Write & Discuss – “Guess the Ending”

A no-prep, high-input, highly-comprehensible, student-centered activity to follow-up any story.

This is an activity that I stumbled upon towards the end of second semester Latin I, when motivation (teacher and student) was low, the sun was shining outside, and classroom routines were beginning to get stale. Seeking inspiration, I decided to shift gears and begin a MovieTalk about the animated short “Laundry Quandary.” I used Keith Toda’s excellent Latin script  (adapted for my current students). However, I could tell that, while the students enjoyed the movie, the input activities I was using (pausing the movie, circling new words, PQA, discussing who was the best superhero, etc.) was getting predictable. The students were expecting it. Engagement was a struggle. The shine was wearing off. Most people’s minds were elsewhere. So I stopped, handed around some index cards, and gave the instructions:

Discipuli, depingite picturam in chartula: Quid accidebit in fine pelliculae? Depingite picturas. Nolite Latine scribere. Nolite Anglice scribere.”

Student weren’t expecting this, and eagerly began to draw. It was a great brain-break. I collected the cards after a few minutes. Only about 3-5 minutes of class time was spend drawing.

But instead of setting for a refreshing brain-break, after class I scanned the pictures. The next day projected them for the students.

Student picture samples

We talked about the pictures, guessing the artist, guessing who the characters were, guessing what exactly was going on. We stayed on a picture only as long as the students were interested. I tried to draw all of the details out them that I could, while still keeping the conversation 100% comprehensible, and using many reps of less familiar words.

Then, remembering something I had been reading about in A Natural Approach to the Year. I began a whole-class “Write and Discuss.” Mike Peto also talks a lot about this on his blog. I wrote the name “Captain Pulcher” (the superhero in the movie) on the board, and then I asked the students to start describing the ending that they liked the best. Their output in Latin I is very limited, but I really wasn’t interested in spontaneous output—I just waited for the next word. The catch is that the students had to copy down the new ending as we created it. It helped them to stay focused and engaged in the discussion, and the activity helped center the circling and discussion.

Each of my three Latin I classes created an alternate ending. Meaning, of course, now I had three alternate endings for reading and discussion, with no prep. Also, the Latin, while comprehensible, was way more complex than the original movie script that I had written out. And the pressure was off me to speak spontaneously. I had time to think between phrases as students wrote or reflected on what detail should come next. It slowed down the narrative. And slow (surprise, surprise) was better. I came to realize the lack of engagement might just have been my pacing. I was going too fast, and creating too much noise. Now through this “guess the ending” write-and-discuss activity, things were slower and more focused.  And the burden was off me to be quick on my feet with my Latin.

An example alternate ending:

Puella secretum habebat. Puella erat “SuperPuella.” Captain Pulcher secretum habebat–ille potestatem non habebat. Sed puella potestatem habebat–ea habebat potestatem volandi.   Captain Pulcher potestatem volandi non habebat. Puella in robotum puganvit. Robotum a puella forti interfectum est. Puella Captain Pulchrum et urbem servavit.

There were lots of reps. Lots of close attention to the words but in a communicative context. Lots of engagement. Lots of novelty. And lots of comprehended and contextualize use of what Latin teachers would considered advanced grammar. And the best part? A class period and a half of rich input and exposure to “advanced forms,” without the pressure on me to pre-write texts, compose zany alternate endings myself, or produce spontaneous Latin conversation.

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