Friday, December 27, 2013

One Word Picture

One of my favorite CI activities is One Word Picture, because it does not require any real preparation on my part as the teacher, and the burden for this activity is actually on the students. All I have to do is simply ask questions in Latin in order to keep the activity going and to draw what students tell me. Here is the setup: 
  1. Take a vocabulary word and draw it on the board. This works great if you are trying to introduce a new vocabulary word.
  2. Define the word for students in English in order to establish meaning. Hopefully, the meaning of the word is obvious from the picture.
  3. Now tell your students in English, "Now I need you to tell me what to draw/add to this picture, but I will only do it if you tell me in Latin. intelligitisne? ita? tunc incipiamus!"
  4. Begin to ask students simple questions in Latin to elicit responses, and based on what they say, add to the picture. For example, if you are starting with a vir, ask "qualis vir est? ubi est vir? quid vir agit/facit?"
  5. Take comprehension timeouts to ask students in Latin about the new picture which has been drawn, pointing to various parts. Students are the ones who created the picture, so they should have not have a problem answering. Example: in pictura est vir - qualis vir est? (mortuus). estne vir vivus an mortuus? (mortuus). estne vir vivus? (minime)
  6. Whenever things start to slow down in One Word Picture, in order to regain momentum, I will always say "_____ aliquid portat - quid _____ portat?" Once you get a response and add it to the picture, then you can start all over again with questions about this new addition. Example: vir aliquid portat - quid vir portat? (avis). vir avem portat - qualis avis est? quid avis agit/facit? quid avis portat?
  7. Depending on the level of your students, you can start asking "why" questions to come up with a story. This is an intermediate level skill and actually requires a great amount of language production for students, so be careful.
  8. At the end, ask students to describe the entire picture back to you in Latin, as you point to various parts of the drawing. Due to sheer number of repetitions and because it is a visual representation of the word, they should not have a problem telling you about the picture
  9. Depending on your comfort level with CI, what you have drawn based on student input transitions very easily to now telling a TPRS story to the class.
  10. If you think your students are up to it, turn it into a timed-write where students need to write a story about what is happening in the picture.
Why this activity works
  • it is low key and non-threatening. No one is being put on the spot.
  • because students are the ones creating the picture, it is a compelling activity; therefore, they have a degree of ownership. It is okay to say no to certain suggestions if you do not think it is appropriate or if you do not know how to draw it. I had students want me to draw puella obstupefacta est, and although I commend them for having internalized the phrase, that is way beyond my basic drawing ability - what does obstupefacta est look like?
  • it is a simple comprehensible activity, and if you keep restating what you are drawing and asking questions about various parts of the picture, you will get in a TON of repetitions.
  • you are creating an actual picture for students, and students are relying on the visual image instead of words for cues.
  • because you the teacher are doing the drawing, most likely, that in itself is enough to keep students engaged. I myself cannot draw my way out of a paper bag, but I remember Sally Davis saying, "Everyone can draw stick figures," so that it is what I do.
Below is an example of a Word Picture which I did with one of my Latin 2 classes a few weeks ago. It simply started with a picture of a rex;

After 10 minutes of simply asking questions, below is the final picture:

Here is what they came up with in Latin: in pictura est rex. rex caput filiae Metellae consumit. Metella est laetissima, et portat corpus suae filiae. rex pecuniam portat. rex est in taberna. rex ursae cantat. ursa saltat. subito, mortuambulans intrat. mortuambulans est ebrius et vinum portat. taberna est pro Monte Vesuvio. Mons Vesuvius displodit. e Monte Vesuvio venit hippopotamus et infans. dea est in caelo. dea est Isis et volat in caelo.
And I did not have to do anything other than just ask questions and draw.


  1. Keith, that is 31 flavors of AWESOME! Keep it up!

  2. Keith
    This sounds fun!
    I've done something similar by starting with a photograph and the students create a backstory from the photo, but I really like the drawing aspect to add details to the story. I suspect the students are more engaged because they want to see how you are going to draw their suggestions.
    Thanks for the description in the post. I'm going to try this with my students next semester.
    Cynthia H.

  3. I love this idea too, but I would LOVE translations of the Latin bits! Teaching Indonesian but love your ideas

  4. I agree, I love your ideas, but my Spanish doesn't always allow me to understand the Latin. English translations would be great (I'm google translating, in the meantime!)