Chapter 1: Paramount

I was sitting next to my friend and NTPRS travel buddy, Angie Dodd, as she read Rūfus et arma ātra to pass the time on the flight down to San Antonio. I’ve observed Angie teaching Spanish in VT, and she’s great. Angie took a few years of Latin back in high school, but remembers very little other than the opening lines of some Caesar, and Cicero (which she had to memorize, of course). “I feel like I’m reading more fluently by page 28,” she said. Truth.

In a novella with only 40 words, most of them will have been read long before the end of the book. It should be no surprise, then, that the most frequent words occur within the first chapter or two. This explains why reading the book actually became easier as Angie continued. This can be applied to all novellas that shelter (i.e. limit) vocabulary, and those with the lowest word counts have most of their words front-loaded within the first chapter or two, also obvious in my other books, Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and the latest, Agrippīna: māter fortis .

Therefore, if students feel the most strain in the first chapter or two, perhaps we should begin novellas together. Laurie Clarcq would often read half a novel together as a whole class before it would go on the Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) shelf. The rationale being that those interested/hooked will pick up the book to find out how it ends, and those disinterested will have a better chance of reading something else they find compelling.

BTW, Angie decided to reread the Rūfus—having had meaning established on the first pass—knowing that she would then “actually be able to read.” She did, with chuckles throughout.

CI is amazing, isn’t it?

p.s. Rūfus was inspired by Mira Canion’s El capibara con botas containing just 55 Spanish words. That book was a breeze and a blast to read, and I knew that Latin students needed something like this. Granted, the word count figure excludes a lot of Spanish cognates (twice as many?), but that seems to be the industry standard practice. For Pīsō, however, I strayed from this practice and instead chose to include cognates in the word count figure of 108 since I don’t believe cognates are necessarily transparent. I also excluded the ~30 additional meanings established in footnotes, as well as all different forms of words (e.g. est and esse) that students encounter when unsheltering (i.e. not limiting) grammar. Agrippīna has ~20, and Rūfus just ~10 additional meanings established in footnotes. If the word count figures irritate you, it’s fine to say that while Pīsō has under 150, Agrippīna has under 90, and Rūfus has under 50 words—figures still worthy of note!

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