Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teaching Greek and Latin Root Words with Photo Shoots

Slap the words "Greek and Latin Etymology" onto any teenager's class schedule, and you will witness a display of dread and terror like never seen before.

"Why would I ever need to speak Greek?"

"Nobody even uses Latin anymore!"

"I can barely speak English good!"

Many kids don't realize that the words they use every day rely heavily on root words from other languages.  They have no clue that much of their online communication and text messaging carries traces of ancient Greek and Latin words.  However, when students learn to identify these root words and their meanings, they not only better understand the origin of the words they use on a regular basis, but also learn to decode hundreds of English words that they may not otherwise understand.

Last year in my English Language Roots class, I decided to have some fun reviewing these roots with my sophomores.  Instead of merely reading definitions or flipping through flashcards, we actually made a Greek and Latin scrapbook!  For each root word, my students set up a mini photo shoot in which they depicted the root's meaning.  I let the students come up with their photo ideas entirely on their own, but I stressed the importance of explaining their picture and how it illustrated the Greek or Latin root.  This made learning the words fun -- and memorable.

At the end of the semester, I designed a scrapbook with the students' photos and sent it out for printing.  Each kid received a book that they could use to study their vocabulary.  This was one of my favorite projects of all time!

Here are a few of my students' root-word photos:

These students represent the root word mort with a crime scene in which a mortality has supposedly occured.

Here students represent the root word bene by acting out the benevolent practice of giving to the poor.

Students represent the root word astro by searching the heavens for the secrets of astronomy.

Do you have any root-word tricks that have worked in your classroom?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below. If you would like to check out my Greek and Latin scrapbook  template, click on the product below!

Teach Greek and Latin roots with fun photo shoots your students will remember!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Percy Shelley, Romanticism -- and BALLOONS!

Once each year, I run my little truck to the local dollar store to buy a bulbous bouquet of balloons for my 18-year-old kiddos in British Lit. In many places, these treats are reserved for primary incentives or preschool parties, but in my classroom, a bunch of bright balloons means it's finally time to culminate our lesson on Percy Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind."  Can I just take a moment to express my love for this inspirational poem?  As a teacher, my dearest dream is to make a difference much larger than myself, to leave a legacy behind me when I'm gone, and to inspire my students to do the same.  If Shelley were alive today, I would give him a big hug and thank him for writing a poem that describes that dream absolutely perfectly.

Back to the balloons.

After we have read Shelley's poem, we discuss the metaphor of the leaves scattered in the wind.  The students gradually realize (after a few blank stares, granted) that because Autumn often symbolizes death, Shelley is speaking about the end of his life.  When he urges the wind to scatter his words like the autumn leaves, he is hoping and praying that the words he spoke and the poems he wrote will someday make a difference that he could never make in his lifetime.  His hopes came true!  We still read this poem and gain inspiration from its verses today.

Next comes the fun part.  I announce that my students will have a chance to spread their words with the west wind, just as in Shelley's poem.  They must think deeply about the legacy they want to leave, the advice they have to give, the experiences that have given them wisdom, and the opinions that they would like to share.  Then they each write brief poems expressing these sentiments, and they place the poems in sealed envelopes.  I punch one hole in each envelope with a hole-punch, give each student a balloon, let them tie the balloon string through the envelope's hole, and take the motley crew outside to the back field.

Teach Percy Shelley to High School Students with Balloons!

We read the last stanza of "Ode to the West Wind" once more, and I announce that it is time for the students to release their inspiration on the world.  Eighteen-years-old or not, these students watch in rapture and amused merriment as the balloons soar into the air.

A student releases balloons in rememberence of "Ode to the West Wind," by Percy Shelley.

If you have tried a similar approach to teaching Romantic poets, or if you have any ideas regarding this activity, please leave a note below in the comment section.

These balloons carry students' inspiring words to others, a new metaphor for Percy Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind."