Thursday, December 22, 2011

Comparison Matrix for Teaching Culture

A comparison matrix helps students to organize the information they have learned and to demonstrate the higher-order skills of comparing and contrasting. I was introduced to them through exposure to Robert Marzano during professional development. In my Latin classes, this has been very fruitful when covering different topics of ancient culture and comparing them to our society.

Below you can see the comparison matrix we recently used to understand the English culture reading in Stage 7 of the Cambridge Latin Course, a reading about ancient burial rituals and attitudes toward death.
Note: A template for this document was distributed school-wide after a professional development session covering the strategy. I am still trying to figure out who created it to begin with... 

You can download this document below and change whatever you want based on the needs of your class. Feel free the change to title, directions, and in the first column the "things to be compared." Make sure that your students complete the "Ah-HA! and SO WHAT!?" section: The best learning happens there.


Roman Death and Burial Comparison Matrix (53k .docx)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Document for Quick, Rigorous Lesson-Planning


I decided to start lesson-planning with a computer, instead of with old-fashioned paper, for four reasons:

1) Ease of access. Lesson-planning on paper gets bulky, especially towards to middle and end of a school year; I found myself never having access to past lessons when I wanted to refer to them at home. If I intend on doing school work of any kind, however, I always have my computer with me to access past files. So why should lesson-plans be any different?

2) Synergy. Microsoft Office is a big part of my teaching; having access to all of the documents I have created while lesson-planning, and being able to create new documents without changing mediums, is powerful.

3) Sharing. I post a lot of stuff on my class website so that students, parents, and administrators can have ready access. I figured that all three of those parties might also be interested in seeing my lesson-plans posted from time to time. Having my lesson-plans on the computer also makes them easier to share with fellow teachers (e.g., via list-servs).

Notice how the word "access" appears at least once in each of those three reasons. (And I tried not to repeat myself!)

and finally, 4) Speed. With the document I will describe and share in this post, it is quick and easy to create detailed lesson-plans.

Description of Document

Here is a look at the document I created to streamline to lesson-planning process:

It contains a space for each part of a lesson that we teachers are encouraged to include in order to keep our students engaged "from bell to bell." I have found that using this document pushes me to think about Do-Nows and Tickets Out when otherwise it might be easy to overlook these valuable pieces of a successful classroom routine.

Note: The "Standards" section refers to the "Standards for Classical Language Learning."

The document is "macro-enabled," which means that when it is "locked," only the "text fields" can be edited. This is very beneficial because one does not need to waste time formatting while lesson-planning.

To make changes to the backbone of the document (for example, to change "Do Now!" to "Bellwork," or to change "Stage" to "Chapter"), you must "unlock" it. When you are finished, you can "lock" it again to make your changes permanent. To toggle between "locked" and "unlocked" will be a little different if you are on a Mac or PC.

If you are on a Mac, go to "View," then "Toolbars," then "Forms":

You will wind up with a new menu that looks like this:

The "lock/unlock" option is circled in red above, the button furthest to the right.

If you are on a PC, look here for a good guide to forms.

Finally, you can make the document a "template" so that when you save it, you do not save over the original but are instead prompted to save as a new file. The process is a little different if you are on a Mac or a PC.

If you are on a Mac, find the locked version of the file you want to make a template, right-click, and select "Get Info":

Now select the "stationary" option:

If you are on a PC, look here for a good walk-through. Look under the section "Create a Template Based on an Existing Document."


lessonPlanTemplate (57k .docm)
   Remember that if you want to make changes, you will need to unlock the document, make the changes, then lock it again (see above for brief directions). Remember also to make the document a template (again, see above for brief directions).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting Started with Oral Latin: An Introduction to Latin Q & A

In this post I describe the activity I recently used to get going with oral Latin in my Latin I classes. I was not taught Latin in all four domains (i.e., reading, writing, listening, speaking), but I have decided I want to teach that way. This activity, then, was as informative for me as for my students, if not more so. I observed, even with the basic questions and answers described below, my students thinking in a way that would be impossible to reproduce using only reading and translation. This post is greatly indebted to an article by Ginny Lindzey on

Activity Name
   An Introduction to Latin Q & A

   for students to begin developing an awareness of Latin phonology and morphology via oral/aural pathways

   Students will be able to...
   -answer the three basic question types (quis, ubi, and quid... facit)
   -pronounce short Latin sentences

   1.1 and 1.2 (from CAMWS)

   Whiteboard and markers, or equivalent; source of sentences for each student, such as a textbook

   The first time this activity took us 30-40 minutes, but that was mostly spent explaining the use of speaking, hearing, and writing Latin. I imagine when we do it again it will take 15 minutes.

