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October 2017


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I am all about vocabulary in context.  My preference is to find every occurrence of the word in a passage--but sometimes one is pressed for time, especialy when teaching. I constantly feel a strain between what I think would be truly good teaching, and the reality of dealing with the 50 minute hour.  Yes, I rely too much on flashcards, and often feel guilty for using flashcards.  But I'm not at a point where I can more totally away from flashcards and go total TPRS (with a few new words a day). It doesn't fit with the rest of what I do. I need a compromise, and a good one.

I like it when a good idea comes along, one that helps students internalize vocabulary and energizes the class.  We (world language teachers) had an OWL workshop (see earlier post) on Monday.  A lot of this workshop was about getting students in circles and doing things in energetic ways.  Lots of movement.  And apparently kinesthetic connections to vocabulary create one of the strongest links in the brain. I don't doubt that at all. So I'm totally game for everything we are doing in the workshop.

Now today it's Friday.  I wanted to liven things up.  Latin 2s had a new set of vocabulary (my "A" list for Stage 21 in CLC) and I thought it was time to experiment. I got the students in a circle and handed out one vocab flashcard (mine are large--5"X8") to each student. Here's the vocabulary list in question:

  • ā/ab - by

  • barbarus, -a, -um - barbarian, barbaric

  • circum + acc - around

  • dēiciō, dēicere, dēiēcī, dēiectus - to throw down

  • fōns, fontis (m) - spring, fountain

  • gravis, gravis, grave - heavy, serious, grave

  • haruspex, haruspicis (m) - soothsayer, diviner

  • hōra, -ae (f) - hour

  • iubeō, iubēre, iussī, iussus - to order

  • morbus, morbī (m) - illness

  • nōnnūllī, nōnnūllae, nōnnūlla - some, several (not none!)

  • oppidum, oppidī (n) - town

  • perītus, -a, -um - skillful

  • plūs, plūris (n) - more

  • pretium, pretiī (n) - price, worth, value

  • sapiēns, sapiēns, sapiēns (gen: sapientis) - wise

Each student then had to come up with an action for their vocab item. If they were really stuck, they could ask for help from the group. You would start by saying your Latin word (and holding it in front of you), saying what it meant in English, then doing the gesture. Once the gesture is established, no more English. I started with plūs, and did a gesture as if I were piling up something on my hand. Not brilliant, but it served its purpose. We practiced it together a couple of times, and then went to the next person. Some of the best ones were pretium with a gesture of "raining money" (I think that's what it's called); gravis, physically dropping a little lower with each syllable; and haruspex, with grunting noises as you made imaginary cuts to open up where your liver is and then a "hmmm" (in an examination sort of tone) as you look down at your imaginary liver. (We call the haruspex the "divine liver inspector" instead of just a soothsayer or a diviner.)  For oppidum, we made a peak over our heads with our hands and moved it around with each syllable of the word to symbolize the many houses in a town.

Every time we learned a new word we went back around the circle doing all the previous words.

It was HIGHLY engaging, energetic/kinesthetic, and everyone enjoyed it.

I am doing this every time from now on for the first day of a new list of vocabulary.  I know ideally, certainly in a Comprehensible Input/TPRS classroom one is learning fewer words a day and not using flashcards, but I'm not there yet.  I have to find something that works for me, works for the students, works for my curriculum, etc.

Try it.  It feels great--worthwhile and not gimmicky.

Simon Says

Date: 2015-10-10 12:26 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
What's fun to do, after you've come up with gestures, is play Simonus Dicit with them. So you say "Simonus dicit 'oppidum'" and they have to make the oppidum gesture; if they make the wrong one or if (more commonly) you call a gesture WITHOUT saying "Simonus dicit" they're out and become the judges of the other kids. Fun. I've seen kids make the gestures on tests when trying to remember the words.

--Michelle Ramahlo

RE: Simon Says

Date: 2016-06-14 05:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm reading back through my blog and discovering this. Wow, excellent idea. Will incorporate next year. Thanks!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-10 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Sounds good, Ginny. I'll try it or something like it. I use many actions as well. I generally at least investigate the ASL sign to see if that works and modify or replace it as necessary.