The serendipitous finding of ideas

Having come home early to check on my wife, who had just had surgery, I satisfied myself as to her well-being and comfort and settled out on the deck (no, I don’t live on a boat) with my outsize (21×17) pad of paper to sketch out next week’s lessons. I was abuzz with ideas.

I jotted down what had been working well and also my resources. So I felt like I had a pretty good trove of items to draw on as the magic hour of that first class approached on Monday.

The next day I had a store credit burning in my pocket so I went to a used bookstore and lucked on a book I had never seen on a language I have developed a passion for if not proficiency in: Modern Greek. With delight I took it home, checked the home fires, and went out on the deck with it.

I like to look at author information, bibliography, etc., and since this was a textbook, it had a brief set of instructions on how to use the book. Lo and behold, I found several suggestions for activities I liked a lot. Here they are:

On p. x, the author starts off with an extension activity; so if the text is discussing shopping and prices, the teacher can ask students about what they buy in the way of groceries or gas and ask the prices. As the discussion proceeds, the teacher writes the comments on the board, incl. new words necessary to the discussion. When done, the T can direct the students to write up the items on the board in connected discourse if they’re advanced or just write the items down as notes for lower level students (SS).

A coloring activity immediately made me think of where I might find crayons or colored pencils at my school. If we can get them, I can direct the SS to color in items I give them e.g. I have coloring books on Ancient Rome or I can copy line drawings from the textbook (they do this anyway when I had out copies of a page for some special use). I like the extension on this one: have the students tell the T what color various items should be, thus bridging to production.

This coloring activity is good b/c we just learned some colors on Thursday, 4 days ago. One note: the T needs to check that the SS are coloring accurately and for me this is easy b/c I have only 11 – 14 SS in a class. (stop hissing at me)

The book directs the SS to cover captions for pictures and try to recall the word or write a dialogue matching the picture. Similar to that is the ON/OFF activity I learned at AVID, where you put a transparency on the OHP for a moment and then turn it off and have students say/write as many of the items in the picture as they can. Pictures can come from a variety of sources (for you modern language teachers it’s pretty easy but us classics types need Roman stuff – finding culturally authentic pictures to be made into transparencies might be hard but modern internet and printing technology probably solves that problem).

You could flash a dialogue situation and have SS either write the dialogue or, for lower levels, write the key words necessary to conduct a conversation in such a situation e.g. buying a plane ticket.

The next is a dictation. I did one recently where I read the story first with SS only listening and I read it slowly; next I read it at normal speed (how fast DID Romans talk?). At that last reading, they could take notes. Then they got together in small groups to try to reconstruct the reading. NB: some hated it b/c they’ve been trained to produce perfect product and there’s no way they can get all of that down perfectly. Good training for ambiguity and suspension of judgment.

But this dictation is different: the SS take turns dictating a reading, 1 line at a time, to the teacher. As the teacher writes each sentence on the board, he scrambled them. Then the SS have to close their books and recompose/reconstitute the reading from the sentences on the board, i.e. the scrambled sentences.

In this one, the T tells a story, writing it on the board as he goes. The author labels this ’dialogue to prose’. For an advanced class, have the SS dictate the story back to the T to write on the board rather than the T writing it out as he tells it. This seems good for developing accuracy. In either case, the SS write the story in their notebooks.

To give credit, this book is Spoken Greek, 2nd ed. 1992 by Evris Tsakirides, U. of Mich. Press, originally written in 1980; mine is the 1995 printing.

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