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June 2017

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labore oppressa sum. 

I grew the program here so that we now have a second teacher, and she's gonna be marvelous.  She has one prep--all Latin 1--a perfect way to get her used to teaching.  But I have Latin 1, Latin 2, Latin 2preAP, Latin 3preAP, and AP--with all the new Caesar.

The latter is kicking my Latin 4 students' collective butt.  My two natural linguists (bilingual speakers) are enjoying it, but sadly class is mainly a mad dash through the Latin.  Maybe if I didn't quiz two out of 5 days (one a passage quiz, which forces them to learn small sections cold and answer grammar questions, the other an in context vocab quiz which I make up quia for)... but if I didn't do that, they probably would prepare very little. 

Of course, college Latin really is only interesting and exciting because we are INTERESTED in the topic.  I, for instance, totally liked the Caesar class this summer. It was truly interesting to me, interesting because I wanted to see whether all the reading theory I say I try to teach works, whether I could build up reading fluency, etc.  I wish I had had the SPQR app at the time because I could have made up flashcards for myself too. 


My preps are all a jumble, one different class after another, with next to no time to really prep for them.  I prep for AP at lunch, often making warm-ups and quia vocab just in time for class.  I have the students run the quia vocab drill during passing time and the first minute or two of class.  There is never enough time.  And I have NO IDEA why AP thinks they made the amount of reading smaller.  It doesn't seem like it.

I have so much to do, like writing their first test, plus website I need to be totally revising for my friend, not to mention just daily stuff (when did I last buy groceries?  when did I last eat at home?).  Yeah, I'm a bit stressed.

But with all that said, I'm enjoying Caesar, and I'm enjoying forcing myself to find a way to be a better teacher for my 3 Latin 2 classes.  I've always liked Latin 2 the least--the weak students who weren't going to take more than the bare minimum required would just be struggling or causing disruptions because they don't understand, the stronger students causing disruptions because they are bored....

I'm glad to have a preAP Latin 2.  I haven't decided how to really make it preAP, quite honestly, but it's nice to have all the smart kids together and thus feel like I'm teaching a group that really *gets* stuff and when they want MORE stuff I can give them more. I can do more oral work with them, I can require a greater demonstration of noun/adj agreement and such.

Anyway.  I don't know if anyone really reads this.  I really started this blog as a place to put some of the things/rants I used to have on some of the teaching lists--about metaphrasing or quizzing in context or stuff like that.  I think of things now, but never have time to write.  I shouldn't be writing now.  I just wanted to say, I'm still here. I'm still thinking about better ways to teach Latin (or chastising myself for not using the better ways that I learn at Rusticatio in the summer).

More later. Maybe.  About some fun little things in my room this year.

So, I've spent most of the summer so far working on my Aeneid syllabus and making materials I want to use for this year.

Basically I'm creating a lot of work for myself.  In some ways.  But I have two aims in mind: 1) have LESS work to do for AP during the year so that it will be almost all pleasure to teach, and 2) create ways to help all of my AP students be successful.  And, yes, I could just blow off this summer, and just kick it all into high gear next school year, but I want to be able to go to my Tae Kwon Do class this year (I didn't all of last year, and I really missed it).

The first thing I've done is revised my syllabus to fit with next year's calendar and to switch the assignments from being weekly to daily. That is, I've gone through and broken down the lines by day, scheduled quizzes, review, and enrichment activities.  If we can't do everything, so be it.  It's not set in stone.  What my students need will really guide me.  I even added topics covered for each week so that I can see at a glance when we get to X doing Y in the story. 

Of course, revising my schedule in this kind of detail has been time consuming, but if you don't have to cheat (that is, because you are new and really need to use someone else's syllabus to get you off the ground and running), it is so worthwhile.  I'd like to think that if I were doing a masters of teaching in Latin that this might a sort of project that I would do.  (I have no idea what projects MAT programs do, outside of the CANE resource materials.)  And I don't just mean revising my syllabus.  I'm thinking about the whole student.

High school students, unlike college students, in general don't own their textbooks thus they cannot write in them.  I know there are some people that would never write in any book.  I know there are some that would cram English above every line of Latin.  I do not do the latter nor would I ever advocate that.  HOWEVER, I would definitely advocate marking phrasing and whatnot, and for particularly difficult lines make notes in the margins.  This past year I really wanted my Latin 3 students to see phrasing and therefore typed out all the stories we read in Unit 4 (but only Unit 4 of CLC), double-spaced it, and gave it to the students to write on.  The idea was that we'd use ONLY the book in class (clean text) but that they could study from their notes. It worked ok. 

So, one of the things I'm doing is copying and pasting the lines of Vergil from into assignment sheets that would last for each week. (Of course, this will probably need tweeking each year; will this be worth it?)   What I want is for students NOT to TRANSLATE every damn word onto paper.  This is NOT a class on turning Latin into English.  I want to promote READING.  I want to help students develop READING skills and to do so help them learn to see phrases and clauses and THE BIG PICTURE while keeping mindful of all the details.  I'm also creating a reading log that they will need to maintain for a homework grade.  If I punch holes in these sheets and continuously encourage careful storage of them, then students will have created their own review materials to cram from before the exam.  My students this last year had, well, nothing but quizzes and tests to look at.  Not good enough.

I'm also including on the print-outs small sections in bold to be translated into good English PLUS prepared for oral recitation.  Oh, and scanned.  Weekly.  I'm going through a website that has all the old AP questions in order to target passages that have been asked and may well be targetted again.  So the passages that will be key passages for review come exam time should be the passages that they are the most familiar with.  Sounds good in theory, at least.

Finally, I'm working in at least essay prep (if not full essay writing) in some compare/contrast stuff--previous AP questions that asked for students to look at two passages.  I'm also going to do this with comparing a passage and a work of art or some famous person's translation.  I want to mark these passages too (in italics or something) on the sheets of text I'm working on. 

I know I can't do it all this summer, and in fact I really need to turn my attention to something else I want to do with my level 1-3 classes this year (more in another post), but to me it's all about finding a way to teach successfully.  One might say that I'm doing half the work for the students, that other teachers would just make the students write out or type out the lines themselves (I know of one teacher who does).  But these are students that also are in extracurricular activities and other AP classes.  This isn't like college where students are in classes for a few hours each day and have the rest of the day off to study and prepare.  I poured HOURS AND HOURS into preparing my lines for my Latin classes in college.  HOURS AND HOURS. 

I'm into reality.  I don't want my students saying to me that they like Latin until AP because AP was soooo much hard work.  I want them to think of it as challenging, but not impossible.  I want them to feel like they've accomplished something grand, you know?

Anyway.  That's what I'm doing this summer.


I just posted this to the AP list (below).  I started the thread with this comment yesterday:


I have been working hard to get my Latin 3's to work more on seeing phrasing than rushing to look up words, because I know my two AP students rush to look up words before seeing the phrasing. However, not much effort is going into this on their part.

I can see it's more critical than vocab and can lead to better guessing of unknown words from proper context, but I'm not convincing them of that.

Is there any particular exercise that any of you do to promote better chunking, better seeing of phrasing? I'm thinking I should come up with an exercise for midweek to give to both groups (same class time/split level).

I feel it's like magic for me now that I see phrasing so easily, and in word order. I only know of 1 student out of the 3's and AP's (mind you, that's only a total of 9 students) who actively incorporates my reading methodologies and things I've been trying to teach them. This year (but not the last 2) he is the top student. (I think he just finally looked around and decided he was smarter than everyone else and it was time to prove it, ya know...)

I want the rest to get it, esp the two AP students. Because it isn't just about seeing the endings and matching stuff up like a secret code. It's seeing the phrasing and the pictures as they unfold and worrying about the English second, which you can then translate better anyway for having taken time to see the phrasing and the pictures.

> Metaphrasing has been somewhat unsuccessful with poetry (at

> least for me), because in many instances, the sentences are a

> bit long and grammar a bit scattered that students lose track

> of everything nor do they make connections.

Hmmmm.... I have found it helped me out of quite a few jams when I realized my own understanding was going off track. But what I find I can do (most likely because of been working on the whole concept of READING versus DECODING for the last decade both with students and my own personal reading habits) is see whole phrases and clauses or, if need be, eliminate them to see the basic skeleton underneath as well. I gave my APs the Dido wandering as a wounded doe passage to translate on their last test, thinking I had made a big deal out of it and knowing that it is an important passage, but didn't really think about how tricky it is to put into good English. I can *read* it, see the phrases and clauses as they flow over the page, see the pictures painted, understand the nuances of the word order, and love the Latin for the Latin. And even though I know *exactly* what it means, the English is so less graceful. (Hmmm...suddenly I feel the urge to try some creative writing myself with the passage....)



> I have been trying to get students to rewrite the poetry into

> a more prose word order

And my gut tells me that this is exactly the wrong direction to go. Please, please don't take offense, Keith! This is the sort of thing I probably would have done when I first started teaching in the late 80s. But all that I've read by Dexter Hoyos about reading in word order makes me think that this is just not the way to go. It reinforces that idea that Latin is in mixed up word order.

There's an incredible beauty to the word order and the phrasing. And if we weren't marching at such a horrific clip through these dactylic hexameters, we could slow down long enough to talk about it.

Sometimes one way to deal with what seems odd word order to us is to read it outloud, to think about how a Roman might have emphasized the words as they flowed along in the story. Here's the passage I was talking about (thank you,, I love you):

uritur infelix Dido totaque uagatur

urbe furens, qualis coniecta cerua sagitta,

quam procul incautam nemora inter Cresia fixit

pastor agens telis liquitque uolatile ferrum

nescius: illa fuga siluas saltusque peragrat

Dictaeos; haeret lateri letalis harundo.

Students really botched up the relative clause. No surprise. But think of it from the point of view of the storytelling. First that the shot/spent arrow visually has pierced the doe--from front to back. And then there's the clause describing the doe: far away, unknowing, just wandering among the Cretan woods; pierced (by whom?), then the shepherd hunting with weapons; who himself unwittingly leaves behind the swift/flying shaft/weapon--with that emphasis in the enjambment of not knowing. The story is told BEAUTIFULLY in word order. Makes you wonder what the shepherd was doing, just shooting arrows in the air? Aiming at squirrels up close and not noticing where the arrow ended up? Perhaps the point is that a hunter who knew he shot a doe would have tracked it and finished the job of killing it.

But here's our Dido, shot by Cupid, lethal weapon clinging to her side, so to speak.

There are a couple of things I would want my students to be able to do (which they don't/can't yet), which is to be able to see how to simplify to make sure they have the right *shape* of the thing. Look again at this relative clause:

quam procul incautam nemora inter Cresia fixit

pastor agens telis liquitque uolatile ferrum


This can be divided into two parts:

quam procul incautam nemora inter Cresia fixit

pastor agens telis


liquitque uolatile ferrum


This second part is easier than the first, so let's ignore it. Now to just the first part:

quam procul incautam nemora inter Cresia fixit

pastor agens telis

We know that a relative clause will have a basic shape: subject verb object--right? But can you see it yet? How about now, taking out the prep phrase?

quam procul incautam ... fixit

pastor agens telis

How about now, taking out the adverb?

quam ... incautam ... fixit

pastor agens telis

How about now, taking out the participial phrase modifying pastor?

quam ... incautam ... fixit


How about now, taking out the adjective, which at least we can now see goes with quam?

quam ... fixit / pastor

And there it is: whom/which the shepherd pierced (with that shot arrow that's already sticking through either side of the doe!)

I don't want to *change* the word order; I want, now, I suppose, to build it back up.

The thing is, I *immediately* see that nemora inter Cresia is a prep phrase. I *immediately* see that agens telis goes with pastor. I don't think word for word when I read; I think chunk for chunk, phrase for phrase, clause for clause.

Maybe I should print this for my students....

That was the original post.  There was a reply, but the other teacher was talking about possibly getting students to rewrite poetry as prose. That defeats the purpose.  So here are my comments:

Here's the letter from AP with the link to the survey below.  I haven't done mine yet; I'm contemplating possibilities. (more comments below the letter)

Dear AP Latin Teacher:

We are writing to request your ideas as we work to revise the AP Latin program in the coming years.

Last spring, we announced that AP Latin Literature, along with three other AP courses, will be discontinued following the May 2009 exam. The College Board remains committed to supporting college-level world language studies in secondary schools. Because more secondary schools offer the AP Latin: Vergil program, we decided to maintain the AP Latin: Vergil program for 2009-10. As a not-for-profit organization, we will continue to bear a considerable financial loss annually to provide schools with AP world language offerings and to keep student exam fees reasonable. Some educators have suggested that if the College Board can only fund one AP Latin Exam, the solution should be to keep two different curricula in place, alternating the exam content every other year. This solution does not, however, actually address the funding issue, since maintaining two separate AP Latin Exams would require two separate budgets and processes for test form assembly, item development, college comparability studies, reliability studies, equating plans, and other processes that are crucial to delivery of reliable, high-stakes examinations.

Others have suggested calling two years of curriculum "AP Latin," so that students would have incentive to choose Latin over other languages, even though the exam would only be offered at the end of the final year of study. But if we were to allow multiple courses that prepare students for eventual success on an AP Latin Exam to be called "AP Latin," teachers of other languages (German, French, etc.) would want to label multiple years of their course work similarly. Attempting to acquire the most AP designations as possible on a transcript is not something we should support. Accordingly, the "AP" designation will be reserved for the capstone course in the sequence that culminates in the AP Exam.

Having decided to keep the AP Latin: Vergil Exam as the sole AP Latin Exam, it became important to us to understand the extent to which the course should be modified over time to represent the best possible capstone AP Latin experience. We have just completed a survey of college professors at dozens of the nation's top classics departments, and this is the consensus that emerged:

College faculty confirmed that we should keep Vergil at the core of the capstone AP Latin course, but that we should reduce the amount of time on Vergil to approximately 40 percent of the current reading list, so that the capstone course could be a prose and poetry course with selections from Catullus, Cicero, and/or Caesar filling the remainder of the reading list.
College faculty expressed a strong desire for this course to be offered in the twelfth-grade year, so that students would persist in their course of Latin study through their final year of high school, entering college with the knowledge and skills still fresh from their AP course. (However, choices regarding the grade level in which AP Latin should be offered will remain within the jurisdiction of the secondary school.)
100 percent of college faculty indicated that their institutions would provide credit and placement to AP Latin students who succeeded on a multiauthor, prose and poetry AP Latin Exam.

The AP Latin Development Committee will meet in late March 2009 to decide the timeline for modifying AP Latin: Vergil to include other authors beyond Vergil. To make this decision, the AP Latin Development Committee would appreciate guidance from AP teachers. Assuming that the new AP Latin course and exam will reduce the amount of time on Vergil and require works by other prose and poetry authors, when should the new course first be offered? In other words, how much time will AP teachers want to prepare for offering the new course, and how much professional development are they likely to need? How much time would AP Latin teachers need to acquire course textbooks and materials?

The AP Latin Development Committee will review the results of this survey of AP Latin teachers in late March, and will identify any other information necessary to making decisions about changes to the AP Latin program. We will provide AP Latin teachers with an update in May 2009 about the Development Committee's exploratory work, and will remind teachers that no changes will be made to AP Latin: Vergil for the 2009-10 academic year.

Accordingly, please fill out a brief survey, which we estimate will take about 10 minutes to complete. Your responses will be kept anonymous.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey and thereby guide the future of the AP Latin program.

The Advanced Placement Program


Decisions are made by those who show up.  Show up.

And then, before you whine about what we canNOT get that we want, think about the people who have lost their jobs to the recession.  Consider the Latin Lit test nothing more than a layoff.  At least Vergil hasn't gotten a pink slip.

No job is sacred.  While we may be slaves to our jobs,we are LUCKY to be able to teach something we LOVE. 

And if we don't want pink slips, we need to be creatively rethinking how our program is structured.  Can we do something else for year 5 that's college credit in conjunction with a local university? 

Oh here's a weird idea.  You know, often we think of pairing up our upper level classes.  What if there's a way to write up a class for say Plautus--for Roman comedies--where the advance Latin 5's are reading the original but kids who really don't want to continue Latin (barely scraped by the 1st two years) but who like the cultural civ stuff do research in English on the time period and the stuff in English.  The two groups come together to plan performances.  The Latin 5 students do the acting/scenes in Latin; the civ/culture students do sets, costumes, whatever.

What if you did Cicero like that?  Latin 5's do the speeches; culture students make costumes, are in charge of tech stuff (recording?), historical accuracy of props and such. 

Really, the only things that holds us back from such classes are 1) time to execute the class well, 2) time to think creatively to come up with such a class, and 3) convincing administration to allow a crossbreed beast like that.  Then again, isn't that a way to make classes more democratic in a way?  Broaden exposure of higher level topics to a wider audience, even if they are gaining information via different mediums?

well, I'm going to regret having spent time here again instead of grading.  Time to get back into it.  I thought i was almost done until I got to the number of tests that were turned in/taken late. eheu. 


I'm going to put down a few ideas here that came to me today.  I am still SOOOOO FAR behind in grading, I have no business being here, but I'm also getting sick so I don't care.  Nanner, nanner, as gets said in my house.

So the biggest WHINE about losing the alternating AP exam has been that if you needed something for Latin 5 you now had nothing, and unless you could offer AP as a carrot, kids wouldn't sign up because w/o AP the class most likely won't count for extra GPA points--and everyone is all about GPA these days.  Can't afford to lose a point.

At the Gifted and Talented workshop today, we discussed that AP is not the same as GT and vice versa.  We have in Texas something called the Texas Performance Standards Project.

Of course, this document is geared toward core subjects and TEKS, but some of the topics for GT projects got me really thinking how they could be applied to Latin, certainly at an advanced level.  For instance, this one caught my eye:

The Comedic Lens: Analyzing a Society through Its Use of Comedy

English Language Arts, Social Studies

Students will explore the use of comedy as a means of social commentary throughout history. Students will learn about different types of comedy and its role and impact in other cultures and eras. They will choose an historic event/era and look at the ways comedy was used in society at that time and how comedy affected popular opinions and attitudes. The final product will be a comedic interpretation of an historic or current event.

Download Task (Adobe PDF)

  • A comedy about the historical era or event
  • A satire about a contemporary issue. The student chooses the format (e.g., comic strip, play, sitcom, standup routine, op-ed piece)
  • A comedy piece from the historical era or event, updated to make it relevant today

Boy, can you imagine doing this with Plautus and Terence?

So it got me thinking in turn:  instead of trying to get ACL or APA or some joint group to come up with an alternative test to the AP test as some sort of bizarre protest, why don't we CREATE a set of possible "TASKS" for a GT class?  You can't tell me, for instance, that our best and brightest teachers and professors can't come up with a list of topics to explore that would require RESEARCH, a PRODUCT, and a PRESENTATION?    And surely they could do numerous possible choices for particular authors.  THEN if we, as teachers, wanted to teach Cicero as a GT course, we could and we'd have possible GT topics at hand for research.  Or say your love is Catullus, then Catullus you shall have.

The GT projects could end up having students read above and beyond what the topic of the course is.    And the best part about it is that you could have RIGOR without QUANTITY.  That is, I know that MANY people are frustrated with the pace of AP and the sheer quantity of lines covered.  Instead of recommended quantity, it would be the quality of the project(s), the creativity, the ingenuity, etc.  I can envision group projects (putting on a play, props, etc etc), individual projects on specific aspects, etc. 

My Latin 3s are finishing up Unit 3 right now and I noted the other day some info about Paris the pantomime.  I need to go back and read it, because I'm sure I didn't catch enough of it.  But I do remember that it was talking about his monument/inscription.  This could lead a student to do research on inscriptions. 

What about if you had a student really interested in mythology?  Why couldn't he/she do a project on the depiction of gods in comedies??  (A let me briefly tip my hat to "Daddy Dalights," yes, Jupiter, yes, Doug Parker.....)

Boy, does this have possibilities.... 

I guess I better toss this one out to the lists tomorrow.
I posted this to a couple of different lists this a.m.  I thought it would be worthwhile to post here as well.

Admittedly I've mainly been lurking of late, if that at all.  It's been a crazy, busy school year.  I'm taking a little time off this morning to work on a proposal I'm submitting to the AP Development Committee before we meet with them at CAMWS-SS in November. 
I'm reading up on several things because I want to make a strong, persuasive argument, and this reading-up has led me to the World Language Assessment website. I was looking at glossary terms and these items gave me pause:
Language Proficiency Levels: Used in the performance standards and guidelines to describe students' development of language skills without referring to grade level or age, since world language acquisition may begin at different grades/ages, and progresses at different rates.
Beginning: Language learning primarily of a receptive and imitative nature. (Production is quite accurate since it consists of memorized material.)

Developing: Ability to use target language, moving from imitative to reflective use. (Students begin to create with the language recombining memorized or learned material; movement from more imitative to more reflective, which brings about a decrease in accuracy.)

Transitioning: More creative application of the language, from reflective to an interactive character. (Language becomes less reflective and more interactive as students move toward greater independence; creating with the language to express their own thoughts.)

Refining: Language usage moving from interactive to showing initiative, where the speaker can take full responsibility for beginning, maintaining, and furthering the conversation.
So what about Latin with regard for the AP Latin test?  I'm about to make an argument for an oral recitation component.  And even though some of us would like students to get a more wholistic language approach with production (speaking/composing), that's not the goal of a college course.  It will take a long evolution to get more professors to use more Latin in a college course (speaking, writing, etc).  Your typical college course is about reading a particular author; it is literature based.  Discussions are almost entirely in English.
So... my point is not about whether that's good or bad or needs to be changed, but what do we see as language proficiency levels for Latin?  If our  MAIN GOAL is READING LATIN, reading what the ancients (or medievalists) wrote, do we have ANYWHERE what we consider our own proficiency levels to be?
I think we need them.  I'm not sure whether I can explain why I think we need them, but if we are to monitor and develop the skills needed for each level, we need to be aware of what the goal is.  It can't just be lines read.  Given enough time anyone can read X amount of lines.  In college I know I spent HOURS AND HOURS prepping for class.  I guarantee you that I had not developed any fluency on any level; I was just half decent at decoding.  (If only I had had Dexter Hoyos's book then....!)
For instance, at the top should be a comfortable level of reading fluency.  I guarantee this is NOT what our AP students have!!  They are being overwhelmed by the vocabulary and getting used to the idioms and idiosyncracies of the language.  Not that this is a bad thing; this is what it's like when any of us moved into real Latin, into that uncontrolled release of language.  So, I'm thinking that this would be TRANSITIONING for us.
REFINING I think is more where I personally am.  I feel like I can pick up a piece of Latin and read it with confidence and even pleasure, albeit still more slowly than I would like.  But I feel like I've sight-read a lot of Vergil this year with my two AP students, and enjoyed it.  All the reading methodology stuff I've been teaching at lower levels over the last several years have really and truly paid off with the real stuff.  I can't tell you how much of a difference I feel this has made for me personally as a reader and student of Latin.
Anyway, maybe I'm wrong in thinking that we should have our own equivalent definitions to the ones above that World Languages have.  I'm only thinking about all this stuff because when reading the most recent AP material regarding the changes College Board is making with languages, a lot seems to be based on World Language Acquistion materials.  In a letter from Marcia Wilbur (posted in the eclassics forum) she states:
The goals of the AP World Languages & Literature Course & Exam Review are: 1) to ensure that the suite of AP courses and exams align with the National Standards; and 2) to have assessments that are as parallel as is appropriate. To achieve these goals, we have been working since fall 2006 with a number of AP World Language Commissioners—secondary and post-secondary faculty--who have contributed to the creation of AP world language and literature Curriculum Frameworks and corresponding Achievement Level Descriptors
Surely these language proficiency levels (above) are these Achievement Level Descriptors mentioned here.
Anyway, I was just pondering all of this and thought I'd share my thoughts this morning before my day starts rolling out of control.

So, if you've been monitorying Latinteach or the AP list (or any list, it seems) lately you've seen discussion on AP and the revisions to the test.  I've tried to get some productive talk going, but there's been a lot of negativity.  I find it very disappointing because we are talking about our future.

It seems to me no different than elections.  I've faithfully voted certainly every year since I've been married (15 going on 16), and felt my efforts have been wasted.  But to give up on voting is NOT the answer (especially with some frightening prospects on the horizon, including a possible vice president who believes in book banning and acts like my former principal....).  We have to believe that we can effect change.  We have to.  We have to think that each of us can make a difference.

I feel the same about AP.  We can make a difference IF WE SPEAK UP.

And, admittedly, I still get fairly frustrated by people who think they need two tests to make their AP programs work.  I mean, I don't DOUBT that.  I'm sure they've adapted to that and it's made their program work.  But why--especially at really large schools--why are their AP programs small?  Why aren't they getting MORE students up to AP? 

Reading the AP annual report is eye-opening.  They REALLY want more students who are NOT typical AP students.  They want a more diverse crowd.  But if we are weeding these kids out, how can we have large programs?

Perhaps I'm too generous a teacher.  Maybe I'm not hard enough in some respects.  Maybe I should weed out students, giving enough homework to get rid of slackers or to make sure that every single person can conjugate and decline perfectly any odd thing I throw at them.  But I want to READ the Latin, and spend more time on that, spot checking conjugating and declining on quizzes, leaving the drill and kill for quia stuff.

And maybe my students (all two of them) in AP are really feeling like they've bitten off more than they can chew.  THEN AGAIN, I really enjoyed their essays on their first test, and there was evidence that they are *getting* the Aeneid.  HOW COOL IS THAT?

So, while I'd like to think that by April I'll have them equipped to make 5's on the AP exam, what if they only make 3's?  Or less? (Not that I expect that!)  Does that negate the experience? 

We spend sooooo much time talking about grades.  We think that our worth is measured by numbers--whether it's grades or evaluations or the number of kids who actually made gold medals on the National Latin Exam.  I would rather my students leave here talking about Vergil and Aeneas than their grades.

And if other teachers at big schools still have small AP programs, perhaps they should consider how to increase those numbers instead of using two AP tests....

I'm in the process of working out some kinks in what I want to do for oral recitation in my AP Vergil class.  I thought I'd do some thinking out loud, so to speak.  Writing out what I want to do helps me, and perhaps following my train of thought will help some of you--or you can suggest where you think my thinking is faulty.

At the moment I have written into the syllabus that students will be doing oral recitations two times each 9 week period (4 a semester, 8 a year).  I personally believe that learning how read whole PASSAGES well out loud is important.  The Romans never read silently.  This literature was meant to be heard.  And I also think it aides in developing a more natural sense and appreciation of the Latin language.  And...well...I just feel it's the right thing to do.  Whatever.


I have the first passage I want to use picked out from 1.36-49

cum Iūnō, aeternum servāns sub pectore vulnus,
haec sēcum: “Mēne inceptō dēsistere victam
nec posse Ītaliā Teucrōrum āvertere rēgem—
quippe vetor fātīs! Pallasne exūrere classem
Argīvum atque ipsōs potuit summergere pontō
ūnius ob noxam et furiās Aiācis Oīleī?
Ipsa, Iovis rapidum iaculāta ē nūbibus ignem,
disiēcitque ratēs ēvertitque aequora ventīs,
illum expīrantem trānsfīxō pectore flammās
turbine corripuit scopulōque īnfīxit acūtō;
ast ego, quae dīvum incēdō rēgīna Iovisque
et soror et coniūnx, ūnā cum gente tot annōs
bella gerō. Et quisquam nūmen Iūnōnis adōrat
praetereā aut supplex ārīs impōnet honorem?”

The question is, HOW do I want to grade this?  In fact, what IS my ultimate goal?

Well, first I went to for the "Oral Skills and Reading Proficiency in the Latin Curriculum: Plan of Oral Exam for Certifying Latin Teachers."    This document was written in the late 1980s to go with the ExCET test for Latin because at the time we had been told that there was going to be an oral component.  I personally think it is a very practical approach to what you need to be a Latin teacher.  It doesn't include conversational stuff which freaks everyone out.

Anyway, I'm not sure I like the rubric that's on the above PDF file.  Here is what's on the PDF with regards to grading the recitation:

Oral Reading – Poetry. Points will be given as follows:
Communicative Competense (Phrasing and Expression)    0 30 45 60
Mechanics of Pronunciation
      Vowel quality and quantity
      Consonant quality
      Word Accent/Rhythm & meter                                               40 points total
For any word with one or more errors in vowel quality, consonant quality, or rhythm and
meter, ½ point will be deducted from the 40 point total.
For repeated, specific errors, such as:
      failure to pronounce double consonants
      mispronunciation of “r” or of “gn”
      repeated mispronunciation of a single word (such as anglicizing Hercules or mangling spelunca)
      incorrect word accent on imperfect tense verbs (e.g. ha΄bēbat rather than habē΄bat)
      failure to elide (poetry only)
a maximum of 1 point total will be deducted, regardless of how many times a specific error is
repeated. Note: Whether to count an error in a word as one of a set of repeated, specific errors
or as an isolated error will be within the discretion of the graders of the exam.

Ok, so let's examine what's here because maybe it is usable.   This rubric is saying that the overall reading--expressiveness and interpretation is more important than nitpicky perfection in pronunciation.  I can appreciate that, even for all the importance I put on pronunciation.  I'd rather an expressive reading than one that has perfect pronunciation but is robotic and dull.  The choice for points awarded--0, 30, 45, 60--seems limited.  I wouldn't want to penalize a student by 15 points!  I doubt my students will be as dramatic as I am and I think there needs to be clarification here.

For instance, we could break this down to at least two things--phrasing and interpretation.  I think phrasing is so important and that a person could have excellent phrasing, demonstrating a comprehension of the passage, but a flat and unexpressive reading.  I guess the next question for me would be how should these things be weighted.  Perhaps 40/20?   The nice thing about that is that students would feel that less of this is subjective.  After all, phrasing you can identify either by punctuation or word order.  There's a concrete aspect to this.  Expression is a bit more subjective.

Ok, so 40 points for phrasing.  But how will the points be awarded or deducted?  The mechanics of pronunciation, etc, are using .5 pt per mistake--but then, that includes accent and meter too.  That's up to 80 things that could be counted wrong--and considering the passages are suggested to be 80-100 words long, it is actually possible to get a zero.  HIGHLY UNLIKELY but possible.  What about 3 pts for phrasing mistakes?  Too much?  There are 15 lines in the above passage which, times 3, would give us 45... more than the 40 points.  And I guess I'm assuming that it's unlikely that there would be more than 1 phrasing mistake per line.  Maybe I should consider the possibility of 2 phrasing mistakes per line, thus 30 items...maybe 1.5 pts per mistake?  That would equal 45 pts.  Well, maybe phrasing SHOULD be 45 and expression 15.  It can be the icing on the cake.

So, how to score the expression portion...  
0 = you suck and I'm not even sure you're alive
3 = thanks for trying, I just barely notice that you expressed feeling with a couple of obvious words
6 = you have some expression, but it's not like you care enough
9 = good, I think there's an actor in there somewhere, but you're still worried about what others are thinking
12=very good but you could reach for the gold if let go
15=extraordinary, you should be famous

Ok, that's a little cocky.  But technically it's just a 5 pt scale from good to bad.  (Plus the zero thrown in.)

But that could work, right?

Phrasing = 45
Expression/Interpretation = 15
Mechanics = 40


I think that might work.

NOW, the other thing....  I'm thinking for the 1st semester I'll let the students read off of a sheet with macrons but NOT in the 2nd semester.  Why?  To demonstrate to students that by making a healthy habit all year long of reading out loud that you can read without macrons as you internally assimilate the Vergilian vocabulary.  This should actually develop confidence in facing the AP test without macrons.

So I was thinking maybe during the 1st 9 weeks I'd let them do their two readings using their own sheets with macrons and any other things they want to write on it--meter, phrasing, accent marks, ANYTHING.

2nd 9 weeks on the day of the recitation I'd give them a clean sheet with macrons and I'd give them a few minutes (maybe up to 5) to mark anything they want to on it before reciting, though they can use NO NOTES OR BOOKS.  Kind of like a test.

3rd 9 weeks on the day of the recitation I'd give them a clean sheet WITHOUT MACRONS and the rest like the 2nd 9 weeks.

4th 9 weeks I would not tell them what the passage was going to be (while with the previous 3 nine weeks I would give them the specific passage in advance) but simply tell them it will be from the last 2 or 3 weeks of their readings.  On the day of the recitation I'd give them a clean sheet without macrons (like above).

Oh.... I just realized I've got this written down by 9 week grading periods whereas the AP test comes earlier.... well, I'll just refine this to match my syllabus, which I don't have out in front of me.

Right.  I've rambled enough about this.  Time to figure out how to write this up for the students.  Then I really need to get onto some review materials for the OTHER classes for the first week of school.

I'm currently at Austin College at the Richardson Summer Language Institute.  This is an extraordinary opportunity for Texans (the grant is local) to go study free.  We are reading books 10 and 12 of Vergil, and I am enjoying the readings and discussions tremendously.

I have made some observations, though, which some people will find too critical.  I am NOT trying to be critical, only to observe and ponder what I know about teaching and reading Latin.  We all, most assuredly, go through periods of doubt regarding our own skills, whether we have bitten off more then we can chew, etc etc.  At least I know I do.  I know I have always been a worrier, or at least I was as a child.  I remember my mom calling me that frequently, though I have no idea what I worried about. I must ask her.  ANYWAY, now I turn it to a more productive aspect in contemplating what I do, whether it works or not, how to tweak it, etc.

I have long since gotten out of the habit of writing translations.  I was taught in college NEVER to write out translations, even though that was the main way we did assignments my last year of high school.  In college we were taught to keep running lists of problem vocabulary, etc etc.  I would also, for instance, draw arches over words and phrases that belonged together, and maybe write words in the margins.  

Now after being a strong supporter of reading methodologies, using Dexter Hoyos' book/beliefs combined with metaphrasing and such, I find that I work totally differently than other teachers.  Mind you, all of us here have not read Vergil in a long time.  It has been 20 years for me, easily, and similar for others.  Some came to teach Latin after teaching other things; some have a strong background in Greek, others know French.  So we all have our weaknesses.  

I was invited to join in a group of three others to work on "translating" our assignment that was due today. I had already missed the first part but was happy to join in.  I probably made a nuisance of myself by just jumping in and reading out loud.  In fact, before I had gone back to get my book (I had stuck my head in their room because I heard loud laughter), I had asked whether they were reading out loud.  The reply was, "No, we'll do that tomorrow."  

But this is VERGIL.   It should be read out loud, and not everyone taking a line but whole long bits at a go!!!  This has perhaps been the one most frustrating thing for me here, because I think we should be teaching better reading skills--not only to the other teachers but in turn to our students.  (I am a junior presenter here.)  But I'm jumping ahead.

So I joined this happy lot of translators.  I wanted to read the equivalent to a paragraph at a time in Latin to get a brief preview of what's happening--skimming, in a sense, to pick up a few things here and there, whether it's vocabulary or the order of words/cases and such.   Someone freaked and said let's just do 3 lines or so at a time.  So ok, I didn't want to upset anyone.  Our discussions were fairly good and I was by no means right every time about stuff, but was frustrated because they were not reading in word order.  

This is so important.  This is just SO VERY IMPORTANT.  Word pictures are created this way, the story unfolds this way on purpose.  Translating into English should be the last THE VERY VERY LAST thing you do.  Understanding comes first, understanding the Latin, in order, is first.  And things usually unfold more easily this way.

Phrases also jump out this way, as well as if you read more than just a line or two at a time.  Things just don't work that way.  THIS IS LITERATURE.

And for Vergil's sake READ OUTLOUD!  

And when you have figured out what a section is, REREAD it.  REREAD IT OFTEN, adding more lines from before and after in order to fix the bigger picture in your head.

OF COURSE students balk at studying for the Vergil AP exam--especially if they read through it once to DECIPHER, write down that translation, correct the translation NEVER looking at the Latin, and then moving on to the next lines, NEVER rereading.



One person here has extraordinary listening skills, being fluent in Spanish and French.  Another clearly works her students hard with translations and essays, most likely buidling really solid skills.  I can't tell you what I do yet.  I know that perhaps the way I have structured Latin 3 for the last couple of years hasn't been ideal, using Ecce Romani and doing it split level. I'm not criticizing Ecce, only that I use CLC with the other classes and Ecce was on its way out so I wasn't totally invested.  I was also teaching English and trying to keep up with research papers, essays and whatnot.  I have my excuses, such as they are, which I fall back on uncomfortably.

BUT I constantly modeled reading whole sections of Latin so that it sounded like A LANGUAGE.  I was picky about pronunciation (at least as I modeled it).  I constantly did metaphrasing to reinforce READING Latin as it comes.

And I did something I'm going to call spiraling.  Maybe that's the right thing to call it, I dunno.  I'm sure you can find the first time I did this with real Latin if you look in the archives back to spring of 07.  We were reading some Catullus--cenabis bene, I think it started.  I read the whole poem to the class first, and asked what they got of it.  Very little, and that was ok.  Then we translated the first line.  After that was understood by everyone, WE ALL READ THAT LINE TOGETHER IN THE LATIN.  Then we translated line 2. After that was understood by everyone, WE ALL READ LINES 1 AND 2 TOGETHER IN THE LATIN.  Then we translated line 3, then read ALL THREE LINES TOGETHER IN THE LATIN.  

And so on until the last line.  I think the poem was around 15 lines or so.  Therefore we only dealt with the English once per line, but we dealt with the Latin  MULTIPLE TIMES PER LINE, depending upon the line.

By the end, I made them read the whole thing WITH FEELING.  Then again with MORE FEELING.

WE FOCUSED ON THE LATIN not the damned English.  We fixed the vocabulary in our minds that way, in the context of the poem and not in some dumb list to be memorized.

We are sitting here at this workshop--which has many other things to be praised on offer--but we're doing old school read a line and translate going around the room.  There is no FEEL for the Latin, no dramatizing, no playing Vergil at a recitation.

Jupiter, no wonder there are kids out there in AP Latin who end up hating Vergil.  What drudgery if this is what "reading" Latin means to them.

Last night I did lead a little section on reading theory.  I gave out my reading bookmarkers based in Dexter's rules for reading Latin.  Bob Cape talked a bit about reading with expectation, Glen Knudsvig style.  I then followed up with a handout on different types of metaphrasing I do as warm-ups.  Finally we handed out and went over the different rules for disambiguation from an article Dan McCaffrey wrote for TCA back when I was editor.

I'm not in enough of a leadership role to really help these teachers make the transition to reading in word order.  I made up reading cards, as I agreed to do last night, this morning even though I overslept.  I could have been rereading my Latin for class.  I had them ready to go, handed them over to one of the profs, but then they were never used with this morning's readings, even though I suggested we use them after the break with the beginning of our readings in book 12.  That's ok.  We can bring these things up later.

Sometimes some of us on Latinteach are accused of being too, I dunno, evangelical about our views.  But I am cruising through Vergil, not without stops and starts in places, but in comparison to what doing 50+ lines was like for me in college, I am cruising through with time to spare for reading and rereading.  I am making myself read out loud, which some may find odd, but it makes SUCH A BIG DIFFERENCE.  

This gives me a dimension of fluency in reading and I'm better at reading elisions (most of the time) and even sight reading!  This morning, as I said, I woke up late, 2 hours later than planned.  No rollerblading around campus for me like yesterday.  No breakfast even, but then I have fresh peaches in my room.  I made the reading cards and looked over the book 10 readings.  I had failed to remember that we were supposed to read in book 12!!!  I discovered that while we were sitting in the lounge where we meet, slowly pouring over the lines.  When I noticed on the agenda that there was book 12 lines to read, I quickly noted what passage we were currently on and remembered that I felt solid on reading that section.  So I skipped to the 20 or so lines that I hadn't read, and read through them two or three lines, getting only stuck in one place that was difficult.  I didn't sweat it; I knew we'd go over it.  And if I ended up reading those lines, so be it if I wasn't perfect.

If nothign else this was a demonstration that these techniques which I have been teaching and working on using myself do make me a better reader, less panicked at sight.  In fact, all of this is sight reading, really, except I can look up words if I need to.

So, I suppose I'm rambling.  And it's time to go to the computer lab.  

Maybe one day I can team up with some profs to do a workship similar to this, but one that also includes up front better ways to teach and approach reading that actively makes the "students" practice these techniques even if they feel comfortable with their more painstaking decode and translate on paper method.

I finished my AP Syllabus.  It was a lot of work and a lot of *thought* with not much to show for it.  Just a piece of paper.  Well, you know what I mean.  I probably wasted a lot of time just CONTEMPLATING what I was going to do.  I'm still thinking I should have put much more into a review up front, but will figure that out later.  There just wasn't the time in the schedule.

I know I act like I know so much all the time, but I know I don't.  I have distinct ideas about what was wrong in my Latin education, and what I want my students to be able to do, but I'm still just striving to get there.    I think there are some things I do well, really well, but others that I do not do well--like timing/pacing.  So, with the whole AP year planned out, maybe I'll be better at pacing.

I have one week before I go off to Austin College, like I did two years ago.  Last time it was Cicero.  This year it will be Vergil.  So, it's time to break from Vergil and work on Latin 3 stuff.

One thing I did last summer that helped tremendously in teaching out of CLC Unit 3 for the first time was going through and finding all the vocabulary in the stories.  I then made a table in word which had all the sentences next to the vocab item.  I also indicated which story the sentence came from (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc, in the chapter).  When I found I needed to quicken my pace last year, I was able to pick which stories to do/focus on based on which ones had the majoirity of the vocabulary.  

So, I'm definitely doing this with Unit 4.  I've already done stages 35 and 36.  I definitely want to do through 40, and then contemplate where to go after that.   The main problem is that Latin 3 will be with Latin 4/AP, so with a split-level class I know we won't make the kind of progress I'd like.  It's also a squirrelly sort of group.  Oh, who knows.  Maybe if I found a way to keep up with grading this year I could make them more accountable and assign more for homework.  

But here's the thing (take note, if you are a new teacher):  if you are busy spending all your free time making the quizzes and tests and reading comp sheets or WHATEVER, it's hard to GRADE!  Something has to give, or at least you need to be aware that that's the trap you are setting for yourself.

Last year I was so busy creating stuff for Latin 2 and revising things for Latin 1, that I hardly got any grading of homework done.  I blamed English a lot (and it did have to come first a lot of the time), but next year I'll only have myself to blame.

I was giving myself a hard time earlier because I just don't have the same kind of time to do the more fun, creative things that I used to do when I taught middle school.  Part of me would just LOVE to teach middle school again.  I was GOOD at it, the kids really learned the Latin.  And I had time to do more for classics in general.  BUT...I need to learn how to do the whole thing, from beginning to end, from eggs to apples.   You will never understand where you weaknesses from one year until you have those same students the NEXT year.   

ANYWAY...So I've been working on my vocab lists.  I swear, I think my in-context vocab quizzes and quias (if used right!), really do help with the detalis.  That and metaphrasing.  Those are the two best tools I have, I think.  OH, and reading outloud.  Reading LOTS outloud.

If only I could get the students to do that more.  But that's something else to ponder.

OH, if anyone wants to look at my syllabus, it's at  

With luck, it will get it's mark of approval and we will change Latin 4 to AP Latin.


Any new teachers out there?

I sometimes feel like I am a perpetually new teacher.  When I came back to teaching 8 years ago, I was a new teacher again (I had taught a year right out of college and then ran away screaming back in the late 80s and did other things for about a dozen years).  For 6 years I taught the same three courses: Latin 1a, Latin 1b, and exploratory.  Frankly, there's a LOT to be said for teaching middle school first, if for no other reason than you can usually keep your preps limited to three.  I had time to develop and modify materials, figure out what worked and what didn't, and get "good" at it, or at least really comfortable.

Then I switched to Dripping Springs HS where I had a Latin 1 class (CLC), a Latin 2 class (Ecce) split with Latin 3 (Ecce), plus four sophomore English classes.  So I had materials for the Latin 1 class, but it was like I was a newbie all over again for Latin 2/3 and English.  I made tons of quia stuff for Ecce (that I probably will not use ever again!) and survived teaching English.  Last year I had 3 Latin 1 classes, and Latin 2/3 split, but this time Latin 2 was CLC--once again, I needed to make my style of quizzes and tests, and quia stuff.  Plus I had two English classes.  So I still had new things, plus I decided to change up part of my tests--for all Latin levels--so I was revising stuff a lot.

Now....  now here I am again.  Still feeling like a newbie.  I will have Latin 3 this year with CLC, and need to make up quia stuff and my style of quizzes, etc etc.  And I agreed to do Latin 4 with 2 girls--so 3/4 will be my split-level.  Latin 4 will be Vergil and I told the girls that if they really wanted to, I could get them ready for the AP Latin and they could challenge it.

THEN I discovered on the College Board website that June 1 was the recommended due date, but they would accept them after (with no promise of acceptance!).  So, now I'm trying to write a real AP syllabus.  I had thought I could get it done in a week, 2-3 weeks ago.  I wasn't counting on how much time I can't sit and focus on it because I try to wear my Mom hat in the summer as much as possible.

Even still, I've poured a lot of time into this.

I've studied the four sample syllabi.  I've read all the pertinent materials.  I've made up school calendars with our holidays and test days and anything else I could think of.  I pondered what would be the best split-level schedule for the Latin 4's, when I would require what, etc.  I've looked at materials.

I'm going to use my pal Rick LaFleur's _Song of War_ and Bolchazy-Carducci's _A Vergil Workbook_.  In my mind's eye, Monday's will be a day (for review for vocab quizzes and grammar and whatnot), Tuesday's will be for quizzes and reading, Wednesdays I'll read with them, Thursdays for independent reading again, Friday I'll read with them.  (Therefore, I'll be working with Latin 3 on Tues/Thurs and maybe Mondays as well....)  I'll assign parts of a Lesson from the workbook over the weekends and work on developing reading skills during the week.  At least twice a grading period students will have to phone in an oral recitation of a passage of my choosing, and twice during the grading period students will have major tests.  That's as much as I've worked out.

Not sure about wiggle room for discussions, essay writing (though some of that is in the workbook material), etc.  

And frankly, it's been 20 years since I've read Vergil (with the exception, of course, of the sea serpent scene!), so I don't have any great ideas for clever projects so it's not just toiling through the lines.  But I have to think of something.

Frankly, just working out WHAT lines for WHICH WEEK and how to get through it all fast enough is really tricky!  I ended up making a table in Word that had the Lessons from the Vergil Workbook with the lines it covered aligned with the subtitles and line breaks in Song of War.  Mostly it lines up, but some places it doesn't.

OF COURSE, if I planned my other courses with this kind of detail, I might finish the texts....then again... well, I dunno.  I think if you push to fast through beginning stuff you lose too many people, but maybe the reality is that I'm too soft a touch.

All I know is that I really want this to work.  I want these two girls to have a good shot at a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam, ya know?  At least a 3, maybe, to say that I'm on the right track.  


I have these crazy ideas of how I want them to work and take notes that I'm not sure are practical... maybe I need to try them out for myself.  Not a bad idea....

Well, there are things I can be doing regarding the syllabus and stuff for next year.  I better get going.  Man, June is almost done and what the hell have I got to show for it?  Only a lot of thinking, it seems. 

 I'm sorry.  I'm confused.

WHY should we Latin teachers think we are above other teachers in being able to have a varied curriculum?

The debate continues regarding whether Vergil will remain as is, whether there will be other authors added to it, etc.  If so, what authros would we like to see? Etc.  Then someone exclaimed that they couldn't stand to teach Vergil and only Vergil until the end of time.  (Well, something like that.)  

Think about all the other teachers on campus.  They don't have choices and opportunities for  variety.  Everyone else has their own AP curriculum at the pinnacle of their field.  

And even if we weren't teaching AP, MOST school districts and schools have set curricula.  There are certain novels that are read in English, there are certain things that must be covered in science and in math.  Some districts require the use of the same 6 wk tests!

Why should teaching Vergil each year be any worse than teaching from the same beginning textbook?  HEck, the more I teach from CLC, the more I like the little things that were put in by the original author(s). The repetition isn't necessarily bad.   Anyway, we aren't professors.  We aren't in colleges offering a wide variety of courses.  We offer the basics--heeeellllllloooooo!  We are high school.

And I still think it's funny that people do not want to do prose.  I still say people are intimidated by prose.

And what's to say that we can't still stick our favorite things here and there in AP?  Aren't we supposed to prepare students to sight read ANYTHING, including PROSE????

Oh, but what do I know?  I haven't taught AP yet so I know I'm just speaking from what I imagine.  But surely if we are teaching real reading skills and teaching students to read the texts and not just cover the lines, then we should be able to interest them in other authors to read on their own.  Yes, it could happen.  Students WILL read on their own if they think they are able and feel successful at it.  And they will only feel successful if we are NOT covering lines but are teaching READING skills, true READING skills.

Or, hell, introduce them to Loebs.

But back to my point.  We as a profession sometimes act like we deserve special treatment--we deserve our 3rd or 4th year classes to make, even if the numbers are too small.  We deserve to choose what we teach, even when our other colleagues are having their curriculum prescribed for them. We deserve to have 2 AP courses even when all of the other foreign languages are geing cut back to one pinnacle course.  

Has anyone stepped back and thought of what we sound like?  

I dunno.  Maybe I'm just being a pain in the ass.

There was a post on the Cambridge list about AP sight reading issues.  The teacher said she thought it was the hardest skill they have to learn...all of which put me into deep thought mode.

I have, through posts here and conversations elsewhere as well as looking through a notebook of AP quizzes and tests I got at last summer's AP workshop, been thinking about the structure of my tests.  Good, bad, I dunno.  In some ways too easy perhaps.  Or, more likely from the scores, too hard.  I think I'm on the right track with the structure but still need to tweak it some more.  But that's another discussion.

What got me thinking about this person's request is that sight reading should be nothing more than we usually do--if we are truly reading Latin in word order, if we are truly trying to develop our reading skills and not just get good at decoding.

I was making myself do a little sight reading last night... it's not uncommon for teachers to be afraid of sight reading too.  AND WHY IS THAT?!  Because most of us were not taught how to read but how to decode, how to parse every single word for the grammar and piece it back together.  Dexter Hoyos's _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_ that CANE sells (which I should probably reread) has changed how I view what we should be about.  

WHY should sight reading be so hard?  Let's face it, the passages picked are most likely not ones of the most difficult vocabulary.  The test designers are more interested in whether you can READ the Latin.  BUT ARE WE TEACHING THIS SKILL???

We should be.  We should be building up to it with all that we do--with warm-ups, with exercises, with quizzing and testing.  If we teach our students how to be readers of Latin, then reading the 1800 lines or so of the Aeneid should be doable.  But if all we are doing is teaching them how to (according to one respected source, one I respect as well, I might add) copy out every line skipping five lines, writing the meaning over the words in one line, the syntax in the next, and a running translation in the third, leaving the fourth for corrections, all we are teaching is that IT TAKES FOREVER TO READ VERGIL.  That it is SLOW, TEDIOUS, and EXHAUSTING, with little reward.  There's no time to ENJOY what you read, to DELIGHT in what you read, or even feel like you could read ahead.

Do we ever teach students to reread?  To spiral?  I'm trying to, but it's easier said than done, but it must be done.  It MUST be done....  

What about performance?  I was looking at the projects that were included in my AP notebook, and was surprised that there was nothing regarding the PERFORMANCE of Vergil.  Maybe I missed something.  But, sheesh, should it all be about golden lines and synchesis and chaismus?  It's not like during a recitation Vergil that he paused and said--"notice the nice use of synchesis I have here"!  

And it's a STORY.  Damnit, it's a GREAT STORY told well.  Can we treat it like that without constantly resorting to the English???  

Anyway.  I'm sure I could say more but my son has interrupted me about 12 times so far so I've lost my passion and direction on this. ha.  I guess I just think that if students are struggling to sight read that we aren't teaching them the skills to READ, and that's where the problem really lies....

This was something I just posted on the Cambridge List.  FYI.


> DD: Statistical Validity is a measurement of how well the test

> instrument is measuring whatever it is supposed to be measuring.

> Rarely done. Requires two sets of data on the same subjects and the

> correlation between them. Basically first the test, then a prediction,

> then a test of the prediction's results, then a correlation. Consider

> a test for suitability for the ability to be a military pilot. The

> test and then the follow up of how many of the first test actually got

> the wings.

> Validity is seldom tested. I have seen some scientific studies that

> did it, but rarely.


> DD: They are trying to confuse the folk in "fly-over-land."

OK, but are they really? I was just as upset as anyone when this first happened, and the first to forward word of this to several people etc.

My husband has an ABD in Ed admin. (ABD=all but dissertation) We have discussed both in the past and currently issues relating to quality test writing, and how most teachers don't know how to write a test that could meet standards of validity and statistical repetition (or whatever--I'm out of my league with such terminology). And I don't think that's a matter of being hypercritical and saying teachers are dumb. That's not it at all. Just inexperienced

But we are well aware, if we are honest with ourselves, that we have probably all used at some point in our own personal history as teachers some test or quiz that really didn't measure what we wanted it to or certainly didn't get the results we predicted.

If we are good teachers we consider the results and try to determine what changes need to be made, whether it is in teaching or test design or both. I've been changing up my tests this year to include a small portion to translate from stories we've read as well as reading comp questions in Latin and English over a sight story (and this year they have been written by yours truly), followed by multiple choice on aspects of grammar and new forms, etc. Do I think my test is statistically sound? Would it stand up to scrutiny? I have no idea. Maybe some parts of it. Maybe more of it than I think. Maybe less.

BUT I DO NOT KNOW STATISTICS. As a liberal arts major I steered clear of stats--foolishly.

What I understand is this. When a test, like AP Vergil or Latin Lit reaches a certain critical mass--large enough numbers to make reliable data--then certain statistical characteristics fall into play. Since the Latin Lit test has choices among the authors, it may have reached critical mass but the data is unreliable because the choices vary.

That's my take on it anyway.

Look, I was talking (privately) a week ago about whether we should get lawyers and force a meeting with AP, if that was even feasible. That is, I was pretty wound up about it. I was frustrated. I was feeling like this is more interference from some national source that's interfering with what we do.

But let's be fair. Let's take off our Latin hat for a moment and consider how a teacher of Greek (ancient? modern?) might feel because they can't get enough bodies to stay in Greek because there is no AP test and the students all want that for their transcripts. Or--even if I think some of the Asian languages are going to be a fad, like Russian back in the 80s--if I were a teacher of Japanese, having captured the interest of a large number of students, only to have them desert me after a couple of years because there is no AP.

Please, we are part of the language community at large and we should not think ourselves better than other languages. Do I think Latin may be more valuable in relationship to our culture? To our language? To certain aspects of our history? Law? Medicine? I would be lying if I said otherwise. But am I going to tell the French teacher that I think Latin is more important to French? No, because she can go to Canada or France and actually communicate in the language. Jobs can be gotten purely for being bilingual in French. I am not fluent in Latin. I can read it but I'm not fluent and I know it. And when my numbers shot up for next year at school, one of the first things I did is check with my department chair to make sure my numbers didn't cut into French and cause her to have to teach something other than French. (Only overloaded Spanish had a dip in numbers, which they were glad off.) Because frankly, I'm exhausted from teaching English as well as Latin and don't wish that on anyone.

I feel like I'm part of a community with the foreign language teachers. It's like we're all serving ice cream but the students like different flavors. Does that mean that one flavor is better than the rest? Surely not.

I think Spanish is justified to have 2 tests because their numbers are HUGE *and* let's face it, our country is bilingual English/Spanish, whether we want it to be or not. (I personally don't mind, and like to read the signs in Spanish to see if I can figure out what they mean.) But no other language comes near--check out the data in the annual report.

So am I still fighting to keep the Latin Lit test? Frankly, I think it's time to accept that it's going. And I think that truly, as Trevor Packer said, they are the experts on test writing and psychometrics. And even if there is obfuscation there--even if only a little--that still leaves us with how do we justify having two exams? I'm certainly not going to tell French that our tests are more important than their tests....

The question is then why do WE want two tests so badly. 1) We like different authors too--more flavors of ice cream; 2) because of playing the number game in order to "make" classes, we need to combine classes and to do that we need to alternate test topics every other year.

In answer to the first, perhaps in a few years the Vergil test will also include other authors (not as choices), and thus we will get variety. In answer to the second, I'm going to say something that may upset people, so I'll apologize in advance. there something different we can do in our teaching to make the language more accessible to a wider audience so that we can have the larger numbers and make an AP class without it needing to be a combined Latin 4/5 or even 3/4? In talking to my strugglers today (after handing back a test that many struggled with), I told them not to give up hope. I would work on the things they found difficult and together we would all keep going to the next level. It's not just a matter of "you must study more." Many don't have a clue what to do differently on their own. But TOGETHER, I think I can get them to the next level.

Our AP classes should not just be the kids that were the straight A students in Latin 1 from the beginning. They should also somehow include students that didn't think they were language learners at first, but who--with help and guidance--persevered to become readers of Latin.

And perhaps I'm just rambling.

And, as others have said, if you need an alternate class/a Latin V class, why not make it an SAT II prep class of sorts, reading whatever authors you like while fine-tuning grammatical concepts?

Yes, many of us if not most of us will need to rethink how we view the structure of our programs. But if we want to be included, we need to be part of the change.

Someone asked whether anyone else had gotten as thorough a response as I got to my letter. As far as I know, the answer is no. Why? Probably because I took the time to consider what AP thinks is important, what their big picture is, and where we might fit into that picture. I still think convincing them to invest in foreign languages in middle school may not only boost our numbers but also create the change in closing the achievement gap that they are after.

Of course, we have to do our part in producing more teachers. How many of you did something for National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week this past March? Are we going to be able to replace the retiring teachers? Can we fill the positions opening up at middle schools???

I don't know what the multimillion dollar investment into the Vergil test is all about, but I want to know more and be a part of it. I want to learn more about psychometrics now. Instead of this being a word that we come to hate (this is how National Board Certification for Latin was shut down for us as well), I want to learn how to use it to our advantage.

The cheese has been moved. We can go after it, or we can stay where we are wondering why it's no longer here. And if we do that, we'll starve.

I know many of you will disagree with all of this, but we can make it work if we view it in a different light. We just have to figure out what angle the sun's shining in at and get ourselves in that light.

ginnyL, using really weird imagery today...(I blame lack of sleep)


I thought some of you might like to see the reply I got from College Board.  I'm not sure what we classicists should do next.  Right now a book we had to read one year for school (for inservice) comes to mind: _Who Moved My Cheese?_.  This book was about how to accept change, how to adapt, how to survive as opposed to standing around waiting for things to revert back to the way they were, which they will never, ever do.

Maybe we need to rethink our classes and the approach to our profession.  More thoughts on that at another time.  


[Received Friday, May 9, 2008] 

[See blog entry "So here's my AP letter..."]

Dear Ms. Lindzey:
At their request, I am writing in response to the deeply thoughtful and
valuable letter you sent to our Trustees, including President Gaston
Caperton. I hope your students have a chance to see your letter, as it
exemplifies all the excellence I would expect from an expert in your
discipline. Thank you so very much for taking the time to share these
I'll respond first by sharing the very heart of the matter, the reason
why a moratorium on this decision is not possible.
Just as the College Board would never ask classicists to knowingly and
deliberately teach erroneous or inaccurate Latin, we know the your
organization and others would never ask the College Board to violate our
commitment to producing valid and reliable exams. The AP Program has
earned its reputation for providing a valid measure for placement and
credit by developing and offering curricula based on exams of the
highest psychometric quality and validity.
However, as AP Latin Literature has slowly grown, it has approached the
threshold that, once reached, cannot support the type of exam design AP
Latin Literature uses (a test format that actually allows students to
choose which questions they do and do not answer). Because AP Latin
Literature allows students to choose which questions they answer, the
psychometric validity of the exam results will be subject to increased
risk as the program continues to grow, so the current exam design must
be discontinued following the May 2009 exam.
There is no such problem with the AP Latin: Vergil exam, which simply
needs a multi-million dollar investment (which we are making) to upgrade
design specifications and standard setting processes to ensure that as
the volume continues to grow, there is no risk to the quality and
reliability of the assessment. So we will continue to offer the AP
Latin: Vergil Exam in the near term, while working at the same time with
educators to determine whether we should, over time, change AP Latin:
Vergil to incorporate a larger number of authors.
We hope, indeed, that many schools will continue to offer a Latin
curriculum focused on Cicero, Catullus, Horace, and Ovid. We as an
organization are committed to the study of Latin, among other
disciplines, and as such, are prepared to invest significantly in
ensuring that an AP Latin Exam remains psychometrically viable as the
program diversifies and grows. But AP Latin Literature is not an exam
design that we can support. AP German has continued to grow steadily,
even since the discontinuation of AP German Literature. We hope that
teachers who value the AP Latin Literature curriculum will continue to
offer a course on such texts and authors. And we will seek input from
colleges and universities nationwide this fall to determine how to
improve the AP Latin: Vergil program, possibly expanding it to include
other authors without replicating the "student choice" format of the
current AP Latin Literature exam.
So while AP Latin Literature must be immediately discontinued following
the May 2009 Exam, the next question should be: will the College Board
invest in creating a second AP Exam, beyond AP Latin: Vergil, to replace
AP Latin Literature. The answer to this question can best be gained by
asking teachers and students of Greek, Russian, Korean, Tagalog, Hmong,
Thai, Arabic, Hebrew, and Portuguese whether it is fair to invest in
creating two AP Latin Exams without having first created even one AP
Exam in the language they teach and learn. You can imagine their answer.
Here is a summary of the key points made by the World Languages Academic
Advisory Committee (WLAAC, comprised of college and university world
languages faculty and secondary school world languages teachers) in
support of the decision to discontinue AP Latin Literature (note that
some of what follows does not apply to the study of Latin):
The WLAAC strongly believes that there should be a single capstone
course in each world language in order to better integrate language,
literature, and culture in all of the World Language AP offerings.
Therefore, the WLAAC brings forth the motion that the AP program take
advantage of the current course and exam review of world languages to
accomplish this integration. Furthermore the WLAAC recommends that AP
Latin follow the same process. In addition, the WLAAC sees this as an
opportune time for the expansion of AP offerings to other major world
languages and cultures.
We propose this motion for the following reasons:
* A single vision for WL provides the best model for the
profession in curriculum, instruction, and assessment and the
professional development necessary to support these areas.
* This model would allow for the integration of the study of
language, literature, and culture, which are inherently linked but
artificially separated in the current offerings.
* The Review Commissioners for world languages have already
articulated this integration as part of their Evidence Centered Design
model. Therefore, this proposal would not necessitate a delay in the
launching of the integrated capstone model.
* This integrated model would best serve the needs of all
students, including the under-represented student population and
underserved school districts.
* A single capstone course would allow for better vertical
* Colleges are more likely to accept a single capstone language
and culture course and exam for credit or advanced placement than has
been the practice with the current literature exams.
* A single capstone course would better prepare a student
linguistically for upper division college level courses.
* Offering more than one capstone course in only a limited number
of languages (or one language) creates issues of equity and access.
* Expanding the current portfolio of offerings (in the integrated
model) would create powerful incentives for more US students (including
first generation college attendees) to study less-commonly-taught
languages and cultures. This expansion would continue to encourage
greater connection and respect for heritage populations and their
important role in the community as well as prepare a new generation of
Americans to engage major world areas and cultures.
You make wonderful points about the value of studying Latin, despite the
small numbers of students. We agree with those points. As a non-profit,
we have been willing to support AP Latin at a financial loss for all 53
years of the program's existence, but none of the values you describe in
AP Latin are dependent on having two, separate AP Latin programs, and
during a time in which we need to make massive investments in the
psychometrics and operational processes of AP Latin, we cannot justify
doing so for two separate AP Latin Exams when so many other languages
have not even one. AP German, AP Chinese, and AP Japanese provide
incentives for a sustained, multi-year course of study while only having
one AP Exam associated with them. If there is a need to ratchet up the
rigor of AP Latin to ensure that it anchors at least 4 years of study,
we are open to considering that option as we hold conversations about
how AP Latin: Vergil might change.
We will certainly engage teachers in the conversation, in addition to
holding a College Faculty Colloquium, and by way of this email, I am
asking James Monk, who manages AP Latin, to ensure that you are included
in future conversations or reviews of the possible future directions
that we could take AP Latin.
Thanks again for such a thoughtful and important letter. We'll look
forward to working with you to ensure that the one AP Latin Exam that we
offer evolves into the best possible capstone to anchor sustained
studies of this essential discipline.
All the best,
Trevor Packer
Vice President
Advanced Placement Program

 Dear Board of Trustees:

I am perhaps tardy in writing this letter regarding the recent announcement of the cancellation of the Latin Literature exam.  I have taken my time to participate in discussions with colleagues, both online and in person at the recent annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS), and to ponder my own thoughts and experiences from teaching. 

It would have been too easy to simply react and reply immediately. I am more interested, as are my colleagues, in having a serious discussion to weigh both our needs as the classics professionals and your needs as one of the leading organizations in a rigorous pre-college experience.

Need for a Moratorium

First and foremost I think it is imperative that a moratorium be put in place, for a least two years, so that secondary schools and colleges have the time needed to consider books and materials, future changes, issues with credit, etc.  As I know you have heard, simply dropping the Latin Literature test will not mean that students will gravitate to the Vergil test.  In all likelihood, there will also be a fall off in the Vergil test because many if not most programs cannot “make” an AP class without combining Latin 4 and 5 and alternating tests each year.

The effect of removing one test has the potential to be catastrophic for Latin in this country.  If classes cannot be combined because one cannot alternate topics, there may be no way to offer AP.  Students wanting AP credits on their transcripts will simply leave Latin after three years (having received a “distinguished” diploma, at least in Texas), and take an AP test that does not have 3 years of required work just to sign up.  Or worse, they will simply abandon Latin as a choice altogether and choose Spanish because of the potential for two AP exams.

AP, Rigor, and College Admissions

In your annual report you say, “Because of the expertise of the college professors and AP teachers who create AP courses and exams, the quality, reliability, and rigor of AP are at an all-time high, generating ‘healthy pressure’ on schools to continuously improve and update their curricula.”  I agree with this statement, but am concerned that perhaps you underestimate the value of the rigor offered by some of your smallest tests—Latin, French, Italian, and the other languages.  These small tests are the ones that are being eliminated and yet offer an extraordinary opportunity for students to demonstrate dedication, perseverance, and rigor in a subject that they have not spent merely one year studying, but had to begin studying several years previously.

In 2002, the Texas Classical Association, with support from the American Classical League, conducted a survey of college admissions counselors.  I would like for you to consider some of their remarks regarding foreign language education in general and Latin specifically.  First, consider a couple of replies to the question of whether students should study more than two years of a foreign language: 

  •  “[. . .] the student studying for four years has a genuine interest in knowledge and education, not just in fulfilling minimum foreign language requirements.” Matthew Potts, Admissions Counselor, University of Notre Dame
  • “The more years in one language the better it shows commitment and desire for proficiency.”  Dennis O’Driscoll, Director of Admissions, Creighton University

Second, consider replies to the question of what impression they have of a student when they see Latin on a transcript:

  • “This year, I was particularly impressed by a student with average test scores and grades who had taken Latin throughout middle and high school. We ended up offering the student admission, and I think it is fair to say that it was his commitment to Latin that tipped the scales.”  Andrea Thomas, Assistant Dean of Admission, Hamilton College
  • “This student is likely to be disciplined, have a strong basis for further learning, be a little more creative toward intellectual pursuits than most.” Michael C. Behnke, Vice President for Enrollment, University of Chicago
  • “Classical languages on a transcript indicate seriousness of purpose and true devotion to a rigorous program of study.”  Fred Zuker, Vice President and Dean of Student Services, University of Dallas

But Latin has relatively small numbers, no question (although strong growth, which seems to be obscured by the way the data is presented in the report).  Yet here is my question to you:  how can you compare it with your leading exams, the ones that don’t require the same years of dedication of study?  Here are the leading exams from your report:

1. AP U.S. History

2. AP English Literature and Composition

3. AP English Language and Composition

4. AP Calculus AB

5. AP U.S. Government and Politics

6. AP Biology

7. AP Psychology

8. AP Statistics

9. AP Spanish Language

10. AP Chemistry

With the exception of Spanish, which most assuredly has high numbers because of the high number of native speakers and opportunities for immersion outside of the classroom, none of these compares to taking a test like Latin Literature with years of study and rigor.  If AP Latin tests are not able to be offered because classes can’t make, students will turn to the above exams simply to have another AP class on the transcript, and not because they demonstrate a true devotion to the field of study. 

Closing the Achievement Gap

There is no question that the Latin exam does not serve a large enough percentage of traditionally underserved students.  It is not, however, a topic that goes unaddressed among classicists.  As we all know, the causes are complex, multifaceted and difficult to address.  However, we Latinists are not alone; Black/African American enrollment across all of the foreign languages is low:

  • French Language: 5.7%
  • French Literature: 6.0%
  • German Language: 2%
  • Italian Language & Culture: 1.4%
  • Japanese Language & Culture: 1.8%
  • Latin Literature & Vergil (why aren’t these listed separately?): 2.7%
  • Spanish Language: 2.3%
  • Spanish Literature: .9%

Outside of French, the traditional language (I believe) at historically Black colleges and universities, all of the languages have low numbers, though it is worth noting that Latin has the highest percentage of these low numbers.  But we could all do better.

(I might add here, that I would think one argument to keep the French Literature exam would be that this is the only foreign language that Blacks/African Americans have relatively significant enrollment.  This should be encouraged to continue, not discontinued for the sake of the “neatness” of having pinnacle exams.  The concept of pinnacle exams sounds neat and probably looks good on paper as a marketing strategy, but once again ignores the realities and the needs of true education.  We are not surprised by these marketing strategies from our politicians, but we expect and need more organizations directly involved in education.)

These numbers are low, but so is Black/African American participation in general in the AP exams, with the highest percentages being in Human Geography (9.7%), World History (7.8%), U.S. History (6.4%), English Language and Composition (7.1%), English Literature and Composition (7.4%), and Environmental Science (5.7%)—and please note that the French Literature exam does have a higher percentage than Environmental Science.  All of these percentages are more than double of those of foreign languages (except, of course, the French).  Perhaps the next question should be why is this so?

One of the problems is that to take an AP exam in a foreign language, you generally have to take 3-4 years of a foreign language, thus you need to begin your study of the foreign language early. However, students who are traditionally underserved are also students that—usually beginning in middle school or late elementary—struggle with other standardized tests, especially those mandated by No Child Left Behind.  Typically such strugglers, whether they are failing or merely borderline, are put in extra math and English classes.  Electives are limited for these students, if offered at all.  And yet these are the very students that need to begin their foreign language study in middle school to have that extra time to build a firm foundation in the language!

I applaud your initiatives via your SpringBoard program, targeting math and English in middle school for early enrichment and engagement.  I think, however, that we could effect greater change by also incorporating foreign languages in this program, and working toward getting more highly trained language teachers who are geared toward AP in those classrooms and who are also trained to teach middle school students.  Furthermore, I think that these strugglers, these students that are traditionally underserved, need to be in these classes getting early exposure to foreign languages in order to become better overall students in school.

Early foreign language study, particularly Latin, is known to enrich a student’s English vocabulary and sharpen a student’s understanding of grammar.  Latin is also ideal for students with certain reading disabilities because of the consistent phonetic nature of the language.  Languages taught in middle school begin at a slower pace, mainly splitting between the 7th and 8th grade year what is taught in one year at the high school.  The slower pace would allow these students time to develop a firm foundation in the language, one that can be built upon and can lead to AP classes.

In the annual report you state, “If we are to succeed in democratizing what really counts—successful college degree completion—the gulf between high school graduation standards and freshman college course requirements must be eliminated.”  But there’s more to successful college degree completion than eliminating this gulf.  We must also develop perseverance—a quality that is nurtured in foreign language classes in order for students to achieve a true level of proficiency in the language.  Rigor, yes, rigor is important, but without perseverance most students will not finish several years of study, whether it is at the university level or high school.  Perhaps this is why the drop-out rate in this country is climbing.

Opening the door to increasing early access to foreign languages in middle school can provide the type of meaningful, long-term exposure to a subject that builds perseverance.  We see this in band students, who pick up an instrument in middle school because it might be fun, but who stay year after year, steadily increasing skills and developing talent.  And we know that many skills involved in success—discipline, perseverance, dedication—are transferrable skills.  We see this in our language students who do get the opportunity to begin their study early at an age when there is still so much wonder and enjoyment with language!

So my question is, instead of eliminating the Latin Literature exam, why don’t we instead not only keep it in order to preserve the integrity of established Latin programs nationwide, but also develop more initiatives tied to College Board that strengthen and enrich foreign language study at an earlier age to see if we can make some significant headway in closing the achievement gap?  I hypothesize that if we could increase the number of students—especially traditionally underserved students—participating in foreign language AP exams, that we would see the numbers rise across the board in all exams.

A Worthy Investment

I understand that your smaller exams, like the foreign language exams, are subsidized by the larger exams.  I would like to suggest that this is not a detriment or even a difficulty to be managed, but simply the investment that needs to be made in order to close the achievement gap.  Traditionally underserved students cannot hope to “connect to college success” without such an investment.  There can be no themes of “equity and excellence” unless we do find meaningful, long-lasting ways of closing the achievement gap. 

At the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) website, you can find numerous studies that maintain that second language learning supports academic achievement.  This includes information about improved scores on standardized tests, improved reading skills, correlations between language learning and students’ ability to hypothesize in science, as well as correlations between high school foreign language study and higher academic performance at the college level.

Is this not what you are truly after?  The section of the report titled “Theme 2: The Work Ahead—Closing Equity and Excellence Gaps” speaks to these issues.  The report mentions various initiatives, some which I may be looking into myself this summer (like the Advanced Placement Incentive Program).  But we already know something that can close the achievement gap: foreign language study.  (And if you ask a Latin teacher, they will tell you that Latin is the language that does this best!)

Creating an Advisory Group

I understand that you are forming an advisory group. I would like to encourage you to include not only college professors but also master teachers from both high school and middle school.  Decisions made about AP Latin exams effect our whole profession, and the whole profession needs to be a part of the decision-making process.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your time.  I am sure you have received many letters on the subject of our Latin Literature exam and that mine is just one of many to add to the pile.  For the record, I am the former chair for CAMWS’s Committee for the Promotion of Latin, a position I held while teaching Latin at an inner city middle school (usually this is a position held by professors).  I currently teach at Dripping Springs High School, southwest of Austin, TX, where I teach 7th-12th graders in levels 1-3 of Latin.  Although I am not currently teaching AP Latin at this school (the program is relatively new), I intend to be in a few years beginning with this year’s large level 1 (3 sections) once they are in level 4.  I have always taught my classes as if all of my students would one day be in AP Latin, keeping my eye on the works of Vergil, Catullus, Ovid, Cicero, and Martial, incorporating them into my classes at every chance. 

So I am invested in the outcome of your decision regarding Latin.


I was going for a different angle from the other letters people have sent, trying to find a way to appeal to why it would be of value to College Board to keep such a small exam.  You know, the ol' what's in it for me strategy.

We shall see what happens.... I only just sent it last night.

A few days ago College Board announced that it was cutting the Latin Literature exam. See the article here: I posted this reply at the article site:


The dropping of the Latin Literature exam, which includes a combination of Cicero, Horace, Ovid, and/or Catullus, is a tremendous mistake, leaving Latin students with one single option: Vergil. This will be devastating to Latin programs nationwide as well as impacting universities which receive our students in the long run. College Board makes it sound like the courses are "unpopular." Hardly that.

First consider that Latin competes with other foreign languages, making the numbers of anything but Spanish look small in comparison. But note that the Latin Literature exam has more takers than the French Literature exam.

Second, it takes great effort and discipline to stick with Latin or ANY language for enough years to take an AP exam, and many Latin students take TWO exams (one in 4th year, one in 5th year). MANY other AP courses do not have the YEARS of requirements that the language exams have.

A more effective reduction in spending would be on the elimination of the syllabus requirement that has been fraught with inconsistencies on the College Board evaluation side. (For example, refusing and accepting identical syllabi submitted by the same teacher teaching at two different schools.)

Numbers are being manipulated for propaganda purposes; enrollments are growing in Latin.

The fact remains, though, that if there isn't an AP Latin Literature exam, we will lose these students who want the higher GPA credits because getting into college is that competitive. And yet, according to the TCA Survey of College Admissions Counselors, universities give the most consideration to students who have taken 4 or more years of a language because it demonstrates discipline, dedication, and a true desire to learn.

The petition at is growing fast; professors and secondary teachers are organizing to aggressively attack this problem. The American Philological Association, the American Classical League, and other classics organizations will not be taking this one lying down.

No question, College Board has made a mistake.
This question came up during the committee meeting on Friday: Does reading aloud have any bearing on AP?

Before I go any further, let me add that there will be an oral component to the next certification test, but it will NOT be rigid nor will it be intimidating. It will count as a low percentage of the overall score. The discussion we were having at the time this question was raise, I believe, came when we were discussing weight, not whether to have it at all. We all agreed that an ability to pronounce Latin was very important to a beginning teacher....

Now, back to the question: does reading aloud have any bearing on AP? The person across the table from me was implying it did NOT, therefore should have little weight. I was perhaps the only person sitting at the table who had not yet taught an AP class, so I had to bite my tongue a little. I wanted to shout out, "YES! YES! YES!"

When you READ a passage of Latin outloud, ESPECIALLY Vergil (well, perhaps not especially), it flows more, becomes more ALIVE and more LOGICAL when read as if it were meant to be spoken and LISTENED to!

I do a lot of thinking about reading, about what allows one to read more fluently, what helps one to develp and expand vocabulary, how learning to read in English relates to learning to read in Latin, etc. Perhaps I place too much emphasis on my own experiences, on my own desires to learn to read more fluently, of remembering the frustration as an undergraduate of not feeling like I was developing any fluency, etc....

So, why do I think reading aloud matters so much? I think it is where you see and hear it all truly come together. Back when we read Catullus (11? 13?) last year, I kept making my students reread THE WHOLE THING OUTLOUD as we added each line to our understanding. We'd work through each line, but then go back and CONNECT what we had. We did this until we were through the poem entirely, and then read it again.

I do NOT want my students to recite ENGLISH translations to me when I ask whether they know X poem, like my niece did when she was in AP Ovid/Catullus. And she's a brilliant young lady. Funny thing, it is HER TEACHER who is always saying that students MUST be able to READ Latin to do well on the AP exam. But I don't think they read aloud much. What I think she really means, and I'm not saying this to be critical, but they really need to be able to translate. Reading is yet another step.

Another teacher at the committee meeting made this comment: you get better at READING while teaching; that as college students we were better at grammar.


What a comment! But is this true? When you consider that in college your Latin classes assign you to read X many lines of Latin a night, SHOULDN'T you be better at READING?

I was probably better at grammar. I know I knew more grammar then than I remember now. I taught middle school for so long that I have forgotten details of certain grammatical structures. That is to say, when I meet things in context, I have no problem. But I confess I had to double check something on i-stem nouns the other day. And while I can tell you what a passive periphrastic is, when someone mentioned something about an active periphrastic, I had to stop and wonder if I actually *knew* what it was.

This is where I keep thinking that if we taught reading skills EXPLICITLY, in a 101 level course, not only would we graduate better readers of Latin, but these same students would also be able to read more at a go, perhaps more on their own.

But back to her comment: why is it that we get better at reading when teaching? I think it's because of REPETITION. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps it's maturity. Perhaps it's simply that old adage doce ut discas.

But why not repetition? How do children learn to read? Repetition. Why did my students enjoy that Catullus poem? Repetition. Why did my 8th graders enjoy the Vergil passage I used to teach? Repetition. Repetition made the passage familiar. Repetition made the vocabulary familiar. Repetition made the structures understandable. Mind you, all of this repetition was OUT LOUD as well. Reading it, over and over....

When I was doing Ovid passages with my one advanced student this past year, I made a habit of always starting back several lines (at a natural break) and rereading what we had done previously before moving on to the next section with him. The thing that I liked the most was when I realized that Ovid was echoing language that was used 20 lines previously. Are you going to notice this at all if you are reading 5-10 lines at a time, never looking at more than what you are currently reading???

I've been thinking a lot about reading and how it applies to AP, and what I would do in my ideal AP class (and perhaps in my other classes next year). I was thinking that I would assign a different student to read every day, telling them the night before what they will be reading. So, let's say that 10 lines are due the next day; that student would be assigned the previous day's 10 lines plus the new 10 lines to read out loud. Since it would alternate, it would only be one person to grade a day. Part of the reading would be familiar from the day before, and part would be new. The grade would be weighted enough to make students take it seriously, plus it would have the added benefit of having students HEAR and read a large portion at a go before going over the translation/meaning.

My niece, when she took Vergil AP (she had both before she graduated from her high school a year early), she said she hated it. She hated the pace, she hated that they never got into any meaty discussions.... but I wonder if she would have hated it as much if instead of worrying about daily TRANSLATIONS they had focused more on daily READINGS? Hard to say, and she certainly had an excellent teacher--the number of 4's and 5's her students get are amazing.

And on a slightly related note, I'm wondering what it would take to get the brain to truly accept Latin as Latin, without English as an intermediary to meaning? And how do we get there? Would having a dedicated day for all Latin help? What if class on Fridays were discussed entirely in Latin? COULD I do that? Can I do this and not fall behind in the pacing (pacing, which I'm so bad at?)?

A new thought has entered my mind lately: I wonder if fluency in Latin is like a strope's test. I have a Nintendo DS game called Brain Age (and my son's DS to play it on) for stimulating your prefrontal cortex. A strope's test is where a word like BLACK appears but is colored BLUE and you have to say the COLOR and not the word. It's a bit tricky to turn off the part of the brain that wants very much to say the word and to only say the color. In like fashion, when I try to read Latin fluently, I try to just hear the Latin and to shut out the English echo in my head. And maybe it's just a matter of daily training.

ANYWAY. Those are just a few thoughts on the matter of reading aloud and AP.
So, where have I been? Well, last week I was at a wonderful AP Latin workshop at TCU (thank you, Jo Green!). The focus was Vergil; it was a thorough workshop. We were trained in chunking, in grading translations, in grading essays, in writing multiple choice questions, etc.

This has given me so much food for thought, and it also jumpstarted me into beginning preparations for next year.

Your first year teaching anywhere is survival. That's my experience, and I'm sticking by it. The years that follow you make plans to improve the quality of the teaching experience. I have written elsewhere about my five year plans--giving myself 5 years to incorporate more oral Latin, for instance, instead of trying to do it all in one year (and failing). And I reserve the right to revise my 5 year plans. Perhaps practical planning is the better term.

If you ever let your first year (or your student teaching experience) determine your future, you're a fool. That would be like letting your first year playing soccer determine what kind of soccer player you'll end up being in 10 years.

I use soccer analogies a lot because I play on a women's over 30 team. And, frankly, I sucked the first year or two that I played. My now husband got me to play coed soccer with him and the only thing I could say was that I ran hard. I knew I was improving when the sweeper, an old Brit named Frank who coaches girls teams, started taking time to actually coach me from behind. And I'm still not finished improving. I'm 42 and I hope to be better at 45 than I am now. I've just joined my son's karate class so if nothing else I'm expecting my kicking to improve and thus help my shooting. But I had a really nice give and go last Sunday, and almost had an assist.

But I digress.

Hopefully, you see my point. Unfortunately most of us were A students and think that life should be as controllable as being in school. And it's not. I've often wondered if having kids before coming back to teaching has made me a better teacher. I understand how to go with the flow, to cut myself slack, and to use the circular file from time to time. Not every damn thing needs to be graded.

And, I've learned the value of planning ahead. Teachers don't sit on their asses in the summer. If we are any good, we go to workshops, read, think--lots of thinking, and then do whatever you can do to make the next year easier.

So, what am I doing? Well, I thought about what would be the hardest thing about next year, and I decided everything. HA. No, actually, I thought it would be the amount of grading I'd have to do for my Latin classes since I would have MORE classes and MORE students. And then I thought, well, what kept me from grading last year? And I realized it was all the prep work.

SO, what can I do to lower some of that? PREP NOW. After all, I'll have a similar situation: a split-level class of Latin 2, 3, and perhaps a Latin 4. And while I do have things made, now, for Latin 3 (with Ecce), but Latin 2 will be Unit 3 of CLC which I haven't taught from before.

The most time consuming thing was always creating the QUIA stuff and vocab quizzes. So, I thought, let's start there. I have thus taken Unit 3 and read each stage multiple times in order to find all the vocabulary in context. I underlined them in my book, then went back and typed them up in a table. In the left column was the master vocab, on the right were sentences from the text. I make a point of including macrons, reading everything outloud to myself to fix any words unknown to me in my mind (and by saying it right thus fixing the macrons in my mind). From there, I can copy and paste the sentences, macrons and all, directly into QUIA for practice quizzes. You can see what I've done with stage 21 here:

I still need basic flashcard drills, but that's EASY to make and I may have an aide or two this coming year and this will be something they can do.

I don't have everything typed up yet; it just depends when I'm allowed to sit down and actually work on it. But all the words have been located in the stories.

I've also been thinking about how to make the split-level class more productive. It occurred to me that I could rarely get students to do flashcard drills well on their own--you know, one part of the class work independently while I work with the other side of the class. Part of the problem is that I've always made the flashcards with ME in mind--what *I* needed. Therefore, they only had Latin on the front and nothing on the back.

I've already started making new large flashcards for group use, but this time I'm making detailed backs. I have this idea about having a new group leader each day in charge of doing the cards. That person would need to feel like an expert, and with my cards he/she will feel like the expert. The top line has the word itself with the meaning. I've underlined the genitive ending of the nouns and written the declension number above. Below the meaning, I have sentences in Latin with the word in context, followed by a translation, with the word in question underlined. The bottom right has the word declined in full. Verbs get a similar treatment, except with a short synopsis of the indicative active (even though they haven't gotten future and future perfect yet).

I'm thinking there may be a variety of activities that the group could do with these, including modeling what all they could include on their own index cards.

Vocabulary is so critical for AP. Going through Unit 3 like I did was not only good for familiarizing me with the text, since I've never taught from it, but also for seeing just how much Vergilian vocabulary is used in CLC. It is this very group of Latin 2 students who may be in my first AP class, so I want to make sure that they won't be inadvertently penalized for being stuck in a split-level class. There may not be enough of them continuing on to Latin 3 and AP to make a class on their own...not sure what I'll do then, but perhaps if I've trained them to be VERY productive on their own, it will eventually be possible to do AP in a split level class. I'm also going to look into having a Latin 3 pre-AP designation for some students and giving them tests that also include some AP style stuff.

You should see me, carrying around my index cards in a plastic sack with a box of colored markers (for the front of the cards) and a pencil for doing all the detail work on the back. A little here, a little there, and it's getting done.

So, what are you doing with YOUR summer vacation???

This was a note I just sent to the classics list in reply to a lengthy discussion of a Times Ed piece (London Times, most assuredly) on changes (for the worse?) in A Level exams in ancient languages.

People were moaning about the decline in standards, etc etc.  But it seems to me that it's just a test.  We don't have to teach to it, or limite our teaching with it.  ANYWAY, this is what I rambled on at length about....


What I don't get is WHY the test was diminished in scope to begin with.

But then how do you profs feel about the AP exams? An AP program, taught well, can be a positive way to get more out of Latin before high school graduation, and to have students reading in greater depth before getting to university.

With that said, I know that some AP programs leave a lot to be desired. I know who among secondary teachers I see at conferences and who I don't. I know who (locally, at least) really care about pedagody and who are just running Latin programs. (Good ones, too.) And I'm not trying to be critical. Just honest.

I know that many of the brightest students in AP Latin (ok, I'm thinking of my niece, who took 2 AP Latin classes from a master teacher) are only taking AP to place out of college courses and sadly have no intention of continuing with Latin.

Was that the intention when it was created? Or certainly it was to provide a more challenging curriculum for the extraordinary student? I do know that there's been considerable frustration with the number of lines in the Vergil AP course, that the equivalent college course (which, I believe, at UTexas would be 312), usually does NOT cover the same number of lines. I know that my niece, who enjoyed Ovid/Catullus (as a sophomore) hated Vergil (as a junior...she graduated early) because there was never any time to discuss what was going on. Can you imagine being so pressed to cover lines that you can't get into the whole Aeneas/Dido relationship?

Yes, as was argued in one email (or was it the original article?), students can probably memorize passages for this new A level exam--as if we haven't all seen that in one form or fashion. All the more reason to change how we teach anyway with more question and answer in Latin, etc, that get to the heart of Latin, instead of checking comprehension solely by seeing if the student can produce a word for word translation in English.

Can someone tell me how the A level test compares to an AP exam? I have a student, for example, who I inherited from another teacher. He was apparently doing AP so I was, at first, trying to keep him on the AP curriculum so he could challenge the test. What I discovered upon examination is that he would get the gist of what was going on, but couldn't deal with the grammar. His mastery of morphology was too week in some ways.

So we backed off of our plan to challenge the AP exam and have just read some other things. (He didn't like Catullus.)

I have been impressed that he has continued to read with interest. (He's technically not getting any credit for any of the Latin he does with me.) But I digress.

I suppose my question is why should we get our knickers in a twist over an exam? When have you let an exam dictate every damn thing that you do? We shouldn't. Yeah, I suppose I'll be singing a different tune when I'm finally teaching AP, but I know teachers who teach sections of Vergil not covered on the exam. GOLLY, just because they WANT to. I'm about to teach some Martial and that's nowhere in my curriculum. Ok, I don't have a curriculum; I think I'm supposed to write it this summer.

So this new A level is only over a smaller portion of lines. Any teacher worth his/her salt will be teaching the student to READ Latin, and if that teacher is used to teaching MORE lines, then perhaps he/she will continue to do so. Or maybe he or she will be able to teach the smaller number of lines with a thoroughness not able before--more scholarly articles brought in, more culture or archaeology tied in.

Here's the thing: if the student has been taking teacher-designed tests that can more easily be taken by memorizing the English than by rereading and rereading the Latin, then that's the fault of the teacher. When you ask a student about a favorite Latin poem, they shouldn't start out, "I hate and I love"--they should reply "Odi et amo" and continue on IN LATIN.

In _Teach the Latin, I Pray You_ by Distler (now sold by Bolchazy! Yippee!), I know there's a section about getting students to read and reread passages already read in between working on new passages. I haven't figured out how to get something like this going. I know when I do I will increase the quality of my course, but I haven't figured out how to make the students accountable without making excessive grading for me. But I know that's what I want to do. I need some sort of reading log, one that I'll stick with, one that will work.

But consider, if you are reading one of the stories from the Metamorphoses and you ended class 1/4 into Baucis & Philemon, say, how can you just pick up with the next set of lines and actually *see* the repetition of words (esp new ones) and phrases without starting by REREADING the last assignment first? How many of you train your students to do that? How many of you EXPLICITLY state, "before beginning lines Y-Z, go back and just read through without stopping lines X-Y"? Or how many of you MODEL it? It really doesn't take that long to reread even 40-60 lines before beginning the new section, and often increases comprehension. With my auditing student, I always always always read to him, read the whole paragraph we're on, go back to the sentence we're on, read that a few times, and then begin to discuss it/translate it with him. Yeah, we translate (instead of ideally discussing it in Latin), but I make sure I model what I want him to be doing when he's on his own, esp if he takes more Latin in college. (Perhaps if he wasn't the "3rd class" in a 3-way split level class I could have worked on the discussion-in-Latin approach, but that just didn't happen.)

Right. That's enough rambling from me.