A Language Unit Template

This page is a work in progress. I am developing a unit template that can meet department and district requirements, while being rooted in CI and communicative principles. Reading comprehension is central, and all activities contribute to the goal of students demonstrating comprehension of a target reading (textbook, authentic, adapted, class/student-created, etc)

All units will follow a structure similar to this, levels 1-3 (after first month of Latin 1)

I have not yet completely filled this template in, but will post some examples once I get through a few units, building them up as I go.

[There is follow-up Q and A at the bottom of the page, based on discussion on TLA, LBP, and personal emails]

[coming soon, examples of units that I teach]
Unit length, 12-15 classes
Formative assessments (end of class, 2-3x/week)
  • True/false or short answer quizzes, in English and Latin
  • Observation of student comprehension based on student responses, verbal and nonverbal
  • Spot check translations in class, corrected together as a class
  • Student drawings
  • Student notes, in Latin, based on communicative tasks.
Summative assessments (one of each per unit)
  • Vocabulary quiz, based on quizlet vocabulary. May also include grammatical structures (students can retake as needed, since quizlet easily generates alternate versions
  • Writing sample to add to portfolio (includes timed writes, relaxed writes, other written activities based on communicative tasks
  • Unit test, combining reading comprehension, listening/viewing activity, word roots, comprehension questions in English
Sequence of instruction (2-3 classes):
1. Establish meaning of new vocabulary/structures
  • Written on board with english definitions
  • Handout provided for students to write new vocabulary info, and/or vocabulary is already provided on this handout. Spaces for students to use /interact with structures
  • Discussion in which students are encouraged to make connections between vocab and English words derived from these new words. Written activity/notes based on these connections.
  • Simple latin narrative (teacher or student created or collaborative) using new structures
  • Quizlet practice opportunities in class, additional practice at home encouraged, paper handouts provided upon request.
  • Movie Talk and follow up activities and / or readings
2. Using the structures for interpretive/interpersonal communication (2-3 classes)
  • Simple communicative task(s) which make use of target vocab and structures
  • Use of student Actors and/or pictures helps students to visualize narratives containing new structures
3. Engaging a text (3 classes)
  • Read and discuss
  • Small group translation activities, e.g. Sel ping pong
  • Student summaries, in Latin and English, spoken and written
  • Timed write
  • Spot check translation, corrected
  • Grammar lecture, students take notes (year 2-3)
  • OWATS/Parallel universe
  • Draw pass write followed by picture talk based on student drawings
4. Moving toward Presentational modality and mastery of structures (3 classes)
  • Relaxed write, students write and revise previous writings. Open grammar notes encourage editing skills.
  • More formal writing using specific writing templates and sentence frames (mortar).
  • Creative work that demonstrates proficiency axnd engagement with communicative tasks
  • Completion of unit test, demonstrating comprehension
Notes on terminology:
Bill Van Patten defines  communication as the sharing or negotiation of meaning in a particular context for a purpose that is not primarily linguistic. While the measurable  goal of the unit is the successful reading of a passage of Latin, the communicative tasks that students engage in for acquiring the vocabulary and grammar need to have a communicative goal that is not linguistic  in order to be effective. The teacher’s task is to create a communicative activity which will encourage students to  share information about themselves using the structures that are essential to the reading.
A “Structure” is a unit or chunk of meaning, which includes both vocabulary and grammatical information, but is introduced  with a specific meaning. Examples include:
vident: They see
I go: eo
In order to: ut
The students:   discipuli
Was steering the ship: navem gubernabat.

Follow up Q and A

Anne Stock asked:

John- this is really helpful! Gratias! A couple of questions (I’m just curious- I realize I can do it however I want)  1) do you grade the formative assessments? and 2) do you typically treat vocabulary and structures differently? i.e. do you give principal parts etc for vocab and something like ambulans=walking for a structure? or do you teach vocab and structures together since the goal is to shelter vocab not grammar?

