Thursday, October 27, 2016

Using Optical Illusions to Teach Numbers

My friend Justin Slocum Bailey has a TON of CI resources posted on his Indwelling Language website. Just recently, I have been using many of them in my Latin 1 classes, and quite honestly, I do not know why I waited so long to use them.

For the past few weeks, I have been using Justin's idea of using pictures to generate language. He has a GREAT post here with directions and links to picture websites. I have been using many of these pictures in Latin 1 as warmups in order to give students more input of the language and for students to respond with "output."

Lately, I have been using optical illusion pictures where students have to find "how many of X" are in the picture. This is a GREAT way to get in repetitions of cardinal and ordinal numbers in a MEANINGFUL context. Although I could simply teach students to count to X in Latin (boring), when using a context to teach numbers, it is a lot more personal (and we know the value of personalization in a CI classroom!).

Recently, I used the following picture (note - this picture required me to know the names of animals in Latin):

I simply opened by asking my Latin 1 classes "Quot animalia in pictura sunt?" (You can also ask "Quot animalia in pictura videtis?" to change the language structures). Students will most likely call out numbers in English - I am fine with this, because I will then recast their answers in Latin. If you do this enough, students will start to call out their answers in the target language. Once I figured that students had reached their answers, then I began to explain the picture in Latin and to point out the various animals. Example:

primum animal in pictura est serpens (point to the serpent). Unum animal! secundum animal in pictura est procyon (racoon). Unum animal (point to serpent), duo animalia (point to racoon)! primum animal est serpens, secundum animal est procyon, tertium animal in pictura est testudo (point to turtle). Unum (point to serpent), duo (point to racoon), tria animalia (point to turtle)!...

In using these types of pictures, I was able to get in LOTS of repetitions of cardinal and ordinal numbers simultaneously in a meaningful context. Do I expect them to remember the cardinal and ordinal numbers in Latin immediately after this and to be able to recite them? Not really (although my high-flying students may be able to), but that was never my goal per se - my goal was to deliver understandable messages in the language.

  1. Optical illusions work, because students will be automatically engaged in them. These types of pictures serve as a common activity in which the entire class can be involved.
  2. In many ways with optical illusions, there is no "true" right answer, because what one person sees is not always seen by another and may never be seen by another, even after it is pointed out. Just because I do not see something which a student sees, it does not mean that it is not "there.
  3. "Depending on the picture, one can introduce a number of different vocabulary items in the target langage, such as body parts, animals, shapes, etc. 
P.S. For the record, there are 15 animals in the above picture, 16 if you count the "elephant."

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