Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wordchamp Wednesday

Another great success (that originated in failure) occurred over the last 7 days. My 7th grade students had been making great strides with neuter nouns, even to the point of writing their own stories. Matthew Webb once shared a terrific story about monsters and rocks (monstra et saxa, which are neuter nouns) and last year my classes wrote the second war of monsters and rocks with their own graphics. This year we continued the tradition with a third war in which the students could incorporate more characters of their choice. The grammar was coming along beautifully and I thought all was well. Well it was not.

The evaluation asked the students to examine sentences from the stories that they had written themselves and identify subjects (nominatives) and direct objects (accusatives). We had an epic fail. 3 A's, 2 B's, 18 C's, 21 D's, 2 F's.

Not what I anticipated. So, re-teaching was necessary. I designed three wordchamp exercises that isolated the problems separately: English knowledge of subject/direct object, Latin recognition of nominative/accusative, Correlating the term nominative with subject and accusative with direct object. Students completed the exercises until they were scoring in the 90's (it took some 11-12 tries). They recorded on paper their starting scores and final scores in the exercises and reflected upon what they now understood better about the concept. Then, we re-read stories in small groups to practice the skill in context, and I retested (and held breath).

Results? You bet. New scores: 28 A's, 14 B's, 3 C's and 1 D. Targeted reteaching works. What had gone wrong? The idea of English subject and direct object was not clear for a portion of the students, and this combined with a lack of understanding of the Latin terminology for cases compounded the problem. Students were writing the Latin correctly, but didn't know WHY it was correct. Now they have the concept with the terminology and will be able to transfer it to new situations-that's what I wanted, it just took a side alley to get there.

What will I do differently next year? After I pre-test with an English sample that is similar to the 6th grade English curriculum on subject and direct object, I'll have a follow up assignment with an unfamiliar topic to make sure I'm getting consistent results about what they know (in English), not just what they memorized. Also, I'll have activitites prepared for the students who need reinforcement of the basics, and extension ready for the ones who have it mastered. Yes, they had the skill at one point, but it didn't stick and it didn't transfer, so that's what I'm now prepared for.


Andrea Weis said...

A fellow teacher (of English) asked if I had pre-tested for subject-d.o. skills and yes, I had. Here's the thing, I used an exercise similar to one that they had seen in their 6th grade curriculum and many had memorized the English patterns, and hadn't learned what made a subject a subject and a direct object a direct object. So when they saw fresh sentences with lots of different vocabulary (IN ENGLISH) they were lost. Unfortunately, this only became obvious a few days into the unit when teaching the LATIN structure. So then, we had to go back and use Latin to learn English.

Catulluan Questions said...

I understand COMPLETELY - students often say that they don't really comprehend what subject, direct object, indirect object are in English until we get them to master the cases in Latin. It's a real light bulb for them. I also struggle to balance the need to get kids to read as much latin as possible with the need for them to understand the mechanics of grammar. What do you do when a kid seems to get the Latin but can't tell you why completely?