Talk, Read & Reread

I’ve been using the basic Talk & Read class structure for a while (i.e., a greeting, quick discussion, and/or some activity “by ear” for about 5 to 20 minutes, then reading, reading, reading for the remainder). That was when I had 40 to 60 minute classes for years. However, switching to an 85-minute block schedule last year really fucked things up. Now, classes feel way too long, I’m exhausted, there’s too much time between class days (i.e., 48 hours) so “the din” of Latin in students’ minds grows dim, and absent kids miss out big time (i.e., now 96-120 hours from class to class if absent just one day).

It turns out that I didn’t write much about the block schedule messing with things last year aside from a blog post or two. Granted, 2021-22 was the first year back from remote learning. That came with unique challenges, and the schedule change didn’t help. Btw, this is my 10th year teaching and my 10th schedule. Even when I stayed at the same school for more than a year, the schedule changed each one. I’m now in the 6th year at the same school. 6 schedules. Anyone wanna place a bet as for next year will hold? So, 2021-22 was a big calibration year for all sorts of reasons, and it’s taken me until right now to actually identify how much the schedule has negatively impacted first year language students. But I have a solution…

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Pīsō senex et sempermūtābilisyllabī: Published!

Piso has grown old. For years, people have been telling Piso how to write his own poetry. They’ve wanted it to sound like the legendary poet, Vergilimartivenallus, widely considered the GOAT, but Piso doesn’t take suggestions from those who don’t write any poetry of their own. Besides, that would change Piso’s verses into something they aren’t—someone else’s. He’s got plenty of advocates, anyway. But the mob persists, and keeps trying to get Piso to change how he writes. Mysteriously, the more Piso tries to write in his own voice, the more things start to get a bit…Strange.

18 cognates, 26 other words
800 total length

Who wants satire? I do, I do! You should know that no hexameter was harmed in the writing of this novellula (<– that word is even in the subtitle). In fact, we skipped the meter [almost] entirely. That’s basically it. Oh, and if you’re familiar with Pīsō et Syra et pōtiōnēs mysticae, and/or a personal favorite, diāria sīderum, there’s some stuff in here for ya. So, let’s welcome another <50-word tiny little book to the collection.

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November Writing Challenges

I’m a big fan of process over product—so much so that I don’t love sharing a bunch of ready-to-go class texts. I’ve been hesitant because the process of creating a text together as a class is more important than teachers having a print-and-go option. Granted, some of those for cultural exploration are available despite strongly encouraging teachers to focus on the process of writing their own. This all goes back to the #ACL100 presentation I gave with John Piazza and John Bracey, with contributions from David Maust. We showed how to do that under a “connect, explore, create” framework. Check out the Slides if you missed them.

Why the fuss? The idea is simple: when teachers don’t know what to do, they take anything pre-made and use it. Sure, this accomplishes one thing, the end, but what about the means? When the point is going through some kind of process that results in those products, it makes sense to focus on supporting teachers honing those skills. This is goal #1 of this post. For goal #2, I’ve been writing Latin using very, very few words, but my students could use more voices than just my own! Latin novellas being published still span quite the range. How about some more books at the lowest of levels?

Writing Challenges
November is time for the national writing month trend, so I thought it’d be a good way to get more teachers writing fewer words of Latin. At first glance, that doesn’t seem right, but what I’m talking about is setting parameters like writing a very short text using 20 unique words. I encourage teachers to use whatever grammar they need to express ideas, especially those that tend to be delayed until “advanced” study. However, sheltering grammar is a lot easier than limiting the number of words used to tell a story. Sheltering vocabulary is a particular skill that gets us the most leverage, but takes some practice. Let’s hone that. Consider this self-directed PD.

So, over the next weeks I’ll be adding some challenges to the Latin teaching community, for the Latin teaching & learning community. Submissions will be anonymous—or not—and the spreadsheet will be shared with everyone to view, copy, and read. That means if 10 Latin teachers each submit a short story using a particular set of words and some parameters, every Latin teacher with the link will have the option of reading any number of them with their classes. The best part? We can reasonably expect the texts to be of a similar level given the parameters. Latin 1 is about to get a whole lot of reading options. Well, maybe. That all depends if you’re up for the challenge!

Challenge #1
Write a short story about an animal using any of the following core verbs and function words:

  • esse, habēre, velle, īre, placēre
  • et, quoque, quia, sed
  • ā/ab, ad, cum, ē/ex, in
  • ergō, iam, nōn, subitō, valdē

Plus, the following additional words (excluding names, and different forms of words), scalable to your challenge level:

BOSS level sheltering: no more than 5 additional words
CONFIDENT level sheltering: no more than 10 additional words
NOOB level sheltering: no more than 15 additional words

Here’s the form for Writing Challenge #1. And here’s where I’ll put the stories once they start rolling in.

FAQs

How do I begin?!
If you’ve never written Latin for the beginner by sheltering vocabulary, start with three basic sentences. From there, fill in some details, and start to repeat words in different combinations of sentences. Break up longer ones into two or more, adding a new detail to each one. Count up everything, then add/remove individual words and sentences to get your story.

What if I use “nunc” instead of “iam?”
Bro, just submit using “iam,” then change your own text by doing a quick ALT+F (or whatever) to replace with words you use, or words your textbook/department forces you to use. Same goes for adapting other contributors’ stories.

How few is too few?
There really isn’t a bottom to this. If you can write a paragraph of Latin using five words from the core/function list and manage to use only two additional words, do it! A very short story using under 10 words is certainly BOSS level sheltering, and it’s gonna be SUPER helpful for beginning Latin readers.

How long?
Good question. A story with the full 34 words that amounts to just four short sentences isn’t gonna help beginning students very much. The key is to recycle words so they come up more than once, twice, thrice, or more! Maybe the result is a full page, big font, with each sentence on its own line. Maybe that’s block text of two to three paragraphs long. Depends your sheltering level. If you do manage to use just 10 of those words, you’re gonna run out of things to say at a certain point.

What kind of additional words?
I have no interest in getting into a semantic debate about any word, whatsoever. If it’s Latin, and appears somewhere, and you could make a reasonable case for using it (but no one’s gonna ask you to do so), use it. If all your students are native French speakers and you want to use 15 other words that look a lot like French ones, please do. Remember, anyone who contributes can grab any story and adapt it however they see fit. I might take your uber-Classical vocab and riddle it with late-Latin. Your choice & my choice.

0 To 130: Seven Years Of Latin Novellas

In August of 2020, I wrote 0 To 70: Five Years Of Latin Novellas. Well, here we are just two years later having nearly doubled that number!!!! I’ve got two more coming out this year as well, so I’m betting it won’t be long until we hit that 140 mark.

Novellas are no joke. While the majority of teachers who discuss them are K-12, I know of at least one teacher prep program that’s been giving attention to these “new” resources in methods (etc.) courses, as well as various college professors listing them as required texts for their own students to read. This summer, I even learned that my cousin’s wife read an Olimpi book as part of a Midwest Philosophy grad program. And as more novellas make their way into classrooms, teachers and professors are tweaking how they use them. Here are my own findings…

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“What Novellas Do You Buy, Magister P?”

All of them.

When someone shares the latest novella to the Latin Best Practices Facebook group, I add it to my list, then drop the link into my budget/item request form at school so I can get a copy. I order one, read it, then order more if it’s gonna work well for first year Latin students. I’ll order a lot more if it’s a hit, or maybe 1-2 if it seems good but a little above reading level. Once I notice students always going for a particular title during independent reading time, I might even order enough so we can read some of the book as a whole class. N.B. no, I don’t always finish books as a whole class, especially if it’s been more than 3 weeks of reading.

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The ONLY 2 Ways To “Do CI”

Nearly everything related to CI is a grassroots kind of thing.