Description of Activity
   This activity could be done using any type of Latin passage or sentences. I recently introduced my students to hearing and answering questions in Latin using the Stage 8 "Picture Sentences" of the Cambridge Latin Course. We focused on eight sentences that looked something like these:
  1. cives per viam festinabant.
  2. Pompeiani in forum stabant, quod nuntius erat.
  3. cives ad amphitheatrum contenderunt, postquam nuntium audiverunt.
  4. Pompeiani, quod cavea erat plena, Regulum vituperabant.
  5. spectatores gladiatores laudaverunt.
  6. spectatores gladiatores in areana spectabant.
  7. Pompeiani plauserunt.
  8. cives in via riserunt.
After reading out the sentences quickly for my students, I explained that we were going to learn how to listen to and answer three basic types of questions:
  • quis/qui? -who?
  • ubi? -where?
  • quid Caecilius facit? -What is Caecilius doing?
As a class we were able to look back at earlier sections of the book to discover what these questions were asking. I think this was a lot more effective than it would have been had I simply given them the definitions of the words in the questions.

Two points before we go forward: (1) I modeled the procedure of the activity after "Think-Pair-Share." I figured this would give the students more confidence when it came to speaking their answers out loud, and that they would be more willing to speak if it was only to one partner and not in front of the entire class. Both of these assumptions turned out to be true. (2) I also made sure to structure the activity so that my student would gradually be forced to transition away from just reading out their answers. I allowed them to write in the beginning, but, as you will see, pencils were soon not allowed.

The rest of this post will describe in more detail how I accomplished the two points in the previous paragraph.

For the first part of the activity, after reading the sentences and explaining the three basic questions, I wrote one question on the board for each of the first three sentences. Of course I also read out the questions slowly. I had them write down the questions from the board on their own paper in a chart like this:

I then gave them five minutes or so to write down their answers in the "Answers" column on their own paper. I made sure they wrote their answers in complete Latin sentences. After they were finished, I had each student turn to a neighbor and check his or her answers by saying them out loud. Just letting a partner read what you had written down was strictly forbidden! Only after each student had confirmed his or her answers and practiced pronouncing them did I repeat the questions out loud to the class and call on volunteers to answer in Latin.

With the first three questions done, we moved on to the next three. We covered these with the same procedure of Think-Pair-Share we had used on the first three questions, but with one important difference: I did not write the questions on the board for them to copy. Instead, they had to write down the questions on their own paper as I asked them out loud to the class. I repeated each question several times, and afterwards each student had something like this on his or her paper:

Again, they answered each question in a complete Latin individually before turning to their neighbor to practice.

After I repeated the questions and called on three different volunteers, we were ready for the final two questions. Here we practiced truly oral/aural Latin. I did not write down the questions on the board, nor did I allow them to write down the questions or their answers on their own paper. I asked the final two questions in Latin (e.g., 7. qui plauserunt? and 8. ubi cives riserunt?) and called on two different volunteers for answers.

   Students are assessed informally as they complete their work and when they volunteer to answer. The teacher could also collect each student's "Questions and Answers" chart for a closer and more formal evaluation.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Translation CYCLONE

Activity Name
   Translation CYCLONE

   for students to practice translating Latin and revising other translations

   Students will be able to...
   -translate Latin sentences under time constraints
   -correct incorrect translations

   1.1 and 3.1 (from CAMWS)

   Translation Cyclone PowerPoint; Translation Cyclone Answer Sheets (one for each student); stopwatch

   anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on the length of passage for translation

Description of Activity
   Each student gets a copy of the Translation Cyclone Answer Sheet. There is plenty of room in each box for the students to correct each other's translations as the papers get passed around the room. Here is an example (yours will likely be longer, but it all depends how many sentences students will translate):
Using the Translation Cyclone PowerPoint, display one sentence at a time of whatever passage you choose for them to translate for this activity. Here is an example PowerPoint of a passage of my own creation (it is only four sentences, to fit the example answer sheet above):

You can download the full .pptx version of this presentation via the links under "Materials" above or "Downloads" below.

Right before you switch to a new sentence on the PowerPoint, have the students swap papers. (It can be fun to say something dramatic to mark each swap, such as "Cyclone, cyclone, cyclone!) Make sure that you plan out ahead of time how you want the papers to get passed. My room is set up in a grid, so my students pass their papers like this:
A passes to B, B passes to C, and so on; I personally take the paper from L up to A to make the transition smooth. In this way the papers get around the room. Students are therefore focused in each round first on translating whatever sentence is on the screen, and second on revising any incorrect translations they notice from previous rounds. Keep things moving quickly with a stopwatch.

Because you always get a paper from the same person, you come to know their bad habits in translation. This leads to exchanges during the activity like, "Start putting periods at the ends of your sentences. I am tired of adding them!" Statements like this from fellow students are much more effective than the same advice from a teacher.

   Students are assessed informally throughout the activity as the teacher circles the room and checks their work as they work. You can also review the translation as a whole after the activity to gauge how well your students understand.


Translation Cyclone PowerPoint (66k .pptx)

Translation Cyclone Answer Sheet (42k .docx)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tracking Attendance and Participation

If a system were not in place and practiced consistently, keeping track of daily attendance, tardies, and participation would be the most frustrating and stressful part of my job. Actually--speaking from experience--without a system it would never get done, or get done only poorly. In this post I describe my system.

To track attendance and participation, I use a document I formatted some time ago that allows me to do several things at once. It is at the same time (1) an assigned seating chart, (2) a daily log of attendance, tardies, and participation, (3) a space to record daily classroom activities, and (4) a place to record quick grades and observations. Look at the bullet points throughout this post to see how these things are accomplished.

