Friday, January 27, 2012

Interactive Display: Make your wall or bulletin board a discussion board

So this year as I prepared to put up my usual decorations in my classroom (about which I was unusually ecstatic, but that's another story), I had a sudden, simple inspiration.

In my second year teaching, desperately jealous of the festive, fun rooms my Spanish-teaching friends got to set up for their students, I went into school a week early and began creating.  I created inspirational posters in Latin, Latin question posters to help me teach class in a conversational way, and large cutout versions of the main characters from our textbook (if you are frustrated now because you think you can't draw well enough to do this sort of thing on your own--that's what projectors are for!  I traced every image).

Since that year, every year, I have glued or taped these characters to my wall as a traditional start to my school year.  And every year I try to arrange them in interesting ways, to spark discussion among my students (a popular discussion centers annually around whether the mother is having an affair with the cook!).

This year, as I was hanging them and deciding how best to cause soap-operatic speculation, I realized that I have been sitting on an inspirational gold-mine for many years and never realized it.  My students love to comment on these images.  Why not have them do it in writing?  In a very direct way?

Using only the latest in technology, I quickly grabbed everything I needed and set to work.  Before long, there was also a pad of post-it notes taped to the wall beside my little Roman family.

Characters from the textbook--covered in Latin comments!
I proudly introduced this innovation to my students on the first day of school.  They looked terrified.  They didn't know how to write in Latin yet, so this seemed very much beyond them.  I decided to wait and remind them later.

Around two weeks later, I mentioned the board again.  By this point they had a working vocabulary of over 40 words, so it was no longer a scary prospect, and I had made class a safe place to experiment with language.  No one moved at first, but by the end of the week, I had three post-it-notes safely stuck to various characters.

As the month progressed, I got new notes pretty regularly, and students liked to read the new notes that showed up there between classes.  The notes got progressively more intricate and used better grammar, but I still really enjoy the earliest notes best.

Some early notes inflicting violence with the only violent words they know how to use:
eat and cook.  Oh, and explode.  Because who doesn't need that word in his or her daily life?
Next year, I will be doing this again.  But I think I will rotate the wall more often; interest fell away after about a month.

I can't wait to see what my new students will write and think, in Latin, outside of class proper, voluntarily.
Sometimes I think I've created a monster.  But it's a Latin-loving monster, so I enjoy it.