Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Lucky/Unlucky QR Code Scavenger Hunt

For the past week, my Latin II classes have been reading my adapted version of Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes. In the Greek text, Hermes (as a less-than-a-day-old baby) finds a tortoise and brings it home, saying, "ἐπηλυσίης πολυπήμονος ἔσσεαι ἔχμα (you will protect against painful witchcraft)" (line 37). After reading this curious line, I looked into references to other positive uses for tortoises in the ancient Mediterranean world. All this prompted me to encourage discussion in my Latin II classes on luck and superstition in ancient Mediterranean cultures and beyond. 

As part of this, I created a QR code scavenger hunt (if you're unfamiliar with a QR code scavenger hunt or a QR running dictation, check out this post from my colleagues, Miriam Patrick and Rachel Ash) so my students could read (in Latin) about various lucky/unlucky signs from across the world. 

Each QR code contains two Latin sentences. The first, which students copy down, describes something considered lucky or unlucky and the culture/country. The second sentence contains the clue for the location of the next QR code.

Once students have found and copied down all the sentences, they choose their favorite among both the lucky signs and the unlucky signs and then draw and color both.

Here are the examples I used:

  • The number eight is lucky in China.
  • If the first guest of the new year is a good person, then it is good luck in Vietnam.
  • The number four is unlucky in China and Japan.
  • Ladybugs are lucky in Turkey.
  • Coyotes are unlucky if encountered while traveling, according to the Navajo.
  • A white elephant is lucky in Thailand.
  • A black witch moth is unlucky in Mexico.
  • If your hair is cut on the seventeenth or twenty-ninth day of the month, you will not go bald, according to the ancient Romans.
  • The number nine is unlucky in Japan.
  • The cat Maneki-neko is lucky in Japan.


Here are some samples of students' work:

Thursday, December 19, 2019

2019 Year in Review

2019 has (almost) gone, so I'd like to reflect briefly on some of the highlights of my year. 

My teaching in 2019 has had its ups and downs. There were times in the spring when I felt that I might need to leave the profession for my mental health, so I spent a lot of time over the summer in reflection. I am in a much better place now, but I still have days when I feel like pulling a Ginger Spice.

  • Writing my own novice-level Latin texts - I wrote about this for 2018 and I am still doing this for Latin II this school year. I love going back to the ancient texts and writing novice-level versions for my students. Right now I prefer it to teaching with novellas because I find that novellas get stale for both the students and me, so students are always getting new myths to read. This semester we read myths about Vulcan/Hephaestus, Mars/Ares, Venus/Aphrodite, Diana/Artemis, and Atalanta. In 2020 I plan to write novice-level stories about myths of Apollo, Mercury/Hermes, and Roman history.
  • Procedures - Over the summer I read Jon Cowart's new book on classroom management in the CI classroom. My biggest takeaway this year has been to include warm-up activities for every class to prepare students for class, review previous vocabulary, and offer comfort through predictable routines.
  • Google Forms - I'm slowly but surely getting better at creating open-ended activities with Google Forms. In the spring, students solved a mystery with various possible endings. In the fall, students learned what the dreams meant according to ancient Roman interpretations of various types of dreams.
  • Dressing up as Banjo and Kazooie for Halloween!
20 years in the making!

Greek & Latin:
  • My first ACL - I attended the annual ACL Institute in New York City in June and enjoyed meeting many, many faces I had only known online.
  • I haven't read much in the way of Greek and Latin texts (beyond those I use to create my novice-level myth stories for Latin II), but I did enjoy Ken Dark and Jan Kostenec's new book Hagia Sophia in Context: An Archaeological Re-examination of the Cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople. It was the closest I could get to one of my lifelong dreams - getting access to all of the Hagia Sophia. 
Highly recommended!


  • Macon and Valdosta, GA - A quick two-day trip during my spring break to explore the swamps of Georgia. Unseasonably cold, but still fun, even though I didn't see the wildlife I wanted to see in Valdosta. I did see two massive gators in Macon though!
  • New York City - ACL Institute. My third time in NYC, so less pressure to go sightseeing this time. The highlight this time was visiting the Nintendo Store.
  • Augusta, GA - Visiting more swamps. Great place to see alligators. I finally had my first encounter with a Georgia snake too!
  • Chicago - Back home for Thanksgiving and my 4 F's of being home: friends, family, fur babies, and food. I visited the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture for the first time, despite the fact that my mother's side is 100% Lithuanian. An unexpected highlight: ancient artifacts from or found in Lithuania, such as amber found in Egypt and Roman coins found in Lithuania.

Annum novum faustum felicem tibi, lector!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Dream Interpretation Activity

In Latin III this year we have been reading Andrew Olimpi's novella Perseus et Rex Malus. One of the characters, Danae, has a strange dream that results in her...(spoiler alert) getting pregnant.

More on that later. 

About a year or so ago, I read J.C. McKeown's delightful A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire, a book, which - as the name suggests - offers amusing facts about the ancient Romans and interesting insights into Roman culture that the literary and material sources provide. I would recommend the book to teachers and anyone with an interest in ancient Rome. I enjoyed it so much that I can't wait to read the other books in McKeown's series on ancient Greece and ancient Greek and Roman medicine. Of course I would also recommend Anthony Kaldellis' A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Most Orthodox Empire so that you may get a comprehensive overview of Greek and Roman civilization. 😉

Just by coincidence, I was going through my bookmarks in McKeown's book a few weeks ago and stumbled upon his chapter titled "Religion and Superstition." There I had marked a set of amusing ancient Roman interpretations of different types of dreams from the second-century AD writer Artemidorus' Oneirocritica (or Interpretation of Dreams). Here are my "school appropriate" favorites (translated by McKeown):
  • Dreaming that one is blind is favorable for runners, since a runner who takes the lead in a race is like a blind man in that he does not see his fellow runners...Such dreams are auspicious for poets also, since they need total calm when they are going to compose, and loss of sight would ensure that they are not distracted by shapes of colors (1.26).
  •  Dreaming about turnips, rutabagas, and pumpkins presages disappointed hopes, since they are massive but lack nutritional value. They signify surgery and woundings with iron implements for sick people and travelers, respectively, since these vegetables are cut into slices (1.67).
  • Dreaming that one is eating books foretells advantage to teachers, lecturers, and anyone who earns his livelihood from books, but everyone else it means sudden death (2.45). (I'm sure this is a favorite among Latin teachers!) 
  • Dreaming that one is dead or is being crucified foretells marriage for a bachelor (2.49, 53).
  • Dreaming that one is eating many onions is favorable for a sick man, for it means he will recover and mourn for someone else, whereas dreaming that one is eating just a few onions signifies death, since the dying shed just a few tears, whereas those who mourn shed many (4.55).
  • A man dreamed that he had a mouth with big, beautiful teeth in his rectum, and that through it he spoke, ate, and performed all the normal functions of a mouth. He was subsequently exiled from his homeland for making incautious statements. I have not included the reasons, for the outcome was easily predictable (5.68).  

There is one more that I love, but you'll need to check out McKeown's book for that one!

Back to my Latin III classes...since we had just read about a strange dream in the novella, I decided to create an activity around ancient Roman interpretations of dreams, as published by Artemidorus, and have students get their own dream interpreted. 

Based on my choose your own adventure activity from this past spring, I created a similar activity in Google Forms. 

First, students access the form electronically through a link or QR code. 

Second, students select a dream that they "had." The options are food, eating books, a bodily condition, or death. I tried to include as many pictures as possible throughout the form to aid comprehension.

The first page of the form

Next, students answer various questions based on their original and subsequent responses until they get an ancient Roman interpretation for their strange dream. 

How did I use this activity in my classroom?

I used this activity as a warm-up last week, the crazy, absence-filled week before our (week-long) Thanksgiving break. 

Students completed the activity on their phones and submitted their results both electronically and on paper. 

I provided some helpful vocabulary and the QR code for activity on my daily warm-up worksheet.

My warm-up worksheet

When everyone had submitted their results, everyone in the class quickly shared their results. I also elaborated on the interpretations and why they made sense. That onion one is especially profound! 

In my second period class, most students were told that they were going to get married soon, so apparently that class said that they dreamed about death! Should I be concerned?

If you'd like to try out my form to see all the options and embedded questions, click here.

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! 😂


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 👴). 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 😉), 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: