Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Story Character Instagram Posts

If you've gathered anything from reading my blog, it's that I'm not a teacher who takes things too seriously (did you notice the name of my blog?!). I've always had a cheeky and silly side (they don't call me Iohannes Lascivus for nothing!), which I love to bring to my classroom. 

In the past two weeks, my Latin II classes read a story version that I wrote based on the film Snack Attack, which I first presented as a Movie Talk (or whatever they're called nowadays, again my cheeky and snarky side coming out!). To practice with vocabulary and demonstrate their comprehension of the Latin story, students created Instagram posts for one of the two characters, the old woman (anus in Latin, yes, you read that correctly) or the young man (iuvenis in Latin). Students were required to create these Instagram posts as their chosen character's reactions to the events in the story/film. Students could also be creative and have fun by using Latin hashtags that I wrote or by giving their character a funny username (my favorites are Instagranny and Best_anus_ever). 

It is worth mentioning that I do not have an Instagram account, so the inspiration for this assignment came from my impressions of the most ridiculous of Instagram tropes (e.g. shameless self-promotion, oversharing, glorification of the mundane), but, again, I'm all for irreverence and camp. 

Here is the slideshow with the instructions and a sample created by yours truly (pardon the quality of the drawing and handwriting):

Here is the worksheet (one side for the students to create their posts and the other side with Latin hashtags that I wrote):
To see the worksheet in its original formatting, click here

Samples of student work:
That username! ๐Ÿ˜‚


Friday, September 6, 2019

Story Matching Activity

The new year is in full swing and I am almost in my sixth (!) week of the year (I already am if pre-planning counts!). What have I been up to since my last post? The last academic year came to an end and I went to the ACL Institute in New York. It was my first time at ACL, so it was fun meeting people whose work I have admired from online (where do I begin? Jenn Jarnagin, John Bracey, John Piazza, Lance Piantaggini, Chris Buczek, Justin Slocum Bailey) and catch up with former colleagues. I want to write a post about the changes I've made to my teaching for this academic year eventually.

Back to the topic of this post...

Here is an activity that I did with my Latin II students this past week. Based on the survey I gave to my Latin I students last year, they said that they wanted to continue reading Greco-Roman myths, which made up the majority of the texts we read in Latin I. This year, so far we have read two stories based on the myths of the god Vulcan/Hephaestus, inspired by stories originally written by Keith Toda and Rachel Ash and modified and extended by me. The first story covers Juno/Hera throwing Vulcan/Hephaestus off Mount Olympus. The second part covers Vulcan/Hephaestus' scheme to trap Juno/Hera in a chair that he made, the gods' attempts to bring him back to free Juno/Hera, and Bacchus/Dionysus getting Vulcan/Hephaestus drunk to convince him to return to Mount Olympus. We have been covering the second part for the past two weeks, so I created this tactile and interactive activity as we begin to wrap up our time with this story.

The activity is simple: I created a storyboard for the story using StoryboardThat (see this post from last year about my experiences with it). I printed out the storyboard (with the text cropped out) and the matching sets of sentences from the story and cut them into individual strips. 

Colours of the world! Spice up your Latin!

What did students do? In groups (in chairs, on whiteboards, on the floor), they

  • Match each set of sentences with the appropriate picture.
  • Put the matches of sentences/pictures in the correct order in which they appear in the story.

Different colors=no problems!

A few considerations:
  • I printed each set in a different color for aesthetics and to prevent the sets from getting mixed. 
  • Students completed this activity entirely from memory. As I mentioned above, they have been reading this for over a week now, so I would only use this activity after students are already very familiar with the story.
  • Cutting out the pictures and sentence sets for nine groups of students took me about 4 hours. I love these types of activities, but this drawback makes me only do this a few times a year. Maybe I need student aides? 

Spend 4 hours cutting things out because I'm a control freak vs. Save time by having students cut things out 

The activity took about 15-20 minutes and not a single group struggled with recalling the story, so I was very satisfied with the outcome!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Graffiti from the Romans to Today

For the past few years of teaching the first level of Latin (Latin 101 and Latin I), I have included a fun end-of-the-year day of looking at funny, obscene, and salacious graffiti left by Latin speakers. I decided to continue this tradition, but I was inspired to put a new spin on it this year. Instead of simply translating and commenting on samples of graffiti, I have expanded the lesson to include an exploration into the contemporary points of view on graffiti.

Here's the lesson plan:

1) I introduced the topic of graffiti via the first few slides in the slideshow. We created a class definition of graffiti before looking at the dictionary entry for the word. We also explored the issue: are graffiti art, a crime, or both? 

2) I introduced the Latin vocabulary for agreeing and disagreeing. Then each student received 8 stickers with which to express their opinion on 8 statements posted around the classroom. After students responded to the statements and returned to their seats, I summarized the results.

3) Returning to the slideshow, we examined several misconceptions about graffiti: Only gangs and criminals make graffiti. (We watched a video from last month on graffiti as a form of political expression in Sudan), We can learn a lot from graffiti. (I presented the importance of graffiti to the study of Latin and its speakers, especially as a means for the non-elites to have a voice), and Most people feel the same way about graffiti (We examined perspectives on graffiti that differ from the negativity that we have in the US). 

4) We then read examples of Roman and medieval graffiti, inscriptions, and proverbs. A couple were talking epitaphs and a few were toilet humor graffiti - all of which got strong reactions from the class.

The slideshow:

The consensus statements posted around the classroom:
Click here to view the document in its original formatting.

Samples from one of my classes:

The worksheet with Latin graffiti, inscriptions, and proverbs:

Click here to view the document in its original formatting.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Scisne? Survey

This past week, I created a survey for my Latin I classes to complete to reinforce the verbs scio (I know) and nescio (I don't know). Within the past year, I have also been invested in creating activities for additional opportunities for input other than the usual (e.g. reading stories, listening exercises, TPR, et al.), especially activities that draw upon my students' lives and experiences, encourage convivial interaction between students, and allow for students for learn more about one another. 

So what does the survey look like?

Day 1: I created a Google Form with each question asking "Scisne...?" (Do you know how...?) with different skills. All students had to do was pull out their phones or use the student computer in my room and answer scio or nescio for each question. The skills ranged from building a fire to driving to cooking to dancing to playing an instrument to using different forms of technology to using different forms of social media. 

Day 2: I created a Google Slideshow with the results of the survey from all three of my Latin I classes. We then discussed the results.

One bonus form of input from this: exposure to and repetition of large numbers! When I was studying Latin, I barely learned numbers 1-10, let alone anything above 10, so I'm so proud that my students were able to understand the numbers! Latin numbers also behave a little differently compared English numbers. For example, for 18, 19, 28, 29, 38, 39, etc., Latin prefers to count down, so eighteen is duodeviginti (two-down-from-twenty), nineteen is undeviginti (two-down-from-twenty), and so on. This is challenging for most students (I still struggle with this because I've had to teach myself the numbers - I even keep a print-out of the pages on numbers from Allen & Greenough on my desk at all times!), but most of my students were able to follow along and understand with my guidance.

The data from the survey contained some surprising and not-so-surprising results. For example, most of my students know how to use Snapchat and Instagram, but not Facebook (that's for us old people ๐Ÿ‘ด). Half of my students know how to play an instrument.

This activity also provided ample opportunities for circling and community building. For example, I asked if students knew how to speak another language (they had to decide if that included Latin or not ๐Ÿ˜‰), so I asked around to find out which languages my students can speak. The results were exciting - Amharic, Gujarati, Arabic, Spanish, French! I also circled for other questions, like "What instrument do you know how to play?" and "What do you know how to cook?" 

If you'd like to see the slideshow, I have embedded it below:

Friday, March 8, 2019

Quis nuntium misit ad me? Choose Your Own Adventure

This past week, I created an activity for my Latin I classes with the following scenario: someone has sent you a strange text message, so how will you react?! What unfolds next depends on how students choose to respond (from a set of possible responses) to the mysterious message, for they will receive different follow-up questions. In the end, the students find out who sent the message - with a surprise twist!

The mysterious message: "I found a body." ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

The format: a text message (question) & the possible responses

Here are some examples of the question and the answers to choose from:

"ego invฤ“ni corpus." (I found a body)

  • You should send, "Who are you?"
  • You should send, "Who are you?" ๐Ÿ˜ก
  • You should send, "Who are you?" ๐Ÿ˜˜
  • You should ignore the message.
The 'sender' will respond based on the answer.

"vide sub mensa. quid invฤ“nisti?" (See under the table. What did you find?)

  • You should send, "I found money."
  • You should send, "I found dust."
  • You should send, "I found a stylus."
  • You should send, "I found a key."

"sume rem! quid est?" (Pick up the object. What is it? [The adventure at this point had led to finding an object in a cabinet.])

  • You should send, "The object is a stylus."
  • You should send, "The object is money."
  • You should send, "The object is blood."
  • You should send, "The object is a book."

The response to the question above will determine the final sequence of events. 


  • I love active use of the target language, especially for fun and quirky purposes!
  • To expose students to target vocabulary, such as debere "should," mittere "to send," and invenire "to find."
  • To expose students to "real-life" applications of the language with questions like "Ubi es?" ("Where are you?"), "Quid invenisti?" ("What did you find?").
  • To offer choice to students as they practice reading Latin.

What students do:

  • Access the Google Form with the questions.
  • Write each question that they encounter and the answer that they choose for every question.

The packet for students to fill in the questions and answers:

How did students react? They loved it and they shared their choices with their friends! It was a fun change of pace.

What would I change for next time?

  • Use this activity after students have already acquired the vocabulary, rather than to introduce and reinforce vocabulary. Students said that it would have even more fun if they did not have to refer to the lexical guide I made.
  • Use this activity with Latin II to review Latin I vocabulary.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Betting Word Chunk Game

After having played the Word Chunk game (in case you're not familiar with it, check out what Keith Toda and Bob Patrick have written about it) for almost 2 years with students, I recently decided to change things up a bit. The premise is still the same: students are in small teams and must translate a sentence from a recent story that we have read in class. 

Here's how I changed it, inspired by trivia games: 
Each group starts with 10 points. 
Before each question (or when we played, each sentence to be translated from Latin into English), each group decides if they want to bet 1, 2, or 3 point(s). They cannot change their bet after they start working on translating the sentence.
I give the groups 2 minutes to translate. After 2 minutes, I check their submissions. If the sentence is 100% correct, they get the amount of points that they bet added to their score. If they did not, they lose the number of points that they bet. 
For the final question, each group could bet as many points as they had.

Since this is a translation activity, it requires that the students' translations be precise, so it is important that they already be familiar with the story. If students are not familiar with what they are translating, that will just breed frustration when they lose points for an imperfect translation.

My students enjoyed the change and the competitive uncertainty of placing bets. My only concern was what to do if a group ran out of points. In that case, I still let them bet, but I'll need to figure out a way to get around that.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Post-Winter Break Vocabulary Recall

The holidays have come and gone, including my winter break, which consisted mostly of...

Back to reality, I always like to do some review before moving on to new material. One no-prep activity that I have loved doing (second time, as of today) is asking students to generate a list of as many words as they can remember in Latin. This is a great activity for after winter break because it gets students back into thinking in Latin and, best of all, it reminds them that they know more Latin than they think they do. This reassurance is essential for level one learners, which is why I love to do it with my Latin I classes the most. It's also great to use at the beginning of the school year with level two for many of the same reasons (which I did last year). 

Here's how I structure the activity:
  • I randomly divide the class into groups of 3. (I use this website to create the groups. If you know of an even better one - let me know!) I will adjust the groups to make them more mixed by ability and gender and to prevent behavioral issues.
  • Each group gets a whiteboard, a marker, and a rag.
  • Each group must come up with as many Latin words as they can remember and write their list on their whiteboard.
  • To add some competition, the group that remembers the highest number of words gets a prize (candy or stickers). As the day progresses, I challenge the groups to outdo not only one another but also the record set by my previous classes.
  • As for timing, I will check in on the class, but most groups will need to be stopped - so this is a great activity to fill an entire class period. 
  • When there are about 15 minutes left in class, I will stop the activity. Then each group will count up the number of words they remembered. The group that remembered the highest number of words will share their list aloud while I type and project it in a Google Sheets file.
  • I will then share this Google Sheets file with my students as a reference.

Here are the word counts (combined from every group's list, minus duplicates of course) for my three Latin I classes today: 169, 247, and 221. 

Here is the Google Sheets file with the vocabulary lists. I have added the English meaning and additional forms for student reference.

The goal in our Latin program is for students to acquire around 100 words per semester, so I am so proud that my students have exceeded this goal! This is language acquisition in action! ๐Ÿ˜