Continuity and Change, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I hope you enjoyed the set of four videos I mentioned in yesterday’s post, and I hope you had a chance to think about the themes of

  • Continuity
  • Change
  • Rationality, and
  • Irrationality

that all four videos explored. Today and tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at how these themes might apply to teaching and learning in general, and to the Tres Columnae Project in particular. Then, on Thursday, I plan to share some of my own students’ thoughts and reactions to the film.

Wednesday is our annual Community Service Fair at my face-to-face school, where we have a very modest community-service requirement for all of our students. On the day of the Fair, various community organizations come to the school and describe volunteer opportunities that might interest our students. We send one grade level at a time to this presentation, and we typically have some sort of related activity (a seminar, a film, a less-structured discussion) for students to engage in when they’re not actually visiting the community organizations’ booths. This year, we decided to relate the theme of service to the idea of global change, using one of the videos from yesterday along with this one and some references to President Obama’s speech to the nation’s school children, which we watched as a school last Friday.

While watching the videos, my colleagues and I found a lot of cross-connections among them, and we thought they all spoke to the idea of working together to serve and strengthen our communities – a good theme to discuss on the day of a Community Service Fair. So we’re eager to find out what connections our students see, and what they think about the films … and about the Fair itself. I plan to explore these themes – and to compare them with the “big ideas” about the Roman world with which my own students have been grappling for the past few weeks – in my face-to-face classes on Wednesday and Thursday as well.

My Latin III students have been thinking a lot about Roman imperialism and the interplay between Romans and non-citizen residents of the Empire, so I’m especially eager to see how they compare this early form of globalization with the much more multicultural version of today. Meanwhile, my Latin I students are starting to explore the theme of slavery in the Roman world, which has natural connections, of course, with the ideas of globalization and imperialism in today’s world … and with economic issues, too. I’m fascinated to see how they respond – and whether they’ll be able to see some of these “obvious” or “natural” connections or not.

Speaking of connections, I wonder if your beginning Latin students struggle, as mine often do, with the concepts of derivatives and cognates. Is it a peculiarity of my face-to-face teaching situation, or is it generally true that many students, despite the endless memorization of “Greek and Latin roots and prefixes” in earlier grades, come to their study of Latin without having developed the ability to see connections between Latin root words and their English derivatives? I’m still making some use of the “Big Three” reading-method textbook that I’ve used for many years in my face-to-face classes; among other reasons, it does a commendable job with derivation and word-study exercises. Anyway, we attempted one today where the goal was to determine which English word, in a list of four or five, did not share the same Latin root as the others. In the past, I’ve watched students struggle endlessly with physical, paper dictionaries as we attempted this assignment, so I decided we should work together, with the definitions and etymologies from www.dictionary.com projected on our interactive whiteboard. This worked a lot better, and I could see some metaphorical light bulbs going off over the heads of several of my tenth- and eleventh-graders … but my rejoicing was tempered by the realization that those light bulbs had never gone off before! That is, after endless years of “English vocabulary” instruction and at one very high-quality English course at our school (we’re on a semester-block schedule, so some of the tenth-graders won’t take English until the spring), any number of my students still couldn’t look at such a list and “feel” which word didn’t belong with the others. I’m afraid that they’ve never been asked to do anything besides memorize those “Latin root words and prefixes” – for example, they never had to break a word down (analysis) or build up a word (application or synthesis) from word parts … even though I know my own thirteen-year-old was doing such activities two years ago, when she was in sixth grade.

In the end, I was delighted that the light bulb finally went off for my students, but at the same time, I was a bit frightened that it hadn’t gone off before – and saddened for all their friends who haven’t had the opportunity to make this connection. As you know if you’ve looked at the Instructure Demo Course, most of the word-study and derivation exercises we’ve developed for the Tres Columnae Project focus on these types of connections and comparisons, and on the idea of taking Ownership of interesting words that developed from the Latin words we’re learning. I hope this approach will lead to a lot more light bulbs and a lot less pain as our current and future subscribers build their Latin vocabularies and make connections with words in their native languages.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What common themes do you see in the films?
  • What connections to the idea of community … and of service … do you see?
  • What do you think of the idea of a Community Service Fair anyway?
  • And what about the issue of vocabulary connections? Do your students – or you personally – struggle with these, or do they – or you – see them effortlessly?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at our themes of Continuity and Change from a slightly different angle. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  

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