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.

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