eBook Comparison

All of my books are available on Storylabs, and a selection of them (12) join Andrew Olimpi’s and Emma Vanderpool’s on Mike Peto’s site. These are very different platforms. This post isn’t intended to be a pro/con list. Instead, it’s purpose is to clearly lay out the features for you…

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A Pisoverse Novella Monthly Sequence: 1st Year Latin

Every now and then I get asked which of my novellas students should read and when. Of course, that depends entirely on how novellas plan to be used. However, there *is* a logical sequence to my books, and it’s simple. Although word count isn’t everything, I’ve found that it’s most things when it comes to the beginning student reading Latin. Therefore, reading from low to high word count pretty much as-is (i.e. 20 to 155) makes the most sense.

The only time this appears to go “out of order” is with books having a high cognate count, which I read a little earlier. For example, Quīntus et nox horrifica has 52 words, but 26 are cognates. I’ve read that immediately following Rūfus lutulentus (20 words, just 1 cognate) since the reading level is close due to the similar number of unrecognizable words between the two books. See this post on how cognates increase the likelihood of Latin being understood. In the list below, I’ve also omitted the companion texts used for additional reading, activities, and as independent reading options. However, when used along with a novella, those are just read at the same time (e.g. reading Syra et animālia along with Syra sōla). Here’s the current monthly sequence I have in mind:

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Vocab Lists: Sheltering, Grammar Audit, and Creativity

**Updated 8.19.20 – The DCC core list of top 1000 Latin words has just 100 cognates.**

sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 1 was published at the end of July, bringing the total vocabulary found throughout the entire Pisoverse novellas to 737 unique words, of which 316 are found on the DCC core list, and of which 319 cognates (see my last post on cognates), including 52 found on the DCC core list (i.e. Pisoverse cognates account for over 50% of the total DCC cognates). That vocabulary size is quite low for what is now almost 50,000 total words of Latin for the beginner found in 19 books. This is what is meant by sheltering (i.e. limiting) vocabulary. Of course, that sheltering didn’t just happen by chance. There have been many decisions of what to keep and what to let go, the process deliberate, and at times methodical. In this post, I share ways to shelter vocab in novellas, and how those same practical steps apply to more informal writing done in the classroom with students…

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Cognate Over Classical & Translation Shaming

High frequency vocab? Yes, of course, although one’s context and goals are important considerations. This posts looks at why we might choose cognates over the kind of vocab more frequently found in unadapted ancient Latin (i.e. Classical Latin), and how that decision can be inhibited by a bit of elitist baggage.

What’s the best reason to use cognates? So the learner who doesn’t read outside of the classroom can understand Latin—in class—more easily. Cognates increase the likelihood of comprehensibility. Even given the range of learner vocabularies in English, the likelihood still increases. That is, there’s more of a chance that a Latin to English cognate will be understood than the chance that a completely unrecognizable Latin word will be understood. Of course, students still misunderstand cognates all the time (re: Mike Peto’s “béisbol” routine), but that’s not the point. The point is to make Latin more comprehensible, and cognates help. N.B. the only cognate-use claim here is a greater likelihood of comprehension. This has a pedagogical impact, to be sure. Choosing cognates over Classical Latin can create a learning environment more like what English-speaking students in Spanish classes experience. Why does this matter? There’s no enrollment problem with Spanish classes—something we cannot say about Latin programs.

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A Glossary Isn’t Enough & Replacing Comprehension Qs with Reflection Qs

After looking at various first day/week/month materials for the beginning language learner, I was reminded that most resources include texts with way too many words, way too soon. A full glossary certainly helps, but isn’t enough. Words need to be recycled often—especially in the beginning—to have a chance of being acquired by all learners (not just the ones with an excellent memory). If your text doesn’t recycle its vocab, you should adapt it. Remember, for a text to be truly readable (i.e. without starting to become laborious), students must understand 98 words in a text with 100 different ones, 49 words in a text with 50, and pretty much every word in a text of 25 (Hsueh-Chao & Nation, 2000).

A full glossary is as close to cueing as we can get asynchronously, but we won’t know how students are using it. As part of evidence of engagement when reading a text, these Google Form reflection questions could shed light on that:

ex.

  1. How often did you look up meaning of words?
    – Hella
    – A lot
    – Sometimes
    – Not very much
  2. What was your experience of looking up words?
    – No problem at all
    (i.e. it helped you read, or you didn’t mind looking up words)
    – It was OK
    (i.e. a little annoying looking up words, but not too bad)
    – It started getting hard to read
    (i.e. looking up words started feeling like “work”)
    – I kept looking at almost every word, so “reading” was really hard to do
    (i.e. this was a bad reading experience)
  3. Would you like Mr P to give you easier & shorter texts to read?
    – Yes
    – No

The first two tell us a student’s threshold for “noise” (i.e. how much incomprehension in the input they can handle), but the last question is going to be extra important. If a lot of students opt for “yes,” we can put effort into making easier texts for all (e.g. an additional simplified tier). Alternatively, we could reach out to a few individuals with support.

Support vs. Individualized Feedback
I wrote about how individualized feedback, especially when required, is largely a waste of time. Don’t confuse providing additional input to a student with giving an individualized feedback for its own sake, about something that student completed (but doesn’t need any reply), or worse, on correct/incorrect responses. That kind of individualized feedback isn’t worth our time, and not even effective, pedagogically. When any reflection Q responses indicate comprehension, we don’t need comprehension Qs.

In fact, rather than spending time any time at all writing comprehension Qs, use data from the reflection Qs and spend time writing more comprehensible texts! That is, inasmuch as comprehension Qs are a student’s word on homework (i.e. remote learning), so are the reflections. It’s much more valuable to get a sense of how often a student is referring (i.e. signs of incomprehension) rather than percentage of X correct out of Y. Students are also more likely to report how often they used the glossary more accurately, which itself is all the comprehension data we need.

If An Hour Doesn’t Get Us One to Two Classes…

…we’re doing something wrong.

If we spend an hour preparing to teach, that hour should at least result in an entire class’ worth of content, activities, etc., and bonus if it gets us a couple more. In other words, the fruit of an hour’s labor should not result in a single activity lasting just 10-15 minutes, or a quiz that lasts the same time but adds another hour for us to check/enter in gradebook/follow up with. Even spending an hour on something that lasts half as much time in the classroom—physical, virtual, live, or asynchronous—isn’t enough juice for the squeeze, and we got alotta lemons this year…

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sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 1: Published!

Do you like stories about gods and monsters? Did you know that the zodiac signs are based on Greek and Roman mythology? Your zodiac sign can tell you a lot about yourself, but not everyone feels that strong connection. Are your qualities different from your sign? Are they the same? Read signa zodiaca to find out!

Introducing a new series: sīgna zōdiaca! These readers are part non-fiction, and part Classical adaptation, providing information about the zodiac signs as well as two tiered versions of associated myths. This book is the first of three volumes, each with four zodiac signs. Volume 1 starts hot off the heals of the summer, containing details about Cancer, Leo, Virgo, and Libra, and features two labors of Hercules (i.e. Nemean Lion, and Lernaean Hydra), as well as the Pluto and Persephone myth.

Although there’s no single continuous narrative, sīgna zōdiaca has been written just like the Pisoverse novellas with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary. It contains 63 cognates and 84 other words (excluding names, different forms of words, and meaning established in the text), and is over 2,600 total words in length. Oh, and the Pisoverse texts now provide nearly 50,000 total words of Latin for the beginning student, using a vocabulary of under 740, over 43% of which are cognates!

While a growing list of how to use novellas is being shared, a couple uses are specific to this sīgna zōdiaca series. For example, read sīgna zōdiaca as part of a “monthly myth” routine to mark when the zodiac changes. Or, when a student’s birthday comes up, you can read about the details of their sign. Alternatively, if you’ve already planned to read a higher level text of any myths associated with the signs, read sīgna zōdiaca first to provide a bit of scaffolding. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll find out that your original text needs further adapting!

sīgna zōdiaca Vol. 1 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 Cancer, no illustrations)

Fairness: COVID-19 Grading Solution

Recently, I was reminded of a particular conversation I observed many different teachers having last spring. It went something like this:

“How fair is it to the students who did the work if everyone gets an A?”

There’s a lot to unpack there. First of all, it assumes “the work” was reasonable for all students to complete, at home. Let us not forget that any graded remote work was essentially a 100% Homework grading category—something no K-12 teacher in their right mind would ever consider. So, fairness…

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