The normal configuration of my room is five rows of six desks; this changes frequently, but for the most part this is "home base" at the start of each period. After all of the names have been put into what will be each student's assigned location in the room, I have something like this:
Each student is given a "grid" which I use to track his or her infomation for the week. At the bottom of the document is a key I use to remind myself what the abbreviations mean in each student's grid; there is also space in the footer to make additional notes.
  • Assigned Seating Chart: I use this document as a whole to check assigned seats at the beginning of each class.
  • Record of Classroom Activities: I record a summary of each day's activities in the footer. These summaries are very useful when I go to compile make-up work for each day.
Let's zoom in and take a detailed look at one student's grid:

  • Attendance and Tardies: The three empty boxes under the student's name are used to track attendance and tardies. (I teach in a block schedule, so the most I will see any student is three times in a week--Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)
  • Particiaption: The three boxes below attendance and tardies are used to track participation. I award 5 points of participation for each day: 2 for the "work done" (W); 2 for "behavior" (B); 1 for "materials" (M). If a student loses credit in a category, I make an X next to the corresponding letter. By making a CHECK next to an X or marking out an X, I can also reverse the penalty at a later time if the student improves his or her performance.
  • "Quick" Grades: There is an empty bar to the left of each student's name that I sometimes use to mark grades for "quick" assignments or for homework which I do not collect and grade.
At the end of week, a student's grid might look something like this:

This means that the student was present every day of the week, but tardy on Wednesday. He also lost one point of participation for forgetting his binder on Wednesday (the X next to the M for "materials"). He misbehaved a bit on Friday, perhaps by being too talkative during instructions, and initially was penalized one participation point for behavior; he later regained this point back, however, by demonstrating better behavior (the X and CHECK next to B for "behavior"). Finally, he earned a 5 out of 5 on a quick-check homework assignment (the 5 to the left of his name--a description of the assigned would be written in the footer of the document itself).

All of this is meant to streamline what can be a hectic process, or actually several hectic processes. Now when I go to enter attendance, all I have to do is scan for As (absent) and Ts (tardy); when I go to enter participation, all of the decisions about who gets how many points have already been made in class--which is really the best time to make them anyway.

Feel free to download the file of the above document: Seating Chart Template (121 KB .docx)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Declension Relay

Activity Name
   Declension Relay

   for students to review the case endings of Latin nouns and adjectives

   Students will be able to...
   -choose the correct set of endings for particular nouns and adjectives
   -utilize an ending correctly based on case and number
   -maintain a constant stem throughout a declension
   -spell the endings correctly

   1.2 (from CAMWS)

   Whiteboard and markers, or equivalent

   20 minutes (10-15 to complete the declensions, 5-10 to check the work as a class)

Description of Activity
   Split the class into two even teams (e.g., by numbering 1-2-1-2... or "girls vs. boys"). Each team is responsible for declining its assigned noun-adjective pair on the board. I normally write out something like the following template on the board for them to fill in:

Have the students line up single-file in front of their team's spot on the board. Give each team only one marker: The students are to take turns one-at-a-time to decline their words. Tell the students: "When it is your turn, you may only write one word on the board, that is, for example, one form of mater or one form of pulchra." When a person is done writing a word on the board, he or she is to hand off the marker to the next teammate in line and go to the back of the line. In this way the teams will keep cycling through their lines until the declension is complete.

After both teams have finished, go over the results as a class. As an example, Team 1 from above might end up with something like this:

Here you could discuss the incorrect forms matrarum and matrebus as well as how the team mistakenly dropped out the "-r-" from the stem of pulchra starting in the genitive plural.

The team to finish first is the winning team, but only if they made no mistakes. If there are mistakes, the winning team is the team with the fewest total mistakes. A tie goes to the team that finished first.

Some final thoughts:
  • If you have a lot of board space, you could split the class into more than two teams and give each their own declension to work on. This way more students would be active more of the time.
  • The game can be made more challenging by 1) having the students translate each noun-adjective pair alongside their declensions (e.g., mater pulchra, "the beautiful mother," matris pulchrae, "of the beautiful mother," "matri pulchrae," "to/for the beautiful mother," and so on) or 2) having students provide the labels for nom., gen., dat., acc., abl., sg., and pl.
  • For motivation, I sometimes award extra credit on a quiz to the winning team.
   The work of both teams is checked and discussed after the declensions have been completed.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Declension Endings via Songs

    The only way I have ever been successful in teaching the endings of the five declensions is with songs. I have seen a whole class fail a quiz on the third declension, for example, only to pass it with flying colors, having learned the tune, no more than two weeks later.

    A sample:

    Yes, this means you have to sing in front of the class. Yes, you will need to become a choir director. Yes, your students will think it is silly. But they will memorize their endings, and that is all that matters. Just own it, and your students will buy into it. Go slowly, only teaching a new song when your students have mastered the previous one and only teaching the declensions your students need to know (for most this will be the first, second, and third).

    Here is a link to the playlist on my YouTube channel with the songs for all five declensions: