Activity: Discipulus Novus (New Student)


This is yet another variation on on Bryce Headstrom’s La Persona Especial. It combines some of the goofy fun of the “Headbandz” game as a hook for student interest.  Also, since I teach at a private school with small classes, student interviews only get me so far.

So, first, using Sticky Notes (I know, high tech!), I write the name of a famous historical person or mythological monster.  Someone that my students would be familiar with (even if they don’t know everything).

STEP 1: Ask for a volunteer.  I usually get more volunteers for this game than student interviews.  If you have a plethora of willing students, choose randomly (I keep huge foam dice for this sort of randomization) or have the student interviewed choose the next student.

STEP 2: Student sits in a chair or stool facing the class. Play your high-tech sticky note with the secret historical/mythological name on the students forehead.  If the sticky note won’t stay (some brands aren’t sticky all all), use some tape! (I keep a comically large roll of duct tape by my desk for this occasion).

STEP 3: Introduce the student to the class:

“Discipuli, hodie in conclavi nostro habemus novum discipulum.  Discipuli, salutata novum discipulum!”

Discipuli: “Salve!”

Magister O: Discipuli, hic discipulus in America non habitat.  Quid putatis? Ubi hic discipulus habitat?

And you can go on from there.  Telling the students about the new student, asking them questions about the student.  Filling in details they don’t know.  Then, when you are finished with the introduction (the student volunteer has a good idea of who they  are by the this point), ask the new student their name.  Give generous hints if they seem unsure.

Then, guess what?  This is a two-for-one.  Basically the first half is like a story listening for the audience with some interruptions for personalization and student ideas.  All the while the student volunteer is listening carefully to clues to their identity.

During the second half, now you can interview the “discipulus novus” (recasting some of the introduction story in the first and second person).  The student volunteer and the class can elaborate on the basic story, and the entire thing can turn into a great shared storytelling experience.

Follow up the next day with a read date about details of the interview, a true of false quick quiz, a  “Quid _________ diceret? (What would [the novus discipulus] say?)” assessment.  Or maybe just do another round with a new student.  There are many different directions a teacher could take this.

I introduced this into my classes last week, and I’ve only begun to explore the possibilities myself.  It’s a great way to get cultural/historical topics into class discussion without taking away from personalization and student input.

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