Reading Strategies

Rainbow: A Re-Reading Activity for Any Text

I apologize for the months-long absence. The past 5 months have been the craziest of my life (so far), and I just haven’t had time to blog.

But! Here we are.

I came up with this quick activity that I’m calling Rainbow on a whim a few days ago and tried it with my CP class. We had a good time with it and it only took five minutes to do. We will definitely do it again in a few weeks.

This is a re-reading activity, so choose a passage your students have read at least one or two times already. In this case, we were working with the Pyramus and Thisbe re-telling from Latin Via Ovid. I typed up a series of slides in Google Slides, each slide asking “in hac fabula, ubi “[color]” vides?” (“in this story, where do you see “[color]”?).  Then I passed out a sheet of Latin colors from Carmenta Online Latin School (get it here), which you could also have posted in your room as a poster.

I projected each question on the board, and in pairs, students had to find a place in the story that they thought represented the color on the projector and then write that line of Latin on the board. For example, when I asked where they saw the color “niger” (black), many of them said “spelunca obscura” (dark cave). Likewise, when I asked where they saw “rosea” (pink), many said “oscula” (kisses). Some of them also did more symbolic representations of the colors, like “amor” (love) for “ruber” (red). It was a good way for them to hunt back through the text and to review colors in a way that is so unlike the old school “memorize these colors” method.

Next time we do this, I think I will modify it by giving each pair or small group of students a color, telling them to keep their color a secret. Then I will tell them to find 2-3 quotes from the text that represent their color, either literally (like the dark cave for the word “black”) or figuratively (like envy for the color “green”). After each group works for about 5-10 minutes, the rest of the class will have to figure out what their color is based on their quotes.

I’ll have more soon, I promise!

Lesson Plans

A Unit for Pluto: Fabula Amoris

I wrote this summer about how we combined the Latin 3 and 4 CP classes and how I am “untextbooking” those classes. It’s been fairly successful so far, minus some initial hiccups from combining two grade levels and mixing two cohorts together. The kids have settled into a routine with one another (and me), and I think we’re going to have a great year.

The fall semester of this class is in line with the NLE mythology topics. The first unit was a brief introduction to and refresher on the gods and goddesses. We spent about two weeks on that one. After that, we moved into a unit on the Underworld, with Pluto: Fabula Amoris by Rachel Ash and Miriam Patrick as our anchor text. I’ll post a nice unit plan document soon on the Resources page, but for now, here’s what we did, what I would do again, and what I would do differently:

  1. We started off by reading “The Underworld System” by Donna Gerard from her book Roman Life. (Brief side note: I highly recommend buying this PDF. It’s called a workbook on ACL, but it’s really a lot of short non-fiction and mythology passages in Latin about Roman culture with some comprehension worksheets thrown in.) After we read it together, I drew students’ names and had them pick a phrase from the reading (get the template for that here). They then had to represent that phrase with a sound or visual on a Padlet that I made for this activity. We followed up the Padlet with GIFtionary, which is a name I made up for an activity that my students love. Give the students a list of sentences from a reading, ones that are easy to represent visually. In pairs or groups of three, they pick one sentence to either act out in a short (<10 second) video (which they need to make into a GIF using giphy) or picture, both of which they take with their phone. They submit these to the dropbox and I compile the pictures and GIFs into a Google Slides presentation. We use the original list of sentences to guess which picture/GIF represents which sentence – the students input their guesses using the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides, but you could just call on them or have them use mini-whiteboards. We finished these two days of work with a short quiz on the reading, which I’m happy to share with you if you email me or DM me on Twitter.
    1. The verdict: The Padlet was a great way to start the unit. I love doing anything that gets students thinking with their senses, so creating a “sense-scape” of the Underworld via Padlet was an easy way to do this. The Padlet part took about 20 minutes to do from start (introducing the activity) to finish (displaying the final product on the board and commenting on the posts). The only thing I would change is that I wish I had talked to the class about the Padlet final product Latine. As for the other activity, GIFtionary, this is a favorite activity in all of my classes, and I highly recommend trying it out once or twice.
  2. We spent the next week reading “Orpheus et Umbrae” by Lorna Robinson from her book Telling Tales in Latin, a beautiful adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The subtitle of this book is “A New Latin Course and Storybook for Children,” but “Orpheus et Umbrae,” the last story in the book, is actually fairly challenging Latin. It required a lot of scaffolding and re-reading, but the trade-off was we got some really great discussions about the line “non donum sed usum rogo” (“I ask not for a gift but a loan”), spoken by Orpheus as he begs for Eurydice to be returned to the land of the living, as well as about the gods’ motivations for allowing Orpheus to take Eurydice back in the first place. There are references to Tantalus and Sisyphus in here, so we took a break for a day for the kids to do some quick research to present briefly on one aspect or character of the Underworld that I assigned to them. I gave them a matching quiz over those after they gave their presentations.
    1. The verdict: I need to compare this Orpheus reading to others I can find (other than the full Eurydice novella that Miriam Patrick wrote, which is great but too long when combined with doing this novella too) – I know there is one in Latin Via Ovid and one in Using Latin. This reading is beautiful and prompted some great discussion, as I said, but a lot of the vocabulary was difficult and distracting. Doing the mini-presentations on the Underworld locations and figures was necessary for this reading because my students weren’t familiar with or had forgotten about them.
  3. Then we moved into Pluto itself. I’m not really a creative person, so we read the entire novel together as a class, doing about a chapter a day (or over two days for the longer ones) with some discussion and games to get vocab reps in. I did dictations where they were provided in the teacher’s guide, and I made a Pear Deck for chapter 6, which is (I think) the shortest chapter in the book. We took two quizzes over the course of the book, and I wrote reading guides for each chapter. (Email/DM me if you want these.) I was worried the kids would get bored with our routine of whole-class reading + some vocab game (Gimkit, Quizlet Live) + work on reading guide, but here is something I have learned about teaching. You teach the kids in your room, not the kids in someone’s TED talk or a journal article or a teaching methods textbook. My kids want a daily routine and structure, and they enjoy working quietly for brief periods of time (10 minutes or so). They also need to re-read what they have read to revisit and consolidate the Latin, so doing these reading guides was a great way for that to happen.
    We also did a project for Pluto that counted as their test grade for this unit. I had them create a playlist for the book, choosing a song to represent each chapter (get the instruction sheet/rubric here and the playlist template here). They loved this project (most of them). They got to be creative and I got them to work on using textual evidence, something we are working on across subjects and in all grade levels at our school. They are giving an informal (i.e. ungraded) one-minute presentation on this on Tuesday just to share their work with their classmates.

    1. The verdict: I loved reading Pluto, and the kids were excited to see Orpheus show up on the last page or so of the book. They were big fans of the playlist project, so I will definitely do that again. I also think Pluto was the perfect intro book for a class moving away from a textbook (CLC). The Latin is easy – it’s really designed for the end of year 1, I think – so it’s easy to move the kids along at a brisk pace while still allowing them to truly read the Latin rather than just translate it (which still happens, lest you think my classroom is a Latin-only-speaking-and-reading utopia :P).

Some paraphrased comments about this unit that I got from my students:

  • I liked doing the playlist instead of taking a normal test over this book.
  • I got everything in Pluto the first time I read it.
  • Doing the reading guides made me realize how much I understood the book.
  • I’m glad we’ve been doing silent reading because it made reading a novel together easier.

Please let me know if you want any of the resources I mentioned above or if you have questions for me about this unit. I’m pretty proud of it and I’d say it was a great success!

Lesson Plans

Day 1 Plans: Latin 1

Our students’ first day is Monday, which means (among other things) that my blogging will slow down significantly after this weekend. I wanted to share with you all my plans for the first day of Latin 1. We use CLC (4th edition), so my 9th graders will be starting with Stage 1.

  • The board display. As students come in, I like them to know what to do. It saves them from some awkwardness – especially that 1st period class of 9th graders, bless their hearts. This is what they’ll see: 2018 fall board display first day.png
    I wrote about the Post-It note system in my room tour for this year. As for the rest of it, if you’d like a copy of my student questionnaire for Latin 1, get it here. The index cards are something I use all year to call on students. I just put the cards in a tiny bucket and pull a student’s name out if I need to call on someone randomly.
  • The intro. I really, really, really hate icebreakers. I hate them as a person, student, and teacher. I am sure there are some great icebreakers out there, and I am sure some people really enjoy them, but I am not someone who can really pull them off (probably because I hate them). So I don’t do them. I also do not read the syllabus (or even really go over it with them). I prefer to introduce them to things they need to know about my class as they need to know them.
    Instead of doing these things, I have done something different each year. This year I am planning to give them a short talk that I am calling in my head “The Promises.” In short, it’s a list of the promises I can make to my students, even on day 1. In the past I have said these things to students at various points in the year, but I’d like to start off with them in a condensed, bite-sized talk:

    • I promise you that by the end of this week, you will be able to read some Latin. By the end of this year, you will be able to read a lot of Latin. What I need from you is your effort and attention in helping me get you to that point.
    • I promise you that I will teach you, the specific “you,” not the general “you” (for which I would use the word “y’all” anyway, because I’m Southern and all). I will learn what you need every day in class and do my best to deliver that to you. What I need from you is for you to focus on yourself. Be better than you were yesterday. Don’t worry about anyone else getting an A or an F.
    • I promise you that I will make this a home for you at school. Latin ends up being that for so many of our students. It’s not a cosmic accident. I want this to be one of the places at school where you have a built-in family. What I need from you is for you to do your part in making this room feel like that. I need you to never make the room feel like it’s a place some of your classmates don’t want to be.
    • I promise you that I will make mistakes, and what I need from you is grace when it happens.
  • And then… the magic. The reading! We jump in with the Stage 1 Model Sentences on day 1. Here is an altered version of the Google Slides presentation that I use (I took out the copyrighted stuff from the book). I ask students to work with a classmate sitting next to them on finding these words. That’s kind of an icebreaker, right? I feel like I’m getting a complex about not doing these. (Except it involves Latin, so it’s already infinitely better than any non-Latin icebreaker. 🙂 )
  • And then… the next day. And the next day and the next, until they are super-strong Latin readers and I have hopefully kept all of my promises (well, except maybe that last one).
Classroom Organization

2018-2019 Classroom Tour

Classroom tours are one of those internet things that I can get lost in for hours. Elementary, middle, high school, homeschool rooms – it doesn’t matter. I will read your classroom tour post, and I will enjoy it.

