Tuesday, April 17, 2018

An Open Letter: to myself

Dear Miriam,

I can't help but notice that, right at this time, you are feeling down and stressed. You've spent this semester working with brand new authors, teaching things you've never taught before and are uncomfortable with, attending conferences (and presenting), and working with three clubs. And so, here you are. You are tired, frustrated, and angry -- mostly with yourself. Why? A few thoughts come to mind.

  • You aren't getting enough sleep and it makes you grumpy.
  • You have over extended yourself in some areas and are struggling to meet deadlines. 
  • You have explained things 20+ times and yet, people still ask the same questions. 
  • If others don't meet their deadlines, you can't meet yours. 
  • You are working with brand new material - just WHAT have you gotten yourself into? (hint: upcoming blog post alert!)
  • Given all the above, and the fact you are dedicated to your job, you find yourself missing time at home with loved ones. 
Why do you blame yourself for all these things, especially when most are not your own doing? Because you care. I get it. But... also allow me to remind you of a few things:

  1. Sleep is good. So is coffee. Don't feel badly about that second cup, or sleeping in on the weekend. 
  2. Okay, so you are a "yes" person. There isn't anything wrong with that, in that it allows you to show your skill, grow professionally, and feel productive. 
  3. Look at you go. You are finding news ways to communicate with all kinds of people. :)
  4. There is always a way. Kids are kids, even when they are nearing 18. Don't feel badly for making changes and accommodations you would appreciate yourself. It doesn't make you a bad person or teacher. 
  5. WOW.... you are working with brand new material, that you've never read before. 
  6. You are a dedicated person. You can apply that same love and passion to your loved ones and relationships as you do work. 
Are there areas for growth? Sure, but before I get to those, remember this:

There is an ebb and flow to life. Remember those days when you wished and hoped for something to do, well here they are. They will come again. There is always a busy season and, yes, sometimes they overlap. The key to it all is: balance. Sometimes we say "yes" to too many things. The question is no longer, "how do I say 'no'?", but, "how do I honour my commitments and honour myself?" That is how you handle this - by moving forward, one step at a time: one plan, one moment, one day. So, Miriam, tired teacher.... A few points to work on:

  1. Make a morning routine and stick to it. On the weekends, say "yes" to that extra hour and "heck yes" to that nap. This too shall pass. 
  2. In the future, you must learn to say "no" - with gusto. You have made so much progress, but there is still more to do. Saying "no" to someone else means saying "yes" to yourself.
  3. Remember: you love these kiddos. Their brains are not fully formed yet and they need extra guidance sometimes. 
  4. See above. 
  5. Be proud of the work you do, no matter how messy it is. You are growing as a teacher, and student. You are becoming an avid reader of Latin. 
  6. If your loved ones are asking for you, make the time. Say no to someone else. Do it. 
And... a few life reminders:
  • Say yes to water. 
  • Say yes to a movie. 
  • Say yes to extra kitten and puppy snuggles. 
  • Say yes to self care.
Remember: you are a good teacher and this moment of self doubt, stress, and general busy-ness will pass. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How I Use Frequency Lists

This post is in partnership with our latest podcast (will post before 9:00 pm TONIGHT) which you can check out over at steppingintoci.com. In our podcast, we were discussing Bob Patrick's idea of Collective Memory which we all use in a variety of ways at our school. What came from this is the ultimate question of how we choose vocabulary to focus on and why.

I will do my best to link to all my resources as well as others that I know of at the bottom of the post. If you can think of others (for any language), link to them below!

What kind of frequency list do you have? What kind of frequency list should I have?

There are a lot of frequency lists out there. They all serve different purposes and have different origins. So, the tempting answer is, "ALL OF THEM!" Of course, this isn't practical and I certainly do not look into each frequency list when I create or adapt material. Rather, I look into some favourites depending on my purpose and what I'm creating. That being said, there are many types of frequency lists and we should know about them:

  1. Teacher Created - This can be any kind of frequency list that teachers have had a hand in creating. Latin has the 50 Most Important Verbs and many languages have "super seven" or "fab five" sets of verbs that are fairly common.
  2. District/Locally Created - This may be a list of words that you must look at when teaching/preparing a lesson. They may be agreed upon at a variety of levels. 
  3. Literature Based - This is the vast majority of frequency lists. They are based in frequency of words in certain types of literature. Here are a few types within the Latin language
    1. Classical Literature - There are a good number of lists like this. They often take their frequency numbers from a given number of authors within the Classical Canon. 
    2. Medieval Literature - There are some lists like this that, unlike the previous, focus on literature solely from the Medieval period. 
    3. Mixed Literature - There are a growing number of lists that use authors from both the Classical and Medieval period. These are the lists I prefer. 
  4. Author Based - These lists are ones based solely on a singular author. They tend to take into account an author's entire body of work (if available) to create frequency lists. 
  5. Novella Based - Often these lists make use of other frequency lists and are more a vocabulary list than a frequency list. However, slowly, we are beginning to see requests for and examples of frequency lists within novellas. They are based solely on a single book and its uses of various words. 

