Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Visiting "Sheltering Vocabulary, Not Grammar" Again

Now that I have returned to the classroom, one of my biggest challenges has been to see where knowledge gaps exist in students, i.e., what language did they actually acquire last year during hybrid teaching? And quite honestly, I have come to this conclusion: it is a futile attempt in many ways to do this. Several students have been very honest in telling me that they cheated on the majority of their work last year in all of their classes, because quite simply, they could. And my response to them has been, "And yep, we teachers knew that students would cheat when we assigned work. But based on the situation in which we were, there was not much which we could do about it."

So instead of trying to pinpoint specific knowledge gaps (which could take forever to find), I am really focusing on sheltering vocabulary, not grammar these first few months. Here is what I am doing:
  1. I know that there are specific vocabulary and language structures which were covered last year, but I am going to assume that students never acquired them. For me, at least that levels the playing field for everyone, and I am not projecting wrong assumptions onto students.
  2. In terms of vocabulary from last year, I am focusing on specific words which I know are important and then "chucking" the rest (see Carrie Toth's Vocabulary Chuck-It Bucket).
  3. I am slowly beginning to introduce specific vocabulary words which I know students will need for this semester.
  4. Using this limited set of vocabulary, I have created readings where I am using them in LOTS of language structures which we "covered" last year. As a result, there will be TONS of repetition of vocabulary in different grammatical forms, of which there will lot of repetition there too.
Example - Latin 3 reading:

Target words
milites, vocabatur, ostendere, fortior quam, celerior quam, nemo, cum, semper, odi, exercitus, iubebat ut, vehere, in castris, hostis, appropinquare, dux, ad defendam

Part 1

Olim erant duo milites. Primus miles Pullo vocabatur et semper fortitudinem ostendebat. Pullo erat fortior quam elephantus. Pullo semper exclamabat, “Nemo est fortior miles quam ego!”

Secundus miles Vorenus vocabatur et semper celeritatem ostendebat. Vorenus erat celerior quam equus. Vorenus semper exclamabat, “Nemo est celerior miles quam ego!”

Pullo et Vorenus erant non amici. Cum Vorenus vidisset Pullonem ostendentem fortitudinem, semper dixit, “Pullonem odi!” Cum Pullo vidisset Vorenum ostendentem celeritatem, semper dixit, “Vorenum odi!” 

Part 2

Pullo et Vorenus erant milites in exercitu Romano. Exercitus Romanus erat in Gallia, quod Gallia erat provincia Romana. Exercitus Romanus erat in Gallia ad defendam provinciam. 

Dux Modestus vocabatur. Quod Modestus erat dux, iubebat Pullonem et Vorenum ut aquam in castris vehant. Quod Pullo erat fortior quam elephantus, vehebat plus (more) aquae quam Vorenus. Cum Pullo vidisset Vorenum vehentem minus (less) aquae, exclamavit, “Cur tu es miles in exercitu Romano? Tu es non fortior quam puer! Non difficile est mihi vehere multam aquam in castris, quod nemo est fortior miles quam ego!” Cum Vorenus audivisset Pullonem exclamantem verba (words), dixit, “Pullonem odi, quod semper fortitudinem ostendit!”  

Subito, hostis appropinquabat! Cum Modestus vidisset hostem appropinquantem, iubebat Pullonem et Vorenum ut vehant arma ad milites in castris ad defendam Galliam. Quod Vorenus erat celerior quam equus, vehebat arma ad milites celerius quam Pullo. Cum Vorenus vidisset Pullonem lente (slowly) vehentem arma, exclamavit, “Cur tu es miles in exercitu Romano? Tu es non celerior quam testudo (turtle)!! Non difficile est mihi vehere arma ad milites, quod nemo est celerior miles quam ego!” Cum Pullo audivisset Vorenum exclamantem verba (words), dixit, “Vorenum odi, quod semper celeritatem ostendit!” 

Cum dux Modestus audivisset Pullonem et Vorenum exclamantes, dixit, “Pullonem et Vorenum odi, quod semper hi (these) duo milites sunt molesti (annoying). Nemo est molestior miles in castris quam Pullo et Vorenus!” 


  1. Some may scoff and say that the reading is maybe too easy and overly repetitive for beginning Latin 3 students, but considering last year, I really have no idea what/if students acquired any language during hybrid teaching. It is completely wrong for me to assume that they did or to place the blame on them if they did not.
  2. Students found the reading to be very engaging and want to know more!
  3. In many ways, part 2 is an "embedded reading" of part 1 (although the plot is moving forward), since so many of the same sentences are repeated verbatim. That is intentional - this way I could get in more repetitions of language in a new context. Having those repetitions of exact sentences from part 1 actually helped students feel successful when reading part 2 (and repeat them again for those who may have struggled when reading part 1 the first time).
  4. Because I had limited vocabulary, I was able to use circling, processing questions, and PQAs as a way to get in lots of oral/aural repetitions of the words in many different ways which did not seem repetitive.
  5. Because I had limited vocabulary but not grammar in the readings, I was able to get in a lot of different language structures and throw in pop-up grammar timeouts. Because so many of my students were digital last year and since I do not know what language they acquired, I have made many of my students be the grammar experts for particular language structures. Every time I want to ask about a particular structure, I call on that student to tell me about it. 

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