When the “Test” is just more great CI–a best practice

As Department Chair, one of my duties is to observe the members of my department and add my observations to those of administrators who do the same.  (See my document on the Downloadables page on the GA Performance Standards and what they look like in a CI classroom).

I want to share what I just observed one of my Spanish colleagues, Mr. George Brennen, doing in his Spanish 3 class.  It is an extraordinarily good example of technically assessing students on “animals” but in such a way that the testing event itself becomes just the next good example of providing students with tons of comprehensible input that is both broad and deep.  I want to do what he did!

Here’s what he did.  He stood before the class holding three index cards of different colors.  Everything I saw him do was entirely in Spanish.  He asked the students to choose a color. They chose purple.  He then began calling the numbered item, and then describing in great detail the animal–it’s size, colors, where it is found geographically (with descriptions of those geographical regions), the countries it was found in, its relationship to human beings, and other animals, its habitat and behaviors.  Students were literally leaning forward, glued to every word.  I have a degree in Spanish.  My Spanish is very rusty, though I read it and often understand it fairly well.  I understood every word.  All the students had to do was write down the name of the animal.  He was on animal number 12 when I had to leave.

In one assessment (which, BTW, will be super easy to grade) students received tons of understandable messages about animals, colors, sizes, geography, climate, countries, behaviors, habitats and relationships.  This is brilliant!  Technically students took a test on animals.  I am without doubt that these students left with more acquired Spanish today then when they came in.

So, CI teachers of any language:  how can we devise strategies of both teaching with understandable messages and assessments which integrate and pull together all kinds of language material/themes/vocabulary that requires the students largely to listen and comprehend while only writing down a word or two?

This is going to be my own personal challenge for the week.  I have a unit on Roman virtues that I am about to start.  I am now aiming for that day when I can have long, broad and deep discussion with students describing a virtue. They listen and then write down the one word.

Bob Patrick

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Latin Version of Pancho Comancho

Publius Publicanus

This game or brain break originated as Pancho Comancho used in Spanish classrooms.  I have changed the name to something a little more Latiny–Publius Publicanus, Publius The Tax Collector.  

In the original game, five (more or less–I use five) stand across the front of the room holding large cards with nouns and adjectives on it.  The teacher begins by asking one of the students (who, for example is holding the word “puella”):

Teacher:  Johnny, est Publius Publicanus puella?

Johnny: Minime, Publius Publicanus non est puella.  Publius Publicanus est (looking at another player and his/her card) stultus.

Mary:  Minime, Publius Publicanus non est stultus, Publius Publicanus est (looking at another player) frater.

And so on.  The teacher has set a timer for 30 seconds or 1 minute or another period, randomly for each round.  When the timer goes off, the person who is talking must sit down.  This goes on until one is left standing.  If nothing else, it is an effective brain break from any other activity you are doing, but if you use recent new words in the game, it becomes an opportunity to get them repeated over and over, gives students a controlled setting for speaking Latin out loud with minimal stress because it’s fun.

The Virtues Versions

In fourth year Latin, I introduce 15 Roman virtues as part of our discussion of various pieces of literature throughout the year.  I introduce them slowly, but after they have 5 of them, you can begin to use this brain break with them in a few ways.

A.

Virtus ________ Publium Publicanum ennarat?

Minimie.  Virtus ______ Publium Publicanum non ennarat.  Virtus ______ Publium Publicanum ennarat.

(For this version, the virtues are all listed in the nominative singular on the cards).

B.

Estne Publius Publicanus vir virtutis ________?  

Minime.  Publius Publicanus non est vir virtutis _______.  Publius Publicanus est vir virtutis ________.

(for this version, the virtues are listed in the genitive singular on the cards)

C.

Publius Publicanus virtutem _________ demonstrat?

Minime.  Publius Publicanus virtutem _______ non demonstrat.Publius Publicanus virtutem ________ demonstrat.

(For this version, the virtues are listed in the accusative singular on the cards).

The point is not to turn this into a grammar lesson, but because this is upper level Latin, it occurred to me that we could do this more than one way.

Bob Patrick