Student Ownership: Prompts & Novella Month

You’re looking at one of my student’s illustrations. The prompt was to read a description and draw the cover of a new book (coming laaaaaaate spring, btw):

Marcus likes being a young Roman mage, but such a conspicuous combo presents problems in provincial Egypt after he and his parents relocate from Rome. Despite generously offering magical medicine to the locals, this young mage feels like an obvious outsider, sometimes wishing he were invisible. Have you ever felt that way? Marcus searches Egypt for a place to be openly accepted, and even has a run-in with the famously fiendish Sphinx! Can Marcus escape unscathed?

The result in all classes was some pretty amazing buy-in before we even got to the first page! The prompt I chose also generated class content—the source of that class’ Picture Talk—for which students don’t have to be artists like this one; stick figures are great, especially the really silly ones that get everyone laughing…

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“Not-Reading” Synonyms

It would take a proficient Latin speaker about 7 hours to read Caesar’s Dē Bellō Gallicō—in its entirety*—at a slow pace (i.e. half the average reading speed).** For comparison, a proficient English speaker reading at the same pace would take over twice as long to get through The Hate U Give (~15 hours). One of these texts is level-appropriate, and now commonly used in 9th grade classes along with 4-5 other full length books and many other short texts throughout the year. The other is nowhere near level-appropriate, yet commonly used in 11th or 12th grade classes as roughly half the year’s focus—certainly not in its entirety—with selections comprising just 13% of the full text. It should be clear which is which, and any K-12 teacher who says their students read Caesar is being as truthful as today’s outgoing president, who has mislead and lied over 29,000 times in office.*** Yet if not an outright lie, the claim of reading Caesar is still highly misleading, and should be addressed ASAP…

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Agrippīna aurīga, Mārcus magulus & mȳthos malus: convīvium Terregis

New year, new books!

My observations after reading novellas *as a whole class* during COVID-19 remote learning has convinced me that audiobooks make for the best experience in that format. Narration has its value, sure, but for whole-class reading, the books with sound effects, character voices, and music, really do up the game. I’ve got three novellas coming up this spring, all with accompanying audiobooks. There will be more details upon publication of each, but here are some brief descriptions…

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Collaborative Storytelling: Whole-Class Writing

Back in June, I did this test of what collaborative storytelling could look like for asynchronous learning. However, the process can be used during class for even more interaction, and more story variations. This format also has the benefit of modeling writing, which can become new sources of input with timed writes typed up, edited, and read in class. This is not innovative. I’ve seen teachers do this live in the classroom. However, you might have stepped away from collaborative storytelling for a bit, or just forgotten how easy and enjoyable it can be. I’d recommend getting back into it, keeping it a regular activity throughout the year. Here are my current favorite collaborative storytelling formats for live remote learning:

Whole-Class Writing
Using the super simple story script sequence, write a story by providing either/or details for students to choose, or blank spaces for students to fill-in their own. Share out, step-by-step as teacher restates in target language, and/or submit so teacher can edit, type up, and share back to whole class. You get up to as many new stories as you have students, although I found success projecting just 2 stories; one from the class, and one from another class.

Slide Talk Stories
Screenshare/project the Slides, and scroll through to inspire story detail options. If you want students to compete over details a little more, choose two options from the Slides (e.g. “H.E.R. or Brent Faiyaz?”). Otherwise, choose one detail from the Slides, then whatever other shadow comes to mind. Use the script below for a home-run story.

WOWATS (Whole-class One Word At a Time Stories)
Generate a list of words (e.g. from most recent text, high frequency, all words students know, etc.), randomly choose one, collaborate to use the word in a story, and continue. Consider following Mike Peto’s story structure of limiting each story part to 5 minutes so ideas don’t go off the rails and it takes the whole class.

1) Who? Where? With Whom?
2) Problem
3) Fail to Solve
4) Solution

sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 3: Published!

This last of three volumes contains details about Pisces, Aries, Taurus, and Gemini, and features the myths of Typhon, The Golden Fleece, The Minotaur, as well as Castor & Pollux.

Volume III itself contains 62 cognates and 93 other words (excluding names, different forms of words, and meaning established in the text), and is over 3,000 total words in length. The vocabulary across all three volumes comes to 83 cognates and 117 other words. Including all Pisoverse texts, the total number of words written for the beginning Latin student is now just under 65,000 using a vocabulary of just over 800.

Many details in the first four sections of astrologia are repeated from volumes 1 & 2 to provide each reader with a basic understanding of the zodiac signs. sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 3 is available…

  1. For Sets, Packs, eBooks, and Audio—with reduced pricesorder here.
  2. Three-volume-pack special!
  3. Amazon
  4. eBooks: Storylabs & Polyglots
  5. Audio
  6. Free preview (abridged astrologia section, and Piscēs, no illustrations)

sitne amor? Published!

“Piso and Syra are friends, but is it more than that? Sextus and his non-binary friend, Valens, help Piso understand his new feelings, how to
express them, and how NOT to express them! This is a story of desire,
and discovery. Could it be love?”

I hate what I’ve been seeing and hearing in the world, but Yoda warned us of the dark side path—fear to anger to hate to suffering—and no one needs any of that. Lets face it, the only real way to get out of this mess is to strike down hate with love…and humor. My contribution to all that is a love story that takes more of a lighthearted, comical turn. Piso crashes and burns, falling flat on his face, and deals with all the feels of a young adult. I’ll neither confirm nor deny that any of this draws from personal experience.

In sitne amor?, the Pisoverse characters are getting older in their world. This novella picks up on perhaps one of the most mysterious and powerful emotions—love. Ancient Romans and other Latin writers have been obsessed with the topic for centuries. Love is complicated, relatable…timeless. Perhaps that’s why my students requested a love story among their top choices for a next novella. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to write a tale that includes all the blunders of someone trying to figure it all out for the first time, perhaps not unlike many Latin students!

One major reason for writing sitne amor? is an increasing need for students in more diverse Latin classrooms to refer to themselves. Traditional Latin dictionary entries are organized by masculine forms, yet there are plenty of girls, women, and non-binary students looking to express their identity in the target language. Bob Patrick has written that neutrum means “neither,” as in neither masculine nor feminine, therefore its use for non-binary descriptions in Latin is perfect. I’d like to thank my wife Christa Whitney and other members of the LGBTQ community—especially librarian Katharine Janeczek, MLS, whose career focus includes LGBTQ literature—for all their help with this novella. sitne amor? is available…

  1. For Sets, Packs, eBooks, Audio, and Bundle Specials, order here.
  2. Amazon
  3. eBook on Storylabs and Polyglots
  4. Audio
  5. Free preview (Chapters 1-6, no illustrations)

Spooky Season Stories: novellae horrificae

Autumn is probably my favorite season, and Halloween most certainly my favorite holiday. No fancy costume for me this year, but I’ll be reading a spooky tale for sure. You should, too. However, you’ve got just a couple weeks to get one of these books in time to read to students over Zoom (Kindergarten Day reading-style), or along with them via eBooks and PDF. Grab that hot apple cider, get spooky lighting, and scare your students this season!

Quīntus et nox horrifica (Amazon, eBook Polyglots, eBook on Storylabs)
Given its low word count (26 cognates, 26 other), and super short length (1100 total words), this novella can be read within a couple classes, and quite early on. In fact, we’ll start reading it on what will be just the 9th class for first year Latin students! This year, I get to use the new audiobook that came out last spring, which is killer for ambiance. My plan is to read a chapter as a whole class, then listen to its audiobook track, continuing for several chapters, and then switch entirely over to the audiobook on the second class day to finish it out.

Prologue Excerpt
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sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 2: Published!

This second of three volumes contains details about Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, and Aquarius, and features the myths of Orion and the seven sisters (Pleiades), Hercules and Chiron, Jupiter and Amalthea, and Ganymede.

The first two volumes share 84% of vocab.

Volume II itself contains 63 cognates and 92 other words (excluding names, different forms of words, and meaning established in the text). While Volume I has 63 cognates and 84 other words, both volumes share 84% of the same vocabulary (i.e. there are 15 different cognates, and 33 different other words between the two). Volume II is over 2,800 total words in length. Including all Pisoverse texts, the total number of words written for the beginning Latin student is now over 52,300 using a vocabulary of just 762.

Many details in the first four sections of astrologia are repeated from sīgna zōdiaca Vol. I to provide each reader with a basic understanding of the zodiac signs. sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 2 is available…

  1. For Sets, Packs, eBooks, Audio, and Bundle Specials, order here.
  2. Amazon
  3. eBook
  4. Audio
  5. Free preview (abridged astrologia section, and Scorpiō, no illustrations)