Kuhner’s 9 Vocabulary Strategies: Not for Establishing Meaning

At a workshop just before the school year began, I was reminded of 9 strategies for teaching vocabulary used by John Kuhner, SALVI President (among many other things). Here they are:

  1. per monstrātiōnem (= showing)
  2. per gestum (= gesture)
  3. per pictūram (= picture)
  4. per synōnyma (= synonyms)
  5. per contrāria (= opposites)
  6. per indicem (= list/sequence)
  7. per dēfinātiōnem (= definition)
  8. per scaenulum (= skit)
  9. per aliam linguam (= English/native language)

Clearly, #9 is the least creative option. It still is, however, the most efficient way to establish meaning of new words/phrases/structures, but that might be for a different goal, for example, when not necessarily explicitly TEACHING vocabulary, but instead using it for some other purpose. Nevertheless, at the workshop I was a participant in a group that used strategies #3, 4, 7, and 8 to show others what ambāgēs (= a roundabout way) meant. Each group was to present their word using as many strategies as they chose and/or made sense to use.

The process was super interactive. My only reservation is that while my group had a strong sense of ambāgēs during the activity, other groups had their own completely different words. When it came time to share with each other, we heard from 4 out of 10 groups. If you include our brainstorming time (which was mostly in English), the activity was a solid 10-15min. Admins would see this as high engagement and observable evidence of student learning, but what were we learning? After 10-15min. the whole class heard 4 new words, roughly ~3x each during the presentation (and not all in the context of a complete message). Even though it’s tough to put a minimum number on how many times we need to hear something in context before we acquire it (has anyone else heard the number 75+?), it’s safe to say that ~3x is quite low for most of us. Were we learning these words? I’m not so sure. My preference would’ve been to establish meaning using #9 (and maybe an additional visual like #1, or #3), and use only one or two (three?) words many times via Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA), or in Storyasking, etc., and get to the other words later. This preference reflects my slow pace when teaching with CI to Novices, and what I would expect in a short time. Goals will vary.

So, I don’t think this activity leads to acquisition, at least with Novices, especially given the few understandable messages heard amongst shorter, individual words (i.e. all of them but #s 7 & 8). Remember, Latin teachers NEED these kinds of activities at immersion events in order to activate their passive knowledge of Latin, but our students lack that prior knowledge.

I do, however, find value in these 9 strategies, and I will use these them in Jim Tripp’s Bingo reboot, or in a small group activity, especially when being observed, to have students show the meaning of words we’ve already established meaning of. The process would be to explain the 9 strategies to the class, and instruct groups to use as many as they can and/or make sense to use in order to show what words X, Y, and Z (e.g. from the Word Wall, or reading).

5 thoughts on “Kuhner’s 9 Vocabulary Strategies: Not for Establishing Meaning

  1. I wonder if there is not another distinction that needs to be made here. You were involved in a group of Latin teachers who are already deeply invested in the Latin language, already speaking and reading it to some degree. That’s why immersion weekends and weeks are great for personal experience but not great for models for teaching.

    I used to use many of these 9 while trying to teach beginners. I think I even shared much of that with John K. I have come to see that # 9 is the only way to go with beginners and intermediates. Beyond that is beyond my scope of practice. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Jim Tripp’s BINGO 2.0 + & Kuhner’s 9 | Magister P.

  3. Pingback: Assumptions & Definitions: Establishing Meaning | Magister P.

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