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:

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." 😱

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

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

"ego invēni corpus." (I found a body)

  • You should send, "Who are you?"
  • You should send, "Who are you?" 😡
  • You should send, "Who are you?" 😘
  • You should ignore the message.
The 'sender' will respond based on the answer.

"vide sub mensa. quid invēnisti?" (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! 😁

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Year in Review

2018 has (almost) gone, so I'd like to reflect briefly on some of the highlights of my year. 

2017 was a year of life-changing highs and lows. I passed the edTPA, got and accepted my job in Georgia, completed student teaching and my Masters, moved to Georgia, and finished my first semester in my new job. All these helped me through 2017, my most painful year personally. 2018 has had its ups and downs too, but I am grateful to be in an even better place now.

2018 was my first calendar year as a Latin teacher at Parkview and as a 100% CI teacher, so it's overwhelming to narrow down a list of highlights. 

  • TPR - I first used TPR in 2017, but I did not feel that I was as successful as I wished to be. This past August, I really felt successful doing it again. See my post about it here.
  • Brain Breaks - I first used Brain Breaks in 2017, but did not implement them consistently. Starting in August, I have made them a routine. See my post about it here.
  • Writing my own novice-level Latin texts - Most of these have been translated and adapted from primary sources like Hesiod's Theogony (Saturn's overthrow of Uranus, the Titanomachy) and Homer's Iliad (Jupiter, Neptune, and Hades drawing lots) for Latin I students.
  • Modifications for special ed. students - Miriam Patrick and I have been working closely to create activities and supports for our special education students, especially in Latin I. More details to come in a future post!
  • Acting in the faculty play - Students invited several of us faculty to star in Check, Please, a play about a series of blind dates gone horribly-yet-humorously wrong. I played the role of Tod, a little boy who fools a woman into a date. 
    At 29 I could still pass for a kid. Yes, I am wearing a Mickey Mouse hat. Thanks for the youthful genes, Mom and Dad!
  • Dressing up as Luigi for Halloween!
    Luigi forgoes Italian for the day because of half-off burritos at Chipotle on Halloween!

Greek & Latin:
  • Biduum Georgianum - I had so much fun! I would love to do the longer immersion programs for both Latin AND Ancient Greek! See my post about it here. 
  • Batrachomyomachia - I read two Greek texts this past year. First was the Batrachomyomachia, an epic poem that parodies Homer's Iliad. Instead of Greeks vs. Trojans, it's mice vs. frogs. I loved it - especially the deus ex machina ending!
  • Digenes Akrites - The second Greek text I read was Digenes Akrites, a Byzantine poem about the life and adventures of Digenes Akrites ('Biracial Frontiersman'), a half-Arab, half-Roman hero who lives on the nearly-lawless eastern frontier of the empire (eastern Turkey today) and fights wild beasts, a dragon, and guerrillas. I graciously consulted Elizabeth Jeffrey's editions and translations of the Grottaferrata and Escorial manuscripts. This experience was a fun introduction to demotic Byzantine Greek and I'd love to learn more Modern Greek!


  • The Midwest - In May and June, I enjoyed a nice roadtrip through the Midwest (Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio) with my girlfriend. It was great to see my family and best friends again in the Chicago area. Cedar Point was AMAZING! The best amusement park I've ever been to!
  • Egypt - Also in June, my lifelong dream of going to Egypt came true and it was everything I had hoped for and more. Let me travel geek right now - I stayed in Cairo (just blocks from Tahrir Square!), Aswan (on Elephantine Island!), Luxor (steps from the Nile!), and Alexandria (right across from the Mediterranean!). I saw and did so much and I can't wait to go back!
    The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza! I went inside too!
  • Istanbul - Coming back home, I had a long layover in Istanbul thanks to flying Turkish Airlines, one of my favorite airlines. Since it is Istanbul - AKA my favorite place in the world - I had to go see it even for those brief hours I was there. I got on the metro shortly after it starts at 6:00 AM and explored the city on foot. I checked out some Byzantine churches, walked along the Sea of Marmara, and visited Hagia Sophia (my eleventh visit - yes, I'm shamelessly obsessed!) - all with more than enough time to hop back on to the metro and return to the airport to fly home. 
    Under Hagia Sophia's legendary dome for the eleventh time, but just as excited as ever!