So here’s mine! Matt (my room buddy) and I are going into our second year of sharing this room together. I love this room. It’s huge, it has a wall full of windows, and we asked for (and received!) the desks you see in these photos – the kind that roll and fit together.


This is our room from the front. My desk is the one in the back right corner, and you can see Matt’s in the right foreground. One of the things I like about the way our room has turned out is how much color there is. That and those big windows really help to keep the atmosphere energetic, which I need all the help I can get with – I am naturally a pretty mellow person and it takes a lot to get me really keyed up (at least with/around students).


To the left of the main white board is this view (sorry I didn’t clean the white board in this picture). The table with the models on it actually doesn’t belong to us; our colleague moved to a smaller room this year and couldn’t move these in, so they moved to our room. Those bins under the table are some of our Latin Club supplies – mostly Breakout Edu kits.


This is our left wall from the front of the room. The posters at the top are constellations with little blurbs about their mythological origins. If you’re wondering what the tiny papers on the desks are, those are the Post-It notes I use on the first day of school to assign seats. Just number each desk with a Post-It note and then project the roster of each class in a numbered list so that when kids walk in, they just look at their name, see the number beside it, and find their seat.


Back left corner. The dining booth came to me from a friend in the building who was getting rid of it; I think it originally came from the drama program. I got it for students to use during silent reading or any other independent work time. The Pantheon frame above it is something I found at Goodwill a few years ago for just a few dollars.

This is an important area in our room, because the kids (at least in my classes, though Matt may have a different management system) can just get up (as long as I am not in the middle of saying something) and grab what they need. I like to let those issues (needing a pencil, piece of paper, whatever) take up as little class time as possible, and letting them get up as needed (again, as long as it’s not a distraction) has worked for me so far.

Re: the yellow sign. I promise I know how to spell “declension.” My students, on the other hand… 



A better view of this area. Most of these bins I got from the Dollar Tree (red marker bin, blue rag hamper, purple pencil bucket), Goodwill (pink beverage container that’s holding mini whiteboards), or the “please take this!” table in our teachers’ lounge (yellow bin holding books, red bin holding gum erasers). Most of the supplies belong either to our program or our department; I bought the highlighters (really, rounded up a bunch of extra highlighters I had collected during grad school) and the rulers (during a summer camp a few years ago). As far as pencils go, these are supplied to us, but I pretty much just try to pick up whatever kids have dropped on the floor in my room, the cafeteria, and the hall. I also use any leftover pencils that we get from GJCL Convention. Same thing with paper… I had quite a bit of notebook paper left over from college, and then I just pick up a notebook or two when the kids are doing locker cleanout at the end of the year.

The sheets under the table are our Latin Club togas – probably about 50 in all. Some of these were here before Matt and I got here, but I bought a few really cheap ones at Walmart. The rest were donated by parents and faculty.


think we are the only room at school with a door like this that connects to the room next to us. Usually there is something blocking that uncovered window on the other side. I found all these memes and images on Tumblr and Twitter, and one of my students printed some new ones out for me for my birthday this year. The poster on the left is from ACIS, the company we use to travel with students.


My desk area. A good friend of mine at work calls this “busy,” which, yeah, I can see that… but my justification is that I touch or use everything behind my desk at least once a week. (Also, if you couldn’t tell I work at a Catholic school yet, here’s your sign, or like 50 of them.)


This is my upgraded silent reading display. I have written pretty extensively about how I do silent reading given that this (and the two blue milk crates to the right) is about as much room as I can devote to a physical library. I got the shelf display on top from the Chessex booth at Dragon Con last year for free, and I bought the larger one on bottom from Amazon. I’m trying to rotate the books on display this year, but I’m starting out with the newest ones on top. I generally reserve these display shelves for books that actually have a cover, like these. If I print them myself from Google Docs and then bind them in our school library or with report covers, they get filed in those blue crates. Again, if you are wondering how I manage all this, see this post – it explains it pretty well.

On the top shelf in the clear pencil box is a set of annotation supplies for students: small sticky notes and paperclips. We will be using these this year in CP as students work on their portfolios, and I had a ton of these supplies to spare (seriously – all those sticky note pads came from my desk and I still have enough to last me at least this year).

Behind the Kleenex is a bin of about 5 or 6 Latin dictionaries.



Two closer shots of the area behind my desk. The top photo is the left side. Those blue milk crates on the bottom are where I store the rest of my silent reading library. The crates on the top are where I will be storing students’ tests this year. I don’t know why it took me this long to figure out this system. In the past I just clipped all the tests for a stage together and threw them in a drawer. Then when it came time for exams or to correct a test, I would have to search through the stack for a student’s test. So this year, no more. When we are done reviewing a test together, students will put it in their own file folder, so that when it’s time to revisit that test for whatever reason, they have easy access to their own work.

On top of that is where I keep all my “all-purpose” papers, meaning that they are not specific to any one section or class. The pull-out trays hold ZipGrade forms. The folders on top are no-name papers, test correction forms, free write forms, 6-word story templates (instructions on Keith Toda’s site), and permission slips for whatever field trip or event is coming up. Students are allowed to access most things on this left side.

