In a recent meeting of Justin Schwamm's virtual Personal Learning Communities, Emily Lewis, who teaches in Virginia, had mentioned that her students keep daily Latin journals. She elaborated on some of the topics: family, favorite things, etc. At the same time I was looking for a way to incorporate more presentational writing into my first and second-year classes. This seemed like the perfect idea to not only get my students writing more in Latin, but also as a way to personalize their education more.
In late March I started the daily journal entries. For the first week the topics included the following: their families, favorite and least favorite school subjects and foods, places they'd like to visit, and what they want to do on the weekend. Each prompt starts with the general question(s) in English: e.g. "Who's in your family? In what type of house do you live? Do you have pets?" I encourage the students to write at least three sentences for each day's prompt. Under the topic I then provide several Latin sentence starters. For the particular one above, I used "____ habeo" (I have ___) and "In ____ habito" (I live in ____). Then I list several Latin words with meanings, since they are not familiar with all the vocabulary. I also tell the students to write other things not on the prompt that pertain to the topic, if they already know how to say it. I do allow them to ask me for words not on the slide that would apply to their answer.
These journal entries are now the first activity of each class in Latin I and II. The notebooks are placed on their desks prior to the beginning of class, and generally the students have been very receptive of the idea. Recent topics have included favorite places in Erie, summarizing recent stories we've read, describing more qualities about themselves and their families, and types of weather. However, the other day, I created a wonderful activity that I would like to share with you all that takes these entries to another level.
By now the students have been writing these entries for about four weeks, and we have amassed several pages of student-composed, personalized Latin. I came up with a simple game to review some of their responses and at the same time see how well they knew each other. The idea literally came to me Thursday night and I put it together in my free periods Friday morning. Here's what I did:
I took random responses from each student's journal according to the class, and typed them out with a key for myself so I knew whose entry it was. Then I placed those statements on a PowerPoint without the names of the students as the main instructional tool of the lesson. I explained the rules to the students as such: "we're going to play a game in which everyone is involved. I will put up a statement from your journals and you have to tell me 'Quis scripsit?' (Who wrote it?) All of you will be represented." Although it took quite a few minutes to prepare the slides, the actual playing of the game was incredibly quick and easy to describe and implement. The activity, with 21 students in each class, took the majority of the period after the usual routines.
When I put the slides up, I read the response and occasionally had to establish English meaning, and then asked "Quis scripsit?" I tried to keep myself in Latin as much as possible when answering students. It also allowed for multiple repetitions not only of the same sentence but similar types of sentences, so the meaning became clearer as we progressed without having to resort to English. I envision this activity as a way of doing PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers) in a more organic manner.
Students in Latin I especially enjoyed trying to guess whose sentence was whose, and as a result they asked me at the end of class, "Can we play this again next week?" Most likely we will do so.