Tips & Tricks from the Trenches

We’re at the end of the third week of school. My Latin I students have finished their first unit of study in Latin, the numbers, and what follows is an overview of what happened and what I need to do differently next time.

  1. Planning is getting easier. At first, I either had too much planned for a block or too little planned. And, when I had too little planned and I decided to wing-it, there were problems – mostly with my impromptu Latin, which I’ll discuss later. Story-asking took very little time and so far, we didn’t have much to show for it. It wasn’t as conducive to what we were doing as I had hoped. Verum/Falsum activities go very fast! And, if I’m not paying attention, Small Talk becomes too long and rambling.

Here’s what I am doing differently, now, or need to do differently next unit regarding planning. The start of class, after the Age Nunc! needs more structure. I am alternating between having the class repeat after me

hodie est…
hodie est mensis September…
hodie est dies veneris…
hodie est sextus…
hodie est dies veneris, mensis September, dies sextus…
qualis tempestas hodie est?…
extra classe spectemus…
hodie caelum serenum habet et sol lucet…
hodie est tepidum

and writing down what we say on their Unit MGMT sheet and calling on students (I use a name wheel to make it fun and random) to combine ut vales? and quid hodie agis? with the calendar and weather talk. In addition, on Wednesdays, we look at not only our local weather, but weather and weather-related events in the world. Following calendar talk, or during it, we participate in the ritual Small Talk about each other, how we’re feeling, and what our plans are. To keep this Small Talk from going all period (which, if you are untargeted isn’t really an issue), I now limit it to five randomly chosen students.

Following the Small Talk each day, we do our Write & Discuss. I ask students questions about what we just discussed in class (the calendar, weather, and each other) in English, they answer in English, then I type up the answers in Latin. They copy the Latin onto their Unit MGMT sheet. Because I am using “more advanced vocabulary and grammar” during the Write & Discuss than what we just used to talk, after everyone has copied it, we do a choral translation of the Write & Discuss. Sometimes, we also use Lance Piantaggini’s suggestion to speed up and change up choral translating, if we’re dragging.

This, on average, including the Age Nunc! has been taking up about 20-25 minutes. Structuring the start of class like this is making class run much smoother now than it had been going the first week and a half.

2. Brain breaks are important.

I can’t forget these. I have now set aside a student whose sole job is to remind me at a certain time each class that they need a Brain Break. I am not wholly sold on the feasibility of class jobs (I can barely remember to brush my own teeth and bring my lunch to school every day, let alone who has what job and what each job is), but this one job is now my gods-send as they keep me honest. And, truth be known, I love taking a break with them. We all need it!

3. I need to script out my Picture Talk and some phrases for Small Talk.

I need to better prepare what I’m going to say, the phrases I’m going to push, the vocabulary I want and need to use. I’ve been doing okay at this, but in the heat of the moment, as the students stare at me soaking in everything I’m saying and doing, I just plain forget. Most often, I forget verbs are a thing. I forget to use them in my sentences. I forget the gender of random Latin nouns. I forget turns of phrase, etc. My Latin isn’t horrible, it just isn’t as correct as I’d like it to be when introducing it to the students.

This is not a skill I’ve practiced much, so I am getting better the more I do it, but I’d like to be more prepared, so I’ve started writing the phrases, vocabulary, etc. on the board before I begin talking. I ask my students to listen for these words and phrases and try to piece together what they might mean from the context. Having that kind of scaffolding for them is working great. For me, as well.

However, I do need to do more. I am going to start writing out my basic scripts on my lesson plans for me to reference as needed, when I get stuck or lose focus. We’ll see if it helps.

I’m looking forward to doing more with the students and I can honestly say that each day is better than the last. The students are loving class! I’m loving class! And, I’m so very, very excited to see and hear how much they are learning, how quickly, and how easily. It is a miracle!

My next post is going to focus on three activities we did during this unit which were huge hits: BINGO, Story Scripts, and K-F-D quizzes.




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