Note: where I mention horizontal conjugation in the following post, I am not presenting it correctly! I’m going to leave this up like this for a couple of days, and then I’ll edit it to take out the references that are incorrect. But if you read the comments right now, you’ll get confused unless I leave the wrong stuff in. (You’re probably confused now, and it is probably important only to me to do it like this!)

Here’s the original post:

Figuring out what vocabulary words to use when students are reading different books is a bit of a challenge, but I think we nailed it today. I asked the upper-level kids (5/AP in the 2-AP class) to offer three words they felt they needed to repeat, then did my two-minute-write-a-story-in-English-on-a-tiny-square-of-paper-using-these-words activity (man! are they fast at this by now) and then we told two of the stories. That worked out really well.

One level 5 said that she can never remember the word “remembers.” She’s offered this up before, but no one commented; we all have those words we just can’t get. Instead of giving “remembers,” I gave the form that means “having remembered” for their story-writing, and then as other forms came up in the story, I put them up in horizontal conjugation form (thanks, Susie!) with their meanings. I checked whether they got them all as they came up in the story. It was a very satisfying day.

I’m also pleased with myself because in the first story, I remembered to use the rewind button idea twice. (We inserted a flashback into the story.) We also assigned one girl to say “Bing” in a high pitch every time we used a form of “remember.”

In the three of the four Russian classes that met, I also gave Laurie’s sliding-scale quizzes again, except this time I didn’t write whole sentences. Instead, I did this:

1. goes home 2. (she) went to the store 3. (the girl) who was going to school 4. in the town, 5. will come up to me 6. (she) had been talking with you 7. sees me (but it looks like “me sees”) 8. having seen him

Now the kids are watching those forms closely when they come up in reading. This quiz gave me a chance to find out whether the advanced kids are catching the structures, and whether the beginners are getting the gist. Everyone is still getting more right than I expect them to get. I like how sliding-scale quizzes let me quickly discuss other ways to say things so that meaning changes (in not quite the same subtle way that Susie leads contrastive grammar). It’s a grammar teacher’s resting spot, but the kids really care because they’re trying to get as many points out of each phrase as possible. They seem to love this kind of quiz…it’s almost a game. Following that short quiz with story-telling worked out very well.

3 responses to “Tuesday

  1. Could you briefly outline the horizontal conjugation idea? We’ve been doing a bunch of conjugation focus lately with my 3/4 class and I’d like to shake up my approach a bit.


    • Susie spent about half an hour talking with a meal-time group about horizontal conjugation at our conference while I was organizing things and handing out door prizes. Thus I missed huge chunks of the explanation, so my version of this horizontal conjugation is pretty simple and might not be quite what she does…I put the forms up next to each other as the story progresses. In this case, “having remembered” was our target phrase (and it’s a strange-looking participle), but I wanted kids to move freely among the forms.

      having remembered he remembers was remembering she remembered

      You can point at the form you are using at that moment, and it keeps the kids from being confused about what they all mean. You can also then add in a little of contrastive grammar when a chance comes up, asking, for instance, how to change it “if.” “How would I say ‘he remembers’ instead of ‘he remembered'”? It’s all up there on the board, so you can tell whether they’re getting it by whether they have to look for the right answer.

      I also challenged the superstars as I added the horizontal conjugation, asking them to produce the right form. Usually they messed up a little bit, and I could say, “Great! Almost perfect!”


      • OOPS. Talked with Susie, who kindly explained that what I’m doing is contrastive grammar, NOT horizontal conjugation. Horizontal conjugation involves a lot of things including changing prepositions, verbs, objects of prepositions and so on. It’s complicated but makes great sense. I’m going to try it over the next couple of weeks, and let you know how it goes.


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