Find and add interest

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
In language teaching, ancient and modern, tables of grammatical learning are always hard to sell to students. They reluctantly learn huge charts of information but are unable to apply the knowledge gained to other nouns or verbs. The findreplace program in wordprocessors adds the attraction of technology to reduce time spent in forming the next verb or learning the next conjugation or declension. It can be used to show essential differences between, for example, - er and - re verbs in French, or different declensions or conjugations in Latin.

I like to demonstrate it first, using a data projector. I start with a set of information, say a verb chart. In a Year 10 Latin lesson, this could be a table of all finite verb forms of a first conjugation verb, starting with paro (meaning "I prepare"). These are ready for action, in a pre-prepared document containing 120 verb forms. First, I show how all the endings of paro can be applied to another verb in the same grouping, say navigo (meaning "I sail"). By a simple findreplace of "par" with "navig", I convert all 120 endings and the students see the whole thing done in one mouse click: the entire endings set of the new verb appears quite seamlessly. The same sort of thing could work for verbs such as donner and jouer in French.

As an example of converting from one distinct system to another, I use findreplace to convert the paro endings to a full set for a second conjugation verb, starting with moneo (" warn"). I can do this in six steps, starting with a swap of paro to moneo, then parav to monu, paratus to monitus (whole word), parati to moniti (whole word), pare to monea and finally, para to mone. Students like the idea of helping themselves learn the entire endings set by taking just six steps. Of course it's not always that simple, but where it works it's very efficient.

Julian Morgan, head of classics, Derby Grammar School

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