OWAT P: One Word At a Time–Pictures

Jeff Brickler offers this evolution of OWATS:

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

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

OWATS: One Word At a Time Stories

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

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

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

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


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

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

Bob Patrick

Two Truths and a Lie

Hi all,

With permission, Sabrina, a French teacher and very skilled CI teacher agreed to let me post her back to school activity here that helps us get students right back into the language in a way that is comprehensible and compelling.  Just change the French to Latin, of course!

I want to share what I’ve been doing on the second day of class with all my kids and it’s worked out quite well to get them back into the swing of language and give them multiple reps.

Yesterday I asked them:

1) to write (in English for my beginners and French or English for my higher levels, please note I give them the choice) 2 truths and a lie about what they did during break.
2) I collected all papers and one by one asked them to come and sit in the King/Queen chair (I no longer have desks in my class, just chairs).
3) to read aloud their 3 statements in French (I modified it slightly if needed).
4. I read each of their sentences out loud in French. If a word seemed unfamiliar I used Point and Pause to clarify. Sometimes I wrote their entire sentence to make sure we all agreed on what was being said.
5) I asked the kids to decide which one was the lie showing me with their fingers. Was it sentence #1, 2 or 3?
5) I turned back to my King/Queen and asked them: Did you really go to Las Vegas during break, did you really do bungee jumping etc….?

On the board I had prewritten vocabulary (including my high frequency verbs as I predicted they would come up). Prewritten vocabulary was mensonge (lie), vérité (truth), est allé(e) went, a fait (did), a vu (saw), a joué ( played), a mangé (ate), a reçu (received, got). Then if something came up on their papers that was interesting I just added it onto the board with translation. An example of that would be a student who wrote that he drove a 67 Dodge Challenger so I went and wrote “a conduit” (drove). I also asked the kids on the chair details about what they got, or saw or did to get more reps.

Today we continued with the activity for 35 minutes, then I took their papers and gave them a quiz and 95 % got 9 out of 9.

They were engaged because it was about them (personalization piece) and it was compelling and understood because they had all the support they needed (visual, gestures and repetitions).”

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Writing in the L2 Classroom

Stephen Krashen has just shared, for free, a recent article of his about the appropriate place for writing in the language classroom. You can read the article here.  It is also listed on the links page of this site.
I see several applications to the L2 classroom based on this article, but they are not what we might typically or traditionally have done with writing in second language.
Krashen briefly recalls  previous studies demonstrating that having students write in the second language does not advance acquisition.  Cf. the first major paragraph on the first page.  The link and references are there for those who wish to look them up.
Even a few years ago, I was unaware of this research and would have argued that having students write was part of learning Latin.  I created several practices around that notion, too.  In retrospect, the 4 percenters were able to be successful with their writing (meaning that it was comprehensible Latin and largely grammatically correct), but I had no evidence that this actually helped anyone acquire more Latin.  My own experience in Latin and Spanish composition classes were equally frustrating.  I hated them, and did not feel like I made any progress in either language because of the forced writing.  In the Latin comp class, there was no comprehensible input, and in the Spanish comp class the input was minimal.
So, what’s the point?  I would now offer the following kinds of writing activities in the Latin classroom, based on the elements of composition that Krashen offers:
1. I would not do any of this with absolute beginners.  Perhaps by the end of the first year, or into second, certainly by third and fourth.
2. Ask students to create a short, fun story based on a couple of characters, a problem and its resolution.  My favorite right now is to ask them to create a fable with at least two animals, a problem and a moral instruction implied by the story.  It must be short.  I point out that the best fables are often just a few lines long.  This is not a novela or a short story.  It’s a fable.  For the first ‘writing’ all they do is make a list of characters and some outline of where the story might go.  This is  the “flexible planning” part of Krashen’s paper.  Don’t let anyone skip this.  Teacher can help by walking around and seeing what is going down on the list.  Students with only one character need to be prodded to have at least two.  Students with more than 3 or 4 characters need to be prodded to pare it down.
3. Return that story to them several times through the year–perhaps once a month.  First, ask them to carefully and slowly re-read their story, first out-loud to a partner, and then silently to themselves.  Then, ask them to improve the story. What you know is that in the intervening month, you have been giving them much comprehensible input in Latin. Writing (output) is always the product of input.
4. Offer no corrections on their papers, but read for comprehension.  Point to places where what they have written is not very clear and simply offer:  can you make this more understandable?
5. Suggest that because they are working on their story all year long, they may suddenly get an idea for it out of the blue at some time when they least expect it (like while running track, etc).  When that happens, they should make note of the idea and come in to see you before or after school and add that note to their paper for the next writing day.  Help them learn to expect creativity to happen to them, but also to know that creativity happens when it will.
6. Have them do some creative writing every day–perhaps in a journal–perhaps as a warm up or ending to class each day.  Five minutes.  Develop the daily habit of writing.  It will never be graded for grammar.  Only checked for completion.
7. Invite your students to consider that through writing, especially creative writing and regular writing that we simply give ourselves to, we often work out problems and gain new insights.  That’s what may come as a result of this.
If such a plan is followed over the course of the year, then in the last month of school, these stories that have been worked on like this for 8-9 months can be edited for grammar and polish, and you now have X number of new stories to share with next year’s students.
Bob Patrick

D.E.A–Daily Engagement Assessment–CI Classroom Management

Don’t Mess with DEA!


Classroom management is an important issue, however you teach, but it becomes especially important in a CI classroom.  Some of the old behaviors that students routinely engage in other classes are show stoppers in a CI classroom.  The most basic of principles: teaching to the eyes  means that anything that interferes with that stop language acquisition.  So, closed eyes, head on desk, reading (anything), writing (anything), looking anywhere but at me, the teacher, stops acquisition.
Out of a long dialogue with other CI teachers, borrowing, changing and adapting to my local circumstances, I came up with D.E.A–Daily Engagement Assessment, but played off the word for “goddess” to make this playfully ominous.  So, my students find this on my website, and on my walls, and when they are new to me, they hear about it daily during the first 30 seconds of class in which I remember them of our way of doing things in this class.  I will offer some brief commentary at the bottom of this post. So, here’s what students see and hear in my room. (by the way, “messing with” is a Southern expression for “annoying” or “transgressing”):
Daily. Engagement. Assessment.  Tips for making sure you are getting as much out of Latin as possible.1. Be present and on time.  If you are late, you mess with DEA!

2. Sit up, shoulders square and make eye contact with the teacher or whoever is talking at any given point.  I can see in your eyes whether you are understanding or not, and if I cannot make contact with your eyes, you are messing with DEA!

3. Signal to me when you don’t understand, need me to repeat, slow down, stop, do understand, etc.  I am constantly looking for hand signals.  If I never get hand signals from you, you are messing with DEA!

4. Respond when I call on the whole class–loud, clear, enthusiastically!

5. Respond when I call on you.  Be clever, funny absurd with your responses if you want to (that keeps things fun).  Telling me “non intellego” or “confusus sum” or giving me a hand signal to let me know that you need help counts as a response, too.  Staying silent when you are lost is messing with DEA!

6. Don’t have side conversations in English.  (If you can have a side conversation in Latin, go right ahead, but don’t disturb what we are doing).  Speaking in English while we are speaking Latin is a HUGE messing with DEA!

7. People who blurt out in any language are messing with DEA!

8. Keep an attitude of good will toward everyone in the room.  Bad attitudes and bad will towards others is messing with DEA!

9. Have nothing on your desk, in your lap or in your hands while we are speaking in Latin.  If I have to ask you to remove things, you’re messing with DEA!

10. If you take notes on anything without being asked to, you’re messing with DEA!

DEA will work for you every single time, but just mess with DEA, and you won’t learn any Latin.  Got it?


Here’s the “wall” version of “Don’t Mess with DEA”. In Latin dea means goddess, so a little play on words here.
  • The core of how I manage a classroom has been and continues to be respect.  I still make that point, and I ask students if there is anything in the D.E.A that is not really about respect–which is always a two way street.
  • I give students a 100 point DEA grade every three weeks.  I keep a clipboard with the current class roster on it, and anytime I see a student violating one of the DEA agreements, I simply put the corresponding symbol in the daily space for that student.  At the end of 3 weeks, I subtract 5 points for every symbol.  Most students keep their 100 points.  Those who are really struggling will almost always have multiple symbols and a low DEA grade.  In other words, there is a direct correlation between the DEA agreements and acquisition of language using CI.  Therefore . . .
  • It is crucial to understand that this is not a daily participation grade or a behavior grade.  This is a daily assessment of students engaging in language acquisition or not.  Each item on the DEA is correlated with principles of CI.  If students do not join me in the agreements, they will not make progress in the languages.
  • I say often: I am only here for your success.  I want you to be successful.  When you __________, I cannot help you be successful.  (this is my one on one conversation with a student who is routinely violating the DEA agreements.
  • I have long been opposed to grades that are based on behavior and in using grades to control behavior.  That is not what this is about and if you should find yourself thinking of using it that way, then back up and reframe your way of thinking.  This is about helping every kind of learner be successful in Latin.

To create a CI daily assessment tool like this, you have to take CI principles, your local setting and requirements, and get creative. I borrowed some of this from Ben Slavic and others on his PLC.  I created other parts of it our of my experience and local concerns and needs.  If you think this will work for you copy it, use it, adapt it, jump off from  it.  One thing for sure:  you cannot ignore classroom management in a CI classroom.

Bob Patrick

Tamara Kantzes: Reports on her first year with CI

Tamara (Tammy) Kantzes was in both the ACL Pre-Institute that I taught last summer on creating a CI Latin Classroom as well as the Pedagogy Rusticatio sponsored by SALVI.  Tammy has written a response to Keith Toda’s recent blog on end of the year things. Please read his post, and this one from Tammy.  They offer real reports from what teachers are doing learning, feeling, thinking and reflecting on as they make these transitions from traditional Latin classrooms to CI classrooms.  Much thanks to Tammy for allowing us to post her report here.  Bob Patrick



I have been reading your blog since day 1!  Each time I needed inspiration, it seemed that you had posted something new and I tried it.  I have 10 instructional days left, and I am proud to say that I have also made it through an entire year of teaching using CI techniques.  I am so incredibly burned out and exhausted.  I remember you telling me that you had tried teaching this way before and only made it for about 6-9 weeks before reverting to familiarity because TCI was challenging and exhausting.  I am definitely exhausted and plagued with self-doubt, but I’m already making plans to implement this style into the next level of Latin and how to improve what I did this year.

I have failed in all those ways which you have listed.  In addition, I have the self-talk, self-doubt happening: What have I done to these students?  Have I really taught them anything?  Most of them don’t use endings to make themselves clear, but they are aware of the endings.  What should they know and be able to do?  (I have started looking at ACTFL’s “I can” statements, but that is entirely overwhelming.)  Have I “dumbed down” the curriculum?  How can I take away the textbook which, I think, forces me to be more vocabulary centered while sheltering the grammar?  If I don’t have a textbook, then what do I do?  At this point, I really need structure to help guide me, which the textbook gives me; I need more help in how to plan for this approach.  This year was “flying by the seat of my pants” on a daily basis – exhausting.  To make matters worse, the National Latin Exam made me feel like a huge failure.  I have never taught to the test, but in the past we have always had lots of Latin I awards including medals.  This year we had two.  O me miseram!  We won’t even talk about AP.

On the other hand, I had a similar experience as you when an observer came to my Latin Literature classroom.  Granted, these are students that I have taught for either four or five years; they are not all four percenters, but close.  While we have always used questioning techniques with reading passages in Ecce Romani, we never really did much in the way of oral Latin when we moved to authentic Latin.  I love my Latin Literature class because we have no AP test at the end, and we can just enjoy Latin Literature at a leisurely pace.  They also let me practice on them.  Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  We were reading Ovid’s Daphne and Apollo. The observer is situated in the back of the room.  We quickly moved from English into Latin and began talking about the passage that they had prepared the night before.

Once I stated “tantum Latine,” we were entirely in Latin guided by questions that I had prepared the night before.  I did not know how this was going to go!  It went beautifully; we had remained in Latin for the better part of the class period talking about the literature, laughing at Cupid shooting his arrow (i.e. one of the student’s demonstration and sound effects), describing various students as “lascivus,” and making fun of Apollo’s proud self. My observer said, “I always love watching your class and your interactions with your students.  You have a great rapport with them; they really respond to you.”  They really respond to me?  I was speaking in Latin, and they were not tuning me out!

I know teaching CI is the way to go; I’ve always wanted to teach this way since grad school where I was the only Classics major in methodology courses populated with modern language students.  This desire was further fueled by another degree in TESOL where Krashen’s Language Acquisition theory was a focal point.  I attended two conventicula hoping that would get me started.  Twenty-two years later,Rusticatio and the Pedogogy workshop taught me how to use CI with my minimal Latin speaking abilities and gave me confidence to try it. That same feeling I had with my Latin Literature students during that particular class (because I had some validation), I want in all levels.  I’m just not entirely sure how to get there.  I had glimmers of it throughout the year in level one when we worked on stories.  On the other hand, looking at the textbook we are using, we have “covered” only half the chapters we usually do; and I don’t feel like most of my students use any of those grammatical concepts well.  Then Krashen’s Language Acquisition theory pops into my head: so it’s okay if they don’t use an accusative ending where they should, I understand them, right? ugh!  Here is where I start down the rabbit hole of self-doubt again.  I’ll end this post now, but I will not give up!

Looking forward to the summer…15 more days.  I can do this.


Adapted from Ben Slavic with permission by Bob Patrick

This is a new idea involving getting the students working in the three skills of reading, writing and listening all at once.

I love it and I love the way it eats up minutes in the spring classroom, where kids have a hard time focusing, as well as their teacher.

Here’s how it works:

When telling a story becomes complicated this will work well with students who would benefit more from what I am saying if I write it at the same exact time I say it.  It works.

So when you are engaged in the very hard work (only we who try CI can know the challenge of it) of contacting teens verbally to convey an idea that is not in a story script in the target language, you may want to try this.

Say your first sentence:

A man got up about 6:00 a.m. one morning on his farm in Compania.

Circle that in the usual way. (That right there could take up to 30 minutes.)

Then, instead of going to the next sentence, go to your computer and open up Word and write that first sentence down and project up on the LCD. Notice that as you are writing the kids will be reading intently, but they will also be listening, of course, since you will be speaking the sentence as you type it, dictating it to yourself but in a loud voice that everyone can hear, hence the term Auto-Dictatio.

The kids will be reading too, and so you will be requiring them to work in all three skills at once.

So to review, the way it works is:

1. Say a sentence and circle it. (The fact that you are not working from a story script means that you may be using some vocabulary that is unfamiliar to them, so they may not get it as fast as they do when you do Step 1 working from a script (establishing meaning and then doing some PQA of a targeted structure). Hence the need for Auto-Dictatio.

2. Go to the computer and say the sentence again while typing it and projecting it up onto the screen, loudly dictating it to yourself with nice pauses between the words. They read it, and of course in those moments of reading they are listening because you are saying it but also typing it. They are also learning how to write, because you are demonstrating writing, at the same time they are reading, and of course they are getting a nice auditory repeat of the original sentence.

This is cool. I recommend it. The simultaneous speaking and writing and listening is a new thing. It really gets the kids focused. Their eyes are totally focused on reading, to see if it matches up with what they first heard in the first step above. But they are unconsciously learning to write as well. Except for my auditory superstars, who don’t seem to care much about the writing since it’s not their learning style, most of the kids, who have been beaten into a visual way of learning in school, really like reading the text that I dictate to myself out loud for their benefit.


1. If the class has a bunch of difficult students, make them write the sentences they see appearing on the screen. It’ll really slow the process down and use up lots of valuable minutes (more writing does not mean more gains in writing, as we know now in CI training), but it will help them focus.

2. Note importantly that you don’t need a script for this. You can just make each sentence up as you go along, as long as you have the general story line in your head.

Rigor and Relevance in the CI Classroom

Robert Harrell on Rigor and Relevance in a CI-based foreign language curriculum

This was posted on Ben Slavic’s PLC on Mar 6, 2014, in response to a teacher who was having problems getting approval for her high school Russian curriculum  from the University of California reviewers. The reviewers cited a lack of rigor, among other traditional complaints against CI.

As far as rigor and relevance are concerned, you can’t beat what the US Department of State has to say on the matter. Here’s the URL to the relevant page –

Include in your course outline the Department of State definition – and reference the source with the URL. Then if you get any resistance you can ask if the chair disagrees with the US Department of State and why.

There are four elements of rigor:
1. Sustained Focus – you ask students to do that daily by being physically and mentally present and attending to the class conversation (see jGR)
2. Depth and Integrity of Inquiry – you pursue topics in depth by remaining with a subject until students have explored it satisfactorily
3. Suspension of premature conclusions – there are many ways that TCI meets this
4. Continuous testing of hypotheses – it is here that TCI is far superior to any grammar-driven method; students are asked to test their hypotheses about the language continuously as they hear the language and formulate ideas about how it is constructed (Grammar-driven methods tell students without giving them opportunity to test their own hypotheses)

In their discussion of this, the Department of State includes asking “mediative questions”, which means we ask open-ended questions that encourage students to think about their thinking instead of just producing a single correct answer.

Relevance is addressed as well. Here are elements of relevance:
1. prior intellectual or emotional connection to content – how can they not have it if the topic is about them; we also explore topics in which students are interested (I have talked extensively about films and Harry Potter, for example) and with which I as the teacher have a connection that I can mediate to my students. (Yes, students will often get excited about something because the teacher is excited.)
2. It is connected to real life – again a “duh!” for TCI
3. It is appropriately timed – not much we can do about this one except observe, for example, that first and fifth periods are not optimal times for class
4. It actively engages or involves us – we demand that students become engaged; we can also plan activities that are both comprehensible input as well as engaging
5. Someone else has a contagious passion or enthusiasm – we should teach our passions; I’m sure that part of the reason Ben’s students engage with “Le Petit Prince” is because Ben loves it so much, and they have a prior connection to him; I once had a student tell me that she wasn’t terribly interested in the Middle Ages but enjoyed my unit because I was so obviously enthusiastic about it
6. It is novel – which brings us to the much-maligned flying blue elephants; there are, however, other ways to make something novel

After you have defined rigor and relevance, you have a solid basis for showing that your syllabus meets both criteria. Part of the problem in education is that so many people use terms like rigor and relevance as buzz words without ever defining them. Consequently they don’t really know what they mean by the term, and they don’t have a common ground for discussion because the words can mean different things to different people. By defining them in your syllabus, you take away the ambiguity and ability of the administrator/department chair to change the meaning during discussion.

Another thing you can do is go to the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners as well as the World Language Standards for California Classrooms Kindergarten through Grade Twelve and ask the administrator/department chair to work with you exactly where a third or fourth-year language class ought to fall in a sequence that is designed to take 13 years to achieve Intermediate Mid proficiency. Become really familiar with what students should be able to do at Novice High because that’s where they should be at the end of three years – and not even consistently there in all topic areas. Your administrator/department chair has unrealistic expectations, even according to ACTFL (which is often overly optimistic). Also be sure to ask the administrator/department chair what he means by “lower-level college work”. You want him to think as deeply about his assumptions as you do; plus you want to be certain that he is providing you with the “rubric” by which he is judging your work.