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…Continue reading
Get yourself over to the new COMPRHENDED! conference; it’s super cheap and flexible PD you can access until May. As a presenter, my main role is fielding any questions people have about what I presented, but I’ve also had time to poke around as a participant, too, and I’ve got a new activity for whole-class reading. Mike Peto of My Generation of Polyglots has been a champion of novels and independent reading for quite a while. He promotes having texts in your FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) library that students can read on their own, which means at-level, as well as below-level reading options, as supported by research on extensive reading (Jeon & Day, 2016). Still, there might be available texts that students need a bit of scaffolding to read. While most texts Latin teachers use are far above level, this whole-class reading strategy is worth sharing, especially for texts adapted to something closer to at-level (but probably still above-level). There’s also value in this reading approach with texts of all levels, especially in COVID times. I’ve used it with first year Latin students as recently as this week. It’s a robust reading process:
1) Teacher reads aloud as students listen
2) Reread paragraph-by-paragraph as students ask clarifying questions to help understanding (English is fine)
3) Reread again as students come up with comprehension questions that the teacher has to answer (English is fine)
Step #2 is an opportunity to establish meaning, but that doesn’t guarantee comprehension. The questions in step #3 are evidence that students understand…or not. For example, I was asked “where does she run to?” which is a fine question, only the text didn’t say that the character ran anywhere…yet. That gave me the opportunity to say “ohh, well she doesn’t run anywhere yet, but here we see that she wants to run to the stadium” as I pointed out the word vult. It could be a simple oversight, or the student might have a different mental picture of what’s going on in the story. In my experience, younger students will need coaching on how to ask a comprehension question. For example, I mentioned that “who, what, where, when, why, how?” were good question starters, but then I got a bunch of “why?” questions that couldn’t be answered from the text.
Whereas my go-to reading strategy includes #1 as I help students process the meaning of Latin, steps #2 and #3 of Mike’s read-aloud promote a LOT more interaction. I like how the three steps are concrete tasks that keep the focus on Latin over Zoom. Other reading strategies rely on students holding themselves accountable for paying attention, and/or require the teacher to check comprehension. Over Zoom, that can get frustrating. With steps #2 and #3, it’s very obvious who needs more support (or who just isn’t there at the computer). Don’t make any judgements, either. I suspected a student had bailed, so while others were thinking of questions to ask, or sending me clarifying requests in direct messages—which I always replied to in general chat (e.g. “vult = she wants”)—I sent direct messages to the students I wasn’t certain were even there. Sure enough, they responded with something. This is the Zoom equivalent of the quiet student taking everything in.
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.
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…Continue reading
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…
“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…
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.
This September marks the fifth anniversary of the first two Latin novellas written with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary for the language learner by co-authors Rachel Ash & Miriam Patrick, and Bob Patrick. There are now 70. That’s 0 to 70 in five years, and a whopping total figure of over 228,000 words of new Latin! What has the impact been? Let’s take a look…Continue reading
Right now, I’m filling out our department wishlist request form for next school year. There are 81 novellas, and 10 textbooks for AP (five Caesar, five Virgil). The total cost of novellas is $691.91, and the total cost for the textbooks is $710. The $710 would cover five students enrolled in AP. The $691.91 will fill my FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) library to include everything currently published, as well as build two additional libraries in other teachers’ classrooms, covering all Latin students at our school.
This all got me thinking of some big questions.
- When funds are tight, who do they tend to go to?
- How many Latin programs would choose to fund the five AP students over the rest?
- What does the decision to offer AP really cost a school beyond the $93 exam fee (i.e. teacher training, materials, etc.)?
- Given what we know about AP Latin, how much time, effort, and money should be allocated?
- How do we place value (beyond $) on different classroom materials?
- Which materials provide the most purposeful CI?
- What’s essential? What’s extra?