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August 2017

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I have been thinking a lot about Rusticatio lately. I’m wishing I could be there for one, but also trying to examine in my mind things that were happening and things that we were doing and what I could have done differently to be a better learner.

In all honesty, my mind is pretty scattered these days, skipping from one project to the next, whichever is more convenient for me to work on based on location (home or at my son’s / ex’s house), mood, and energy. I am building my own “can-do” statements that are aligned with ACTFL’s proficiencies and Texas’s TEKS, but also geared toward what I want to do this year in Latin 1. In addition I’m working on a little Latin story, but haven’t gotten very far with it. I’ve written a fair amount, but I’m just exploring my characters. I want to illustrate it myself, because, I dunno, I’m an idiot. I’ve been playing with ibisPaintX, which is fun, but it’s not getting me that much nearer to meeting any of the goals I’ve set for myself. It does make me ask myself what exactly I am after.

So what am I after? My first reaction to that question is not to have a repeat of last year. Yes, there were many things that went well, but I keep coming back to the face of one boy who kept repeating “Latin is so hard!” anytime he was asked to do the simplest thing. He wasn’t a slacker; he just had really low self-esteem. And because we were doing so much orally and (at least I felt that) the grading seemed fuzzy, nothing felt concrete or clear. For some students—the majority of students—what we were doing was clear enough. I was asking questions, prompting repetitions of vocabulary and such, and most students were fine, even if they weren’t the best performers. But I’ve always prided myself on trying to find ways to help students who have special needs of some sort, to buoy them up, to help them find a way to learn too. Last year I bombed at this. That was when I threw on the brakes and finished the last 6 weeks more like how I was accustomed to teaching. I still worked in more oral work than in previous years, but it was not at the forefront. And it may have appeared that I totally ditched it... even though that was not the case.

Which takes me back to Rusticatio, and how I was not the best student there in retrospect, although I was always eager. That is, I unintentionally, inadvertently got in my own way of learning all that I could. I was just trying to comprehend, participate, and do what was expected. It seems silly now to realize I didn’t understand how best to help myself. Then again, I always marvel at the teachers who will mutter things like “students don’t study.” Ok, some students don’t. Others would if they understood what you wanted them to do to study. They think “study” means “memorize” which is why just memorizing an isolated list of vocabulary is rarely enough. When I create materials to help students study and prepare for quizzes and tests, some students admittedly (and unfortunately) are still just memorizing. However, my goal is for students to see vocabulary and grammatical concepts in the context of sentences. I want them reading and rereading the sentences—especially those with the same pattern or construction—until the concept finally solidifies. (Ok, or solidifies enough. Probably more like jello than hard chocolate.)

So here I am now designing kind of an overarching reward system, where students can earn “coins” / “stamps” for a “time-travel passport,” each step of which will help develop proficiency skills needed for a big project during second semester that involves buying and selling merchandise in the forum. What I have in mind for some of the coins/stamps will be some little dialogues which students can record on their own time via Seesaw (app) that will help students get more comfortable with the conversational skills necessary. These can’t just be simple dialogues, but have three things which I think will help build good language learning habits as well as being a step in the right direction for developing a mental representation of the language.

1)     Repeat what a person says to reinforce the answer.
“My name is Spartacus.”
“Your name is Spartacus.”
“Yes, my my name is Spartacus.”

2)    Practice “make me say yes/make me say no” or offering two choices (circling).
“My name is Spartacus.”
“Your name is Sextus?”
“No, my name is Spartacus.”
“Your name is Sextus or Spartacus?”
“Ah, so your name is Spartacus.”

3)    Say the same thing but in as many ways as possible with different vocabulary and perhaps even constructions.
“Leave from this room! Exit the room! Get the heck out! Go and be gone!”

I also look at these three features as ways to fatten up a conversation. There is nothing worse in my mind than feeling like you have absolutely nothing to say and people are expecting you to talk, especially when you are new to a language. “Hi, my name is Joe. What’s your name?” might be all you know. How do you make a lengthy conversation out of that? How do you get the shy students and the low self-esteem students to buy into trying to stay all in Latin during class without risking them totally checking out?  (I am the queen of song-and-dance, of dramatic readings, crazy gestures, etc., but when I was all Latin--even what I considered well-supported/highly comprehensible Latin, there were a few I could just not keep engaged and would thus check out. And if they check out, they get behind.)

Before “mental representation” entered my vocabulary, I always thought of language learning, especially speaking, to be a lot like muscle memory. When I first started to play soccer in my late 20s, I had to concentrate on hitting the ball correctly with the instep of my foot. I was lucky if I made a solid pass to an open person 10 feet away. As I improved, I no longer had to think about how to strike the ball; I could focus on which open person I might want to pass it to up the field while dodging the defender coming at me. Muscle memory allowed me to do that. Muscle memory of a sort allows me to rattle off very familiar phrases without even thinking about those phrases, like replying “dī tē ament” when someone sneezes in class. I now have to think to use English when not in class.

So I want something that can be that beginning stepping stone, which can help begin the process of building that muscle memory.

Here’s an example of the first dialogue I’ve written:

dialogus I.A

1: salvē!

2: salvē! ego sum Lūcia.

1: tū es Livia?

2: minimē! ego nōn sum Livia. ego sum Lūcia.

1: esne Livia an Lūcia?

2: ego sum Lūcia.

1: tū nōn es Livia? tū es Lūcia?

2: ita vērō! ego sum Lūcia. mihi nōmen est Lūcia.

1: optimē! tū es Lūcia. tibi nōmen est Lūcia!

2: quis es tū?

1: quis sum ego?

2: ita vērō! quis es tū?

1: ego sum Quīntus.

2: tū es Quārtus?

1: minimē! ego nōn sum Quārtus. ego sum Quīntus.

2: esne Quārtus an Quīntus?

1: ego sum Quīntus.

2: tū nōn es Quārtus? tū es Quīntus?

1: ita vērō! ego sum Quīntus! mihi nōmen est Quīntus.

2: optimē! tū es Quīntus! tibi nōmen est Quīntus.

1: ita vērō! ego sum Quīntus et tū es Lūcia.

2: ego sum Lūcia et tū es Quīntus. sed quis est Quārtus et quis est Livia?

1: nescio! sed tū nōn es Livia et ego nōn sum Quārtus!

2: valē, Quīnte!

1: valē, Lūcia!


dialogus I.B (Supply your own names.)

1: salvē!

2: salvē! ego sum _______(2).

1: tū es Livia?

2: minimē! ego nōn sum Livia. ego sum _______(2).

1: tū nōn es Livia? tū es _______(2)?

2: ita vērō! ego sum _______(2). mihi nōmen est _______(2).

1: optimē! tū es _______(2). tibi nōmen est _______(2)!

2: quis es tū?

1: quis sum ego?

2: ita vērō! quis es tū?

1: ego sum _______(1).

2: tū es Quārtus?

1: minimē! ego nōn sum Quārtus. ego sum _______(1).

2: tū nōn es Quārtus? tū es _______(1)?

1: ita vērō! ego sum _______(1)! mihi nōmen est _______(1).

2: optimē! tū es _______(1)! tibi nōmen est _______(1).

1: ita vērō! ego sum _______(1) et tū es _______(2).

2: ego sum _______(2) et tū es _______(1). sed quis est Quārtus et quis est Livia?

1: nescio! sed tū nōn es Livia et ego nōn sum Quārtus!

2: valē, _______(1) (in the vocative)!

1: valē, _______(2) (in the vocative)!

Yes, of course, if everything is like this students will soon get bored—unless they see that there’s a point. And that point will be when they have to fill out their Time Travel Passport application with a partner who has to do all the writing. Thus, developing a certain comfort level will make that task go more smoothly.  (The following stage will be a job application in ancient Pompeii, and ultimately having to converse while buying and selling goods in the forum.) Coins/stamps will be earned, which will be part grade and part spending money when we finally have the forum project. Plus I'm thinking each dialogue will be targeting something I will list in the Can-Do statements for Latin 1. There will be no vagueness about the direction we are going and what we are accomplishing and how it fits into the bigger picture. 

Ideally, we will get to a point where the creation of dialogues won’t be necessary. All that will be necessary will be using the three things listed above. (Clearly I need to simplify and name my little list.) Oh, and providing some motivating overarching task (like my forum project).

This is just the beginning of my thoughts on this, thoughts which are rather rambling at present and not well focused. And I know that identifying ways that students can extend a conversation even though they know very little will also increase their writing. I can't help but wonder, though, if I had at all times at Rusticatio, been trying to work these three things--especially in a learning environment where everyone would have understood what I was doing and no one would have minded or thought that I was purposefully being obtuse--that maybe my own conversational skills would be further along today. I'm just hoping that next year that I won't feel like I've let any students fall through the cracks because I didn't understand enough about what I was doing.

Is the thought of incorporating speaking proficiencies stressing you out? Why not start by incorporating student jobs in your classes and making a habit of them. I have been using student jobs for a few years now, and not only are they a great place to start, they also make a great jumping off point for more spoken Latin in your class.

First, I have four main jobs. You can have more or less, whatever suits your needs. Here are mine:

  1. agenda (agenda)
  2. date (diēs)
  3. weather (tempestās)
  4. announcements (nūntiī)

Everything is written on the board for students to just read. At the beginning of the year I often stand near the board and do the loud whisper to prompt students on how to say things.


I try to write most of the agenda in Latin. A typical agenda might be like the following:

  1. mūnera (jobs)
  2. praeparātiō (warm-ups)
  3. recitātiō (recitation – if we are working on a brief passage for them to read to me at a later date)
  4. vocābulum – sometimes traditional flashcards, but I’ve also been working other activities that are more direct use as well.
  5. legimus fābulam “ad urbem”
  6. tessera (exit ticket – I am usually not good with exit tickets but at the end of the year I was using Seesaw for student reflection of how the warm-up tied into the story and whether it was helpful. I could see at a glance whether everyone turned it in digitally, because it was typed I could even read it, thus grading was fast. But that’s for another post...)

Beneath this agenda is a space for pēnsum (homework), so it is clear if they have any and read with the agenda. No one can argue that they didn’t know there was homework AND that they were paying attention because clearly they were not paying attention if they didn’t know. If you see what I mean. (It’s also a good cover-your-backside technique when dealing with tricky students and their parents.)

DATE (diēs)

I do dating neo-Latin style which I learned at Rusticatio from Nancy Llewellyn.

heri erat diēs Sōlis

hodiē est diēs Lūnae

crās erit diēs Martis

diē 3/tertiō mēnsis Aprilis

annō bis millēsimō decimō septimō

At first students are intimidated by the ordinal numbers but in no time most everyone is saying this correctly. On their handouts, the blanks for the date are properly abbreviated like this:

d. ____ m. _____ an. _________

which is then filled in like this:

d. 3 m. Apr. an. MMXVII

What I like about doing the date like this is that we end up seeing and saying the ordinal numbers 1-31 spelled out, as well as the names of the months in Latin without really detracting time from the main focus of class.

WEATHER (tempestās)

The weather gets a full script, modeled on something a colleague of mine (Michelle Vitt) had developed for her classes. I also have laminated pictures of weather which I have posted with a magnet next to the day’s weather.

salvēte, sodālēs!

F: vāticinātrix hodierna sum.

M: vāticinātor hodiernus sum.

mihi nōmen est _____.

(discipulī:) salvē, ____ (vocative), quāle caelum est?

sōl lūcet! (picture next to it)

Announcements (nūntiī)

This is the only job that is mainly English. I simply have a section of my white board for school and class announcements, such as when Latin club is meeting or important events on campus.

Before school I check my list of students to see who’s turn it is to present and post names by the jobs. Once the bell rings for class, I usually say something like, “salvēte, discipulī et discipulae!” Then I begin slowly and with exaggeration (especially at the beginning of the year), “ō Sexte, quaesō, surge et ambulā ad tabulam albam, et lege agenda.” After the student read his job, I would usually say something like, “tibi grātiās agō, ō Sexte! nunc plaudite, omnēs!” Then I call up the next student for the next job.

Early in the year I had to give out candy if anyone noticed my NOT using manners. (This gave students a motivation to listen and pay attention.) For a while we talked about the vocative and that the reason I was calling on the student in the vocative to begin with was to alert students to the correct form if they needed to reply (as in the weather script) using the vocative.

The students in great measure enjoy doing the jobs and will even claim if they think they have been skipped or haven’t had a particular job in a while. And if nothing else, it helps to get them settled and sorted at the beginning of class before we get down to work.

Towards the end of the year I started seeing these jobs in a slightly different light. In my Latin 1’s we had taken a detour off of CLC to read Brando Brown Canem Vult and at the end had presentational projects—in Latin. It was an experiment in my eyes and I did not grade the students hard on the spoken portion (because I feel I had not prepared them well). I told students to utilize some Google Slides which I had made for BBCV with little conversational scripts as well as anything else we had done, including the jobs. The best presentations did exactly that, but even the worst presentations started well because they all started comfortably with “salvēte, sodālēs! mihi nōmen est...” They didn’t have to dig back to what was learned in the first week of class because we were still having that same conversation every time the jobs were done.

This got me thinking about two things: 1) I should expand each of the jobs to include more conversational phrases, and (recently) 2) that these are the kernals for “same conversation” as used in Where Are Your Keys. (See this post for more on "same conversation.")

During the last couple of months of school I changed up the Agenda job to include this script:

salvēte, sodāles!

ut valētis?

(discipulī:) bene valeō (yes, they could say other things if they wanted, but this was the script)

tempus est mūneribus!

1)      praeparātiō... etc.

I couldn’t think of a good script leading into the reading of the dates, so I left that one alone. The weather already had a good script, so I left that one alone as well. For the announcements, I added this:

salvēte, sodālēs!

mihi nōmen est ___.

(discipulī:) salvē, ___. quid novī apud scholam? 

I was particularly pleased with adding “ut valētis” (ut valēs) as well as “quid novī apud scholam” (apud tē) in this fashion because I thought the context made it clear the difference in meaning—one being for how you feel healthwise or perhaps emotionally as opposed to what’s going on in your life.

So now I’m thinking—what more can I do with this? How can I add to or modify the jobs maybe each 6 weeks? What differentiation should I be offering between the levels? I’m thinking about having the Latin 4’s do the date in neo-Latin as well as ancient Roman style next year, though I may be running out of dedicated room on my white board! Plus I think they could do more elaborate things with the weather. (I need to reprint my weather symbol cards anyway which have some text on the back. Perhaps it’s time for the text to get updated...)

My point is simply this: if you don’t do jobs, you should. It’s a low pressure way to add some spoken Latin to your class, especially if you haven’t done much before. Students like having their turn, plus it helps to invest them in your class. Win-win.




scroll from Pompeiian fresco

Pardon me while I do some thinking out loud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEKS for Classical Languages: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No final answers here, just more to ponder. 

Image result for latin scribe manuscripts
We are the new scribes. To Macron or Not to Macron, That is the Question--no doubt. It is a question that comes up quite a lot, and it came up again today.

A discussion began privately (small group email) regarding how to add macrons when typing in MS Word. Various people suggested this keyboard or that, but I piped in with how to map keystrokes to make it easy to type.  Here is how to do it for those who still don't know how:

You need to assign keys to the macrons.  I use  ALT plus the vowel.  ALT plus SHIFT plus the vowel for capital vowels.

So do this:

Go to:



MORE SYMBOLS & find the letter you want. THEN choose

SHORTCUT KEY (bottom left button)

in the "Press new shortcut key" press ALT plus A (for a lower case long a), then


Now you can just hit that combination of keys and the letter appears.

I can type almost at full speed with this.

But then someone I love and respect threw in his two denarii that he doesn't use macrons. And while I respect his view and know I will never change his view, I'm always thinking about the new teacher or person I can influence. So I wrote this in return:

... I fully believe in the importance of learning the sound of each word of Latin that enters my head, and the macrons are just representations of those sounds. I don't need them for the cases; those are totally internalized. But when I meet a new word--which for our students is ALL THE TIME--I want to be able to look at that word and, because I know the rules for dividing and accenting words, be able to know immediately what that word SOUNDS like and to fix it in my head.

Children can ask parents how to pronounce English words. I can ask my Merriam Webster app to even pronounce words for me.  But Cicero isn't here, and in my room I am supposed to be the authority. I am supposed to be modeling the best Latin I possibly can. I have heard presenters at conferences mispronounce words putting the accent on the wrong syllable because they weren't aware of (or, dare I say, didn't care about?) a long vowel.  And it isn't a long vowel, remember; it's the way the word SOUNDED--and it can and does change where you accent a word if it is in that penultimate syllable.

I certainly have friends and colleagues who are more fluent than I am conversationally. (I was never good at small talk, and always went to bed earlier than others at Rusticatio.)  I like to listen to Latin though. I like to read it aloud too.  And I want to sound as Roman as I possibly know how. I did dramatic interps for JCL in high school, which I'm sure influenced me. But I was also influence by the great Rick LaFleur in this regard (see what he says on pronunciation in Wheelocks), and I notice that Nancy Ll. and Justin SB ALWAYS (or certainly almost always) include macrons.

The more words I *fix* in my own head, the easier it is to read without them when a text doesn't have them. I don't rely on them like a crutch and I tell my students why I always have macrons on materials and how they too should be fixing how the words sound in their own minds. Or trust that when they had macrons in front of them, that they were, even inadvertently, building a proper mental representation of that word so that when the macrons aren't there they can trust their gut instinct on the word.

For teachers who think of this as an onerous task, I say to just take it a word at a time. Reading aloud with thought and care and really "tasting the words" as I believe Rex Harrison once said (his argument against speed reading) is half of it. Taking an extra few seconds to check a dictionary on the words you are unsure of is the other half. And while the macronizer isn't bad, I would never rely on it.

New teachers and those of you who train teachers, this is important. When I was first teaching middle school Latin, I started by deciding that I would do my best to master those words used in the textbook, and I would master those sounds with each new set of vocabulary I introduced.  I learned with the students. You often do--that is, as a teacher you often learn a lot of your trade while teaching. There are many, many things not taught at universities, or things that are unimportant to professors who are more concerned with the subject of their research (not being critical, just observant). But we are entering a new age of Latin teaching, where incorporating speaking proficiencies to help develop reading proficiencies is becoming of greater importance than ever before. There is no more critical time to CARE about how Latin sounds and why we have macrons. And yes, Romans didn't need them because they WERE fluent, they WERE able to ask mom and dad and their teachers how to properly pronounce a word just like we are able to in English. And since we can't surround our students 24/7 with quality spoken Latin, we do what we can to make sure their INPUT is quality.

So I include macrons, practice a little divide & accent from time to time, and tell them that when they read Latin, they should either read aloud or HEAR IT in their heads.

So I've been listening to a lot of Tea with BVP lately, having lots of deep thoughts but not being able to pause and write.

A bunch of topics have come up that have had my head spinning but this one really caught my attention: Are languages "subjects" to be taught or something to be coached?

Now, I definitely believe that Latin should be treated fully as a language because it is WITHOUT QUESTION a language. I think the more we teach in the target language, the more we use more modern techniques to provide Comprehensible Input, the better. But...

But... I have had this question personally for a long time: Why Latin?  Students sign up for my class because of me not necessarily Latin. My enthusiasm is contagious, I know, and we have a good time. But secretly I feel like I do not have a good enough reason for arguing that students should take my class over another modern language.

I know I love Latin, even obsess over it in my own way, but I truly cannot explain WHY--outside of thinking that maybe buried deep in my genetic make-up is a Latin speaking Roman ancestor. I do NOT want to hear arguments about benefits to the understanding of English grammar, developing broader English vocabulary, and the like. Let other people say that is the reason for teaching Latin. Ok, I do use it from time to time but secretly I think it's a wimpy argument. I prefer to argue that I feel like I have direct communication with Vergil and Caesar by reading their original; I like to know exactly how they expressed themselves in order to feel a stronger connection with them. Yes, western civilization is indebted to the Romans (and the Greeks), and by studying ancient authors we are broadening our understanding of our own culture. But in general for drawing wisdom from the ancients, well, we can do that in translation, can't we? It isn't the strongest argument when we have so many good translations available these days.

Let me come at this from another direction. In general people who study Latin in college either become teachers or professors or go on to another field. If they go on to another field, they rarely read Latin again. Most students who take Latin in high school do not continue it in college unless they have more language hours required for their major. I took Latin because I didn't want to take Spanish because my brother and sister did. (I have an independent streak.) I continued with Latin because I had fun teachers and professors that made it interesting. I majored in Latin because I thought teaching would be a decent occupation and no one encouraged me to do something that would earn a better paycheck. (But ok, I am a good teacher and I do think this is where I am meant to be even though I am tired of being stressed out over finances.)

One does not study Latin in order to communicate when traveling to foreign countries, or to be able to put bilingual or trilingual on a job application. It is not a language taught in the military to use when serving abroad. A bachelor's degree in Latin does not indicate that one has true fluency of any sort with the language. It DOES indicate a certain ability to translate choice selections of mainly golden age Latin accurately, but it doesn't indicate reading fluency in the same way one would talk about reading fluency in a modern language. Latin is read by the line or by the page. Modern languages are read by the chapter or by the book.  A degree in a modern language can be useful in many other professions. In this country, Spanish is useful in business; it is good to be bilingual if you are a doctor, lawyer, journalist, whatever. Latin helps with understanding medical terminology, but NOT with communicating with someone in need of something (medical help, legal help, etc). Latin is seemingly a means to one end: reading Latin, mainly that written by famous Roman authors. Modern languages are used to communicate to find out all sorts of things from people around us.

So should we teach it as a language or a subject, and does it matter?

I think it does matter--greatly. Right now in general we treat Latin as a subject (even if we think we are treating it as a language--this is something I see myself being guilty of). Our goal is NOT proficiency if we are honest. It isn't; not around here. Our goal is to learn forms and function so that we can then use a variety of coping mechanisms to leapfrog over real language ACQUISITION in order to translate selections Vergil, Caesar, Cicero, Catullus, Ovid, etc. And our goals in these courses are about improving analysis skills more than developing any real proficiency in reading. It is about making the grade of an A via translation, spot grammar analysis/explanation, and writing a paper in English that analyzes some aspect of Latin grammar or a theme in the target author's work.  Make the grades and that's it. We know--we KNOW--this is exactly what AP Latin has us doing.

Consider textbooks for Latin. We like to have discussions about the various worth of the grammar/translation approach versus the reading approach. I was originally taught via the grammar/translation approach. The textbook would introduce a new declension or a new conjugation or a new tense, we'd practice going from singular to plural, Latin to English, English to Latin. Simple enough. Vocabulary lists were memorized, nominatives given and we had to supply genitives, gender, and meaning or, with verbs, principal parts. We all *hated* the day where we had to try to translate the sole story in the chapter. We hated reading Latin because it seemed difficult. It was cracking a secret code. (Ok, I came to like decoding; it was like solving a good algebraic problem.)  When we got to real Latin in level 3 after two years of grammar being shoveled into us, all we did was write out translations in English. That is not reading.

Textbooks like the Cambridge Latin Course, which I use and admittedly love, are reading approach. Ideally they are using repetition and illustration to establish meaning. Grammar is addressed in a section called "About the Language" but they do try not to get too technical. The ultimate goal is to develop reading skills because our goal is solely to read the Latin of dead authors. BUT... unless you are constantly rereading or reinforcing by other means, it just isn't enough input. I personally have created numerous materials focusing on various aspects of the grammar that are demonstrated in the text, bringing them all together in one place so that the multiple examples, which are often spread out in the text, can be seen in one place and thus the concept more fully understood.

Last summer I took great pleasure in combing CLC for examples of certain grammatical structures (ablative of description and ablative of respect among them) so that I could put them all in one place and demonstrate to students that we had seen examples and we could thus now understand this construction, and indeed recognize it when met in Vergil. That is, it would not become another new grammar feature met in AP but one that indeed was there in CLC, met many times, just waiting for analysis and understanding. I took great joy in how brilliant CLC is, how rich with all the grammar we needed in this reading approach even if it is not expressly discussed in the textbook. It's there! It's brilliant!

In fact, when I have heard colleagues state that they think certain passages in CLC are really too difficult and perhaps need embedded readings for students to use as a scaffolding, I have thought to myself, "Well, if you were using my reading methods, if you were training students to read in word order, to metaphrase, to see participial phrases as chunks to be metaphrased, etc etc, then these passages would be doable." Arrogance. Arrogance because what I have been teaching are coping mechanisms that aide in leap frogging true acquisition. Students aren't acquiring mental representations of the language; they are acquiring coping mechanisms for reading/translating. When it comes down to it, I'm still explicitly teaching grammar. It's not in isolation but given in context, but that doesn't mean this isn't still explicitly teaching grammar.

Is teaching explicit grammar necessary? Maybe. That is, it is if we are teaching AP Latin as the culminating Latin experience OR if we expect our students will continue in college and we want to make sure that they will have the skills (i.e., grammar) that professors expect. Or at least that's how it feels to many of us who are currently teaching Latin. I know that the reason why I continue to teach and test grammar concepts (in context) is because of my fear of what the next teacher or professor will think of my student and whether my student will be able to succeed in their classes. It certainly isn't because I think it is the best way to teach Latin.

What we demand of a Latin student is so different than a modern language student. If we do demand output, as in the grammar/translation approach, that output is usually in the form of translating a specific English sentence into Latin and everything must be grammatically correct and spelled perfectly. (And this is why Latin was reserved for the elite for so long and considered something that trains you in precision and logic.) It is rarely any freeflowing composition of our own choosing, in great measure because few of us want to write about fighting and killing, wars, and slavery. Ok, we could use the vocabulary of love poetry, but unless we're writing a commentary on the war against Isis, the language of Caesar may not help us much. We don't learn the vocabulary of our everyday lives so we have little output about such things.  And with the reading approach, there is no real Latin output. Almost all communication in Latin is one-sided: dead Latin speaker to live modern person.

Let's face it: the current design of almost all Latin programs is to get students to a point where they can "read" (too often analyze & decode) ancient authors as quickly as possible. With Spanish, it could be to enjoy reading Spanish novels, or to communicate when you travel, or to be bilingual and thus more employable in any field. Proficiency levels can vary for your needs. It is more welcoming to all. Latin sometimes feels like either you made the Olympic team or you didn't. So long, nothing else for you to read at your level, at least your English grammar and vocabulary improved; glad you had fun.

There is no intermediate or graded material in Latin generally available. We don't send our Latin students home with summer reading assignments or suggestions to watch tv shows (like Spanish can do) or listen to music. Ok, there's plenty of Latin music out there from centuries past, but most choral groups use ecclesiastic pronunciation which is NOT what is generally used in school. Thus it can be impossible to listen to. Even Japanese can encourage students to watch more anime. ha. Summer assignments for Latin generally have been reserved for AP students, and even then it's been about reading an ENGLISH translation of the Aeneid.

Honestly, it had NEVER occurred to me to point my students to extra reading for pleasure. (What is WRONG with me?)  Then again, no teacher of mine ever encouraged me to read extra Latin outside of class.  Latin was something you studied IN CLASS because it was complex with what seemed like an endless list of vocabulary to learn and more complex writing styles with every author. I made A's in Latin in college but that was because I spent hours decoding every single word assigned for class and then going over it all a second time before class. I had dictionaries, grammar books, and translations nearby as I decoded. It took HOURS. That does not make one feel capable of just reading for pleasure. I liked what I was studying, but it wasn't the sort of stuff you could read in bed holding a book in one hand and petting your cat with the other. It was my SUBJECT.

