Archive for the ‘Class Ideas’ Category

Ellen Commito and Mia Gaska have presented an interactive workshop on using iPods in the classroom as part of the Blue Ribbon Institute. They shared samples of activities they’ve done with their students and podcasts (both student created and teacher made) that they have used to support teaching/learning their their elementary level classrooms. Here are my notes from Google Docs with links to some resources that might be helpful.


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VoiceThread is a great presentation tool that allows you to provide narration (in the form of comments) to accompany a slide show. Imagine taking a simple PowerPoint presentation and recording your presentation once and having it available for your students any time they are on-line. Students can leave responses or questions in the form of comments, either typed or recorded, to further the discussion. There’s even a “doodle” option, which allows you to highlight the section of the slide you’re referencing. The writing fades over time, allowing you to move on to another point without cluttering each slide with too many notes.

This week I am presenting 2 workshops with my colleague, Mrs. Mary Christine Dion, one for faculty at our high school and a second at the MassCUE Conference in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  We’ll be sharing this amazing tool with our colleagues and offering some ideas that we’ve tried with our own classes. We’ll also be offering a few tips to help avoid issues (as with all tools, VoiceThread is not perfect).

Project ideas and samples

My Latin 1 class recently completed a Latin Mottos project. Students searched for mottos in Latin that still are in use today. They found a single image that best showed the message of the motto. They uploaded the slideshow to VoiceThread and recorded themselves reading the Latin mottos. In addition to identifying uses of Latin in the modern world, students are demonstrating their mastery of Latin pronunciation.

Latin Philosophical Mottos

Latin Mottos about Death and Life

My Latin Studies classes are just now completing a storytelling project. Students were required to write a short story in Latin demonstrating their understanding of specific grammatical concepts (specifically, use/forms of certain noun cases and agreement with verbs and adjectives). They created a slideshow incorporating the text of their story on with images to help tell the story. They are now recording themselves reading the stories with correct Latin pronunciation.

A Story about Rufus and Alma

I created a similar story, this time with the assistance of my 3 and 5 year old daughters. The girls sat in my lap one afternoon and helped me write a story slideshow using SMART Notebook. I uploaded the slideshow to VoiceThread. Then my older daughter read the story aloud. She’s just starting to read, so she was very proud that she could read the whole thing. Younger students could create their own stories, or each student could create a single page. Illustrations could be scanned in and the students could narrate or describe their pictures. VoiceThread has an educator option, which helps provide a safe and secure platform for students of all ages.

Three Lonely Dinosaurs

Mrs. Dion’s Spanish students practice describing themselves. They brought in pictures of themselves as babies and Mrs. Dion created the slideshow for the class. All the students wrote a descriptions of themselves in Spanish without sharing their names. Classmates then commented on each slide, guessing who was in the picture based on the description. In a similar activity, each student created an autobiography slideshow. They shared pictures and wrote about their life in Spanish. Students then uploaded their presentation and recorded their autobiography in the target language.

Baby Pictures


In another Spanish lesson, Mrs. Dion’s students each created a complete VoiceThread presentation. In a lesson on body parts and illnesses, students had to talk about how to get into shape. The students were instructed to describe what happened during a full week of trying new fitness routines: each day they suffered another injury to some part of their body. By the end of the week, the students were completely incapacitated! Students took their own photographs and narrated their mishaps, all in Spanish.

Body and Health Project

Another Spanish teacher, Mr. Michael Springer, is using VoiceThread with his upper level Spanish students to investigate Spanish art history.  Students were to find an image of a piece of art and commented on their slide in Spanish. This is a good example of an activity that transfers well to any subject that would require commenting on an image or picture – art history, geography, geometry, history, and biology all come to mind as subjects where this activity would be meaningful. At The Professional Learner Profe Springer shares his Lessons from a VoiceThread Project.

Our Advanced Placement teachers were discussing the need to encourage more conversations in the target languages. On the Spanish AP exam, students are required to listen to a short conversation and respond. We brainstormed the following activity. Students find an image that will inspire conversation (e.g. someone looking at a broken window, someone looking over a cliff). Two students are assigned the picture and must develop a conversation inspired by the image. The images are uploaded to VoiceThread and the teams record their conversation as comments. The rest of the class then listens to the other conversations and responds to what they’ve heard by recording their own comments. This recreates the activity on the AP test while giving the students creative in-put to how they develop the conversations.

But VoiceThread is not only for Foreign Language teachers. Browse the VoiceThread site and you will find projects created for Art History, Language Arts, Science, Math, Biology. Remember that there are educator accounts available for teachers which allow teachers of all grade levels to take advantage of this great tool while respecting the privacy of their students.

Tom Barrett has created a great resource, 17 Useful Ways to Use VoiceThread in the Classroom. Check out his ideas and be sure to send him ideas that you develop for your own classes.

MindMeister has a VoiceThread in Education mind map that offers suggestions for how to use VoiceThread for class projects and more.

Please visit TeacherTech 21st Century, a wiki where we share our presentation from the MassCUE Conference.


One excellent result of attending workshops such as MassCUE is meeting people who use the same tools and hearing what they do with their students. I just met Mr. Greg Kulowiec from Plymouth High School and The History 2.0 Classroom. He presented on VoiceThread at the MassCUE Conference in 2008; he suggested I search for his projects and his students’ work. Here are some examples of what he does:

U.S. History Honors class Impressions of Slavery

Weighted Average Word Problem

U.S. History Honors Should Jackson be on the $20

He also made a great (and perhaps obvious) suggestion that I search for samples in other subjects.

For Math:

The Math Lessons for 9-25-08 by Ms. Colville

For Science (short but effective):

The Carbon Cycle (4th Period) by Mary Ellsworth

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GoogleDocsOver the past few weeks I’ve been working on culture and language projects with all of my classes. Each class had a project that required collaboration, either with a small group or only with me. During the research part of the project, all of the groups created Google Docs to collaborate and share what they found. As the projects became more focused, many students started to use a bibliography generator, such as EasyBib, to keep track of their resources and images. For the final phase of the project, students created presentations using Google Presentations. All of these tools are free, all require no storage space on a network, flashdrive, or hard drive.

What I found to be most valuable about using these tools with my students was that I could “conference” with students about their work and research on my own time. Several days each week I need to rush home to pick up my girls from school right away. During each class period, I prefer to keep all of my students focused and working, so conferencing with small groups ends up being less productive for the groups that I’m not actively engaged with. And despite my best efforts, there always seems to be one group that doesn’t get as much time or attention as they needed. With Google Docs I logged on each evening and checked on their progress. If one group didn’t seem to be moving ahead, I could e-mail them to keep them on track. I could offer tips on where to go next and offer links to useful websites.

When my Latin students were writing a story in Latin, I highlighted the text and color coded the notes to indicate what they needed to focus on. For example, when the verb endings needed revision, I highlighted those words in yellow; blue was for noun endings. When the final document no longer had highlights, the students knew they had made the proper corrections. Google Docs also allowed me to keep track of the revision history, to see who was contributing and when. One young lady, who had been complaining about exhaustion, seemed to be editing only between 1 and 3 a.m. This gave me an opportunity to talk to her, not just about the project, but the issues that seemed to be getting in the way of her learning in all of her classes.

In Google Presentation, I could see where the students were going with their slideshows and offer assistance with layout and formatting. When one group had a significant download issue (a lovely slideshow wouldn’t download in any format), I was able to troubleshoot the problem over the weekend while my daughter napped. This wasn’t an issue I would’ve expected a group of high school students  to be able to work out on their own and the students might have thought that they had to start over. At the same time, I hadn’t been able to find time to troubleshoot the issue when I wasn’t rushing between classes or trying to meet the immediate needs of a class full of students.

