9 Years & 90% Uphill Battle: Why I’m Not Choosing To Research Second Language Pedagogy

It’s absurd, really. After nearly a decade as a professional second language educator (i.e., employed AND trained as one, because those don’t always come in tandem), I can say that the opposition has been steep. No need to get into the weeds about Terrible Work Experience X, or Shockingly Obtuse Administrator Y, or even Internet Troll Z whose job seemed to be disagreeing with everyone about A) how languages are acquired, B) why acquisition-focused practices are the most equitable and effective way to teach second languages in public school, C) that you cannot update content without updating pedagogy and still call yourself a social justice advocate who promotes intercultural competence, and D) how all of the above apply to Latin.

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No, DEFINITELY Skip The Meter: An Overdue Follow-up To Timothy Moore’s 2013 Article

Teaching Latin poems without giving much thought to their metrical structure is a bit like teaching Haikus in paragraph form. Haikus are short and simple, though. If you’re only interested in a Haiku’s content, topic, or message, you could skip the 3 by 5-7-5 structure and students would read a few lines just fine. It’s still a bit silly, but there’s not much getting in the way. Then there’s Latin. If you’re only interested in a Latin poem’s content, topic, or message, its form is unnecessarily obtuse for the reader if you have no intention of really looking at the meter.

Timothy Moore’s article, “Don’t Skip the Meter! Introducing Students to the Music of Roman Comedy” (Classical Journal, 2013), has a clear message, right from the title. For years, I’ve felt the same way. It’s not breaking news that I began writing novellas in 2016 under a similar premise. Considering most Latin students drop after the second year, very few of them ever experience poetry typically read in years three or four. Therefore, my first book shared a glimpse into what Latin poetry has to offer beginning students. I didn’t fully realize that personal poetic pursuit until last year when I unabashedly unleashed 270 lines of poetry straight—no chaser—in ecce, poēmata discipulīs! With facing English, poetry is now available to all Latin students…

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2021-22 Vocab Stats

I wanted to write a short text using the most frequent words students have read so far this whole year. Although I might have been able to predict what most of those words were, the data was insightful. To be clear, this is a *minimum* amount students have read. I copied text from seven novellas we read as a whole class, as well as any class texts in the digital library, then ran it through Voyant Tools. What does NOT appear in the data is the day’s opening greeting I have on a Google Doc that has the date and some statements, as well as any short Type & Talk that didn’t make its way into an edited text for the digital library. The data also does NOT account for what’s heard in class, which is a considerable amount of the input students have received, especially at the beginning of the year. I can’t say including all that would double the stats for every word you see, but it might for some, and certainly would for the ones at the top of this list. Let’s start with the top words appearing at least 100 times:

  • 1225 = esse
  • 508 = in
  • 439 = nōn
  • 373 = et
  • 300 = velle
  • 265 = sed
  • 186 = habēre
  • 181 = placēre
  • 144 = iam
  • 129 = lutulārī
  • 105 = quoque
  • 100 = gladiātōrēs
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Latin Criticism: Two Broad Categories

Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote about Latin shaming in what’s turning out to be a quasi-annual public discussion on Latinity (i.e., quality of Latin). In 2020, the discussions concerned Latin spoken in the classroom as well as published works. This year, I’m told the focus is on novellas, which might have something to do with their proliferation. After all, in February of 2020 there were 52 books. Having doubled that number to 113 as of last week, and going from 18 author voices to 26, there’s a lot more different Latin being written now. Different Latin must lead to more opinions about that Latin. Granted, I haven’t been a part of these public discussions myself, but word gets around. Perhaps the 2023 panel on what it means to teach students to actually read Latin has spurred the latest round of things-Latīnitās. I have no idea for sure. Suffice to say that Latin shaming still plagues the profession. Instead of full-out shaming, though, this post sticks to general criticism. In my experience, there are two broad categories of criticism: that which matters, and that which doesn’t…

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mȳthos malus: convīvium Terregis: Published!

An obvious nod to Petronius’ Cena Trimalchionis, yes, but this is not an adaptation, by any means. In this tale, Terrex can’t get anything right during his latest dinner party. He’s confused about Catullus’ carmina, and says silly things left and right as his guests do all they can to be polite, though patience is running low. With guests fact-checking amongst themselves, can Terrex say something remotely close to being true? Will the guests mind their manners and escape without offending their host?


