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August 2017

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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.




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!