Sunday, November 13, 2011

Latin is tough, but it helps you take off!

How to get students to stick with Latin after takeoff: that's the challenge. Sure, getting the plane ready and celebrating the flying of the banner is so exciting, but then you have to settle in for the flight and achieve the cruising altitude. That's not easy and some students bail out.

What will help students know that there really is a cruising altitude and a destination ahead?

1. Sharing the itinerary in terms they can understand.

2. Letting them hear from people who have made the trip before.

3. Showing them highlights from the journey-pictures, awards, goals achieved.

We need our students to not only cheer the takeoff but enjoy the flight. Let's be good pilots.

(All seat backs in an upright position . . . )

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great Parents!

Having connected with parents of 29 students in the last two days, and 44 over the last three conference days, I am overcome with awe for the wonderful people who parent my students! I've met with close to half of the students' parents, which is just amazing.

I'm lucky enough to have parents who want to meet with me and hear about students' strengths, what they can do to accentuate them, and if there are needs to be met, how we can work as a team to achieve their goals.

Some of the parents who are guiding me now:

1. The parent who said: we know that there is a lot of pressure to be one kind of parent and go for one goal, here is our goal . . . . (I can team with these parents to focus on the same goal that they are using at home!)

2. Here is what you really need to know about my child. . . (he/she) has a specific strength (X) but is struggling in class to use that in tasks that are presented. (Now I can capitalize on the skill and help the child use that enormous ability to process more complex tasks).

3. Mr./Ms. Great Teacher is the one that he/she learned best from and is held as an ultimate educator to my child. (I've observed this teacher before to learn, and I can go back for a refresher to see what they do and use the same techniques for success in my classroom! Heard this about multiple teachers, so I have some visits to make!)

4. What you are calling "lack of motivation" I call "lazy", let's talk about what to do. (Now I know the parent's definition and can set a clear path to the activity that we both call motivation and activity!)

5. Thank you for seeing it as creativity and "getting" the student and not seeing it as misbehavior. (Reinforces my belief in observing the child and his/her actions in context).

6. That is not what I see in other situations, why do you think s/he's doing that in this situation? (Makes me reflect upon how I'm eliciting the response, and how to bring about the deeper thinking that I expect from the student).

All the comments have a theme: These parents know their children and know how to communicate to me what's important. Yes, I have a lot of things to address and change in the next few weeks, but how nice to know the target!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Losing WordChamp?

WordChamp, the mechanism that makes our lives as 2.0 teachers tick, may be going away. Why? Well, here is the banner on the site: "WordChamp is currently looking for a strategic business partner. We would like to find a way to keep this great website going but if we are unable to find a strategic partner by December 31, 2011, WordChamp will cease operations at that time. We are extremely grateful to all of the teachers and students that have been loyal users and hope the experience with WordChamp has been beneficial. Thank you, and good luck with your language studies!"

We've tried numerous times to reach them-GlobaLinguist is the backing company who started this treasure of language learning. Fred Egan is the chairman of GlobaLinguist and he oversaw the creation of a marvelous platform in which we educators found the best way to direct our students, give them feedback and coach them into becoming lifelong learners. Unfortunately, we cannot even get a response from the company to see what it would take to continue using this valuable tool.

In the meantime, we are exploring StudyBlue, Ediscio and other sites looking for something that can even come close (nothing does).

Daniel Blumenthal seems to be the brains behind the WordChamp, with several patents to his credit. Perhaps we'll see his genius used for good before we lose WordChamp.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Art in the Middle

John Humphries, an artist and art instructor from Miami University spent an hour with 7th and 8th grade Indian Hill Latin students on Tuesday (October 4th). Cate Yellig, art director with the Phyllis Weston Gallery was instrumental in helping forge a connection between Indian Hill and Mr. Humphries, whose work is displayed at the gallery.

With a background in architecture and a love of the classics, especially mythology, Mr. Humphries combines the ideas of classical architecture and a reflective process of using pencil and watercolor to create unexpectedly polished perspectives.

With the students, Mr. Humphries began by passing around his own work, encouraging them to handle it, give comments, reflect and have conversations with him about how a piece began and evolved. Though a bit timid at first, the students soon were inspired by the creative motivation to just jump in and begin exploring the new art. Since he recently returned from a summer in Italy, many of his works evoke the landscape and color of the countryside, and he brought pieces of clay from Sienna and umber from Umbria for the students to use themselves.

a view of Umbria

With a demonstration of how pencil can act as a control for the sometimes unpredictable medium of watercolor, Mr. Humphries showed the students how the freedom of beginning a work with simple lines can evoke a picture in the mind and begin to emerge through trial and error on the paper. As he showed students the gentle gradations of color, he described the myth of Pelops, incorporating the idea of merging the technical with organic matter.

The students eagerly gathered the supplies and sat down to begin with just a few lines and a single color on their watercolor paper. Each line began or finalized an idea and the students fell into their work vigorously. Some students carefully waited for sections to dry so that they could darken them with more layers of pigment, others created beads of color and dragged them to get different effects. Soon, they began trading colors, one at a time, to adjacent students and the combinations added depth and dimension to their work. As he moved about the room offering suggestions, Mr. Humphries elicited questions about how a student was going to proceed, what had worked, how they had worked around lines and brushes that didn’t quite meet their expectation. Finally, the students used a long accordion-folded watercolor paper to create a collaborative work in which they each contributed, then added, extended and responded to the work of other students.

As they were cleaning up their areas, the students paused to give a round of applause and say thank you to John Humphries for showing them an artful approach to collaborative problem solving in the 21st century that has its roots in the creative mythology of the ancient Romans and Greeks.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I have a new document camera-an elmo-thanks to my PTO and my principal Kim Miller. I knew I would like it, but after one day, I'm loving it! Switching back and forth between the computer display and the document is easy, and this allows students to bring their work up for display and participation in seconds. Looking forward to a nice year with elmo and watching other teachers as they use their in the classrooms!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Students Charting their own Progress

I'm taking the Summer Tech Tune up class with the fabulous Mark Richardson, and have made a few great discoveries that are going to help students chart their own progress in Latin class this year.

1st, excel now has a quick graph feature that gives selected cells in a graph. So if a student has a template and is recording progress on vocabulary mastery from a pre-test to 1st formative assessment to 2nd assessment, they can see something like this:

The student can clearly see improvement over time (this is a best-case-scenario graph). But have they made the connection between the activities and practice and their improvement? That's what I want to know.

The final step needs to be reflection from the student that helps make the cause and effect crystal clear to them (and me).

So, by responding to some quick questions in a google form will give me the information that I need.

Closing the loop with feedback and getting improved results. That would be nice!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Multitasking Teachers

The Multitasking Teacher-it's not just the students doing it!

Sorry, what did you say? I was trying to submit attendance while you asked when the assembly begins. In order to be a good teacher I have to slow time and demands down so that I can give attention to doing a good job-it saves time in the end.

Like many teachers, I operate under the assumption that I can do many things at once: monitor students in the hall, take attendance, begin a class warm-up, give students returning from absence their make-up work and answer a question from another student about last-night's homework. Whoops-there's an announcement, 4 students were just called to pick up items in the office at the next class change. Where was I?

While there ARE things that I can do in combination such as record attendance and return papers, there are many things that just cannot be done well if not given enough attention. Routines in the classroom alleviate many of the multitasking issues for me, so that students know when the right time is to confirm make-up work (at the end of the 1st 10 minute chunk when I can answer you individually), when the right time for questions about homework is (second 5 minutes when I'm asking for feedback and questions so that we can all benefit from the answer). Students new to my class in 7th grade take about three weeks to learn the routine, so I find myself saying "Patientia" quite a bit.

Students can learn patience and increase their attention to the task at hand. I've had a few students so accustomed to getting the answer on the spot, having the teacher jump to meet needs immediately, that they will actually follow on my heels repeating the question after I've indicated that I've heard them and will be responding at the appropriate time! Luckily, the neediness for them to be able to "click" on me to get an answer wanes and the trust that the appropriate time will present itself grows. The students slow down the demands and I can focus on each element of my class completely. Happily, when I do slow down, the students relax too and everyone seems to feel more satisfied with the result.

What are some routines that you hope to establish this year so that you don't feel pulled in six directions at once? How do you help students establish their own routines that build their confidence and increase their attention on the task at hand?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Brain Rules

Brain Rules by John Medina is my current obsession. With a simple set of rules and the neuroscience to back it up, he presents the best ways to learn, the complications that we face in learning and some solutions that make perfect sense given the direction that we need to head in education.

This point, about recognition of vocabulary, in particular attracts my attention as a Latin teacher. I've sung the attributes of Wordchamp, but Brain Rules shows not only why it works but how to make it even better-something that is a constant challenge. We know that when students practice new vocabulary with a picture they hold onto the knowledge longer-but how do we increase the power of the connection and make sure that no matter the context, the learning is maintained? Well, the research here says that one of the options we should be making more use of is showing the picture, and saying the word aloud WITHOUT the text below the picture. Not every time, but definitely at certain times in the learning process. Why? The visual interpretation of the writing of the word can create interference-we can get a stronger, more direct connection by using the picture/sound combo especially if it's got a good emotional trigger.

More cards like this:

So how should I apply this? I have stacks of hundreds of vocabulary "cards" in wordchamp, and I need to examine them to make sure the picture is on the right mark, and also make copies of the sets WITHOUT the text, and assign the students the task of viewing/listening (which is easily done in wordchamp). After they hit okay, the student hears a voice say the correct word.

Next, attention and multitasking.