At the end of my SoCal visit, I observed for two days at Santa Monica High School (Samohi).
The students at this public high school of 3100+ impressed me with their commitment to learning and awareness of current educational theories. I observed two Latin II, two Latin I, and one Latin III class each day. The sizes of the classes ranged from 19 to 28.
Both the two Latin teachers and the entire Languages Department work together towards common goals shared by both ACTFL and Common Core in California. Both Latin teachers have a double-sided sign on their front boards. One side reads, “Anglice Licet,” and the other, “Tantum Latine!” These indicate for the students when English is allowed and when the expectation is that they will speak only in Latin. When speaking in Latin, every student adheres to the rules – even in Latin I. They don’t speak beyond simple phrases, but they are willing to try. I loved seeing this. From what I observe, this expectation is made clear from the beginning of the year. In addition, both classes strongly believe in the value of collaboration.
In one class, I enjoyed watching Luke Henderson call on students by randomly choosing names from Popsicle sticks divided by class.
As he introduced new vocabulary words, he used personalization to strengthen the meaning. For instance, he introduced the word for dining room, triclinium. He then asked students who had dining rooms and what they did in that room. The students responded in Latin. Luke typed and projected the sentences as he and the students spoke.
He also led the students to correct their own speaking errors by patiently waiting for them to figure out the correct answer while he provided clues. In general, I was impressed by the patience of both teacher and students.
In a Latin III class, students peer-edited each other’s five-paragraph essays in Latin with a guide for what specifically to look for. The students earned points for completing the task. Although I didn’t observe this, Luke let me know that the test the students would soon take would be done cooperatively.
Humor was liberally employed by both teachers as a method for creating a safe environment for learning.