them all and decide which ones we will use with which classes. We know our students.  We know our circumstances.  We know the pressures and requirements placed on us by our local school and systems.  We choose how we teach.

2. Those things that naturally result from how we choose to teach are not governed by our choices of teaching methods, but by principles. CI offers a set of principles. One of the core principles is that learners make progress in acquiring the language when they receive understandable messages in that language.  When a teacher–using any method that they choose to teach with–offer their students understandable messages in the language, those students will make progress in their ability to understand that language when they hear it and read it with understanding. The delivery of understandable messages can happen whether the teacher intends it to or not, whether the teacher has heard of CI or not. Even in a classroom where the teacher has decided that the goal of Latin study is to improve student’s grasp of English grammar, who has no intentions of speaking Latin to their students or of reading anything in any extensive way, there will be moments when that teacher delivers understandable messages in Latin, and students will to some degree make some progress in understanding.

The Principle: learners make progress when they receive understandable messages in L2
The Activity: teacher places half a dozen words in Latin on the board for parts of a house and actions like eat, sleep, play, read with L1 equivalents, and then begins to slowly ask students in Latin whether they do certain activities in certain rooms.  E.g. Do you eat in the bathroom?  Do you read in the kitchen?  Do you sleep in the bedroom?
The Consequence: With practically no effort, the students will acquire vocabulary for parts of the house and the activities of eating, sleeping, reading and playing. They may have little idea of what a noun or verb is, or how to create various forms of each.

The Principle: language is acquired through unconscious use of the language with understandable messages, while the structure and grammatical rules for a language are learned through explicit instruction. Explicit knowledge of the language structures is useful for editing language that the learner can already produce.
The Activity: The teacher delivers a lecture about the inflection of Latin nouns and how each inflected form functions using grammatical designations in L1. The teacher supplies a graphic organizer for the rules of those inflections including a place to copy down the inflected endings for the first declension. Students are asked to practice chanting the endings with a partner and to finish memorizing them for homework.
The Consequence: If students have already acquired a good bit of the language, they will be able to collect these grammatical notes, organize them and then reference them when writing and editing their own written work.

The Principle: there is a natural order to the way in which learners acquire the structures of a language.  They will acquire a structure when they are ready to, and not a moment before.
The Activity: the teacher has created a movie talk using familiar and some new vocabulary and focusing on the use of the dative case with verbs of giving. The teacher has done a wonderful job of making sure that the dative case of familiar nouns are used in creative repetitions throughout.
The Consequence: The teacher observes over the next few days that students (a couple of exceptions) largely do not seem to have even noticed the dative endings on nouns, and are not necessarily using them correctly. They are, however, reading and listening with high levels of understanding despite their apparent inability to notice the dative case. The teacher should not stop using the dative case (by any means!) but realize that students are not ready to acquire it yet. A lecture on the dative case with drills will not make this happen any faster, but it may invoke the next principle and its consequences.

The Principle: When the affective filter is high, acquisition of L2 will be low and conversely, when the affective filter is low, acquisition of L2 will be high.
The Activity: The teacher has planned to read the next story in their textbook this week, the week of district level testing in several other departments. The teacher knows it to be an exciting story with a surprise ending and thinks it will be a good diversion from all the testing in other subjects. The teacher spends the fist 10 minutes going over the 23 new words that students will encounter in the story, and then begins the class reading with them.  Soon, the teacher observes students “checking out” in numerous ways: cell phones appear, doodling is happening, three students are asleep on top of their books, and there have been several outbreaks of chatting that have disrupted the reading.
The Consequence: Trying to read this story is a total fail. The class never made it past the second paragraph of a 6 paragraph story. In retrospect, the teacher realizes that 23 new words was far too much to take in meaningfully, and that created instant anxiety in a group of students who were already under the gun for high stakes performance that week in other subject areas. The behaviors in class were signs of high anxiety which made working in a second language almost impossible.

The Principle: When learners have access to the rules of the structure of a language, understand them, and have time to apply them, their inner editor will use that material to create better output of language they have already acquired.
The Activity: Students have been given time in class to respond to a writing prompt based on a story they finished reading the day before.  The prompt includes an extension of the story that they create. They are told that they will write their rough draft today, and then using their grammar notes from previous classes in the year, write a final draft tomorrow. They must stick to the vocabulary they know, but they may consult with you tomorrow on questions about grammar usage. On the second day, the teacher asks them to write at the bottom of their paper which grammar rules they consulted the most for their final draft.
The Consequence: The teacher can see from even a cursory glance at each students rough and final drafts that improvements were made in the quality of the writing from one day to the next. There are no “perfect” papers, but they all show improvement over the rough draft.  The teacher can also see that some students are making heavier use of grammar notes than others, but all have been able to identify which notes helped them.

The Principle: Learners acquire language much more quickly with material they find compelling than with material that they do not find compelling. Compelling material makes them forget (even if for moments at a time) that they are working in L2.
The Activity: The teacher has noticed how alive students become when they create activities using the collection of stuffed animals in the room. The teacher has created a story based on some of the weird and unheard of creatures from Pliny’s De Rerum Natura. The story is written with familiar vocabulary and at a level that the teacher knows only slightly challenges the students.  A half dozen new words are on the board with English equivalents and remain there for reference when they come up in the story.  The teacher spends 5 minutes introducing the students to Pliny in L1. As they read the story together, students are asked to use crayons and colored pencils to draw the various creatures they encounter. The activity takes much longer than the teacher had planned, stretching across three class periods rather than one.  Each time, students complain that time has ended. Returning to where they left off the day before is easy.
The Consequence: Students are drawn into a new story based on an ancient author with material that the teacher knows will be compelling to them.  While going for 3 days instead of 1 seems like a disruption in the lesson plans, the teacher has actually succeeded in three days of totally engaged reading of Latin instead of just one, and that is a huge win.

In these examples, I’ve given JUST ONE teaching activity (aka method, practice, approach). How we teach is our choice based on many personal and professional factors.  CI is NOT a method, practice or approach.  It is a set of principles. These principles indicate the things that will naturally result from whatever activities or methods we choose to employ whether we know it or not. One very practical aspect of seeing CI as a set of principles is that it can allow us to gear our choices toward goals that we value.  For instance, if having students be able to read and understand Latin at increasingly more complex levels is our goal, then choosing activities where we intentionally supply understandable messages in Latin creates a predictable outcome–consequence.

If we can appreciate the predicted (and now long tested and proven) outcomes of these principles, we can then begin to see our textbook and other resources as things that we control in order to teach rather than things that control how we teach.  Years ago, I taught a university Latin 1 course.  I was told that while I had to use Wheelock’s textbook, I could formulate the syllabus and course however I wanted to.  Based on what I know about these principles and their predicted consequences, I flipped what is ordinarily done at the university level.  Our class time (3 hours per week) was spent largely on the stories in 38 Little Stories which was written as a companion to Wheelock’s, and then I assigned a chapter and exercises for homework from Wheelock’s.  I spent the first 15 minutes of class (if it took that long) to answer questions about the previous night’s homework. Otherwise, we spent all our time reading and speaking in Latin about those stories.

Consequences? Out of 28 students, I had only one drop out (dept. chair had predicted that half would drop out by midterm because”they always do.”). I received very high student evaluations, and the lowest grade in the class was a C.  No failures, and the student who got the C had trouble getting to class on time (every time). You might be in a program where you are required to use a book or materials that you would not choose to use.  Seeing the principles as predictors of consequences–however we choose to teach–can help us see how to use our resources differently for the best outcomes we can imagine.

Bob Patrick

Can Writing Be A Part of Student Assessment?

A common push from L2 teachers is to require students to speak and write in the target language.  In a sense, this compulsion is understandable: we want some evidence that we are teaching well and that they are learning well. If we embrace a framework of teaching informed by Comprehensible Input, we should keep the following in mind when it comes to requiring students to write and how we use that activity. While neither speaking nor writing in Latin has been a common part of traditional Latin programs, that is changing with the increasing number of Latin teachers who are finding success with Comprehensible Input as a framework for their teaching, and writing has become an important part of that. 

Dr. Krashen has elsewhere observed that output (student writing) can tell teachers when students are actually getting comprehensible input.  This is basic to CI principles: output (writing and speaking) is always the result of much comprehensible input. So, asking students to write can be used as a formative assessment helping teachers understand if students are getting enough input. 

We must be aware, however, that output can affect acquisition indirectly, by encouraging or discouraging interaction and other forms of getting comprehensible input. This is especially true when output is turned into a high stakes test or when the output must reach some arbitrary requirements (e.g. students must write 50 words or 100 words within a 5 minute timed write). The truth is that some students in that situation will write 50 or 100 or 150 words.  Others will write 15 or 30. Others will sit and stare at the page either because they have not received enough input or because the timed write as assessment has so raised the affective filter (anxiety) that it shuts down their ability to write anything.

A preferable alternative is to invite students to write on a regular basis (in a classroom composition notebook that never leaves the room).  The invitation is to write about something that the class has recently spent a lot of time on (a story, a discussion, a theme). The invitation is to write as much as they can using the words they know.  When they are finished, they count the number of words they wrote. A time limit can be given like 5 or 10 minutes (dependent on the level of students) but as the time comes to an end, ask who needs a few more minutes.  If no one raises their hand, they are done. If hands go up, that’s wonderful. Give them 2 more minutes. Then, have them count their words, put the number at the top of the page, and circle it. At the end of a grading period (6 weeks, 9 weeks, semester), ask students to evaluate their work. I have written about this process here, and I have shared what that set of instructions for students looks like here. The teacher can, at this point, use both the student’s observations on his/her own work along with their professional assessment of the student’s progress to give a summative grade for writing progress. This will be a summative and qualitative assessment, i.e. the student’s progress is measured against his/her own demonstration of progress and not against some arbitrary number of required achievement. A student who moved from 13 words to 55 words might, in the estimation of the teacher who knows the student well, give this student an A or a 95 for their writing grade. A student who moved from 55 to 175 words might also receive an A or a 95.  A student who moved from 30 to 90 words, but whose work is showing good use of vocabulary and more complex sentences might also receive an A or 95. Assessing this way requires that the teacher know the students and their individual progress in the class.

There is an important distinction is between forced and unforced output. Forced output occurs when students must produce aspects of language that they have not yet acquired. Establishing how many words they must write, or targeting certain aspects of grammar or vocabulary are examples of this forced output.  A student will write what he/she has acquired easily.  

Unforced output can help quite a lot. First we encourage output that only requires students to use aspects of language that are already acquired. This can then move classroom discourse along and helps the teacher provide more comprehensible input. 

So, can writing be a part of student assessment?  I think that it can, but we have to check our traditional inclinations.  At this point with over 20 years of teaching within a CI framework, here is a summary of what I find helpful both for learners continuing to make progress in L2 and for teachers who are designing and assessing learning.

1. Invite students on a regular basis to write about things that have received much attention in class, i.e. a lot of comprehensible input.

2. While you may set a time, always check to see who needs more time.  When students don’t need more time, they are done. The time aspect of this is not the important thing.  What they can write tells us what they have acquired, and that is important.

3. Never set an arbitrary number against which students are graded.  This is very popular even among CI teachers, and I think it is a critical mistake.  Students do not acquire language at the same pace for a variety of reasons. So, the question is not whether students have written an arbitrary number of words (by the way, that number, whatever it is, is always arbitrary). The question is whether the student’s writing today is better than what the student wrote last time and the times before that.  “Better” can be both a quantitative issue (number of words) and qualitative (more coherent, complex writing, using a larger array of meaningful vocabulary). A much better practice is the measure the student against him/herself.  

4. Keeping all student-writing collected in a composition notebook that never leaves the room and which is only used for this purpose can, over time, become an amazing picture of that individual student’s evolving acquisition of the language.  In our program, these composition notebooks travel with the student from one level to the next, one teacher to the next, and at the end of four years, they are asked to analyse their own writing over four years and what it has to say about their acquisition of the language. This becomes an excellent record of progress (output which indicates input) as well as an important metacognitive analysis of the student’s learning.

As L2 teachers make progress pulling away from the traditional systems that we were trained in, much of this begins to feel more natural to us.  In the meantime, it is hard and necessary work to check ourselves and our assumptions about the components of language acquisition. Krashen has written a very useful paper on the various components of writing which I take myself back to often as a check on myself and my expectations.

Bob Patrick

Explicate Scaenam! Reading Review, Collaborative Writing and Speaking

I designed this activity as a review for reading several chapters of a novella, and it involves collaborative writing and speaking.  The writing and speaking will happen, of course, appropriately for the level of the students.

  1. Divide students into small groups (3-4 in each).
  2. Give each group a whiteboard and markers, and a few 4 x 6 index cards.  Ask them to draw a scene from one of the recent chapters they have read together as a class. They must also write on an index card in Latin a summary of the scene they are drawing (and their names on the back of the card).  After the first round, you may place a time limit on it–say 5 minutes, but the first time you do this, you may want to be flexible about how much time it takes.
  3. When all are ready, take up the scene and card, and then redistribute them to groups so that each gets a scene that they did not draw.  You keeps the cards for scoring.
  4. Groups have 5 minutes to decide how to explain the scene they have received in Latin. Then, each in turn shows the scene they have and they explain the scene “Latine tantum.”
  5. You mark scores on the index cards. Scoring:
    1. 5 points for a well drawn scene
    2. 5 points for a good Latin summary
    3. Up to 5 points for a good Latin description of another group’s scene.
    4. -1 point whenever English is used in the descriptions, written or spoken.
  6. Play as many rounds as possible.  At the end, have stickers ready for top scoring teams. I like to make that stickers for all, and perhaps some extras for the top scoring team because, really, doing what they are doing here is sticker-worthy all the way around!

You may also use this for an assessment for reading, speaking and writing standards.

Bob Patrick

Live Typing: A Story Review

In an introductory session of Mandarin with La Sripanawongsa at Comprehensible Midwest 2019, I experienced not only a lively and helpful session learning some basic Mandarin, but I witnessed a CI activity that I want to pass on.  La called this “live typing.”  It works like this as a review of a story that students have just been asked, told or read together.

You, the teacher, sit at a computer that is projected onto the screen with a google or word document open.  Be sure to set the font on large type. Today, I did this using Arial 18 font.

Ask students in the target language to retell you  the story. As they do, you type it on screen.  If they get something out of order, no worries.  You have all these quick and easy editing options.

When the story is complete, you can:

  1. do a choral read and translate
  2. ask for a volunteer to take a pointer and point to words as the teacher reads in L2 and class gives L1 meaning
  3. let volunteer point to L2 words as the teacher gives the English meaning.
  4. Play a round of stultus

This can be a warm up activity (which is how I used it today); an integration activity at the end of working on a story; a brain break from another activity; a review for a formal assessment and certainly an informal assessment all by itself.

I did it today with Latin 4 and 5 students who are reading Itinera Petri and Pugio Bruti respectively. Some really nice things happened.

  1. As one student offered an element of the story, it reminded others of next bites.
  2. A couple of students began to notice that I typed things that were a little different from what was said.  That’s because I was acting as the Monitor–the editor for good Latin.  They wanted to know more about that.  In other words, it created natural, organic interest and curiosity in Latin and syntax.
  3. And, of course, in the space of about 10 minutes, we had retold 5 capitula of the story before beginning capitulum 6.

I’ll be doing this again.

Bob Patrick

Re-read, Draw, Re-Tell: Continuing Input with Structured Output

With most of our input activities, one pass over anything is never really enough. Repetitio is mater studiorum must be one of the oldest signposts for Comprehensible Input on record! So, after reading a chapter of Pugio Bruti with Latin 5 students (and a chapter of Itinera Petri with Latin 4 students) I created this version of a “Read and Draw” that focusings on listening, reading and hearing AGAIN prior to a writing activity.  Here is the outline of how to do the activity which I am calling “Re-Read, Draw and Re-Tell”.

Students put themselves in groups of 3-4 (3 is best).

  1. They begin by taking turns reading and giving back the English of the most recent reading/chapter of a novella or other text.  This should not normally be a cold read.
  2. You circulate to help with problem spots.
  3. When a group has finished, they get ONE white board, marker and rag for the group (could be a blank piece of paper).
  4. Group goes back through the story and one of them draws in as much detail as possible the entire reading. They may label things in Latin, but not English, and only with words and phrases–not whole sentences.
  5. When they think they are finished, they call you over to see if they have left anything out.
  6. With your go ahead, they now take turns re-telling the story to each other using the drawing as their guide.
  7. They should each re-tell the story at least twice or until they feel that they have the entire story down. 
  8. As they listen to each other re-tell, the listeners should agree on a “grade” for the retell with these three options: 70–Needs Improvement; 80–Meets expectations; 90–exceeds expectations and a couple of notes about how to make this better. This is not a grade for the gradebook, but a form of peer-review that may give them some insight into how to make their output better. I doing so, it necessarily leads them back to more input around the “left out” items.
  9. They each take a picture of the drawing on their phones for future use.  Then, return all materials.
  10. On a subsequent day, each may use the photo on their phone to review the story before writing the story in their composition notebook. The writing may be simple a re-tell, or you may add extra considerations in the writing prompt that go along with the story and any personalized questions you have already asked them.

Here is the student copy I made to give to each group of three.

Here is the writing prompt I gave based on Cap 3 of Pugio Bruti:

Write a Latin summary of what happens in Cap 3. Then, write in Latin about a time or place where you were alone and things felt dangerous. Who would you want to be with you? Explain.

Here is the writing prompt for Cap 4 of Itinera Petri:

Retell in Latin the details of the story in Cap. 4  Then, in Latin describe a dream you had once and what happened in it.  Is it like Peter’s or different? How?

Bob Patrick

Building Community Before Teaching Language

A year ago, my Latin colleagues agreed to use Christopher Emdin’s wonderful book for a book study and professional development. White Folks Who Teach in the ‘Hood And All the Rest of Y’all: Reality Pedagogy, is a must have manual for teachers in today’s education spaces. The majority of teachers are still white while the majority of students in public schools is at the 50% mark for students of Color or just beyond that. This is not a book review, though, and while I want to urge everyone to get it and study it, I’m really writing to talk about one take away for me from our study.

Building Community.  It may be the thread that runs through all of Emdin’s work, but he particularly hones in on it in his chapter called “cosmopolitanism.” In the second half of last year, I found ways to begin to work on building community in my classrooms in ways that I had never done before, and the results were very positive. With summer to simmer on some of these ideas, I have made some decisions about building community in my classrooms this year.

  1. Building community takes priority over teaching language. I am teaching Latin 4 and Latin 5 this year with seniors, and I am chomping at the bit to get started with students whom I largely know from earlier years of instruction. This year, though, I made a personal commitment to spent the better part of the first two weeks focusing on community building.  I am also weaving in some items that will actually be Latin based, but the primary focus of every class is building community.
  2. You can use all kinds of “get to know you” activities and some may organically emerge.  So far, I’ve invited students to:
    1. tell us something special about their summer.  I made a point of saying that it was their choice–something small, something big, something happy, something funny, something sad, but something special about summer.
    2. tell us something their Latin teacher last year did (including me if I was their teacher last year) that helped them make progress in Latin. I promised to pay attention to their list and do more of those kinds of things.
    3. play two truths and a tale. We sat in a very large circle so that we could all see each other and one by one told three things about ourselves, one of which was false.  Group voted on what was the false item. It was a gentle, fun and curious way to gain insight into the people in the room.
    4. reflect on self-confidence, motivation and anxiety.  These are the things that make up the affective filter, and while I know that as the teacher in the room, we rarely ask students to reflect on how those function inside of them.  I asked them to write one day about them, and then the next day, after re-reading what they wrote, to draw a colored picture or symbol, abstract or concrete, that reflected the interaction of the three inside of them. While they colored, I read their writing.  Then, they chose a place on the bulletin board to post their drawing.  My bulletin board that only has SALVE! at its center is now surrounded with 90ish colored representations of self-confidence, motivation and anxiety.  Some are whimsical.  Some are serious.  Some actually sort of break my heart. Others make me smile. I’ve added a few examples to this blog.
    5. play speed dating with some questions that they had 30 seconds to share with each partner sitting across from them like: what’s your favorite food? Where’s your favorite place to go? What was your most embarrassing moment?  Who do you most admire?
    6. I’ve asked them to reflect on what the word “journey” means to them, and we’ve put the brainstormed list on the board and briefly reviewed it each day (iter) is the theme that I want to work with in Latin this year).
    7. I began introducing phrases that can be made with iter and began circling them with personalized questions.
  3. I assigned some jobs that were specifically for the purpose of community building.  There are 5 jobs and 6 positions because one requires two people.  These job holders are in position for three weeks, and one of their aims–besides doing the job assigned–is to increasingly do their jobs “Latine tantum.”  They can always extract language they need from me, but I have also begun keeping a list of words and phrases for them to use and posted to our online digital classroom.  At the beginning of our second week of school, all of them in all classes are attempting to do their jobs in Latin.  They will each be assessed on their use of Latin by the end of there three weeks.  My intention is that students will cycle through these jobs all year long, so this group of job holders will do them again a few more times before the year is over.  What jobs you ask? They are listed below, and here are the slides introducing them.
    1. Dux Telephonorum
    2. Dux Sermonis Orientis
    3. Censor
    4. Distributores (2)
    5. Aestimator

We are just in our second week of all this as I write, but each day, each Aestimator drops a hand-written note to me in a special mailbox I created just for this purpose.  These little notes reassure both my heart and my brain that I’m on track.

Hodie, sessio interest.  I thought everyone was enjoying the lesson.  We actually have more people talk at the gloriemur et queramur.  Everyone is getting more comfortable in the class.  * Everyone looks fine and happy to be here!

Everyone liked today.  Since we have a small class, we are starting to form a family.  These activities are drawing us closer. (This student doesn’t know that the same thing is happening in my larger classes, too).

The class activity was fun and entertaining because it offered an opportunity for us to de-stress and learn more about our classmates.

I feel as if the topic about anxiety and self-motivation is really good.  The brag or vent with a student leading is a good idea.  The jobs make the class more interactive. 

Bob Patrick

What Is Comprehensible Input–Really?

Good news.  A lot of Latin teachers make reference to Comprehensible Input. So many that I think we can call this a movement.

Bad news.  The way some people use “comprehensible input” seems to indicate that we are still trying to understand what it really means and at times getting it wrong.

It is good news that so many of us reference Comprehensible Input. CI has become a helpful if not also challenging way to step out of the confines of traditional Latin teaching and open up the wonders of this language to many more students than we once were able to do.

It is bad news that what Comprehensible Input means eludes us for the same reason–it really can help and challenge us to step out of the confines of traditional Latin teaching and open up the wonders of this language to many more students than we once were able to do.

What Comprehensible Input is not

CI is not active Latin. While the term “active Latin” can itself be an elusive term, I generally understand it to mean actively using Latin as a language for communication.  It almost always focuses on speaking Latin in various gatherings, formal and informal, as well as in the classroom.  In most of these experiences, Latin is employed immersively, and those who participate in it agree, formally and informally, not to use their first language. In the active Latin immersion programs that I have participated in and know about, the traditional assumption that one must know one’s Latin grammar in order to participate in active Latin gatherings is well ensconced.  Speaking is a form of language output, and CI recognizes by its very name that input always precedes output. Active Latin as practiced among us certainly depends on the dynamics of CI in ways that I suspect are completely overlooked by participants in active Latin gatherings, but CI is not “active Latin.”

CI is not communicative Latin. “Communicative language” is one of those terms that has come to mean many things. In general, it seems to mean that teaching with communicative Latin means using Latin to communicate.  In this respect, it is a lot like active Latin though likely more confined to classrooms rather than Latin speaking gatherings. Bill Van Patten has done us an extraordinary favor in defining the communicative classroom” as one involving the expression, interpretation and negotiation of meaning with a purpose in the context of the classroom (p. 13, While We’re On the Topic). In this respect, all of the observations made by the theory of CI are at play, but Van Patten himself is clear that when most people talk about a “communicative activity” they mean something else–something more like forced output or a classroom where no L1 is allowed.

CI is not one among many approaches by which you can achieve the same thing. I will take this up below in my discussion of what CI is, but the claim that the outcomes of CI can be achieved in many other ways is simply evidence of a serious misunderstanding of CI.  It seems to betray the idea that CI is some set of external activities and practices which drive an L2 lesson plan.  What this claim really requires is the answer to what “thing” CI is attempting to achieve or, in fact, what other “things” other approaches are attempting to achieve.  More below.

CI is not a method. A method is a set of procedures for accomplishing or approaching something. CI is not a set of procedures, although it lends itself to creating many procedures.

CI is not a set of activities or tricks. Activities and tricks are other words for procedures in a language classroom, and as already stated, CI is not a set of procedures. So, CI is not something you can “add to your bag of tricks or toolbox.”

So, what is Comprehensible Input? CI is actually involved in most of the things listed above, which can only make this more confusing, so let’s see if we can parse this out.

CI is a theory describing how human beings gain ability in language.

Stephen Krashen proposed originally five hypotheses that came to be known in all as Comprehensible Input. Based on research into the human ability to develop language, he made five claims about how that happens for adults learning second languages. What are those claims? All italicized quotations are taken from Krashen’s work, updated in 2009, Principles and Practices in Second Language Acquisition and which can be found at his website collection of his works.

  1.  Adults have two distinct and independent ways of developing competence in a second language. The first way he calls “acquisition.” This is a subconscious process in which the person is largely unaware that they are picking up the language as they receive it from others around them. The second way he calls “learning.”  This is the conscious, explicit approach of learning things about the language in which the person is aware of attempting to know things about how the language works. When an adult develops competence in a second language BOTH of these ways are ultimately involved, and in our traditional Latin approaches, we have largely focused on the second even though there are moments when the first one is happening unbeknownst to both teachers and students. Teachers whose work is informed by CI aim to focus on setting up a variety of activities and experiences in which the first becomes most significant to the process. It also includes at appropriate times the second way. I often hear teachers say that they use the terms acquisition and learning synonymously.  The theory of Comprehensible Input uses them distinctively and not at all synonymously. To say that one’s work is informed by CI is to recognize this distinction in the planning and teaching of second language.
  2. The acquisition of grammatical structures proceeds in a predictable order. Krashen characterized this as perhaps the most exciting development in recent years.  He documents multiple studies which show that adults learning second languages acquire grammatical structures in particular patterns even while showing occasional variation on those patterns. This is an important thing to notice:  Krashen says that adults ACQUIRE grammatical patterns in a certain natural order.  He does not say that they LEARN those grammatical patterns.  So, the observation is that in the first way of developing language–acquisition–there is a natural order to those grammatical structures.  That’s why even if one knew the natural order for Latin acquisition, creating a grammar syllabus to parallel it would not hasten the acquisition.  Learning and acquisition are different aspects of developing language. If teachers understand this aspect of the human development of language, we can observe what our students seem to be acquiring in grammatical structures and when, generally speaking. It is my own observation that acquiring noun/adjective inflections comes very slowly and later than verb inflections, but that is just the observation of one teacher.
  3. Acquisition and learning are used in very specific ways. Acquisition is responsible for initiating output–speaking and writing, and is responsible for our fluency in the language.  Learning has only one role–that of the monitor or editor.  Once we are able to produce (speak and write) the language we then use what we learn about the language to edit it.  This is a significant observation leading to decisions about the delay of teaching about the grammatical system in Latin. Knowing the rules of grammar are only useful for editing the language that one can already produce, and production of language (speaking and writing) are the work of acquisition. Those who do not understand what CI is often declare that CI influenced teachers “don’t teach grammar.” That is utterly not true and a gross misunderstanding of the theory of Comprehensible Input. Krashen offers another caveat in this observation of how human beings acquire language.  When the internal monitor is over developed, it interferes in the acquisition and production of the language.  I find no greater testimony to this observation than the reluctance of Latin teachers (almost all traditionally trained) to speak Latin in front of other Latin teachers. The fear of making a mistake and having it publicly noticed is paralyzing.
  4. In order to make progress from one stage of acquisition to another, the student must understand the input (listening or reading) where the focus is on meaning and not form. Krashen restates it this way: We acquire, in other words, only when we understand language that contains structure that is “a little beyond” where we are now. Krashen notes that this is the newest and most important of the hypotheses, and he observes that it will have the largest impact on both theoretical and practical aspects of language pedagogy.  This is why, in my opinion, people often erroneously think of CI as a method. CI is a theory, but this particular principle of CI has strong impact on the many applications that teachers will make of it. Krashen’s own words are worth quoting here at some length:The input hypothesis runs counter to our usual pedagogical approach in second and foreign language teaching. As Hatch (1978a) has pointed out, our assumption has been that we first learn structures, then practice using them in communication, and this is how fluency develops. The input hypothesis says the opposite. It says we acquire by “going for meaning” first, and as a result, we acquire structure! (For discussion of first language acquisition, see MacNamara, 1972.)In summary, this fourth hypothesis has two parts: Input pertains to acquisition, and progress in acquisition happens when the input is understandable at a level slightly beyond where the student currently is. For the Latin teacher who has up to this point been thinking that they have no interest in students speaking and writing (output), it is well worth noting that CI principles focus on input (listening and reading) as the engine that drives acquisition.
  5. Acquirers vary with respect to the strength or level of their Affective Filters. This hypothesis is built on prior work that notes how a student’s affective variables such as motivation, self-confidence and anxiety impact language acquisition. Krashen notes that with regard to language acquisition even if the input is comprehensible a student with high anxiety, low self-confidence and low motivation will not acquire the language as successfully as a student whose affective filter is low.  This hypothesis also observes that input (the fourth hypothesis) is still the primary cause of acquisition of language, but the affective variables can impede or support that process.
  6. Compelling means that the input is so interesting you forget that it is in another language.It means you are in a state of “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). In this follow up to his original five hypotheses, Krashen adds this “compelling hypothesis” noting that acquisition is more successful when the input which must be comprehensible is also interesting.  But, it is most successful when it is, in fact, compelling as he defines here.I have delayed to the end the driving question: what is the goal of employing these principles of Comprehensible Input?  The goal of those who embrace Comprehensible Input as a set of principles for that understanding is to advance the acquisition of the language they teach. After working with these principles for 20+ years now, I can make some of my own observations about the use and application of these principles in classroom practices and in conversations about what we do as Latin teachers.
  • The six hypotheses are research driven claims about how human beings acquire languages–even this ancient language of Latin.
  • If helping students acquire Latin is not at least a part of your aim, the principles of CI are of no help to you.
  • Most of us, regardless of how we teach or of what we believe about language learning recognize some aspects of these principles in what we do and likely that they call into question some other aspects of what we do.
  • Methodology based on CI principles develops when a teacher affirms that they want to help student acquire the language and then asks: what things can I do that reinforces these 6 principles?
  • Here are some basic beginning places toward methods that adhere to CI principles.  Beginning places which lead in myriad of ways but which always point back to the 6 principles which are observations about how human beings acquire language.
    • I will focus on acquisition in the early years and add learning in the later years.
    • There is a certain order in which students will acquire the structures of the language, and that depends on the input they receive from me.
    • Teaching them grammar rules is only helpful after they are able to speak and write some Latin and does not help them acquire the language.
    • If I overdo or emphasize grammar too early, I create a barrier to acquisition.
    • The central focus of my role as teacher is to give students understandable messages in Latin (by speaking and through readings).
    • Anything I can do to lower anxiety, build self-confidence and encourage motivation will help with language acquisition.
    • I must constantly work to secure and provide understandable messages that make use of content that my students will find compelling.

Returning to these principles iterum iterumque teaches me how incremental my own understanding of them is, how powerful they are, and how informative they can be to my classroom practices. The fact that too often Latin teachers make inaccurate statements about CI tells me that already even they have felt the impact that this set of principles holds for us and that they, too, are struggling to understand them. I do get the occasional dismissal as I did recently from someone whose work I respect, that I should stop quibbling over whatever we want to call this.  That is frustrating, of course, and even that is a sign that CI is making its impact.

I shall continue to “quibble” about what these principles are, why they are significant and how they may be applied if for no other reason than this.  It has become clear that when I align my practices, methods and activities in the classroom with CI principles, all kinds of learners are able to make progress in Latin. Not only is this vital to the future of Latin in our academic landscape, it’s a vital and central principle of human equity and justice.

Bob Patrick


Brain Breaks That Stay in Latin

Last spring, I began collecting brain breaks that can be done in a way to stay in Latin. I compiled them in a document and invited members of LBP to help me make them better in terms of rules, variations and of course, the Latin. Many people did so. Here is the draft that comes out of that great collaboration. I tried to give credit as much as I could for variations on games and humbly took all corrections for typos and suggestions for better Latin.  My students had a lot of fun with these last year. I hope you find them useful.


Brain Breaks that Stay in Latin
Collected from various contributors on LBP
Collated by Bob Patrick and Edited by the LBP community

(Any mistakes or erroneous explanations are Bob’s–contact him to repair the problem)


  1. The Counting Game (Ludus Numerandi): Students form small groups (3-4) standing in circles.  They close their eyes, and they count to 10 in Latin. No two students can say the same number at the same time.  If they do, they must start over. If/when they get good and fast at this, raise the number 1-15, 1-20, etc. (From Julie Fox)


Hic est ludus numerandi. Discipuli, surgite.  Claudite oculos et numerate Latine “usque ad decem.”  Duo discipuli eundem numerum simul dicere non possunt.  Si simul dicunt, necesse est iterum incipere. Numero decem dicto, omnes considere poterunt.


  1. Praedictio: Hold up a playing card, have students predict whether the next card in the deck is higher or lower by saying maior or minor.. Elimination-style. Lots of opportunities for questions re: predictions. (From Lance Piantaggini)


Demonstrabo vobis chartam lusoriam.  Vos praedicabitis utrum proxima charta maior an minor sit.  Vos dicetis: maior aut minor.


  1. Saxum, charta, forfices: They know and you know how to play but they must use the Latin words.  Have students stand and play in pairs with eliminated players sitting and winners re-pairing until you have a victor/victrix. (From Anne Halverson Stock)  Bob’s addition: play twice, have two victores, and then a championship.


Saxum, charta, forfices.  Dicite mecum: saxum, charta, forfices (iterum, iterumque).  Discipuli, invenite comitem et ludite saxum, charta forfices.  Victor alium comitem inveniet et iterum ludet. Iterum iterumque ludetis donec victor vel victrix restat. (Justin Bailey offers the alternative of O rem ridiculam as they throw the rock, paper scissors. Ann Martin adds: You can also have the loser form a chain behind the winner, and then the chains duel until all are in one chain with the “winner” at the front.)


  1. Unus, duo, tres (on tres, look at someone. If that person is looking back at you, you’re both out! The circle gets smaller until one person remains.) For larger classes, perhaps have students play in circles of 6 or 7 with eliminated players sitting.  When a group is down to 2 or 3 they reform with others for a new group of 6 or 7. (From Anne Halverson Stock) (Justin Bailey notes that if you start with an even number you will end with a pair that wins–just as fun).

Hic ludus “unus, duo, tres” vocatur.  Discipuli, state in circulis octonorum discipulorum.  Spectate ad pavimentum et numerate: unus, duo, tres. Statim, alius alium spectat.  Si tu in oculos alius spectas, ambo consident. Facite iterum circulos et ludite donec unus restat.


  1. Trigon Vocabulorum:  Students stand in a triangle shape (or with large classes more like a circle around the room). Have three balls ready to throw. Students say a Latin word and throw the ball to another person. That one says a Latin word and throws it to another person. And so on. You have to keep three balls going as long as we can. When a ball is dropped, it is out of play. When all three balls have fallen to the ground, the game is over. This could go one longer than the usual brain break–but could be used for 2-3 brain breaks in the same class–or brain breaks all week long–or for an extended game pre or post assessment. (From Chris Buczek)


Hic ludus “trigon vocabulorum” vocatur. Discipuli, facite circulum circum conclave.  Sunt tres pilae. Discipulus qui pilam habet vocabulum Latinum dicit et pilam ad alium discipulum iacit. Pergite hoc modo. Cum pila delabitur, non iam iaci potest.  Cum omnes pilae delabuntur ludus perficitur.


  1. Ecce Vacca: Achi pachi (a nonsense spanish word that I render as Ecce vacca). Students sit in chairs in a circle. One student in the middle asks random students a Latin question and the student answers in Latin (anything: How are you? What day of the week is it?). When he/she asks the one (predetermined) student, that student yells “Ecce vacca!” And everybody gets up and runs to a different seat. The one who doesn’t get a seat is the new person in the center. (With a large class, you might just have 5, 7, 9–whatever your space allows–chairs in a circle. Student whose birthday is closest to today is “it” in the center.  Students close their eyes and teacher walks around outside of circle and taps one person on the back and that person is the one who yells “Ecce vacca!” when asked a question. As with Trigon Vocabulorum above, this might be used for 2-3 brain breaks in one class period, the same brain break all week, or an extended game pre/post assessment. (From Sam Spaulding. Justin Bailey notes that it is also played with Metius Fufetius. May also let students decide what phrase to use here).


Hic ludus “ecce vacca” vocatur. Discipuli in sellis sedent, uno discipulo medio in circulo stante. Magister/Magistra post discipulos circumambulat et unum/unam in tergo tangit.  Discipulus/a tactus/a est “ille/illa.” Discipulus/a medio in circulo alios de variis Latine rogat. Cum rogat illum/am, ille/illa respondet “ecce vacca!” et omnes surgunt et in aliis sellis consident.  Unus/una qui/quae restat nunc quaestiones rogat.  


  1. Facite gregem….All Ss stand up. Teacher announces, “Facite gregem ______ (numerus) discipulorum” and Ss have to SILENTLY (though this rule is often broken) form a group of that number. I go around and count the kids in the groups. Kids that don’t make into a group sit down. Keep going until 3-5 Ss remain, then I usually declare them all the winners, lest we break any friendships and/or ribs. (From Eric Mentges)

Discipuli, surgite.  Ponite sellas ad marginem conclavis.  Hic ludus “facite gregem” vocatur. Dicam “facite greges (numeri) discipulorum.”  vos circumitis circum conclave et greges huius numeri facitis. Si gregem huius numeri facere non potestis, e ludo excludimini.


  1. In Ordine: Write anything on a small whiteboard and then form into a logicial line. e.g., Write your age in the full Latin number form (or even a full sentence) and then line up oldest to youngest; write any number down and then line up low to high; write any word down and then line up a-z; write how many siblings you have and then line up least to most, etc. All pretty low effort but gets the kids up and moving at least. (Eric Mentges)


  1. Comites collidentes: Stand up and face the kid sitting next to you. When I say sinistra manus, clap your left hands together. If I say dextra manus, clap your right hand to each other. Sinister pes, clap your left feet. Dexter pes, clap your right feet. I’ll speed up and slow down and vary it so listen closely and do not fall down!! (From Elaine Virginia Zamonski)


Discipuli, invenite comitem.  Alter contra alterum stat.. Cum dico “manus sinistra”, collidite manus sinistras.  Cum dico “manus dextra”, collidite manus dextras. Cum dico “pes sinister, collidite pedes sinistros.  Cum dico “pes dexter,” collidite pedes dextros. Cum dico “summutate comites” omnes novum comitem invenient.


  1. Vocabulum volans: Everyone stands up. Everyone must say a word/short sentence (whatever works best), and you cannot repeat a word/sentence. If you say a word, you can sit back down. If you say a sentence (or a longer sentence if they’re already doing short sentences) you can sit down AND choose someone who is sitting to stand back up and say something again. Very low pressure output. (From Eric Mentges)  Variation: Use a ball with this activity, and allow for 3 strikes.  Student says word or phrase in Latin and throws ball to another person.  That person says word or phrase and throws ball to another person. Strikes happen when a word is repeated.  Three strikes and game is over, or it’s over when everyone in the room has received the ball and given a different word. (Bob Patrick’s variation).


Hic ludus “vocabulum volans” vocatur.  Omnes circum conclave stant. Quisque discipulus/a vocabulum Latinum dicit.  Vocabulo dicto, discipulus/a considit. Si quis sententiam integram dicit, potest considere ET eligere aliquem sedentem qui nunc stare iterum debet.


  1. Naufragium–based on a game played in Costa Rica. You tell your class there has been a naufragium and the ship is taking on water. To survive, students must get into the life boats (rates is what I said), but there’s a catch. They must enter the life boats in numbers according to your directions. You might start saying “ad rates…bini”, so kids two at a time huddle together. Then you might say “ad rates…octoni”, so kids have to form groups of eight, exactly. If there are nine trying to get in, the group must decide whom to kick out. If there are seven, and therefore not eight, pro dolor, they all perish. You can alternate odds and evens, high numbers and low numbers, in an effort to widdle the group down to two or one or even none! This break can be a lot of fun, it can be noisy, and I have even seen students volunteering “to take one for the team”. Enjoy, and any ways to improve the Latin in this are appreciated. For this activity, use distributives: singuli, bini, terni, quaterni, quini, seni, septeni, octoni, noveni, deni, etc.


  1. Poculum–picked up off one of the CI FB pages, I sadly cannot remember who the source is.  If someone knows, I’ll gladly add the name. Two students play at a time (you could have several “play stations” set up, though).  They face each other with a stool or other item standing between them. On top of the stool is a plastic cup. The teacher calls out various body parts in Latin.  The students have to touch that body part. So, “caput” means they touch their own head, manus sinistra–they touch their left hand, nasus–they touch their nose, etc.  When the teacher says “poculum” they grab the plastic cup. The one who gets it is the winner. At any time that a student touches the wrong body part or goes for the cup when a body part is called, he/she is out and a new player takes their place.  The winner of the round can remain and face challengers, or you can have a winners round where they play off for a victor/victrix omnium. 


Hic ludus “poculum” vocatur.  Duo lusores alter contra alterum stant scamno interposito.  In scamno est poculum. Magister/ra partes corporis vocat. Si magister/ra “caput” vocat, lusores tangere caput debent.  Si “manus sinistra”, lusores tangere manum sinistram debent. Si lusor prave tangit, considendum est. Cum magister/ra “poculum” vocat, lusor qui prior poculum capit est victor/victrix.