Welcome!

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)

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. 

Staying in the Target Language

I’m not sure what to call this.  It’s a little bit process, a little bit of a game, a little bit (okay, maybe a lot) classroom management.  I learned it from my friend and extraordinary CI teacher, Lauren Watson, and to be fair, this is what her process has become in my room.  I’m sure I’ve modified it from her original, and so you can make modifications, too, as you use it and find out what works and what doesn’t in your classroom.  I know now from using it for the last 2-3 years that it is something that students look forward to.  It works like this.

Somewhere on part of a whiteboard in the room, you set up a chart that has a column for each class period that you teach (so part of the brilliance of this is that you can use it for any level that you teach as long as you, the teacher, keep things on level for the class at hand). The horizontal lines indicate three important jobs for this process and a way to document points earned. The effect of the process/game is to encourage students to use positive peer pressure to stay in L2.  This by no means relieves us, the teachers, from having compelling content to work with or from making sure that everything said and read is comprehensible to everyone in the classroom.

The “other goal” which students will be excited about is earning 100 points as a class so that they can have a “Fun Friday.” Fun Friday means doing something fun with L2 (playing games of various sorts) and bringing food if the class wants. You should never let this become “do whatever we want to” but doing something fun and different with L2. Teacher can give choices for them to choose from. If food is brought, it must be with common understanding that you are bringing food to share and not just something for yourself to eat.

Here is a document with the chart laid out and basic descriptions of the rules and process.

The process requires three student jobs.  I usually change the students who hold these jobs every month or every week.  Let students decide.

Iudex–the judge who determines within the first minute after the bell rings whether all cell phones are put away into bookbags.  If so, this earns 1 point.

Horologiarius/a–Time keeper.  This student may have phone out to keep time of uninterrupted time in L2.  For every 12 minutes, class earns 1 point. At the end of class, minutes over a factor of 12 can be banked and added to another day.  E.g. 39 minutes = 36 (3 points) + 3 banked toward the next day. When anyone says anything in L1, time is stopped. If there are more than 12 minutes, points can be earned and then the clock starts again at 0. Minutes under 12 earn nothing.

Auditor–the listener.  This student’s job requires paper and pencil where she/he puts a hash mark for every rejoined used correctly in the process of class.  Rejoinder list should be on walls for reference. Auditor’s job includes both listening for and determining if correctly used. For every 20 rejoinders used correctly, 2 points are earned.  Can only earn in factors of 20, but anything over a factor of 20 can be banked for another day. E.g. 48 = 4 points (2 sets of 20) and 8 points banked for another day.

I have found that the chart on the whiteboard (rather permanently) keeps class interest high, and they begin to see each other’s class score.  “How did 3rd period get 48 points yesterday?”  Any class that raises the bar like that effects all the other classes.  I am often surprised by which classes seem to make the most out of this, and they are most often NOT the class that at first glance seems the “best” or “strongest” class.  The positive peer pressure is real.  If a class has a student who is being something of a “jerk” this process will call him/her to account as one stray word of English and it resets everyone for that day at zero.  They simply won’t allow “jerkiness” to do that to them for very long.

Bob Patrick

 

 

Scaffolding for Input and Output–Reading a Class Novel

I am outlining here a process that has organically evolved in recent work with Latin 3 classes.  It began with an assignment that I left with students to do while I was away training for two days in Universal Design for Learning. What evolved on my return is, in my estimation, what I hope is the first of many interplays of Comprehensible Input and UDL.

My original goal: Students will demonstration comprehension of Capitulum 4 of Perseus et Rex Malus which we are reading as a class.

Longer term goal: Students will be able to participate in a conversation in Latin about the events in Cap. 4 or 5 in the book.

I left them with a four frame cartoon block in which they were to draw the events of Cap 4.  They were to choose two sentences from the chapter in Latin to serve as caption for each picture (so, 8 sentences total).

On my first day back, I invited students to tell me what barriers they ran into while working on the assignment I left.  Here is the list of barriers they encountered:

  1. vocabulary that they did not recognize
  2. confusion over using the dictionary at the back of the book
  3. Would liked to have done more or fewer drawings than the required 4 based on the movement of chapter 4
  4. Would liked to have had freedom to use more than two sentences for captions or to have written their own captions in Latin rather than be constrained by what was in the chapter.

Over the next three days we looked at each page of cap. 4, listed words that were problematic, looked them up together in the back of the book (noticed various inflections given there and some omissions of words), and re-read pages with new insight in hand.  Each of those three days, as the last act of the class, I asked students to consider how ready they were to hold a conversation in Latin about Cap. 4. They were to respond on the back of their cartoon sheets (which I took up each day after they added new vocab and context notes each day) with a number indicating personal sense of readiness to hold conversation in Latin about the chapter.

Next goal: students will write a Latin summary of Capitulum 4 in their composition notebook with no specific time limit other than the length of the class period.

After I felt that we had really read and understood Cap. 4 well, I asked them to begin class by re-reading Cap 4, and then using the remainder of the period “to write about all that goes on in Cap 4 in your best Latin.” I told them that whether they did that in 10 minutes or 30 minutes, their only limit was the bell ringing at the end. I had long felt that timing such writing activities created for some students enough anxiety to become a barrier to their success.  So, this was an attempt to remove that barrier.  Indeed, some completed the task in 10 minutes and others took longer.

Then, there was the HUGE little surprise that became an excellent learning/teaching moment that has changed forever part of my teaching process. In one class, I asked students to re-read and then write, and a small rebellion arose.  “Aren’t we going to read this chapter first?”  I reminded the student that we had just spent two class periods reading, clarifying vocabulary, etc.  “But I wasn’t reading the pages.  I was just scanning for words I didn’t know.  I really don’t know what’s going on in this chapter!”

What is the difference in scanning for unknown words and reading something for understanding?  That has become the guiding question that I simply took for granted.  On that day, in the moment, I allowed that anyone who felt they still needed to read for understanding could get the books out and re-read again, and then do their writing.  Others who felt that they understood the chapter could begin their writing immediately.  Otherwise, they all had the remainder of the class time to do the writing.  About 12 students (out of 30) chose to get the books and read again for understanding.  Within 5 minutes, they had all returned the books and began their writing.  Everyone finished their writing by the time the period ended.

Since then, I have been using the following kind of scaffolding that is grounded in comprehensible input (establishing meaning, listening to understandable messages, reading understandable and compelling story) supporting new opportunities for speaking and writing in Latin (output). In short order, the scaffolding looks like this:

1. Create some sort of note-taking sheet as a processing tool. (Do not mistake this for explicit teaching or a worksheet or a study guide or a review list–it is simply about processing).  I like to give them a one page sheet with a square for each page in the reading in which they can note new words and other items that may be interesting or helpful to them. I create this by inserting a table on a page that is 2 x 2 and as large as they page will hold (so 4 squares on a page).

2. Ask students to scan the first page for unknown words.  This does not take long.  They then call out these words which I write on the board and then begin to give them hooks for thew new words–connections to forms of this word they already know, antonyms, snynonyms, English cognates or derivatives, and simply the English meaning.  This is establishing meaning.

3. Ask students to read that page for understanding. After they are done, ask where they need help understanding.  Field those questions and offer help or see if another student want so to be the teacher for that question.  This is a mini example of where students can be the co-teacher. Ask them if they are “seeing the movie” in their heads as they read.  I don’t think we can do too much to help students really experience reading in a second language.  Too many of us Latin teachers never had that experience until we sought it on our own.  We became excellent speed translators and thought that was reading.  We can be the teacher who helps our students experience reading in Latin.

4. Ask students to write in the box on their paper a short English summary of what’s happening on that page. This is something that those who practice Story Listening do after they have listened to (input) and watched the drawing of a story.  They simply write the story in their L1 to demonstrate comprehension.  This helps confirm in the mind and confidence of the student that they have actually read and understood something.

5. As the reading of a chapter or story progresses, begin to ask students to rank their ability to write or to hold a conversation in Latin about the story/chapter.  Use the scale above or one of your own making.  Keep it simple.

6. Give them an open ended period of time to write about a story, a chapter, part of a chapter or a collection of chapters.  It’s not so much what they write about as that they feel prepared to write about what they understand.  I am also moving toward doing this more often than less often.

7. As a part of each day, for several days, form a circle of students who have indicated that they are ready to hold a conversation about a story/chapter, etc.  I do this in groups of 8-10 (I have classes of 30-32).  We sit in a circle in the middle of the room.  Everyone in the room re-reads the intended material, and then I conduct a conversation about the reading with questions and sometimes PQA kinds of material.  Students in the circle participate while those outside the circle listen.  For those in the circle, this is output.  For those outside the circle it is more input.

8. Give a small quarter sheet of paper to students outside the circle to take notes on just one of the students in the circle–what they say in Latin and how they participate in the circle.  I also ask one student to takes notes on me and how I conduct the conversation.  Their observations are very helpful. All of this creates a kind of Socratic circle process, and gives me good notes on the experience.  I give those in the circle a speaking assessment based on those student observations notes and my own observations.

9. Continue to hold a circle each day with a new group of students making sure that the “least prepared” are the last to do so.  By then, they have 2 or 3 experiences of additional input.

This sort of scaffolding of input and output begins to form layers especially with a class novel such that you are always doing some pieces at the same time (e.g. establishing meaning of words on newest pages while holding conversation circles on older pages and re-reading more recent pages for understanding).

Just before a second day of circle conversation, I asked a class to re-read a chapter.  At the end, one of my more challenging students became extraordinarily excited.  He jumped up and down saying–I did it!  I read the WHOLE thing and I understood it.  I mean, man, like I understood it like it do English when I read it.”

That’s what this is about.

Bob Patrick

What If We Considered Restitution

My Latin colleagues and I have been studying and reflecting on the work of Dr. Christopher Emdin this whole academic year and working to implement his “reality pedagogy” into our CI Latin classrooms. The two work together so well that I also have made his book, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Y’all Too, required reading for the grad course I am teaching at UGA this spring. I strongly encourage all teachers to get this book and start a disturbing, necessary, powerful journey into yourself, your practices, the young people who show up or who COULD show up in your classrooms.
As Latin teachers, we have to cultivate and recruit those who come to our classes. You all know that this has been a driving passion for me for the last two decades of my career as a Latin teacher–who we teach and who we don’t, the things we do, consciously and mostly unconsciously that keep students of Color out of the Latin classroom. We believe (we say) that Latin has so much to offer young people. If it does, why would we not want ALL kinds of learners, students from ALL backgrounds in our classes? Part of it is that we who teach Latin, mostly white folks, don’t know what we don’t know, and what we do know often scares us because we don’t know what to do about it.
Christopher Emdin‘s book. Go get it. Find someone to study it with you.
Yesterday, he was the featured lecturer at UGA’s Mary Early Lecture series. All five of us took the last hour of school off, journeyed to Athens, GA and beheld him in person. Words don’t suffice to articulate how powerful he was. One thing he said that gave me a way of thinking about my own life and work is this consideration of “restitution.”  What if restitution in this country towards People of Color meant for white teachers to give back from their lives to those young people who have been shut out of the “tribe” of education, life and success in this country?  In many ways, that’s what I feel like I’ve been aiming at during my 30 years of teaching–especially the last 20.  His book is a powerful piece of that for me.  That’s why we have created a huge Latin program (next year 7 Latin teachers from middle school to high school here teaching over 700 students) here with the multi-cultural mix that is Parkview High School, where all kinds of learners are successful in Latin, where we have a zero fail rate.  This is not me boasting.  This is me inviting–all of us–to re-vision how we teach, what we teach, to whom we teach.
If Latin is so valuable, isn’t it valuable to all learners in our schools?  Who are the learners not yet included in our schools?  Isn’t this the work of restitution that we who are white Latin teachers could take up as our call?
Emdin ended his pentecostal service (read the book, you’ll understand) with an African proverb. For me, it says it all.
“If the youth are not initiated into the tribe, they will burn the village down just to feel the warmth.”

In our program at Parkview, we say that CI is about comprehensible, compelling, caring work in Latin. Emdin’s book just so happens to organize into 7 C’s! All 7 of them help us fill out what that Caring part is about.

Bob Patrick