This past Friday most of the projects were due at the beginning of class. I hadn’t required that all of the final projects be in a Google format. I figured that some students would be able to do more with PowerPoint or might have trouble accessing the internet from home. What struck me, though, was that of the students who didn’t manage to meet the Friday deadline, 9 of the 14 had not used Google Presentation or Google Docs for the final product. The remaining 5 students had been out with the flu immediately before the deadline.  The reasons for missing the deadline included forgetting their flashdrive (2 students), running out of ink in the printer, e-mailing the slideshow to an account that can’t be opened at school, and saving it on a computer that they didn’t have access to except during occasional study halls. Two students e-mailed their presentation to me, but did not type the correct e-mail address. One student created his PowerPoint on a Mac but didn’t save the images along with the presentation; when he tried to open the file on my PC the images weren’t there. ALL of the issues would’ve been addressed, if not solved, by collaborating with me using a Google platform.

The lesson I’m learning is that Web 2.0 tools such as Google Docs can facilitate learning in a more meaningful way than the old fashioned red pen and paper. After all, no one has to keep track of that page of notes that I hand wrote. No one has to look through the crumpled papers shoved in the bottom of a backpack or locker. No one has to decipher messy handwriting (mine or theirs). All of the editors (students and teacher) can see the notes. All of the editors can follow the history of a document – from any computer that has internet.  Special education liaisons can be brought into the conversation to provide support.

So why don’t I do this all the time? Because there are too many limitations of time and space for computer labs and technology available to all students. Until students can rely on using computers in class each day, I can’t expect that they’ll do all of their work on-line. I would love to move to a paperless classroom. But there are already those among the faculty who complain that some teachers are using the limited computer lab space more than is fair. I am looking into getting a grant to purchase a classroom set of laptops or netbooks. At the same time, the school administration needs to promote this kind of learning, IT needs to be open to allowing students access to wi-fi in class, parents and students need to see that meaningful learning does not always require paper and books.

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As another school year starts, it is a good time for me to gather together some resources that I find useful for my teaching. People are often surprised that I teach Latin (“They still teach that?!”), and even more surprised when I tell them of some of the useful on-line resources that are available. I already have blogged here, below you’ll find some additional resources that I find useful.  So, in no particular order, here are some Latin resources you might like to check out:

As I’ve mentioned before, LatinTeach is an excellent resource for all things Latin. The blog keeps me informed of current events in the Latin teaching community (e.g. changes in the AP Latin exam or who’s using Latin in the news). It gives the Roman date each day and provides some great links to resources for Roman culture and Latin teaching. If you are looking for one website for Latin education, this is the place.

If you are looking for Latin reading resources in your classroom, the Tar Heel Reader has a number of digital books created for and by Latin students.   There are over 250 short illustrated digital books, some designed to accompany a textbook series (I noted several designed to be read along side Cambridge Latin Course) and others that nicely review grammar topics such as prepositional phrases or singular/plural. I noted several nicely written mythology stories that appear to have been illustrated by the folks from South Park (appropriate for class, but in the familiar style). In addition, Laura Gibbs (more on her in a moment) has included a Tar Heel Reader a large number of illustrated Aesop’s fables in Latin. I expect to use this site as a resource for readings with my students, but also as an inspiration for them to create similar stories and perhaps share them with other Latin students through the Tar Heel Reader.

I also blogged about Laura Gibbs who has created Latin Via Fables: Aesopus. This comprehensive Ning is devoted to Aesop’s Fables in Latin. She has provided the text, audio recordings, video (some of which are links to the Tar Heel Reader), exercises and quizzes to accompany each story.  Since it is a Ning, it is a social network that allows you to join and a communicate with others interested in Latin and Aesop’s Fables. Ms. Gibbs also writes the Bestiaria Latina Blog.   Here she provides daily proverbs, fables and calendar information. In addition, she cross posts her Twitter updates for @IVLIVSCAESAR, with a different sentence from Plutarch’s Life of Caesar each day.

Teachers interested in advanced Latin resources need to be familiar with the Perseus Project out of Tufts University.  This amazing classical resource contains both the Latin and the English for a huge number of Latin texts. In the screen capture of the opening lines of the Aeneid (below), you can see that Perseus provides not just the Latin text, but it allows you to click on a word to bring up parses, dictionary information and word frequency. On the right you can click to two different translations, see a list of reference materials, and find an on-line dictionary to further assist you – or your students – with the translation.  If you have not explored this site, I’d highly recommend it. I would be surprised if many students have not already taken advantage of this resource. Note that one can explore what are called Exhibits on the Perseus site. These are resources on Hercules and the Ancient Olympics that are written in English.


Barbara McManus has created an excellent cultural resource for students of ancient Rome. VROMA is both “an online learning environment (MOO) and a collection of internet resources.  I have not used the MOO with my students, but it if you are interested in virtual worlds, it is worth checking out. Her cultural resources are a standard starting point for my classes when it comes to discussion of clothing, names, the Roman house, etc.

Although he doesn’t write exclusively about Latin, Shelly at TeachPaperless is worth reading. He teaches Latin and Art History in a paperless classroom; all student work is produced through blogs and on other digital platforms. He keeps a Twitter feed on a screen in his classroom and students can provide a “lifeline” for other students as they work. This may not be the classroom that you recognize today, but his might very well be the classroom that will be the norm in only a few years’ time.

Finally, any discussion of on-line resources wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include some of the classics folks on Twitter:
@Julius_Caesar – in the persona of Caesar
@ClassicsNHHS – a thriving Latin program
@Hannibal248 – in the persona of the Carthaginian general
@MarcusTullius43 – in the persona of Cicero
@MagistraAguirre – a high school Latin teacher
@CarolineLawrenc – the author of the Roman Mysteries novels
@IVLIVSCAESAR – daily sentences from Plutarch by Laura Gibbs
@Caecilius – A middle school Latin teacher
@MagisterHoran – Check out his “Ask a Latin Teacher” posts
@GaryCorby – A novelist whose books are located in Ancient Greece

Some of these folks tweet as their persona, others provide useful resources for Latin, Greek, or ancient history.

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PerseusDigLibThere are so many websites out there, and yet not too many of them focus specifically on Latin and teaching Latin.  I think that Latin teachers are often expected to be as dusty as some of the texts we teach, living somewhere in the 1st century instead of the 21st. In reality there are some great on-line tools that every Latin teacher should subscribe to – or at least check out to see how they can supplement all the traditional tools.

Most Latin and Greek teachers are familiar with Perseus. This on-line tool originally created by Tufts University is a great reference to find original texts (and translations), word frequency, alternate forms, and more. There are art & archaeology, culture, and mythology resources. Teachers (particularly of advanced levels) should explore Perseus to get a better sense of how they and their students can take advantage of its vast resources.

There are several on-line dictionaries out there, but not all of them are very user-friendly.  TeachPaperless recently recommended that I use University of Notre Dame’s Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid.  I’ve now linked this dictionary to my class pages because of its simplicity and accuracy.

To keep track of Latin in the news and other classical tidbits, I subscribe to LatinTeach, “a blog dedicated to the teaching and learning of Latin and the Classics.” Recent posts have shared professional development and courses available to Latin teachers and links on the anniversary of the founding of Rome.  When my colleagues ask me where I found the latest Classics news to share, more often than not it’s from LatinTeach.

Two such Classical resources that might be particularly useful to Latin teachers of all levels  are Pompeiiana and Latin Via Fables.  Teachers might remember Pompeiiana, the newsletter created by Bernard Barcio, that was mailed to schools once each month during the school year for nearly 20 years.  These included comics, puzzles, games, articles, and news updates for students of Latin. Recently the rights to these publications were granted to Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers who are now releasing the original newsletters online one issue at a time.  Clearly the most timely material, such as movie reviews or song title translations, is out of date.  But in Pompeiiana there remains a broad range of activities that are still relevent today.

Latin Via Fables is a Ning created by Laura Gibbs, the author of Aesop’s Fables and Latin Via Proverbs, among other titles.  This resource for teachers includes discussion groups, quizzes, vocabulary and many other tools that make reading the fables more valuable as a teaching/learning tool.

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