This semester, as I walked around my classroom, I noticed that students’ notes and notebooks were somewhat sparse and disorganized. In fact, they were mainly the paradigm charts…. often without explanation. This disturbed me, but I saw why their notes were this way. Students copied what I wrote on the board (or PowerPoint) or they wrote the charts that I told them to practice. They did not explain what the charts were or what the charts meant or how to use them because I usually said these things aloud.
I realized that many of my students did not know how to take notes, or at least take notes in a Latin class taught with a heavy grammatical focus. I would have to teach them how. Therefore, as my 7th graders were starting a chapter on 2nd declension neuter nouns and the present forms of sum, esse (Chapter 4 of Wheelock’s Latin), I took the opportunity to teach them how to take notes. I created a fill-in-the blank worksheet to accompany my introductory lecture. Since it was near the end of the semester and I wanted to make sure they had good notes for the fall exam, and since it always helps to connect new knowledge to old knowledge, the worksheet had several sections:
- Review of nouns (i.e. 1st declension and 2nd declension masculine nouns)
- 2nd declension neuter nouns
- Review of adjectives
- Neuter forms of 1st/2nd declension -us, -a, -um adjectives
- Review of 1st and 2nd conjugation present verbs
- Present tense of sum, esse
The worksheet began like this:
- A noun has three qualities: (1) ___________, (2) _______________, and (3) ______________.
- The First Declension
- The most common gender of nouns in the first declension is _____________.
- For nouns, the dictionary entry is comprised of three parts:
- The __________, singular form
- The __________, singular form
- The noun’s ______________
- Decline the noun puella, pullae (f) in all cases and both numbers.
In class, I projected the worksheet and we filled in the blanks. The content of the “lecture” was more or less the same as if I had simply made a PowerPoint with blank charts. However, the worksheet was more helpful in that it forced me to mention certain information (and for students to write it down). And if I didn’t, the students could ask questions so that they had a complete worksheet.
The class may not have been very dynamic, but it served many purposes. It helped students review for the exam, get good notes, start learning how to take notes, and cover the material thoroughly. Years ago, when I first started teaching Latin, I created similar worksheets so that I could think through how to teach the concepts. Writing the worksheets helped me break down Latin into the small steps that a beginner needs to learn a concept–they taught me how to teach Latin. The worksheets definitely helped my students learn better and the students liked the worksheets. Students also took ownership of their learning by making sure I helped them fill in all the blanks. Additionally, the worksheets also help students with visual disabilities because, with a text in front of them, they no longer have to strain to see the board. I definitely plan to continue incorporating these into my classes as they learn new material.