Annum novum faustum felicem tibi, lector!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Timed Writes & Student Choice

Timed Writes are a great way for students to produce written output and demonstrate to us teachers and to themselves what they can do with the target language in a quantifiable manner (i.e. the time limit of the write itself and the word count that they produce). Like all forms of output, students will need to have acquired sufficient input. For this reason, I use Timed Writes as the culminating piece of units, which are either short stories or cultural topics. Normally Timed Writes take on two forms in my classes: retelling stories we have read in their own words OR writing original stories based on a given prompt. This past month I decided to mix things up.

A few weeks ago, my Latin I students completed their second Timed Write to close our unit on the basics of ancient Rome (daily life and the topography and architecture of the city). We toured the important sights like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Circus Maximus; we explored how the ancient Romans met their basic needs like food, water, and - everyone's favorite - going to the bathroom; and we discussed the differences between the lives of most Romans and of the wealthy. In many Latin classes, including my own, this usually includes the differences between the two main types of Roman housing, insulae (apartment buildings) and domus (houses). We watched Magister Craft's amazing videos on both the insula and the domus, read the scripts of both videos in Latin, and looked at the remains of such structures. 

I initially planned to conclude this unit with a Timed Write that would require that students compare and contrast insulae and domus in Latin. Inspired by my Gifted endorsement course, I decided to give my students more options - especially those that would challenge my students to think beyond simply comparing and contrasting. 

This is how the week went:

Monday: I put students into groups to generate similarities and differences between insulae and domus in English and, if they so desired, in Latin. Then each group shared their lists and as a class we came up with how to word the lists in Latin, which I typed and projected simultaneously for them to copy down.

Tuesday: I presented the Timed Write prompts and students had time to choose their prompt and generate a list of Latin words/phrases that they would need to answer their prompt.

These were the prompts:
  1.  Create your own Roman family and describe their living situation. What are their names and how are the family members related to one another? Do they live in an insula or in a domus? Where do they sleep? Where do they get their food from and where do they eat it? Where do they go to the bathroom? 
  2. Archaeologists in Pompeii have discovered the ruins of a building and they believe that it is either an insula or a domus. You have looked over the floor plan and you know what it is, but you have to convince the archaeologists. Describe what the building is and support your argument based on what you know about Roman housing. If you argue that the building is a domus, why? Why is the building not an insula? If you argue that the building is an insula, why? Why is the building not a domus?
  3. Compare and contrast living in the insula and living in the domus. How are the insula and the domus similar? In what ways are they different? Consider the following: rooms/size, food/eating, bathrooms. Make sure that your descriptions of the domus and the insula are thorough (describe all the rooms of the domus).

Wednesday - break for Halloween!

Thursday: Each student received an Essential Words worksheet, where they placed necessary Latin words in the given boxes. Students were allowed to use these worksheets during the Timed Write, provided they followed the instructions and completed them appropriately. If students had time, they wrote rough drafts of the Timed Writes and could get feedback from me.

A shorter version of the Essential Words worksheet

Friday: Day of the Timed Write! Students had 8 minutes to answer their chosen prompt in their own words in Latin in as many words as possible. 

Results: I was pleasantly surprised by the Timed Write results! The time that I allotted to students to prepare themselves was worth it. As I said above, this was only the second Timed Write that they have ever produced, so they are still learning how Timed Writes work. The Timed Writes demonstrated thought and care and were more grammatically accurate than I had expected. I was also surprised at the prompts that students chose. Since we had spent a considerable amount of time to comparing and contrasting insulae and domus, I expected most students to select the third prompt. That was not the case. The first and second prompts were more popular, the former in particular. 

Several students wrote more than 100 words. I expect a pace of about 10 words per minute for Timed Writes, but for the first semester of Latin I, I expect a more flexible range of 5-10 words per minute. My word count expectations are also lower for Free Writes because they are open-ended. The highest word count was 180 words, so that comes down to 22.5 words per minute - in less than three months of Latin! This student remarked that his hand started cramping - talk about dedication! 

After the Timed Write, I asked that students answer the following reflection questions:

  1. How many words did you write?
  2. What did you do well in this Timed Write?
  3. With what did you struggle in this Timed Write?
  4. How did your preparations help you? What did you do specifically? 
  5. How would you like to improve for your next Timed Write?

Some responses reflect the students' comfort with the target language to such a degree that they focus less on the daunting task of writing in the target language and instead have ideas for improvement. Here are some of my favorites:

  • "[I would like to] use/know connecting/transitional phrases/words."
  • "[I would like to explicitly] learn past and present tenses."
  • "I would like to write using more varieties of sentences."

Since Timed Writes are a tangible reminder to students of their proficiency and growth in the target language, I want students to take pride in their Timed Writes and find them compelling to write and read again at a later date. Hereafter I plan to continue to offer more choices for Timed Writes.