Technology in the Latin Classroom

Working with Prepositions

We are working on Stage 14 in my Latin 2 CP class right now, and we are having a lot of fun with prepositions and the cases they take. I was trying to think of a way to get students to understand how prepositions work in Latin (and just to learn what they mean), so I came up with this series of activities, and it’s worked really well these past 2 days:

  • After explaining prepositions that need ablative objects vs. accusative objects, we did a quick round of “Prepositions Charades.” I wrote about 10 phrases out on some cards using two objects we have in our classroom: a Beanie Baby lion (leo) and our flat-top rolling desks (mensa). The phrases were things like “sub leone” and “in mensā.” Students volunteered to act out two phrases while the rest of the class wrote the phrase they were acting out on our mini white-boards. They had a lot of fun with this one, and it was quick and easy.
  • Then I let them work in pairs to take at least 7 pictures with prepositional phrases – basically doing what we had just done, but creating the phrases on their own. They were allowed to use any item in the classroom, so the pictures involved a lot of books and chairs, but some students also used my stress pears (pear-shaped stress balls provided by Pear Deck) and some of my Funko Pop figures. They inserted the photos and the captions into a Google Slides template that I made for them and distributed via PowerSchool Learning (formerly Haiku, our LMS).
  • When we meet again on Thursday, I will have a Pear Deck presentation prepared for them featuring most of their photos. Depending on the photo, students will write the prepositional phrase they think is depicted or answer questions about the photo. The students seem excited about this one; they love seeing their work displayed for others, even “just” their own classmates.

This has been a pretty simple lesson, but they are enjoying it, and it seems to be helping them get the hang of how prepositional phrases are structured.

Examples of student work below!

pro sella
liber est prō sellā.
in mensa
stylus est in mēnsā.
in mensa 2
Super Mutant est in mēnsā.
sub toga
puella est sub togā. We tend to call all clothing a “toga” in this class.
pro pede
cibus est prō pede.
FVR/SSR

Starting FVR: How

I’m following up a post from yesterday entitled “Starting FVR: Who, Why, and What.” I want to share the logistics of doing FVR in my classroom, but with one caveat first: I am doing FVR with a class of 20. I am not doing this with all of my sections, so there is nothing to keep up with between classes or among all three Latin teachers at my school.

First, sourcing the books. I put together my FVR library by using a few sources:

  • I bought (out of pocket) the novellas. You can see which ones I own in the link to my library above. My school has the funds to purchase these materials or reimburse me for them, but I bought them out of my own pocket a little at a time so that in the off chance that I ever leave my current school, I will be able to take these with me. There are a couple of titles that I am missing, but I am working on them.
  • I cobbled together stories from a few different places online: Tarheel Reader (especially anything by Anthony Gibbins – and especially his Gilbo “novel”) and the Latin Teacher Toolbox Story Database being the two big sources. There are some story collections in the Latin Teacher Toolbox database, but I compiled my own in a series of Google Docs.
    • Let me say a quick shout-out here to the librarians and library staff at my school. These ladies are amazing. They have allowed me to print several copies of each story collection and then bound all of them for me. About half of my students are using one of these bound copies for their first FVR selection, and I can’t overstate how big of a blessing it is to have these resources available.
  • I threw together my Latin I students’ 4-word stories into a Google Doc and had that printed and bound. I plan to do this with all of the 4-word stories that they write this year. I am not sure what scanner or app Keith used in the link above, but I use TinyScanner Pro on my phone and it is awesome for this, especially because you can upload directly to Google Drive. Here is a link to the Google Doc that this first round of stories ended up in; please let me know about any grammar errors, since I (somewhat notoriously, I think, among my students) do not actually proofread anything like a good teacher should.

Second, leveling the books:

  • I created my own system for leveling these books. You can see the levels in the link to my FVR library above. I wanted something that would be student-friendly; that is, I wanted students to be able to translate the levels into something they actually understood and that meant something to them. What I ended up with was Level 1-A, 1-B, 2-A, 2-B, and so on. The way that I explained this to my students was that an average student in the middle of the first semester of Latin 1 could read a Level 1-A book. An average student in the middle of the second semester of Latin 1 could read a Level 1-B book. You get the idea.
  • When making these levels, I had to consider a handful of factors. First, vocabulary. Anything that deals exclusively with CLC vocabulary from about Stage 1 to Stage 8 is Level 1-A in my mind, unless it throws in some (second factor) really advanced grammar… all of which is to say, if you do your levels the way I did, yours will probably look different. It all depends on what you target (or don’t target) as you progress through your program. We follow CLC, so that’s the guide I was using.

Third, creating the hype. I did this by:

  • Talking up the program over a few days. Some of my students were intrigued and excited, but most were apprehensive or apathetic. (It’s okay. They are teenagers, after all.)
  • Setting aside a half day in class in which I gave them a quick talk about each book in a Google Slides presentation. I then had students fill out a request form. I do not plan for them to keep filling out request forms since they will all be ending their books (and thus starting new ones) at different times, but for this first go-around when everyone would be starting at the same time, I wanted to “assign” the books based on their requests just in case there was an overwhelming demand for a given book. Luckily, each of my students was able to get their first choice.
    • You’ll see that the request form has a section that says “I think I should start at level…” I have been pretty impressed with most of my students. The majority of them chose a level that I would have chosen for them as well: out of a class of 20 in their first semester of Latin II, about 12 of them are at 1-B reading. Of the other 8, I would say about 3 of them are 2-A while the other 5 are 1-A. That’s one of the reasons I love teaching this class: there is such a wide variety of students in it, and they all learn from each other every day.
  • Making a big production of showing students where the books would be kept. I am keeping them in hanging folders with students’ names in a milk crate.
  • I had my students sign a pledge that the library (again! don’t know what I would do without them) printed for me as a poster. The pledge details the 6 rules that I needed to lay out for FVR to work in my room.

Finally, I created a reading log that each student fills out every time they read their book, even if they are doing it as an “early finisher” activity. I have been peeking at these as they read, and I am pretty excited to see most of them circling 4 and 5 for understanding. I am considering changing this to a Google Form in October so I can get consolidated instant data every time they fill it out, but I’m also not too keen on them immediately opening their computers – it always takes a minute (or more…) to get them “back to reality” when the devices come out.

I want to follow this blog post up with a more detailed “where and when” FVR post and maybe include some pictures of my classroom setup and (faceless) pictures of some of my kids reading. Fingers crossed that I can get it done this week!

FVR/SSR · Learning Disabilities in the Latin Classroom

Starting FVR: Who, Why, and What

Salve/te! Sorry for the absence. I had an incredible summer of traveling: Italy in June with students, then Hilton Head the week after with my family. Down here in Georgia school starts the first week of August, so I really tried to use July not to work very much, including here on the blog.

But now that we’ve been in school for almost a month, I thought it was time for an update. I’m pretty excited about this post, since a lot of us Latin teachers are diving in to FVR this year or looking to improve upon what we’ve been doing. I want to give some insight into the “who, what, when, where, why, how” of the FVR program I have started running in one of my Latin classes. To keep the post from being too long, I’m going to split it up over the next few days.

Who? Why?

I am using FVR with my Latin II CP students this year. At our school, CP is a different level from CPA. I teach Latin I CPA, Latin II CPA, and Latin II CP. Students are placed into CP Latin for any number of reasons, most relating to learning disorders. It’s a rigorous course, but we move more slowly through CLC. The goal for both CPA and CP Latin is that students build fluency in reading Latin (among other goals) by the fourth year, but we take a more grammar-focused approach in CPA.

The other difference between CPA and CP Latin is that students might move between teachers at the halfway point of the year in CPA Latin. We have three Latin teachers, and in the lower levels, there are multiple teachers teaching each level. There are 4 sections of Latin I CPA and 4 sections of Latin II CPA; I teach 3 of Latin I CPA and 1 of Latin II CPA. With CP, however, students stay with the same teacher throughout the year since there is only 1 section of CP per level. So far with the way the schedules have worked out, we have actually looped up with our students (so that I am teaching my Latin I CP students again this year in Latin II CP), though that may change.

All of this is to say: I am running an FVR program with my CP students for a few reasons.