With grassroots, you gotta do most of the work on your own. I’m not saying you gotta work outside of school hours, but you certainly gotta scour the internet and find some PD opportunities. No one’s gonna drop these on your lap. They’re rarely provided by your school, and often in direct conflict with other department members’ understanding so you’re unlikely to get it there, too. Even when you do find something, you can’t make significant changes overnight, either. Fun fact: Supovitz & Turner (2000) found that science teachers made just *average changes* to practices after 40 hours of PD. It wasn’t until the 80 hour mark that *significant changes* were made. How many hours was your last PD sesh? How many hours do you think you’ve spent on learning how to do X in the classroom? Exactly.

So, if you’re looking to move away from outdated legacy approaches and towards more contemporary comprehension based language teaching (CBT)—maybe even with a focus on communication (CCLT)—perhaps under an older or newer name, such as teaching with comprehensible input (TCI), teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling (TPRS 1.0 or 2.0), storytelling while drawing (Story Listening), acquisition-driven input (ADI), or under any other name that does, in fact, give priority to input (i.e., not forcing kids to deal with being uncomfortable while speaking, etc.), there are only two ways to make that change:

  1. Change the texts students read.
  2. Change what you do.

If you have input sources besides yourself, just replace “texts” above with any other form of input, and keep reading. You should definitely be reading a lot in the second language classroom, but the concept applies to other video/audio sources of input (e.g., if you listen to pop tunes with only a handful of lyrics the kids understand, that’s not CI; you gotta change the kind of songs you’re having them listen to, or you have to change what you do so by the time they listen, they’ll actually understand it).

There it is; just two ways. With the former, you either give students a) different texts entirely, or b) adapted versions of the texts you always used beforehand. With the latter, you do things like a) learn how to actually speak Latin (or develop a higher proficiency in the modern language you teach), b) write texts with students (no, not just stories…even a summary of what was learned in class, written in the target language, is probably the best non-story example), or c) change your assessments. That’s it, but here are those options in more detail…

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Olianna et sandalia extraōrdināria: Published!

Olianna learns more about herself and her family in this psychological thriller continuation of “Olianna et obiectum magicum.” We begin at a critical moment in the original, yet in this new tale, not only does the magical object appear to Olianna, but so do a pair of extraordinary sandals! Olianna has some choices to make. How will her decisions affect the timeline? Will things ever get back to normal? If so, is that for the better, or worse?


20 cognates, 20 other words
1500 total length

While many Pisoverse novellas contain references to each other, none of them are what I would consider a sequel. This new book is different, though, picking up immediately in mediās rēs of an event towards the end of Olianna et obiectum magicum. As a true sequel, then, Olianna et sandalia extraōrdināria was deliberately written to include almost all the vocab from the original. The result is a book with 40 words, but just half are new. This reduces the vocab burden for any reader already familiar with the first book.

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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.

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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!”

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The Star Diaries (diāria sīderum): Published!

Not much was known about The Architects—guardians of the stars—until their diaries were found in dark caves sometime during the Tenth Age. Explore their mysterious observations from the Seventh Age (after the Necessary Conflict)—a time just before all evidence of their existence vanished for millennia! What happened to The Architects? Can you reconstruct the events that led to the disappearance of this ancient culture?


60-100 words, half cognates (i.e., 30-50)!
1000-3200 total length

Of all my books, I’m most excited for this one. Why? It’s my first completely new work of speculative fiction. What’s speculative fiction? It’s got elements from various genres, no-doubt SCI-FI, but without certain connotations one might expect, like being a nerdy genre. I like its characterization as “modern mythmaking,” and this book does just that. In diāria sīderum, I’ve created a new culture not connected to ours or the Romans, yet still plausibly within our universe somewhere along some an ancient timeline in the future. In fact, I approached the details of The Architects with intercultural competence in mind. What might their products and practices tell us? How are known cultures similar? How are they different?

I’m not gonna say anything else. Just know that there’s a LOT of details lurking about in this book that a beginner Latin reader could pick up on, especially if they spend some FVR time (Free Voluntary Reading) after you start the first section as a whole class. Besides, it’s a “who-dun-it?” of sorts, with a clear trail waiting to be discovered. Don’t skip the audio on this one, either. Enjoy!

Intro excerpt
Narrātor I excerpt
Narrātor SP-VI excerpt
Narrātor SP-X excerpt

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  4. Audiobook