NTPRS 2017 Takeaways

Before having the opportunity to present a couple workshops, my mind was blown quite sufficiently during the week. Overall, the Advanced Track with Alina Filipescu and Jason Fritze got me thinking about aaaaaaaall the things I’ve forgotten to do, or stopped doing (for no good reason) over the years. Thankfully, most of them are going to be soooooo easy to [re]implement. As for the others, I’ll pick 2 at a time to add—not replace—until they become automatic. This will probably take the entire year; there’s no rush!

Jason referred to high-leverage strategies—those yielding amazing results with minimal effort (i.e. juice vs. squeeze), and I’m grateful that he called our attention to everything Alina was doing while teaching us Romanian. ce excelent! I’ll indicate some high-leverage strategies, and will go as far as to classify them as “non-negotiable” for my own teaching, using the letters “NN.” I’ll also indicate strategies to update or re-implement with the word “Update!” and those I’d like to try for the first time with the word “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways organized by presenter:

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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!

Agrippīna māter fortis: Published

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Agrippīna māter fortis is the latest addition to the “Pisoverse” novellas (i.e. Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and Rūfus et arma ātra) with Piso and Rufus’ mother in the spotlight! Agrippina wears dresses and prepares dinner like other Roman mothers, but she has a secret—she is strong, likes wearing armor, and can fight just like her husband! Can she keep this secret from her family and friends?

It was clear from the beginning that a novella with a strong female lead role was to be written. Agrippīna can be read as pure entertainment, or used as content for more serious discussions in the classroom about the role of women in antiquity, social norms, and contemporary issues with gender inequality.

Agrippīna contains 65 unique words (excluding names, different forms of words, and meaning established within the text). Of all currently published Latin and modern language novellas, Agrippīna is among those with the lowest unique word count, yet is ~2870 total words in length—nearly as long as Pīsō at ~2935!

For Purchase Orders and bulk discounts, email: poetuluspublishing@gmail.com
Otherwise, click on the links below to preview/purchase Agrippīna māter fortis:

1) My eStore (please purchase from my page on this Amazon-owned self-publishing company, CreateSpace, if you wouldn’t mind signing up for one more thing—I know—but especially if you feel like sending about 70% more in royalties my way…$3.44 vs. $2.05 from Amazon)
2) Amazon (purchase here if you really really really want your Prime free shipping, or just want to shop on Amazon, etc.)
3) Free Preview through Chapter 6 (of 12)

Agrippīna māter fortis: A New Latin Novella

**Updated 6..30.17Agrippīna has been published!**

Agrippīna māter fortis is the latest addition to the “Pisoverse” novellas (i.e. Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and Rūfus et arma ātra), only now Piso and Rufus’ mother gets the spotlight! Agrippina wears dresses and prepares dinner like other Roman mothers, but she has a secret—she is strong, likes wearing armor, and can fight just like her husband! Can she keep this secret from her family and friends? 

The novella is currently written with 65 unique words (n.b. Rūfus has 40, and Pīsō 108). Agrippīna is an engaging read, like Rūfus, but almost as long as Pīsō (n.b. Rūfus has ~1440 total words, Agrippīna ~2870, and Pīsō ~2935), making the density of unique words repeated in different contexts much higher. Stephen Krashen told me that a “density” metric didn’t really matter as much as compelling content. My wife, who doesn’t read Latin btw, couldn’t wait to finish the last two chapters of Agrippīna! That’s a good barometer! In addition to compelling content, we know that fewer words contribute to a sense of confidence while reading (for student feedback on the matter, see this post over at The Inclusive Latin Classroom). While Rūfus could be read within the first months of Latin I, Agrippīna can surely follow later in the year, although older students will enjoy confidence from reading something with ease

As this year comes to a close, I’m asking that you take a look at the first half of the novella, maybe run off a class copy (or project it and read through), and then get back to me with ways to improve it. Asterisks indicate where I intend to establish meaning within the text as a footnote. I’ll be editing it in June, and it should be ready before the next school year. Enjoy!

Click here to access the first 6 chapters (of 12) for previewing/piloting.

Syntax Synonyms: Don’t Fear the Subjunctive

The subjunctive is usually regarded as a more advanced grammatical concept, the very mention of which can give students crippling anxiety, but EFF that—it’s not.

To begin with, in a grammatical syllabus, the subjunctive is simply unnecessarily delayed. In Lingua Latīna per sē Illustrāta, for example, it doesn’t appear until chapter 28 of 35, and in Ecce Rōmānī not until chapter 42 of 68. Given enrollment figures, it’s clear that most students don’t even encounter the subjunctive before dropping Latin in conventional programs! The reality of language and communication (yes, reading is a form of communicating—interpretation), however, is that the subjunctive is much more frequent, and can actually be less difficult to process!

What the…?!

Yep, facts. Because we can establish meaning of a subjunctive phrase with an English equivalent, syntax isn’t really more or less difficult per se. When it comes to processing speed, however, we know that shorter messages are easier to understand (i.e. a message with 10 words is more likely to be understood by the novice than a message with 20 words). Shorter, then, is simpler and less difficult when it comes to input, and the difference between short/simple and long/complex isn’t necessarily a matter of what our textbooks taught us to be “more advanced” syntax. Consider these pairs:

ut habeatso that she has
quia vult habēre = because she wants to have

nē habeatso that she doesn’t have
quia habēre nōn vult = because she doesn’t want to have

In the examples above, “ut/nē + subjunctive” phrases used to express purpose/result can be substituted with “quia vult + infinitive.” These pairs are often years apart in conventional curricula, but note how the subjunctive phrases contain fewer words to process. The subjunctive examples are actually simpler messages than what conventional teachers consider “basic syntax!”

As teachers, our perception of “basic” and “more advanced” is significantly skewed by our knowledge ABOUT language, so it’s gonna take some rethinking to have an inclusive communicative classroom based on compelling CI, which levels the playing field of difficulty. Even my recent TESOL training reminded me that teachers should never, ever use the words “easy” or “hard” when introducing something. Take Richie’s title of Fābulae Facilēs ( = Easy Stories). Those stories are supposed to be easy—FOR WHOM, though?

So, Syntax Synonyms can be helpful in different ways depending on your situation. If you’re simplifying existing Latin (e.g. Tiered, Embedded, or Recycled Readings) for conventional students who fear the subjunctive purpose clause, just substitute “quia vult + infinitive” in order to make their reading more comprehensible. If your students are already familiar with “quia vult + infinitive,” you can start introducing the subjunctive immediately! One technique I appreciated from Terence Tunberg at the summer conventicula was his constant rephrasing of statements and questions in at least two different ways. Not only did it allow us all more time to process what he said, but it often meant the difference between Comprehensible and Incomprehensible Input, even if the second or third variation just included more familiar vocabulary.

This simple strategy of repeating a question or statement is a great time to use Syntax Synonyms, and would provide a broader “net” of input. Since we know that all learners have different acquisition rates, some of them will be ready to pick up those syntactical structures long before any textbook would introduce them, so don’t fear the subjunctive and use both! Here are other pairs of common Syntax Synonyms for the subjunctive. Not all make for shorter/simpler messages, but they certainly add to the “net” of input.

cum habeat = since she has
quia habet = because she has

dubitō sit = I doubt that she is
nōn crēdō eam esse = I don’t believe she is

imperat ut eat orders that she go
iubet eam īre = orders her to go

cum īvissetwhen she had gone
postquam īvit = after she went

habeāmus! let’s have!
quīn habēmus? = why don’t we have?