Sunday, March 10, 2019

Scene Charades

Warning: some prep (though not a huge amount) involved.

I love charades. It's great for discrete vocab rehearsal, it's funny, and it gets people involved.

But it's really only good for discrete vocab rehearsal. Sometimes you get to a point, especially at the upper levels, where vocab is great, but sometimes it's odd, or you've got it in a chunk and you'd like kids to be able to use it outside that chunk. So try this:

Write one or two sentence scenes that are funny, divorced from the text you're having the kids read, and involve the vocabulary you want them to practice.

[Here were some of mine:
Scaena: femina diem nubendi petit, sed vir territus est. (a woman is looking for a wedding day, but the man is terrified)

Scaena: Vir it cibum petitum, sed subito homine pulchro obstiupit. E rupe cadit. (a man goes looking for food, but he is suddenly stupefied by a beautiful person. he falls off a cliff.)

Scaena: Puero ire ad scholas non licet nisi scutum suum inveniat. (a boy is not allowed to go to school unless he finds his shield.)

Scaena: Femina rem magni ponderis tollere conatur, sed braccia ei desunt. (a woman tries to lift a heavy thing, but her arms are missing.)

I'm rehearsing the vocab I bolded for you (which isn't bolded on the work I gave the kids), and I'm also getting in repetitions of certain grammatical structures I want them to hear more of (e.g. diem nubendi, nisi inveniat, it petitum).]

Cut the scenes you've typed up into strips and put them in a bowl/hat/cauldron/whatever.

Put your class in groups of three or four (I find more than four is just too many, and pairs isn't going to be enough for this activity). Instead of calling a single person up for this charades game, you're going to call the whole group. They'll draw one of the scenes out of the bowl/hat/cauldron/whatever. I gave them eleven seconds to figure out how they were going to act out the scene. They were allowed to make noise but not say words.

While they were doing the scene (which they had to do three times), the rest of the groups were busily conversing, trying to decide what the scene was. They knew they got
-1 point for describing the scene correctly
-2 points for using recent vocab
-3 points for hitting on the vocab I was targeting
-4 points for making me happy in some way with their descriptions (I like rewarding them for things I maybe couldn't have predicted they'd do)

After the third iteration of the scene, each group got to describe what they felt the scene was. Points are awarded after all descriptions have been said.

Then I read the actual scene to them, and we circled and asked some questions and made sure everyone understood.

Notate bene:
-I called on a different speaker from each group to tell me their group's description each round. That way, it wasn't always "Oh Grace does better than all of us," and it ensured that each of them had to be invested in the discussion.

Some scaffolds:
-you could have them write down their descriptions and read them out instead of discussing them
-you could choose not to put them in groups but have each kid write a description, and then call up 3-4 individual kids for each acting scene.
-you could give every group all the scenes typed out, and their job will be to find the correct one instead of devising a descriptions

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Self-Identification, Practicing Phrases, and Discretion

My ones are learning about family. In the course of learning about family every year, I sit down and have a conversation with my kiddos. In it, I tell them that we're going to be discussing things like parents and siblings and familial relationships, and that they get to define their families however they want to. If they have people in their lives they aren't blood-related to but they think of as family, that's a-ok by me. If they have a sister but don't like her, and they don't want to disclose that they have that sister, fine by me. They can disclose or not disclose whatever they want, include or exclude whatever is meaningful to them. I think that's a really important conversation to have, since

(a) it emphasizes the value of their autonomy,
(b) reminds them that we see/respect them as people before anything else and
(c) asks them to be respectful of everyone else in the room and their autonomy as well. Also,
(d) it doesn't call anyone out. When I was in high school, my feelings about my family were very complicated, and there are things I wouldn't have wanted to answer. When we give them power to make that call on their own and don't put them in a position to have to say things they don't want to talk about, we emphasize that that's something we value.

On which note...

Here's an activity I love.

I really want a lot of reps of potius quam, malo, conor, soleo, debeo and possum with my ones at the moment.

So I wrote on the board ______________ potius quam _____________ malo.

I indicated myself and said, coquere potius quam currere malo. Any kids who feel the same way were supposed to stand. You then have options: acknowledge that there are a lot/a few, call on a couple and ask some questions (what do you like to cook? have you ever tried running?), or just acknowledge it and have them sit.

I made a few similar statements. i prefer to eat breakfast rather than lunch. Etc. Then I started calling on kids, and they'd make statements. Wearing Vans vs Jordans. Petting cats vs petting dogs.

Then I changed the phrase: ______________ conor, sed non bene possum. 

