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October 2017


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The week before Halloween I began an open-ended unit on storms.  I then took a break to take a look at ghosts--Pliny and Vergil. We've returned to the storms in book 1 of Vergil.

I am slipping into old familiar habits, and I am wary of myself.  Yes, we are going so much slower than if I were driving the AP syllabus monster truck. And that part is good. And, after Phaedrus, I realized that we really and truly needed more work on participles, which I feel I teach well with the Cambridge Latin Course.  So, with some breaks for discussing and working on participles and how critical they are--I feel--for good reading skills, we are reading Vergil.

I love the storm scenes.  I wanted to look at several scenes because it would build vocabulary with the repetition without that feel of having to look everything up that so often happens with reading major authors.

But now I'm thinking I need to pause.  To shorten what I had my sights set on.  I need to revisit what I did with Phaedrus. I need to pull the creative stuff back in. I did a micrologue last week that I thought went pretty well. And in fact, let me take a moment to talk about that.

I have tried/used micrologues sporatically for two or three years now.  I write up an embedded/simplified version of a story (usually from CLC), and by the time we get through with it and correcting the dictation, there's hardly time for substitution / transformation drills.  It used up a lot of time--time away from the book and exposure to vocabulary and grammar in context--and thus I was never very satisfied with it.  Then I watched a video of Nancy Llewellyn working with her students. Her micrologue was very simple in many ways--simple sentences, simple vocabulary. And then her substitution / transformation drills also started very simply, more simply than I expected.  And then... and then they started transformations into indirect statement.  And I realized that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with simplilcity.  NOTHING.  Especially for doing this kind of oral/aural activity. So when I made up a micrologue this time for the Vergil storm scene, it was much simpler. And we had time for the drills.

I also realized that I couldn't use "enodatio" with my students until we had spent a little time practising the concept of "untangling" the poetry (I really wince when I write or even hear that, because I love Latin poetry) and thinking about it in a prose Latin word order. (But NOT English word order.) For this, we were looking at Juno's complaint that Pallas was able to punish Ajax (so exciting to see him pierced with a lightning bolt and breathing fire). I remembered that I had some sentence strips so wrote out two sets of the sentences, color coding parts of speech (really, because I felt like it and was interested to see if it would help us see anything worth noting), and then cut the words apart.  I divided my small Latin 4 class into two teams, and let them discuss and rearrange the sentences.  It was an interesting exercise that we actually ended up taking a couple of days on and led to some profitable discussions on Latin word order.

So now I'm fishing around for what "cool" thing I want to do with the Vergil we've read. I might find some pictures online of storm scenes and have them write about them (this scares all of us, really, because we don't do enough of it). Or I was thinking of having them write a simple version of the storm for beginning students. I dunno.  That's what I will playing with later tonight. And all of this is to say, that this is just that unnerving part of trying to provide a richer, more interesting class.

(Posting more later about reading skills... stay tuned.)
Ah.  Internet is working, school is out, and I'm already working on AP.  I didn't give as many vocab quizzes as I had wanted to in the spring--I didn't get them revised and the kids were burning out.  Whiners.


When we were reviewing before the exam, I realized that I had picked some really good passages on my passage quizzes that targeted good examples of grammar commonly found in each author.  But at one point, when I was starting to say things like indirect statements are more common in Caesar, I started realizing how many indirect statements come up in Vergil. Ok, not like Caesar's... but then again, worth looking at.

In fact, worth doing some comparisons.

So as I'm going through and revising Vergil vocab quizzes, I'm looking at indirect statements.  I haven't gotten very far, but I am enjoying this.  I'm a nut; I like making lists like this and thinking about what the author is doing and why.

I haven't gotten very far, but I'm excited about looking for them.  I just have two from book 1.

1) progeniem sed enim Troiano a sanguine duci
audierat, Tyrias olim quae verteret arces;            
hinc populum late regem belloque superbum
venturum excidio Libyae: sic volvere Parcas. 1.19-22

2) Interea magno misceri murmure pontum,
emissamque hiemem sensit Neptunus 1.124-125

Both have examples of esse being understood.  And even with just two examples I am already asking myself whether Vergil uses more passive infinitives.  I haven't thought about it before.

I do know that constantly asking myself (or students) "What is -que connecting?" is truly important in seeing (in the 2nd example) that a participle is really an infinitive.  I have to confess, though, that I sat staring at regem belloque superbum for quite a while tonight, thinking to myself that I didn't like where that -que was coming, thinking it should be on regem and trying to reconcile that it was ok where it was.  I feel like I'm not seeing something because thinking about -que steered me clear on way too many occasions this year.  In fact, I just  loved seeing the phrasing unfold in front of me.

Last summer at this time I was studying Caesar with Andrew Riggsby, and I felt the Latin was unfolding beautifully in front of me because I was seeing the PHRASING which even the grad students were missing.  But I still have farther to go, more to learn, and in learning I find the sorts of things my students need in order to see Vergil as something that can be read as opposed to something that is painfully and slowly decoded.  If that.

I miss writing.  I miss having time to think out loud in print.  Maybe I can write more this summer, though this is really just for my own benefit.  Does anyone really read this??? :-)
I recently gave a paper at CAMWS (Classical Association for the Middle West and South). There was a portion in it which I called progressions--how a textbook gets students to the point of being able to read Latin that is more like what they will encounter with a real author. I wanted to put that section here in case others (what few who may read this slow moving blog) may want to comment. Maybe they've observed similar things in the textbook they use.

Another feature of the Cambridge Latin Course that I’ve come to admire over the last several years is how they build up from simple to more complex phrasing. For instance, let us consider the phrase “after he said (or heard) these words.” One of the earliest phrasings for this occurs in Stage 21 of Unit 2: postquam haec verba dīxit. Simple enough. But if we follow how this phrase and similar are used subsequently, we see the following progression:

1. Memor, postquam haec verba dīxit, statim obdormīvit. (“Lūcius Marcius Memor” Unit 3 8)

2. Latrō, haec verba locūtus, exiit (“Vilbia” Unit 3 20).

3. Vilbia, simulatque haec audīvit, īrāta fontī appropinquat (“amor omnia vincit: scaena tertia” Unit 3 37).

4. haec verba locūtus, rēgī poculum obtulit (“in thermīs II” Unit 3 48).

5. senex, haec locūtus, lentē per iānuam exit (“Britannnia Perdomita” Unit 3 54).

6. cum Dumnorix haec dīxisset, Quīntus rem sēcum anxius cōgitābat (“Quīntus cōnsilium capit” Unit 3 68).

7. Belimicus, cum haec audīvisset, gladium dēstrictum ad iugulum servī tenuit (“Salvius cōnsilium cognōscit” Unit 3 72).

8. sollicitus erat quod in epistulā, quam ad Agricolam mīserat, multa falsa scrīpserat (“in prīncipiīs” Unit 3 107).

9. deinde renovāvit ea quae in epistulā scrīpserat (“in prīncipiīs” Unit 3 107).

10. haec cum audīvisset, Agricola respondit, “sī tālia fēcit, eī moriendum est” (“tribūnus” Unit 3 111).

11. haec ubi dīxit Agricola, Salvius respondit īrātus, “quam caecus es! quam longē errās!” (“contentiō” Unit 3 112).

12. quod cum audīvisset, Salvius, “ego” inquit, “nōn Cogidubnus, aureōs tibi dedī (“cēna Salviī” Unit 3 150).

13. Belimicus hīs verbīs perturbātus, “nimium bibistī, mī amīce,” inquit (“Belimicus rēx” Unit 3 152).

14. quae cum audīvisset, Haterius adeō gaudēbat ut dē tignō paene dēcideret (“polyspaston” Unit 3 198).

15. hīs verbīs audītīs, praecō, quī Eryllum haudquāquam amābat, magnā vōce, “Eryllus!” inquit (“salūtātiō II” Unit 3 220).

16. tum Messālīnus, simulatque haec Epaphrodītī verba audīvit, occāsiōne ūsus, “satis cōnstat,” inquit, “nūllōs hostēs ferōciōrēs Germānīs esse, nūllum ducem Domitiānō Augustō esse meliōrem (“cōnsilium Domitiānī II” Unit 4 57).

17. quibus verbīs sollemnibus dictīs, Pōlla postēs iānuae oleō unguit fascinātiōnis āvertendae causā (“cōnfarreātiō III” Unit 4 71).

18. quibus audītīs, Salvius spērāre coepit sē ē manibus accūsātōrum ēlāpsūrum esse (“cognitiō” Unit 4 105).

19. hīs dictīs impēnsō animum flammāvit amōre / spemque dedit dubiae mentī solvitque pudōrem (The Aeneid IV.54-55).

20. quam simul ac tālī persēnsit peste tenērī / cāra Iovis coniūnx nec fāmam obstāre furōrī / tālibus adgreditur Venerem Sāturnia dictīs: (IV.90-93).

The transition from a simple postquam clause through various subjunctive clauses to ablative absolutes (and those using a qui-transitional, no less) was gradual but meaningful, supporting a pattern already in place and thus developing into an expectation within the student’s mind. Repetition with slight variations reinforces both structure and meaning so that by the time you get to Vergil (or other authors), such phrases are second nature.
This is one of many progressions from simple to more complex grammar that the Cambridge Latin Course does well. I offer up, to those interested, tracing the type and phrasing of participles, quī transitionals, the use of ille, the position of genitives, and the use of versus and conversus. If conscientious teachers recognize and support through exercises or discussions these progressions, their students will become efficient readers of Latin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm reading a book called _A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future_ by Daniel H. Pink.  My former h.s. theatre teacher suggested it and while I'm not too far into it, I'm finding it really good.  Ok, admittedly there's something about the writer's style that bothers me (can't say what--possibly that it's too "light"? who knows), but I'm past that.

It has been discussing how abundance, Asia (cheaper outsourcing), and automation have made it so that knowledge workers (those driven by left-brained activities) no longer can corner the market on salaries; that the future will be governed by those that can offer more than just mastery of left-brained activities: those that are creators and empathizers.  I'm waiting, frankly, for him to talk about how apple has realized already that beauty with functionality can steal the market.  (In other words, I love my iPod and admire iPhones, and I think my son now has an iTouch). 

And what does this have to do with Latin?  Well, next week is National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week--the week where I stand up in front of my classroom, sleep-deprived and stressed, and (foolishly?) try to convince students that teaching is a worthwhile job, and that there is something magical about teaching Latin.

And here I am, on a morning where the house actually is quiet (ok, but it wasn't a couple of hours ago), a morning where I could sleep in (perhaps if I didn't wake with muscle aches and a mind full of to-do's), and here I am writing on my blog.  I was, at least, trying to force myself to accept some relaxation time by reading but it drew me back here.  Why?

There's so many why's here....  why do I love Latin?  I do.  I'm constantly thinking of Latin-related projects.  I don't remember when I thought of a project not related to Latin in some way--even the "I wish I had time for this" projects, like wanting to design and make a mosaic.  I love mosaics.  I cannot even begin to tell you why... or can I?  Maybe it's the same as why I like Latin, something that just came to me while reading this book.

True lovers of Latin are whole-brain users. 

The left side of the brain is the side that likes order, the side that loves all the endings and the secret-code aspect of Latin, the precision, the beauty of the mathematical equation perfectly solved and balanced.  There are people that cannot begin to enjoy textbooks like the Cambridge Latin Course because what they loved about Latin class was changing singulars to plurals, nominatives to accusatives.  There was something very satisfying in the mastering of forms.  These are often the same people/students who love the language, so they say, but hate translating stories.  And perhaps there was a time that I was part of that group.   I remember hating translation day.  Most of the chapters in my high school text involved the back and forth of transformations of the new grammar structure.  Putting it all together was difficult.  You ended up writing stupid sounding sentences but then, that was Latin for you, right? 

Last summer I was at a Vergil workshop for people who were about to teach Vergil AP for the first time.  I watched and listened while most ever single teacher there (or at least the ones who were working in groups and thus I could listen in to what they were doing) treated the beautiful words of Vergl *still* as an exercise of endings and decoding.  I'm not trying to be critical; this is just an observation.

What was I doing?  I was reading WHOLE PASSAGES in the Latin--or at least a complete sentence!--before beginning to make meaning.  My brain was already beginning to make meaning because it had seen the whole picture, it had seen not each and ever tree but had recognized the clusters of trees here and there and saw the beauty of the whole forest.  Things that the other teachers were struggling to see because they were merely looking at endings were flowing in my brain.  Oh, I wasn't perfect.  There were lines here and there I didn't quite get.  And instead of wasting time determined to solve the equation, I moved on because the whole picture was too beautiful to miss.  I read considerably faster than the other students. 

Do I think my Latin is better than theirs?  No.  I bet their command of conditional clauses and their ability to form future imperatives and other such things is better than mine.  But I was enjoying Latin as a LANGUAGE, a real, read-it-left-to-right language.  I credit my ability to do this to Dexter Hoyos and his book _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_.  I still think this is a MUST READ for anyone majoring in Latin.  If I had read it as a freshman in college, I might have a masters or PhD today.  But no matter... I'm doing good things with my little BA.

Right brain thinkers consider context, consider the big picture, have creative solutions, and can empathize.  What I wish this workshop had focused on now are things I understand to be right-brain issues, things I try to teach to my own students--how to teach/learn the right brain stuff. 

How do you get your mind to let go of not knowing what a word means and going for the big picture?  After all, Latin students like that precision.  They like knowing what every little thing means.  There's order in knowing everything, it's a puzzle to be solved.  But it isn't.  It's a LANGUAGE--expressive and beautiful.  There is absolutely no reason at all to keep Latin studies alive if we don't move past the morphology to the beauty of expression and the bigger context.  And we as teachers often wait too long to do this. 

I have heard far too many times in my life that "at some point it will all just start clicking."   Or, when I complained to a prof one time that I didn't know HOW to improve my reading and he just said that I needed to read more.....oh yeah, like that was a solution!

We *can* and must start teaching HOW to see the bigger picture, HOW to get beyond the word for word.  If we don't model reading whole passages to the students, if we don't model getting beyond unknown vocabulary to see the shape of the sentence (and thus figuring out the vocab without having to look it up), we will never move them beyond left-brain thinking.

And here's the thing--if they don't think they can get beyond the morphology to really reading, they won't sign up for AP classes. 

And I'm digressing.  I was going to tie this into National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week stuff.  When we talk to our students, we should point out how fortunate it is that teaching--truly good teaching--is a job that has demanding use of both sides of the brain for so long.  And right now, even if future teachers don't make it a life-long career, but teach to provide a service for this country--a few years service--it truly will prepare them for the kinds of jobs that will be out there, because those jobs are going to need people that can not only handle the data and the details but can provide creative solutions and can empathize with their clients.

I mouthed off in my Latin 2 class this week, muttering something like "you should try to teach this class."  They are actually a fun bunch of kids, but at the end of the day they are swinging from the ceiling.  One piped up and said, OK!  So, with National Latin Exam approaching (March 11th for us) and an odd week with TAKS testing in the middle, I decided they can teach some cultural topics.  Here's the thing:  I told them I didn't want crappy posters with crappy internet graphics cut and pasted together 20 minutes before class.  I pointed out that I rarely make displays (if ever!), but will often grab a book that has some good pictures and walk it around the room.  Or, perhaps, use some slides (YES, I still have slides and I love them).  Occasionally I'll even use PowerPoint.  We'll see what they do.  I told them it has to be an effective mini-lesson where more than half the class should be able to retain the information.  ha.  A little taste of teaching.  This will either be great or a bomb.

Sadly here is what I've found in the last few years of teaching: students aren't as creative as they used to be.  It's too easy to download pictures and make posters for class.  It's too easy to get a cool looking font off of the computer than to do your own lettering.  Even we teachers perhaps aren't modeling enough creativity.  I try....

And I suppose I should stop rambling.  I'm looking forward to this afternoon when I'm working on Aeneid stuff.  I'll just be putting together review material and grading some quizzes I've almost forgotten about, but I'll be looking at the WHOLE thing--the whole passage, the whole artistry, not just this word and that word.

And I get it now.  For me, it's whole brain stimulation.  Whole brain.
Saw the doc today; he's seriously concerned about my sleep deprivation.  No joke; me too.  He kept asking how I could lighten my load.  He kept saying he knew other teachers that didn't work as hard, surely.

Yeah... well....

Would my tests be easier to grade if I made them all scantron? Sure.   Done in 5 minutes in the workroom with the scantron machine.  But is that truly best practices?  

How come living well means not teaching well if you have a full load?

Sure.  I could switch.  Might take some time to change over the tests but I could switch.  But....

How would all multiple choice prepare students for AP?
How would all multiple choice encourage students to reread their stories?
How would I really see true mastery of the material?

Because I can tell you what, just because a person can decline a noun doesn't mean he can read a sentence of Latin.  Just because a person can recognize the right answer doesn't mean he could have come up with that answer on his own.

Backwards design, right?  They say that's the best way to design what you are doing--thinking about where you want to be and design backwards.  OK, my end result is supposed to be, what, a 5 on the AP exam.  So what skills do you need?
  • an ability to translate accurately and literally a seen passage of Latin 
  • an ability to read and reread a large quantity of Latin, and then reread it again--because the exams requires that you have a serious grasp of all the literature read
  • an ability to comprehend an unfamiliar passage of Latin that is not related to Vergil
  • an expanded vocabulary keyed towards Vergil
  • a solid grammar base that would allow you to differentiate, for instance, tenses and cases quickly and easily
  • an ability to write essays (but frankly I let the English department develop those skills; I just fine-tune them for the needs of the exam)
I look at that list and can think of MORE things I need to be doing and not less.  MORE.  For instance, at the beginning of the year I really tried hard to make students use a reading log.  But I never had time to grade them or enter the grades.  I was too busy grading quizzes, tests, or making quizzes and tests for other classes, or material.  However, if I did have more time and did use those reading logs, for those that don't fake the log (yeah, yeah), it would be really beneficial.  Students won't do something unless they have to even if they know it would be good for them.  So the reading log, I feel, is necessary.  PLUS it would develop the HABIT of REREADING previous stories.

How wonderful it would be if all AP Vergil students, instead of freaking out at the number of lines in the current assignment and diving in, actually took the time to reread the previous selection before starting the current one?  It would certainly develop the bigger picture--plus Vergil seems to repeat specialized vocabulary relatively near each other.    But this habit is almost too late to form if you wait until the students are seniors.  Better to start it sooner.  

The other thing that I do to encourage rereading of stories is including seen passages on the tests.  I (foolishly?) provide a choice of 4 passages, so if they reread at least one or two stories they should be able to find something they are comfortable doing.  I always hope that the knowledge of those selections being on the test encourages students to continue to reread the stories, even if only the night before the test.

And it's this presentation of seen passages that helps me to see whether they can translate or not.  If they mess it up in class when it was homework, fine.  That's ok by me -- if they learn from it.  On the last test I gave to the Latin 3 class I included a passage we had a "pop" quiz on (that I didn't count--it was that bad!) that was over an extended indirect statement.  Two students chose that passage to demonstrate that if nothing else they HAD paid attention. Fine.  Great even.  They gave me the details they hadn't given me before, the kind of details and literal precision that AP is after.  

SO THAT'S ALL GOOD.  But if I could find a way to keep up with the reading log, that would be better.

The ability to read a sight passage and answer questions... well, I guess I could turn that into multiple choice/objective.  Currently I have short answer -- both Latin and English -- to make sure students truly are understanding the Latin and not just guessing randomly.  From the style of question I can see whether they get concepts of case or even subject/verb agreement, not to mention general comprehension.  On my last Latin one class I could easily tell who had general comprehension because they laughed at the story.  (I had written a great one, I admit.  Luck, most assuredly!)   Admittedly the sight passage will be multiple choice on the AP test, but I feel that I can determine a lot about how a student is doing by the kinds of answers the student writes down.  Did they get the write word for a Latin answer but just not put it in the right case?  Did they not understand the question altogether, or did they understand the question but not the passage?  All sorts of things. 

But I guess if something had to go, I could rewrite the tests to have multiple choice for those sections... that would save some time in grading.

As for developing an expanded vocabulary geared towards Vergil, well, there's still LOTS of room to go here.  I'm only beginning to ponder the situation.  The more Vergil I read with the AP girls this year, the more I realize that CLC really has LOTS of Vergil vocab built in.  Some scene we were reading in Latin 1--LATIN 1--had some words that were just in the Vergil we're read recently, words that the girls stumbled on.  

I'm starting in Latin 3 (but have been inconsistent--and this will all need redoing on quizzes next year) to have a section on the vocab quizzes for old vocab they should still know.  It's strictly a matching section, and I really only began this when we began Unit 4.  Perhaps a little late to be doing this.  Even the Latin 2's have noticed that they aren't retaining vocab.  So this is something that perhaps I need to start including on their vocab quizzes.  The question in my mind's eye is usually WHICH WORDS?

I have toyed with words that show up in the current story.  But would it be more efficient (surely it would?) to just simply state that there will be matching vocab that will pull from X stage and Y stage?  Yes, most likely.   I do have a master vocab list for Unit 1 and Unit 2, though I haven't handed them out in recent years.  But perhaps these would be good lists to give to Latin 2 and 3 students at the beginning of the year?  And I wish I had a list for Unit 3, one done like *I* would do it--with macrons and all.  (Hmmm.... I suppose this could always be a standby project for my aide when I don't have her typing up Vergil vocab....).   Ideally what I would do is mark all the vocabulary that is on the Vergil high frequency list and target those words, whether they showed up in the current reading or not.  And if I pulled on two stages, I could do one from a more recent stage for reinforcement and one from an old stage for review.  Yes?  Not a bad idea.

(Of course, I'm always full of good ideas that I can hardly find time to put into practice.  And this note was about how to cut back on what I do so I can get more sleep and find time for exercise before I literally kill myself from stress.)

(And now I'm thinking I have the topic for a paper for presentation next year regarding vocabulary acquisition, which is always a hot topic for conversations among Latin teachers.)

Grammar.  That's where I'm falling down, I think.  I don't do enough hardcore drill and kill.  I focus a lot on being able to see the phrasing and that seeing the phrasing is far more important than knowing all the words.  Clearly students don't believe me.   One girl, bless her because she tries hard but gets easily discouraged, had written vocab all over a sheet of the Latin story (printed out for marking phrasing with notes for vocab on the side), demonstrating that she had looked up ever single damn word.  She did.  She had worked HARD.  She was virtually in tears when she (as well as most everyone else) had bombed the little pop quiz that focused on the indirect statement because she couldn't make heads or tails of it.  She sees the trees but not the forest. Lots and lots of tall, scary trees.  And I do have a grammar section (multiple choice) on my standard tests at all levels; I have noticed that this is the section where people are dropping the ball, especially on things they really shouldn't be blowing.  I no longer drill the neverending noun song with the Latin 3's.  If they don't know their noun endings then they know what to do.  They have the link to the song, there are drills, etc.  They can practice on their own. 

I have conjugating and declining drills online.  I don't require declining and conjugating for homework because, honestly, WHEN would I have time to grade them?  But this is a problem I think I have to figure out.  I think that Latin 3--that stepping stone to AP Latin--must be where we refine all knowledge of declining and conjugating and such.  I tried to teach the Latin 3's (only 7 of them) how to do a synposis earlier this year but finally gave up because only 2 seemed to get it and in a split level class I started to think that it wasn't the best use of my time. But that was a cop-out.

I'm thinking that next year--and I have to find a way (find some more time?  ahahahahhaha) to grade these THE WHOLE YEAR--all vocab items must be declined, conjugated, or put in a synopsis (where applicable).  Little details keep slipping by the AP girls--and that's my fault for not having reinforced the detail work in the past.  But they've been in split-level Latin for 3 of four years.  All three with me, at least.  

So, not a place to cut, but one to expand.  One to find MORE time for.  

I know one thing that eats up a bunch of my time is the creation of the materials.  But I think they are critical for mastery in some cases, can act as a private tutor for students, is a resource that's available 24/7/365, and once made is still there.

I confess that there are times... times when I worry about ALL THE TIME I've invested in and what will eventually happen to it if something happens to it.  I've come to rely on it entirely too much in my teaching and my review of material for students.  It's probably why I have as many students move from level 1 to level 2 Latin.  We'll see how many Latin 2 go to Latin 3 next year.  And God Almighty what will I do next year?

They'll have to have a cut off.  3 Latin 1s, 2 Latin 2s, 1 Latin 3 split with AP again.  I doubt that they will be getting another Latin teacher, or if they do, will it be one I can convince to do things my way?   What levels to give?  Lower levels while I develop upper?  Give up upper and relax, so to speak, with lower?

And what about my doc?  HOW can I do less than I do now?  What's the result?  Will students learn the Latin if I didn't do what I do?  Wouldn't more fail?  Wouldn't my classes be smaller? 

I don't know how to not do what I do.  I can only think of more to do.  More that needs tweaking.  Today is an inservice day and I had no  one to meet with for vertical teaming this morning.  This, I suppose, is my vertical teaming.  With personal commentary.  Probably TMI. 

If I gave up anything it would be doing JCL.

In a heartbeat.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that could work, right?

Phrasing = 45
Expression/Interpretation = 15
Mechanics = 40


I think that might work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right.  I've rambled enough about this.  Time to figure out how to write this up for the students.  Then I really need to get onto some review materials for the OTHER classes for the first week of school.
Tomorrow morning will be the last day of the conference.  It's been enjoyable, it really has.  We have come together as a group and had a lot of fun the last couple of days.  And slowly people have been REreading.  Maybe what I'm doing is rubbing off.  After our classes today, we were all sitting in the lounge reading our lines for tomorrow.  Well, I considered myself reading, everyone else said they were translating.  No matter.  I sat off from the group, reading along, often flowing ahead of them but then I would get bogged down a tiny bit and slow up or I'd be listening to them explaining and reexplaining the Latin to other members of the group and forget what I was doing.  

And I realized something....  years ago a friend, Donna Jacobson (sp?) and I were in college and in a Livy class together.  I knew I was in over my head, that I really hadn't had enough Latin--or rather, didn't know how to read prose.  I remember going to a review one night, I think upstairs at the student union (don't know why I remember that....), and Donna was more or less leading it.  I remember struggling with long sentences and clauses and whatnot, and it just seemed so easy to her.   I'm now where she was, and my companions here are where I was.  They are a bright group.  They know their grammar and whatnot.  But I *see* what the Latin is doing more easily.  I truly think a great measure of that is reading in word order and reading whole sections not just one line or two at a go.  I read far enough through to see who's doing what to whom, to see that I started a sentence with a nom pl and it ended with one too.  In fact, I feel so at home with what Latin is doing with word order for effect and suspense, I've gotten to the point that I really and truly do not want to translate it into English most of the time, because most of the time what's in the Latin is really and truly lost.

Last night we had our Roman meal which we cooked together and then ate with a fair amount of drinking going on during both.  I then taught Greek dancing, followed by just all sorts of dancing.  It was mainly just me and another woman, basically dancing to whatever was on and not caring that we were out there by ourselves.  A great time was had by all.

Tonight we went out for Italian and stuffed ourselves to the gills.  When we came back, we read Miles Gloriosus, which complements the Aeneid nicely because the soldier claims to be the grandson of Venus!  I had never read Miles and I ended up being given the lead slave role.  It's been a loooooooong time since I had a part in a play reading, probably since college.  It was a nice transportation back in time.

My card playing has been a big hit--and in fact, this was exactly what I've always wanted: to have a group of adults/teachers who had full command of Latin grammar and such who could take my basic card-playing script and adlib when comfortable.  We played the other night and we played again this afternoon when the network was down and couldn't do much in the computer lab.

I have the evaluation to fill out and I have a lot of thoughts that I would like to include.  Constructive things.  I might be listened to, who knows.  After all, we did read the passage as a whole before we started reading today and then read it again afterwards.  What it lacked was dramatic performance/emphasis.  I know I'm a bit egocentric about reading.  As a teacher, I want to read first because I want the students to know what it SHOULD sound like, with emphasis and drama, so to speak.  Then when we read together, I read WITH them and we ALL read.  And if it isn't dramatic enough, I make them read it again if we have time.  

While it is important to call on people individually, this also means others will be left out.  Choral reading, I think, is key to building a true comfort level in reading.  (I wonder if that's true....)  

But my point was, I think last night I actually had made these suggestions about reading before and after to one of the profs.  I had had a fair amount of wine by that point and had done a lot of Greek dancing, so my memory isn't the best.  If this suggestion was heard and tried, then I really should lay out a plan of action, some real suggestions that might make this a truly superior workshop.  It's already way up there because of the size (small) and personal attention.

Anyway.  Time to go to bed.  I'll have to work on the evaluation in the a.m.  And pack.  And everything else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for Vergil's sake READ OUTLOUD!  

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first part of the following is from a conversation/email I was having with one of my very first students from 1988. The email came from out of the blue, and we ended up in a discussion about reading Latin. Her words will have > in front of them, mine will be the rest (as I'm sure you can tell). She said:

>It's just that I don't get people who simply can't
>remember endings.

Some people don't have much in the way of phonological awareness. My students, for instance. If they have never learned/mastered how to sound out a word in English, they are totally lost. They wait until they've seen the word/heard it so many times that they have immediate recognition. But to sound out a word they've never heard (in ENGLISH as well as in Latin) is beyond them--and it terrifies them. They won't do it. They try to get away with not saying it, but I usually force the issue.

Now here's what happens. If they can't sound out words, they can't think in syllables. If they can't see syllables, they can't see the morphology. I teach a lot of "rigorous reading" techniques and even give extra credit for such things as circling tense indicators and personal endings, but--as the set of papers I was just grading demonstrated--I can talk about the tense indicators, we can do examples, etc, but if they have to see it for themselves on their own, most of the time they can't or won't. They think it's too much effort and assume guessing will be good enough to get by, and that's all they want to do (get by).

So part of it is mastering the endings, but more of it is even noticing that they are there or perhaps having the ABILITY to notice they are there.

>That's interesting that you call hunting for the word
>and reading them out of order "decoding." That makes
>sense I suppose, but I wonder if, cognitively, the
>brain cares or not whether you read the end/middle of
>the sentence first or not, as a procedure.


When I quit teaching you guys way back when, part of it was because I felt I was doing something wrong. Really wrong. Everything seemed fine on the surface, but it wasn't. And I couldn't figure out what. When I read an article about sight-reading vs decoding by Dexter Hoyos, I figured out what was wrong.

You want to read something good on reading Latin, get his book, _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_ from here: (look toward the bottom of that page).

How will you ever read at a normal speed if you are forever looking for the main verb 10 lines down in Caesar's sentences?

How about this--find the main verb:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.

52 words long. Main verbs are 41-42 and 44.

Did you hunt for those main verbs, or did you read it in word order? (And did you recognize the preamble to our constitution?)

>reading and comprehension require reading in the right
>direction? Do you truly get a more genuine
>understanding of the meaning by being able to read in
>the direction the Romans wrote? If so, why?

How many articles do you want on the subject??? :) Where to begin, where to begin...

>What if one were REALLY GOOD at reading the verbs
>first and putting the sentence all together in the
>wrong order? (Granted, he/she wouldn't be able to read
>aloud in any sort of way that would be good for other

A periodic Latin sentence has everything in the order of the narration in prose (for the most part). This is one reason why the glorious ablative absolute comes first because its action has already happened.

But here, take these lines from Vergil which I'm going to try to recall--

post ipsum auxilio subeuntem ac tela ferentem
corripiunt spirisque ligant ingentibus.... (I think that's right...)

Here's what's happening. The ipsum is referring to Laocoon, the dude that said, "I fear Greeks bearing gifts" while pointing at the wooden horse. Post is referring to what has just happened in the previous sentence, which is that his little boys were just attacked by twin sea serpents (for his blasphemy about the Trojan Horse). It happened so fast he could hardly do anything. The previous line had the snakes gobbling them down in seemingly one bite right at the end. Think poor little mousy being constricted by a ball python.

So here he is, IPSUM auxilio subeuntem--he himself going up with help--ac tela ferentem--and bringing weapons--CORRIPIUNT--THEY (the twin snakes) SNATCH. That is, even in Vergil we've got coming first the things that are happening as time unfolds--the direct object (Laocoon) who is desperately trying to run up and save his kids but WHILE he's doing that (those present tense participles) the snakes get him too and bind him (LIGANT) with their huge coils.

You think these lines would hit the brain in just the same way if you picked around? IMPOSSIBLE! The density of Latin is just amazing to me--so much packed into so few words. I LOVE THIS STUFF!!!

My 8th graders are attempting (attempting is the crucial word) to write a film scenario over the 20 lines of this scene. Lots of help from me (dragging them through it). But this stuff is DYNAMITE SCIFI!!! It truly is and Vergil wrote it just as well if not better than any screenwriter could have done. My GOSH this is damned good stuff in EXACTLY the word order it was written--especially for the poetic effects. Take it out of word order? WHY BOTHER TO READ IT IN LATIN THEN? Pick up a translation!


That's where I left my email conversation with my former student, and that's how I really feel about it. Some of the Vergil stuff has been discouraging with my students but if nothing else each day I find I love this stuff more and more and find Vergil more impressive than the previous day. Each day I am more and more convinced that we do our students a serious disservice if we don't teach reading skills--reading from left to right--as well as accurate pronunciation so we can read OUTLOUD. It's criminal, really, but so many teachers figure their students will never get to real authors that they decide it's unimportant. Or that's the excuse they use, or that they don't have time for it, or that no one else does it, or they don't know pronunciation.

If they don't know how to pronounce Latin, WHY THE HECK NOT? Can't they open their Latin dictionaries and read the pronunciation rules? Can't they PRACTICE THEM religiously? Or is that too much work? And if it IS too much work, then WHAT RIGHT do they have to complain when their own students balk at assignments and decide it's too much work? They don't. Shabby teaching gets shabby results. Well, good teaching sometimes gets that too. ha.

Program closing? Well, what have you done to make your program rich and exciting and vibrant? Latin isn't like codliver oil. You can't just take it because it's good for you. And if you are teaching Latin because of the word building/power and aids for English grammar, get out of teaching Latin. This is mean and this is probably something I'll regret and erase later but, really, get out of teaching Latin. You don't understand what you're supposed to be doing. IT'S A LANGUAGE! A language for speaking and reading and even writing. It's not about damned SAT and GRE scores.

Teach it to read, teach it to read it outloud and to be amazed--BLOODY WELL AMAZED--at the power in Vergil's words or the depth of Catullus's AND CONVEY THAT TO STUDENTS or just leave the profession. Because if you're just a word power teacher in disguise as a Latin teacher and looking around you and wondering why your program is shrinking, it's because you're not teaching it LIKE A LANGUAGE.

And I think I better stop there. That's quite enough passion for one night.