Classroom Organization · FVR/SSR

More Apps and Websites I Love

I left off two websites from my first post on this topic in December, and I can’t believe I forgot to include them. I use both of these on at least a weekly basis.

  • ZipBooks. In my first two years as Latin Club moderator, I used a combination of pencil-and-paper records and spreadsheets to keep track of club spending. You might not expect it, but Latin Club (what we call our JCL chapter) has a pretty decent amount of cash inflow and outflow every month. I allow students to sign up at any point in the year (although I highly encourage them to sign up by the Phase 1 deadline for GJCL), which means that if nothing else, we usually have dues to charge. But there are also field trips like Fall Forum and GJCL Convention for which we have to charge students and then send off checks, and there are pizza orders, bus reservations, T-shirt orders, NJCLHS registration, and more. I didn’t really have a great setup for keeping track of these simple debits and credits from our Latin Club account, so I did some “shopping” online for a free basic bookkeeping website. I tried out quite a few, including Wave, but I landed on ZipBooks because it is easy to use, allows for custom categories, and has a simple interface. I don’t need something complicated, and while it looks like ZipBooks could be used for business bookkeeping (especially with a premium subscription, which gives you a general ledger, 1099 summary, and a bunch of other goodies), the free version gives me everything I need: a button for deposits, a button for expenses, and a balance sheet. I highly recommend it if you want an easy-to-use site to keep track of club expenses.
  • Libib. We share classrooms at our school, which means I do not have room for an FVR library. Instead, I keep my FVR books in hanging folders in a milk crate for compact storage. But this presented me with a problem from the very beginning. I wanted students to be able to “browse” the books that are available to them, but I wanted to know who was reading what at any time. I looked at several different websites for classroom libraries, but nothing gave me exactly what I wanted… until I found Libib (pronounced luh-bib, but my kids and I call it Lil’ Bib). Here is a link to my classroom library. I want to say upfront that I pay the $5 each month for the premium version, but it has everything I dreamed of and more. I haven’t found another library site that gives you all of the following:
    • Custom entries. Most free library sites I found required you to enter an ISBN when creating a catalog entry, but because so few FVR titles exist for Latin, I do a lot of printing from sources like the Mille Noctes database.
    • Custom groupings. Other sites would group by AR level or Lexile level, but again, this is Latin, and a lot of this stuff is just printed from Google docs. I am able to create custom groups based on difficulty levels that I have created for my students. I have also been able to set up my classroom library site so that the books are displayed by difficulty group rather than by ABC order.
    • Descriptions and photos. I wanted my students to be able to see the book covers and read a summary description of each book.
    • Book status and multiple copies. My students can see how many copies of each book I have and how many copies are currently available to check out.
    • Tons of stats. I can get reports on what books a given student has checked out, reports on general lending data from my class, and more.
    • Tags. Students can view books according to their difficulty groupings, but they can also click on a list of tags I have created to find books according to their topics. When we did an FVR self-assessment last fall, most of my students reported choosing a book based on its content rather than its difficulty. I don’t mean to say that most of them are choosing books completely out of their ability range, but most of them will choose a book that’s a little bit harder if it’s interesting to them. The tag list helps with this. The tags they seem most interested in are the graphic novels/comic books tag and the scary stories tag. Finally, it’s also a great way to organize series. I use tags for the Puer Ex Seripho series, Lance Piantaggini’s Pisoverse series, the Secunda comics, the I am Reading Latin series, and more.
    • Playing librarian. I can check books in and out with my desktop or phone, and, because I am a giant nerd, I have been able to use Libib and the Avery Labels online lab to generate barcodes for all of my books (even my custom-created books) so that I can quickly scan books to check in/out. You can even make library cards for your students, and if you’re so inclined, you can set up a “kiosk option” where students use an iPad to check books out to themselves.
Classroom Management · Classroom Organization

Factions and Faction Points

I am only in my second year of teaching, so classroom management is something I am still struggling with a lot. One of the things that does help is the way our program does student grouping: factions, a name derived from the factions of Roman chariot racing. This idea is the brainchild of a dear colleague of mine. You can think of factions as an old-school Class Dojo.

Each of the three of us does factions a little differently. Here’s what I do: a few days after the start of the semester (our students switch classes at the mid-year point), once I have a little bit of a feel for student personalities and needs, I divide the kids into factions. Typically, I want these to be four to five students (remember: we have small class sizes, capped at 24 but usually closer to 18). Factions work together in class on various activities, which is their big draw for me as a teacher. They’re a great way to have students group up, and if you use heterogeneous grouping, students do a fantastic job of explaining concepts to one another.

For the kids, the big draw is the point system. Students earn points toward extra credit on their stage test, so the faction with the most points the day of the test will get the highest extra credit. Students earn faction points in a variety of ways: earning a 100 on a quiz, coming to me for help before or after school, emailing me cool Latin-related things, making Quizlets and Kahoots, answering tough questions in class, asking insightful questions, etc. It goes on and on. The main idea behind the points is that every type of student is rewarded: kids who struggle, kids who pick up Latin like it’s their first language, and everyone in between. It also rewards students, especially my freshmen, who are learning a lot of academic skills, for trying new ways of studying and being an active participant in an intellectual community.

I keep track of points by student rather than solely by faction, for two main reasons. First, if you didn’t earn any points for your faction, you can’t get any of the extra credit if your faction wins the competition. Second, if I have to move students during the course of a stage for whatever reason, the points are easily transferable between factions. It also helps me to reflect on who might be better matched together if I rearrange factions between stages.

It’s a great system for classroom management because you can also take a point away from a faction for a minor misdeed committed by a student – anything more than a point, in my opinion, becomes too much of a group punishment.

Finally, I love factions because they let you do something with all the games you play in class. They allow you to have an easy prize for any class competition: “whoever wins this one gets 3 points for their faction!”

Keeping track of the points is easy. I keep all the factions for my classes on the same Google Doc in a file called Current Factions. I created one one-row table for each period I teach with one column per faction. The students are listed together in columns according to their faction. I print this out, keep it on my clipboard I use every day, and make tally marks next to students’ names as they earn points. Here’s a screenshot of a fake class:


Let me know if you have questions about this system. It’s simple, effective, and the kids totally buy in. Win-win-win.