On the right side (bottom photo) is strictly my area. All those spiral books are CLC resources. The file holder to the right with the manila folders is where I store anything I need to hand out in class that day; there is a folder for each class period. On the front are forms I use often: test reflection forms (for the kids) and scan/copy request forms (for me).

Below that… I really keep most things digitized, but I have found it essential to have this set of binders. The permission slips we need for GJCL Convention are enough to fill up one entire binder (as you can see). I keep original receipts, reimbursement forms, registration materials, and any other Latin Club-related permission slips in the Junior Classical League binder. The small white binder has my MVQs for Latin I and Latin II. MVQs are mini vocab quizzes: just 10-question quizzes that count for half a quiz grade. I project the quiz using Google Slides, but there’s always a kid who misses it or otherwise needs to retake it, so I have printed them all out and put them in page protectors so I can just hand “the book” as we call it to the kid and she can take the quiz without me needing to pull it up on the computer.

I need to re-label the blue binder for this year, but my “students” binder is where I keep all my signed syllabus agreements and returned student questionnaires. I also keep the carbon copy of any discipline referral slip in here as well as printed copies of important email correspondence with parents. The other two binders are master copy binders for courses I am building this year. Once I’m done with the courses, I will digitize everything.

The other stuff back here includes games like Zeus on the Loose and Verba cards, plus BINGO cards and “I Have, Who Has” cards that I’ve made. I also keep large mailing folders, my report covers for printed silent reading materials, and laminating sheets back here. I keep all of our NJCLLHS materials, including honor cords, in the double-decker plastic bin on the bottom right.


My windowsill and desk area – I promise I use every single one of those books on a regular basis. I generally try to keep a clean desk surface but it doesn’t always work that way. The purple bin that is simply overflowing with papers at the moment is what I call the paper horreum (because it is where I keep halves of paper that I have “harvested” from students). Students use those paper halves to take the MVQs mentioned above, but they also just use them for scrap paper. I use the black paper tray on the right as my one inbox for turned-in papers. I’m not organized enough to have a multi-inbox system.


Right side of the room. The podium has some extra art supplies like markers and old magazines in it. It’s also where I store the doc box that my students use to store the books that they are reading for silent reading. The bin under the shelf is yet another Latin Club supply bin. This one is for all our paper plates, napkins, and other party supplies.

And… the bed. A dear colleague in our department left our school in May to work at another school, and this bed had been in his room, so he donated it to me and Matt when he left. I scooped it up a) because it’s more flexible seating during silent reading and independent work times, b) we can use it in the videos our Latin students make and during “demonstrations” of Roman dining practices, and c) there is a not-insignificant chance that I will end up taking at least one nap on it during the course of the school year.


And last but not least, the front of the room. That thing on the board is our Mimio board tool, which turns any whiteboard into a smartboard. Please forgive the Jake Paul/Logan Paul/whichever Paul hellspawn quote that is on top of the board. It magically appeared there one day and I haven’t had the heart to take it down.

So that’s it! This room will be filled with students in exactly one week. I can’t wait!


FVR/SSR · Thoughts on Teaching

Getting Ready for 2018-2019

Down here in the South, school starts early (but most of us are out around Memorial Day), so we’ve got pre-planning starting this coming week, and then the kids are back August 6th. I’ve been thinking this summer about what I want to change for the upcoming year, and I have a lot of plans.

Latin I CPA

  • No more bonus points. I didn’t give a ton of these anyway, but I felt like they were inflating my students’ grades in a way that didn’t reflect what they were actually learning. So this year I’m putting more of an emphasis on remediation and mastery instead of bonus points.
  • Retrieval practice. One of my good friends at work uses retrieval practice with her history students and saw incredible success with it last year. This year I’m going to try it by using it as my board work (bellringer/do-now).
  • Really emphasizing reading. I want to pare down some of the “extra grammar” instruction we do in Latin I CPA to supplement what’s missing in CLC so that we can use our class time more efficiently to get kids better at reading Latin. To do this, I think I’m going to put more emphasis on reading comprehension and some translating on tests and cut down on the number of “What tense is X verb?” questions. The tricky part about this is balancing that desire with getting kids ready for AP, which does ask questions like that. So this year I’ll be working on finding that balance.


