Syra sōla: Published!

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This is my favorite novella yet.

Syra sōla has the second fewest unique words of all 12 other novellas—29—(excluding names, different forms, and meaning established in the text), 10 of which are super clear cognates! This novella of 1400 total words is excellent as a Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) option for beginners, a quick read for more experienced readers, and also as one of the first whole-class novellas.

About Syra sōla
Syra just wants to be alone. Good luck in Rome, right? Syra travels to the famous coastal towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in search of solitude. She encounters a merchant with several animals from Africa, including arguably the best Latin animal name, camēlopardalis (a “giraffe,” because it really DOES look like a camel-leopard!). Don’t let that word bog you down; it’s pronounced camēēēēloPARRRRdalis, with the accent on the “PAR,” and has the rhythm of repeating iambs (i.e. short long short LONG short short). Syra sōla is available…

1) 2019 CANE Annual Meeting March 8 & 9 (discounted copies, any 5 for $25)!!!
2) Amazon
3) Free Preview (first 5 of 10 chapters, no illustrations)

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30 Hours & First Novella

With students meeting 1x/week—this year only—we just had the 30th class of the year. I compared this to our calendar for next year, which is as if it’s October 9th meeting every day of the week. Now, with constant reminders of routines (since at least one week passes from class to class), and typical testing/school interruptions, and Northeast snow, those 30 class hours could amount to fewer total hours of input (25, 20, 15?!). Total input hours is tough to calculate, though, so we’ll just stick with 30 for the purpose of this post! What does that mean for reading? Cue the first novella…

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Drūsilla et convīvium magārum: Published!

Here’s the latest compelling, comprehensible text written with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary to provide more understandable reading material for the beginning Latin student. Drūsilla et convīvium magārum features mages (i.e. witches, sorcerers, etc.), serpents, a dinner party, peacocks, and potentially pooping in a cooking-pot (fūfae! = gross!). Fun for everyone, right?

 

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Drūsilla is the longest Pisoverse novella to date, finishing at over 3400 total words in length. That’s over 500 words longer than Pīsō Ille Poētulus, but with half the vocab! It’s the first Pisoverse novella to venture into magic and the occult, making for quite the compelling narrative, yet still within the context of ancient Rome.

Drusilla lives next to Piso. Like many Romans, she likes to eat, especially peacocks! As the Roman army returns, she awaits a big dinner party celebrating her father’s homecoming. One day, however, she sees a suspicious figure give something to her brother. Who was it? Is her brother in danger? Is she in danger?

Drūsilla et convīvium magārum contains 58 unique words (excluding names, different forms of words, and meaning established within the text), and works well with any Roman daily life unit (e.g. home, family, food, etc.) in Latin class.

Drūsilla et convīvium magārum is available…

1) Classroom Set Specials (up to $80 off!)
2) On Amazon
3) As a free preview of the first 7 chapters (of 17)
4) Email me for Purchase Orders and classroom set discounts

Writing for the Novice: Fewer Words, Shorter Sentences

When it comes to writing for the novice, nothing is more important than using words students know, and keeping sentences short. The use of fewer words is self-evident. Shorter sentences, however, help reduce cognitive demand, and likely result in more repeated words from restating the subject, and clearly separating contrasting ideas instead of piles of subordination.

Magister Craft’s latest October Equus is the most understandable novice-categorized Latin video out there that doesn’t establishing meaning in the video itself (though complete subtitles in English are available). There are 127 total words, and 86 unique. If we exclude names, and a handful of words with different forms, that brings it down to about 60 words. The most frequently repeated words are est (6), in (6), et (5), caput (4), and equus (4), with another 5 words repeated 2x. Even this most-likely-to-be-understood video is nowhere near comprehensible to my first year students, or any other students who aren’t familiar with about 58 of those particular words.

How to make this more comprehensible for my students? The first step, without reducing the word count, is breaking up sentences (the longest sentences are 10 words in length). This allows us to restate the subject, or verbs with multiple subjects, and then add one or two words from the original longer sentence. As a result, the novice student has more exposure to the big content words that hold meaning, and increases the chance that any new words are comprehended instead of part of a string of new words all at once. Here are examples:

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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.

Observations:

  • 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.

4th Class, 1st MovieTalk

This has been the 3rd year in a row that I’ve wanted to start the year cold with a story on Day 1, but have bailed. I was even close this year with Von Ray’s No-Travel story script, but it still didn’t happen. I’m thinking that it’s just not my style, which is fine, but it’s already clear to me that my students need to experience something new besides Total Physical Response (TPR), Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA), and subsequent reading activities. Still, a class story via Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a home run for us right now, so I need a solution.

MovieTalk.

When I saw Von Ray last winter, he mentioned that MovieTalk is the easiest first step to storyasking. He’s right. Even if you have absolute novice students, just narrate at their levelI’d normally wait for more TPR, or Discipulus Illustris to establish a solid foundation of familiar words, but I’ve decided to do a MovieTalk for this 4th Latin class of the year, which is the 4th week of school (i.e. Latin 1x per week).

The Present is one of the 9 animated shorts used in TPRS Books’ Look, I can MovieTalk! available in Spanish, French, and soon—with hope—Latin! I already know that after just 3 classes my students won’t be able to read even the simplest versions of any MovieTalk readings out there, so I’ve created a super simple Embedded Reading for The Presentretold in 3 versions. 

The text doesn’t limit, or represent exactly what I’ll narrate and ask in class, but it does represent a safe amount of language that my students will understand as a follow up reading. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a parallel reading, but I’ll likely ask Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) that stray from the script. That’s a good thing.

You’ll notice that while the word count increases from 13 to 25 from Version 1 to Version 3, the total words figure drops from 71 in Version 2, to 63 in Version 3. Why? There’s less of the recycled exposure to words found in Version 2 because there’s more new information in each version, not just longer sentences, or more sentences about the same information. By the time the student reads the last version, they will have been exposed to the recycled language enough to make repetition less important. I’ve also deliberately used more transparent cognates to support comprehension, and kept the word count low, replacing the classic “there’s a problem” phrase with an already known interjection, “oh no!” I’m still using Picturae images whenever possible, and establishing meaning with English for more abstract words, or possibly ambiguous images (e.g. I couldn’t find a clear image for a generic ball). You’ll also notice that Version 3 has a more typical Latin word order, which students are more likely to be able to read once they’ve understood the meanings of the words in an order similar to English. This is a deliberate strategy for making Latin more comprehensible, and shouldn’t be seen as negative, or damaging. See a February post on Input Processing for more.

The 2 class day (for me, 2 week) plan:
Day 1 = MovieTalk, then Choral Translation of Version 1.
Day 2 (a week later for me) = Choral Translation of Version 2, something else unrelated (like Discipulus Illustris), then Silent T/F Reading of Version 3.

Like Justin Slocum Bailey wrote, Choral Translation is best used sparingly, yet 7 days between classes makes comprehension even more of a priority so that students stay super confident. Also mentioned on the latest Tea with BVP, written input helps students find word boundaries that aren’t necessarily obvious when listening. Knowing these boundaries helps in the search for words, and the search for words—big content words and not their endings—is what novice through intermediate students are doing!

Silent T/F Reading is new, which I got from NTPRS 2017 (i.e. partners read silently for X minutes, then draw just 2 pics: one True, one False. Swap, then partner chooses correct. Pass to other groups, and partners choose correct. Show a few on document cam, PQA, etc.).