Content-Based Instruction

In an effort to teach the content of my Latin classes in Latin, following the advice of one of the best sessions I attended at ACTFL 2019: Building Better Courses: The Case for Content-Based Instruction by Kevin Ballestrini, Mark Pearsall, and Lindsay Sears, I have been creating One Page Wonders with my students, based on visual stimuli, their questions and interests.

Our first attempt was while covering Roman dining habits and foods. I set aside the month of December, before Winter Break, as a study on dining and foods – sometimes also societal classes and clothing depending on time – in order to prepare students for our own Saturnalia festival.

In the past, I have showed numerous videos and video clips about these subjects, had students read informational passages in English, and answer questions I pose to draw their attention and interest where I want it to be. In response, my students have remembered little to nothing about I have wanted them to. Although, they all seem to remember Romans drinking wine and eating honey cakes… So, what I had always hoped would be a cool month for them to learn and have fun ended up being nothing but wasted time with no real knowledge of or progress in either Latin or Roman life.

This year, I tried something new. I showed my favorite video of the ones I used to show. At least four times each class (the video spans two class blocks), I would stop the video and ask students questions about what they saw and heard, attempting to tie in their own lives and experiences with what they were seeing. I expanded information as students showed interest (or disgust). Then, we compiled all we discussed into a quick little paragraph on the board. I’ve blogged about this use of video before, calling it Watch & Write.

At the end of class, I edited the paragraph(s) and put them into a One Page Wonder with images and captions. We then used this One Page Wonder in a bunch of new ways to provide reading input and assessments.

The video I show (edited as necessary for showing in school):

Here is our class-created One Page Wonder on Roman Dining and Foods. (I am happy to receive feedback on grievous errors.)

Next, in January, my class and I started looking at gladiators in preparation for reading Lance Piantaggini’s novella¬†Rufus et arma atra.

Instead of beginning with a video, I began with three pictures. One by one I displayed the pictures (over three class blocks) and as a class, we discussed what we saw, where we thought they were, what they were doing, who they were, etc. As students asked questions back to me regarding what I was saying and what they were seeing, I focused on their interests and suggestions.

What resulted were two similar, but not exactly the same, One Page Wonders about gladiators – one from each class of Latin students. One class, for example, was curious about animal welfare and the respective weights of the weapons and armor. The other class was more interested in whether gladiators were always killed if they lost and about who became a gladiator and why.

Here are both versions of the One Page Wonders: #1 and #2

With these passages, each class has worked with their own version through a variety of text-based activities: pictura/illustrate, verum/falsum, quick quizzes, and a few of these Textivities. But, my favorite activity so far has been watching a video afterwards, pulling still photos from the video, then asking students to pull sentences from the passage to caption each picture still. With stills similar enough, the students have to really read and re-read the passage to find the perfect caption (because, you know, no repeats!).

I should mention that somewhere in all this Content-Based Instruction on gladiators, we watched Magister Craft’s Gladiatores video (next year, I want to use this video as a resource for more research to support the pictures I used instead of what I actually did, which wasn’t the best use of the video – live and learn) and one class ended up watching Gladiators of Rome (which I used as a story listening activity the following day) because all but a quarter of the class was absent.

In addition, I’m planning to have the classes take a look at the other classes One Page Wonder and find the new information. Details are still in the planning stage as I haven’t done this yet, but I like the idea of it.

I really like Content-Based Instruction, and although I am not yet perfect at the three steps of the process: Connect, Explore, Create; I do think this method of introducing and covering Roman culture is so much better than what I used to do. Why not teach about the culture and content in the language of the culture and content? Makes so much sense!

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