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August 2017

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OK so I have a confession to make. I have been stuck in a rut all summer. I've been unable to move my "great ideas" forward, to finish fleshing them out. Admittedly I have been depressed and whether it was caused from my inability to move forward or that inability caused it, I'm not sure. But there's only a week or two left of summer and I've had to kick myself to get moving.

Last year upon reflection it seemed as if I had been playing with Comprehensible Input. Well, that's not really a fair assessment. I was really trying and way out of my comfort zone, at least the first semester and even the beginning of the second, prepping madly, making Google Slides for every talking point, scripting things to say and do, etc. But then as I saw holes in student progress (as in, some students were falling through the holes, not things missing in their learning--but a bit of that too), I pulled back. I take the blame; in great measure it was me. Try as I might, I could not converse well for long lengths of time AND maintain good student interaction and control. Too many would tune out, even if I were doing everything in my power to make what I was doing interesting and comprehensible and even compelling (although sometimes things would end up less compelling than I had planned). And as much as is said about the importance of being compelling, it has to be addressed that it is difficult to be compelling if your own conversational ability is stilted. I don't do small talk well. I can't just wing-it on students likes and dislikes, on their hobbies and interests. I can't take the time to look everything up because in that 30 seconds I've lost someone's attention. (In fairness to myself, the A/B students were engaged, did seem to be enjoying it, did seem to be benefiting from what I was doing.)

I've always had really high engagement levels with my students--even students with learning disabilities. I must be the only teacher who used CI who had student engagement drop... drop noticeably.  (At least to me--I'm used to 95-100% engaged.)  

I really didn't like the assessments. I didn't like the structure or lack of structure. I didn't like the mixed messages from experts in the field in certain areas. And I absolutely HATED the feeling of not advancing. Finally I realized that what I had envisioned and what was happening were two different things, very different things. For all the years I attended Rusticatio, and before that the sessions at conferences presented by Nancy Llewellyn, what I always imagined was a way to use spoken Latin to add to and enhance learning, not take over what I do, expelling or at least demoting the rest. I feel very deeply and passionately about the reading methodologies I've developed over the years and their benefits to students, especially those who continue to take Latin in college. What I've always wanted to incorporate was more conversational Latin in a meaningful, engaging way AND extensive reading opportunities. Block schedule gave me longer class periods to incorporate sustained silent reading (which I really enjoyed being able to do); the changing TEKS and pedagogy the opportunity to break the pace I had been keeping in teaching from CLC.  But there's a big difference between modifying the pace and totally going off the tracks and into the wilderness.

I guess when I say it feels like I was playing with Comprehensible Input it is because I was test driving it without the feeling that it was totally tied into my overall internal view of the curriculum. That's about me. So, when things started tanking spring semester for a variety of reasons, I began my usual internal problem solving for preventing the same problems next year.  And I had good ideas. I think I had good ideas.  I do have good ideas.....

As for all the conversational stuff, and trying to assess students on interpersonal / interpretive / presentational communication skills, I realized that in great measure things fell apart last year because there was no goal, no direction, no buy-in. So I hatched a plan.

The plan is to have students in Latin 1 this year become TIME TRAVELERS. They will have to learn enough conversational Latin to go through a PASSPORT INTERVIEW with partners who fill out the forms after asking the questions. They will have to become a member of Pompeian society--a merchant of some sort in the Roman world--and by early spring participate in a market day, buying and selling (and bargaining for) goods from each other. They will earn "money" to spend via stamps from conversational activities throughout the year. And before the year is out, they will leave Pompeii and travel to Roman Britain...  I have it fleshed out with more detail, especially for most of the different projects / performance assessments and needed "can-do's" specific for each. It's not entirely complete, but at least 80%.

The thing is, I don't just want them to learn Latin for Latin's sake. I want them to deeply involve themselves in the Roman world and to understand the culture and way of life. The language and the people are intricately tied together. (Last year it I felt like we totally and utterly lost the connection.)  I don't think student centered learning has to mean that everything we do is about their lives. I think the comparisons between the two cultures are important but the class is about the ancient world. And if I can't bring it to them, maybe I can bring them to it.

I've also been trying to write in an over-arching essential theme for Latin 1, which will be about the individual in Pompeian society, the importance of connections and networks, etc., (except that it will sound cooler than that). We will be "walking" in their shoes. There will be more specific themes/questions for each 6 weeks, hopefully proposed in as interesting a way as possible. Mind you, I will mainly be teaching Freshmen, who are often not really ready to think about the bigger picture of where they fit in communities, but maybe this will get them thinking about the importance of their connections and community at the school. Well, it's a thought. 

And then I've been trying to align everything to the standards: the general ACTFL standards, the Standards for Classical Learning draft (because the final draft is behind a pay wall), and the new TEKS which go into effect this year.  And I've been writing can-do statements that tie it all together specifically. (There are general can-do statements out there.)  Some of these I was able to write easily; others have me flustered.

In many ways this has been a big undertaking. But I feel that I'm at a time when I have to justify our curriculum. I have to justify why I still believe in teaching from the Cambridge Latin Course. I have to justify why I still believe that the most important aspect of my teaching is teaching students to read in word order. Not the comprehensible input--although I do definitely believe that CI is important and that I will continue to strive to do more and more Latin in class, incorporating as much CI as I think I can effectively manage. But that's the key: as much as I can EFFECTIVELY manage. I will readily confess that in great measure it may be what I consider my own failings and inabilities with spoken Latin, because without that level of fluency that I lack, I couldn't keep up the engagement with all students. I couldn't compete against the distractors, the rowdy kids, the ones who unless you have them engaged will find something else to do that isn't on task. 

So... how come I've found this so stressful and so depressing all summer?  So difficult to complete?

I think the simplest answer is because it is still significant change; it is still an unknown. 

It used to be that I would spend the summer simply improving material or how I taught specific things. For instance, one summer I decided to pour through CLC to see if I could make a comprehensive list of different types of ablatives, really more because I had noticed that the reason why some ablative absolutes didn't translate naturally as "after X had been done" was because they were really ablative of descriptions with participles. This wasn't about grammar; this was about comprehension and admittedly translation--especially since at that time I was still teaching AP Latin and translation was important. I was searching for patterns, patterns that really gifted people pick up on, but us regular joes need help seeing. I'm good at teaching those sorts of things so that everyone in the room can keep advancing, not just the best and brightest students.

Alternatively in the summer I like creative projects, design projects. Problems that have clear endings. I've made several google slides and a few posters this summer, mainly to combat frustrations over not having all of the answers for this project. And I guess I need to give myself permission to not have all the answers as well as to not worry about all the details. It will work itself out as the year unfolds. I need to remind myself that there's no need to be depressed and stressed, especially when I do have a fair amount to show for the summer.

For instance, I made a Google Slides presentation about Accenting Latin words:

And then I made one on Dividing Latin words:

And I made a few posters from my trip to Italy: House of Fabius Amandus, Via Stabiana, Herculaneum public fountain, and the Lararium from the thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus

And I set up some magnets upon request at my shop too.

And designed a new O TEMPORA  t-shirt, plus one which will be our club shirt

Yes, I confess I thought I wasn't ready for the summer to end. But I guess what I really need is for the school year to just start and to get on with it. Then, if nothing else, I will be too busy to be stressed and depressed. 
 I just posted this on the Cambridge Latin Course list.


A lot of people, many of whom I respect, are totally untextbooking these days. Everything is totally comprehensible input or nothing else.


I have always said that the textbook is only one tool in your toolbox, and I have felt that CLC was a pretty damn good tool. I have read it in-depth so many times as I've looked for examples of certain usages, whether for making materials or presenting papers at conferences, that I feel like I know it intimately. I can't imagine not using this textbook.


And yet, for part of this semester, I wasn't using the textbook but using a novella instead, and letting another younger teacher lead (sort of). I liked the novella, but not as a book to teach from. I want it and others for sustained silent reading, for extra reading, for extensive reading since we get our intensive reading with CLC.


I have always felt on the cutting edge of teaching--when reading approaches were first adopted (and attacked as inferior). In addition, I would never trade a Rusticatio that I have attended and all that I learned there. I hope to go back. I have always wanted to include more oral/aural Latin in my classes and feel I do increase it each year. 


But when I wasn't using CLC this year for 2 months (we're on block), it was torture. We weren't just missing the textbook, we were missing the culture. I felt like we were spinning our wheels because we didn't really progress with constructions or sentence length. 


For pure language teaching, I have nothing against comprehensible input. But it's not like our students are learning Latin to go use a little live language while on vacation.  Our goal is reading ancient (or even humanist/medieval/Renaissance) authors. And I'm thinking about college prep and even AP prep (even though I'm not teach AP again... though I could), and the kinds of skills I wish I had had when I was in college. Pure language learning isn't enough--maybe for the autodidacts in the room--but.... 


I guess what I wanted to say is that I am making a well-considered choice not from fear of change, but from experience and knowing what grew my program to have two teachers. (We actually had three teachers this year, but enrollment dropped after our experiment.)  I know that the most critical skill for Latin is READING, and that all the rest should support it and enhance it.  And I will keep forcing myself out of my comfort zone each year to make what I do even better. But I'm not untextbooking. 


So, to me, the elephant is everyone talking about untextbooking is the next best thing. And it may be for some teachers. But it's not for me. Right now I'm working on plans for more oral/aural work this year tied into an overarching project. (More on that another time...)  I will make more time for it because I know it does help to internalize forms, and if that means slowing my pace a bit, ok. But I know the extraordinary value of CLC and I'm sticking with it.


Thus if you are feeling alone, you aren't.



scroll from Pompeiian fresco

Pardon me while I do some thinking out loud.

So I'm working on curriculum for next year, trying to incorporate all the things I've learned from this year, etc. Students are currently taking standardized tests in other classrooms and thus I have some time to think and to process.

I'm currently looking at Interpretive Communication: Reading and Listening for Level 1 Classical Languages as adopted for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Here's what was put together back in 2014 but goes in effect fall of 2017:

(2) Interpretive communication: reading and listening. The student comprehends sentence-length information from culturally relevant print, digital, audio, and audiovisual materials as appropriate within highly contextualized situations and sources. The student uses the interpretive mode in communication with appropriate and applicable grammatical structures and processes at the specified proficiency levels. The student is expected to:
114.47 2A: demonstrate an understanding of culturally relevant print, digital, audio, or audiovisual materials in classroom contexts;
114.47 2B: identify key words and details from fiction or nonfiction texts or audio or audiovisual materials;
114.47 2C: infer meaning of unfamiliar words or phrases in highly contextualized texts, audio, or audiovisual materials; and
114.47 2D: identify cultural practices from authentic print, digital, audio, or audiovisual materials.
The specified proficiency level is left purposefully vague, or so it seems. The intro to the whole section includes this: §114.47. Classical Languages, Level I, Novice Low to Intermediate Low Proficiency (One Credit), Adopted 2014. The Novice Low rating was for speaking proficiency, and in fact a look at the rest of the TEKS demonstrates that it was considered unnecessary to require going above Novice Mid for speaking even in Latin 4, which in part I feel is a shame, but I remember it wasn't worth pushing hard for at the time. (I also remember a time when we didn't have an speaking component to the Latin certification test for Texas but we finally have something now. Testing oral proficiency in at least reading Latin aloud was something I promoted for decades it seems. Change often moves slowly...but I digress.)

I have been teaching for almost 2 decades using what I clumsily refer to as reading methodologies, which maybe should be better described as reading strategies to train the English speaking brain to learn to accept Latin word order as something totally understandable when reading from left to write, as well as for helping one focus on the details of inflection and phrasing in shaping meaning without having to resort to parsing or decoding (as I had been taught). I teach the skills I wish I had been taught that would have made me a truly superior student of Latin in college (instead of one who just studied for hours to know the answers). Not that I didn't ask in college to be taught how to be better; I was just told the only way to improve at Latin was to read more Latin. As I have said before, I was a decoder, and a good one, but not a reader. So now I try to create readers of Latin in my classroom, not people who can decline nouns perfectly or conjugate any verb in any tense and mood perfectly. They know the basics but it's not the most important thing. Reading is. 

When I taught middle school Latin a dozen plus years ago, I even experimented with extensive reading vs intensive reading, but there just wasn't enough low level material at the time. With block schedule now, I feel that I have had time for a few minutes of SSR (sustained silent reading) which has been a good way to work in extensive reading. Which leaves what Latinists have really been doing for a long, long time: intensive reading. And let's face it: it's not real reading, like one read's for pleasure, but a slower reading that more often than not involves an excessive amount of analysis. At its worst this involves constant parsing (which will NEVER allow you to develop a true feel for phrasing while reading and thus limit your ability to read). And I believe that there are ways to teach reading in word order with attention to inflection and phrasing that can lead you to more profitable extensive reading, which in turn will lead to improved intensive reading. It's intensive reading that's needed for AP Latin & university level Latin course work, like it or not.

And while there's much merit in accessing the Latin writings of the humanists and others, we will not easily escape the need to focus on the Roman world. We have 3-4 years with students, if we are lucky, to expose them to the Roman world and to Latin. The majority of the Latin they will experience in their lifetime (not just in our class) will be in written form. We can provide them with tons of comprehensible input but if we are failing to provide them with the means of dealing with reading material that will almost assuredly always be beyond what they have developed a mental representation for, then we are also limiting their ability to read Latin outside of the classroom.  

I'm rambling, admittedly. But I'm also struggling with certain aspects of the new TEKS/proficiencies, and I'm not afraid to admit it. The Interpretive Reading Can-Do benchmarks from ACTFL, for instance, seem more appropriate for extensive reading goals. ACL's Standards for Classical Learning are not much different.

ACTFL's CAN-DO Benchmarks for Interpretive Reading are:
Novice Low: I can recognize a few letters or characters. I can identify a few memorized words and phrases when I read.
Novice Mid: I can recognize some letters or characters. I can understand some learned or memorized words and phrases when I read.
Novice High: I can understand familiar words, phrases, and sentences within short and simple texts related to everyday life. I can sometimes understand the main idea of what I have read.
Intermediate Low: I can understand the main idea of short and simple texts when the topic is familiar.

ACL's Standards for Classical Learning draft document from 2016 has:
Novice Low Learners can identify a few memorized Latin or Greek words and phrases when they read. For Greek, they can also recognize most Greek letters.
Novice Mid Learners can understand some learned or memorized Latin or Greek words and phrases when they read. For Greek, they can recognize all Greek letters.
Novice High Learners can easily understand the main idea of texts related to familiar topics, personal interests, and studies. They can sometimes follow stories and descriptions about events and experiences in various time frames. For Greek, they can recognize basic transliterated words.
Intermediate Low Learners can understand the main idea of short and simple Latin or Greek texts when the topic is familiar.
As is, it would seem it's not necessary for students to have that attention to detail as long as they have the main idea. But the main idea won't help you to develop an understanding of how an inflectional language works and how to retrain your brain to accept Latin word order and thus allow you to be able to read those super long sentences that come up in Caesar and other classical authors.

I've gone back online to search again for the new TEKS because in my frustration I keep feeling like there was certainly more that we produced in that committee than what I currently have saved on my computer. (Admittedly my memory is faulty; I blame too many years of sleep deprivation.) Anyway, I finally found what I was looking for here. So let's look again:

TEKS for Classical Languages: 

(1) The study of world languages is an essential part of education. In the 21st century language classroom, students gain an understanding of two basic aspects of human existence: the nature of communication and the complexity of culture. Students become aware of multiple perspectives and means of expression, which lead to an appreciation of difference and diversity. Further benefits of foreign language study include stronger cognitive development, increased creativity, and divergent thinking. Students who effectively communicate in more than one language, with an appropriate understanding of cultural context, are globally literate and possess the attributes of successful participants in the world community.

(2) The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) identifies three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational. Interpretative communication is the overarching goal of classical language instruction. Students of classical languages should be provided ample opportunities to interpret culturally appropriate materials in the language of study, supported by opportunities for interpersonal and presentational communication.
(A) In the interpersonal mode of communication, students engage in direct oral or written communication with others such as conversing face to face, participating in digital discussions and messaging, and exchanging personal letters.
(B) In the interpretive mode of communication, students demonstrate understanding of spoken and written communication within appropriate cultural contexts such as comprehension of digital texts as well as print, audio, and audiovisual materials.
(C) In the presentational mode of communication, students present orally or in writing information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers with whom there is no immediate interaction such as presenting to a group; creating and posting digital content; or writing reports, compositions, or articles for a magazine or newspaper.
(3) The use of age-level appropriate and culturally authentic resources is imperative to support the teaching of the essential knowledge and skills for languages other than English. The use of culturally authentic resources in classical language study enables students to make connections with other content areas, to compare the language and culture studied with their own, and to participate in local and global communities.
(4) Students recognize the importance of acquiring accuracy of expression by knowing the components of language, including grammar, syntax, and genre.
(5) At the end of Level I, students of classical languages should reach a Novice High to Intermediate Low proficiency level in reading, a Novice Low to Novice Mid proficiency level in listening, a Novice Low to Novice Mid proficiency level in speaking, and a Novice Mid proficiency level in writing. Proficiency levels are aligned with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012 and the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners.

AH!  That's more like it. And I believe that #4's "accuracy of expression" wasn't about output so much as understanding how things are properly "expressed" in Latin. That is, this addresses the need for intensive reading (which should be coupled appropriately with extensive reading) in studying Latin--the need not to just get the gist but to understand with greater depth. BUT admittedly, this is not one of the proficiencies, merely part of the description of a Level 1 course. The reading proficiency is at a Novice High to Intermediate Low, and even that, when glancing back at the ACTFL can-dos, seems vague and more appropriate for a description of extensive reading skills.

One of my other issues is that when I consider what Latin 1 means to me, admittedly it is in great measure defined by where I am in the Cambridge Latin Course. This is of course artificial in some ways. People could claim that I am defining Latin 1 by "chapters covered" and that we shouldn't allow a textbook to drive the curriculum. On the other hand, the underlying design of CLC -- when you strip away all the things that have been added over the years to appease academia -- is the running story with repetitions and gradual building of understanding of new constructions. There are certainly nuances to reading Latin that I have learned from CLC that were never explained to me by any teacher or professor that aide in fluent reading. 

When I am asked what my goal is for the year and reply with a stage number, I'm told that's not a goal. That's covering chapters or covering grammar. But in my mind's eye, it's about reading goals - having certain grammatical constructions in one's passive knowledge at least and working towards active knowledge (or building a true mental representation). And I will admit that I don't seem to be able to counter an argument on what my goals are for the year when someone is demanding proficiency markers. But ACTFL's (intermediate low) "I can understand the main idea of short and simple texts when the topic is familiar" is awfully broad, not that ACL's "Learners can understand the main idea of short and simple Latin or Greek texts when the topic is familiar" is much different. Of course, in many ways this could describe anything.  Heck, ACL's novice high has a better description: "Learners can easily understand the main idea of texts related to familiar topics, personal interests, and studies. They can sometimes follow stories and descriptions about events and experiences in various time frames."  And if that's the case, then intermediate low is understood to include various time frames. 

Something else that's not mentioned and something that I started to feel was totally missing when we detoured off CLC earlier this year and taught Brando Brown Canem Vult--sentence length. Fear of a long sentence, especially a long Latin sentence, is something that I try to get students over early on. CLC does a nice job expanding sentence length as it builds upon new grammatical structures. At first, naturally, it's with simple dependent clauses like "quod" or "postquam," then relative clauses, participial phrases, and subjunctive clauses. I expressly teach students how to read in word order, how to metaphrase (search this blog for "metaphrasing" for more on that topic), etc, so that the location of the period is not an issue--that taking the Latin as it unfolds, one phrase at a time, is what truly matters. My problem when trying to teach a more comprehensible input style class is that we were not experiencing enough complex sentences. That could easily be my fault and tied to my low speaking proficiency. Some would say that experiencing complex sentences could wait anyway. But I disagree: I think that even metaphrasing should begin early when the text is too easy to need it because these new mental muscles need to be built up gradually and consistently. It's not about the metaphrasing, but training the brain to accept Latin word order--and in my experience that can make a big difference in the quality of the experience of extensive reading as well as intensive reading. 

So I guess the REAL question I'm back to in all of this thinking out loud is what I need to define for our program as the goal(s) for meeting an intermediate low proficiency for reading for Level 1 Latin. You know what is left out?  TIME.  This is one reason why I think I might want to specify, at least for my own personal purposes, the difference between INTENSIVE reading and EXTENSIVE. It may not be a big deal in Latin 1, but consider this from the Level 4 TEKS: students of classical languages should reach an Advanced Low to Advanced Mid proficiency level in reading.  I guarantee you that's intensive reading not extensive. That's not comfort zone reading. That's not reading done with a timer on. And I'm not advocating that we should necessarily put timers on reading. I was always a slow reader in English even because I liked to "taste the words" as Rex Harrison put it. And while I do have a timer on SSR this year (5 minutes for Latin 1, 7-10 minutes for Latin 3 & 4), I don't tell them what to read. Sometimes they are reading the simplest things I have, sometimes they are looking at Harrius Potter or Ille Hobitus.

But maybe we should do timed readings--how many pages of Latin at a certain level--since we are also incorporating timed writes. It's a thought. I could save the Orberg Lingua Latina's for timed readings and maybe only do timed readings a couple of times a six weeks. Read, write down how much and 1-2 sentence summary of what it was about.  I don't think I'd put a grade on it. I think I'd just let students reflect on it later in the year.

No final answers here, just more to ponder. 

Image from Herculaneum
I have taken the dive into Comprehensible Input this year, diving off of the textbook into the murky water of the unknown. It's been interesting and fun, but a little rocky at times. Most recently we spent practically two months of our block schedule (ABABC) reading Brando Brown Canem Vult. Let me state here that I like the book, I'm glad our school owns a class set, and I want to keep them for SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), BUT I felt like we were stuck in a ditch spinning our wheels the whole time and I couldn't wait to be done. Not only that, the students couldn't wait to be done.

I have been told that teaching the way I was teaching before (though the person did not fully understand nor appreciate the years of developing the reading approach that I use and the methods I employ) was ineffective and that my problem is that I'm just not willing to do something new, to change, etc. And that if we just did it his way and trusted *his* judgment, that we would see our student retention increase. At the time I admittedly burst out laughing--not to insult him, but that in our case (and because of my style of teaching) retention has never been our problem. (He is our 3rd Latin teacher.) Competition with AP courses is the problem. Scheduling is the problem. There is no fighting to keep a small program from closing here. People who often contact me regarding how I manage to have such a robust program with no JCL ask me what kind of promotional materials I hand out or speeches I give. I don't. I let student success speak for itself; I let students tell each other whether what I do is quality teaching.

Somehow my well-meaning colleague (and he truly is) seems to be blind to the investment of time I've made this year to make CI work in my room, from making numerous Google Slides for the chapters in Brando Brown Canem Vult to provide us with talking points, to using WAYK signs, movie talks, and many other materials designed to help us succeed, designed to support conversation and personal input. It may not have been perfect (most probably far from it!), but I have worked hard to help myself succeed in conversational aspects as well as my students. *I have been out of my comfort zone ALL YEAR.* And while many of these things were engaging, what I was seeing from my average students and my SPED (special ed) students was confusion more than anything else. These are the kids I have EXCELLED with in the past. These are the kids I WANT in my room. But at the moment, they are becoming the seriously disruptive students because they are feeling lost. Too many different endings have been flying; too little has been consolidated; everything is too confusing. And returning to take a quick dip back into Stage 6 (gawd, only stage 6!) after 2 months has made a few of them balk. And I knew it would. And I'm ok with that. They will come around as I help them to consolidate so much of what we have seen and heard.

Let me state that I *do* understand that in using a CI approach that it does take TIME for students to begin to develop a MENTAL REPRESENTATION which will then shape more productively their output. I get that, I do. I've attended 4-5 Rusticationes (Latin Camp), been a supporter of SALVI for ages before that, follow folks doing total CI, etc etc. I do get it. But I also take into consideration several other things. First and foremost, we don't have that kind of time. There is no middle school program in our district even though I have fought for it for years. (I miss teaching middle school.) There's no hope of getting anything at the elementaries. The students don't have that kind of time to work on Latin skills outside of class--most are carrying crazy full loads of PreAP and AP coursework. Their desire to take Latin is often based on purely academic reasons. For most, they want and need language credits ticked off their list. That I can get a significant number to continue for 3 years (and a few into Latin 4) WITHOUT using promotional gimmicks is a testament to the confidence they feel in my ability to teach them and help them to progress noticeably in their own eyes. This is not fluff. And my Latin 4s are NOT always my top students, but they want to continue learning and reading Latin.

I do not teach grammar in isolation. I do teach it in context, though not as formally as some teachers. I teach students how to see the endings and the tense indicators, how to read in word order, how to develop a Latin BRAIN, as a colleague at Randolph College once said. If what I teach are reading coping mechanisms and not true language acquisition skills, I'm fine with that. I'm fine with that because I have 11 years teaching at the high school level of developing READERS of Latin who go on to become highly successful in college Latin courses, most of which are dry read & translate sort of courses. I don't want students of mine who have had three years of Latin with me to end up having to take a beginning level Wheelocks Latin course when they go to college. And I don't want them memorizing translations of passages of Vergil or Caesar for tests and then not to be able to read more at college and demonstrate an understanding of the structure and syntax. Real reading.

And while I'm thinking about it, I'd like to talk about embedded readings. I've been playing with embedded readings with the Latin 4s for the last 6 weeks. I have nothing against embedded readings. They are useful and my students like them. I like them. I liked making them; it's an interesting process. We've been reading the new CLC 5th ed. Stage 46 Pliny selections (as well as the original Pliny, since this selection is slightly modified in places). But because we were using embedded readings, we were not working our reading skills in the same way (via Dexter Hoyos's rules for reading, etc). It was a bigger coping mechanism, a bigger crutch than anything I do. And it is doubtful that professors will be creating such things for students. How does that help prepare them for college Latin or reading real Latin on their own?

Last summer when I was binge-listening to Tea with BVP, I was pleased to hear an episode that talked about focusing on form. One of the many examples he gave was having a particular grammatical structure highlighted throughout a passage to help students focus on that new structure. I smiled and thought that many of the activities I used to do in my warm-ups helped students to focus on form, e.g., when we would have metaphrasing practice contrasting nominatives and accusatives. As students progress in Latin (in previous years I've taught Latin 2, 3, 4; this year it's 1, 3, 4), feedback has always been positive on its helpfulness once students got used to it and understood what I was asking for and why. (The full appreciation usually developed in Latin 2 when metaphrasing full participial phrases and learning to see Latin in chunks and not word for word.) While I might work with words in isolation in the warm-ups, they are almost always coming from the CLC story to be read that day, and thus heighten awareness of those forms when they appear in the context of the story. (And, I might add, that almost all of my quia material is designed to work forms in context--which students greatly appreciate.)

Today I wanted to begin to consolidate what we had seen of the imperfect and perfect tenses. Brando Brown Canem Vult was mainly present tense with some perfect tenses and a smattering of imperfect (I think) and futures. I had all this time (the last two months) avoided teaching mnemonic devices regarding the tenses (the imperfect sheep with three legs going ba ba ba and XLSUV "extra long [vowel] SUV" with a picture of a stretch SUV limo), trying to work the tenses with different tasks or activities. However, today I started the warm-up with images of the two mnemonic devices, discussing them, and then had students circling tense indicators and endings and translating a select group of verbs. This would have been a no brainer in previous years, but there were complaints all around--especially from today's class that has so many low performing, needy students. They will come around; they will realize how much they know once they start to consolidate.

So where does all of this leave me?

I am glad I had this experience though feel badly for the Latin 1 students because there are so many reading skills they lack, not to mention so many great stories set in Pompeii which we haven't read. However, not for the first time have I begun to wonder at some friends who have been practicing CI successfully for a few years now (and more power to them) whether their problem with CLC was more not knowing how to really teach a reading based approach--how to teach your average student (not the 4%ers) how to read Latin in word order, how to help your brain to slow down, to taste the words, to see the endings, to register the phrasing, the structures, the shape of it all. How to retrain the brain to accept Latin. I never had to scaffold or embed a CLC story before with my students. And I have had students move from other schools into my Latin 3 classes and exclaim with delight that they understand so much more now, and can read more, and feel far more confident than they ever did with their previous teacher.

With all of that said, I have been trying to figure out for years how to work in more oral/aural work because I had in my mind's eye the time scale/pacing we needed to keep. I never had the guts to just say to myself that it would be ok to slow it down. I've always been too conscientious about where surrounding schools are in the curriculum in case one of my students changes schools. But now...

Now I see possibilities of enhancing what I've been doing with more oral/aural activities. I can see providing the framework as I have done before with reading in context & activities to help students see and focus on forms. Then, much like I feel so many of the activities at Rusticatio did for me, build upon and broaden and develop more fully that mental representation with a variety of meaningful tasks both small and large. Having class sets of the new novellas makes for great SSR material to help build that mental representation. Studies show that the most critical thing for language learning is indeed READING. True reading for understanding and not just the gist of a storyline. (See for a great video/article on the topic.)

While I can understand the reasoning for a full CI approach and not consolidating until 3 or 4 years later, that is not right for my program nor for my personal goals. I do intend to develop proficiency goals based on the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for Latin, at the core will be reading proficiency. Will I continue to try to teach more in the target language? Absolutely. I force myself to use more every year. We learn by doing. Will I be having my students write in Latin? Yes, I definitely plan to. Will we have any PBLs? I've been working on plans for a couple for next year, and how to supplement and prepare for them from early on in the year.

I can't give you the answer for what is right for you. I can say that I've been at this for a decent number of years, have never struggled with program numbers, and have anecdotal evidence to support what I do. No posts implying that I'm teaching grammar explicitly in isolation will change my knowing and seeing and experiencing what works in my classroom to teach students to read Latin, in word order, with attention to detail, with absolutely no need to consult Google Translate. Students like *understanding* structure. No posts implying I don't understand about form and function will change what I do with metaphrasing, Rassias transformation/substitution drills, etc. I'm not a frightened person, set in my ways. I am always willing to put myself out there and try. But I am a serious student of Latin, of teaching Latin, and of students. For me, my refrigerator covered with notes and letters from grateful students for filling their heads with Latin and their hearts with love will stand as evidence that what I am doing is working.

So, next year will mean changes for me one way or another.  My high school is going on block scheduling and I'm hoping to have the Latin 1s back... or... I'm hoping to be teaching exploratory Latin full time to 5th graders in a totally different school district.  Either way, I want to start moving into doing more Comprehensible Input. It's a tricky thing if I stay because I feel like it will also mean dismantling all I have built for the last 10 years--16 years if you count the 6 years I taught middle school Latin.  That was when I began my adventures with the Cambridge Latin Course, began building materials of detail and quality, and began developing my reading methodology. And if I begin using Comprehensible Input more than the textbook at my high school, it may mean going it alone... I'm not sure my colleague has any interest in it.

And maybe that will be a moot point because maybe I will get this other job teaching exploratory Latin.  And either way, I can continue to study everything I can about Comprehensible Input so that I will be ready.

So I've been listening to the Tea with BVP podcast  I only discovered it a couple of episodes before the end of the season, so now I'm starting over. This morning I listened to episodes 1 and 2.  At some point, I believe in episode 1, there was a question about whether to teach pronunciation. The basic answer was no because your students should be able to pick it up by hearing you speak or other native speakers, etc, in a natural way.

I, however, have always said that I can't just ask Cicero how to pronounce a word I have never come across before because he's dead. No one local to me seems interested in speaking Latin conversationally. (I have had to go off to SALVI events like Rusticatio to have quality exposure to spoken Latin in a large quantity--that is 24/7.) The authentic communication I have is in reading what the dead wrote in great measure. We do know how golden age Latin was pronounced (see Vox Latina), so that is not at issue. I have always felt it important to teach pronunciation, syllabification, and accentuation in Latin (but only to count it as extra credit on quizzes--not for a real grade) because students will at some point need to be able to read and hear words (at least in their heads) that no one has pronounced for them before. Perhaps I'm influenced by my phonetics education as a child. Perhaps this is just my own neurotic need that I shouldn't force on others. (Here is a pronunciation guide I created to go with the Cambridge Latin Course.)

In teaching high school, one of my goals with expressly teaching the dividing and accenting of words is so that when we hit poetry meter will be easy and not challenging. Another goal is simply that they can decide how to say a word without my having to say it for them.  And yet...  Have I been wasting a lot of time?

It's not that there aren't other ways in which my students are picking up good pronunciation.  First and foremost, I read everything aloud to them.  With gusto! With dramatics! Students read with me in unison as well.  We also have recitation passages--short snippets from an important story in the chapter/stage which we then use to practice pronunciation. (These are also used to target new grammar in the chapter/stage.) Later each student recites/reads this passage for a pronunciation grade. I would say 98% of students do this really well.

We also have "jobs" at the beginning of class that include reading the agenda which is mostly written in Latin, reading the date (which includes yesterday, today, and tomorrow), as well as being the daily weather person.

(I can't recall why it was foggy and dirty at the time I took this picture, but I believe there was either dust or ash from a fire in the air at that time for some reason that was making the fog weird in the mornings. And yes, it probably should have read decimo sexto for the date and not sedecimo!)

I don't correct too often when students are doing jobs; many self correct or just improve as the year goes on. Many are conscientious of macrons and the role they play in pronunciation, a few admittedly lack interest and are just getting through their job for the day. Most, however, really like doing the jobs. At an awards banquet the other night I overheard one student, when asked to say something in Latin, rattle off, "salvete omnes! vaticinatrix hodierna sum. mihi nomen est Octavia. sol lucet!"

I think... I think if I teach pronunciation in the future maybe I'll just let the students discuss and figure out from previous input and exposure what the difference is between short and long for each vowel, and maybe even accentuation rules. And syllabification is really only necessary for teaching poetry in all honesty, right? And even then, only if you have to expressly teach meter because of AP or IB.  The truth of the matter is that my expressly teaching the rules for pronunciation, syllabification, & accentuation aren't the real reasons why my students have good pronunciation and aren't afraid of reading Latin aloud.  They can do that because we read aloud all the time, because I make my class a place where Latin is heard. They get extra credit points on dividing and accenting words on stage quizzes because I expressly taught the rules.  Big whoop.

I'm not going to give up my personal obsession for macrons on all materials because I want to learn how to say a word the right way from my first encounter with it if possible. Can I read Latin well without macrons? Yes of course. I like picking up my copy of Harrius Potter and rattling on at a natural speed as if I'm reading English and not Latin. There are no macrons; there are often a lot of new vocabulary for words Caesar never new (he never had an automobile after all) and I can guess from experience what is the most likely pronunciation--but I can only do that because I put the demand on myself for careful pronunciation with macrons at all other times.

Perhaps that seems a bit much--but as I said before, Cicero is not here.  I can't just say to someone in the next room, "hey, how do you pronounce nihilominus?" So for Latin, especially when you get to a point when you are in total control of your input (which is often just print material), pronunciation is important. Understanding how it works is important. But maybe as a teacher--especially as a teacher of beginning students--it really isn't a critical topic.  Surely I can use that time better than spending the better part of a class going through my pronunciation sheet (see above)?!

Just another thing to consider when planning for next year.
I have spent the better part of this weekend not grading quizzes as I should be but buidling a new set of online quizzes for reviewing and understanding Ablatives of Description, Comparison, and Respect.  During this time I'm watching friends post from the Living Latin Institute put on by Paideia in NY and feeling not only a little jealous but admittedly a bit defensive about what I've been working on.

But I'm not currently teaching via Comprehensible Input, I'm using the Cambridge Latin Course and focusing, as I have done for a long time, on reading strategies. The two are not, of course, exclusive. In fact, I am looking for ways to bring the two together in the future. And it may one day be that I will be totally CI in my approach, but for now, I'm a CLC girl.

CLC often gets complaints about not having enough grammar, but truly it's all there.  Sometimes it is discussed in the ABOUT THE LANGUAGE sections, but other times it isn't. Sometimes it is discussed in the LANGUAGE INFORMATION section in the back of the book, sometimes it isn't.  In the case of the Ablatives of Description, Comparison, and Respect, one can find very minimal information of them in the back of the book. One doesn't get a sense of how often one sees them in the text.  Certainly the students have no idea about what they are seeing. CLC would like students to discover patterns for themselves and/or to internalize new constructions after having experienced them multiple times.

However, there are times when the examples are spread out to just a few here or a few there. Sometimes explanations aren't really needed. But there does come a time when students start feeling that there are hundreds of exceptions to how to translate or understand something. And while I often feel more problems are caused by worrying about what would sound "right" in an English translation which could be avoided if we kept our focus IN the Latin, we have to understand the situation from the student's point of view.  That is, sometimes it is worth pointing out exactly what is going on grammatically, especially if we can back it up with multiple examples.  And when we start hitting ablatives that sound better translated with things other than "by" or "with" (the two standby's we learn with declining), to me that is the time to point out the new guys.

I give tests every couple of stages, for the most part, and usually pull together samples just from those stages of whatever needs targetting.  In this case, I decided we needed a closer look at Ablatives of Description, Comparison, and Respect. Combined together I was able to make two 18 question online quizzes regarding identifying the construction and translating.  (They use the same 18 sentences in each.)  While it may seem to the student and other users of these two new quizzes that I'm merely hammering home grammatical features, what I really am trying to do is to force students to read and reread these examples more times than we would have met them just in class.  In class I can count on them seeing the constructions in full context with their work groups (three people each) a couple of times, plus one more time when we go over it again all together in class.  That's maybe three times, four if I'm lucky. With the online quizzes, which I end up using to prep and preview for tests, I hope to force them to see these same sentences at least 2 more times, more if they review them again on their own time at home. I doubt more than 4 or 5 questions will actually make it to the test.  After all, Stages 36 and 37 cover present subjunctives and more on indirect statements--big ticket items. But sometimes it is frustration with the smaller items that can put off students, especially when examples are spread out and one feels you are learning something new each time it comes up.  Hence the need for repetition in context with similar items to focus and engage the students.

So here are the two new items.

1. CLC Stages 36-37: Identifying Ablatives
2. CLC Stages 36-37: Translating Ablatives

Unit Four isn't to be feared; it's to be mined for its wonderful depth of information. Join me in embracing it.

The instructional facilitator at our school sent a few of us an email at the end of last week.  She wanted to pilot a new website/program which allowed for the videotaping of a class and then being able to constructively talk about it afterwards. I warned her that the last week or two before semester exams probably would not yield the best results.  I wasn't doing anything creative or new worth filming.  However she really wanted to try it out NOW.  So I consented.  I'm game.  And I'm not afraid of criticism.  That's how you learn and grow.

Now, let me just add that there's nothing in the lesson that I did that is grand.  I think it is competent. If you use the Cambridge Latin Course it will probably be worth watching. It shows an average day from start to finish.  You will see:

  1. "jobs" - Students doing beginning of the class jobs which include reading the agenda (which is in part or all in Latin), reading the date in Latin (this includes what yesterday and tomorrow are, and neo Latin dating, not ancient Roman dating), being the "weather person" (in Latin), and general announcements about stuff happening on campus (in English).

  2. warm-ups - "praeparationes" which I do via PowerPoint to target grammar constructions or issues that will be met in the day's story

  3. vocab flashcards (yes, yes, not currently the best pedagogy, but it is what I do at this level)

  4. reading the story - In this case we are reading it chorally.  But I do talk about metaphrasing at one point plus I model left to right reading, etc. (Stage 23, epistulam Cephali)

  5. The relationship I have with these students.

Watching the whole thing may not be for you.  Like I said, I don't think it is anything great or brilliant.  Funny at times, perhaps, but that's it.  However, if you create a account (takes a minute), I *believe* you can see this and you may even be able to make comments.  I don't know for sure; I only just got permission to share. You will see a screen like the one below with the video on the left and comments WITH TIME STAMPS on the right.  This is the feature I like.  These time stamps, which the program does automatically when you start to write a comment, allows you to go straight to a section you want to see.  That is, if you read through the notes and find where I talk about metaphrasing, you can then get the time so you can find that place easily in the video.  Or, if you have a question about WHY I do something in the video, you can start typing in the comment box and it will automatically time stamp it for you so I can see what you are asking about.  So easy, so useful.

I am not certain, but I think there is a way you can request permission to comment.  The current comments are just from the person who filmed this (my instructional facilitator) and myself.  But I have no problem in using this for teacher training purposes.  What I would really like to see are vialogues of my friends who are teaching via TPRS/CI so that I can learn more and shift into a more student-centered, Latin immersive (or at least comprehensive input) environment. My personal pedagogy has been on reading theory for so long that I know I will have a difficult time totally shifting over to what is seeming like a better pedagogy--a more inclusive, more complete pedagogy. Thus if you are reading this and you use TPRS or CI, please try out this website/program so there's more for us to see and learn from!

Anyway, here is the link.  It may not work until you create a account.  However, I think you will find it worthwhile just to use yourself.

Or if that doesn't work, try this one (I think it is specifically a link for sharing the video):
[This was first posted to the Cambridge Latin Course list. FYI]

So I probably only have a couple more of these grammar quests to go after this one. I know we have gotten several new members to the CLC list since I began, so let me reiterate that I’m not doing this because I think CLC needs to “teach more grammar,” but rather that all the grammar we need is really included in CLC.  CLC is our toolbox, we are the master craftsmen/women.  I have taught from CLC for over 15 years now and I am still learning nuances about the Latin language from the text—I am still discovering new tools down at the bottom of the box.  I am clarifying my own understanding of some constructions, and perhaps I am suggesting that some grammar constructs at least be mentioned in the Language Information section at the back of the textbook. But most of all, *I* want to get really good at using those tools myself, in the spoken Latin that I use in class or may write in a story or whatever. (In my opinion there’s nothing worse than seeing teacher-written stories with bad grammar or phrasing! But I’m sure none of us has ever done that!!!!)

For me, it’s not about identifying grammar.  And early on in Latin 1 I may not even use such terms as “direct object” because I know that too many kids turn off their brains because they hear “grammar” and assume they are bad at grammar. However, I would like for my students to have a clear understanding of constructions, whether I call it by grammatical terms or not, so that when they see it in context they can move smoothly through a sentence.  I teach a lot of phrasing, a lot of reading-in-word-order techniques, etc. We do not decode, we do not hunt the verb. We learn to build expectations which help us to disambiguate function/cases more easily.  That is, in a sentence like mīlites Agricolam castra intrantem vīdērunt, not only do we see Agricolam castra intrantem as a unit, but that castra has to be accusative because it is with the present participle and nested inside the noun/participle unit. Nominative is never an option. But I digress…


There are only a handful of examples of what we should call the Genitive of Indefinite Price or Value in the text through Stage 40. I don’t believe it’s ever addressed in an About the Language section (doesn’t warrant it), but it is in the Language Information section for Units 3 & 4 as the last item under the uses of cases for the genitive:

4. Another use is the genitive of indefinite price or value:
id minimī momentī est.
That is of very little importance.

I had been thinking that perhaps other phrases fell under the concept of “indefinite price or value” so I wanted more information.  So here is what the grammarians say:

Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar talks about it under the Genitive of Quality, which we (or CLC) called Description:
345. The Genitive is used to denote Quality, but only when the quality is modified by an adjective:
·         vir summae virtūtis, a man of the highest courage. [But not vir virtūtis.]
·         magnae est deliberātiōnis, it is an affair of great deliberation.
·         magnī formica labōris, the ant [a creature] of great toil
·         ille autem suī iūdicī, but he [a man] of independent (his own) judgement
417. Certain adjectives of quantity are used in the Genitive to denote indefinite value. Such are magnī, parvī, tantī, quantī

[Bennett’s New Latin Grammar doesn’t even mention it or have any examples like it. I suppose that’s because it considers it to be under the umbrella of the Genitive of Quantity (CLC’s Genitive of Description).]

Gildersleeve and Lodge, Genitive with Verbs of Rating & Buying, p 243ff
379. Verbs of Rating and Buying are construed with the Genitive of the general value or cost, and the Ablative of the particular value or cost.
Verbs of Rating are: aestimāre, exīstimāre (rare), to value; putāre, to reckon; dūcere (rare in Cicero), to take; habēre, to hold; pendere (mostly in Comedy), to weigh; facere, to make, put; esse, to be (worth); fierī, to be considered.
Verbs of Buying are: emere, to buy; vēndere, to sell; vēnīre, to be for sale; stāre and cōnstāre, to cost, to come to; prōstāre, licēre, to be exposed, left (for sale); condūcere, to hire; locāre, to let.
380. 1. Verbs of Rating take:
magnī, much; plūris, more; plūrimī, maximī, most
parvī, little; minōris, less; minimī, least
tantī, tantīdem, so much; quantī (and compounds), how much; nihilī, naught
Equivalents of nihilī, nothing, are floccī, a lock of wool, naucī, a trifle, assis, a copper, pilī…and so also huius, that (a snap of the finger), all usually with the negative.
Remarks: tantī is often used in the sense of operae pretium est = it is worth while.

Hale and Buck, Genitive of Value or Price, p 189
356. Indefinite Value or Price* may be expressed by the Genitive of:
1.      Certain Adjectives, especially tantī, quantī, magnī, parvī; plūris, minōris; plūrimī, maximī, minimī.
2.      Certain Substantives not used with serious meaning, especially nihilī, zero¸naucī, a peascod, assis, a copper, floccī, a straw, pilī, a hair, huius, that much (snap of the finger).
haec nōlī putāre parvī, don’t reckon these things of small account; nōlī spectāre quantī homō sit; parvī enim pretī est quī tam nihilī est, don’t consider how much the fellow is worth, for he is of little value who is so worthless; (Note the parallel expressions parvī pretī, quantī, and nihilī.); nōn habeō naucī Marsum augurem, I don’t care a peascod for a Marsian augur.
* The principal verbs with which the construction is used are est, aestimō and exīstimō, putō, habeō, dūcō, faciō, pendō, emō, redimō, vēndō, and vēneō. Aestimō with this construction is rare before Cicero; exīstimō is always rare with it.

The following are all of the examples of the Genitive of Indefinite Price/Value which I could find through Stage 40. I have left highlights in (as I did above) so you can see the notes I made to myself.

·         18  praesidium tuum operāsque tuās floccī nōn faciō.
*first use “I don’t give a hoot about”
·         19  uxōrem fīliamque floccī nōn facis.
·         21  Britannōs etiam minōris pretiī habeō.
* “I care even less about”
·         21  “es homō magnae stultitiae,” respondit Memor. “aegrōtōs floccī nōn faciō.”
·         22  id minimī mōmentī est, quod in tenebrīs sumus.
*that seems very similar to Latrō being minimae prūdentiae earlier in the stage; it looks like Gen of Description—is there overlap??
·         22  Vilbia, tamen, quae pulchrae et obstināta erat, patrem floccī nōn faciēbat.
·         22  Vilbiam floccī nōn faciō.
·         33  illum psittacum Domitiānī floccī nōn faciō.
·         36  ignōscās petimus, Vacerra: tantī / nōn est, ut placeam tibī, perīre.
·         38  scīlicet dīvitiīs Sparsī corrupta es; amōrem meum floccī nōn facis.

There are ten examples here; 7 are floccī nōn faciō which we are told is the equivalent of “I don’t give a hoot.” I confess, depending upon the class (and especially when the phrase occurs in a story we read in Latin 3) that I sometimes say it means “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”  Before you think me too crude (for school as a professional), I use that phrase because it makes as much sense as “I don’t make (anything) of a lock of wool.” It’s a fun phrase, floccī nōn faciō, and honestly understanding the grammar of it does absolutely nothing for me thus I doubt I would mention it to students unless asked, and even then I’m not sure it’s worth explaining.

In Stage 21 we do have Memor say, “Britannōs etiam minōris pretiī habeo.” The book gives “I care even less about,” which is fine, but it is also, I believe, the only example of pretium in the stage and it is a vocabulary item. So for me, this is the sentence that I want to use on the vocabulary quiz, so I explain the phrase more fully as “I hold of less value/worth.” I have never explained the type of genitive, and probably still won’t, because “of” serves so well. Then again, it wouldn’t hurt to mention our idiom of something to be “of value” and note that it’s not really possession.  Unless you want to say that it possesses value… so maybe.

In Stage 22 we get another great phrase which I wish showed up more: id minimī mōmentī est, quod in tenebrīs sumus. (Like it is truly of the least importance that Gutta has a beard when dressing up as Vilbia!)  I had made a note to myself (see above) about this being so similar to the Genitive of Description (vir minimae prūdentiae) and I probably just considered it as such and never thought twice about it. Of course, now I can see how it is a Genitive of Indefinite Price or Value AND why I thought it was like Genitive of Description (see grammarians above—especially Allen and Greenough plus Bennett). And maybe, since it is Stage 22 where the About the Language section explains Genitive of Description and Partitive Genitives (without calling it that), it would be worth a discussion of the other types of genitives seen so far (not necessarily by name). I can see throwing id minimī mōmentī est and Britannōs etiam minōris pretiī habeō and maybe even floccī nōn faciō up on the screen to see what they would make of them. It is certainly important that they think more broadly about how ideas are expressed in different languages, and this might lead to an interesting discussion.

Or if the discussion isn’t worth the time, you can start working certain expressions into your oral Latin more in class. For instance, I have decided that I’m going to start using id minimī mōmentī est more myself, like when students whine about too many tests on the same day or too much homework from other classes—“id minimī mōmentī est!” And I’m guessing I could use the opposite to say something is very important: id maximī mōmentī est. (But I perhaps I should check to see if that was really used….)

In Stage 36 we get the important one: tantī / nōn est, ut placeam tibī, perīre. I feel like my students and I move through some of the longer epigrams, like this one, too quickly.  Looking at it now makes me realize that this would be an ideal time to pause and discuss the different ways tantum is used—tantum = only, tantus, a, um + ut = so great that (result clause), and now here, tantī est = it is worthwhile (it is of such great value).  (Hmmm… are there others we could include here?) In any event, tantī est is, no pun intended, worthwhile for students to know. So even if we don’t explain what’s going on with the grammar, just having the discussion and maybe, like with id minimī mōmentī est, working it into our oral repertoire will help students to internalize the idiom.

Now, in all honesty, I had been thinking that the following were Genitive of Indefinite Price/Value in one way or another, but realize now that the genitive is functioning differently. Here are first two:

·         30  prō agellō tuō igitur sēstertium vīciēns tibi offerō.
·         30  mē iuvat igitur sēstertium tantum trīciēns ā tē accipere.

The phrases sēstertium vīciēns (2 million) and sēstertium trīciēns (3 million) are simply glossed in the text.  I was thinking that sēstertium was a genitive at first, then realize that it was an accusative, and then was really confused. Luckily, Anne Mahoney from the Latin Best Practices list gave me the answer:

A sestertius is a coin, worth 2 1/2 asses (and the abbreviation HS is
IIS, II et Semis, with a horizontal line through the middle, like the
extra horizontal line in the E for "euro").

Sestertium is the genitive plural (the really old form, like deum rather
than deorum), and mille is understood. So you'd expect "tria millia
sestertium" = 3,000 HS (tria millia sestertiorum), but you actually have
"tria sestertium" -- but that looks funny, so the Romans started making
"sestertia" agree with "tria," giving us a new word "sestertium," neuter
singular, meaning a thousand sestertii.

But THEN, when you use a number ADVERB instead of a regular adjective,
the rule is that it's not 1,000 but 100,000 that's understood. So "ter
sestertium" (*or* "ter sestertia") = ter centena milia sestertiorum =
300,000 HS. And vicies sestertium = 20 x 100 x 1000 HS = 2,000,000
(that is, two million, not twenty million).

Why the adverbs go with hundred-thousands is NOT OBVIOUS AT ALL. This
is one of those points that argues against the view of the Romans as
"logical" and "hyper-rational"!!!

For reference, Allen and Greenough sections 633-634 and the Vicipaedia
article Sestertius, (the
English one doesn't go into this).

FINE.  I am happy to accept the glossed meaning and move on. I will never think twice about these two again!

The other set of genitives that I thought might have been Genitive of Indefinite Price/Value were these:

·         24  “cibum sex diērum tantum parāvī,” inquit susurrāns.
·         24  mox regressus, cibum sex diērum Quīntō et Dumnorigī trādidit.
·         37  mīsitne tribūtum septem annōrum ad aerārium? minimē!

I thought, you know, that cibum sex diērum was literally “food of six days worth” or something, thus it’s a value thing.  Now, of course, I realize it’s another type of Genitive most likely, one I will be writing about tomorrow: the Objective Genitive, which often uses the word “for” and NOT “of”—food for 6 days.  But more on that later. I’m just happy that I understand these three phrases more clearly for what they are and the Genitive of Indefinite Price or Value for what it is.

These next few entries were first published on the Cambridge Latin Course listserv. FYI


OK, so let’s begin with Ablative of Cause. First what the grammars I consulted say (I was drawn to all that Gildersleeve and Lodge had to say):

Ablative of Cause or Reason, Hale & Buck, p 233

444. Cause or Reason may be expressed by the ablative without a preposition.
cūrīs aeger, sick with anxiety
metū relictās urbīs, cities abandoned because of fear
meā restitūtiōne laetātus est, rejoiced in my return
a.       The construction is especially frequent with verbs and adjectives of taking pleasure, rejoicing, boasting, or the opposite.
b.The prepositions dē, ex, and in are occasionally used with one or another of these words. Thus ex vulnere aeger, sick from a wound; ex commūtātiōne rērum doleant, suffer from a change of fortune; ut in hōc sit laetātus, quod…, so that he took pleasure in the fact that…
c.       Cause may also be expressed by ob, per, or propter with accusatives. Thus ob eās rēs, on account of these achievements.
d.      causā and grātiā, common with the genitive, were themselves originally ablatives of cause.

Ablative of Cause, Gildersleeve and Lodge, p 263

408. The ablative of cause is used without a preposition, chiefly with verbs of emotion.
in culpā sunt quī officia dēserunt mollitiā animī, they are to blame who shirk their duties from effeminacy of temper; ōdērunt peccāre bonī virtūtis amōre, the good hate to sin from love of virtue; dēlictō dolēre, corrēctiōne gaudēre (oportet), one ought to be sorry for sin, to be glad of chastisement; nōn dīcī potest quam flagrem dēsideriō urbis, I burn (am afire) beyond expression with longing for Rome.
1.      A number of combinations become phraseological, as the verbals: arbitrātū, hortātū, impulsū, iūssū, missū, rogātū, etc; also cōnsiliō, auctōritāte, with a gen. or possessive pronoun: iūssū cīvium, at the bidding of the citizens; meō rogātū, at my request.
2.      The moving cause is often expressed by a participle with an ablative, which usually precedes: adductus, led; ārdēns, fired; commōtus, stirred up; incitātus, egged on; incēnsus, inflamed; impulsus, driven on; mōtus, moved, and many others; amōre, by love; īrā, by anger; odiō, by hate; metū, by fear; spē, by hope, etc. Metū perterritus, sore frightened; verēcundiā dēterritus, abashed, etc.
3.      Instead of the simple ablative, the prepositions and ex (sometimes in), with the abl., ob and propter with the acc. are often used; perhaps occasionally ab.
4.      The preventing cause is expressed by prae, for: prae gaudiō ubi sim nescio, I know not where I am for joy.
5.      On causā and grātiā with the gen., see…
6.      The use of the abl for the external cause, as rēgāle genus nōn tam rēgnī quam rēgis vitiīs repudiātum est, the kingly form of government was rejected no so much by reason of the faults of the kingly form, as by reason of the faults of the king. is not common in the early and in the classical period, except in certain formulae; but it becomes very common later.
7.      The ablative of cause may have its origin in the instrumental ablative, in the ablative of source, or in the comitative ablative.

Ablative of Cause. Bennett’s New Latin Grammar
219. The ablative is used to denote cause; as—
multa glōriae cupiditāte fēcit, he did many things on account of his love of glory
1.      So especially with verbs denoting mental states; as, dēlector, gaudeō, laetor, glōrior, fīdō, cōnfīdō. Also with contentus, as—
fortūnā amīcī gaudeō, I rejoice at the fortune of my friend (i.e. on account of it)
victōriā suā glōriantur, they exult over their victory;
nātūrā locī cōnfīdēbant, they trusted in the character of their country
a.       fīdō and cōnfīdō always take the dative of the person; sometimes the dative of the thing.
2.      As ablatives of cause are to be reckoned also such Ablatives as iussū, by order of, iniussū, without the order, rogātū, etc.

There is nothing about the Ablative of Cause in the language information section of CLC Unit 4.  If what Gildersleeve and Lodge says in #7 is correct, CLC is just letting much of what is Abl of Cause slip under Abl of Means. But I think that is too simple.  For Ablative of Means they simply have (p 323) “The ablative of means answers the question, “by what means?”:

Salvius pūgiōne vulnerātus est. Salvius was wounded by a dagger.

And this is fine and simple, but your average student may not come up with “from” when needed in some circumstances when “by or with” is all that’s generally taught for Means. But I think leaving it simple has made me sloppy and left some students frustrated with the slipperiness of ablatives.

I just remembered A Student’s Latin Grammar put out by Cambridge.  On page 56 it has this:
6a like “by” or “with” in English, indicating the method or instrument by which something is done:*
clāmōribus excitātus, awakened by the shouts
hastīs armātī, armed with spears
* The preposition ā/ab is used with the ablative to indicate a person by whom something is done:
ab amīcīs excitātus, awakened by friends
ā duce armātī, armed by the leader
If the action is done by an animal, ā/ab may be either included or left out:
(ā) cane excitātus, awakened by the dog

6c like English “from,” indicating the origin of someone or something:
            clārā gente nātus, born from a famous family

Ablative of Cause is not mentioned at all.  The simplicity of 6c having “from” indicate the origin (which seems more specific in the first three grammars, but Abl of Source can be another thread for another time), does harken back to what Gildersleeve and Lodge say in #7 about the Ablative of Cause having its origin in Abl of Instrument (Means) and Source.  (I honestly don’t understand it also being from Comitative, but that’s ok.)

Here’s why I want to teach an Ablative of Cause: it gives me an understanding of why “by” or “with” doesn’t sound right but “from” does at times, and it does not force my mind into mental gymnastics to see everything as a means or instrument.  That’s not to say that I can’t see it as both means and cause sometimes. But if we look at G&L’s explanation that “The ablative of cause is used without a preposition, chiefly with verbs of emotion,” and tell students that “from” will often sound better with ablatives used like this, it might aide in speed or quality of comprehension.

I am sure this list is not complete because the more I thought about this and read and reread the grammars above, the more I started seeing Ablative of Cause all over the place.  So, admittedly, maybe I’m going overboard. But this will toss a lot of the examples altogether for you to see and ponder yourselves.

28        Belimicus, spē praemiī adductus, mīlitēs Rōmānōs adiuvābat et incitābat.

28        Belimicus, metū mortis pallidus, surrēxit.
28        Belimicus venēnō excruciātus, pugiōnem tamen in Salvium coniēcit, spē ultiōnis adductus.
29        duae enim captīvae, magnō dolōre affectae, in carcere cantābant:…
30        Salvius ipse summō gaudiō affectus est quod Imperātor arcum Hateriī valdē laudāverat.
30        Haterius, īrā commōtus, sōlus domī manēbat.
30        cūr tanTā īrā afficeris, mī Haterī?
30        deinde Salvium admīrātiōne affectum rogā dē sacerdōtiō.
30        Salvius pavōre paene cōnfectus clausīs oculīs ad sēdem haerēbat.
30        ubi tandem oculōs aperuit, spectāculō attonitus, “dī immortālēs!” inquit.
30        Imperātor, simulatque illum arcum vīdit, summā admīrātiōne affectus est.
30        summō gaudiō afficior quod opus meum ab Imperātōre laudātum est.
30        itaque ambō humum rediērunt, alter spē immortālitātis ēlātus, alter praesentī pecūniā contentus.
30        itaque ambō humum rediērunt, alter spē immortālitātis ēlātus, alter praesentī pecūniā contentus.
31        cēterī autem, oculīs in vultum praecōnis dēfīxīs, spē favōris manēbant.
31        aliī spē pecūniae dēiectī invītī discessērunt.
32        iussū meō hūc vēnit Athēnīs, ubi habitant philosophī nōtissimī.
32        etiam eī quī spē favōris cēnās magistrātibus dant, rē vērā labōrant.
34        quae [Domitia] metū āmēns vītaeque suae neglegēns in hortum reversa est.
35        gaudiō enim afficiēbar, quod tam diū epistulam ā tē exspectābam; dolēbam autem, quod tū tot labōribus opprimēbāris.
35        ego quoque, cum Rōmae essem, saepe negōtiīs vexābar; nunc tamen vītā rūsticā fruor.
36        Martiālis, interpellātiōne valdē īrātus, dē scaenā dēscendit ut auditōrem vituperet.
36        ūnus audītor tamen, M’ Acīlius Glabriō, tālī adulātiōne offēnsus, nōn modo plausū abstinet sed ē sellā surgit ut ex auditōriō ēgrediātur.
36        quā audāciā attonitus, Martiālis paulīsper immōtus stat; deinde ad extrēmam scaenam prōcēdit ut plausū fruātur.
36        dīcis amōre tuī bellās ardēre puellās, / quī faciem sub aquā, Sexte, natantis habēs.
36        centum mē tetigēre manūs Aquilōne gelātae:…
37        ibi mīlitēs nostrī, spē glōriae adductī, victōriam nōmine tuō dignam rettulērunt.
37        ille tamen victōriā nimis ēlātus est.
37        tum M’. Acīlius Glabriō, hāc sententiā incēnsus, “Cornēlī Fusce,” inquit, “tū sine causā Agricolam culpās.”
37        cēterī, audāciā Glabirōnis obstupefactī, oculōs in Imperātōrem dēfīxōs tenēbant nec quicquam dīcere audēbant.
37        …omnēs scīmus Galbam cupīdine imperiī correptum esse…
38        Clēmēns semper cum Imperātōre cōnsentīre solet; verētur enim nē idem sibi accidat ac frātrī Sabīnō, quī iussū Imperātōris occīsus est.
38        grātiās maximās tibi agō, domine, quod meīs fīliīs ascīscendīs mē tantō honōre afficis.
38        (gaudiō et pavōre commōta) Helvidī quō modō hūc vēnistī?
38        (īrā et amōre incēnsus) ēn haec fidēs!
38        (dolōre paene cōnfecta) audī, mī Helvidī!
39        (fābulam nārrāns) deinde Iuppiter, rēx deōrum, sceleribus hominum valdē offēnsus.
39        puerī, timōre commōtī, extrā tablīnum haesitant.
39        bonā causā perturbāmur.
39        sed tanta erat Iovis īra ut imbribus caelī contentus nōn esset. (see #1 Bennett)
39        avēs, postquam terram diū quaerēbant ubi cōnsistere possent, tandem in mare fessīs ālīs dēcidērunt.
39        Domitiānus, audāciā Titī obstupefactus, nihil dīcit.
39        sed timuit, nē forte sacer tot ab ignibus aethēr conciperet flammās, longusque ardēsceret axis. (see #3 G&L for use of ab)
39        …madidīs Notus ēvolat ālīs; barba gravis nimbīs, cānīs fluit unda capillīs.
39        nec caelō contenta suō est Iovis īra, sed illum caeruleus frāter iuvat auxiliāribus undīs. (see #1 Bennett)
39        ipse tridente suō terram percussit, at illa / intremuit mōtūque viās patefēcit aquārum.
39        in mare lassātīs volucris vaga dēcidit ālīs.
40        quā rē imprōvīsā perturbātus, amīcōs statim cōnsuliut utrum accūsātiōnem sperneret an dēfēnsiōnem susciperet.
40        invidia Salviī aucta est suspīciōne Cogidubnum venēnō necātum esse.
40        omnibus autem abnuentibus, domum rediit, spē omnī dēiectus.
40        Salvius, iam metū cōnfectus, ad cūriam lectīcā vectus est; fīliō comitante, manibus extentīs, Domitiānō lentē ac suppliciter appropinquāvit.
40        …eum Vespasiānī patris amīcum fuisse, adiūtōremque Agricolae ā sē missum esse Britanniae administrandae causā.
40        “opprimor, domine, inimīcōrum coniūrātiōne mendācibusque testibus, nec mihi licet innocentiam meam probāre.
40        Q. Haterius Latrōniānus, quī favōrem Salviī flōrentis semper quaerēbat, eum rēbus adversīs oppressum nōn dēseruit, sed in exilium comitātus est.
40        plūrimī autem exīstimābant Glabriōnem rē vērā Domitiānum hāc accūsātiōne graviter offendisse.

I like to think of whether there’s a “test” that can work.  For instance, for Sparsus Pōllam brachiīs tollit ut eam trāns līmen portet you can say “Sparsus raises Polla with his arms” or “by means of his arms” but not “from his arms.”  But you could translate Glabriō, hāc sententiā incēnsus as “Glabrio, inflamed by this opinion” or “Glabrio, inflamed from this opinion.” Or consider avēs…tandem in mare fēssīs ālīs dēcidērunt translates much better as “the birds finally fell into the sea from tired wings” or even preferably “because of tired wings” rather than “by means of tired wings” or “with tired wings.” (39)  I haven’t gone through and tried it with all of these so I have no idea whether this “test” really holds up.  Of course, there are times when even Means sounds better translated as “in” such as Domitia lectīcā vecta, “Domitia, carried in a sedan chair,” (34) which harkens back to aliī per forum in lectīcīs feruntur, “others are being carried in sedan chairs through the forum” (29).

I used to tell my students that sometimes Latin really doesn’t sound great translated into English, and that that was ok as long as you totally understood it in the Latin and could see what was going on in the Latin. After all, I am all about reading Latin in word order and understanding Latin as it comes with all of its wonderful phrasing. I would love to just stay in Latin to comprehend the Latin. But perhaps sometimes the problem is that I’ve been sloppy with my understanding and teaching of ablatives.

It’s not about using grammar to be prescriptive; it’s about using grammar to understand the nuances, especially with a case like the Ablative which has so many uses. Consider the confusion ablatives can cause in real Latin.  In stage 39 we have Ovid’s flood.  If I’m understanding this sentence (part of a sentence) correctly, there are three different types of ablatives here and none have prepositions for guidance:

…madidīs Notus ēvolat ālīs; barba gravis nimbīs, cānīs fluit unda capillīs.
Notus flies out by means of his soaked wings / on soaked wings (abl of means)
his beard heavy with rain clouds/from rain clouds (abl of cause)
a wave flows from his white hair (abl place where, no prep in poetry)

This can be a lot for a student to comprehend if his or her understanding of the ablative is muddled. But consider, if I have correctly identified all of the above sentences from CLC as Ablative of Cause and thus have all of those many, many examples to show students, then perhaps they will begin to pick up on more of the nuances of the Ablative, instead of resorting to “by or with, or something that sounds right” (or worse, whatever they can find in a translation on Google).

Ok, I’ll stop there.  It’s a lot to digest, not to mention hardly proofread.  My apologies for the length … then again, this may be really useful for people (and I did include long marks, which I hope will display correctly).
this was a note I sent to the cambridge list in reply to someone saying that her students are getting tired of just correcting translations day after day after day....

I have delayed in responding to this from lack of time and trying to find the right way to approach it. (I've had a margarita so it no longer matters to me....)

To treat the stories in Cambridge as passages that should be translated night after night is to totally miss the philosophy behind the text, I think. This technique is not, of course, different from what many of us did throughout college. Studying Vergil? Translate the next 60 lines for the next class and we'll go over them. That sort of thing. With luck, you'd even get a good discussion, but otherwise it's quite a race.

And ask yourself this simple question and answer it honestly: Did you learn to READ Latin? Did you get to a point where you could pick up a text without any trepidation whatsover and without a dictionary or grammar in the vacinity and read the text, from left to right, line after line, like you were reading a good book? Because that, my friends, is what we are meant to do. It isn't a secret that's left to those with PhDs. It's something we can all learn to do. But we have to shed some basic assumptions that we all had bred into us from early in our Latin studies:

1) That the only way to insure that a student has understood every aspect of the Latin is to translate it into English.
2) That declining and conjugating are the only ways to learn forms
3) That the students who can't memorize declensions or can't connect noun charts with the words on the page really aren't meant to be in Latin anyway
4) That Latin is meant to be decoded, one word at a time, hunting for that verb.
5) That you can't understand Latin without putting it into English.

With that said, I ain't perfect myself and do too much Latin to English. However, I wouldn't dream of approaching CLC with "write out translation of the next story for homework". Certainly not for every story. I spend more time with my students trying to teach them to read from left to right, trying to retrain their brains to input Latin in Latin word order, to read with expectation. There is no converting to English if I'm not at least reading the Latin outloud phrase by phrase, demonstrating that you MUST go in word order, that there IS a logical sequence to the words, that a Roman won't leave you confused and hanging IF YOU READ IN WORD ORDER.

Some days we read together. Some days we read with reading cards and force everyone in the room to consider carefully every ending on the words. Some days I read the story to the class once or twice and then assign reading comprehension questions. Some days we do cloze (fill in the blank) translations. Occasionally I ask them NOT to translate but to read it a couple of times and write a summary (in English...perhaps I should do it in Latin!).

But to solely focus on that one tired and overused tool--translation--is to drive home that Latin can't be understood without English. Now, how foolish is that? There are phrases that I understand on a gut level--sometimes it's a wonderfully ablative absolute or some other brilliantly condensed Latin phrase that just doesn't go smoothly into English. So why do we constantly demand English? I do it too, I'm not saying I don't. What I am saying is that we must question how we were taught and ask ourselves whether it was really effective. Because I think you may have to admit deep down inside that you wish you could read better too. Page after page or Pliny's letters or Suetonius--wouldn't that be nice?

If your Latin education was truly effective, then you would be able to pick up any Latin prose and read it from left to right, page after page, with the same enjoyment as reading in a modern language. I can't do that. I don't think it's because I'm stupid or because the task is impossible. I think it is because I was taught by faulty pedagogical methods that are outdated and need to be abolished.

But as long as you convince yourself that English translations are the only way to go, well then, that's the only way you will be able to go. You'll have to leave your comfortable world of what you know, though, to venture out and find if there's something more to how we can teach Latin. And you will find that your classes will not weed out quite so many students if you do. It's not a matter of watering it down or demanding less. Rigorous academic standards can be maintained and more students can be reached if you use more in your bag of tricks than just translate the next story for homework and give a synopsis for all the verbs in the last sentence.

After all, while my colleague's students can decline any noun, my student (now in his class) internalized usage and thus can understand/read/translate Latin with a relative ease compared to his students. Can she decline an i-stem noun perfectly? Oh, probably not. Can she COMPREHEND what it means in a sentence?--and I mean comprehend as opposed to decode--you betcha, faster than his students I'm betting.

When I'm old and grey and my students return to me, I hope they can do more than decline a noun or conjugate a verb. Unfortunately, people who took Latin with me in high school can probably do little more than amo, amas, amat...
Ever heard of this game? Well, I say it's a game but it's not fluff.

It works best with very simple sentences. I use it when the accusative case is introduced in Stage 2 of CLC with my middle school students. For what seems like a simple concept--the difference between subject and objects--I'm often surprised at how difficult it is for young students, esp those without decent academic skills to begin with.

On TWO sets of large index cards write the following:

ancilla (front) | ancillam (back)
servus (front) | servum (back)
canis (front) | canem (back)

Have two teams of three players each come up to the front of the room where you have these cards spread out on the chalk tray. Call out a sentence and the team to form the sentence accurately first wins a point.

I have a master set of 10 sentences but because of time constraints I usually don't do more than 7. These are printed on a transparency which I use after the game.

Because of the limit of the vocabulary, the sentences can be kind of funny:

The slave sees the slavegirl.
The slavegirl carries the slave.
The dog is a slave.
The slavegirl is a dog.
The dog carries the slave.


So, when the first team forms the the sentence correctly, I yell freeze, and we discuss why that sentence is write and why, perhaps, the other team's sentence is wrong.

After we play the game, I put the transparency on the overhead projector and the students then have to compose the same sentences in Latin independently. This is the real test to see if they learned from the game, paying attention to the discussions, etc.

This year I really, really worked the understanding of the whole concept of subj/nom/doer vs direct object/acc/receiver of action and I think it paid off. That is, I worked VERY HARD to set the students up for success. I have had too many years when I discovered that the students really didn't get the concepts even though they enjoyed the game and seemed to get it during the game. I had much better results this year, I must admit. Not perfect. Admittedly 1/4 of each class bombed it, but that's surprisingly better than in previous years where I have scratched my head and truly wondered why students didn't get it.

But this is a great diagnostic tool; I can now focus on the kids that still don't get it before the test next Tuesday, instead of discovering that they don't understand AFTER the test.

I think the metaphrasing has helped. I've probably mentioned that before. It works like this:

The dog verbed someone.
Someone verbed the dog.

For kids who have serious difficulties or total mental blocks with grammatical terms, being able to metaphrase is very, very helpful. Extremely so.

A few more comments on other things before I close.

A few days ago I did a micrologue thing on the amicus story in stage 2--4 sentences with stick figure pictures that I taught to a volunteer orally while the rest of the class took dictation. This was followed by a substitution drill with the rows competing against each other and a little sample of a transformation drill.

THEN, the new bit, I asked students to read the whole story on their own and write a summary. This is actually a tricky skill and students usually want to translate, esp when the Latin is easy.

The next day I gave a quiz which the students could use their summary on. 5 questions were verum/falsum; 1 sentence to translate, 3 ID the cases of words in the sentence and the last one a question about the declension of a word. That is, half the test they could still pass even if they hadn't read the story.

The results weren't too bad at all, actually. I was very please.

My goal with this is to gradually build up their confidence in their reading skills so that when they advance in Latin that they don't fear reading longer stories on their own.

It's late, I have lots of grading still to go (but not tonight).