K-F-D Quiz: Fun With Data Analysis!

I spent about 15min entering data from the diēs Mārtis (i.e. Tuesday) Latin class K-F-D QuizzesN.B. These are “sneaky quizzes” per my NTPRS 2017 presentation, No Prep Grading & Assessment, referring to “assessments” that satisfy most quizzing/testing requirements, yet are actually an opportunity to interact and acquire.


28 students were in class for the K-F-D Quiz. Here are some observations:

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Sheltering Vocabulary: Caesar & Piso Fun Facts

Fun Facts:

  • Caesar’s Dē Bellō Gallicō, Liber V (i.e. just book 5, though there are 8 total) has 2900 unique words, and is 7400 total words in length.
  • All 4 current “Pisoverse” novellas combined have 233 unique words, and are 8445 total words in length.


  • Regardless of any definition of “reading” that could possibly exist, successfully reading one of the above is an impossible task for nearly all high school students, and extremely unlikely for the remaining handful.
  • The unique word count of 108 in Pīsō Ille Poētulus—the highest of my novellas—is too high for some students to read easily. That’s with just 108 words, let alone 200, let alone 400, let alone 800, 1600, or the 2900 in Caesar.
  • Most students will fail to read anything close to this excerpt of just one ancient author (traditionally considered “easy Latin!”) that has 26x the vocabulary of a novella some students can’t yet read easily.
  • At most, high school students receive 4 years of input (5-6 if middle school Latin?). Given that some students in years 1 and 2 might not be able to read Pīsō Ille Poētulus easily, it’s clear that realistic expectations for reading are much, much lower than we think.
  • Students will be more successful reading copious amounts of Latin containing words they are familiar with.
  • Sheltering vocabulary has the greatest impact on providing contexts with more familiar words.
  • Students would benefit from reading more novellas under 100 unique words.


Why novellas? Read more, here.

Pīsō (latín -> español) Published!


You’ve seen this map, right? Among many things, it’s to remind Western cultures that their historic place in the world doesn’t mean that the continents actually exist as they’ve been portrayed. This was the first image that came to mind when Donaciano Pardo, a Latin teacher in Spain, expressed to me that he wanted his students to read Pīsō Ille Poētulus, but that they didn’t understand English…

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Why Novellas? Why “Shelter Vocabulary?”

The new Latin novellas, first published in September of 2015, have been written with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary so the novice student can read Latin confidently after knowing as few as 40 words! This sheltering provides frequent exposure to Latin’s core vocabulary—even more so than textbook narratives, or unadapted ancient texts that seldom repeat words. Why novellas? Why shelter vocabulary? Novellas provide high-frequency repetition for the novice student.

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I shared the following picture of my language library to the “iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching” Facebook group to share how reading novellas has increased my Spanish and French proficiency:


Now, the books circled in red are either mostly-unadapted ancient Latin containing support (i.e. some words defined—in Latin—in the margins), or Latin translations of books unintended for the language learner (e.g. The Hobbit, or Harry Potter). These represent more than half of my current extensive reading options for Latin—the others nearby not circled being 10 novellas with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary published within the last three years. Sheltering vocabulary has had a positive effect on my Spanish and French proficiency, so I got thinking about the effects of reading unsheltered Latin…

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Chapter 1: Paramount

I was sitting next to my friend and NTPRS travel buddy, Angie Dodd, as she read Rūfus et arma ātra to pass the time on the flight down to San Antonio. I’ve observed Angie teaching Spanish in VT, and she’s great. Angie took a few years of Latin back in high school, but remembers very little other than the opening lines of some Caesar, and Cicero (which she had to memorize, of course). “I feel like I’m reading more fluently by page 28,” she said. Truth.

In a novella with only 40 words, most of them will have been read long before the end of the book. It should be no surprise, then, that the most frequent words occur within the first chapter or two. This explains why reading the book actually became easier as Angie continued. This can be applied to all novellas that shelter (i.e. limit) vocabulary, and those with the lowest word counts have most of their words front-loaded within the first chapter or two, also obvious in my other books, Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and the latest, Agrippīna: māter fortis .

Therefore, if students feel the most strain in the first chapter or two, perhaps we should begin novellas together. Laurie Clarcq would often read half a novel together as a whole class before it would go on the Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) shelf. The rationale being that those interested/hooked will pick up the book to find out how it ends, and those disinterested will have a better chance of reading something else they find compelling.

BTW, Angie decided to reread the Rūfus—having had meaning established on the first pass—knowing that she would then “actually be able to read.” She did, with chuckles throughout.

CI is amazing, isn’t it?

p.s. Rūfus was inspired by Mira Canion’s El capibara con botas containing just 55 Spanish words. That book was a breeze and a blast to read, and I knew that Latin students needed something like this. Granted, the word count figure excludes a lot of Spanish cognates (twice as many?), but that seems to be the industry standard practice. For Pīsō, however, I strayed from this practice and instead chose to include cognates in the word count figure of 108 since I don’t believe cognates are necessarily transparent. I also excluded the ~30 additional meanings established in footnotes, as well as all different forms of words (e.g. est and esse) that students encounter when unsheltering (i.e. not limiting) grammar. Agrippīna has ~20, and Rūfus just ~10 additional meanings established in footnotes. If the word count figures irritate you, it’s fine to say that while Pīsō has under 150, Agrippīna has under 90, and Rūfus has under 50 words—figures still worthy of note!

Storyasking: Mixed Tenses

“Sheltering vocabulary while unsheltering grammar” refers to using ANY grammar necessary to express ideas while limiting words. This mantra has been instrumental in the design of our latest Latin novellas since it simultaneously reduces cognitive demand while casting a broad net of input, exposing students to different verb forms as they attend to fewer “big content word” meanings. Despite this unsheltering, sometimes we have to make a decision about when our story takes place! This establishes a focus—perhaps unwanted—on one tense or another.

If we, indeed, want to expose students to that broad net of input, we can respond appropriately without sacrificing any communicative value. Here are some very practical ways to conceptualize the use of different tenses in stories, and what to do in order to add variety to the verb forms used in stories and readings:

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Rūfus et arma ātra: A New Latin Novella

**Update 3.15.17 – Rufus has been published!**

Rūfus et arma ātra is a spin-off of Pīsō Ille Poētulus written with ONLY 40 words—the lowest word count of currently published novellas! Rūfus is simple, funny, and can be read a) after Pīsō once students have a connection to the character, or b) before Pīsō early on in Latin I. At the end of November, most of my Latin I students read Rūfus over just a few days of Free Voluntary Reading (FVR); some read it within the first 15min!

Click here to access the first 3 chapters (of 7) for previewing/piloting.

In the preview, you’ll recognize some illustrations from Pīsō. Over 50 of them, both old and new, will be used to aid comprehension in the final version of Rūfus. I’ll be editing the book in February for publication in March, so contact me with any suggestions you and/or your students might have by the end of January.

p.s. Rūfus was inspired by Mira Canion’s El capibara con botas containing just 55 Spanish words. The book was a breeze and a blast to read, and I knew that Latin students needed something like this. Granted, the word count figure excludes a lot of Spanish cognates (twice as many?), but that seems to be the industry standard practice. For Pīsō, however, I strayed from this practice and instead chose to include cognates in the word count figure of 108, since I don’t believe cognates are necessarily transparent, and excluded the ~30 additional meanings established in footnotes. Similarly, Rūfus has just ~10 additional meanings established in footnotes. If that reckoning irritates you, it’s fine to say that while Pīsō has under 150, Rūfus has under 50 words—a figure still worthy of note!