41 cognates, 56 other words
2600 total length

I cannot say this is my last book for good, but it’s the final Pisoverse novella I have planned. It’s probably my most comical book, too, which feels like a nice way to wrap up the series. The novella also fills a gap between the highest word counts of my Beginner level and the few narratives at Low Intermediate. Wordplay is certainly a highlight as Terrex makes up words, though still within conventions of Latin word-formations (see Errāta Terregis screenshot in the slideshow). Anyone with some familiarity with Catullus should get a kick out of Terrex’s blunders, too. In sum, this book is entertaining, for sure.

  1. For Sets, Packs, and eBooks order here (especially featured in Top Picks pack)
  2. Amazon
  3. eBooks: Storylabs

Pisoverse Novellas: Author’s Top Picks

Not every book is a home run, and that’s fine. As educators, we can’t please everyone, nor should we aim to. Those who do tend to spend very little time in education, anyway. They burn out, and so do students. This concept applies to novellas for sure, and how I’ve come to let go of trying to write (and find) the most-compelling texts in existence. Instead, and more importantly, most novellas available provide lots of reading options for the beginning Latin student, below- or at their reading level, on a range of topics. This is the point, and this is sustainable. Of the 113 novellas on my list, probably half realistically can be read by most students in years 1 & 2, half of the rest in year 3, and the remaining ones in year 4+. They’re not all home runs, and that’s fine. With a strong independent reading program in my school for the past years, I’ve observed that there will be at least one book that each student really gets into, and the rest is input they have mild to strong opinions about. That’s a victory.

But what books tend to appeal to all?

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Low-Prep Doesn’t Always Mean EZ

Like usual, it took me a matter of minutes the other day to create the next day’s class agenda. Oh, you wanna know the trick to that? There are lots of them, but it all starts with a good grading system and ends with the basic Talk & Read format. Then, I try not to plan too far out knowing that something ALWAYS changes last-minute, and about 20% of our weeks aren’t even the typical schedule to begin with. I have a rough idea what’s coming up in following weeks, but never anything set in stone. Printing much ahead of time? Forget it. I’ve recycled WAY too many reams of no-longer-relevant activity sheets to know better. Anyway, I felt good about the time spent during my planning period, and had a solid idea of how class would go. The plans were simple and straightforward.

Yet, why was I exhausted by the end classes today?!

It turns out that low-prep isn’t always as easy as it seems to carry out. The good news is that it doesn’t take much more effort to avoid a draining class. In this post, you’ll find a list of the best low-prep AND low-energy-demanding activities generated from my input-based strategies & activities and how to get texts lists. Those lists have also been updated with the “EZ” code showing low-energy-demand typically required to carry them out.

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Abbi Holt’s Wisdom On Sustainable & Equitable Teaching

Abbi Holt had a great thread sharing a 6-year progression of practices that have made even teaching through a pandemic tolerable! Here it is with some commentary on why you should look into doing similar things, if not the very same…

Why This Works? #1
Not only is moving slowly and steadily a more responsive approach to teaching learners in the room, but reducing grading is crucial in carving out space for everything that positively impacts teaching and learning.

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Mārcus et scytala Caesaris: Published!

Marcus has lost something valuable containing a secret message that once belonged to Julius Caesar. Even worse, it was passed down to Marcus’ father for safekeeping, and he doesn’t know it’s missing! As Marcus and his friend, Soeris, search Alexandria for clues of its whereabouts, hieroglyphs keep appearing magically. Yet, are they to help, or to hinder? Can Marcus decipher the hieroglyphs with Soeris’ help, and find Caesar’s secret message?


20 cognates, 30 other words
1400 total length

After last month’s Star Diaries right on the heels of Poetry Practice and Olianna published just before the school year, Mārcus et scytala Caesaris is now available, leaving just one more book left in the latest production schedule.

Of all the novellas we’ve read this year in Latin 1, Marcus has been the most enjoyed character and story overall. When I showed students the proof copy of Marcus’ new saga, one class even applauded. That’s the kind of program buy-in we’re building with consistent independent reading (below- or at-level), and that’s why I continue writing these kinds of books. The new Mārcus doesn’t disappoint. As stated in the preface…

“the purpose of including hieroglyphs throughout this book is not to teach the ancient Egyptian language. Instead, the purpose is to introduce students to the alphabet so they can begin to recognize them, not unlike exploring ancient Greek for short unit, as is common in many Latin courses. More broadly, the idea behind learning these alphabets is to introduce students to the ancient world beyond Rome, which tends to get all the attention when it comes to antiquity. So, I hope you enjoy this introduction to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs via Latin!”

  1. For Sets, Packs, and eBooks order here
  2. Amazon
  3. eBooks: Storylabs