One Word Pictures

One Word Pictures

This is a low stress, slowed down way of delivering CI, sort of like TPRS (and it can become that) and sort of like PQA.  You put one new word on the board with its English meaning.  And then, you start asking questions about it.  Where is it?  Who is it?  What does it do?  etc.  Every time you ask a question about it, you are doing a repetition.  They will only be able to respond with things they already know, so it’s all understandable messages in the target language.  You may just go as far as you can go and then put up another word, or you may find that there is potential for a story around this one word, and it becomes a TPRS session in which you ask a story.

Read and Discuss

Read and Discuss (May also be called Read, Discuss and Draw)

This delivery of CI can be used with anything that you are reading with students.  With R and D, you read a short portion of the story together–anything from a sentence to a paragraph, and you watch your barometer students to see how much they can handle.  You can have them read silently first, but whether you do or not, read aloud with them the portion you intend to discuss.  Then, ask:  interrogationes?  They can ask you first about any words they don’t know.  Based on the level of confusion, you may decide right there to stop and do some PQA around a word or phrase for several minutes before going on (CI methods always mix and match).  Once vocab is cleared up, begin by asking them the basic literature discussion questions:  quis/qui, ubi, quid accidit, quae est difficultas?  Cur?  Quomodo?  etc.  With these basic questions, you can ask more specifically, based on context.  After you have asked all the questions possible for the selected portion, have them draw what you have just discussed if you are doing the DRAW part of this.  Drawing is not always necessary.  They can draw anything about the selected portion, but any words they put on the drawing must be in Latin.  Urge them to label characters and write short captions beneath their drawings.

Go to the next portion (sentence, sentences or paragraph) and repeat the above.  Do this until you have read the entire story.  This may take a class period or several class periods.  It depends on the reading and the class.  It is excellent to follow a session of R and D/D with a timed write.

Embedded Readings–General

Embedded Readings

There are a number of ways to create embedded readings.  They may be from the bottom up which may begin with just 2-3 words and which you and students develop over many days into multiple embbedded versions of a final and complex story.  They may be from the top down where you begin in your preparation with a story that you want them to ultimately read but for which you create several easier versions of the story each of which is embedded in the next one.  Laurie Clarcq’s website is an excellent source for these and other approaches to embedded readings.

Embedded Readings–Top Down

Embedded readings

For the best discussion, in detail, of embedded readings, see this discussion on Laurie Clarq’s website.

Since Latin teachers often have stories in their textbooks which introduce vocabulary too quickly while sheltering the grammar (the exact opposite of what works), this top-down approach to embedded readings is perfect.  You can do this with a story from your textbook or one from Vergil.  Doesn’t matter.  Same process. You are creating a version of the story in which you shelter the vocabulary, removing unnecessary vocab and replacing some with synonyms that you know that they know.  Some readings require several embedded versions to bring them from where they are to where the reading is and some only require one.  Creating embedded readings makes it so clear why students cannot be expected to READ classical authors after only 2-4 years.  It’s a POWERFUL form of CI, though, and students love this doorway into reading.



This kind of dictation is the ONLY way that we know of  to deliver more than 4 new words at a time in a way that most student remember, but it is also a CI delivery method that should only be used about once or twice a month.  Based on a story that the teacher knows the class is going to read, the teacher prepares 10-12 sentences from that story that capture the new vocabulary.  Setting up the rules are important, and we ALWAYS go through them as if we have never done this before.

This is what to say:  “Clear your desks except for a piece of paper and a pencil.  Dictatio is a listening, understanding and writing activity.  I will read each sentence three times and only three times. You must be silent during the dication, and you must write down the sentence as best as you can.  After the third time, I will show the sentence on the board (pp slide, etc), and you will be given time in the line beneath your sentence to re-write anything that you got wrong or left out.  If you get the sentence entirely correct, write the word “optime” in the line beneath it. After you have corrected, I will take questions about anything in the sentence that you do not understand.  Are there any questions about the procedure? (pause for questions).  Good.  You will receive a quiz grade for this dictatio, and you will get 100% if you follow all of these rules.”

Then, proceed as outlined above.  Watching over their shoulders is good. Asking “intellegitisne” after each correction allows them to ask “quid significat ______” and then you can explain.  Dictatio is quiet, slow, focused, and provides understandable messages in the target language.  I think the slow, intense, focus of this activity makes is possible for them to learn more words.  8-12 new words can work this way, but again, only once or twice a month.  It’s a great Monday activity, especially before a new story or unit.



One of the many features of Rassias’ work, I (Bob Patrick) was given permission to share of this material with Latin teachers.  A micrologue is one of the Rassias features that actually provides understandable messages in the target language.  A micrologue requires a story that can be reduced to 4-6 sentences.  Each of those sentences has a picture drawn on the board or on a slide.  The teacher delivers the sentence that goes with the picture to an identified guinea pig while the rest of the class takes it down as dictation.  Picture by picture, the teacher repeats the sentence that goes with the picture three times before moving on to the next.  The sentences must be understandable via the pictures.  After the entire story has been told this way, the text of the story (4-6 sentences) is shown on the board so that class members can check their dictation and make corrections.  Then, the teacher walks through the four pictures again and asks the guinea pig leading yes/no questions about each picture–requiring a complete sentence as answer.  The questions all evoke the sentences involved. Finally, the guinea pig is asked to stand and re-tell the story using the pictures.  If the guinea pig falters, the class can help from their dictation notes.

The teacher might easily extend this into a TPRS and/or PQA session by expanding on the story.

For more information about Rassias Teacher Workshops


PQA–Personal Questions and Answers

This is storytelling and circling personalized.  PQA can be used as a stand-alone but is most often woven into almost any other CI approach listed here.  It is very easy to be in the midst of a TPRS story and suddenly shift over to PQA. Circling with Balls, above, is a form of PQA.

The teacher shifts attention to a single student and asks that student about something pertaining to him/her.  E.g. Susanna, tu laeta ad scholam advenis?  (ita)  Tu laeta ad scholam cotidie advenis?  (frequenter, sed non cotidie).  Quo die non laeta tu ad scholam advenis?  (quomodo dicitur “Monday”?)  Ah, Monday dicitur “die Lunae”.  (Die lunae non laeta sum).  This whole conversation has been going on between the teacher and Susanna. The teacher now, having found a word that Susannah doesn’t know–die Lunae. Turns and circles that to the class.  Discipuli, Susanna non laeta ad scholam advenit, die Lunae!  The teacher then proceeds through the entire circling process.  The teacher may go  back to Susanna and ask her another question, or may see that this has sparked a reaction from another student and move to him/her to ask the same basic questions to them about themselves.  PQA is useful in almost any CI approach to zoom in on a student who seems bored or unengaged, or for one who is overly stimulated by the story.  It allows the teacher to slow down and go more deeply with one student while others watch–and forget that they are learning.


TPRS–Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling

TPRS was developed by Blaine Ray et al as a take off from Asher’s TPR and adding many of the components that are central to all CI work.  The bare bones of TPRS are”:

  • telling a story
  • or, asking a story
  • focused on 4 new “structures” which are placed visibly on the board with English meanings.  The teacher points them out and goes over them before starting.
  • Structures may be new vocabulary or a grammatical structure, e.g. the infinitive
  • In asking/telling a story, the teacher circles encounters of new words by using a basic pattern where X represents the new structure.

○     Students, the character did X.  (ohhhhhhhhh!)

○     Students, did the character do X?  (yes!)

○     Students, did the character do X or Y?  (X!)

○     Students, did the character do Y?  (no!)

○     Of course not!  How ridiculous!  The character didn’t do Y.  Everyone knows that the character didn’t do Y.  The character did X!

○     Who did X?

○     Where did the character do X?

○     With whom did the character do X?

○     Why did the character do X?

○     Did anyone else do X?

○     Any additional questions about the story so far that allow additional repetitions of X.

○     Note: by circling a new structure, the teacher has just obtained 10 or more repetitions of this word/structure, and they will continue to hear it more in the unfolding story.

○     Note: circling as described here can and should be used in almost every form of CI described here.  Circling is basic practice to CI because it so easily allows us to give understandable messages in the target language.

TPRS was originally developed by Blaine Ray and Contee Seely.  Their book and other materials can be found here.

Circling With Balls

Circling with balls

This is an activity that can be used both with beginners and more advanced students with change of content.  With beginners, students are given a large index card, or half-sheet of cardstock and asked to print their names large across the top.  Then, on one side, they are to draw a picture of something they love to do OR that they would love to learn to do.  (This is why this activity is called “circling with balls”.  Originally, they were asked to draw a picture of what kind of sports they liked to play.  This becomes obviously exclusive, so it was expanded.)  On the other side, they are to draw a picture of a pet they have OR a pet they would like to have some day.  In both situations, they are invited to draw about some personal reality or something imaginary–both realms of which you want to always be open in the classroom.  Then, for as many days as it takes, you begin class by passing out the cards (helps you learn new students’ names) and you choose 2-4 to talk about.  You look over their shoulders and begin asking them about and circling back to the class what you see.  E.g.  Marce, tu habes canem?  (ita).  Estne canis magus an parvus?  (magnus).  Then, you turn and circle that information to the class about Marcus and his dog.  This can go on as long or short as you need before you go to the next person. With the next person, you might just ask if they have a dog, too.  Obviously they don’t.  You see a goldfish on their card, but it makes the transition.  You do this, daily, until you have talked about everyone’s pet and everyone’s favorite activity.  By the time it takes you to do that (two weeks?) they will know habere, ludere, canis, feles, piscis, equus, pedifolis, tenisia, and any number of other nouns and adjectives needed to talk about these things.  It will be fun.  THey will be unconscious of how much they are learning (which is the only way it happens), and they and you will get to know each other a little bit.  BTW, you can use a soft-textured ball and toss it to the first person who, when you are finished, tosses it to someone else in the room not yet heard from.

We learned this approach from Ben Slavic and highly recommend his site.

TPR–Total Physical Response

TPR–Total Physical Response

A method created by James Asher, TPR is most often used for the first 10 hours of beginning language instruction where commands of most basic and important verbs as well as images or demonstrations of most important objects (nouns) are used to help students acquire vocabulary.  Beginning students indicate understanding with a physical response.  E.g. The teacher says “surgite” and they all stand up (this after having demonstrated sitting and standing with something like:  “Magister sedit.  Magister surgit.”  The teacher says “sella” and the students point to a chair.  The research indicates that most students will not be ready to BEGIN producing any of these words, orally or in writing until after 10 hours of TPR instruction, known as “the great silent period” through which all human beings, of any age, pass while acquiring the beginnings of a language.