Cantare, I said, conor, sed non bene possum. (they made me demonstrate, and then they agreed.) Some stood, some didn't, we discussed. Then they made statements about themselves (voluntarily), and those who identified with those statements stood.

This is a great icebreaker, warm-up, bell-ringer, end of class and I have ten minutes kind of activity. You can do it to introduce something, to get reps of an idea, etc. And because kids really like to talk about themselves, it doesn't get boring. Change up your statements and keep them novel, and it gets everybody involved. This is good material for a quick quiz at the end of class if you spend time really using this to do PQA. This is also great fodder for PQA (either in the moment or later).

And there are endless things you could ask them to talk about. Just today:

______________ possum, sed me non delectat.
_______________ potius quam ____________ malo.
_____________ habere volo, sed non habeo.
______________ conor, sed non bene possum.
______________ debeo, sed non soleo.
______________ mihi est.

The Blessing of Useless Competition

This is something the great Justin Slocum Bailey taught me:

if kids can compete, and if it can be hilarious, that's a beautiful classroom tool.

I think about that approximately every other week.

How long can kids balance coins on their nose? Great question. No idea, but I can reinforce quamdiu that way.

Right now, we're talking about athletes and actors and other forms of entertainment, and I'm beginning to realize how much longer it takes to smush indirect speech into their brains than approximately everything else. So I'm using it a lot.

Check out my Latin II classes this week, which have been seventy minutes long (usually they're 52), and I keep looking at the clock and realizing the bell is going to ring in ten seconds, and I'm still on my warm-up (because they've dived into it, and it's beautiful).

1. Any super-well-known (notissimi) athletes in this room? Whom do you think is the best athlete in the room? Ask fifteen people that question, and they get fifteen repeats of quem athletam optimum in hoc conclavi esse censes?. They also, since I've written ___________m athletam optimum in hoc conclavi esse censeo on the board, get to say it without panicking about how it's said 15 times.

2. Narrow it down to two or three kids. Make them do ridiculous stuff. How long do you think Ian can stand on one foot? What's the heaviest thing you think Tyler can lift? We're blessed to have a pull-up bar on the field right outside my classroom, so you'd better believe the question "quotiens Latrellem se tollere posse censes?" came up. You'd better believe we trooped outside to see exactly how many times Latrell could do a pullup. (the answer is twenty. class went nuts. latrell --> very proud of himself. also mildly sore.) I can ask that question about twenty-five times. I can also ask it right before the pull-up bar. Who thinks Latrell can do four pull-ups? Three? Seven? Not even one?

That was yesterday.


Today: We're going to talk about actors. The class knows who its good actors are, because those are the kids who often volunteer to do it, and whom the class wants to see do it.

So we talk for a while about who we think the best actors are. (this question - the "who do you think is the best/strongest/whateverest XYZ - almost never gets old. i can ask the same style of question for days, and they don't care. my first period argued FOR AN HOUR about who the best actor in the history of the world is, and my first period cares about nothing. For what it's worth, they don't think it's Liam Hemsworth, but they have real feelings regarding Kevin Hart.)

I eventually settled on three actors, told the class we were going to do five scenes. (target vocab: scaenam agere; eadem) All the actors would do the same five scenes (in which I can also use target vocab like histrio, discedere, carcer). Imitate a hungry lion (personam suscipere). Imitate a person trying to get out of jail. Take on the role of a person thrown down by hope.

Increasingly, the kids' scenes are hysterical. The students love watching this, the actors get attention, and you get endless repetitions of whatever you want. I NEVER end this competition by deciding who wins, because you end up with potentially hurt feelings there. But you can ask questions like, "who do you think is the best lion," because that isn't an overall question. Or "who do you think is a dramatic actor/tragic actor/comic actor." Target vocab, target structures, repetition, no hurt feelings. We applaud everybody, the actors are heroes, and I have no idea where seventy minutes have gone, but man there's been a lot of really good input in the last seventy minutes. And that input has real emotional ties, and it's stuff the kids aren't going to forget.

As an aside...I made the terrible mistake of giving them the instruction personam mei suscipere. The children...they know me well. And heck if they didn't pretend, down to verbatim the Latin things I tell them every day, to be me. Turns out repetition works?

A word of warning on some of these: read your room. You want to make sure you set up competition that is entirely friendly and completely useless. If it's going to result in hurt feelings, kids being on the spot, or judginess, this is NOT the way to go. Sam can move an Oreo down his face like nobody's business. That is a good, solid, useless competition.

Story Mapping and Comprehension

Story- and character-mapping are techniques I use a lot with my students. We've done it to track how a Roman play works and what characters have to do with each other, and we've used it to keep track of the movements in a particularly confusing text, and we've used it to create a visual for how an epic flows.

Most recently, we've mapped the entirety of Jason and the Argonauts to think about the impact each character has on the journey.

Generally when I have them do this, my requirements are:

1. Put a bubble on your page for each character you're including.
2. Write a short summary of what that character is (for jason, for example, you might write heros, filius alcimedes, lanam auream eripere voluit). In lower level classes, this can be short phrases or even things lifted directly from the text. In upper level classes, it can, too! Or you can ask them to write something of their own devising.
3. Connect that circle by lines to any other character to whom they relate (for jason, that's a lot of lines. in a play, for example, the leno will have many fewer lines connecting him to many fewer people).
4. On the line, write how these characters interact/what their relationship is.

For Jason, I also asked them to include why that relationship was important. For example, Jason and gang wouldn't have gotten through the Symplegades without Phineus. That's an important bit to include on the line.

Other types of story maps:
-murals
-plot points
-when events lead to other complicated events
-detailing movement in a story that has a lot of it (think Cambridge stage 12)

I have fifty of these in my classroom, on account of all of my twos have done this for Jason, and they did it in pairs. These are great tools! For creating, for reference, and eventually for what we did this week: writing. I spread all fifty-someodd of them down the hallway and gave my kids their journals. They've been reading about Jason for a Long Time (tm) now, and so they had an hour. They could look at any story map they wanted to from any class period, move around however they wanted. And they wrote the story of Jason and the Argonauts, organized in any way that made sense to their brains, for an hour.

Every one of them.

It's not a bad assessment, either, and not a high-output one for those of you who are working with texts and TCI and trying to figure out how to assess in a way that's not rote memorization and also isn't high-output.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Practicing indirect statement

Indirect statements can be tough for the kids to get a hang of - it requires verb shifts and an interesting understanding of time relativity. We know, though, that comprehensible, compelling repetition is what helps us acquire language, so with that in mind, here are some ways we've practiced indirect speech:

1. I put a silly sentence on the board. Students are in groups. We circle the sentence and make sure students understand what is going on. I give them a subject and a head verb (like "Paulus memoria tenuit), and their job is to turn the whole thing into an indirect statement (e.g. "Paulus Claram infantes quaerere memoria tenuit"). When the group feels they've got it, a runner goes to the center of the room, where I have put a bell, to ding the bell. The whole class stops talking and listens. The student gives us their sentence. If they're right, we applaud, I ask some questions, sometimes we act it out, and we move on to the next sentence.

2. The class is divided into five groups. Each group has as many small white boards as the number of people in their group...plus one. On the extra white board...
-group one makes a list of accusative nouns.
-group two makes a list of infinitives.
-group three makes another list of accusative nouns.
-group four makes a list of ablative nouns.
-group five makes a list of things you can do with your brain.

I ask a student who is going to be in this sentence, and they typically offer me something entertaining (Magnus Pater, Iohannes Cena, etc). Then I consult each group in turn for a word of their variety. Eventually we end up with what's basically a constructed madlib that looks like this...

Magnus Pater regem devoravisse carcerem oculis censuit. 

We make sure everyone understands the sentence, and then each person on their own board draws the sentence. We show our boards, and I take individual boards and show them. One of the things I like to do with this is point at the parts of the picture and have the kids tell me what part of the sentence that is, such that we end up reconstructing the sentence together.

Rinse and repeat.

I've also done this with lines out of poetry and just removed certain forms, such that the line of poetry basically becomes a mad lib.

3. The kids get a sentence form, like: ______________ (aliquis) ____________________ (aliquid) proposuit, sed __________________ (aliquis) ___________________ (aliquid) sprevit.

This sentence form is under a picture. Groups work together to fill in the blanks to describe what's going on in the picture. (the link goes to a powerpoint i recently used for this.)

Addition: I sometimes give a quiz that goes along with this, while we're doing this. After we've done each picture, I ask one or two questions about what has been established to have happened in that picture.

Three Things You Can Do With A Bell

I have a small metal bell. It was given to me my first year of teaching by our then-county foreign language coordinator, and it's one of my favorite classroom tools. Here are some things you can do with a bell:

1. Put students in pairs. Each student has a different job (ex: one signs and one says what the other is signing; one reads and one translates; one describes and one draws; one reads a text with errors in and the other points out the lies). Ding your bell. Students switch seats and switch jobs.

2. Speed dating. Students talk to each other on a topic, and when the bell rings, they find a new partner.

3. Bell races. Students are in groups around the perimeter of the room, and the bell is in the center. The groups are asked to consider something together, and when the group has an answer, a runner is sent to ding the bell, at which point everyone else in the room quiets down and listens to that person.
An example of that one can be found here.