The board game Clue is a great activity for helping students differentiate between nominative, accusative and ablative. In the blog under "Card and Board Games,' I explained how I use the game Clue in class. Link is here. Since then, I have expanded my use of Clue in the classroom from a two day project to a week of murder and mayhem.
Since the structure of the game perfectly exemplifies the use of the nominative, accusative and ablative cases, it has become my best tool to explain to students how case determines meaning. If you are not familiar with the game, the central tenant is to formulate an accusation that fits this pattern:
(Name of character) did it with (name of weapon) in (name of room).
In the game, the victim is always "Mr. Body."
To include the accusative, I altered the accusation to:
(Name of character) killed (name of other character) with (name of weapon) in (name of room.)
Here is the the expanded Clue lesson plan. At the end of it, everyone will be able to understand how Nominative, Accusative and Ablative function in a Latin sentence. There is a separate folder in the Omnia Drive for Clue Activities and stories now.
Lesson 1: Introduce Clue words. Worksheet for students to fill out words is in the Google Drive under "Card and Board Games" tab. Students write and translate short prepositional phrases that use Clue phrases
Lesson 2: Have students translate sentences based on the game Clue. Have them write a few in English. These are also in the drive. Here I explain how ablative of means works. Clue is a great vehicle for the ablative of means since someone is killed with a rope. knife, lead pipe etc. in every sentence.
Lesson 3: Students draw Clue sentences using my "stick figure" cheat sheet. Teacher writes sentences on the board in Latin and students draw the action. Characters should resemble the characters on the "cheat sheet" so that you can tell which ones they have depicted Here are two example sentences: Matrona Alba Magistrum Prunum cultro in studio necavit. In bibliotheca Dominam Rubram Dominus Herbidus tubo plumbeo necavit.
Lesson 4: Students act out Clue sentences. This activity has been a huge hit but it requires some preparation. First you need to create groups of 4-5 students. Each group will have the following roles: Actors (3), Director (1), stage manager (1). You also need to collect some clothes that suggest at least 4 of Clue characters and 4 "weapons". To accomplish this, I found a red cape for Domina Rubra, a green shirt for Dominus Herbidus, a white apron for Matrona Alba and an army jacket for Legatus Flavus. My weapons consisted of a cardboard tube for "tubo plumbeo," a squirt gun for the "novum telum," a piece of string for the "filum" and a plastic knife for the "culter." If you have a small class, you only need one set of props and costumes. If you have a larger class, you need two sets of props and costumes. My classes tend to range from 16-20 students so I created two prop and costume boxes.
You also need 10 index cards for two teams that have "Clue type sentences." (5 index cards with sentences per team) For the sake of creating maximum participation, all my sentences for this activity had either two victim or two perpetrators. For example, Matrona Alba et Legatus Flavus Dominam Rubram in culina tubo plumbeo necavit.
If you have two teams, you can set the box and cards in front of them and have them take turns acting out the sentences. If you have 4 teams, you can arrange it as a relay. Set two teams up in the back of the room with a prop and costume box and the other two teams in the front of the room with a different prop and costume box. Have the two teams trade off acting out the cards and the first group to finish all ten cards is the winner.
Here is what play looks like: The first group comes to the front of the room and the Director reads the card aloud to the rest of the group. The Director explains who is doing the action and who is receiving the action. Meanwhile the stage manager starts drawing the scene on the whiteboard behind the actors. The actors get their costumes and props out of the box and briefly act out the scene. the teacher watches the scene (all 2 seconds of it) and then if they have performed it correctly, the team sits down and the next team picks a card and performs the next "scene."
Lesson 5; Students read Clue story and map out where the various characters were when the "murder" was committed. This story is in the drive. Students who finish early can do the Clue Mad-Lib which is also in the "Clue" Folder in the omnia drive.
Lesson 6: Students play game "Clue." (See blog under Card and board games for more info here.)
Assessment: Students translate Clue type sentences and identify case of nouns in those sentences. Students write a few Clue sentences on their own. For this assessment, I allow students to use the Clue Vocabulary reference sheet that I hand out with the test. Although by the end of the unit, students have acquired many of these words, my goal is to assess how well students understand CASE not Vocabulary and so I can determine that, I remove the vocabulary issues from the test. That way if a student can't read one of the sentences, I know it isn't because he or she doesn't remember the words but doesn't know how they function in the sentence.
For this game, you need all the students to stand in a circle. Each student holds a stuffed animal or a figure that has a name that can be made dative. For this, I generally use first and second declension nouns - ursus, cuniculus, puella, porcus, equus, gallina, vir parvus (lego man), ursus albus, rana, simia etc. To accomplish this, I have gradually acquired a bunch of stuffed animals and plastic figures of animals and people that I found at various thrift shops over the years. You also need a small wrapped box, a "donum." If you have a large class, you should have two wrapped boxes or if your students are cooperative, you can have two circles with one "donum" per circle. There should be a ratio of 10 students or less with stuffed animals to 1 donum. Above is my hard-working cast of "Dative Hot Potato with the two wrapped dona.
To play, each student stands in the circle holding a stuffed animal. One stuffed animal has the donum and then "gives" it to another animal by announcing it in Latin. For example, a student holding a stuffed bear might give the donum to the student holding a pig across the circle. He says, "Ursus porco donum dat" and then hands the gift to the student holding the pig. Now the pig needs to give the gift away to someone else. The student with the pig might give hand the gift to a student holding a frog. Therefore, she might say, "Porcus ranae donum dat" and then give the gift to the student holding the frog. Have students practice speaking and handing the gift around the circle. The gift cannot be passed unless the student can say in Latin who is giving to gift and whom is receiving it. If you have everyone in the same circle, have students pass both gifts at the same time.
Once students have gotten the hang of what to say, now its time to introduce the game portion. Play music while students hand off the gift and then after a few minutes, turn off the music. Whichever person has the gift when the music gets a letter (spell D-O-N-U-M.) At the end of play, the student with the least amount of letters is the winner.
Tips to Make this Game Work:
This easy game has worked well to re-enforce how to use the ablative case. To play it you need two teams, little whiteboards and markers. You also need two small objects to hide in your room. I used two plastic spiders but anything that fits in your hand should work. To play, send a representative from each team out of the room. Then, with the help of the class, hide the two objects somewhere in the room. Hide them in different places. Afterwards, everyone in the class writes a prepositional phrase to describe where each object is: sub mensa, a sella, a Iano (by my poster of Janus) in armario, etc.
Next, call the two students back in and using the directions from the rest of the class on the white boards, students look for the objects. When a student find the object, they win a point for their team. Now send two different students out and repeat the process.
This game is a hit in my class because everyone has task, no one is simply waiting for a turn. Students are either describing or looking for the objects. It works well to help cement the idea that prepositional phrases tell the reader "where" something is located. It has a 20-30 minute run time.
Tips to make this game work:
In my 25 years of teaching Latin, case has always been the most difficult aspect of the language to teach. I remember in 7th grade when I learned that meaning was dependent upon endings rather than position in the sentence, it represented a seismic shift in my assumptions of how language operated. Honestly, I wasn't pleased. With an incomplete understanding or no understand of how case creates meaning, students can read a great deal as long as there are other clues such as pictures or context to guide their understanding. However, to write in Latin or read material without these supports, they need to understand how cases function in Latin.
Unfortunately, most textbooks don't provide enough practice and the practice they do provide is fairly dull. I hope on this page to provide some activities that have both engaged and instructed regarding how the various cases function.
My modus operandi in teaching case has always followed this trajectory. First I teach how the case functions. It is 's or the direct object etc, then a song to help students memorize the endings (See songs and videos). Then we simply practice putting the new endings on words so that students can see how the words are formed with the new case. Next, we translate some phrases that use the case and finally we read a story or two that features the case heavily, re-translate sentences that use the case and then practice writing some original phrases and sentences with the case endings.
By the end of the unit which takes me about 2 weeks, everyone has both the case endings down and can demonstrate understanding of how it is used. While it is tempting to breathe a sign of relief, and move on, case ending and usage must be revisited again and again, particularly for the beginning student. There are many games on this blog that can help students review past cases. Unus in card and board games and Circum Mundum in Kinetic Activities are particularly well suited to this, but just about any game on this blog can be used to review past cases.
There are several strategies that lead to understanding rather than confusion. The first is to make sure you connect the case with meaning. Secondly, use vocabulary students already know. Don't try to introduce new vocabulary and case at the same time. Thirdly, use a mnemonic hook to help students to identify and memorize endings. Once you have provided these supports, you will find that nearly all students can understand how case functions - not just your superstars or future AP scholars.