Limiting Beliefs to Lose before School Starts

Addition by subtraction is the name of this game. Like most of us, my brain is flooded with ideas and anxieties heading into a new school year. So, as a general practice, I like to start the new year by identifying limiting beliefs that are cluttering my brain space. How do I define limiting beliefs for Latin teachers? I define a limiting belief as any belief that inhibits my ability to make quality decisions for my students and myself. Here are some beliefs that I plan on purging before my first day of classes.

I need to prepare my kids for…

I can honestly say, that I have never made a decision, that I’m proud of, based on the desire to prepare my kids for a standardized assessment, some future class, some future or some future teacher. I am under no pressure other than to be the best possible teacher for my kids, so there is no reason for me to invent inappropriate external benchmarks.

I need to spend lots of time prepping materials to be a good teacher.

I need to show up, be present, and provide meaningful input for my students. They won’t mind if I don’t stay up until 4am re-formatting a document or color-coding their stories by theme.

I must silence the critics.

At this point, anything short of infants translating Tacitus into both literal and lilting English prose will NEVER impress the CI detractors out there, so there is no point in trying.

The purpose of learning Latin is…

There is no need to decide for our students why Latin is worth knowing. Latin is beautiful. My students will come to class with a variety of reasons for wanting access to Latin’s beauty. The class is about the kids and their goals, not mine.

But I want them to do it right!

Take a deep breath. Now take another one. If a student writes ego amat legit, they have clearly expressed IN LATIN that they like to read. Let that sink in. Now take another deep breath. Now smile.

What about Latinity!?

Who’s idea was Latinity anyway? This may not be a popular opinion, but my eyes glaze over as soon as I hear that word. Is the world somehow a worse place if I use the word meus instead of mihi when writing a story? Seriously! I am not going to waste hours of my life engaging in endless conversations about how to express the simplest ideas in Latin. The obsessive-compulsive nitpicking just isn’t worth it.

Comprehensible Input is not enough.

It is 🙂

– Magister Bracey



5 Reasons Why I Use Silly Stories

I have received a lot of questions, from Latin teachers in particular, about the use of silly stories in class. As a huge a proponent of using all kinds of stories in my classes, I feel compelled to explain my reasoning. I am hoping that this post will empower others, who wish to embrace silly stories in their own classes, to give it a try! So without further ado, here are 10 reasons why I use silly stories in my classes:

  1. They are compelling! It is no secret that not all input is created equal. In addition to being comprehensible, it is EQUALLY important that the input be compelling. Stephen Krashen himself often says that input should be compelling enough that the students forget that it’s in another language. Stories that involve students as characters and/or their own creative ideas are instantly compelling to most, if not all.
  2. Repetition without being repetitive. Silly stories are one way of providing lots of repetition of high-frequency vocabulary without having to re-read the same story ad nauseam. For example, instead of re-reading the myth of Narcissus in five different ways, why not read five different stories about characters falling in love with themselves? I have found that students are way more attentive to new stories than they are to new ways of reading the same story over again, even if they love the story.
  3. Low prep, high value. I do not have the executive functioning skills to be a high prep teacher in general, so I am always looking for activities that require minimal preparation and provide high-quality input. Silly stories are incredibly easy to make and kids really enjoy them. I’ll walk you through my process: 1) Pick something I want them to be able to read. 2) Copy and paste the text into a document. 3) Press Command + F and replace all of the character names, locations, and non-essential objects. 4) Repeat the process as many times as I want. That’s literally all I do.
  4. They lower the affective filter. Another essential Krashen theory is that of the affective filter. The idea is that a stressed human acquires less language than a relaxed one. Laughter and silliness are our most potent remedies for the stress and tension that our students bring with them to our classes. These silly stories can help keep the language acquisition process light and pleasurable for everyone involved.
  5. The cultural comparisons strand of our national standards. ACTFL describes cultural comparisons as, “Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.” Seemingly silly stories are a great way to tackle this, at times, difficult standard. Take the Narcissus story again. It is easy to make an alternate version of the story where a student falls in love with their own image on their phone. Students can then compare the ancient and modern American version of the myth.

Obviously, there are other great reasons to use silly stories, but these are my top five. Hopefully, this list will help you justify your practices to yourself and other. Ideally, this list will empower you to let loose and embrace the use of ridiculous stories in your classes.

-Magister Bracey