Thursday, December 15, 2016

Getting teenagers interested in conjugation

Yesterday I was absent and the sub was-- well. I was absent. Anyway, so my Latin 3 class were apparently all on their phones. The principal walked into the room. One of my students whipped her phone away, and began loudly singing, PORTO, PORTAS, PORTAT and the entire class sung along, through all four conjugations, in sync. Although I don't know if he fell for it as them NOT being on their phones, I bet it was funny to witness. They do, for the record, know what they're saying, too- it's not just rote. Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes (a lot actually) I break the rules and do non-CI stuff. This technique for dealing with verb endings is one of my favorite things, and I strongly recommend it so long as you're willing to put away that pesky dignity and have fun with your kids.

Actually acquiring endings enough to use them for output is probably one of the hardest things we try to achieve through CI. CI-wise, I make an effort to use the other forms and clarify who the subject is by pointing at myself, at "you", at "y'all" etc. I'll still point at "portat - carries" (or better portare - to carry") on the board even as I say porto and point to myself, and the meaning gets through. TBQH, the kids don't really "hear" the endings for the most part anyway, especially -t vs -nt, so doing this doesn't confuse them. If you're having trouble fitting non-third person singular entries into your CI, it helps to make sure your stories, whether written or acted out,  have dialogue. Circling by subbing in multiple subjects also helps for plurals. Once they've heard the other endings some, I also use them in written stories and usually gloss them.

Then when they've heard the different endings a lot, I take a page out of my non-CI background and I teach them the present tense active indicative charts for all four conjugations. nefas! 

Now, calm down. I don't give chart quizzes (although I've done it before and I'm not against it really as a just for fun, make up until you get it perfect type grade), and I don't say "and this is first person present active indicative of the third conjugation, characterized by the null vowel sound which results in..." [I'm too lazy to find a picture of Ben Stein but imagine him doing his thing here]

What I do is I teach them a song, and we sing it and practice it with hand motions, and they (mostly) LOVE it. I do it partly because they love it. The other reason I do it is because now they have the endings in their brains for reference if they're confused, and they recognize that amo and amatis are "the same word" even though they look different. This is not CI. Charts in themselves are incomprehensible. It is, however, engaging, brain-sticky, and many students find it helpful and fun. The tune is the Mexican Hat Dance and the "words" are: