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August 2017

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If you are going to a SALVI event / Rusticatio this summer or perhaps something with Paideia, I would like to offer some advice from a game teacher but mediocre speaker of Latin.

That is, my true conversational skills have a long ways to go (though my pronunciation is solid).

I have attended, I dunno, 4 or 5 Rusticationes and a couple of Bidua. While I am a bright person, even a creative person, I am not a natural when it comes to languages. Whatever instincts others have to make picking up languages a natural act, I seem to lack.

In fairness, my first several Rusticationes were--to me--a vacation with my intellectual family and away from the emotional turmoil that was my home life. These people *got* me--my obsession with Latin and all that comes with it. While in the sessions, I was totally focused. However, out of the sessions I could and would be alone with my thoughts--my English thoughts. Thus I might well have been in a 24/7 spoken Latin environment, but my brain was not tuned into Latin 24/7. I was cheating and for the first several years I didn't even realize it. And just like when our students cheat, it was impeding my true progress.

I was busy trying to learn techniques and things I could gradually add to my classes which focused on ways to work with literature in the target language. I felt I was making great progress with teaching my students how to truly read Latin in ways that I had never learned. Now I wanted to enhance that with spoken language because I did and do understand that it helps to build that mental representation. However, I didn't really work on small talk. That is, I could manage to say what I needed to say with some thought, but I didn't practice it. I'm not the type to stay up late drinking and chit-chatting, so there were things I also missed out on. I didn't think they were important at the time, but now I see that they were.

This year I made a big push to incorporate significantly more comprehensible input in my classes. Ok, admittedly, the year didn't quite end that way, but I mentally have been building a list of all the things I would do differently with the students, much of which stems from having a clear understanding now of how I inadvertently undermined my precious, limited time at Rusticatio. So here are five specific suggestions that I suggest you take to heart. I am betting your progress will be significantly more substantial than mine if you do.

1) Try never to go off on a walk, etc, alone. If you do, talk to yourself out loud, describing everything around you. Try to incorporate anything that was presented in a session.

I tried doing this at my last Rusticatio and it did prevent me from taking vacation time in my head in English. I enjoy nature watching, and would compose Latin haiku in my head during my walks or make observations aloud and then transform that observation into an indirect statement or indirect question. Sometimes I would then turn it into a conditional clause.

2) Work your small talk. Can you, with the ease of habit, say where you are from, where you live now, where you went to school, how old you are, how many levels of Latin you teach, etc etc? Can you ask those kinds of questions with the same ease?

My problem in great measure is that small talk bores me. I'd rather get into a meaty conversation on an interesting topic or try to tell some really funny story. But the basics are important if you really want to develop that mental representation of the language. There are phrases that I have internalized in Latin that I say with an automatic response--like when someone sneezes--so automatic that I have to think to say such things in English now. But when you ask me where I'm from, I spend too much time thinking through exactly what I want to say. What's important here is not necessarily that you can talk the small talk but that you are developing that mental representation, that automatic response. Plus these can be the building blocks for "same conversation" (see below).

3) Learn how to "hunt" language, and "hunt" every moment you can.

This is a WAYK (Where Are Your Keys) technique, and somehow the first couple of years that the wonderful and marvelous Evan Gardner was at Rusticatio, I missed the session on the full explanation of WAYK, let alone understanding how to "hunt" language. In fact, it wasn't until the Rusticatio Pedagogy camp that I really learned how to hunt, and not until the last day. I remember having the absolute best and most enjoyable and educational lunchtime discussion on lids on drinking cups/bottles. (Did the lid screw on? Just push down? How does it compare to a salt shaker lid? The lid on the coffee thermos?) There's an art to it; part of it involves understanding how "circling" works. And it sure beat a table full of tirones trying to figure out some small talk.

For more on WAYK language hunting, go here: WAYK Language Hunting

4) Practice "same conversation." This is when you take something that you would say every day, for instance, starting with the smallest version possible, and add to it a little bit at a time.

The example I was given was about morning coffee. The conversation started something like this: "Is the coffee ready?" to which each day a little more was added: "Is the coffee ready? Did you prepare it?" "Is the coffee ready? Did you prepare it? Is it French roast?" etc. I'm sure I'm not remembering this quite correctly, but you get the picture.

I learned about the value of this on one of the last days I was at my last Rusticatio. It had never occurred to me before to build upon a conversation in such a way, even though this sounds completely obvious. And in thinking about this now, I realize in my own teaching this year one of the things I missed out on were opportunities to incorporate and build upon "same conversation"--but I intend to target this next year.

For more on WAYK "same conversation," go here: WAYK Same Conversation

5) When you read Latin, read it aloud (or aloud in your head). Don't let your English translator kick in. Shut it down by reading aloud.

If you are a natural language learner, if you already have other spoken languages under your belt, you probably don't need these hints. You probably naturally intuit how to go about activating your Latin. I myself clearly am not a natural linguist, but a good student. And admittedly sometimes I need things spelled out to me, which is ok. It's ok because it helps me to understand and deeply empathize with what so many of my students go through with language learning.

If you are just nervous about all the vocabulary you don't know, there are materials I made for Rusticatio that I believe are still in use which you can find on my website.

I'm not going to an immersion workshop this summer, sadly, but I am thinking of all of these things as I prepare for incorporating more spoken Latin into my classes last year. I hope you find these hints helpful. Please feel free to share with any tiro at a speaking event this summer!
 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.



First, I have been turning everything into a Google Slides Presentation this year. Admittedly, I've been going a bit nuts doing it. So earlier this semester I turned my basic I Piscatum (Go Fish) handout into Google Slides Presentation. I've been tweaking it ever since. Eventually I will redo print materials as well, but right now I'm just working on this, thinking of slides to add, tweaking what's there, etc. And, I decided that it was time to share it with others. It's that time of year.

We have standardized testing going on this week at school, not to mention AP testing, and thus when I do happen to see students, we often play I Piscatum. Today I was playing with my weaker Latin 1 class, and was actually delighted that a few of my quiet strugglers were really having a good time. Even the boys that I know weren't totally on task on the opposite side of the room, were still playing and I could hear them speaking Latin.

There are so many things I like about playing the game. Let me list a few, in no particular order:
  1. Because the basics are scripted, even the weakest students can participate and enjoy. That builds confidence, or at least reduces stress.
  2. It naturally targets accusative plurals, which is useful in Latin 1.
  3. It's sociable, and people end up focusing more on the task than the language. The language is just a means to an end.
  4. It's easily expandable so that students who want to use more spoken Latin can do so.
  5. Teachers can target specific grammatical structures by scripting addition dialogue.
  6. Teachers can assign students to target (without the teacher scripting) specific grammatical structures.
  7. When I play with the students, I enjoy being dramatic, demonstrating different ways to use what limited Latin we have under our belt. For instance, when the first book of 4 cards is placed on the table, I will declare, "tu librum habes! ecce, Marcus librum habet. ego nullum librum habeo."
I could go on.

At a time when everyone is talking about different ways to raise speaking proficiencies, this game comes in very handy. There are so many teachers out there whose instruction at the university level never involved conversation. It is as foreign to them as to their students. I offer this game as a framework upon which one can build. You can have that "same conversation" (which helps to build those neuro pathways, that mental representation) at its core and add and shape to meet the need of your class.

Today after we played during Latin 1, I spent my conference period building a Name Plate. I'm hoping to try it out tomorrow. If you fold it on the solid lines and then tape, you have a triangular name plate to sit in front of you. Before folding, find the side featuring the declension to which your name belongs. For instance, here's the information on the side for 1st declension, which you could then fill out with your Latin name:

VOCATIVE  -a           Ō ______________, habēsne...?
NOMINATIVE -a        ______________ librum habet.
GENITIVE -ae           chartās ______________ vidēre volō.
DATIVE  -ae              dēmōnstrā ______________ chartam tuam.
ACCUSATIVE -am    ego ______________ superō.
ABLATIVE-ā              mihi placet cum ___________ chartīs lūdere.

I'm hoping that being able to talk about their friends, either kindly or competitively, will provide additional motivation for Latin conversation.

Another thought I've had regarding the construction of a new I Piscatum handout, is a place for students to write new phrases either of their own creation or ones created by the teacher targeting particular constructions.  For instance, I can see when CLC starts to really push those 3rd declension genitive plurals, that I could assign scripts including the use of the suits when talking about particular cards. ("regem cordium habeo!") Which reminds me, I need to make another slide with the suits and other card information.... that info is on the original handout. 

In the meantime, I'm brainstorming about next year. I have an idea for gamifying class and providing motivation for speaking and listening activities outside of class. More about that another time. 

Make sure if you use this Google Slides Presentation that you check out the speaker notes. I have been putting additional information for teachers there, including links to the old handout, etc. ENJOY

There was a big twitter discussion about Latin pronunciation today, to use macrons or not to use macrons, whether to teach pronunciation to students or let them pick it up by listening to you and other input (trusting the quality you provide), etc. I felt the discussion beginning to spiral in its usual fashion of pros and cons. Back when the Latinteach list was active, this discussion came up numerous times. And often if I replied, I also posted a copy of my reply on this blog. I just read through them, and in some I was quite passionate--one, even a bit out of line. If you would like to read those older posts just click on the PRONUNCIATION tag in the right margin.

So in many ways, there's no need for me to repeat what I've said before, except for the fact that we have a couple more issues now that we didn't really have then. First, there are a LOT of people (well, a room full of 50 at ACL--that's 1/6 of the participents) who are interested in trying to use more techniques to make their class a Comprehensible Input classroom. That requires a LOT of oral work. It is the idea that you can get in more repetitions and in a more engaging and compelling way orally. Yes, reading still plays a strong role but there is a LOT of emphasis on the oral part.

Second, it is less likely that a new teacher will have had formal instruction in accentuation and syllabification if they learned Latin in high school using a reading based text like the Cambridge Latin Course (which I do love) because it does not include a pronunciation guide. From this point, as I've stated elsewhere, the discussion begins to go round and round on who to blame--that is, who should have taught pronunciation (high school teacher/first teacher) or who should have polished pronunciation (professors/person in charge of methods of teaching Latin course)? And that's all mute. Finger pointing never got anything done.

In 2005 I even had proposed initially via the CAMWS Newsletter something called "Fluent Latin 101". The title of the article was "Teacher Prep: New Ideas, New Approach" (page 9). This was way before the Comprehensible Input surge in Latin circles, but at a time when I was really frustrated by the lack of quality pronunciation among fellow teachers at Certamen events. I was also trying to address in the article issues that some teachers had brought up about not having studied AP authors during their undergraduate career and thus not being properly prepared to teach.  But that's another story. I published this article in the CAMWS Newsletter because I was hoping to reach the professors who could have some influence on addressing these problems which future teachers faced. Naturally it fell on deaf ears.

Last year I discovered on a blog post entitled Driving with Dido on the Indwelling Language blog. It is mainly a post--and a good one--on reading extensively in Latin, and how the author, Justin Sloacum Bailey, went on a quest to develop fluency in Latin, even though he began with a grammar first text book (Wheelock's). Anyway, at some point in the post, he gives a list of things to help with fluency, and one of them is to "record yourself reading Latin and listen to your recordings in the car, while doing chores, while shopping, etc."

This has stuck with me even though admittedly I have yet to do it. The idea was to record yourself reading a passage that you have interpreted/translated so you know what it's about, and then work on developing your own listening skills.  As I see it, the way to ensure this works well is to be extremely conscientious about your pronunciation as you read that Latin. This is not only about making sure you are pronouncing long and short vowels correctly, but that you are dividing and accenting words correctly. You are creating your source of INPUT. That is the key.

To develop your sense of quality pronunciation you need lots of INPUT, but if you aren't around speakers of Latin, you don't get the input you need. In addition, if your own teacher/instructor was apathetic with regards to the pronunciation of Latin, you need enough quality input to unteach incorrect pronunciation.

So... I guess the first thing you need to do is to decide that you need to improve your pronunciation if you know you need to. If you cannot write sentences/vocabulary from the textbook you use (assuming you are using a textbook) complete with macrons without double checking 98% of the time, then you probably need to work on pronunciation. Because, really, what we are talking about is not "pronunciation" but whether you have internalized the SOUND of the words, whether you truly OWN the words.

Why is this so important? If you are going to be telling stories orally, you have to OWN your own Latin. And if you want your students to pick up their pronunciation mainly through input, your OUTPUT must be excellent.

OK, so now maybe you realize you need to "learn" your macrons.  Really, you are working on "owning" your Latin vocab by SOUND because the macrons merely represent sounds. First make sure you know your basic rules of dividing and accenting words (see the front of a Latin dictionary or my pronunciation guide for CLC), and then practicing dividing and accenting words that are three syllables or more, followed by saying those words aloud several times. You may find words you thought you knew are really pronounced differently. You may discover you are sloppy with o's and i's. You may discover which words are mispronounced due to related words in English. (Off the top of my head, novem, 9, is a SHORT o, not a long o like in November; toga is a short o as well, not long as it is in English.)

Once you feel like you can divide and accent anything, find a passage you like (could be from your textbook series or AP or whatever), divide & accent all the words in it just to make sure you really are saying all of the words correctly, and then record yourself reading it. Now put away the text away and get a clean sheet of paper. Use your recording for dictation and see whether you can write exactly what you read previously--macrons and all. If your pronunciation is clear and accurate, you should have little problem doing this. TRUST the sound that you hear. If you hear long, write it that way. Likewise, think about where the accent is on the word; sometimes that can help you with a short a versus a long a. Practice this a bit.

Now, try finding something that does NOT have macrons. If you were to trust your "ear", could you add macrons to most of the words? Try it to see. Do any of the missed macrons change the placement of the accent on the word? Or does where you KNOW the accent of the word goes help you with deciding whether you have a long or short vowel? I know, for instance, that I pronounce "they heard" as au-di-VE-runt, so that e has to be long.

The truth is that there is no magic fix. You have to work at it. You have to realize the importance not just to your own learning but to that of your students. You have to see the bigger picture of language acquisition. And you will find that the more you work at it, the more you realize you do know, and the easier it becomes. But it all starts with you having a crystal clear idea of pronunciation.

I often think about Spanish students who will complain that one of the Spanish teachers has lousy pronunciation. Students notice.  Students care.  Students will think less of you and your expertise if they see this deficiency. Your colleagues will think less of your expertise as well. (Yes, I have thought less of professors and teachers....)  And maybe that seems arrogant... But I'm also going to pick the Shakespeare instructor who tries to do restored pronunciation over the one that recites with a heavy Texan accent.

And finally, I do believe we need to teach our students the rules for dividing and accenting words. I've always made it extra credit on one of the types of quizzes I've used in the past. I reiterate the importance of knowing the rules so you can decide how a new word sounds without my being there, but I do not punish students for having difficulties with the concept. I do grade oral recitations which we practices because that is based on hearing/speaking and not artificial rules of dividing and accenting. Nevertheless, I want my students to be armed to read extensively, and to hear the Latin in their heads or to be able to say it aloud.

It's about the input. I can provide a lot of it, but some of it will need to be experienced on their own--and I just want it to be the best experience possible.
My son likes to play Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and honestly I like this game the most of all the ones he plays. The backgrounds are beautifully drawn, storyline isn't bad, the quests are varied, creatures fun, and the music is pleasant enough. Oh, and there's no cussing. My son, who is autistic, constantly demands for me to watch, even though usually I'm usually working on something or grading something while he's playing. At least I'm hanging in the room and we are discussing what's going on in the storyline.

So earlier today I was reading through the early years of this blog, tagging entries as I look for things I've written in the past regarding reading methodologies, and decided that I needed a break. I had read several posts that talked about playing cards so I guess it was on the mind. Thus I grabbed my son's RWBY deck, shuffled (miscere, pontem facere, miscere, pontem facere), then counted out cards in Latin as I set up a round of solitaire the old fashioned way. So I'm working on *thinking* in Latin, and look up occasionally to watch what Link is doing on the screen, and reply to my son's comments and questions... but I'm doing it in Latin. He knows a few Latin phrases and in fact likes to bark "tace, ancilla!" at me.  So I'm having fun, counting monstra which are being killed, gemmae collected, etc.  He's alternating between "tace, ancilla" and "mom, stop" but I'm having fun and he's not really irritated with me.

Then he gets to this screen where Link's in wolf mode (lupus) and is picked up by an avis monstruosa and flies over river where all of these balloon fruit are flying which need to be popped to score points. And I thought to myself, hey, I'm supposed to be finding activities that would be high interest for students--why not find a way to use games? In particular, I was thinking earlier today that I need to find engaging homework activities since we are moving to block scheduling next year. (That is, I want them to have a reason to engage in the language every day.)  I had been brainstorming about how to motivate students to use Latin outside of class. We use Google Classroom to tremendous effect this past year and I had been thinking I would just make it work even better this coming year by posting things of high interest with maybe some sort of google doc/survey/quiz thingy that could be entered online.

So consider the above videoclip from the game which I found on YouTube (because, ya know, everything's on YouTube). I was thinking about teaching numbers which I like to do early in the year. It's always something easy to circle in with other things. Numbers take practice and you need things to count.  Why not count these fraga (strawberries), melones cantalupenses, & melones aquosi? Link also goes through several waterfalls (cataractae)--count them too.  Challenge students to find other game clips to post back to the Google Classroom page to challenge others to count items.  Later on, when more vocab /structures are acquired, this videoclip could be viewed again to discuss colors or to do a movie talk or something.

Games!  Why not/quidni? And let's be honest--where else outside of the writings of Romans would you find as much killing as there is in video games? Finally, a place to put all of the killing and weapon vocabulary to use. I was having so much fun saying things to my son like, " tu monstrum necavisti et, ecce, SAGITTAE!" because, ya know, he killed this monster and then a bundle of arrows appeared. Link had to quest to acquire the gladius domini (master sword, for those who don't play the game). Midna appears first as Link's umbra before taking shape. And, heck, did I mention Link turns into a wolf? How Roman is that?!

Anyway, just some random thoughts.
I must confess that I am disappointed that the Simon's Cat videos that I have been adding Latin subtitles to have been blocked on YouTube. I had, as I said, sent an email to (I guess) Simon, asking for permission or his blessing, providing a link, etc--being very up front and honest.  While I am sad that he never actually replied, I see now the response via the blocked videos. I respect that; I don't have to like it to respect it. I'm sure it seems like I'm interfering with his livelihood, and taking advantage of his art. And for that, I publicly and sincerely apologize.  But as you know (you few teachers who read this), I am but a Latin teacher with no ulterior motives for profit. Just trying to help provide usable materials for Latin teachers.

In any event, the Simon's Cat videos can be used without the Latin subtitles I provided. I encourage you to find them on YouTube, or better yet, go to the website at to support the creator directly. (I myself purchased one of his books this Christmas for a friend who has already opened the present and raved about how funny it is.)

So, in all honesty I was adding the Latin subtitles mainly for me, to make myself simplify what I'm seeing/what's being told in the story, and to make sure that I myself know the vocabulary so that I can do my best when trying to use them in the classroom. This ain't Caesar or Vergil after all. I realized that using the Simon’s Cat videos is one way of introducing some common daily vocabulary that we might need to discuss things around us versus what is introduced in the textbook (Cambridge Latin Course). For instance, I realized, as did my students, that we had never learned the word for “drop” before, yet in “Snow Cat” the dog drops his stick. I was able to contrast this with the stick falling down from the snow cat and the snow cat falling onto the cat. And it really isn’t necessary to have the Latin subtitles. Perhaps it is a crutch as we learn to go from a “dead language on the page” to something with more energy and life. Then again, it saved me time from having to write words on the board that were unfamiliar. And I could have gone from the version of Snow Cat with the Latin subtitles (it is probably blocked--OR TRY HERE through my Google Drive account) to the original without. The possibilities are endless.

I knew that doing a “Movie Talk” for the first time would not be perfect, especially because I am unpracticed at circling. However, I requested that my school’s instructional facilitator film the class so that I could critique myself, study problem areas, and work on ways to improve things.  It’s not brilliant; look to other people’s blogs for brilliant examples of things. But if you would like to see it, you should be able to go here to view it.  (You may have to join, but that just takes a minute.)  The Movie Talk begins around minute 11.

I have been a student/participant at Rusticatio for several years and have experienced circling and TPRS storytelling. I became aware that there was a mix of questions to prompt yes or no answers, etc, but I hadn’t studied it from a teaching perspective.  I thought that perhaps using the latest video which I added Latin subtitles to, Snow Business (here’s a link to the original without the subtitles), I could practice circling by writing it out here. I am using the circling template provided on Susan Gross’s TPRS website.

The sentence under question is a simple subject verb object sentence. Here are the basics from the template. It begins with a statement using a student as the subject and a proper noun or cognate as the object.  In this case, Lana finds a Rolex.

Circle the subject:

  • Wants a YES Answer: (Does Lana find a Rolex? Yes, Lana finds a Rolex.)

  • Provides a CHOICE: (Does Lana find a Rolex or does Pat find a Rolex? Right, Pat doesnʼt find a Rolex, Lana finds a Rolex)

  • Wants a NO Answer: (Does Pat find a Rolex? No, Pat doesnʼt find a Rolex, Lana finds a Rolex)

  • Open Ended / Answer Not in Question: (Who finds a Rolex? Thatʼs right, Lana finds a Rolex.)

Circle the verb:

  • Wants a YES Answer:  (Does Lana find a Rolex? Yes, Lana finds a Rolex.)

  • Provides a CHOICE: (Does Lana find a Rolex or does Lana eat a Rolex? Lana doesnʼt eat a Rolex; Lana finds a Rolex.)

  • Wants a NO Answer:  (Does Lana eat a Rolex? Of course not, Lana doesnʼt eat a Rolex; Lana finds a Rolex.)

  • Open Ended / Answer Not in Question: (What does Lana do? Lana finds a Rolex.)

Circle the complement / object:

  • Wants a YES Answer: (Does Lana find a Rolex? Yes, Lana finds a Rolex.)

  • Provides a CHOICE: (Does Lana find a Hummer or does Lana find a Rolex? Lana doesnʼt find a Hummer, Lana finds a Rolex.)

  • Wants a NO Answer: (Does Lana find a Hummer? How ridiculous, Lana doesnʼt find a Hummer; Lana finds a Rolex.)

  • Open Ended / Answer Not in Question: (What does Lana find? Thatʼs right, Lana finds a Rolex.)

Thus for us Latinists, we are talking about nōnne, aut/vel, num, and quis/quid questions, perhaps with a rectē, a certē and an est ridiculum thrown in for good measure. I suppose what I didn’t fully think about when I was doing my circling with Snow Cat was WHAT I was targeting—nominative, accusative, verb. I also didn’t have good alternatives to offer (like a Hummer instead of a Rolex in the examples above). I was doing well to just remember to try to question.

So, time to see what I can do with preparing to use Snow Business after the holidays. (This will all be thinking out loud sort of stuff, be warned!) I also want to create follow-up materials to get students writing. Here is a screen capture from Snow Business with Latin subtitles (OR TRY SEEING IT HERE!).  (Here is the original without).

I have a compound sentence here; I thought nothing of it when I wrote it. But if I want to circle anything here it would be useful to focus on either the first part or the second part.

So here's what perhaps I would circle: avis pilam niveam facit.

Circle the nominative:

  • nōnne avis pilam niveam facit? ita vērō, avis pilam niveam facit.

  • avis aut fēlēs pilam niveam facit? rectē, fēlēs pilam niveam nōn facit; avis pilam niveam facit.

  • num fēlēs pilam niveam facit? est rīdiculum! fēlēs pilam niveam nōn facit; avis pilam niveam facit.

  • quis pilam niveam facit? certē, avis niveam pilam facit.

Circle the accusative*:
(*Do we want to emphasize the accusative by moving it up in the sentence, since we can in Latin? Why not!)

  • nōnne pilam niveam avis facit? ita vērō, pilam niveam avis facit.

  • pilam niveam aut hominem niveum avis facit? rectē, pilam niveam avis facit.

  • num hominem niveum avis facit? est rīdiculum! hominum niveum avis nōn facit; pilam niveam avis facit.

  • quid avis facit? certē, pilam niveam avis facit.

Circle the verb**:
(**Although we could also move the verb up in the sentence, I’m not going to. Students will truly need to learn to listen for/watch for accusatives coming first in a sentence; it is far less common to have a verb first in a sentence.)

  • nōnne avis pilam niveam facit? ita vērō avis pilam niveam facit.

  • avis pilam niveam facit aut invenit? rectē avis pilam niveam facit.

  • num avis pilam niveam invenit? est rīdiculum! avis pilam niveam nōn invenit; avis pilam niveam facit.

  • quid agit*** avis? certē avis pilam niveam facit. (***I usually use quid facit for what is he doing but clearly with facit/making being targeted, this will not work.)

The alternatives I used here, hominem niveum (snow man) and invenit (find), are not exciting alternatives. Not as engaging as something more unusual or unexpected.  A Rolex and a Hummer will keep the attention of a student. However if I’m daring and think the students are able, I could follow with quō modō avis pilam niveam facit?

But that would be a big leap because the answer would require an ablative of means. That would better be modeled in a sentence first. And I guess I could circle it something like this:

  • avis pilam niveam ālīs aut rostrō facit? or ālīs aut rostrō avis pilam niveam facit?

...and maybe follow that with

  • vīdistīne avis vēra pilam niveam facit? est rīdiculum!

The good aspect of doing this would be making it a personalized question—getting direct student involvement and engagement at a personal level.

In reviewing what I have written for circling the nominative, it is worth noting that a moment later in the video the cat does make a snow ball too.  Thus it will be worth all of the circling so that pila nivea becomes internalized or at least comfortable.

Having hominem niveum for an alternate for the accusative is nice (even if not terribly exciting) because it is masculine and thus we have a different ending on the adjective. And while invenit is fine for an alternate for the verb, looking ahead to this next picture makes me realize that perhaps the alternate verb should have been portat.

In fact, if I had been thinking about how I would teach with this video, I might have used portat instead of habet, as I have above. Also, considering the big cat imprint in the picture (the bird hits the cat in the behind with a snow ball and he lands deep in the snow), I could have used angelam niveam as well as hominem niveum. Then perhaps we could have joked that he made a fēlem niveam when he fell.

So, if I have really circled early on in the video with NOM ACC VERB, I can still continue to do similar things, or I could consider other constructions worth targeting. In this second screen capture, the bird has a huge snowball. I could work adjectives in some sort of circling fashion, I suppose.

Circling positives:

  • nōnne pila nivea est magna? ita vērō, pila nivea est magna.

  • estne pila nivea magna aut parva? rectē pila nivea est magna.

  • num pila nivea est parva? est rīdiculum! pila nivea nōn est parva; pila nivea est magna.

  • quanta est pila nivea? certē pila nivea est magna.

Circling comparatives:

  • nōnne pila nivea est maior quam avis? ita vērō, pila nivea est maior quam avis.

  • estne pila nivea maior quam avis aut fenestra? rectē pila nivea maior quam avis.

  • num pila nivea est maior quam fenestra? est rīdiculum! pila nivea nōn est maior quam fenestra; pila nivea est maior quam avis.

  • quae est maior? (Not sure if this is really doable, since for a comparative you can’t really have something open-ended—after all, you are comparing two things!)

I could return to the earlier snowball, but maybe that is best left for the superlative:

  • quae est maxima—prīma pila nivea,  secunda pila nivea, aut tertia pila nivea avis? certē tertia pila nivea est maxima!

The bird, however, does miss when he throws this huge snowball. I suppose we could develop a line of questioning of which is more accurate, the larger snowball or the smaller one? Unfortunately, off the top of my head I’m not sure what I would use for “more accurate.” A quick look at a dictionary tells me that we could use accūrātus, -a, -um (nice and easy!);  more accurately is adverbial, which would be good to work in since it uses a different ending from the comparative adjective.

  • quae pila nivea accūrātius iacitur—parva pila nivea aut magna pila nivea?


  • quis pilam niveam accūrātius iacit—avis aut fēlēs?

This latter could lead to an interesting discussion towards the end, because at 1:47 (thereabouts) the cat hits the bird while it is flying—a moving object—and the bird then ends up stuck to the window. Some other questions come to mind now, which are admittedly getting away from circling, but that’s ok:

  • quis plūs pilārum niveārum iēcit? (Tense change, plūs + partitive genitive)

  • quis pilās niveās celerius fēcit? (Tense change plus another comparative adverb)

From here, I could work infinitives:

  • nōnne fēlēs avem edere vult? ita vērō fēlēs avem edere vult.

  • fēlēs avem edere aut laudāre vult? rectē fēlēs avem edere vult.

  • num fēlēs avem laudāre vult? est rīdiculum! fēlēs avem laudāre nōn vult; fēlēs avem edere vult.

  • quid fēlēs facit? certē, fēlēs avem edere vult.

  • (quō modō scīs fēlem avem edere velle? quod fēlēs ōs aperit!) (indirect statement!)

I could see side comments worked in as well:

  • fortasse fēlēs avem laudāre vult quod avis magnam pilam niveam fēcit.

And if I keep the video frozen on this particular screen, I could also ask students what they think will happen next. But first, maybe we should recap:

  • prīmum fēlēs in nive lūsit. tum avis et fēlēs pilās niveās iēcērunt. nunc avis ad fenestram adhaesīvit. quid proximē accidet?

Perhaps that is too open-ended. Maybe offer some choices (and work the future tense)?

  • fēlēs avem edet?

  • avis advolābit?

  • avis rostrō fēlem pulsābit?

  • fēlēs fenestram franget?

  • ūnā hominem niveum facient?

To sum up, there’s a lot to be said about working out much of your circling in advance, especially if you are new to it as I am. I certainly saw some different avenues I could take that I think will be fruitful, many of which I wouldn't have seen on the fly. Even now, it occurs to me to think about the level of questioning with regard to ACTFL's Proficiency Ratings as simplified in WAYK speak as "Travels with Charlie" or "Tarzan at the Party":

NOVICE (Tarzan at the Party / Sesame Street)

  • memorized words and phrases

INTERMEDIATE (Get to the party / Dora the Explorer)

  • question and answer

  • full sentences

ADVANCED (What happened at the party last night? / Larry King Live)

  • past/present/future tenses

  • paragraph narrative

SUPERIOR (What if parties were illegal? / Charlie Rose)

  • lengthy discussions of complex issues

  • structured arguments

  • hypothetical speech

Basically we are operating in the intermediate level, albeit low because the circling is pretty leading. But we are modeling full sentences in the questions and answers. We are tiptoeing up to advanced by using different tenses. I might even be able to squeeze a little superior level in if I were to ask something along the lines of "What if snow balls fights were illegal?" (haha)

One last thing I want to do, as I mentioned earlier, is to create a follow-up written assignment. Yes, I could do a timed write, but since my students didn't learn timed writes from Latin 1, I think that could spook them. Instead, I think I will make some more screen captures, maybe without the subtitles, include them on a worksheet with maybe a word bank, and let them write using the pictures as prompts. I have some ideas.... But perhaps that should be for another blog. 
This morning I participated in an online meeting for developing the framework for the new certification test for Latin.  When the ExCET was put in place in 1987 it was supposed to have an oral Latin component.  A framework for an oral examination was developed but never put in place for fear that it would be the hurdle that would keep otherwise qualified Latin teachers out of teaching.  I have always been a loud, vocal proponent for the oral examination framework being used.  I'm usually shouted down.  

There was a time, back before the mold in the house and the gang fights at Porter and the move to teaching at Dripping and my son's minor emotional problems turning major, that I thought about and wrote about and spoke about changes that need to be made in teacher preparation.  I'm trying to think why now...why was I so driven?  I guess because I had watched several middle school Latin programs close in the Austin area within a few years of each other.  One school in particular that actually managed to stay open went through several teachers before they found someone stable to keep the program going.  One teacher was new, green.  Nice guy and probably knew his Latin, but had no experience with CLC and probably wasn't truly teacher material.  And I think people saw and knew this during his student teaching.  The next teacher just wasn't suited to middle schoolers and left under, well, unfortunate circumstances.  What both of these people had in common was a love of Latin, but not a love of teaching or students. 

Teaching is a hard job, one of the most difficult and challenging jobs around.  You have to want this.  It isn't about how much you love Latin.  It's about how much you love teaching Latin.

Anyway, I suppose it was after those incidents that I started to seriously consider teacher training issues.  Discussions ensued at CAMWS, TCA, ACL and other places...wherever teacher training was discussed.  We discussed all the problems that many had experienced with their own college Latin classes/curriculum.  We discussed what prevents colleges from teaching the courses future teachers need most. 

Numbers, of course always plays a key roll.  Even in large classics departments, like UT, only a couple of students a year are declared as future teachers.  You can't provide courses for just two people.  You can't change curriculum for so few.  And I once wrote proposals for how someone who declares to want to teach could help themselves and how their professors could help, even if the choice of authors provided in a given semester couldn't be changed.    But I didn't mean to go into that now.

This was supposed to be about oral Latin, especially since it looks like we may well be getting an oral component now to the new certification test.  Finally.  I never thought I'd see the day.

So, what do you do if you are, for instance, changing career and getting certified and haven't been exposed to oral Latin of any sort in a long time?  Or, what do you do to train yourself?  Or, how would I conduct an oral Latin workshop?

I have my pronunciation worksheets and such that I do at the beginning of the year.  Are they a good thing?  Are they just the thing that gets my students a stage/chapter behind everyone else's? 

But if I were to do a workshop...  (this is all just thinking outloud, seemingly useless since I know it will probably be some time before I could ever do such a thing)...  or if I were to advise someone who needs to work on their oral Latin skills, what would I do?  What would I tell them?

Start with truly working to understand how to divide and accent a word if you don't have someone who can model the Latin for you.  Of course there are various online pronunciation guides and audio files now, with Wheelocks being at the top of the list as far as quality. 

But after that, it's practice.  Practice doing everything out loud.  Get a Latin 1 book, esp one with a lot of stories like CLC or Lingua Latina, and read outloud.  All the time. 

I suppose, though, that just reading even English outloud has to be a comfortable thing for a person.  And I suppose I'm just rambling aimlessly now, having lost my purpose and train of thought while my mind is racing with thoughts of how much I have to grade or how much quia there is to do, etc etc. 

Anyway.  I suppose I'm just glad that we are going to see changes in the certification test.  I just want to be thinking and ready for those who are going to want help in mastering their oral Latin for the section on that. 
I just sent this to Latinteach, but thought I'd add a few more thoughts. I'd actually like to grade right now but I'm monitoring a group of English students who are supposed to be reading silently. Frankly, this is babysitting a bunch of whiners; me, I'd love for someone to tell me that I *had* to sit quietly and read a good book. Please, twist my arm. My problem would be trying to decide WHICH BOOK! But not this crowd. So I'm standing up watching the class and typing. (The things we do....)

(posted to Latinteach:)

So today half the school is gone, attending a state soccer match (cheering on the team). With classes light, I decided it was a day to play cards in Latin.

So, to add a little tie-in to our current grammar topic, I had everyone make nameplates to put in front of them while we play. Each nameplate had to have:

1) their name
2) a relative clause starting with a nominative
3) a relative clause starting with an accusative

My example on the board is:

quae linguam Latinam amat,
quam discipuli amant,...

for a guy:

qui puellas amat,
quem puellae amant,...

When we play Go Fish (I PiscAtum), the students have to begin by calling on the person and saying one of the two relative clauses before asking "habesne ullas reginas?" If they fail to say one of the clauses, the student being asked does NOT have to hand over the requested cards but can just reply I PISCATUM!!! So it would go like this:

Magistra, quam discipuli amant, habesne ullas reginas? (non habeo, i piscatum!)

To add motivation, the students all have 10 paper coins, and anytime someone speaks in English instead of Latin they yell out DA MIHI NUMMUM! The person with the most coins at the end of class gets double candy. (Winners of each game also get candy.)

Anyway, it's been a lively day.

For those wanting my I PISCATUM guidelines, they are online at (a PDF file... and I think there's still a typo in the PDF file).


What I wanted to elaborate on is what it's like for me as the teacher in the room. First, I tell them that if I talk in English, they can demand a coin from me as well. There's a cheat sheet that I've used in the past for an all-Latin day that has a couple of handy phrases on it:

licetne mihi loqui Anglice?
veni huc!
quo modo dicitur...?


I tell them they can only as ME for permission to speak in English, no one else. I will try to reply in Latin unless it is too involved for even me. But I will try, and struggle in front of them, and make mistakes AND correct myself, etc etc. They need to see that speaking a language isn't necessarily easy, but it can be fun.

With some classes I have a chance to sit down and play with them. For instance, there were only 6 students in my split level today (because everyone was at the game, which we lost 3-2). So I sat with them to play. It was really funny to call on people based on what they wrote on the cards. One student had "qui pedes habet" another student (whose hair is so far down in his face he looks like Cousin It from the Addams Family) had "qui puellas delectat" and a girl had "quam feles vitat"--amusing stuff. I would model stretching outside our I Piscatum script by occasionally counting up the books that people had (tu duo libros habes, sed ego unum librum habeo) and things like that.

MOST of the kids had a good time today. Most did; but there's always one who really ruins it for the rest. That one whiner who sours their group because no one wants to seem nerdy enjoying a game of Latin cards. I had a threat in place, which I did not use, that anyone not being a good sport could spend the classtime copying Latin out of the book. How sad that we have to go that far and the kids just can't enjoy the moment!

What I like is when I feel like I'm answering the kids in Latin without thinking about answering in Latin--like I'm thinking in Latin. It makes me feel like I'm finally getting somewhere with my own Latin.
This question came up during the committee meeting on Friday: Does reading aloud have any bearing on AP?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYWAY. Those are just a few thoughts on the matter of reading aloud and AP.
Day 1 of the committee for developing the new certification test for Texas. We have a great crew of people on the committee--teachers and esp the group leader from ETS.

I had no idea that there were corresponding standards developed for teachers to go alone with the standards developed for students in the state. And I think this is a good thing, I think it's getting people to reconsider the importance of some items that were left out in the past as being something that would discourage people from becoming certified to teach in Latin--like ORAL LATIN.

Suddenly there's recognition that a beginning teacher would DEFINITELY need to be able to pronounce Latin well on the first day.

Amazingly, there are still some teachers who balk at the idea that they should need to be able to "listen" to Latin. And yet, we ask this of our certamen students.

Perhaps if we had to do this ourselves, we would learn how to teach this skill. Micrologues, which I've done a few times each year (but not too often), develop listening skills, I think, plus they do tie in dictation to a story line.

But here's the question that keeps coming up: WHY do we think certain things are important? I have no problem with dictation because I think it causes one to focus on sounds and syllables. But then I was brought up on phonics and dictation and diagramming. It's just ONE of MANY tools to help train the brain.

The brain is an interesting organ. My two sons are so different in their learning styles. My husband and I are different in our learning styles. And yet, you can find teachers who are very rigid in their learning and teaching styles, and feel threatened by anything they aren't sure of. HOW can we possibly expect our students get beyond language learning anxieties if we ourselves are afraid to take risks to learn something new?

SO WHAT if you choke on dictation at first? Or perhaps, not so what.... After all, we're not like our students; it's not like we are unfamiliar with Latin. No EXPERIENCED teacher should bomb something like this because THE WORDS SHOULD BE FAMILIAR. And, frankly, the macrons should NOT be an issue if the words are fixed in your head....

I guess...I guess because of the way I was taught when young (English, not Latin) I learned to HEAR what I wrote and to WRITE what I heard. But perhaps we've all gotten to that point that we're so afraid to be JUDGED and thus possibly considered STUPID, we are afraid to risk failure.

You know what I say? Take up a sport. Learn how to play and enjoy but still lose. Learn how to be a participant and take risks. Learn how to find the FUN in anything. Stop thinking about the grade, stop thinking about whether you might seem stupid and just enjoy--enjoy it like a game that challenges the brain.

But then, I don't understand people who don't strive to become better at what they do. I didn't start playing soccer until I was 26 and I'm 42 now. I'm not great, but I wouldn't be anyone's last pick either. Each year my playing improves because I want to be able to enjoy the game more. Winning would be nice, but I don't care. I want to ENJOY THE GAME MORE.

And all the things I strive for in Latin, especially pronunciation, is all about ENJOYING Latin more and helping others to ENJOY Latin. I thoroughly enjoy reading Latin outloud. It's richer, more interesting, more alive that way. We can leave Latin dead. We can leave it on the page and insult it with parsing and declining and conjugating without consideration to pronunciation. We can continue to just pick apart sentences, decoding them, torturing them, and reinforcing the erroneous idea that Latin cannot be read like any other language. Or we can use all of our senses, like we use with English, to acquire Latin.

I guarantee you, my own children would have NO INTEREST in reading if I didn't make reading fun. I still read to them, read with them, and read around them. They broaden their vocabulary because they hear me reading new words to them. But we're not willing to do such things with our Latin students?

There's so much more we could do if we would ALL get over our paranoia about seeming foolish. If we all focused on being LIFE LONG learners.... well, I just think there'd be a lot more we could do.

Enough rambling.
First, I just want to say that I am so impressed with my students. Are these what normal students are like??

My Latin 1's are so sharp and on the ball. I feel like it's all too easy for them. We were doing "Build-A-Sentence" today, which usually is where I determine whether students understand the concept of accusative and nominative or not. Now, mind you, I've gotten pretty good at hammering this home in a variety of ways (which I don't have time to elaborate at present, sadly, but maybe later?!), but even still students have usually been hit or miss at this game.

Today every sentence I called out in English they composed correctly in Latin.

I was done before I knew it and looked around trying to decide what else to do. It was ridiculous. So I decided to introduce the idea of having a weatherman of the day (something I've stolen from MV). I still had my poster for it, with all the info on the back. They seemed game and even failed to balk at the long words--vAticinAtor/vAticinAtrix and hodiernus/hodierna.

I'm going to test them this week on stages 1 & 2. I'm thinking maybe I should be testing every 3 stages or 4 stages at this rate, but that's ok. A good test grade won't hurt. I can always pick up speed later.

I have a few assignments to grade still, and I know a couple of students aren't great at doing their homework, but in general I'm floored.

That's the 1's.

The bIniOnes et trIniOnes (2's and 3's) I've still got working together, but I'm about to split them up. I wanted to get them used to how I do things, ya know? That way they'll be able to work independently with greater confidence later on.

So we were reading this story in Ecce 26 (I didn't switch them to CLC, though I did switch the 1's) called "Aurelia's Concern for Sextus" or something like that. It's a dialog. So on Weds we translated it together. On Thursday they picked partners and had 5 minutes to practice their lines. Then I called the first couple up to start. After a few lines, I made them stop and called the next couple up to take up where they left off. Some couples ended the dialog and then began it over again; others just had a few lines in the middle, etc. But it was the same scene performed constantly probably 3 or 4 times through. Some people were hams; some just read well. Others, well, they read poorly but were game.

I heard someone say as they left that it was fun. The bonus for me was that we got through everyone performing it, everyone read, they did see/hear/experience multiple times, but it didn't take days because we didn't make everyone do the WHOLE scene.

Oh, I also did a micrologue of in triclIniO with the 1's the other day which went well. I'm looking forward to doing those all year instead of just a few times like last year. The kids last year just weren't up to the challenge. They didn't try to get better; they just shut down. They weren't curious enough, if you know what I mean.

AND--get this--the different clubs are supposed to be taking spirit pictures next week. The Latin 3's suggested posting in maroon and gold (school colors) togas! Or tiger stripes! HOW FUNNY.

Well, I've missed writing here and I really have so much more I want to write about/say, but there's just not enough time in the day.
This probably won't cut/paste in correctly (because I have it in a table in Word), but here are the terms on my cheat sheet that the kids use all week. It's in alpha order for the English; I'll star the ones they use the most. The "give me a coin" is the paper coins that they are collecting if anyone speaks in English during designated all Latin periods. Person with the most coins wins a gift card on Friday.

Be quiet! tacē! / tacēte!
Can I go…licetne mihi īre …
…to the water fountain?…ad fontem aquae?
…to the restroom?…ad latrīnam?
…to the office?…ad officīnam?
…to the nurse?…ad infirmārium?
***Can I speak in English? licetne mihi loquī Anglicē?
Come here! venī hūc! / venīte hūc!
Don’t bug me. nōlī mē vexāre / nōlīte me vexāre.
Duh! / Of course! sānē!
***Give me a coin! dā mihi nummum!
Go away, pest! abī, pestis! / abīte pestēs!
Goodbye valē /valēte
Hello salvē /salvēte
Help me! adiuvā mē!
***How do you say ____? quōmodo dīcitur ____?
I don’t understand. nōn intellegō
I have more coins than you. ego plūs nummī habeō quam tū.
I have no coins left. ego nūllōs nummōs reliquōs habeō.
I have no idea. omnīnō nesciō.
I have to speak in Latin. necesse est mihi loquī Latīnē.
***I have your coin! Haha! ego nummum tuum habeō! hahahae!
I’m telling Mrs Lindzey! Magistrae narrābō!
It’s Latin Week. Septimāna Latīna est.
Let’s go! eāmus!
Oh no! ēheu!
Please quaesō
Thank you tibi grātiās agō
What does ___ mean? quid significat ____?
Wuz up? quid agis?
You’re welcome libenter / nihil est

Also, monitoring the playing of I PISCATUM (Go Fish) in Latin with no recourse to English yesterday made me realize that I need to develop some phrases for those playing to ask for help from the teacher and the teacher to help them. More on this when I have time.

TODAY we are measuring with digiti et palmi. We'll see how that goes. Should be a stitch, but sometimes those projects we think are fun end up being an absolute disaster.
So, this week ends in Rome's birthday and is thus National Latin Week, I believe. I like it because it is also the week in which our school district (and many in Texas?) are administering the TAKS test. It is impossible to have a truly productive week in the sense of moving through the text, but you can actually get a fair amount out of students if they think it is just fun and nonsense--even when it isn't.

So, all Latin Week, which means for me that each day we have activities that must be conducted orally in Latin. One day we spend doing nothing but reading outloud, one person after the other in a big reading circle. I actually did this with the 8th graders on Monday because I will only see them one more day this week. They have four days of testing. (Who thought that was wise?) I have the all reading day on Friday for the 7th graders.

On Monday we went over their cheat sheet for the week--a sheet that has some magical phrases. Most importantly DA MIHI NUMMUM. This refers to the 10 paper coins (photocopies on card stock of old Roman coins) that each student receives. IF a student is caught speaking/communicating in anything OTHER than Latin (no English/Spanish/gesturing) during any designated Latin period, any other person can demand a coin. In Latin. This is not my idea; it originated with my talented friend Michelle V in Minnesota. The second favorite phrase is LICETNE MIHI LOQUI ANGLICE? My favorite is NECESSE EST OMNIBUS LOQUI LATINE!!

The cheatsheet is at school; I'll make sure to bring a copy home and post it here for all to see who are interested.


So, Monday, Day 1, I practiced the various phrases on the cheatsheet with the 7th graders. Day 2 for one class was today, tomorrow it will be for the other class (because of the testing schedule). Today we played cards, which we have done before on one or two other occasions. BUT before we played I gave them a chance to ask me any questions in English. Also, for the warm-up I put up "QUOMODO DICITUR___?" for them to ask me how to say certain things in Latin. They wanted to know, among other things, what "loser" would be. VICTUS/VICTA I replied. And then we decided that instead of doing an L on the forehead that you would have to do a V. Someone also asked what "tied" would be, as in "we tied for first" but I'm not sure... (Does anyone know?!)

Then play began. Anytime someone slipped and spoke in English, there was a flurry of people shouting DA MIHI NUMMUM! This, of course, was usually followed by numerous LICETNE MIHI LOQUI ANGLICE?!?! because students wanted to explain WHY they had spoken and wanted to see if they could get out of giving up a coin.

Oh, did I mention that the person with the most coins on Friday gets a Target $10 gift card??? GOOD MOTIVATION.

So, it was fun today. Same tomorrow for the classes I didn't see today. (I'm only doing this with 7th and 8th.)

On THURSDAY I'm going to make up a worksheet where the students have to get with a partner and MEASURE things--like the other person's nose--in digiti and palmi. haha. Haven't made the sheet yet. It should be quite amusing. My idea was that one person would measure and have to report, "quattuor digiti et duo palmi" etc. Then we might chart the data and compare whose hands/fingers measure biggest/smallest. I dunno. But I think it will also be a good excuse to review higher numbers.

Friday, we're going to start from the beginning of Stage 1 and read through as many stories as we can. They'll like seeing what Grumio was up to again.

That's the plan, at least. And I have to say that while many students are intimidated by having to speak in Latin the whole week, most are comforted that they are doing things with limited, known vocabulary OR that they have the comfort of the cheat sheet.
So I'm trying out some new features on my computer which admittedly includes DVR capabilities and thought that I'd combine sitting here watching TV at my computer (which somehow sounds seriouisly *WRONG*) with playing cards and practicing my Latin.

What I'm doing is very simple. Just your regular game of solitaire, but I'm working on getting past the THINKING stage to the AUTOMATIC stage. The variables are:

1) names of the cards (chartae) both in the nominative (rex regina iacobus denio novenio octonio septenio senio quinio quaternio trinio binio as) and the accusative (regem reginam iacobum denionem novenionem octonionem septentionem senionem quinionem quaternionem trinionem binionem assem)

2) names of the suits (familiae) in the genitive (cordium palarum trifoliorum rhombulorum)

3) color of the cards (color) both in the nominative and accusative, masculine and feminine (for regina) (ater/atra/atrum/atram; ruber/rubra/rubrum/rubram)


See how smoothly & quickly you can do this. The grammar's not hard. Anyone with basic first year Latin can do this. But the trick is doing this fluently.

So deal out your cards, or have your computer deal out. Now every time you move a card, you have to say what it is plus the color (nom) as you stack it on another card (super + acc). Easy. How smoothly can you do it? Add to that, when you play your cards out in the middle on your aces (asses), you say your card and instead of the color, the suit in the genitive). So for instance:

senio ater super septenionem rubrum


binio cordium super assem cordium

Of course you can make it more involved, saying more, but I think you will find that this is taxing enough on the brain not used to conversing in Latin, esp on a Friday afternoon after a long, tedious, depressing week.

Find it's going too slowly?

Then get a real deck (if you are playing on the computer) and start by just separating the cards by color, chanting for red RUBER or RUBRA (when you see the queen!) or for black ATER or ATRA. Just let the repetition make saying the words more automatic. By the time you've separated the deck you have said each word 26 times. Now take the deck and separate them by suit/familia (CORDA/hearts, TRIFOLIA/clubs, PALAE/spades, RHOMBULI/diamonds). Once this is done, take each suit and put the cards in order, starting with REX. You might even say REX CORDIUM, REGINA CORDIUM, etc to practice the genitive.

After you have done all of those, shuffle the cards, and deal out a nice game of solitaire and try the suggestions above.

Is it hard? Does it take too much thinking? Perhaps at first. Perhaps this is why people who shy away from modern language classes with their large ORAL/AURAL component come hide out in Latin. And we've been letting people cater to their own weaknesses. Time to stop. Challenge yourself tonight.

Just go play cards.
This is from a handout I just created to go with some other items for playing cards. I'll try to figure out where to post the other stuff so people can access it soon. But I was interested in reactions from people to the following:


Why Play Cards?

In the last few years there has been much debate about the worthiness of conversational Latin. Latin, after all, is meant to be read not spoken. But language acquisition is not solely through the eyes when reading. Even as children we begin to read by reading aloud.

Reading, as we all know, develops our passive vocabulary and passive understanding of grammar. To demonstrate active vocabulary and an active understanding of grammar, one has to use the language. Traditionally, this has been through translating English to Latin in the form of tedious sentences of very low interest. This has always seemed most efficient, especially because conversational skills in Latin among classicists is virtually non-existent.

About 20 years ago I was doing research at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin. At the time I was doing research on the Middle Temple Inn of Court in London during the age of Shakespeare. I came across an item (booklet? book? treatise? I can’t recall…) that was about using card playing to improve the Latin skills of the law students during the age of Shakespeare. I remember at the time that I thought that sounded interesting and that I should make a note of it. I tried to find this same item last year but the old card catalog was gone and the computer catalog sadly did not have any entry that was a possible match.

But the idea has remained in my mind. Someone in the late 1590s or the early 1600s had written a treatise on rescuing students’ failing Latin skills, necessary for the practice of law at the time in London, by having them play cards in Latin. Or was it by using cards that had Latin on them? Such things I have found—cards with Latin grammar on them—in books on curious playing cards of old. This latter explanation did not satisfy me because the cards would only serve as a reference. Actually using the Latin as the target language when playing cards would help develop the conversational Latin skills that I assume might well have been necessary for court. It was certainly necessary for legal documents of that age.

No matter—because somewhere in the back of my mind I registered that this was a good idea. Developing general conversational skills is difficult and frightening, and since it is not necessary, most of us avoid it. I say start small. Just the basics. And what could be more basic than a game of Go Fish? And then after you become comfortable with the basic vocabulary and phrasing, start trying more difficult constructions until those become comfortable.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game of Go Fish (Ī Piscātum), let me go over the basic rules.

1) You are the dealer. Shuffle the cards. (tū es distribūtor. miscē chartās.)

2) Deal out the cards. Give seven to each person. (distribue chartās. da singulīs septem chartās.)

3) Place the deck in the middle of the table. (pōne fasciculum in mediā mēnsā.)

4) The player to your left plays first. Play goes from left to right. (lūsor, quī sinistrōrsum est, prīmum lūdit. lūdus ā sinistrā in dextram it.)

5) The player (lūsor) asks a fellow player (collūsor) for a card that matches another card he has in his hand. For example he says, “Do you have any eights?” (“habēsne ūllōs octōniōnēs?”) If the answer is yes (“habeō”), the other player hands over the card (collūsor lūsōrī chartam/chartās tradit) and the first player goes again (lūsor iterum it).