And I hate to confess that it wasn't until this year that I really ventured forth to truly READ FOR PLEASURE in Latin. I read Harrius Potter, Winnie Ille Pu, Commentarii de Inepto Puero, and I'm currently reading Domus Anguli Puensis. When I'm somewhere without a book I have accessed The Latin Library via my phone to read some medieval Latin.  What have I been afraid of?  Extensive reading? Not knowing some of the vocabulary? I'm learning to get over it. I would say that MOST Latin teachers I know that are traditional high school teachers with JCL programs and the like read very little Latin just for the fun of it. We weren't taught how to read extensively or that it was ok not to know every single word. We were taught that being precise mattered and to not demand precision is sloppy work not worthy of a classicist.

And perhaps I'm digressing.  But my point is that we have been teaching Latin as a subject that can only be studied in a school setting.  Maybe we didn't mean to do this or realize that we were doing this, but that is what we have done.  The teachers before us did the same, and probably the teachers before them.

We know--we KNOW--that speaking Latin is part of the natural acquisition process, it activates our passively learned knowledge (forms and functions, etc), and broadens are abilities with the language. And that is from the point of view of someone who learned the grammar first. Friends who are teaching in Georgia using entirely Comprehensible Input are having incredible success with students who, in large numbers, continue on to 4 or 5 years of the language, can speak, write, and read. And most importantly TAKE GREAT PLEASURE IN THE LANGUAGE.
We are about to shift to proficiencies for ALL languages in our Texas standards. And although Latin's proficiency requirement in spoken and written language isn't nearly as high as our reading proficiency level, we will still have them. It's time for us to decide--do we want to continue teaching Latin as a subject that has grades slapped on for perfection, or is it time to treat it as a language? Do we really need to rush to Roman authors, or can we take a little more time to actually help students acquire the language, to build mental representations, and read medieval and humanist authors along the way? I have been to several Latin immersion workshops and have learned and participated in lots of comprehensible input. I know in my heart of hearts that this is the way to go, but I'm having a hard time leaving, even partly, CLC. But I also had a hard time facing that my wonderful reading methods which I have built the whole of my teaching career around, are still nothing more than a coping mechanism for not having true acquisition of the language.

I am not fluent in Latin. Yes, I can read Latin, but not with the kind of fluency that I would like. Picking up a new author can be intimidating. Teaching reading skills for the last 15+ years has made it significantly less intimidating and rather empowering, which is perhaps why I'm suddenly reading more in Latin for pleasure. But I'm not fluent though and I know it, and I read more slowly than I read English. Even still, I am finally comfortable with my proficiency level because I'm beginning to understand why I am at the level I am at. Latin was always a subject, even when I thought I was treating it as a language.

It took me several years of attending Rusticatio (a SALVI event) to develop decent listening proficiency. My speaking proficiency is still not where I want it to be as well because one week of immersion a year is not enough. And any time I have tried to have days of speaking entirely in the target language at school, I have discovered there is still a lot of vocabulary that I need and don't know.

Next year I want to start using Comprehensible Input in my level 1 classes because I want to teach Latin as a language not a subject. I'm excited and terrified. It took me 16 years to develop the quia materials, the quizzes and tests and everything that I use with CLC. I was all about reading methods; I thought that was being about the language, but textbook Latin isn't enough input, even with the best of books. It's not meaningful enough, it isn't engaging enough, and it lacks that quality of purpose that BVP describes so well in his "tasks." (See Episode 24 - Principle 5: The Nature of Tasks.)

I want to teach Latin as a language. I want a deeper, more meaningful relationship with all those who came before me who wrote in Latin for centuries, not just a handful of dead Romans from around the time of Christ. I still can't answer "Why Latin?" to my satisfaction, but that's ok.  Maybe I will discover that along the way.
I posted this to a couple of different lists this a.m.  I thought it would be worthwhile to post here as well.

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

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

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

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