sīgna zōdiaca collectiō: HARDCOVER!

All three volumes of sīgna zōdiaca have been combined into one new collection bound in hardcover! The myths also feature a new version that’s been adapted even further for a quick read (i.e. fābula rapida). When myths are read monthly with the changing of each sign, these new versions provide additional scaffolding which I found helpful in the first months of first year Latin. The book feels good, too, with a solid binding, similar to my LLPSI (Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata) hardcover. The total length of this collection is 8100 words.

The collection is only available here on Amazon.

ecce, poēmata discipulīs! (Published!)

This is—by far—my metrical magnum opus, yet that doesn’t mean it’s beyond the reach of Latin 1 students. Forget any meter of mine you’ve ever met. If your pupils haven’t cared much for poor Piso’s poetry, no problem. This book is for them! It basically makes fun of Latin class, and school in general, which is a very different, yet delightful read, and it’s for students. I keep pointing that out because I’ve come to find that a lot of teaching materials are actually written for teachers, who then of course go on to use them with students (my own Piso Workbook included). This book, however, instead is written for students, directly…

“Wait, we have to read…Eutropius…who’s that?! Homework on a Friday?! Class for an hour straight without a break?! Oh no, more tests in Math?! What, no glossary?! Why can’t we just read?! Honestly, I was in bed (but the teacher doesn’t know!)…”

This collection of 33 poems is a humorous yet honest reflection of school, Latin class, homework, tests, Romans, teaching, and remote learning.

First Poems: “For students, teachers, cats, and dogs”
Those Classes in English: “Chem 101”
Romans & Not-So-Great Teaching: “Who’s Left?”

What makes this good? Why do I need this?
I can answer with some numbers:

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Methods & Results: To What Do We Attribute Success?

Not every teacher shares how well their students are doing—probably out of fear of being criticized—and I don’t blame them one bit. This data is often kept under lock and key, so it’s hard to get a sense of whether all the talk amounts to something. SPOILER ALERT: it does. The reports I’ve seen on how well students have been doing under a…NOT…grammar-translation approach tend to attribute success in different ways, though. Today, I’m looking at two such programs to see if we can narrow down what contributes success:

Program 1:

  • 69% of Latin V students score Intermediate Mid (I4+) on ALIRA
  • Focus on reading
  • Translation of what is understood (vs. in order to understand)
  • Uses LLPSI (Lingua Latina per se Illustrata)
  • Uses novellas & other sources of input
  • Speaks Latin whenever possible (i.e. judicious use of English)
  • Establishes meaning in English (i.e. fēlēs = cat) when students ask
  • CI is necessary, but not sufficient for acquisition
  • Extensive interaction is most important

Program 2:

  • 64% of Latin IV students score Intermediate Mid (I4+) on ALIRA
  • Focus on reading
  • Translation of what is understood (vs. in order to understand)
  • No textbook
  • Uses novellas & other sources of input
  • Speaks Latin whenever possible (i.e. judicious use of English)
  • Establishes meaning in English (i.e. fēlēs = cat)
  • CI is necessary, and sufficient for acquisition
  • Interaction is important

The results are very close by the end of each program, and there’s definitely more in common than not, but what isn’t in common makes for differently-enough teaching and learning environments. Both are just as successful, but what can we attribute that success to? Let’s look into those differences a bit more…

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Pisoverse Novella Recommendations: Levels & Whole-Class

Back in August, you might have seen my 2020-21 plans for novellas in preparation of remote learning on a reduced 2x/week class schedule. It turned out that with less time spent on Free Voluntary Reading (i.e. none), we read more whole-class novellas over Zoom than I would have preferred, but c’est la vie COVID. That experience gave me some insight into which books work best for whole-class reading, as well as helped me organize books in a different way. There was also Mike Peto’s Read-Aloud that came just in time to change things up with a new kind of reading process.

Levels
Following Andrew Olimpi’s system, my books now appear as AA to C (none of mine would be considered Level D or beyond). The general recommendation I’ve given is to read in order of word count. However, I’ve begun making it clearer which books might buck the trend due to higher percentage of cognates, as well as total length. For example, Drūsilla et convīvium magārum is my longest book at 3400 total words. In my experience, trēs amīcī et mōnstrum saevum—a book 1,000 fewer words in length, and with 3x as many cognates—is readable sooner. Books seemingly “out of order” like these can be identified by the word count badges on the front cover to highlight the percentage of cognates. Here are my recommended levels, and order within each, from left to right:

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Novellas: +2 Forward, -1 Back

With new novellas being published almost monthly at this point, opening up titles to choose from, I’ve been looking at how my own sequencing has been changing in the past year. I no longer feel the need to systematically read a) from lowest to highest word count, or b) shortest to longest book, a practice that constantly increases the demand of learners. If you think about it, what’s really the difference between that and using a highly sequenced textbook?! Such practice of constantly increasing demand also presumes learners have attended all classes, and/or develop language ability at the same rate, which is complete nonsense…

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Agrippīna aurīga: Published!

If you like Rūfus et arma ātra, you’ll love Agrippīna aurīga. This might very well be my most engaging text yet, at what I’ve come to see as the the rare “Goldilocks” intersection of comprehension, confidence, and compellingness.

Young Agrippina wants to race chariots, but a small girl from Lusitania couldn’t possibly do that…could she?! After a victorious race in the stadium of Emerita, the local crowd favorite charioteer, Gaius Appuleius Dicloes, runs into trouble, and it’s up to Agrippina to step into much bigger shoes. Can she take on the reins in this equine escapade?

24 cognates + 33 other words
1800 total length

We’ve known Piso’s family is from Hispānia all along. This book picks up on that with Agrippina, our strong mother, back in her childhood stomping grounds. I wanted to write a book with more action that could follow Rūfus et arma ātra. It turns out that I might want to read this before the sword-slinging saga. Agrippīna aurīga is written at a very similar level, though with 24 cognates compared to just two in Rūfus, and besides, I’ve realized that there’s no need to always increase the difficulty and length of each new book. In fact, that might be one way some kids get left in the dust. So, jumping “ahead” a little bit with this (aurīga) only to read a shorter book with fewer words (arma ātra) afterwards not only will go faster, but will also feel more confident a read for the students. Plus, it provides multiple opportunities to re-engage students who aren’t keeping up with reading on their own, and/or are missing far too many classes.

Michael Sintros (Duinneall), who worked with me on the creepy content of Quīntus et nox horrifica audiobook, once again has delivered engaging, ambient music with a new fantastic ancient instrument library. I cannot stress enough how crucial I’ve found these audiobooks to be towards making an unforgettable classroom experience. If I could combine the audio on Amazon as one purchase, I would, but you’ll have to get audio from Bandcamp to listen to with a physical book. Note that the eBooks from both Storylabs & Polyglots have audio included.

Chapter 1 excerpt
Chapter 2 excerpt
Chapter 3 excerpt
Chapter 4 excerpt
Chapter 5 excerpt
  1. For Sets, Packs, eBooks, and Audio—with reduced pricesorder here
  2. Amazon
  3. eBooks: Storylabs & Polyglots (<– now includes audiobook!)
  4. Audiobook
  5. Free preview (through Chapter 5, no illustrations)

“…& Classical Humanities”

Almost every degree and teaching license I know of related to Latin attaches “& Classical Humanities” to the end. That is, it’s rare to study and teach the Latin language without also studying and teaching Classical Humanities.

Why is this?

I know, I know. They’re two peas in a pod. It might seem obvious since the culture most associated with Latin is Roman, part of the Classical era. Yet Latin has been around for thousands of years, right? Many cultures have used Latin, and not all of that Latin has been about the Romans, either. Consider teaching Classical Humanities without Latin. It’d be a history class focus on a particular time period, right? That’s like a history class on 18th century Spain. Now consider a high school Spanish language class. Surely, students don’t learn only about the18th century, much less Spain’s entire history, or even focus on just Spain at all! There are tons of Spanish-speaking cultures that have written about a ton of different stuff, and Spanish language classes take that into account.

Why not Latin?

Of course, the context of a Spanish class seems different, but is it, really? The Latin language didn’t die with the fall of the Roman Empire. In fact, non-Roman cultures have now been using Latin longer than the Romans existed. I’m not saying there are now more texts written by non-Romans than Romans. Then again…

TheLatinLibrary.com
The second I wrote that, I suddenly realized I had no idea whether it could be true. In what a colleague would say is very “on brand” of me, I ran some numbers through Voyant Tools, taking all ancient Latin texts from TheLatinLibrary, and comparing the total words to the Miscellany, Christian, Medieval, and Neo-Latin categories. It must be noted right away that this doesn’t represent all of the world’s extant Latin. In fact, I’m reading a work of elegiac couplets from the 15th century by Vincent Obsopoeus that’s nowhere to be found on TheLatinLibrary. There are thousands of words of Latin in there, but it won’t appear in my data. You won’t find works like Cornelia, or Ora Maritima, either. There’s no Hobbitus Ille in the data, and women are utterly underrepresented, with perhaps just Sulpicia and Egeria included in TheLatinLibrary at all. So, my source has its flaws, yet what we have of ancient Roman Latin is all there, or nearly all there, and these estimates* help put things into perspective. Of course, I went into this wondering if the world has surpassed the Romans in writing of Latin—prompting more inquiry into why the Classical Humanities are still a focus in high school Latin study—and the truth is undeniable, especially when acknowledging there’s so much recent Latin unaccounted for. Bottom, line, far more Latin has been written since the Romans than what you see here, which is already more than what we have from them:

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Love Stories

Wait…next week is Valentine’s Day already?! Crazy. Also, it’s kind of a terrible holiday, though isn’t it? My best memories are of the perforated cards you’d exchange in elementary school just hoping one kid had cool enough parents to buy them the Valentines that had Thundercats or GI Joe characters being all lovey on them. Never liked the heart candy; those were just awful. Anyway, if you have the following books on hand, consider reading them to students this week, or scoop up one of the new eBooks so students can read on their own. Here are novellas that contain stories about the joys of relationships, as well as their challenges:

Sitne amor? (Amazon, eBook Polyglots, eBook on Storylabs)
For first year Latin students, there’s the LGBTQ-friendly book of 2400 words about desire, and discovery, in which Piso crashes and burns when he’s around Syra.

Pluto: fabula amoris (Amazon)
For first or second year Latin students looking for a quick read in a book of 1070 words, there’s this take on the Pluto & Proserpina myth.

Pandora (Amazon, eBook Polyglots, eBook on Storylabs)
For first year Latin students looking for a longer novella of 4200 total words, there’s the adaptation of the Pandora myth.

Ovidius Mus (Amazon)
The three stories based on Ovid in this book 1075 words are designed for readers at the end of their first year.

Unguentum (Amazon)
This book of 1575 words is an adaptation of Catullus 13, and includes tiered versions of the original.

Euryidice: fabula amoris (Amazon)
This book, much like its prequel Pluto, includes a different take on the Eurydice & Orpheus myth.

Medea et Peregrinus Pulcherrimus (Amazon)
A Latin III book of 7500 words in this adaptation of the Golden Fleece.

Carmen Megilli (Amazon)
A Latin III book of 9300 words in this that includes an LGBTQ-friendly love story.

Cupid et Psyche (Amazon)
A Latin III/IV book of 8800 words in this adaptation of of Apuleius.

Ira Veneris (Amazon)
A Latin III/IV book of 11000 words in this follow-up to Cupid & Psyche.

Latin Students & Scholars

When looking at other not-Latin course curricula in schools, it occurred to me that Latin classes are typically taught as if all students will become Latin scholars. That’s kind of crazy. What’s even crazier? Most teachers don’t have the expectation that all, or even some of their students will become Latin scholars. However, it’s definitely how Latin has been taught, historically (re: goals not aligned with practices). Sure, some schools have the “honors” distinction, making other courses “college prep,” and a common goal of the K-12 system is to prepare students for college. However, does every subject prepare its students to be scholars of that subject before they get to college?

No way.

Let’s look at some examples. I asked my colleagues if a student could a) go on to study their content area’s major in college without taking additional electives beyond basic high school graduation requirements, or b) would they need that kind of boost to get into a program and become a scholar in the field? These were the responses:

Math
“That’s a great question. For the most part, the specialization or focus on math would occur in college. While it would definitely be beneficial for a student to have already taken Calculus or Statistics, AP or otherwise if they’re entering a math field, it’s not necessary. They would still be able to take those courses offered at the college level and pass, assuming they had gained the necessary prerequisite knowledge from their high school courses.”

Science
“In terms of jumping into a science major with little to no background, I think this is the case with the majority of students. They will certainly pick it up in college. YES – high school students could hypothetically have had no science and still become scientists.

ELA
“No typically they would just jump in with 100 level intro courses.”

So, high school courses provide the same level of understanding to both humanities-bound students and STEM-bound students, regardless what students are goin on to study, and it’s only in college that study begins to get specialized. Just as you wouldn’t expect every high school graduate to be a math scholar, every student shouldn’t be expected to be a Latin scholar, right? Yet the literature Latin students are asked to read—typically—is waaaaaaaaay too high. If high school graduates of every subject start their college major at a 100 level course, why are Latin students—in high school—expected to read literature you’d expect in a 200, 300, or even 400 level college course?! There’s just no solid rationale for this scholar-level of study to begin in high school.

To boot, the real story is a bit more grim when you consider how many Latin students bound for Classics programs *do not* continue at that supposed level anyway, instead repeating basic 100 level Latin courses once in college anyway. So, if every high school program prepares students to be independent learners, pursuing whatever major they want in college, why on Earth have Latin teachers been fussing around with texts waaaaaaay beyond the reach of what’s level-appropriate, even to become a scholar in that field?!?!?!

It’s inexplicable.