I got some evidence of how well “passwords” stick with students. In case you’re not familiar with passwords, they are a way to greet students as they enter the classroom. Students say a prearranged “password” (a phrase in the target language) to the teacher at the doorway.

Passwords are a great way to personally greet every student and make a connection before class even starts. It is part of the daily routine that I wouldn’t think of giving up.

In a modern language class, I use common idiomatic expressions for novice students, useful expressions and significant cultural sayings for intermediate low/mid students, and wise authentic sayings for AP students.

In Latin class we use Latin mottos: Latin sayings that educated English speakers still use and Latin phrases that have been used over the centuries to express complex ideas in compact ways. I generally assign 25 passwords each school year—and students remember them. Almost every single password. Most students this year got 95% or better of a test of the 50 passwords over the past two years. The prompts were written in English, the students wrote in Latin. I’ll show samples of those tests in a later blog.

And passwords stick long term. Check this out:

I ran into a couple of students last night. Both were sixth grade boys. They excitedly asked me if I had seen the presidential debate. I asked why, and they said they had heard Latin in it. Both said they heard “Quid pro quo”and that later a commentator said “non sequitur”. One boy also said he heard a commentator say “Deus ex machina”. They were so excited and pleased with themselves. They said if they hadn’t had Latin they would not have understood what the candidates or commentators were saying. I was very proud of them and told them so over and over. The boys were proud and their parents were amazed.

That two 11 year old schoolboys could hear Latin phrases used in an adult debate with no prompting, no warning, and no review, is testimony to how well passwords stick with students. Those two boys recognized the Latin sayings and knew what they meant in a streaming, fast-paced debate and commentary afterwards. That’s acquisition, my friends.

If you haven’t used passwords, take some time this summer to brush up on them. Find out how here.

In a later blog I’ll explain what my passwords are, how I choose them, and how I reinforce them with students—with no class time lost. Stay tuned.

Please share this post with a friend that could use help with classroom management or connecting with students.