Ultimately, I want people to use the template in whatever way works for them, and within the limitations of school requirements. 1) My approach toward assessment is pretty traditional right now, in that I grade and include all assessments on an overall grade. I weigh quizzes as worth half a test, and in-class completion-only work is weigned at half a quiz. So if you are working with points, then a daily formative assessment (exit slip, group sentences, etc. is worth 5 points. A quick quiz (usually 10 questions, true false. This means that, or simple questions in Latin about a story) is worth 10 points, and a test (usually given every 2-3 weeks, mostly vocab structures and comprehension questions–in English) is 20 points. An idea for my grading breakdown I got from Justin Slocum Bailey, is to have a category called “assignments and assessments,” in which I put everything except final exam and DEA grade. It is 70% of the grade. Then the final is 15% and DEA is 15%. It has worked out pretty well, because I can increase the number of a particular assessment as I go in order to get a representative grade for students, rather than being trapped by my own categories (e.g. say I create a category called “writing” but I only end up giving one or two writing assessments in a grading period, then those assessments have too much bearing on students’ grades). Many of the formative assessments (the 5 pointers) are for completion. In order to make them as efficient to grade as possible, I can collect them on the way out (then I know all students present have turned them in, so I can “enter all” in my gradebook (powerschool), minus those absent). Also, a quick glance over these will tell me if the class as a whole is getting it. If the struggling students are not, then I will know to do more with those structures. If a student is being lazy, then I can give 3 pts instead of 5, or 0 if someone doesn’t do it. Simple accountability. For my demographic, I need something like this every class, in order to keep everyone engaged, and this is an easy way to do it.

2) I am working towards the notion of dealing with only structures. Now, many of those structures are individual words, but they are conjugated or declined in the way that students see-hear them in stories. So if in our story, the boy sees the zombies, and the zombies are walking. The structures would be videt= sees and ambulant= they walk. Quizzes and tests will not penalize students for mixing up the number. A structure might also be: mortuuambulantes videt: he sees the zombies, or per ianuam= through the door. The point behind the use of structures, is that structures are vocab as they appear in context, and language is not meaningful outside of context. If a story has sg and pl instances, then I may include both videt and vident in a quizlet vocabulary game/list. But I let them deduce the relationship and structure of the endings, answering pop-up grammar questions, or explaining it for 5 seconds or less. For ambulans, I would either say ambulans= walking, or even better: puer ambulans= the walking boy. No mention of participle, except as a side whisper to a 4%er. My goal is to shelter structures, which include vocab and grammar. But a structure can contain complex grammar. As long as it is presented lexically (e.g. ad audiendum = for hearing) it is not difficult. I hope this helps

Lance Piantaggini asked:

I feel like I’ve had Bill hammer “interpretation, negotiation, and expression of meaning (in a particular context…),” which also matches ACTFL’s Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational modes. Yet, I noticed that where you put Bill’s definition of communication you went with just “negotiation.” Personally, I support leaving out “expression,” especially for Latin, but what about “interpretation?” Did you intentionally leave it out as part of the definition to satisfy what the dept. is encouraging, like engagement, or are there other reasons?

And: John, could you tell us more about the vocab/structure handout?

My responses:
Echoing what I remember BVP and others talking about on the podcast, I used negotiation as a kind of umbrella term, because it seems to me to include both interpretation and expression, since both are required for negotiation of meaning to happen. This is the same way that interpersonal includes interpretive and presentational, at least to a lesser extent.

Vocab structure handout. This could be as simple as a traditional list of words with definition. My take on this is to present structures and not just isolated vocab words (feminam videt= he sees the woman: per fenestram= through the window), though structures can be single words.

One tool I am trying to use more, but it takes more prep and foresight, is a guided vocab handout which has spaces for structures, definitions, derivatives, sample sentences and pictures. This is what some of my ML and ESL colleagues use, and which I want to emulate in my department, for political as well as pedagogical reasons. Here is a link to my document: