A Preview of the Project

salvēte, lectōrēs fidēlissimī!  In my next post, I want to share a few thoughts about the logistics of the Tres Columnae project. But first, I really want to give you a taste of a Tres Columnae Lectiō. Please feel free to be ruthlessly critical in your comments. 🙂

So here is a bit of Cursūs Prīmī Lectiō Tertia. So you know, the goals of Lectiō Prīma are to:

  1. directly comprehend a Latin sentence
  2. distinguish Latin nouns and verbs
  3. recognize and explore English derivatives of Latin words
  4. compare housing and family structure in Roman world with our own housing and family structure
  5. Begin to understand, analyze, and explore the concept of pietās

In Lectiō Secunda, we also aim to:

  1. Distinguish nominative, genitive, and ablative noun forms
  2. Distinguish and classify nouns by declension pattern
  3. Continue to explore the concept of pietās
  4. Understand procedures regarding salūtātiō; compare and contrast it with aspects of daily life in participants’ own culture(s)

For Lectiō Tertia, the additional goals are to:

  1. Distinguish accusative noun forms
  2. Create sentences with nominatives, genitives, accusatives, ablative prep phrases

By now, we’ve learned a bit about the history and geography of Herculaneum (before the eruption of Vesuvius) and have met two (fictional) Roman families: the wealthy Valeriī and their poor clients, the Lolliī, who live in an īnsula owned by the Valeriī. Both families have eight-year-old sons (Lucius Valerius and Cāius Lollius) as the story opens. We don’t yet know why, but the C. Valerius, the paterfamiliās of the Valeriī, has a strong sense of obligation toward the Lolliī.

First, everyone reads this brief story, which will have audio and illustrations from the beginning and eventually (as soon as someone wants to create it) at least one participant-created video.

  • Milphiō est servus Valeriī.
  • Milphiō in ātriō domūs stat, quod hōra prīma est.
  • Valerius servum ad iānuam mittit.
  • servus iānuam aperit, quod hōra salūtātiōnis est.
  • Lollius vīllam intrat, quod hōra salūtātiōnis est.
  • Lollius per ātrium ambulat.
  • Lollius tablīnum intrat.
  • Lollius Valerius salūtat, quod Valerius patrōnus Lollius est.
  • Valerius sportulam offert, quod Lollius cliēns Valerius est.
  • Lollius sportulam accipit, quod Lollius pauper est.

Having read the story, they’ll answer questions like the following:


quis iānuam aperit?

  1. Milphiō
  2. Lollius
  3. Valerius
  4. vIlla

quid Valerius offert?

  1. servum
  2. iānuam
  3. sportulam
  4. vīllam


Where does Lollius go?

  1. the atrium
  2. the study
  3. the street
  4. the kitchen

Why does Lollius get the sportula?

  1. he is the patron of Valerius
  2. he is the client of Valerius
  3. he is the servant of Valerius
  4. he is the son of Valerius

Once participants feel comfortable with this first story, it’s time for a brief explanation of the “new thing”– accusative case nouns – and how they relate to the noun forms we already know. There’s a brief diagnostic exercise after the first explanation:

Find the accusative noun in each sentence

  1. Lollius vīllam intrat.
  2. Milphiō clientem salūtat.
  3. Valerium Lollius salūtat.

Choose the right form to express this idea Latīnē.

Lollius enters the house.

  1. vīlla
  2. vīllae
  3. vīllam
  4. vīllā

And there’s another after the second explanation:

Which of the following is the correct accusative form for culīna, culīnae?

  1. culīnum
  2. culīnem
  3. culīnam
  4. none of these

Make the accusative form of each noun

  1. fīlius, fīliī
  2. sportula, sportulae
  3. Milphiō, Milphiōnis

If you’re successful, there’s no need for further exercises; if not, a learning path with additional practice opens up. On the “big picture” iter, one then proceeds immediately to read the next story, then to do some exercises with accusatives if necessary. On the “small picture” iter, the exercises, if necessary, come first. These are variations on the exercises above, but with detailed explanations for the wrong answers in multiple-choice versions and for the common errors in constructed-response versions.

Either before or after the exercises, depending on their iter, participants read this story:

in domō Valerius Lollium accipit et salūtat. “quid agit Cāius, fīlius tuus? nōnne Cāius octō annōs est nātus?” inquit Valerius “ita vērō, domine, Cāius octō annōs est nātus,” respondet Lollius. “nōnne Lūcius, fīlius tuus, quoque octō annōs nātus est?” “ita vērō, mī amīce,” inquit Valerius, “Lūcius meus octō annōs nātus est. hodiē Lūcius meus ad lūdī magistrum ambulat. Cāius tuus ad lūdī magistrum ambulat?”

“minimē, domine,” respondet Lollius trīstis, “Cāius meus ad lūdī magistrum ambulāre nōn potest. lūdī magister nimium pecūniae postulat.”

“mī Lollī,” clāmat Valerius īrātus, “Cāius tuus ad lūdī magistrum ambulāre dēbet! nōnne Cāius tuus legere et scrībere potest?”

“minimē, domine. lūdī magister enim –”

“mī amīce, fīlius tuum legere et scrībere dēbet. nōnne iste lūdī magister quoque cliēns meus est? Milphiō, vocā istum magistrum in tablīnum!”

They check their comprehension with questions like these:


quem Valerius salūtat?

  1. Milphiōnem
  2. Cāium
  3. Lollium
  4. patrōnum

quō Lūcius hodiē ambulat?

  1. ad forum
  2. ad vīllam
  3. ad iānuam
  4. ad lūdī magistrum


Where does the story take place?

  1. in Valerius’ house
  2. in Lollius’ house
  3. at the school
  4. in the street

What is Lollius’ son’s name?

  1. Milphio
  2. Valerius
  3. Caius
  4. Lucius

Having successfully comprehended the story, we move on to tasks of Understanding (Paideia), Rhetoric (Trivium), or Synthesis, Evaluation, and Creation (Bloom and Marzano). For example,

  1. In each sentence, there is at least one error involving an accusative noun. For example, an accusative might be used where a nominative is needed, or vice versa. Try to correct the errors. In some cases, there might be more than one right answer.
    1. Lollius vīlla Valeriī intrat.
    2. Milphiōnem Lollium salūtat.
  2. Try to create your own original illustrations or video version of the story.  Upload them and send the URL to us as usual.
  3. Try to create your own, original story, at least five sentences long, about one of the following scenarios
    1. What happened when Fabius the lūdī magister got home and talked to his familia about the day’s events?
    2. What happened when Lollius got home and talked to his familia about the day’s events? How do you suppose his family – especially his son – responded to the good news?
    3. How well do you suppose Lucius and Caius know each other? How do you suppose Lucius reacted when his father told him that Caius would be joining him at school?
  4. Try to add at least 3 sentences in the middle of the following mini-story to expand it and make it more interesting You decide whether all three sentences go together or whether they go in different places:

Lollius ē vīllā Valeriī exit. Lollius laetissimus est, quod sportulam habet. Lollius per viam prōcēdit. Lollius tabernam spectat. Lollius tabernam intrat et mercātōrem salūtat. Lollius cibum emit et ad vīllam laetus ambulat.

They then participate in a Continuing Virtual Seminar, which is a threaded discussion that leads up to this Big Question:

In what ways do the characters seem to display (or not display) pietās and dignitās in this story? In what ways are their actions not aligned with pietās and dignitās?

Dear readers, I’d love your thoughts about all aspects of this sequence.  The more critical, the better!  Tres Columnae will always be a work in progress, so the sooner we can start our constant improvement, the better. 🙂

More about how we can make it all work in the next post.

Published in: on December 31, 2009 at 1:51 am  Comments (14)  

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the sample! It’s all quite exciting.
    Some comments:
    1. Is “quod Valerius patronus Lollius est” instead of Lollii (and the following sentence) a typo or some idiom I am not aware of?
    2. As a teacher at an all-girls school, I’m hoping for some sisters here! But I’m going to go ahead with thinking about a video with girls playing the parts.
    3. I always worry a bit about “spot-the-error” exercises, in that I don’t want my students to see “bad Latin.” Of course they will see plenty … their own … so maybe this is a good way to spot their own errors.
    4. Are you looking for illustrators? I know a good one who fortuitously is my daughter …

    • Thanks so much for your comments!
      1. Yes, it’s a typo … sorry about that!
      2.a. Yes, there’s at least one daughter in each family, possibly more. Also, each māterfamiliās will be a strong, well-developed character with an important role. There are a lot of strong, intelligent women in my family :-), and I think it’s critically important for everyone to see “people like me” (and people very different from me) as part of their learning.
      2.b. In addition to live-action videos, it would be great to have some with puppets. A lot of boys I’ve taught have been scared or shy about playing female roles “in person,” but they don’t mind animating and voicing female puppets for some reason. Plus, this is the generation that brought us the “Harry Potter Puppet Pals” on YouTube – puppets are cool again! 🙂
      3.a. I agree, in general. That’s why this exercise comes very late in the sequence, at the level of Understanding (Paideia), Evaluation (Bloom), or Rhetoric (Trivium), and is one of several options. Most participants, I think, are more likely to choose generative tasks like creating or adding to a story. But I do want to accommodate a variety of learners and personalities, and there are certainly some (self-described “not that creative”) who would love a task like this. I’m thinking of a former student, nationally ranked as a debater, now preparing for law school … 🙂
      3.b. I absolutely share your concern about “bad Latin.” That’s why this task only comes after we’ve seen a lot of good Latin. Spotting and correcting errors is a very high-level task in cognitive terms. After all, you have to have a very firm grasp of what’s right and proper before you can recognize and correct what’s wrong or improper.
      4. Yes, I’m always looking for illustrators! I’ll send you a private message about that!
      Thanks again!

  2. I had fun reading the little stories, Justin – having the idea of schooling thematized as part of the storytelling is a GREAT idea, and prods people in the direction of self-reflection about their own schooling. Having “magister” in there and the theme of “pietas” will be a great way for me to write up some supplementary exercises in the spirit of “make up your own Latin motto”… and that has a cumulative force, too: if people make up a possible Latin motto each week, then at the end of a semester they have a whole bunch to choose from, so they can pick their favorite motto… and then as they move on to the next semester, repeat the process, coming up with more possibilities so that at the end they have a Latin motto that is a result of a period of reflection.

    What would really help me to prepare appropriate supplementary exercises in that line (which I would LOVE to do), it would help to have a kind of “Developer’s Guide” which lists the vocabulary (core vocabulary and passive vocabulary, if you are making that distinction) so that I could choose familiar words or words from familiar roots, along with a list of morphology items covered unit by unit. That way I could promise not to introduce anything extraneous!

    I’m with Ann on the “bad Latin” type of exercise. That’s something I have always avoided too; my goal is always to give people good, complete Latin sentences to work with in all the assessments – they will be generating plenty of incorrect Latin inevitably in their own composition efforts, so you can have them practice that skill in doing revisions of their own work without bringing other errors into the world purposefully… at least, that’s my take on it. I did Greek composition with my beginning Greek students, and the revision process was great – I would just highlight a word as needing fixing, and sometimes give a clue about the problem and they would fix it. So, that was a really natural way to work with “wrong” Latin – and since composition will be a part of your program, it really might obviate the need for your creating erroneous Latin. Perhaps you could start collecting errors from student compositions and use those as the basis for the quiz, for example – that would be cool, since it would help students realize that everybody makes mistakes in their compositions; it’s a natural part of the learning process.

    Can we have animal characters??? The Romans kept dogs, and weasels (instead of cats), along with all kinds of birds, plus the barnyard animals. Having the animals talk to each other about what the humans are doing could be so much fun, too! I wonder if the dog will appreciate the value of schooling… I am sure an old dog could tell the young puppies the benefits of learning how to survive in the world by using brain rather than brawn! Non vi, sed virtute!!! 🙂

    • Hi Laura,
      et gratias maximas tibi! I’m glad you enjoyed the stories. I think you’ll love the next one in the sequence, in which Valerius and Fabius, the lūdī magister, negotiate about Lucius’ and Caius’ tuition. Yes, one big part of including schooling (and other aspects of daily life) is to promote exactly the type of self-reflection you mentioned. I love the idea of a “motto of the week” and will be glad to work up a Developer’s Guide. There’s already one (for my purposes) that deals with morphology, cultural concepts, and plot-advancing stories. I’ll be glad to add vocabulary to that – and yes, there will be a distinction between core and passive vocabulary.

      As for the “correct the errors” exercises, I can certainly see your point. I love the idea of collecting real errors; in fact, that’s always been part of the plan. As participants submit stories, there will doubtless be errors (including one in the story I uploaded, as a matter of fact)! Depending on the quantity and types of errors, participants will have a choice: they can either correct the errors themselves (using a similar process where I’ll highlight the problem words, perhaps give a few comments, and then ask them to figure out how to correct them) or let us use the errors in an exercise or quiz. Editing and error correction are important, but participants are much more likely to “own” their own errors.

      On the other hand, I find that my face-to-face students love catching and fixing errors, especially when I’m the one who made them! There’s a tradition that every test, and most smaller assessments, in my classes must have at least one “mistake” for students to find (and fix for extra credit). It makes them happy, makes mistakes a normal part of the learning process, and reduces the gap between “all-knowing sage” and “mere-mortal students” 🙂 that factory-model schools often promote. Perhaps, instead of (or in addition to) “find and correct the errors” at this early stage, we might use something like “The highlighted word in each sentence is not in the correct case. Explain why, and change it to the right case.” Or “In an earlier draft of the story, this sentence was included. But there was a problem with the highlighted word. Can you explain and fix the error?” What do you think?

      Yes, there are animal characters, including a dog, a weasel, and quite likely a bird or two! I’d also thought about having a snake live in or near someone’s lararium. And I love the idea of animal commentary on the humans’ actions! 🙂

      Thanks again for all your great feedback! I’ll look forward to collaborating on the motto-development exercises! 🙂

      • Justin, I LOVE the idea of the “fix the error” exercise taking the same form as the feedback they will be getting in their compositions. That sounds great! So, if you highlight the error and then have them fix it, you can make it automatically graded (because it will be one of those short-answer fill-in-the-blanks that computers are good at grading), and I bet that will really help desensitive the shame factor in getting feedback on their competitions. If they get used to seeing yellow highlighter every week in these little quizzes, it will seem normal to see some yellow highlighter in people’s responses to their own compositions. I think that sounds super! 🙂

  3. That’s true! I hadn’t thought about making these automatically graded, but it would make a lot of sense. You’re right, too that the consistency of format would be a big help. Gratias maximas! 🙂

  4. Dear Justin,

    You asked for criticisms. Before I start, I must say how much I like the simplicity of the language. I see it essential that one start simple, and keep the language within the competence of the learner, albeit slyly dropping in something from over the wall from time to time.

    I heartily applaud the original-creation practice sessions, the essence of learning. I wonder whether this could not be done earlier, e.g. “Q. Quis januam apperit? A. …. januam apperit”, the gaps requiring longer parroting, language learning being essentially imitation.

    You do not say how you see the material being used. I notice that you use the word “lectio”. Is that merely reading? Reading aloud? With a teacher? Can the interaction not be spoken as well as written? After all you can get so much more language in the time if it is spoken, rather than written, and one can excercise the subliminal immediate-response capability, deeper than the purely intellectual.

    For that reason, I like your obvious intention to teach correct pronunciation by inserting the macra.

    I do not like correcting type exercises. What is seen in print tends to get a certain validity. The student is learning all the time, and at that point has to unlearn, which is much more difficult a process. I note that some colleagues like it, and put forward neat arguments; but negativity is seldom effective. I am sure that the teacher will corrrect himself, as well as the student, quite often enough, and I know the joy it provokes in the student, when, after sufficient familiarity with the teacher or the teaching format, they offer a correction. In fact, I after a while I urge my students never to trust me, but to check for themselves what I teach.

    Do your students have a source with which to check?

    Is your objective to teach them grammatical terms and etymology or the language itself? I prefer to let the language itself teach its format. If really necessary, later on one can get into the mechanics. The very early editions of the ‘Cambridge Latin course’ ineffectually tried to get away from the fancy grammar words and used things like “Form A” for nominative. It recognised that teachers teach as they have been taught and reintroduced the traditional forms so that grammar, as distinct from the language, could be taught.

    And do you wish the students to deal in and confuse two languages at once? The trouble with etymology as an exercise — it crops up of its own unsolicited accord otherwise — is that it teaches a one-to-one relationship between words of quite different cultures and centuries: consider the problem of a simple word like ‘servus’ (>servile) in the case of Cicero’s secretary and Pliny’s attitude, or the world of difference between ‘pietas’ and ‘piety’.

    Furthermore, answering in English delays the student from thinking in Latin, something that seems to be in your very first stated objective.

    On the other hand, I like the idea of exploring Latin values in parallel, for each word has a value. Remember, however, that at some time you will need to leave Herculaneum and go to More’s Utopia, perhaps the North European monastery ofSharpley’s ‘Beginner’s Latin’ (Teach Yourself series), or to the ‘Melissa’ circle currently in Brussels, &c., &c.

    Yes, do take up the offer to have it well and truly illustrated. I should like to see a course rather like the ‘Look and learn X’ and ‘X through pictures’ popularized in the 1960’s. No vernacular except to describe how to use the book and pronunciation. It starts (ILatinize) ‘vir’, ‘femina’, ‘puer’, ‘puella’, each with a picture, on the first page. They then each point to themselves ‘Sum vir’ &c.

    The advantage of this approach is that each item of knowledge is broken down into its very simplest and easiest-to-learn element — the essence of knowledge acquisition. For more on this look at the old “programmed learning” techniques.

    But I have taken enough of your time. I hope that my thoughts will be of some small value to you, and wish you well with your venture.

    Happy New Year.

    • Thanks so much for such extensive, painstaking comments. Exactly what I was hoping for!

      Let me respond with two separate comments. This one is about the big picture issues you raised (language production, intended audience, and hearing the language). I’ll address error correction and etymology in a bit.
      1) Yes, actual response in the language could, and should, happen earlier, especially in the form you describe. I’ll certainly incorporate that idea! In fact, there might be multiple response opportunities for each sentence:
      quis ianuam aperit?
      quid Milphio aperit?
      quid facit Milphio?
      It would make a lot of sense to have these come after each sentence-and-picture combination. Perhaps, as a participant, you “click here to check your understanding,” which brings you to a page with the sentence-and-picture, plus one of the questions.

      2) I envision several possible uses, which I’ll address in a posting later today.
      a) In the US in particular, there are a lot of homeschooling families that want their children to learn Latin, and many want to learn Latin along with their children. I want them to have an alternative to the “grammar-grammar-grammar” approach that targets textbooks marketed to this audience.
      b) There are many adults who never had the opportunity to learn Latin, or who want to re-learn Latin after many years. I want them to have an alternative to pure self-study, and I also want them to be able to learn the language, not just “grammar-grammar-grammar.”
      c) In a time of budgetary difficulties for many schools around the world, retiring or departing Latin teachers aren’t being replaced. I want their students to be able to continue learning the language, again without …. 🙂
      d) All over the world are schools where Latin has never been, and may never be, offered as a subject of study, but some (or many) students there are interested. I want them to learn the language, and love learning it, without ….
      e) Even in schools where Latin is strong, many teachers need a language-focused resource that doesn’t make too many demands on their time. Perhaps they’re trying to teach multiple levels in the same class hour; perhaps they have a wide range of student interest and ability in a class; perhaps they’re brand-new to teaching and don’t know how to design engaging, language-focused instruction. I want to provide a resource for them, and for their students.
      f) There are probably many other uses I haven’t thought of!

      3) In all cases, though, learners need to hear and say the language as they’re learning it. So there will be audio versions of every sentence and every story. I envision these being hosted by a site that specializes in audio – partly to save hosting costs, and to allow others to “find us” by finding the audio first. In the same way, I want participants in the project to create their own videos and illustrations, which would also be hosted externally and linked to us. If participants want to record themselves reading aloud and responding to the questions, that would be wonderful! More on the “editing” feedback for that in today’s official post.
      My next reply will address your points about error-correction and etymology.

    • Yes, your thoughts are tremendously valuable, and I do appreciate them! Let me address your concerns about error-correction, etymology, and English in this comment:

      1) Yes, error-correction can be problematic. I don’t think it’s right for every learner, which is why it’s one of several options here. But it can be really helpful for a certain type of mind. Rather than “find and fix the error,” I’ve realized (after a great exchange with our friend Laura G) that it would better to have something like “The highlighted word in each sentence is in an incorrect form. Change it to a correct form and explain why it needed to be changed.” What do you think?

      2) I haven’t given any examples of etymological exercises, but you’re quite right about the dangers. I want to make a very clear distinction between Latin vocabulary work, on the one hand, and English (or other language) etymology, on the other. But etymology and English vocabulary development are quite important to the audiences I mentioned last time, especially those here in the US:
      a) If they know nothing else, people tend to know that “a lot of English words come from Latin” or “Latin will help your vocabulary” or “Latin helps on the SAT” (one of the main college-entrance exams in the US). That, along with the idea of “training the mind,” is why a lot of homeschooling families want Latin for their children.
      b) It’s also one big appeal for adult learners. If they do have a big English vocabulary, it’s gratifying to know where the words came from; if not, it’s quite helpful to them personally and professionally.
      c) The “helping with test scores” argument is huge for school districts, especially as the US is moving slowly toward the types of testing that have been routine elsewhere for decades.
      d) “Helping with vocabulary” may not be a primary motivator for students who want Latin but haven’t had the opportunity to study it – but it may be, depending on the student. It will also resonate strongly with their parents, who (quite properly) have a lot of say in how their children spend their time out of school.
      e) Many Latin teachers, as you know, use the vocabulary and test-score arguments as recruiting tools.
      But I do want to structure these exercises so that it’s clear that the “Latin word” and the “derivatives” are quite different in meaning. Very early, we’ll incorporate some extreme examples like canary from canis to drive the point home.

      Actually, I think that etymology in its proper place is one way to “explore values in parallel” as you put it, and it’s also a sneaky way to move through time from the Silver Age to “today.”

      3) As for English responses, I’m also thinking of the comfort of both learners and teachers. Some learners are uncomfortable with using the language so early, and I don’t want to scare them away. Some teachers don’t think it’s possible to check comprehension except by use of the native language, and I don’t want to scare them away, either. Perhaps convert them over time :-), but not scare them away at the beginning. But the emphasis will always be on direct comprehension rathre than on translation.

      Thanks again for your extensive, thoughtful comments, and for the gift of your time and attention at this busy time of year!

  5. Are the stories and questions something I can incorporate into my class? I’m thinking the story would make a good little skit for the students to practice listening and comprehension.

    • Yes, they can definitely be incorporated into a class! Tres Columnae can be used as a complete Latin learning opportunity, but it can also be a supplement to most textbooks. The closest fit would be with what I call the “Big Three” reading method ones (CLC, Ecce, and OLC in alphabetical order) and with Oerberg. But I can certainly see how LFA and the other “old warhorses” could play nicely with Tres Columnae.

      If you do have your students act out any of the stories, I’d love to see video versions! If your school or district has concerns about student privacy (and I certainly share those concerns!), performances with masks and/or puppets work great.

      Thanks again for your question, and please keep reading and following the project! If all goes well, Cursus Primus will be up and running by the end of January.

  6. […] listservs. You can also find some clues in the previous blog posts where we previewed stories from Cursus Primus and Cursus Secundus. But in tomorrow’s post we’ll take a closer look at another sample […]

  7. […] this in mind, let’s look back at the first story I shared, from early in Cursus Primus, in this post.  Lollius has come to the salūtātiō at Valerius’ house, where (in the end) Valerius will […]

  8. […]  but we also talked about this issue in a number of blog posts here.  In a series of posts like this one and this one, we examined stories, exercises, grammatical explanations, Continuing Virtual […]

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