Latin Puppet Shows!
There are few things funnier than a Latin puppet show. To hold a Latin puppet show, you need:
There are two versions of Latin puppet shows that I use in my classroom. The first is a case review activity that I use at the beginning of my Latin II class. The second is one I use with my "Introduction to Latin" course. this one is designed for younger students, sixth or seventh graders. I will describe the more advanced activity first.
In this activity, you partner students up. Groups of three will also work but the activity doesn't work as well with more than three students. Working together, the students write a puppet show that consists only of actions - no dialogue. There can be groans, cheers or cries but no dialogue: Here is the beginning of a sample show.
Ernestus intrat et per scaenam ambulat.
Crustulum Monstrum etiam intrat et Ernestum videt.
Crustum Monstrum clamat: OOO!
The basic requirements for the project are as follows: Each student is required to write 5 sentences of the show. That way if you have a pair, the show will be 10 sentences long and 15 sentences long for a group of three. Each sentence must have at least 3 Latin words. Each group is required to use all the cases at least once. Depending upon the skill of the class, sometimes I include other requirements such as adverbs, use of adjectives, third declension nouns etc. The project description is in the Google drive as well as a proofing sheet so students can proof their shows.
The writing of the show usually takes 2-3 forty minute class periods. The students must have a copy for each person in the group as well as an extra copy. On the day of the performance, the students go behind the "curtain" with their script. I read the script aloud except for the yelling, crying etc. that the puppets do and the students perform the show. Often, it's useful to cue the audience about what is happening. For example, I might say,
" 'Puella currit et celat' Hey, what's celat?"
This activity has always been a huge hit and I've used it every year that I've taught with middle and high school students. One year, a group created a film score for their puppet show and timed the action of the show to coincide with the various music they played. The class laughed so hard that an administrator, who had been observing the class next door, came in to see what was going on and stayed to watch.
In my introduction to Latin class, I use this activity to introduce to students the idea that Latin doesn't have articles or word order. I give students a short list of nouns and verbs and have them translate some simple sentences using these words. I then introduce the idea of someone doing the action and someone receiving the action. I ask them about how they know in English who is doing or receiving the action. In Latin, I tell them, the person or thing receiving the action has an "m" at the end of the word. I then give them some very simple sentences with direct objects and they translate those.
Finally, I call up students, two or three at a time and have them duck behind the curtain and act out short sentences that make up. I let them bring their vocabulary list with them and often I prompt them about the meaning of the words. Two other students hold up the curtain and we rotate until everyone has had a chance to try the activity. Sixth graders are absolutely enchanted with this activity. It's a little sad how eager they are to jump up and do anything as long as it involves getting out from behind the desk. Not all young students will grasp the idea of subject and direct objects but I don't beleaguer the point. There are always some that find the idea of a language without word order to be a very cool thing and it is those that I most often see the following year in Latin I.
I don't know what gifted teacher came up with this game. I first learned about it while working in Concord, New Hampshire but all the teachers there seemed to have learned it somewhere else. It's a perfect warm-up or ten minutes to the bell activity. It's a great break in a long block class. It works equally well with AP students as it does with sixth grades. It's dynamic, instructional, requires no prep and very little monetary investment.
To play this game, you need 2-3 flyswatters, an investment that cost me $1.79 at Walgreens. They came in a 4 pack, so I had one left over to use to actually swat flies. You also need a large white or black board. Hopefully, that object has already been installed in the front of your class.
To prep for this game, you write vocabulary words all over the board in large letters. I usually put between 15-20 words. That's pretty much it.
There are three versions of flyswatter that I play. In team flyswatter, I divide the class in two teams. In my class that means the right half of the room is on one side and the left half of the class is one the other. You then call up two players, one from each team, give each student a flyswatter. Both players must face away from the board. You then say the word in English and the students turn around and attempt to "swat" the Latin word. The first student to swat the correct word gets a point for their team. You then call up two more students, one from each team and call out a different word.
In the second version, which I call "Hero Flyswatter," you call up two students to the board and the student who loses, gives the flyswatter to another student while the student who won stays up and counts how many people he or she is able to beat. I find this version works better when time is short.
In a third version, which I call "Ultimate Flyswatter", I use in the second round of team flyswatter. In this version, I go up to the board with the third flyswatter and stand in between the two players. I then ask a student from the audience to call out a word. I tell the players that if they beat me, then they get 2 points for their team. If I win, then no one gets any points. At first they are flabbergasted. Usually, one student exclaims,"This isn't fair because you know all the words!" I freely admit that I have superior knowledge of all 20 words on the board. However, I'm also uncoordinated and distracted so I tend to lose more often than I win. I'm not big on letting students win but despite my best efforts, I tend to lose more than half the time.
Tips to make all three versions of this game work smoothly:
Much has been written in the past year about the need for students to move more during the school day. Many educational researches have concluded that many attention issues and discipline problems are the result of too little movement. Frankly, it is a source of relief to me that the mercurial tide of educational thought has turned in this direction. For years, I have been using games which involve leaping with flyswatters or crashing around the room with colored markers and other activities that may seem of dubious merit to an evaluator looking for silence and order. Thankfully, I have largely been blessed with evaluators who do see the educational merit to physical activity in the classroom but I still worry. Let's face it - games are noisier than worksheets. Noisy classroom, we have been programmed to believe, means bad teacher. As a beginning teacher, I also worried about maintaining control. How much control could I really have with kids moving around the classroom? It seemed much safer if they all just stayed in their seats. Now, I realize that by incorporating physical activity, I actually have more control. I have less students asking to leave the room, less unfocused attention, less chatting etc. Physical activity doesn't mean a physical free for all. I insist on good sportsmanship and good attention. I make it clear that if I do not get these things, I will cancel the game. It's a much more meaningful threat than canceling the worksheet.
Here's the other thing you need to embrace - good games are good instruction. Really. Some teachers see games only as the entertainment break after the "real teaching." Such thinking can be difficult to dislodge. I implore you, take a deep breath and give it a shot. Games instruct at all levels. I have used them with my advanced placement class as well as my beginners. As proof, I offer a pile of gold and silver medals on the National Latin Exam and no AP scores less than a "3."
Only a few of the games described in this section have been created by me. Many I learned from the fantastic foreign language faculty at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire. Linda Kordas and Nancy Emery provided many activities listed on this website with supporting help from the Laura Ernst, the inspiring German teacher at the same school. I was only at Concord for a short time but I am continually in these women's debt for all the creative activities which they and other innovative foreign language teachers shared with me, Multas gratias, Magistrae