Tuesday, February 16, 2016

One Word at a Time (OWAT)

This activity was developed by my friend and fellow Latin CI user Bob Patrick, and it has now become one of my go-to activities for starting a new "chapter" because it allows me to introduce 8-10 new vocabulary words/structures in a fun, engaging way.


  1. Pick 8-10 new vocabulary words which you wish to introduce. A mix of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs is good.
  2. Write one vocabuary word and its English meaning on an index card. Repeat until all words are done.
  3. Organize class into groups of 3-4 students.
  4. Each group needs to have a sheet of paper, a writing utensil, and a student who will serve as recorder.
  5. Give each group a card.
  6. Inform students that they will be writing a short story in Latin as a group.
  7. As a group, the students are to create a sentence in Latin which uses the word on the card. They are to underline their word in the story when they use it.
  8. When the group is done, they call you the teacher over to check the "grammar" of the sentence. If something needs correcting, then tell them.
  9.  When the group is done with the word, they are now to switch with another group who is done. Sometimes, I have more words than groups, so I put the extra cards on a desk so students can go up to the desk and exchange words there.
  10. The group then writes a new sentence as part of a story which now incorporates the new word. The group calls you over to check the grammar and to make any corrections. Once that is done, the group finds a new word and repeats the process.
  11. Once most groups have used 3/4 of the words (if not all of them), tell the groups that they have a few more minutes to come up with an ending to their story. For this part, they will not call you over.
  12. Collect the cards and stories
  13. You as the teacher type up their stories (they may require grammar editing), and read them as a class on the next day.
  1. This is a fun activity, because since students do not know which new words they will be getting, the stories suddenly become very random, which makes them all the more fun to read.
  2. Students really want their group's stories to be read.
  3. This is a great way to do pop-up grammar when students ask you to look over their sentences.
  4. Because each story has specific targeted vocabulary in it, students enjoy seeing how different groups use those words, so there is a degree of anticipation and of vested interest.
  5. Because each story has specific targeted vocabulary which students had to use, and because you review each story with them as a group, students acquire those 8-10 words VERY quickly.
Here are some other writeups about OWAT

Example of OWAT w/ Latin 1

Targeted Words
1) sollicitus 
2) invenit
3) femina
4) bonus
5) frater
6) fortis
7) semper
8) parvus 
9) conspicit
10) gladius

Ariel est nympha marina (mermaid). Yoda Arielem conspicit. Yoda est parvus. Ariel fratrem emere vult. Yoda est sollicitus et perterritus, quod Ariel Yodam emit. Ariel est tristis, quod Yoda non est bonus frater. Ariel fortem fratrem vult. Ariel fortem fratrem videt sed eheu! frater est femina! quod frater est femina, Ariel est irata, et gladio (with a sword) feminam necat (kills). nunc Ariel est semper irata. Ariel fratrem non vult, sed pecuniam vult. Ariel Publix invenit, et Yodam vendit. Ariel pecuniam habet. subito Flavia apparet! Flavia Yodam emit, sed Flavia displodit. edepol!


  1. How do you read the stories the next day? Do you just read them line by line while projecting or as a handout?

    1. I type them up and project them for the class to read. I have found that students are pretty engaged in wanting to read what others wrote and especially in wanting the class to read theirs. By the 3rd or 4th story, I have found that students have picked up the new vocabulary words purely from the OWAT activity and from reading the other stories as a class.

    2. Do post the whole paragraph at once or something like a PPT sentence by sentence (one on a slide)?

  2. Keith, I've done this activity with my Latin I students and they loved it! However, I do have a question. How do you deal with students wanting to use grammar that is way over their heads? The most common one I've seen that they want to do is purpose clauses. Have you encountered this? How did you deal with it? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comment - there are two things which I do: at the very beginning, I tell students to use what they know - if they want to use a purpose clause, I would tell them to use quod instead. But that also tells me that students want to use purpose clauses so that becomes something which I would teach in my next lesson, even in Latin 1. Tradition and textbooks are the ones who dictate that subjunctives are Latin 2 and upper level topics; even little children use subjunctives without knowing what they are.