  • Writing the curriculum! This is a new class for us; well, we had III CP last year, but this year we are “untextbooking” with it. I decided to plan the fall semester around the mythology topics on the NLE syllabus, so we are going to start out with a quick gods and goddesses unit, then transition to reading an easy novella (Pluto: Fabula Amoris by Rachel Ash and Miriam Patrick) for a unit on the Underworld. After that, we will move through the Aeneid (using the prose retellings from the Jenney series), Jason (using stories from Using Latin), and Theseus (anchoring the unit with Andrew Olimpi’s novella Labyrinthus). The spring semester is still more up in the air, but I want to do some history-focused readings. If we ever break IV CP into its own class, I would love to teach Ellie Arnold’s Cloelia in a history unit.
  • Reworking grading categories. Big changes happening here, so I’ll try to explain each one.
    • Taking out homework as a grading category. I don’t give much homework in the first place, and I give even less to CP. I’ve decided that instead of having category for something that I really don’t use, I’m just going to use detentions (“unprepared for class”) instead if students don’t have homework (again, on the off chance that I assign it).
    • Replacing tests/projects with major assessments (35%). This is mostly semantics. I’m planning to do a lot of extended projects with this class, and “tests/projects” was just an unwieldy category for me.
    • Replacing quizzes with minor assessments (20%). This is actually more about practicality than semantics. I used to give “minor” projects that counted as quiz grades, but it was always hard for students to keep track of a minor project (quiz grade) vs. a major project (test grade), so I’m hoping that by calling the assignment “Such and Such Minor Assessment,” it will be easier for them to work with.
    • Proficiency portfolio (15%). This is what I’m most nervous about. I’m switching over to really using the ACTFL proficiency levels with this group a) because my ultimate goal is for them to make progress in their reading proficiency and b) because this class has such a wide range of abilities that using a portfolio system to track individual growth is, in my opinion, the most equitable way to measure a student’s performance in this class. My plan is to meet 3 times a semester with students to talk about their portfolio reflections, which I’d like to post here once I can figure out who to give credit to for the parts of it I adapted (i.e. shamelessly stole).
    • Habits of Strong Readers rubric (10%). I am using an adapted version (somewhat specific to my students’ behaviors) of Tina Hargaden’s Habits of Strong Readers rubric to measure my students’ behavioral habits during silent reading. I adapted her rubric because I wanted this portion of the grade (which is what I replaced homework with, by the way) to reflect not just social behaviors but metacognitive and reflective behaviors as well. I know that there is much to be said against the idea of incorporating any aspect of behavior into a student’s grade, but since what I am doing here is trying to assess their progress, it’s important to me to measure how much my students are contributing to (or inhibiting) their own progress. And… it’s only 10% of the grade.
  • Taking a field trip? I’d really like to take this class to the Carlos Museum at Emory. The Carlos is an incredible resource for those of us living in the Atlanta area, and who doesn’t want to see mummies?
  • Taking the ALIRA. I’d also like to have this class take the ALIRA this year as part of my focus on moving them toward a focus on proficiency. I’m also just curious to see how they would do on it.

Latin III Honors

  • Honestly, just teaching this class. I’ve never taught it before! Unlike III/IV CP, there is a set curriculum already for III Honors, so that part is taken care of. I’m really excited to revisit some poetry I haven’t read in a long time, especially the works we’ll be reading by my main squeezes, Catullus and Ovid.

I know everyone reacts to the start of the year differently; some people dread it, some people love it, and for some people, it’s just the start of the year – just a return to work. I’m really excited this year because of all these new changes and because I just love my school, my coworkers, and my students (and their parents, to be honest). At the end of the day, I can’t think of anyplace else I’d rather be.

Thoughts on Teaching

The Magic of Teaching

I’m feeling a little bit mushy about teaching lately, although I guess if you were to ask my students, they would say that’s not too different from how I normally feel. I’ve been working on writing the curriculum for the brand new/revamped (long story) version of our upper level CP classes, which will see two classes (Latin 3 and 4 CP) combined into one. It’s our first year of offering 4 CP and I’m really excited to see what the kids can do.

I’m not using Cambridge for these classes, so I’ve been working on figuring out what I will teach. I’ll spare you the boring details, but basically I’ve figured out that I will be teaching with a combination of textbook passages, novellas, and unadapted classical Latin literature. As I’ve been working on this and reimagining what FVR will look like for this class next year, I’ve been doing some deep dives into the ACTFL/ACL proficiency guidelines, thinking about what my students are able to do with Latin.

Some days teaching my CP class is really hard for me. It’s really different from almost any other class at our school, because normally, our rosters get mixed up between semester 1 and semester 2 each year. What this means is that I might be teaching Molly, Jack, and Joel in the same class fall semester, but in the spring, I might have Molly in one class and Jack in another, while Joel now has one of the other 2 Latin teachers and I have a new kid in his place. For the most part, I like this set-up (although I never like “losing” kids, just because I love getting to know them and spend time with them every day), because I get to know a lot of students. But my CP class is different. There is only 1 section of CP at each level, and I have looped up with these kids, meaning that this coming year is the third year straight that I will be teaching this specific group of kids.

When I say it’s hard, I mean that sometimes I really lose confidence in myself as a teacher with this class. The kids are good kids, but when you have the same group of them over and over, they develop a prickliness toward each other (and sometimes toward me). It’s a family in the way that families can be: full of love and understanding, but also messy and chaotic. Many of them also have ADHD, and some just have other things going on in their lives that make school hard for them. It can be really hard for me some days to get them on track because of all these factors combined.

What this means is that a lot of the time, I worry about whether they are learning anything at all. With this class, I have gradually (and toward the end of the year, not gradually at all) moved away from “chartiness” toward a reading comprehension approach that I’m not really ready to call CI. Sometimes when I’m plodding through a class period, I can feel like they don’t know anything, don’t care about Latin, would rather be anywhere else than my classroom doing this thing that I happen to love and care a lot about.

Which brings us to the final exam. The final exam that I wrote for this class this year was entirely reading-based. It had 3 unprepared (sight) passages and 3 prepared passages. The students had a combination of questions to answer about each passage: short answer reading comprehension, short translation in context, vocabulary identification. I wasn’t really worried at all about the prepared passages because we had read them so many times in class in a variety of ways, but those sight passages were keeping me up at night.

When it came time for the final, I was ready to hear the complaints: this exam is so long, it’s so hard, we weren’t prepared, etc. But the most pleasant surprise happened: after the exam, almost everyone felt great about the exam. And when I graded them… wow. They killed the sight passages. I mean they knocked them out of the park.

The title of this post is what I felt at that moment and continue to feel as I think about proficiency levels. There is a real, true magic in shaping a kid’s ability to do something. It’s crazy to me to think that I got these kids two years ago and they knew nothing – I mean nothing – about Latin, and here they are, finishing up Latin II, reading multiple passages at sight and knowing what they are saying. And while I will be the first to say that 90% of that has to do with the kids, I am wholly satisfied by the notion that I got them there. I don’t mean it in a bragging way – it’s just an incredible feeling to know that I was the one who gave them those tools, and together, we’ve gotten to this point.

You know, I think a lot about the fact that there was a time in my life that I didn’t know Latin. It feels weird to think about, but I’m only 27, so I’ve known Latin for less than half my life. I don’t really remember why I decided to take Latin – I do know that my teacher hunted me down and asked me to take it – but I do remember the first day of class (my teacher put the Lord’s prayer on the board in Old English) and my very first day of studying for it, sitting in my mom’s classroom after school, working on flashcards. And here, 12 years later, I am teaching this language that I love to my own students. I got from that point A to point B with the help of a lot of people, but the magic in it all comes down to my teacher, who is still the best teacher I’ve ever had and taught me everything (and I mean everything) that I know about Latin. The magic of going from knowing to not knowing, incapable to capable, unconfident to confident, because of my teacher’s influence, knowledge, and skills – all that worked in small ways, seen and unseen, over the course of three years.

That’s a real gift that we give to our students, the bundle of small miracles that makes up their progress. The magic is watching small miracle (knowing what “aqua” means) after small miracle (we didn’t burn the classroom down today) after small miracle (we breezed through our first indirect statement) being stitched together and knowing that for the most part, it didn’t happen by accident. The magic is knowing that it happened because of us.

Technology in the Latin Classroom · Vocabulary

A New Quiz Game: Gimkit

Or, as my students call it, “the money game.”

We play Kahoot, Quizlet Live, and Quizizz from time to time in class, and I do like each of those sites (some more than others). Recently, though, I found a new site called Gimkit that I absolutely love, and I’m excited to share it with you all.

I first found out about this on Reddit, where the students (yes, high school students) who created it posted about it on one of the teaching subreddits. They asked for feedback and we gave it to them (including, importantly, changing the name from something else to what it is now), and the resulting product is just outstanding.

Let me tell you some of the best features about this site:

  • There are multiple ways to play – not just team or individual, but different four different modes of play that keep the novelty alive. Students can race to be the first to hit a “dollar amount” you decide (the game calls its points “dollars”); they can work together to reach a dollar amount as a class; and more.
  • You can create different types of questions: multiple choice or typed answers.
  • You can “import” from Quizlet. I think it’s a tiny bit disingenuous to say you can import directly from Quizlet, but basically, you can go to Quizlet, export your Quizlet set as plain text, then paste it into Gimkit. Gimkit will then create a multiple-choice game using your Quizlet terms. This takes all of maybe 3 minutes if you are really familiar with Quizlet – and if you’re not, it might take you 5 minutes, thanks to Gimkit’s excellent instructions on how to do this.
  • The questions repeat! Unlike Kahoot, Quizlet Live, or Quizizz, where you see each question once, your students are going to see the questions multiple times, giving them repeated exposure to whatever you’re quizzing them on.
  • IT’S FUN! This is currently our most beloved game. I don’t know what it is about this game, but my students just love it.

I do want to tell you that the site costs money (it’s run by high school students!), but I think the fees are pretty fair, and they give you multiple payment options (monthly vs. yearly). I’m paying about $8/month right now to finish out the school year on the monthly subscription, and it’s completely worth it. If you want to try it out with no commitment, the site lets you create 3 kits (games) for free. That’s how I decided to take the plunge and purchase the subscription.

If you want to know more and watch a demo game, I’ve made a video for you walking you through what the game looks like.

Let me know what you think!

Technology in the Latin Classroom

Getting Started with Pear Deck

Pear Deck is one of my favorite technology tools right now. I have presented about it multiple times to other teachers (see my CV page and scroll to Professional Presentations), and, if I can brag a little about myself, I am one of the “go-to” people at work for tips on how to use and troubleshoot the site.

