Establishing meaning in the target language.

One of my struggles as an instructor is taking the time to establish meaning.  Frequently, I find my teacher self wanting to push students into the activities like class created stories or discussions that seem to drive acquisition.  Routines are important in CI work both for students but also for teachers to maintain energy in planning and instruction.  Last year, we played a couple of old favorite vocabulary games a few times.  I added challenges for students to come up with a Latin synonym or antonym and even extended the challenge to a definition in Latin.  I was surprised with how comfortable students were with these challenges.  This year I will include short discussions of synonyms, antonyms and words with connected meanings as a part of establishing meaning.  Here are some examples of words that students used in vocabulary games last year.

placere – to please with amare – to like

quaerere – to seek with velle – to want

ire – to go with ambulare – to walk

fugere – to flee with ex – from

pugnare – to fight with bellum – war

These are a few of many that students connected.  Notice, some are not true synonyms but I was impressed with students’ ability to connect words in ways I didn’t expect.  I was also pleasantly surprised during these games as they became a formative assessment for me to collect data on how students were connecting to certain words.  Here are some activities I plan to implement to support the process for students to connect to new Latin vocabulary.  Some of these activities will not be high leverage acquisition activities.  Goals of building community and student confidence, in my view, are also important to assist lowering the affective filter for students.

Musical Vocabulary Flashcards – One of the many fantastic activities from Martina Bex.  Spread flashcards of a set of words on the floor.  When you choose words to include make sure that there is a connected word in the list or that students have acquired.  Play music in Latin like this playlist from Magistra Arnold on YouTube.  When the music stops, students find a word.  Pick a few and ask them for Latin synonyms or antonyms or even for definitions in Latin of the word they chose.  Another layer is to add a task such as whoever can define the word in Latin correctly in the least amount of words stays in the game.  Continue until all students are out or the activity has grown stale.

Slap board – A typical version of slapboard has a set of vocabulary words written all over a large whiteboard.  The teacher calls out the definition and students use flyswatters or something similar to slap the correct word on the board.  Add a layer by choosing a set of words carefully.  Make sure they have a synonym or antonym that students know well in the target language.  Instead of calling out English definitions, call out Latin words and students must slap the Latin word with the closest meaning.

Vinco or Bingo – Students fill out a bingo board by choosing certain words from a list or vocabulary wall.  Instead of calling out English definitions, call out Latin words and students must find a Latin word similar in meaning on their board.  When students call a vinco or a bingo allow them to defend or prove their choices and discuss the validity.

Team theme list – I know I took this from another site but I can’t seem to find where it originated.  Put together a list or word wall that has a few different groups of words that fit together based on meaning.  Display or give each group the list.  Put students into teams.  I have mostly done 2 teams for a whole class but this can be done in smaller groups.  Hand out a theme to each team.  They are to keep the theme a secret.  Give each group 1-2 minutes to choose all words from the list that fit with the theme you gave them.  Next, another team will guess the words chosen.  Don’t tell them the theme until right before you start the timer.  The team who created list based on the theme earns a point for every word the other team does not guess.  The team that is guessing earns a point for every correct word that they guess.  Reverse roles to complete 1 round.  Play as many rounds as you have the energy to create themes for or until the game becomes stale.  The team with the most points wins.

Word Cloud games – Put a vocabulary list or a full text into a word cloud generator.  (a quick web search will find many free options.)  Put students into pairs, each with a different colored pencil or pen.  Call out simple definitions in Latin and students attempt to circle the correct word first.  There will be conflicts therefore make sure to set up the environment you want to approach the conflicts.  I use these types of games and situations to coach students to work through conflicts with one another.  Therefore they must agree with who was first for us to move on.  Sometimes that is too messy for certain groups, but I prefer for students to self monitor over having a procedure for them to follow when there is a conflict.

What vocabulary games do you play?  Can you make small adjustments to turn games into more meaningful input in the target language?  Please share in the comments and let’s learn from each other.


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