By Pierre D. Habel, Latin Teacher
In this submission of “Tip of the Tongue” we offer parents helpful guidelines to share with students so that they shine as they finish the year. When a parent gives structured support and encouragement at home, it can make a real difference in the year’s academic outcome.
Language Study Is for the Long Term
It’s key to remember that in the big picture (i.e., our three-year graduation requirement) and at the close-up level (each unit, each semester, and each year), mastery of a second language is about long-term retention of content and development of skills. Students are constantly learning new vocabulary and new grammatical structures, but in any given exercise, essay, or reading, they will also encounter and need to employ terms and skills learned months or years ago. With the approach of final exams, it is urgent that students develop a realistic plan to review and build reliably fast mastery of material learned during the course of the year.
Building a Study Strategy: Divide and Conquer Vocabulary
With less than a month left to go, it is time to adopt a tried and proven Roman strategy, divide and conquer. Don’t wait for the study guide from the teacher to note where you started this semester and where you will end. Look over lessons/units in the textbook and the vocabulary lists that teachers or textbooks provided. Count up and divide the number of words you must (re-)master for the semester by 10. In essence, the student thus creates ten “chunks” that can be more readily conquered, assigning each ‘chunk’ two days of focused practice to build and demonstrate mastery of each. An extra pro-tip: if a student repeatedly misses individual vocabulary items, add those specific words to the ‘chunk’ for the next two days until mastery is solid.
Integrate Grammar Study within Vocabulary Chunks
As students encountered new words, they worked them in a manner deeply integrated with new grammatical skills or cultural concepts. Thus, on the second day of practice with each ‘chunk’ the student should review notes and/or the textbook regarding the grammar and cultural concepts that were paired with the new words. Students can create opportunities to drill these verb tenses, pronoun forms, or cultural components, etc., with the very words whose meaning they are also reviewing. This context-rich practice replicates what teachers provided in lessons, and allows the students to reinforce the integration of skills that are needed in the high-level practices of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and cultural analysis. These activities are the very ones that will be tested on the final!
Correcting Old Mistakes Creates Fresh Mastery
As a final step in active review, students can greatly solidify their skills by reviewing graded work from the semester (homework, essays, quizzes or tests). If the student has retained old work, or goes to the teacher for 7th hour to go over old tests, etc., the student has an opportunity to revisit and refine language skills in the most meaningful way possible by recreating the experience of taking formative (homework-like) and summative (test-like) assessments to identify needed areas of growth. It is impractical to go over every piece of graded work, but with careful selection, students can both identify existing areas of strength and address areas where performance needs improvement.
Reach out to your Teacher
The truth is that few students can effectively prepare for the final without a “reality check” with their teacher. And, even sadder, two days before the final is too late! Get in soon, and ask the teacher for individualized tips for study and practice. We teachers are eager for your success!