If you’ve been hearing about Pear Deck but don’t really know what it is, this post is for you! If you’re already using Pear Deck and would like some ideas about how to take it to the next level, the next post will be for you. 🙂

  • What is Pear Deck?
    • I explain it this way: Pear Deck is a web-based tool that allows you to make presentations (or almost any other file) interactive. Now, if you’re thinking…
      • “This sure does sound like a way to put lipstick on a pig (i.e. dress up a lecture)”: First of all, I think there is a time and place for a good lecture (a good lecture), even one with limited audience interaction. And if you are looking for a way to get audience interaction with a lecture, Pear Deck can definitely help you do that. But Pear Deck is not just for lecturing, so please stay with me here!
      • “Another piece of technology to learn? Great…”: Pear Deck is simple to use. If you have pre-made PowerPoints or Google Slides presentations, you have done 95% of the work.
    • Before you read further, please know that I have the premium version of Pear Deck, and almost everything I am referring to involves using the premium version. The good news: there’s a 30-day free trial of the premium version, so you can try it out without the commitment.
  • Interactive… how, exactly?
    • Pear Deck lets you take a slide in a Google Slide presentation and make it so that students can respond to it in one of 5 ways:
      • Text: students respond by typing their answer. When you project their answers, students see everyone’s responses.
      • Choice: students respond by choosing one multiple-choice answer. When you project their answers, students see how many people chose each choice.
      • Number: students respond by typing a number. I’ve actually never had occasion to use the “number” response, but I’m guessing when you project it, it works like the “text” responses (projects everyone’s).
      • Draw: students respond by drawing on the slide. This works even if they are using a laptop and not a tablet – it’s kind of like using MS Paint. When you project their answers, students see everyone’s drawings.
      • Draggable: students respond by dragging any number of icons you choose around the slide. When you project their answers, students see everyone’s icons overlaid on top of one another, which makes this really useful for having discussions or doing anticipation guide-style activities. Here’s an example of something I did with my Latin II CP class (I stole the presentation from Keith Toda):mavis habitare .png
  • Why would I want to start using it in my classroom?
    • Here are my two selling points when I present about Pear Deck: 1) you can project all students’ answers at the same time and 2) those answers stay anonymous when presented to the whole class. 
    • Here are three of my students’ answers about why they like Pear Deck:Pear Deck for Archdiocesan In-Service February 16 2018.pngPear Deck for Archdiocesan In-Service February 16 2018 (1).pngPear Deck for Archdiocesan In-Service February 16 2018 (2).png
  • Okay, so what does it look like? Can you walk me through a presentation? 
    • Well… I did just record a 20-minute screencast walking you through a presentation, but Screencastify is so frustrating sometimes. The audio ended up being distorted, but if you want to suffer through the choppiness, here’s the link. So I will hopefully record another version of it at some point, but in the meantime, here is a Google Slides presentation I made for a story from CLC Unit 1 using Pear Deck. This shows you the kinds of questions I ask using Pear Deck.
  • How do I make one?
    • See my tutorials page for a very short tutorial on how to use the add-on for Google Slides. This is how I (personally) think that everyone should be using Pear Deck, as opposed to the standalone Pear Deck website/presentation creator. The add-on is incredibly easy to use and works with existing Google Slides presentations – you can also upload PowerPoints to Google Drive so you can use the add-on with those files, too.

That’s about it for starting out. Let me know what questions you have!

Community in the Latin Classroom · Latin Club/Junior Classical League · Seasonal Activities

March Madness, Latin Style

I am not really a sports enthusiast. I do watch a lot of basketball and I love UGA football, but I don’t know much about the logistics of the game. I do love a good competition, though, and I really, really love Latin… thus, March Madness, Latin style, also known as Martia Dementia.

I used Martia Dementia in Latin I CP last year, and I’m using it again this year with the same class now that they are in Latin II. I actually wasn’t planning to do this again for whatever reason, but some of my students asked about it today. They all really enjoyed it last year, and I am all about anything that gets them to have fun while using Latin.

Here’s how we did it. Our awesome librarians printed a large poster of a blank single-elimination blind draw bracket for me from Print Your Brackets. I kept this poster on the wall in my room and filled in the bracket as we progressed through the tournament. You could also print the seeded bracket, but I would randomly seed students for this (e.g. draw a name for 1 seed, 2 seed, and so on). I then had students claim a character from CLC Unit 1. I kept track of who represented whom in a Google spreadsheet.

Once we did that, I randomly assigned matches to students. Once they saw their opponent for the first round, they got to work on answering this question in Latin: “Why is your character more likely to survive the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius than your opponent’s character?” They were tasked with answering this in one sentence.

I gave them sentence starters (_______ supererit quod…) and we brainstormed vocabulary that they might want to use (fortior, callidior). This was a great way to practice using comparatives and superlatives in a fun context.

I gave them about 15 minutes to work on this in class. Then the next day we held the first round. Students faced their opponents in the front of the room and explained in Latin why their character would survive the eruption. Once each “match” was completed, the students voted anonymously on who had won – although, as with all decisions in my classroom, I have the final say (this is also known as the “I am in charge of everything” rule). We played one round of the tournament each day, so it only took about three or four days total for the entire activity, using between 5 and 20 minutes (depending on the round) in class each day.

One thing I was really worried about with this activity was that students would try to pull the thing that I always did in elementary school when we played dodgeball: purposefully trying to get out early to avoid having to play. I was pretty pleasantly surprised that each student really did try hard to win their match, and they were excited to come up with new sentences to beat their next opponent.

This year, we are bringing Martia Dementia back, but we are using (mostly) the characters from Unit 2, while bringing a few Unit 1 characters back from the dead. Our question this time is “Who would survive the vias periculosas of Alexandria?”

I think you could play Martia Dementia using any number of premises: FVR books, historical figures, mythological creatures/figures, etc. It really just depends on your class and their interests.

A final consideration: I don’t grade this event. It’s just something fun for us to work on in class. If I did grade it, it would be a classwork/daily work grade.

In other Latin March Madness news…

  • We are doing another version of March Madness in Latin II CP. This version is “real” March Madness. One of my students requested that we make a class bracket, and after doing a quick poll with the class, I approved. The catch was that they had to justify their choices in Latin. To facilitate this process, I split the class into four groups, each one choosing a region. Each group will complete the bracket for their region, and we will decide the Final Four and championship outcomes together. The groups have to turn in a list of sentences justifying each choice. Now, some of my kids aren’t that into basketball, and they are not going to be able to give an eloquent Latin explanation of why they made each choice. This is where I think you have to have a little fun with things like this. They are free to justify their answers however they wish. If they like the mascot better, fine. If they just dislike a certain school, fine. As long as they can explain their choice in Latin, I’m happy. To help them out, I gave them some sentence starters they can use if they want (____ est melior quam ____ quod…; ____ vincet quod…), and we (again) brainstormed vocabulary (fortis, longus, etc.).
    Each group must submit their sentences before I enter our class bracket into…
  • The Latin Club March Madness tournament. I had this idea yesterday morning, and I’m pretty excited about it. We are hosting a Latin Club March Madness group through the ESPN Tournament Challenge website. I emailed the kids about it and put up flyers with a QR code to the site and the password for the group. So far, we’ve got 30 students signed up. We can’t play for money or prizes per our school rules, but I’ve got designs to start a small “Hall of Fame” in my classroom for the winner. I’d really like to make this an annual tradition. It’s one of those things that might not be directly Latin-related, but it’s something fun that builds community and fosters friendly competition.

Let me know if you have questions about how to set any of this up.

FVR/SSR · Technology in the Latin Classroom

FVR Setup and Tour

I’ve written a few posts on how I do FVR , so I thought I would post some visuals to help you… well… visualize our routine.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my Latin 2 CP class does FVR, which I refer to as “silent reading” with them. We do silent reading for a minimum of 5 minutes each time, but I increase the time by 1 minute each week or so (it really just depends on how I feel and how they are getting on that day).

I tell whoever gets into class first to grab the doc box, which lives in this podium that I picked up from the band teacher, who was giving it away a few years ago:


That student puts the doc box on one of the empty desks in our room. The students know that they are supposed to grab their reading log and current book out of their hanging folder from the doc box as they walk in.

Some students choose to start reading before the bell rings and class begins, but most of them wait until I have taken attendance and we have prayed. Most of them don’t mind silent reading, and some of them really like it, but only a few of them are fond enough of it to do it before I start the timer.

If it’s the beginning of a new month, students know they should grab a reading log from behind my desk. The space behind my desk is pretty open, and I generally don’t mind students being back there as long as they aren’t at my actual desk. I love that this class knows exactly where they are supposed to go to get reading logs and that they do it without being prompted. The reading log folder is behind the no name papers folder. By the way, I bought this contraption at Wal-Mart for about $15. It has three paper trays (I use those for ZipGrade forms) and five folder slots at the top. As you can see, I use those folder slots for what I think of as “universal” items – things that apply to most of or all of my classes and aren’t specific to a certain stage or unit.


Once the kids are in their seats with their books and reading logs, I start the timer (just Google 5 minute timer or whatever you need). Sometimes I project it on the board. As students read, I circulate. Some teachers read while their students read, but this is not a class that can go without me watching them like a hawk for 5+ minutes. It’s just not going to happen.

A few students will finish reading their book or story before the timer is done, and that’s okay. They know that they are supposed to fill out their reading log (feel free to use), give the book they just finished to me, and then request a new book by first looking at the options on what we affectionately call Lil Bib (read about here; view my library here). After they find the book they want, they request it through a Google Form on my Haiku page (our LMS).

This is where I come in. I have set the Google Form to alert me whenever a student requests a new book. I find the book they want either in the milk crate where most of the books live or on the cardboard display I got from the Chessex booth at Dragon Con (for free!). Both of these things are immediately behind my desk for easy access.

I use the barcode on the back of the books to check them out quickly. I am very Type-A and have a secret wish to be a librarian, so when I realized that libib gives you the ability to print barcodes to use to check out books, I went to town.


I place the returned book in a “check-in” spot on the window ledge next to my desk and place the new book with the student’s last name written on a post-it note on the cover in a “check-out” spot.

I have my work study student place the check-out books into the students’ file folders in the doc box when she comes in after school.

This whole process sounds like a lot of work, I am sure, and it is definitely more work than having students simply put their books back on the shelf each day. But since I share a classroom, I just do not have the space to have a set-up like that. Surprisingly, though, the process really only takes about 5 minutes total to check in all the finished books and check out all the new books.

I’ll close this one out with some photos of the books I have either printed from places like Tarheel Reader or created in Google Docs. Our library is awesome and binds these for me for free. These are easily some of the most popular titles in the FVR library. I think it’s for two reasons: 1) they are pretty easy, since most of these are either written by students or for novice-level readers, and 2) they are colorful and have pictures.