In the Wake of the Midterms

Here I sit, teetering but confident. I am looking forward to seeing what happens to the GOP, how Obama handles the new if not unpredictable situation in how we govern ourselves, and what I’m going to do in class next. In addition, I just finished a two month tutoring run with a young person who takes the final exam tomorrow in a Latin 202 college course. I hope she does well.
On any reasonable test, she would. But talking to Latin teachers can be tricky. Many of them show real interest in teaching for proficiency and for communication, but tradition works against that. Knowledge of paradigms must be given first place of concern.
I read all the time on the listservs how someone has come up with a great way to teach the forms of the past tense or the vocabulary for the kitchen. A whole unit that “introduces” words like potato peeler and cheese grater. Now I learned these words for Russian out of a misguided attempt to learn as many Russian words as I could. My granddaughter was going through My First Thousand Words in Russian, the Richard Scary-type vocab book with lovely pictures and she tried to stump me on Russian words. She could tell if I was right b/c the book had the cyrillic word transliterated so she could read it. I happily buzzed through dozens of words I will never have any use for.
What puzzles me is the way so many fl teachers seem to think the average person wanting to learn a fl has the same bizarre interest in language that we do, the fl teachers. That somehow, memorizing the endings for a tense so as to be able to write them out or select them on a test, will cause the forms to be acquired.
Since when? A student will say, “Yes, we learned about 40 words related to clothing in my German class but I don’t remember them.” The defenders of tradition will say, “Well, of course he doesn’t remember them, he hasn’t been using them.” And my reply is, he never did know them as lexemes of a language b/c he never used the words for anything truly communicative. He may have been able to select their English equivalents on a quiz, but the words never became part of the student’s EXPERIENCE.
In order to instill words in my Latin students, I will start next week to assign roles to them. We will select a Latin name, a place they live in and work in, something they possess, and a few other items. I will discuss “who they are” with them in class as their classmates take notes. We can put a map of the town they all live in (Pompei) on the overhead (OK, docucam….. I’m advancing) with a grid over-lay with the cells of the grid numbers (reticula, cellae, etc. i.e. in Latin – but will “docucamera” work?). Then I call out a number (in Latin) for a cell and they tell me who lives or works there.
I’ll let you know how it goes. This is the beginning of my come-back as a blogger. I’ve neglected this.
One topic would be:
how explain people who voted back into office the very people who caused all this mess in the first place?

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