Difficult versus easy: A simple add on to continue the flow of input.

We recently returned to school after a 10 day Spring break.  I always find this the hardest Break from which to restart classes.  Central Iowa tends to warm up over Spring break and it is a taste of summer break.  And in our school we quickly start the haste filled final steps toward AP testing week.  AP testing happens over 2 weeks and there are numerous students absent, especially from the upper level classes.  Add to that numerous initiatives at our school and it is imperative for me to stay in the moment as much as possible.

Often Justin Slocum Baily at http://www.indwellinglanguage.com hs the perfect no prep activities that help me stay in the moment with my students.  Based on his post about a word association activity I jump started the week with students by giving them a chance to connect with recent Latin words.  I filled in his template with recent Latin words and some Latin words that might connect to students’ Spring breaks.  Warmth, travel, rest, watching, were some of the Spring break kind of words we explored.

Students viewed words and connected words that made them feel positive.  I walked around the room and pointed out themes that I saw coming from their webs of words.  One theme that popped up often is that students like breaks from school.  I then took that idea and asked some questions of the class to discuss.  Is it difficult or easy to:

  • go to school after Spring break
  • sleep after Spring break

Or is it more difficult to:

  • go to school after Spring break or Winter break
  • sleep after Spring Break or Winter break

For each question I ask students follow up questions in Latin.  Why is it difficult to go to school after Spring Break?  What did you do over Spring Break?  We continued the discussion as long as students continued to offer information.  During the discussion, I recorded the number of students who thought it was difficult to return from Spring break, etc.  This process of discussion, then recording the data, and then reviewing the data lasted for 25-30 minutes of our 44 minute class period.

During our conversation two students were busy helping me set up the beginning of the next period’s lesson.  One student holds our classroom job of scriptor.  She writes down everything that is said in our Latin discussion.  The 2nd student holds our classroom job of examinator.  She creates a simple comprehension quiz over the content of our discussion.  As I reflected on the conversation I had many options for the next day.  Because of the low energy after break I decided to type the data in a Latin passage with a chart with Latin questions for the students to demonstrate the can navigate the Latin numbers found within the written Latin passage.  We read the passage as review and then students completed the numbers task and responded with their own ideas about the data in short Latin sentences.

The discussion was compelling to students and most offered comments about their thoughts and preferences.  The assessment built students confidence while the read familiar Latin based on themselves.  The best part is that this idea of discussion what is difficult or easy can be applied to many topics.  Also, there are many options for follow up the next day after the discussion.  Some options to use the data for the next class period are:

  • Ask a story using the ideas or a student from the discussion as a base.
  • Type the data into a passage
    • play a review game like 4 corners with the passage.
    • turn the sentences into a dictation activity
    • write a silly story about the class based on the data, read and discuss
    • turn the passage into a reading comprehension assessment – Use the examinator’s work if you have such a student job in your class.
  • Find pictures that represent the common ideas of the class and complete a picture talk.
    • This could create a whole new set of ideas to type up for another day.
    • Have students use the data from the previous day to describe the pictures in Latin

What sticks with me as I reflect is how simple the idea of difficult or easy can be added to many different topics.  And it takes the pressure off of me for finding something compelling.  Students sharing ideas about things happening in their lives creates the compelling input much better than I can when I try to create things for them.  Where can you add a is it difficult or easy discussion in what you are doing today?


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