6) If the answer is no, the other player replies, “No. Go Fish!” (“nōn habeō. Ī Piscātum!”) and the first player draws a card from the deck (lūsor chartam ē fasciculō capit). If that card is the card he is looking for, he goes again. Otherwise his turn is now over.

7) The goal is to get four of a kind –4 aces, 4 tens, etc. (quattuor generis—quattuor assēs, quattuor dēniōnēs, et cētera). Four cards makes a book. (quattuor chartae librum faciunt.) When you have a book, place the book on the table. (dēpōne librum tuum in mēnsā.)

8) The player who has the most books at the end of the game is the winner. (lūsor, quī in extrēmō lūdō plūrimōs librōs habet, est victor.)

I have developed a guide sheet for you to keep on the table to help you as you begin. On the back is a basic pronunciation guide if you need a refresher.

But I can’t just do frivolous stuff in class!
Students must master grammar!

Playing cards in Latin is not a frivolous activity. You can tailor your card playing activities to work on grammar and phrasing. Here are a few examples of basic grammar. Of course, you can incorporate more advance grammar such as purpose clauses, result clauses, ablative absolutes, conditional clauses and more as you build up your confidence. But for now, why not completely master the basics? Try sticking in a discussion about the weather while you’re playing as well!

1) nominative
haec charta est rēx. illae chartae sunt bīniōnēs.
rēgīna est rubra. iacōbus est ater.

2) genitive
ego rēgem cordium habeō. tū rēgem pālārum habēs.

3) dative
da mihi tuōs rēgēs!
da Marcō tuās rēgīnās!
ego Iuliae meōs sēniōnēs dedī.

4) accusative
habēsne ūllōs trīniōnēs?
ego librum habeō.
miscē chartās.

5) ablative
chartīs lūdāmus!

6) noun/adjective agreement
ego duās rēgīnās habeō.
habēsne ūllōs bīniōnēs? habēsne ūllās rēgīnās?

7) personal endings on verbs
habēsne ūllōs septēniōnēs?
habeō/nōn habeō.
Marcus librum habet.

8) tenses
tū trēs dēniōnēs habēbās; ego ūnum dēniōnem habēbam.
tū tibi dēniōnem meum dedī.
nunc tū quattuor dēniōnēs habēs, quī librum facit.

9) imperatives
miscē chartās! distribue chartās!
nōlī fraudāre! nōlī spectāre chartās meās!

10) infinitives
ego lūdere nōn possum.
ego tibi chartam meam dare nōlō.
necesse est tibi rēgīnās tuās trādere.


Interested yet? for the Go Fish terms/table top quick guide for the pronunciation refresher to go with playing cards which is what is printed above.
The question was asked on Latinteach "What is truly the reading approach?" and this was the reply of BP, who has given me permission to reprint it here:


A reading approach is far more than where the text is placed, though
that can be a factor. I'll list the components that I see in a reading

1) focus on story development rather than which pieces of grammar must
be learned in this lesson.

2) story presented in comprehensible units.

3) comprehensible units mean that vocabulary helps are given either by
glosses, pictures, or both.

4) story line is developed in such a way that the structures that a
student needs to know are repeated often, in interesting ways.

5) grammar serves the story; the story does not serve the grammar. So,
for instance, grammar notes will be given somewhere in the unit, and
they are the "need to know" notes. Students may encounter
accusatives-singular from several declensions rather than all the cases
of a particular declension. The check on this one is really the inerest
level of the story. If the grammar is serving the story, it is much
easier to write an interesting story line. The first chapter, for
instance, of Hans Oerberg's LL is about 30 lines long, and is
interesting. The first story in LFA is only 4 or 5 lines long and
almost sounds moronic. Ironically, they both are about the same
topic--where things are in Europe.

6) reading approaches focus on reading and comprehending, not on
translating. I consider this to be a way to judge the degree to which a
text actually pulls off reading approach. If the practice of every
lesson is "to translate" then the text is not, finally, much of a
reading approach.

7) A reading approach sets up story line in a way that repeats basic
vocabulary and introduces new vocabulary in a comprehensible way. It
does not depend on a list of vocabulary words for the student to learn
(though a reference list of new words may be a handy device somewhere at
the end of the lesson). A reading approach depends on reading
interesting storyline for the student to acquire new vocabulary.

I may think of more, but these seem to me to be the key issues in a
reading approach. And, I would say that each text falls somewhere on a
continuum between the traditional grammar-translation method and the
more recent developments in reading approaches.

There was another note he wrote that I really liked, but I must have deleted it in a fit of madness.... AH, here it is embedded in another note:


> > I guess the first issue is what you are looking for when you teach. You
> > say that what you are doing works well for your students. "Works well"
> > means that it is producing what you are looking for.
> >
> > It sounds to me like what you are looking for (please correct this if I
> > am wrong) are students who can translate Latin into English, and,
> > perhaps, who can explain grammar structures found in the Latin.
> >
> > You may need to change nothing if a) that is what you are looking for,
> > and b) that works for all kinds of learners in your class.
> >
> > It is not a reading approach, nor is it language acquisition.
> >
> > If you want your students to be acquire ability in Latin, then there are
> > some shifts you could make, but like all of us, it also means learning
> > some teaching methods that are quite different from translating and
> > grammar study in order to decode the Latin into English.
> >
> > 1) read the model sentences in CLC as Latin, and using the
> > cartoon/drawings to help gain undertstanding WITHOUT translating into
> > English. That's largely what they are there for. If you are
> > translating the model sentences right off the bat, then you are
> > communicating, like it or not, that the Latin is not very necessary.
> > The real goal is to turn this into English.
> >
> > 2) By practicing understanding the Latin via the drawings, move to the
> > first story and read it in a variety of ways to understand in Latin.
> > One of my most common practices is to read a few lines, and then to ask
> > leading questions in Latin. For instance with Adventus, stage 31,
> > tomorrow we will read the first 6 lines and I will ask the following to
> > which I expect oral, Latin responses:
> >
> > a) Quo tempore est in fabula? (dies illuceset/ or die illucescente)
> > b) qui apparent in fabula? (ingens multitudo Romanorum, et paupers
> > apparentO
> > c) quid pauperes agunt? (paupers exibant ex insulis)
> > d) cur pauperes ex insulis exibant? (ut aquam e fontibus traherent)
> > e) quomodo senatores ad forum advenerunt? (senatores lectis vehebantur)
> > f) Quae aedificia in ripis fluminis erant? (multa horrea erant)
> > g) Unde servi importati erant? (e Britannia importati erant)
> > h) Describe mihi quomodo servi apparerent. (Servi catenis gravibus
> > vincti sunt).
> >
> > All that from the first six lines. And, I since this will be our second
> > time through the story, I will ask them to turn their books over while I
> > ask the questions. Also, I will make sure to ask some of these
> > questions of my "barometer" students--that is, those whom I suspect may
> > be having difficulty comprehending the story. If they can answer
> > correctly, then we can move on. If they cannot, I will ask someone
> > else, and then cycle back to the "barometer" kids until they can answer
> > correctly.
> >
> > There are three stories in Stage 31. We can do this and other things
> > like this with each that require no translation but which do require
> > comprehension.
> >
> > 3) AFTER all the stories have been worked with in comprehensible ways,
> > we will read the About the Language, and practice the exercises. By
> > then, they feel like review, and that is how I use them before a quiz on
> > the stage.
> >
> > 4) every once in a while, I ask students to translate stories or
> > sentences. Why? Because translation is a secondary skill in language
> > acquisition, and it can be used when all else fails. That's how I use
> > translation--as a last resort.
> >
> > I offer these observations because you asked, and as dialogue--not out
> > of some notion that I know and you do not. I think we are at an
> > interesting place in Classics and in Latin learning. We have many new
> > tools at our disposal, and I think we owe it to ourselves and our
> > students to try them.

BP is, to me, one of the top three inspirational teachers out there today. I had thought that I had really broken through some of the constraints that I had from my own education regarding how to teach language, but he makes me rethink what I'm doing now and ask myself AM I WHERE I WANT TO BE?? And am I?

No. I'm still relying on too much English. I'm still relying on grammar. My own inexperience with extensive oral Latin and TPRS limits what I will try, though I will try new things and risk falling on my face doing those new things.

I do think that I am creating READERS of Latin and not decoders, and to me that was a very important first step because no matter how you get there, the university folks are really only going to be interested in whether you read the lines or not the night before and can discuss them with attention to grammatical detail in class. The methods I employ using a reading card and metaphrasing are reinforcing the attention to detail NEEDED to read accurately. I have had former students thank me for teaching them to read well.

But in essense, I'm really still teaching them to translate into English well. For most of us, we think that goes hand in hand. It is hard to let go of the native language, I feel. But I can, when I force myself, stay "in the Latin" when I'm reading. It's not easy.

But that's not good enough. We still have problems with vocabulary acquisition. I've always felt I had, and have always wondered what to do. I want to get students to write more and yet somehow find time to GRADE it. Why not have students rewrite stories from day one? Why not have them describe QUID TU IN PICTURA VIDES? Wouldn't that be easy enough and repetitive enough? ego in pictura canem video. ego in pictura ianuam video. etc. That could be done from DAY ONE. Why not?? WHY THE HECK NOT?


I'm ready for a fresh start at a new school. I need new expectations with students who have more on their minds than the gangs in the hallways and who did what to whom. I want to be able to assign homework and KNOW there's a parent there who will enforce doing the homework. I want to work for a principal who treats the teachers as part of the team and not disposable, replaceable slaves.

Ahem. I've been online too long. That's what happens when you take a day off!
Here's some more of the discussion on vocabulary.

This time *I'm* the one being quoted and my friend, BP, is the one writing comments. With his permission I post his comments here, because I find them inspiring.

> Yes, I think this is exactly it. And I'm even willing to admit that I don't
> have enough Latin under my belt to feel like I could teach as fluently as
> I'd like to. But with that said, I'd always like to try.

And I think this is exactly what we have to do. Seems to me that right now our
choices are two: pretend like the only way to teach Latin is the way that we
were taught, and press on, ignoring all of the wonderful methods being produced
these days. Or, jump in, admitting that we are learning in the process, and try
things out.

I simply cannot do the first, anymore. The second, once you get over the
initial fright of the first step, is really quite envigorating. And, it is
effective. It means having to share with our students often that we are trying
something new, and ask for their feedback. They will give it, and if they sense
that we really value their feedback, will begin to feel like partners in the
adventure. Frank Smith calls this "belonging to the club", and it radically
changes the dynamics in a classroom--for the positive.

> The problem is that my methods are still putting a great emphasis in
> English. When we do flashcard drill at the beginning of class, which I think
> of as an important part of my class because it sets them up to read well
> when we get to the story and helps them learn the vocabulary, we are
> drilling Latin to English. When we "read" a story, I suppose we are still
> really doing too much Latin to English.

I consider this a self-realization that we get, from time to time, which allows
us to continue to make change. Okay, so if you realize that you are still
putting a great emphasis in English, what one or two things could you do to
shift toward Latin. For example, after reading a bit in a story, say to the

describe mihi qualis femina sit Rufilla.

You MAY have to tell them what sit is (another form of est--we'll talk about it
later), but you MAY not. I find that when I use stock phrases like this, the
students understand and don't bat an eye that it contains some words they've
never heard.

to such a question, they may give you back single word answers. I always say:
et quid plus? That invites more answers, more descriptions.

> And I agree with Bob about AP. And I only know of one teacher who teaches
> like he describes: Jeanne Newman at Davidson College. It can be done. It
> really can. But admittedly some days I look at my students and wonder if it
> isn't all out of reach for this lot--but that is MY perspective and not
> perhaps reality.

I think such feelings are more about us than our students. working iwth the
language is much less a barrier because of grammar than we think. The language
works if we give it to them in comprehensible chunks. They need not understand
all the grammar when they get comprehensible input. Today, for instance, the
word "hiems" came up in stage 14 (CLC). I took off on it. I said: sunt
quattuor tempora anni: hiems, ver, aestas et autumnus. Quid tempus tibi
placet? Mihi placet ver et autumnus quod hieme et autumno aer est frigidus

I paused for 30 seconds to say: in hieme dicitur "hieme" sine vocabulo "in". I
wrote hieme next to hiems, vere next to ver, aestate next to aestas, and autumno
next to autumnus. Then I asked:
quomodo dicitur "in hieme". They responded "hieme". Quomodo dicitur "in vere".
"Vere", etc.

And I will tell you--all of this was spontaneous. I had not planned to do this.
But, this could only have happened spontaneously today because I have been
looking for ways, all the time, to turn my work in the classroom more totally
toward Latin as Latin.

> So, instead of worrying about what I'm doing "wrong" this year, I think it's
> time to figure out how I could still find a compromise but start moving over
> toward a more natural way of acquiring vocabulary.


> For instance, I can now see still doing a day with flashcards, but this time
> what if I had the students only write the Latin on the front of the cards
> with NO ENGLISH on the back? And what if we, as a group, on this major
> vocabulary day, somehow in a 45 minute hour, came up with Latin words and
> pictures to put on the card? We could do a little acting out that day too. I
> can imagine that for the first few stages of CLC I would help them do it all
> and then after that, perhaps they could come in with some of this completed.

> Now here's the next question--how do you test/quiz grammar acquisition all
> in Latin? How, for instance, do you insure that a student has mastered the
> concept of the imperfect tense?

When I introduce the perfect and imperfect, I do it totally in Latin. This
allows us to take advantage of what the terms mean. Tempus perfectum =
finished, and tempus imperfectum means unfinished. I bring in two paintings (I
paint on the side). One is finished, one is in progress. I tell them:

Heri, ego picturam pinxi. I point to the finished painting. Est pictura

Heri, ego quoque aliam picturam pingebam. Sed filius meus me clamavit: Pater,
necesse mihi est ire ad ludum pedifollis! Itaque, filius et ego discedimus ex

Then, I point to the unfinished painting. Mea pictura est imperfecta.

Then, essentially, I retell and refocus on parts of this little scene. Ego
picturam pinxi--est perfecta.
Ego picturam secundam pingebam, sed interruptus sum. Est imperfecta.

I write pinxi on the board with "tempus perfectum" next to it.
I write pingebam on the board with "tempus imperfectum" next to it.

Only when I feel that I've given all that I can in English, do I ask if they
have last minute questions in English.

I don't quiz these two for a while. When I do I offer sentences that
demonstrate ongoing activies in the past, and those that make it clear that
something is finished. Selection of the right tense makes for a correct answer.

I will stop here. gone on too long. This is a good conversation we all have

(and that was mainly all from BP--thanks so much for letting me post it here.)
I've been thinking about this, and while I don't have time to write as much right now as I'd like to, I'm posting this to REMIND myself to write about this.

I think that serious students of Latin should have a list of things they MUST work on on their own in order to be superior students and teachers of Latin.

One of these is pronunciation, another is learning how to think, at least simple stuff, in Latin. Yes, think in Latin. WHen I play slugbug with my kids, I do it in Latin and I've gotten to the point that when I see a silver VW beetle, I can rattle off coccinella argentea nUlla coccinella retrO without thinking. It has become mental muscle memory.

I think playing cards, certainly solitaire, outloud in Latin is a good exercise as well.

More on this later.

And now it's later, but I still don't have much time, even with the rain (and thus most likely no soccer game for me at noon).

I started this note thinking about what was going to be happening at my school in a couple of years--there's some talk of a Global Studies campus which, depending upon how it's set up, should have an emphasis on foreign languages--even Latin. And I've also been thinking about the state of Latin and Latin teacher prepartion and the number of teachers who claim they were never taught pronunciation or this or that.

And it occurred to me that students of Latin have all sorts of EXCUSES for not being more proficient. Oh, me too, I'm not free from this (although my excuses usually involve parenting and other job duties!). But it seems to me that if you are studying Latin and if you discover that you, well, LIKE IT (fancy that), then you need to take it upon yourself to go above and beyond what is required for all the other yahoos so they can get their credit, their piece of paper which says they jumped through this hoop, etc. You can't be like those who go south of the border to Mexico to practice Spanish nor north into Quebec to practice French. Living in Rome won't even do it for you.

Face it, you're on your own.

Ok, there are plenty of internet options these days, but otherwise you are on your own to read more and do more with your Latin. And most people think that there is very little they can do, very little available. There are not a bunch of good low level readers. Sure you can find intermediate material here and there, and some of it's ok stuff. But there's nothing outside of another textbook that has really low level stuff. Ok, well, I hope to be writing some one day.

So, are you out of luck?


Get a copy of John Traupman's _Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency_ from Bolchazy-Carducci at There's a ton of every day vocabulary in there. So start with something like learning to count every darn thing in your house.

How high can you count? I'm still not good at this. I need to practice counting by 10s. I need to practice counting backwards.

I want to start practicing the alphabet too. You can find it pronounced in various sources (wheelock's new audio files had it in some print material, I think; plus it's also in Oerberg).


If it gets you thinking in Latin, that's not useless.

Start saying things to yourself like ego novem canEs videO. ego octO chartulAs habeO. Whatever. Now you are practicing pronouns, accusatives and subj/verb agreement.

What I really want to write, among other things, is a book about how to play certain card games in Latin. I've got Go Fish done which you can find at And, somewhere I started writing up notes for describing how to play Idiot's Delight. I want to write up playing solitaire in Latin and a few other games.

The point is that if you work on saying all this outloud you are working on your oral skills/pronunciation (and take care to do it right the first time!) and internalizing morphology and syntax. Play cards with friends and you can help each other and build up simple conversational skills built around an activity.

Nothing worse than being at a cEna LatIna and feeling like a fool for not having the active vocabulary necessary for carrying on a decent conversation. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to start simple but focused....

And I'm rambling. My point is that if you really love Latin, you cannot hide behind the excuses for why you don't continually try to improve your skills. If you can't read prose or poetry outloud, start practicing. If you don't know the rules for pronunciation, open the front of your dictionary and read the instructions. Go to the Wheelocks website at and listen to the audio files there. AND THEN PRACTICE.

We are Latinists. We have ALWAYS been on our own. But that's not an excuse anymore.