Starting Class with Small Talk

This has been a work in progress. The original slide show was by Senora AnneMarie Chase for her Spanish classes. It can be found here. I have adapted it for a Latin class and then edited and/or added slides to fit my needs.

I’m going to go slide by slide to explain how I use each slide in my classes.

First, a few disclaimers: I do not use this presentation every day and I do not EVER use all the slides every time. I pick and choose slides depending on what else we are doing each day. By the end of the first semester, I frequently use the slides as a starting point, then go crazily off course with new vocabulary and different versions of the same statement or question (aka new forms).

And, a reminder: Routines are needed, but can be boring. Don’t be afraid to mix it up!

Here’s the Powerpoint: Small_Talk

Slide #1 – How are you?

I use this slide to get a feel for the class that day. If I see a lot of droopy eyes and heads down, I ask who is tired? We then count that number, maybe ask a student or two why, and move on; perhaps they are bored or confused instead? In my head, though, I’m taking stock. Based on my plans that day, do we need to do something different? Will this many students out of it, cause issues later?

Not to mention, sometimes nothing on the slide applies and I use this slide to introduce a new word. Yesterday, after asking if the students were tired, one student piped up… “What if I’m hyper?” So, together, we all learned a new word: alacer. Which we then used multiple times, in multiple scenarios, throughout the remainder of the class.

Slide #2 – What’s the weather?

Yes, you can use this slide to talk about the current weather. But, I also use it to talk about the “weather” inside the classroom versus outside the classroom, the weather other places in the world, or what we’d like the weather to be instead.

Slide #3 – Total Physical Response (TPR)


I have found this slide immensely helpful to wake up or jump start a class, especially one in the middle of the day who always seem to be drowsy. It is also great to use as an introduction to action/movement verbs. My students are very happy to follow commands as a method to learning. With all the variety of variables included on the slide, you could spend an entire class just doing things.

Slide #4 – What is today and Who’s absent?

This is a basic slide to use alongside the calendar. The bottom of it is fun to do with students in the beginning of the year when everyone is still getting to know each other, as well as in the winter, when students are frequently out sick. We’ve gotten some great side stories created about missing students and what they might be doing instead: one went to Mars, his space shuttle got broken, then he met a friendly, but incompetent mechanic alien; another student went to Africa, saw an elephant, heard a hippopotamus, and then almost got eaten by a crocodile.

Slides #5-7 – What are you doing?


A version of a Weekend Talk. I usually don’t start with these slides until the second quarter of school. I find them especially useful to start encouraging students to try and speak Latin to communicate in a limited and assessment-free way. Students are by no means forced to answer about their doings in Latin, but can if they choose to. I use the images and verbs to help students as I recast their actions. Additionally, these are easy slides to utilize during student interviews as we talk about each other.

A specific use of them as they are organized can be to introduce tenses comprehensibly.

Slides #8-10 – Comprehensible Games

The first slide can be used with the “What’s in the bag?” game. Depending on the class, you can ask students to raise their hand if they have a notebook or pencil. Then, hold up the notebook/pencil and describe it to the students – color, size, shape, use. You can also choose a backpack (get student’s permission first), and instead of announcing the item, describe it while it is hidden and have students guess the items you find inside.

The next slide can be used to play “Guess Who.” One student volunteers and goes into the hallway. The rest of the class votes, by pointing, someone to be it. All students stand when the volunteer re-enters the room. The volunteer gets 4-5 yes/no questions to try and guess who was chosen. My students love this game as a review of colors, clothing terms, and body parts. Additionally, this game is a good way to practice noun-adjective agreement.

The third slide supports the “2 Truths and 1 Lie” game. Basically, either you or a student (if you collect student information sheets at the start of the year, you have more than enough for a year’s worth of statements) is on trial. You, or the student, make three statements. One is false, the others true. The class then debates and votes.

The fourth slide supports “News or History Talks.” Using simplified language, describe an event. Students discuss, ask you more or further questions, and then guess on where the event took place. You can ask the students to be more or less specific with their guesses and/or play “Hot Potato” as they try to narrow down the city of the event, instead of say the continent of the event.


Slide #11 – What’s the password?

I started using passwords at the middle of the year and I love them! It is fun to greet students every day at the door, starting class off on the right foot. I’m always impressed with how quickly the students adjust their pronunciation after hearing me say it, practicing saying it in class, then hearing their own peers say it one-by-one. Without any error-correcting, by the end of the week, 90% of the students are saying it correctly.

I also choose and use my passwords to reiterate or draw attention to specific grammatical needs (based on my current curriculum and targeted vocabulary).

Slide #12 – Daily Agenda


This slide transitions to the rest of the day’s activities in class. With this slide, I let the students know the rest of the plan for the day. Since most of our verbs are in the first person singular or third person, this is also a great way to use more of the first person plural and second person plural endings on a daily basis.

As I said at the start of this post, I don’t use all the slides in one day. For example, yesterday we only used slides #1, #2, #4, #7, and #9 before moving on with the daily lesson.

Overall, the slides help the students understand the input I’m giving – by talking about them and their current lives (weather, daily agenda, etc.), the students are engaged and interested. By having a variety of slides to mix things up, keeps things from getting stale. And, by having this much of my day pre-planned and prepared makes it easier for me to focus on keeping the language simple and comprehensible.

UPDATE 3/25: Updated slideshow is here: Small_Talk

You’ll see “Brain Breaks in Latin” added at the end. This is a collection of my students’ favorite Brain Breaks, explained in Latin, with visuals to help comprehension.


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