Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Guest Post: Pictura an Statua?

K.C. Kless is a CI-focused Latin teacher who is a fantastic innovator of classroom practices both technological and traditional. I asked him to write a post to share any of the activities he told me about at last summer's ACL Institute (one of the best parts is meeting teachers from all over the nation and just talking and sharing ideas).

First, let me say a hearty thank you to Rachel and Miriam for hosting my first blog post. I am very grateful for the community of CI teachers who blog, providing fresh activities, great insights & twists, and an incredible place to reflect & refresh.

Second, I do have a few other posts in the works - maybe so many that guest-posting would be a bit cumbersome. Hopefully, I will have my own blog in the new year. To get the news first, follow me on Twitter @klessk.

Okay, now onto the activity - "Pictura an Statua?" In this activity, students in partners, trios, or groups of four work together to earn points with the teacher as the judge of their artwork. However, the competition should be light-hearted and the judge should be generous because the real fun is in the interpretation.

For each sentence you will read, a single student decides whether the teams draw the sentence on hand-held whiteboards or whether they 'statue' the sentence, i.e., become living sculptures and freeze. When I invented this game, the Mannequin Challenge did not yet exist, but if your students are familiar with that, it adds a little something too.

  1. This game does really need individual student whiteboards. If you don't have those, I heartily recommend them for the myriad of activities they will allow you to do. Stop reading this blog post and get some whiteboards. Advice for how to do that here.
  2. Write / choose / create / find a story with sentences that can easily lend themselves to be drawn or acted out.
  3. Decide what kind of order you will use in reading the sentences to the students.
    1. If it is a known text, you can get away with going out of story order.
    2. If they are reading something for the first time, best to stick with story order. Also be prepared to allow students to clarify meaning of new words if you choose this path.
  4. Type up the sentences so you can easily show them one at a time (like in a slideshow).
  5. Think ahead about what each sentence will look like when students create it as a drawing or a 'statue.' Note how many 'statues' a sentence might need, or how many different objects or characters would be in a drawing. Then design your groups to ensure student success. Let me give you a couple examples.
    1. Puella videt lunam in caelo.
      1. In your mind, you might picture this:
      2. You can imagine a student drawing similar to that, but stick figure-y and without much detail.
      3. You can also imagine a student taking the role of 'puella' and a student taking the role of 'lunam'.
      4. So this sentence works best with 2-person groups.
    2. Puella videt lunam, stellās in caelō, et ursum.
      1. You can imagine a student drawing this, but there are at least four things to draw.
      2. Imagining the 'statue' means at least 3 roles (if moon & stars are combined somehow), but probably 4 roles (puella, lunam, stellas, ursum).
      3. This sentence won't work with 2-person groups. You will probably need groups of 4.

So preview the story you're working with and design the game accordingly. There are ways to change the numbers in the groups during the game, but doing so can be difficult the first time students play.

  • Get the students into their groups with their whiteboard materials (board, marker, eraser).
  • Ensure groups can see your presentation and are spread out around the room so that they can 'statue' effectively.
  • Read the first sentence with the students in Latin.
    • Do your normal classroom procedure for clarifying meaning and confirming that students understand before you move on. In my class, that means students signal for 'time-outs' to ask 'Quid significat?' questions. When they understand and want to move on, they use a thumbs-up or the ASL sign for 'all done'.
  • Choose a student at random (popsicle sticks, index cards, etc.) Ask that student 'Pictura an Statua?'
  • When the student chooses, announce their choice enthusiastically and start a timer for 30 seconds. It is very important that the students feel timed. You can use a timer on a computer (although I keep the sentence up for them to reference), a sand timer, or just count in your head / on your hands.
  • Once the time is out, I call ‘sistite! facite statuas!’ or ‘sistite! demonstrate picturas!’ Students freeze into statue positions or hold up their boards. Silence and good listening is now expected. Students may try to explain themselves in Latin, that’s usually okay if it is quick. I take points away for English after the timer goes off.
  • Then comes the time for even more comprehensible input - I go around the room and award points based on the students’ efforts to include all the words from the sentence, or sometimes just silly points for fun. Advice - be very generous with the points. Also, this should provide plenty of chances to repeat those target words. For the example above, I would award points for:
    • Puella
    • videt
    • lunam
    • stellās
    • in caelō
    • ursum
  • Since I’m guessing you awesome readers can figure out what that would look like in picture form, but may not be as familiar with the statue part of the game, here's how that generally looks if the student chose ‘statua’:
    • Puella - most of the time the kids forget to show the details of the main character when statuing, so if it is obvious that a puella is a person, I award a point.
    • videt - big eyes, arm pointing, using a hand to block the sun and look into the distance - all of these things earn points
    • lunam - putting arms in a crescent or full moon kind of shape, rolling into a ball for a full moon - all of these earn points
    • stellās - spreading out all five fingers to show stars (it’s a statue, no twinkling!), 2 students standing with legs and arms spread wide to show a star shape with their body - all of these earn points.
    • in caelō - luna and stellas at least above the waist if not above the head - I award a point.
    • ursum - actions that show bear-ness - a growly face, holding out paws, scratching against a tree/wall, hibernating - for all of these I award a point.
  • Okay, so what does that look/sound like?
    I point to a group, point to a specific person in the group /part of their body/part of their picture. Say the Latin for it, and quickly follow that with ‘punctum!’ As the students are listening, it sounds to them like ‘lunam? punctum!’, ‘lunam? punctum!’, ‘lunam? punctum!’, lunam? punctum!’ This helps it go quickly, since they’re trying to stay still.
    Occasionally, someone has forgotten to include something in their statue: ‘lunam? eheu! est non in statua!’
  • Once you’ve awarded points for all the targeted words in the sentence, let them add up the points, write them on their whiteboards, and prepare to view the next sentence in the presentation.

Finally, some more advanced ideas:
  • Auto-switch: If the students have chosen the same option 3 times in a row, there is no choice for the next sentence, it automatically goes to the opposite.
  • You can go a good amount slower with the pictures than the statues, and the input is ‘more comprehensible’ - i.e., students can more easily observe other drawings during the points phase than they can other statues. you can also ask more questions or be more descriptive, blending in circling or simply quizzing each team about their drawing.
  • This activity is an excellent one to transition out of if it isn’t working for you or the students that day. Since you already have sentences in a presentation going one by one, you alter your plan pretty flexibly.
  • Guest-Judge: If you've played it with a class a few times before and you have a student for whom the 'statue' part isn't great, but their level of oral/aural skill is quite high, you can have them serve as a second judge of points. To start, they can award 'bonus' points to their favorite group for each word.

This is a great activity for days when 1) your students will have a bunch of energy, and 2) you're planning on reading a story. That said, it only truly works well if the story is suited to artistic interpretation - lots of objects, scene/setting changes, bold actions, characters, and such. If you've got a lot of dialogue or thoughts, steer clear.

Hope to be in touch again in the New Year!