So... Which ones do you use and when?

Ultimately it boils down to what I am doing/creating, but I do have a few tried and true frequency lists that I really like:

  • Essential Latin Vocabulary by Mark A. E. Williams - I use this one for almost every project. I like the way it is divided up by frequency, alphabet, and in categories. It did have a learning curve to using it, but once I got that down, it was very easy to use. I often pair this up with Lewis and Short's dictionary. I like the combination because I can check both the frequency and uses of a word to ensure it is the right word that I'd like. I also use it when working with authors. I can check the frequency of the words they use to determine if I need to adapt a piece of writing. 
  • 50 Most Important Verbs - This was created with much discussion by a group of Latin teachers. It is a really good list of words that most often come up within classroom discussions. It is not based on frequency of text/literature, but what we find kids most often wanted to use in our rooms and what we needed to communicate with them. I like this list when I am beginning with a new group of kids or when we are discussing things we've done, like to do, etc. 
  • Dickinson's Core Vocabulary - This list is quite long, and I have not explored all its uses, but I do like to use it when I'm looking for a particularly frequent word from Classical Literature. 

Okay, well, how do you use them, especially together?

When I use a frequency list it is to: adapt a piece of literature, write a novella, or create a vocabulary list for a unit. Here is a quick rundown of how I might use these resources in each of the instances. 

Adaptation of Literature

  1. Read the literature as is, with a translation next to it (make your own). 
  2. Make notes on the words your students already know. 
  3. With the remaining words, check frequency and categorise them: words to target, icing words, words to change
    1. Words to target become your vocabulary words. They are high frequency and/or key to understanding the unit as a whole. 
    2. Icing words are words that are key to the literature, but have little/no use outside of it for your students. They are fine to acquire, but not required. 
    3. Words to change are words that are not high frequency and have an alternative word that is high frequency. You will want to check the dictionary for these changes to ensure your new words mean the same thing (i.e. is the word used in the same way? is it used with similar words?) 

Writing a Novella

  1. In this instance, I'll start with the 50 MIV. I usually start here because I know it is a list that many teachers reference and many students will already know/be learning. 
  2. If I need a verb/word not on the list, I will usually go to the vocabulary lists my students already have. 
  3. When considering other words, my first stop is the Essential Latin Vocabulary to check for frequency and see other words that might work and then I go to Lewis and Short to look at its uses and other synonyms. 

Preparing a Unit for Students

This process is a little more free for me. When it comes to conversation, we'll use what words we need and want. I am not too picky about frequency, unless...
  • I know what literature is coming up. 
  • I know already that a word is high frequency.
Either way, I almost always, if I'm not sure, check the dictionary for uses of the word to help make sure I'm using it correctly. 

List of resources

  1. 50 Most Important Verbs
  2. Essential Latin Vocabulary
  3. Dickinson's Frequency List
  4. Dickinson's Vergil Frequency List
  5. Super Seven (listed in many languages)
What other frequency lists do you know about? Share them below or on social media with the hashtag #steppingintoci

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Brain Dump Round Up - Miriam's list of activities

This morning I came to work knowing, in great detail, the things I wanted to work with, but at a complete blank of how to do it. The normal things I tend towards would not meet the purpose of what I wanted. So, after having a much needed cup of coffee, I started on a search on my favourite blogs to find an activity I could use. What I found were a few new activities and one that I am using today. Additionally, Rachel and I were speaking about some alternatives to the things we use for review/brain break vocabulary activities. I thought I'd take this information and round it all up for you all. So, without further ado, here is my list of favourite and newly discovered activities broken up into categories (and in no particular order). I want to honour what has been said, so I will only present 1-2 sentences where needed to clarify my thoughts or provide review.

Activities with Readings

  1. Fan N Pick discussed by Martina Bex - I found this activity this morning and I cannot wait to give it a try! 
  2. Story Tower discussed by Martina Bex - Also found this morning, this is the activity I ultimately decided to use. Look at my twitter for some pics later today! 
  3. Story Wars discussed by Miriam Patrick, original from Diane Neubauer - I love this activity to spice up a reading! 
  4. Picture Relay Races discussed by Rachel Ash 
  5. Seek and Find discussed by Rachel Ash - I love the variations on this! 

Activities with Vocabulary

  1. Draw, Discuss, and Read discussed by Miriam Patrick
  2. In my hat described by Miriam Patrick - We haven't discussed this original activity as it is. There is a variation on this, the white elephant activity, which is linked below. 
  3. White Elephant described by Rachel Ash and Justin Slocum Bailey
  4. TPR in the First ten discussed by Miriam Patrick with resources from Latin Best Practices
  5. One Sentences Stories discussed by Miriam Patrick and Two Sentence Horror Stories discussed by Rachel - both of these ideas were snagged from other places. My idea came from ideas for English/Literature classes and Rachel's idea came from a Reddit thread. 
  6. One Word Picture discussed by Keith Toda
  7. Movie Talks/Movie Shorts discussed by Miriam Patrick (secondary post)

Activities with Personalisation (PQA and untargeted types)

  1. Discipulus Illustris (student interviews)  discussed by Miriam Patrick with links to Bryce Hedstrom's original ideas and other follow up posts. 
  2. Free Voluntary Reading discussed by Miriam Patrick (expect an update post later this year)
  3. Roll A Write discussed by Miriam Patrick
This list is by no means exhaustive and I am always searching for new ideas. Share them in the comments below! 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Draw, Discuss, and Read

"This is my best timed write ever!"

"Can we have five more minutes to write, please?"


I think these are examples of my dream feedback from kids. At the very least, they go right along side things like, "I dreamt in Latin last night", and "I think I want to be a Latin teacher".

I heard these things yesterday in class after three days of the lesson plan I am sharing today. I have done this style once before and knew that it was a fan favourite, but only at the lower level. Doing it at a higher level is more of the same, and yet completely different.

The Plan

I used this plan to introduce a new unit and, particularly, a certain set of "themed" (if you will) vocabulary. In Latin I, we did this with natural elements and pictures of scenes from nature and sci-fi. In Latin III, we did this with medical/body vocabulary and urban legends. 
  1. First, I went over new words. Theses words stayed projected for #2.
  2. Secondly, we did a picture description. I read the passage three times. 
    1. I read, they listen
    2. I read, they draw
    3. I read, they draw
  3. Thirdly, I displayed the picture and we discussed. We discussed a variety of things.
    1. What they put in their own images  1&3
    2. What colour things are 1&3
    3. How many of things are 1&3
    4. What they think things are (if they don't know the name) 1&3
    5. What qualities they think things show 3
    6. Where they think things are 1&3
  4. Fourthly, I displayed a story I wrote. In Latin I they were based solely on the picture. In Latin III they were based on the mythology and legend I researched. We discussed
    1. Areas of misunderstanding (what does it mean) 1&3
    2. Content of the story 1&3
    3. Where they think things are going 3
    4. Comparisons to previous stories 3
  5. Lastly, after the three days, we did a timed write. 
    1. Latin I (after 5 days) - I showed a new picture and asked them to do a timed write and create a story around the image. Latin I was given, if I recall ~8 minutes
    2. Latin III (after 3 days) - I gave them copies of the picture descriptions and the stories and asked them to write about a monster and give a description and write a story. Latin III was given 12-15 minutes because we spent more time discussing than I anticipated. They could:
      1. Choose a monster from a favourite book, movie, game, etc. 
      2. Choose a monster from their own or a favourite culture/heritage
      3. Create a monster from scratch

The Differences

I've noted a few differences between Latin I and III. Latin III is fresh on my mind, so, if you'll allow me, I'll focus on those interactions. 
  • Today, a student interrupted me repeatedly, in the target language, to ask if what we were doing was similar to some other monster from some other culture. Another proceeded to "quiz" me on what mythology it may be from. This is something my ones (and most of my twos) NEVER did. They took what I said as fact. This debate totally got me off track, but was worth every minute. 
  • Along the same vein, kids argued with me, in Latin. If they didn't think I'd described something correctly or that it was a different monster than I said, they spoke up. They used the language to express their opinions. In Latin I, that rarely, if ever, happened. 
  • By today, students had started to identify with these legends. We did a "Would you rather" brain break. I asked them which ones they'd rather face and which ones they'd rather be. You'd have thought the monsters were in the room the way the kids got into it and moved. 
  • In both years, by the end, students knew I was going to ask what was in the image and started shouting them out to the point that I was play catch up. In Latin III, however, they were whole thoughts and ideas. They were complex. In Latin I, they were single words or simple phrases. 
  • In Latin I, kids wrote, but were done when they were done. In Latin III, kids asked for extra time and were excited for a timed write... A TIMED WRITE. 

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of discussion about targeted CI and untargeted CI. Personally, I am of the mind that we can use both. This CI was targeted, in my plans, but the discussions that came out of it were untargeted. The freedom that the kids took to talk about what they wanted (their fears, interests, opinions, disagreements, excitement) was amazing. The freedom kids had in their timed writes (and the freedoms they took) were amazing. 

I plan to do this again and it is now firmly planted in my box of goodies. I really like that it is a linked set of lessons that use vocabulary in a variety of ways to help kids become comfortable and acquire the language. Sometimes I feel like some of the things we do are so unrelated... I didn't feel this way this time. So, for me... this was a win. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

March "Madness": 30 Day Challenge

Hi all!

In the spirit of getting through this long and "holiday-less" month (AKA longest day without a break), I thought I'd challenge us all to a 30 day "share" challenge (which means you get 1 "flub" day). I'm going to participate as well and share my own challenge on the PBP Facebook page and Twitter. :) Reply with your own photos and experiences!

I hope we build community, have some fun, and really see how similar we all are :)

  1. Find and snap a picture of one item in your classroom you think not many people have. 
  2. Find and share a blog post about your favourite activity. 
  3. Find and share a favourite reading (class created or "authentic" - however you define it-)
  4. Find and share a favourite podcast episode. 
  5. Try a new activity and share 3-5 sentences about the experience. 
  6. Share a recipe for a favourite snack/mid week meal. 
  7. Snap a picture of your favourite stuffed animal to use in class.
  8. Snap a picture of a stuffed animal you use that you doubt anyone else has. 
  9. Share you favourite morning beverage details that get you going each day
  10. Share a brief story of how your particular language reaches into the depth of your personal life. :)
  11. Share 10 facts about your target language.
  12. Give a shoutout to a colleague who has helped you, lifted your spirits, gifted you a lesson, etc.
  13. Share a favourite teaching app or website. 
  14. Share a favourite image from your: textbook, classroom, reading, etc. 
  15. Share your ideal classroom layout.
  16. Share a teaching dream you have.
  17. Share a joy from your classroom. 
  18. Share something you do to reset/unwind. 
  19. Snap a picture of your desk --- NO MATTER ITS CONDITION :)
  20. Snap a picture of your lunch
  21. Snap a picture of your classroom at the end of the day -- even if you haven't cleaned it :)
  22. Share a reading/novella that you love and want to recommend to others (especially if it isn't part of the accepted canon)!
  23. Give a shoutout to a favourite teacher/professor/program/school that you had/attended.
  24. School Pride! Give a shoutout to your team! (ANY team counts :) )
  25. Share something you'd like more information on/would like to see more resources on.
  26. Share your teaching "elevator speech".
  27. Share your favourite non-language related movie/show that EVERYONE should see. 
  28. Share a tip/trick that you swear by. 
  29. Share your to do list for the day. 
  30. Share your favourite/the worst "mess up" you see in regards to your language/history and popular media. 

Now, let's have some fun!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quick Report - Style Wars

Today we are playing a game and I thought I'd share it very quickly. I take no credit for this as this is a game/activity I took from Diane Neubauer.

Style Wars


This is a great activity for when you are nearing an assessment and are sure your students understand a reading. This is great for just before a timed write, an assessment, or as a brain break following a heavy reading activity


This is a competition between the class. I've done it in halves, which seems to work really well. The halves compete in reading part of the passage back and forth in different styles. The winner is the group with the most points. 


Set Up

  1. Divide the class into halves. 
  2. Give the class a story. Today, they received a copy of all the poems we've read this semester. 
  3. Put a list of "styles" on the board (see below). 
  4. Give students 8-15 minutes to practice and strategise different styles. 
  5. Play the game!


  1. Groups read in turns. They get to choose the style the opposite team reads in. e.g. if team A is reading aloud, team B chooses their style. 
  2. Teams can earn up to three points: 1 for reading in unison, 1 for reading each word in the selection, 1 for style
    1. The teacher is the judge! 
  3. Do this for as long as time allows or as long as planned. 
  4. Tie Breaker 
    1. Each team volunteers their "best" reader. 
    2. The teacher chooses a style.
    3. Both read at the same time, in the style. The teacher chooses the winner. 


The styles can be anything you'd like them to be. I always listen to suggestions, but I decide the ones we choose. I also decide which ones I will not put up on the board for various reasons (too much, inappropriate, disrespectful towards a group of people). Here are some of my favourites:
  • canibus - like dogs
  • felebus - like cats
  • avibus - like birds
  • vaccis - like cows
  • matribus - like mothers
  • magistris - like teachers
  • infantibus - like babies
  • celeriter - quickly
  • lentissime - very slowly
  • tacite - quietly
  • "valley" - in a valley/"California" accent
  • "Southern" - in a "Southern" accent
  • "British" - in a "British" accent
  • somniosis - sleepily
  • tristissime - very sadly
  • irate - angrily

Monday, February 19, 2018

What's on my desk? Miriam Edition

Ah, the desk! The center of our working universe (during planning at least), the hub of procedure, the choice hiding spot. I am always fascinated by what teachers choose to have on/in their desks and how it affects what they do in the classroom. I go between have an overly neat desk and a cavern of never-ending stuffs that seems disorganised but, in reality, is a treasure trove of semi-orginisation. So, without further ado, here are the contents of my desk:

On My Desk

One of the desk owls
  1. A desk fan - I get super hot when I teach. I tend to keep my room absolutely as cold as possible and I have a variety of fans in my room should it get too warm. A must have on my desk is a small USB fan gifted by my school one year. I use this daily, even in winter. It is easy to use, easy to store, and quite effective. 
  2. A desk lamp - Sometimes when we watch things or the kids are playing a game, I'll still do some work at my desk. This small lamp is cute and projects enough light for me to easily do what I need to do without disturbing the scene. 
  3. A variety of stuffed animals - These vary, but the tend to be the ones kids love the most. They are the most grabbed, most loved animals. They sit here because, (a) they get left out the most often, and (b) they are easy to grab for a lesson. Right now, that list includes: a kangaroo, a frog, an elephant, a raccoon, two owls, and an octopus that, being quite honest, was a gift from a friend and is my animal. :)
  4. A coffee cup - This should be self explanatory. :) 
  5. My Traveler's journal - This is my planner this year. I LOVE my planners and this year embarked on the bullet journal journey. I have a (what some would describe as) unhealthy obsession with stationary items. This goes with me everywhere. I try to keep myself really focused and organised. At home I keep all my pens, markers, washi tape, etc. This keeps me very accountable and I love it. 
  6. My favourite grading pen - It is purple. It fits in my left hand quite nicely and I use it for "grading". I say "grading" because my opinion on grading has changed. I have moved away from marking what's "wrong" and proceeded to asking questions that might evoke a more detailed/more proficient response. 
  7. (next to my desk) My "Go" Bag - This is my bag of things I have, just in case. It has my ankle braces (2 different kinds), 2 pairs of socks, my emergency medicine, and extra shoes (depending on the ankle braces I wear). You'll find many students/teachers with issues have these. This greatly effects my teaching because it allows me to teach safely. 
    My Go Bag
    My Traveler's Journal

In My Desk

In addition to the normal, regular, madness  I have:
  1. chapstick, headache relief, and stain remover - just in case. 
  2. My "silent ball" ball - This is a go to brain break for me. I love silent ball and it is easy to pull out at any time. I can also use this ball for circling, or a trasketball/word chunk game.
  3. Grading Folders - I keep all documents needing to be graded in folders marked by period and this hangs in the back of my room. In my desk I have file folders, also marked by period, that are of graded papers so that I can quickly hand them back at any time I wish. 
  4. My Sub Folder - My sub folder is a purple binder that I've marked in blank marker. I keep it at my desk so that it is quick and easy to grab. In my sub binder are:
    * a map of the school with colour coded routes for severe weather, evacuation, and my morning duty.
    * current rosters
    * two copies of my lesson plans
    * the emergency evacuation paperwork (multiple copies)
    * notes on any students and how to handle any situations. 
  5. A box of various colour pens - I keep a box of pens for when we do take a quiz/written assessment. I don't do this often anymore, but on the rare occasion we do, having this box means I can quickly pass out pens, grade items as a class, and get them back. 
  6. A box of snacks - I keep a few healthy snacks in my desk. Right now I am kind of low, so it is just pistachio nuts, but usually I keep some apple sauce in there as well. Mostly these are for me, but sometimes I have students who haven't eaten. I am able to offer something to them quickly.