Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Extra Extra! Read All About It! One Sentence Stories

As we progress through our first year of complete Standards Based Grading, I find myself being more critical of the assignments and tests I give. I also find myself trying to find new ways to assess things, while still keeping the affective filter low for my students. One of our county standards is that students can write simple sentences appropriate to their level in Latin. In Latin II and above, this isn't such a big problem because they already have experience with this through timed writes and they can write for longer. In Latin I, however, I need to ease them into writing and prepare them for timed writes, which we plan to start in a week or so.

To achieve this, I've started including some basic writing and transcribing activities like:

I wanted one more activity, with a little more freedom, to review vocabulary and see what skills they'd already picked up (while not grading those skills for accuracy). So, we did an activity called
One Sentence Stories. 

Process

I set this up very simply by creating a document with instructions and also an approved list of words. I expanded this list to include est (is) and et (and), as well as the new words we'd learned that day on the board. Students were to write a single sentence that could tell a story, much like a newspaper headline. While their sentences could be simple and didn't have to be "above the fold" quality  (if you will), they needed to be interesting and make sense. Students then accompanied them with a detailed picture. The picture gave the assignment a visual quality and a fail-safe which allowed me to understand what they were saying even if the sentence wasn't perfect. These were graded on a 5 point scale as follows:

0 - student wrote English sentence, or only submitted a picture
1-2 - Student wrote an English sentence with a Latin word or two
2-3 - Student attempted a Latin sentence, but used names instead of Latin words or the sentence didn't make sense
3-4 - Sentence mostly made sense, but had an extra word (or was missing one)
4-5 - Sentence made sense and may have had the extra verb "est" (see observations below)




Observations
  1. Students got very excited with this activity. The vocabulary list provided assistance, but also kept the assignment simple enough for those still working on vocabulary acquisition.
  2. Most students worked with what they were given. Some wanted to know extra words or constructions. I told them to "work within the confines of what we know."
  3. The most, by far, common mistake was that students would put "est" (is) and another verb. This is a reflection of how English works. In English, we often use a helping verb along with
    another for present tense. In Latin, however, this is not the case. I've seen this mistake year after year, so I am not at all surprised by it. I did not cause a huge deduction on account of this because it is a common mistake for beginners to make. I do, however, want to draw their attention to it. 
  4. Students were excited to be using vocabulary outside of the context of our stories.


Conclusions
  • This was a great way to get kids thinking outside the box. They weren't tied to the mythology we'd been reading and were able to enjoy the vocabulary in a new way. 
  • There were lots of grammar mistakes, but I know these to be later acquired for a Latin I class.
  • I know which vocabulary the students know really well and which they don't. 
  • My purpose was to see if they were able to use Latin vocabulary to create simple, meaningful sentences. They were.