What’s in our bags?

As a new school year gets underway, we, the editors of the CANE Blog, would like to introduce ourselves and give you a sneak peak into the tools we find useful for a new year.

Gabriel Bakale

Onward, to my thirteenth year of teaching Latin here in Massachusetts.  I’ve been at the same public high school for my entire career, and, despite the occasional setback (such as when our courses were cruelly reduced to merely counting for Foreign Language credit, rather than either for Foreign Language or Unified Arts — meaning that students were once able to take Latin in lieu of Woodshop), I’ve seen the program steadily grow in both enrollment and the diversity of our course-offerings.  While I do incorporate some spoken Latin into my teaching, and can appreciate the efficacy of the methods associated with it, I will admit that I remain, for a variety of reasons, fairly traditional in my own pedagogy.

I recently posted some comments of dubious utility on this very blog regarding what texts I was planning on using to get Sisyphus’ boulder rolling this year (as it can feel around this time, when one notes how much seems to have been forgotten over the summer).  I should also mention my fondness for Kahoot!, though this resource would only be in my metaphorical “bag,” as I have so far failed, despite my best efforts, to capture the elusive Internet.  It takes so little time to put together a review game with Kahoot!, and I can have the students play individually or in groups, with our Chromebooks or with their own phones.

Emily Landau

I’m in my tenth year of teaching Latin in independent single-sex (male) boarding schools. My academic background is in Silver Age Latin (particularly Tacitus, Seneca, and Horace), historiography, and historical linguistics. I’m fond of spoken Latin, Latin orthography, etymology, the reading method of language acquisition, and the fact that our profession is finally moving away from the endless recitation of declensions of conjugations. Mirabile visu!

In my bag you’ll likely find my Macbook Air, one or more volumes of the Cambridge Latin Course, the script for whatever show I’m directing that trimester (I’m also head of drama), and exactly one functioning writing utensil. If you ask me if I have a pen or pencil, I will pretend to search through my bag for a minute, and then sadly tell you that no, I can’t find one.

Stephen Farrand

Salvete, contubernales! I’ve been teaching Latin to high school students, on and off, for 30 years. I’ve worked in both private and public schools in 4 states. I hope to finish my career with my current job at Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki, where I work part-time. I have been a proponent of oral Latin in the classroom for a long time: I remember sitting at a Mensa Latina at CANE with Alan Dobsevage in about 1989, and I shocked my fiancee by speaking Latin to my uncle (a Jesuit) at a family gathering in 1990. I’ve also worked hard to learn Russian, so I speak a modern language with a case system like Latin’s and flexible word order.

My best tool is Google Classroom. As a part-time teacher, it’s a really convenient way for my students to stay in touch with me when I’m off campus, and for me to get assignments and handouts to them. I like the fact that it puts documents, audio and video clips on an equal footing.  I have my students listen to and make audio recordings quite a lot, and this summer I began to familiarize myself with Garage Band editing. I have a ways to go, but I think it’s going to be worth the effort. And I’m big on colored markers–always travel with a full set from room to room (I haven’t had my own classroom since 1989!)

Jenny Dean

Salvēte! I teach middle school Latin at a small independent day school in Connecticut. This will be my fifth year teaching Latin at this level. My teaching bag includes a bunch of old things and a few fun and new. Since I started teaching, I have enjoyed using a cache of small whiteboards left in my classroom by a previous (genius) teacher. They are fun for kids to draw on and useful props in a variety of games and activities. Another item which has been stuffed in my bag for a while now is a set of long swaths of fabric, which function as quick a toga, a hood, a cape, or whatever a student might need. Costumes help students get into character and leave their non-Latin selves outside the door. A new item in my bag will be a whole new set of highlighters, which will be helpful for color coding sentences. Diagramming or color coding can be a great way for some students to see simple sentence structure and remember the function of different parts of speech. Lastly, my bag this year will include the camaraderie of a new Latin teacher. Although I will miss my former colleague, I’m so excited to welcome a new Classics friend into the faculty at my school, and I look forward to collaborating with him on field trips, student events, and curriculum design.

What’s still in our teaching bags.

Lydia’s Bag

Here’s the list of what I was using at the start of the year.

  • Color-coded folders I’m still using the folders to keep my classes’ work separate. This has been working really well for me.
  • iPad I’ve been using the iPad less this year than I used to. Because of how my new room is set up, I use the projector less, and so am not really using the iPad to control it.
  • Quis the Owl, the Imperfect Sheep, Roman Bridal Veil I’m still using these frequently. The students love when I toss the animals out to the tables for them to hold during discussions.
  • Stamp I’m still using this to keep track of homework. Students in my middle school classes have started drawing ornate boxes for me to stamp inside as well as ornate boxes labeled “don’t stamp here.”
  • Latin Mallet Still useful. I’ve also added in individual whiteboards as an option when we’re doing grammar review, and the kids like that too.
  • Flags Very useful when I’m keeping track of where the different classes are.
  • Pencil case, pens I’m still using these. I’ve ordered an eyedropper fountain pen to play with for a larger capacity of ink for grading.
  • Silent pencil sharpener This is so nice to have! The students now go for it over the electric pencil sharpener.

Emily’s Bag

Here’s what I had in my bag at the start of the year.

Bubo the Owl and the Golden Snitch Ball: Still useful as always! Gives a very Hogwarts feel to the classroom.

My iPad and relevant power cords/connectors: Alesia the iPad is full of Latin apps and other fun educational tools for my classroom. Often, it is used when I need to project a text on the board. I use the app Evernote to make notes about how class went and keep a teaching notebook.  Also, the app ClassDojo is fantastic for making private notes about student performance. And of course, never underestimate the power of the Edmodo App!

Pencil Case:  Still the same deal!– 2 Purple Pens (for writing passes), my new purple fountain pen for grading, 2 blue pens (for other notes), USB flashdrive, 1 pad of yellow post-its, and 1 pad of purple post-its.

Moleskine notebooks: The notebooks have been replaced by Evernote. Poor Notebooks.

Class folders:  Still the same.  I love this system so much!!– I have color-coordinated folders for each class, in which I keep work to be graded and returned. On the front of each folder, I keep a post-it note of who needs to turn in the assignment/take the quiz.

Color-coordinated Popsicle sticks: This, I have largely given up on.

Teaching Binder: Still using this.  Love it more than ever.  My purple binder with attendance lists and paper version of my gradebook. 🙂

I have added:

Post-it flags: color coded for different classes so that I can mark where they are in the book.

Individual Whiteboards, which we use for grammar and vocab review, as well as bits of composition here and there.  The students LOVE them!

Ben’s Bag

How the year started.

I still use all the physical elements I mentioned at the beginning of the year. Perhaps the better update would be some of the software and apps I’ve found useful.

Simplenote works on Mac and mobile platforms (though not for PC, unfortunately.) It is a basic note saver that I use to keep my lesson plans organized. I prefer it over Evernote since I want to sandbox my lesson plans from general note-gathering.

Google Drive is without a doubt the most useful collaboration suite of software I’ve ever used. The simple fact that students and teachers can create, share, and collaborate between and amongst themselves is its biggest selling point. For more advanced awesomeness, there are scripts such as FormMule, Doctopus, and gClassFolders that allow a higher level of organization and sharing. I’ll do a post soon to explain their usefulness.

Twitter has been a great professional development tool. It allows me to keep an ear to new developments in the classics sphere, collaborate with other teachers (from all over the world,) read tweets in Latin, and interact with students in novel ways. This, too, deserves its own post.

eduCanon.com is a site I’ve used to curate videos. You can take a Youtube video (whether you created it or someone else did) and add pauses to it. During the pauses, you can add questions for students to answer as they watch; you get formative feedback about the assigned viewing and you’ve made the video more interactive for the student.

Ponderi.ng is an intriguing idea that let’s the teacher assign news articles for students to read and comment on. It has an interesting and intuitive interface, and I see the evolution of this tool allowing students to comment (in Latin!) on articles (in Latin!) If you’d like to help translate some of the “sentiments” into Latin, leave a comment below and I’ll show you the list.

These are just a few of many burgeoning tools. As I find new ones, I’ll be sure to keep you informed.

What are in Ben and TJ’s Bags?

Ben, here.

These things aren’t found in my bag per se, but scattered about my room and used often.

As with so many of us here at CANEns, I also have an interest in physical and kinesthetic play-acting. I have several plastic shoe-boxes filled with stuffed animals, troll dolls, GI Joes, and other figurines. I also have some homemade tunics, togas, theater masks, and other vestimenta. In addition to these, I have various small tchotchkes I have acquired over the years – a combination lock, small rulers, Play-Do, rubber duckies, etc. These make great props or the goals of scavenger hunts.

I am very particular about my pens. I prefer gel ink with a small nib, .5 or .38. If possible I try to stock my room with lots of black pens and any other bright color for correcting (I know red can have a bad rep, though it is still easiest to find.) For those who like to geek out as much as I do about writing implements, JetPens will fulfill all your hopes and desires. In the past I have invested in the “uni kuru toga,” a mechanical pencil that auto-rotates to keep the tip sharp (great for interstitial notes) and a small pencil that I can clip into my wallet.

I also love magnets. As TJ mentions below, they are great for clipping up student work to the board (assuming you have a magnetic whiteboard). Another great use I’ve found is playing Rota on the board with different color magnets. I prefer the push-pin style, myself.

It may sound like my room is similar to TJ’s. It probably is. He has great ideas, another of which is dice. I found 100 red 6-sided dice for about $10 once (check Amazon for the lowest prices.) You might ask yourself, “Why do I need 100 dice?” Well, you don’t, but the kids are always amazed at seeing so many dice in one spot. One way I use them as randomizers is for doing quick grammar or vocab drills. Assign each die a function – this one is for a vocab word, this other is for one of the personal endings, this third is for a tense (amazingly, lots of grammatical stuff happens in sextuplets.) With so many dice, each kid or group has enough to randomize to her heart’s content. One other kind of dice I’ve recently acquired is “StoryCubes.” I think Emily or some other CANEns co-editor told me about them. They are a great way to get a story going for practice in writing or speaking.

Last, but most important, is my laptop. I am a techy kind of guy, and to describe in detail all the programs, apps, and websites I use would take a year’s worth of posts. I’ll fill you in on one I use every day: NoteSync. It is an incredibly simple-to-use note taking tool that houses your notes in your Google Drive. I use it for lesson planning; my school rotates on a 7 day schedule, so I made a new note for each “day” and type in my plans. No more need for a paper planner, and my notes are available wherever there is an internet connection. The program runs on lots of platforms, too.

My bag has shown itself to be a bag of holding. If you have any questions or require clarification, let us know in the comments.

So what’s in TJ’s bag?

I like to travel light and don’t use a lot of props. Still, there are some things which I find I use all the time in my classes.

A student teacher I had two years ago, Natasha Marple, introduced me to magnetic dots, which is great for quickly putting up on my white board student work, giant vocab cards for games, and pictures of characters for stories. She also hooked me on the Targus Laser Presentation Remote, so I can point out items all over the room and advance presentation slides without being chained to my laptop.

It won’t fit in a bag, but I love my document camera! It’s fabulous for showing student work to the whole class (assuming you also have a projector), and if you can shine the image on a white board like I do, you can make corrections, or add things, or whatever. You can also use it to project an image on a piece of paper or even the wall for tracing on a large scale.

Stuffed things are great, and I have a few I use all the time. There’s MILES MAXIMUS, a hand sized soldier I found in a UK gift shop, several DINOSAURI, a PIRATA for passives (he says RRR, like most passives, and he’s MINI), and a giant pie because, well, I love pie, and it flies easily through the room. I use these for choosing “volunteers” and as characters in stories.

I’ve got a bag of variously sized and colored dice, too, because they’re great randomizers, good for teaching numbers, and for paired activities.

Finally, I’m a big fan of stickers, though I’ve had a hard time finding good ones in Latin ( if you know of some that aren’t super big, let me know). I like the mini ones the best, particularly variety packs you can pick up in the Staple’s teacher section, because you get a lot for the price, and I tend to burn through them quickly. The look of joy in even a senior’s face when they get a sticker on a quiz or test well done is a thing of beauty.

Want to share what you use all the time? Let us know, and we’ll compile your input and share them on the blog!