  1. They are a singleton section. There is no other section to coordinate with, whether a section of my own classes or one of my colleagues’ classes. This makes them perfect as my “trial run.” If we need to change something about the program, we can change it just for 20 kids, not for 60-something, and not in multiple classrooms. This also means that I am keeping track of books going through the hands of just 20 kids, not 60-something.
  2. Many of my CP students have dyslexia, so we are working on a skill that many of them struggle with in English as well. When we discuss best practices for independent reading as a class, my hope is that some of these skills will transfer to English reading. Another long-term hope/goal is that we would be able to have audio recordings of some or all of the books in our library that students could listen to while reading. I hope to have a post out at some point that describes our experiences – whether successes or failures or somewhere in between – in this area.
  3. I think it will be good for this CP class. I love these students; we are very close after having been together for a full year. We have gone through a lot of ups and downs together due to some circumstances and situations in some of my students’ lives, and because of those experiences, we seem to have bonded a lot. Now, they drive me (and each other) crazy sometimes, but at the end of the day we are nothing if not comfortable with one another and aware of one another’s quirks and preferences. This makes certain things easier, like asking them to do something brand new like FVR. I also think some of them like getting to do something the other classes don’t do.

What?

What does FVR look like in our class? First of all, we aren’t calling it FVR in class, although that’s what I call it (and intend to call it) on the blog, Twitter, and elsewhere. If I told my students that we were doing something called Free Voluntary Reading, they would say (I promise): “We are not volunteering to do this.” And they would kind of have a point. So to them, I call it Silent Reading most of the time. Sometimes I call it SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), although I know that technically, there is a difference between SSR and FVR (FVR = the kids pick what they want to read; SSR = the whole class reads the same thing). But SSR is a lot more descriptive of what we are actually doing: it is sustained, and it is silent.

We have actually only done one FVR session so far in class, although students did read their books on Friday after they were done with an activity, so we squeezed in another round of reading then. This is the way it works and will keep working (I hope):

  1. We plan to do FVR on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are starting with 5 minutes; every 2 weeks, I will add 30 seconds to the time. Originally I wanted to add 1 minute every 2 weeks, but I think a more gradual build-up is going to be what we end up with. I project a timer on the board while they read – this may change if I see them checking the timer too much. (For a free timer, just Google “5 minute timer.”)
  2. It is the first thing we do in class. I don’t want to worry about them trying to pack up at the end of class. I also like starting class, if I can, with a calm and focused activity.
  3. I say “We’re doing Silent Reading today. You need to get your book from the milk crate. You can start reading as soon as you get your book, but I am not starting the timer until everyone is seated with their book. If you start reading on your own, keep your own time.” If they are keeping time on their own, they can use their phone’s stopwatch, but their phone must be face-down on their desk.
  4. Then… they read. I have a set of rules that I will share in a later post, but they are to be silent the whole time, reading the whole time, and dealing with words they don’t know (context clues, glossary, et al.) before they ask me about them.
  5. When they’re done, they fill out a simple reading log, which I will share in a later post. Right now the log is on paper. I’m considering moving it to a Google Form for easier data collection, but we’ll see.

The first day that we did this, they had just gotten a big talk about how they had to be silent the whole time. No talking to friends. In the middle of reading, I started hearing a student giggle. I turned around and firmly reminded them that they were not supposed to talk to friends during this time. The student looked really confused before saying, “Ms. Briscoe, I’m laughing at this book! It’s really good!” Heart-melting.

After our first session, a lot of my students (even the ones I was banking on not liking FVR) were really excited. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; some of them definitely weren’t excited and wanted never to do this again. I will find out why. With some of them, I think they chose a book that was too hard for them; with others, I think that they do not do much reading, period, and are struggling with reading for 5 minutes straight. Hopefully I can keep you posted on what solutions I find for this handful of kids. But for now, I will leave you with some real live quotes from my students after our first FVR session:

  • “This is really easy.”
  • “I only made it to the second page [of Cloelia] but I love it so far. The backstory is really interesting.”
  • “I was happy that I knew most of the words.”
  • “I liked it because it was funny.”

And… my favorite:

  • “I wanted to keep going so I could find out what happens.”

***

Update: There’s a follow-up post here on how I started FVR.

Thoughts on Teaching

Year-End Reflecting

It’s my first full weekday of summer vacation, and I am starting to think about the fall. I am teaching one new prep for me (Latin II CP), but other than that, I will be teaching things I have taught before. This is very exciting for me, since I have taught a new-to-me prep every semester since I started teaching (only 4 semesters so far, but still).

