Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This Day in History

This is a warm up activity which I learned from Justin Slocum Bailey. If you have never attended one of Justin's sessions at a conference, then you need to! I always learn so much from him, as he expands the way in which language can be used in the classroom. Justin and I have roomed together numerous times at conferences, so we both know each other's quirks.

The premise is quite simple: for a particular day (preferably the day on which you will do this), from among three choices, ask students to pick the event which they think happened on that day. I have found this activity to be a good example of Krashen's Forgetting Hypothesis, where due to the compelling nature of the message in the target language, students "forget" about the language per se, because the message itself is so compelling.

  1. Find an event in history which happened on the day which you plan to use this activity. I use the following websites: On This Day, Thought Co - Inventions, National Day Calendar.
  2. Find two other "false" events ("false" as in not having happened on that day) as distractors. 
  3. Create a slide presentation with choices A, B, and C, and write the three choices in the target language. Add pictures related to your choices.
As a warm up, project the slide presentation, and ask students which historical event they think happened on that day. Here is what I say in Latin every time which I do this:

Latin script
Discipuli, quid hōc die in historiā accīdit? Hodie est (ordinal number) dies mensis (month), ergo, quid hōc die in historiā accīdit? Discipuli, quid putatis? Littera A (read letter A choice)? Littera B (read letter B choice)? an littera C (read letter C choice). Quid putatis? (Get students to call out the letter). Ah, audio litteram _____ saepius quam audio litteram ____ an _____. Videamus.

English script
Class, what happened on this day in history? Today is the (ordinal number) day in the month of ____________. Therefore, what happened on this day in history? Class, what do you think? Letter A (read letter A choice)? Letter B (read letter B choice)? or letter C (read letter C choice)? What do you think? Ah, I am hearing letter ____ more often than I am hearing letter ____ or _____. Let us see.

Example for September 28 - press on slide presentation to see answers.

  1. In order to preserve the novelty of the warm up, I only do this 2-3 times a week.
  2. The first couple times when I did this, students were not very receptive due to it being new. Now as I do it more often, I have found students to be quite engaged. A few students have said to me, "Gosh, I wish we did this in my social studies class."
  3. This warm up gives me a way to give the date in Latin in a NATURAL CONTEXT, since it is part of an activity, as opposed to announcing it at the beginning of class outside of a context.
  4. I have chosen to give the date in a modern Latin context and not in a Roman context (Kalends, Nones, Ides, etc.), because quite honestly, I myself cannot keep track of how the Romans did their calendar dates. Since I want to treat Latin as a modern language, I have chosen to use the modern way for dates.
  5. When picking historical events (both true and false), it is important that these events be compelling for STUDENTS! What I find compelling as a historical event is NOT what students find compelling. I suppose that I could do "what happened on this day in Roman history?" which I would find interesting, but would the majority of my Latin students?
  6. Although this was not my intention, I am getting in LOTS of subconscious repetitions of phrases like "was born," "was discovered/found," "was invented," and "made its debut" in a natural way (even though I have never formally taught these phrases), since these phrases come up a lot in this warm up. In addition, because I say the same thing every time as part of the script, students are starting to be able to say it with me now.

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