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…
It’s DCI finals week, so you get a drum corps analogy. You have no idea what that is, you sort of know, or you marched colorguard in 1984? Well, this is what a DCI champion looks like these days. Drumlines usually begin the season in the winter months with complex and challenging music. In the summer, after hours and hours of rehearsal, that music is usually “watered-down” to something the performers can actually achieve, hence The Hose. I’ve long thought that it might be a more pedagogically-sound practice to write some basic “skeleton” music, and then expand it to be more challenging as performers improve throughout the season. The result would be music appropriate to the performers’ proficiency level (instead of spending time trying to reach something they can’t do, or can’t do well, only to ditch during finals week). Of course, it would take an incredibly patient drum line and staff in the winter to have faith that performer proficiency would improve beyond what appeared to be the “simple, easy beats” to play, and then become something impressive and worthy of playing in front of a crowd. In reality, though, the simple beats are quite rudimental to drumming, just like sheltered vocabulary is to second language learning.
The 238 pages of support for Pīsō Ille Poētulus are finally here! In addition to invaluable information about Latin poetry, this Teacher’s Guide has 13 ready-to-go options for interacting with each chapter of Pīsō! Head to the copier, or project on board. Use them all, or choose a few per chapter; do whatever you’d like!
“Latin texts with only 40 unique words are EXACTLY what the profession needs right now…and we need a lot of them.”
– Stephen Krashen on Rūfus et arma ātra
Rūfus et arma ātra, my latest Latin novella, is available now!
**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!
I’m working on the Teacher’s Guide to Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and thought I’d share exactly what the practice “shelter vocabulary, unshelter grammar” looks like. To begin with, the conventional language teacher has crippling anxiety at the apparent lack of grammar in my classroom, but oooooh is it there, and oooooh is it understandable. The major difference in a comprehension-based communicative classroom like mine, however, is that grammar just isn’t taught explicitly, though pop-up explanations abound (e.g. “Mr. P, why does that word have a ‘-t‘ on it?”).
The reason my students don’t need explicit grammar instruction to understand Latin is because a) conscious grammar knowledge isn’t necessary to read Latin (or ANY language), b) internal learner constraints prevent students from noticing grammar features before they are ready, and c) grammar syllabi are sequenced in artificial ways that don’t match the order of what students are ready for. Instead of explicit grammar teaching and the grammar syllabus, students need a net of input, and that net has to be HUGE so that something particular that any given student at any given moment of time is ready to soak up is actually floating around in the input (and not just 3 person singular for 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months, etc.).
Students who read Pīsō are exposed to a broad net of grammar. Oh, and there are some cultural topics in the target language, too. Here’s what you’ll find JUST in Chapter 1—the first 4 pages of Pīsō…
Pīsō Ille Poētulus, my Latin poetry novella, is available now! You can get it on iTunes or Amazon, but it’s better to download from Band Camp! Alternatively, I can mail it to you on a USB Drive.
So much of this blog is CI-centered, but there’s a neglected tab on the navigator bar devoted to what I’ve called Rhythmic Fluency. Since I’m now teaching Latin IV (Ovid & Catullus), I’ve gone back to my rhythmic roots, and am seeing the power of those earlier metrical resources combined with my classes now containing more comprehensible Latin. Pīsō Ille Poētulus (already greatly improved since sharing a couple weeks ago) includes 22 lines of original dactylic hexameter using a limited vocabulary, thus increasing its comprehensibility potential. It is scheduled for November publication so you can brush up on your rhythmic fluency beforehand by listening to the dactylic hexameter audio files, and be prepared to read Pīsō with your students in a more compelling way by actually focusing on the meter using a resource they can hear and recite along with!
In addition to that audio, of particular interest and effectiveness is Lingua Latīna, the Latin Poetry Rhythm Card Game. If you noticed, the title of the game represents the traditional 5th & 6th foot of dactylic hexameter (i.e. — u u — —). The point of the game is to run out of cards by playing 2-3 words that form the very same rhythm of the phrase, Lingua Latīna.
I’ll be using this game throughout the year. A good way to use it would be to treat it exactly like you would a game of VERBA, either whole class first then in small groups so you can monitor, or as just one of several station options.