I’ve thought about my successes and failures this year. I don’t feel that I’ve had huge failures, and I have definitely done better than I did my first year, but there are many things I want to improve, repeat, toss out, introduce, and more.

Improve

  • Classroom management. Still a difficult one for me. Sometimes I think about the person I am now vs. who I was 10 years ago, and 10-years-ago-me (and even 5-years-ago-me) would be stunned to know I am as laid-back as I am now. There are certain things I am not laid-back about (student safety, cheating, and the like), but I am sometimes too chill for my own good. I have to figure out a way to improve my classroom management without losing authenticity.
  • Work flow. Hooooo boy. I need to figure something out here. I feel like I have tried every which way of lesson planning, but it still comes down to me planning the night before and making copies the day of. Not a good look. I make intricate lesson plans weeks in advance, but then I don’t follow up on them later. I also need to get a better system of returning graded papers. I like the amount of paperless work I do, but for those things that must be done on paper, I have had such a hard time getting them back to students in a timely way. I will grade them and they will just sit on my desk. Part of this has to do with floating and sharing a room. With my own room and no floating, I could (maybe) have a more dedicated in- and out-box system, but it’s not to be at my current school.

Repeat

  • loved the vocabulary games we did this year, and so did the kids. Word races, VINCO, hot seat, and more. I will definitely be repeating those next year.
  • Board work. I will write about my board work routine at some point, but first I have to modify it. This is just a bell-ringer/warm-up, nothing fancy, but I love having something for students to do when they walk into class. Next year, I want to whittle it down, maybe make it digital (maybe not), and make it part of a participation grade instead of a homework grade.

Introduce

  • The big one: going mostly-reading method in CP. This isn’t to say that we are doing CI or TPRS, because we aren’t, but we are letting go of most of the drill-type “chartiness” that is present in our grammar-based CPA classes (although we do a lot of reading work in CPA too). I plan to spend a lot of my summer working on how to support literacy for struggling readers in a WL classroom. Many of the plans I have made for the fall for my CP class include working in stations, reading and re-reading stories in multiple ways, and incorporating things like Movie Talks for novelty and vocabulary repetition.
  • Along with the big one, and maybe even as big as or bigger than the big one: introducing more spoken Latin. Again, not exactly CI, but doing things like Movie Talks and incorporating more interpersonal tasks.
  • Starting a participation component to the grade breakdown. I think I am including at least the following in the grade breakdown, which (if all goes as planned) will comprise 10% of the grade: board work, comprehension/participation checks, and reflection pieces.

I feel like there are at least 5 million other things I want to do differently next year, but these things have been on my mind for the past few days. Hopefully in a year I’ll have another post detailing all the successes and no failures whatsoever (ha!) that I’ll have in this next year.

Breakout Edu · Latin Club/Junior Classical League

A Quick Idea for a Breakout Edu Crossword Clue

I am 200% sure someone else has already come up with this idea, but I wanted to write it down before I forgot, and it might help someone else.

I am always looking for new clues for Breakout Edu, and as I was making a vocabulary crossword for one of my classes, I had an idea about using these activities in a Breakout game.

Here’s my initial thought:

  1. Make a crossword puzzle, either by hand or using a site like Armored Penguin. Here’s a link to the one I just made that inspired me to make this post.
  2. Figure out where in the game the puzzle will appear. Is it your very first clue? Is it inside a 3-digit lockbox or another box that students have to open? If you can create digital crosswords, do students scan a QR code to get there?
  3. Figure out how you are going to use the puzzle to lead to a clue. Maybe…
    1. Students find a clue that says something like 1,6,13,16. They will think they should just add the numbers up, but they are really looking for the letters that appear in the box of that number. This can lead them to a password-protected document or website or it could open a word lock – just make sure that you have the correct letters on the word lock to make this work.
    2. You could circle certain boxes on the puzzle and somehow have these represent a password or lock solution. I’m not sure at this moment how you would let the kids know what order to put the letters in, but you could always have them do trial and error.

Armored Penguin also lets you create info-gap crosswords, where Student A has one half of the crossword and Student B has the other half, so it could be fun to give them one half of the crossword early in the game and the other half later in the game.

Just some thoughts!

Breakout Edu · Latin Club/Junior Classical League

How I Create Breakout Edu Games

The Breakout game we did at GJCL Convention was a hit (I think). We had to limit it to 24 people per session, and when we showed up half an hour before the session to set up, we saw that there were already 24 kids (and apparently they had been there for some time), and they were turning other kids away to keep their spot in line. Awesome!

I had a couple of people ask me if I would send them some info about how to do these games, which is why I am writing this post. A couple of things to keep in mind: I am not a “pro” at this (having only written a few games so far), and there are many things I want/need to improve with this kind of activity.

My step-by-step process of writing a Breakout game is below. If you want to “follow along” with a real game I wrote, here is the Google Drive folder for the game I ran at GJCL Convention. You are welcome to use or adapt this game in any way you want; I took some portions of this game from games published on the Breakout site.

  1. I figure out what I want the theme/story of the game to be. For the game I did at Convention, I was aiming for something that would have mass appeal, so I went with mythology. I am doing a game for my Latin I classes for final exam review, and that one is pretty much just reviewing what we’ve done this year.
    1. If you are teaching novellas or other extended stories, it would be really cool to do a Breakout that not only asks about the story but simulates or extends an aspect of the plot (e.g. to help X character find Y thing that she wants, you must open the box with all the locks on it).
  2. I start a Google Doc and make a list of all the locks and materials I have access to or want to use in the game. Our school library has enough locks and materials for 3 Breakout kits (our librarians are awesome), but I have started putting together my own piece by piece. I will write another post some day about sourcing materials for kits.
    Anyway! We don’t actually have any Breakout-branded kits; all of ours are “open-sourced,” meaning we got them from Amazon and the like. I generally have access to the following:

    1. A “Breakout box” (large box that can fit a hasp on it – I use a metal toolbox in my personal kit similar to this one)
    2. Hasp
    3. Invisible ink and UV flashlight (this is the flashlight I have bought)
    4. 5-letter word lock
    5. 4-digit number lock similar to this
    6. Directional lock
    7. Small 3-digit lock box
    8. I have also bought 3-digit number locks (similar here) for myself; I don’t think (I could be wrong) that these are in our school kits
    9. Key lock
    10. I bought a set of 4 very cheap ($3 each) plastic toolboxes at Walmart that can fit a single lock (not a hasp). I use these in the games too.
  3. I think about what I want each lock to do and where I want it to be. You want a decent number (4 or so) of locks on the hasp, but I also like for them to open at least one other box, like the 3-digit lockbox or the cheap plastic toolbox, in addition to unlocking the hasp. Remember that the more locks you have, the more time the game will take.
    1. I like for the lockbox/toolbox to have the UV light inside it as well as some other goodies they will need for solving further clues. Think QR codes, flash drives, new messages they have to decode, etc.
    2. I also think about the type of information that will be required for students to unlock a lock. Take the directional lock, for example. If you use it, you need to have a clue that involves students finding directions or arrows in some way. You can have students use the UV light to find arrows that are written in a certain order; you can have them find the literal words “left,” “right,” “up,” and “down” as part of a clue; you can do something that requires them to draw arrows or pay attention to the order in which they see something (hard to explain, but the directional lock clue in the Escape the Underworld game linked in this post does this).
  4. I make my games very linear, so I start with “Step One” in the Google Doc. Step One should have everything the students need to get to Step Two. This is the Google Doc I did for Escape the Underworld; go to page 2 to see the steps.
    1. Step One for this game was a little too hard. You want it to be something that students can figure out fairly quickly and that builds their momentum for the rest of the game. You want the right amount of struggle so that when they get to Step Two, they’re excited, but you don’t want them to lose steam.
    2. For the first clue, I like using acrostic poems or messages, but if you play a lot of games with your students, they will figure out it’s your signature move. I’ve had an idea to do a QR code cut up into puzzle pieces as the first clue, but I don’t know if it would scan the same when put back together.
  5. After Step One, I go to Step Two. Well, duh, I know. But what I mean by this is I have to think about how what they solved in Step One will get them to Step Two, then so on. Now that they have solved the puzzle in Step One, what are they going to do with that solution?
    1. I try to get the whole gist of the game down before I go back and really flesh out the clues. If you look at the review game I’m writing for my Latin I students for their final, for example, I don’t have everything hammered out, but I do have an idea of what I want to do with each clue. I will figure out the exact details later.
      Breakout Edu screenshot

Beyond that, there isn’t much to it in the way of planning. I do keep two principles in mind when planning the games, and these have helped me a lot (after some trial and error running other games I got from the Breakout website):

  • Limit the number of “around-the-room” clues. I ran a couple of games from the Breakout site that involved the extensive hiding of flashdrives under objects, writing on posters with invisible ink, etc. These didn’t work as well as other games for a couple of reasons. For one, no matter how much you tell the kids “stay within X physical boundaries,” they are going to be able to see what the other kids are doing, and if one group is running all over their quadrant of the room looking under desks and bookshelves, so will the other kids. It might be fun for them, but it strips the game of its problem-solving nature, especially if they just randomly find something they weren’t meant to find quite yet. (sigh. this happened to me in a recent game, and it kind of ruined the experience.)
    Instead of doing the “hide-the-object” types of clues, I try to use a lot of digital clues: QR codes, tinyurl links, and the like. If you use password-protected options, even better. I also like putting the physical clues inside the 3-digit lockbox or the cheap plastic toolbox – that way you can have them physically manipulate something like a puzzle or a matching set while still requiring them to do the problem-solving to get there.
  • Spread the clues out. By this I mean delay the gratification. Students might find something in Step Two that they can’t even use until Step Five; or even if they somehow get into the Step Three lockbox by some stroke of luck (it will happen), make it so they can’t do anything with the materials inside until they actually solve the puzzle they were supposed to solve or until they get to a later step. Make them think about the collection of materials in front of them, especially the ones they get from opening an envelope, a Padlet link, the lockbox, etc. What can we use right now? What do we need to put aside? The process of determining utility in a group is really powerful for their critical thinking muscles.

For more resources: I think one of the best ideas is to look at some of the games that already exist and either run one of those with your students or adapt the ideas from them (that’s what I do).

Where to find games:

That’s all for now. Later this week, I plan to write a post about clue ideas that I’ve had rattling around in my brain, and then at some point I will write a general info dump of tips for running the games.

Let me know if you have questions!

Breakout Edu · Latin Club/Junior Classical League · Technology in the Latin Classroom

Two Alternatives to Password-Protected Word Docs for Breakout Edu

Could that title be longer?

I’m planning a Breakout Edu game for GJCL Convention this year, and one of the things I kept running into trouble with was wanting to use a flashdrive for a password-protected Word doc. This is fine when we do these Breakout games at school; I am working with my own students, I know that they have devices that have Word, etc.

But at GJCL, we would run into a few problems. The big one? Nobody would have a device that could open a flashdrive. The kids there will have phones, though, and Rock Eagle does have Wi-Fi, so I’ve been trying to come up with ways to have our puzzles that would normally lead to a password-protected Word doc lead elsewhere on the Internet.

I really only had two requirements: 1) it needs to be easy to use, and 2) it needs to be free. This is what I came up with:

  • Padlet. I have used Padlet (and password-protected Padlets, at that) in class before and loved it, so why not incorporate it into a Breakout game? If you’re looking for a direct one-to-one replacement for a password-protected Word doc, I think Padlet’s got you covered, since you can put just about anything in one. One of the big pluses that you get with using Padlet for Breakout is that you can store multiple clues on the same page – but in discrete blocks. You can adjust the settings so that students can only view the Padlet, but I think it would be cool to do something where students have to drag the little Padlet notes to be in the correct order to reveal something to propel the game. You could even use the background image as part of a clue or puzzle.
Padlet setting the password
Setting the password

Padlet clues

  • Quizlet. You can password-protect Quizlet sets, even with a free account. I like the idea of using a Quizlet set in a Breakout game as a codebreaking aide (if, for example, students have discovered a set of numbers, they can use the Quizlet set to “translate” those numbers into letters to unlock a word lock).

I’m sure there are many other websites and apps that can be used for password-protecting material. I think Tumblr allows for password-protected blogs, but if you’re playing at school, it’s likely blocked by the Wi-Fi.

Hopefully the Breakout at GJCL goes well! It will be my first time hosting a workshop, period, and my first time leading a Breakout with students who aren’t mine. Wish me luck!