A Complete Lectio, III

salvēte, sodālēs! When we left off yesterday, we’d just explored the “new grammar” in Lectiō Secunda of Cursus Primus. As Tres Columnae participants, we’ve discovered that

  • Latin nouns have different forms that do different things in a sentence;
  • Two of these are called nōmen cāsūs nōminātīvī and nōmen cāsūs genitīvī;
  • cāsus nōminātīvus is used when the person is the subject or focus of a sentence;
  • cāsus genitīvus is used when you talk about something (or someone) that belongs to the person, or is the person‘s, or is of the person.

We also observed the ways that the Tres Columnae system integrates story-telling (or direct comprehension, or communication) with the development of grammatical awareness (or analysis), and we noticed that “chunks” of learning in the Tres Columnae system are rather small.  Today we’ll see the same patterns.  We’ll follow our learners as they discover declension patterns, practice their new understanding, and then read some longer, more interesting stories.  Then, in future posts, we’ll watch them use their new understandings to create their own stories.  So, to the Paideia framework, we’ll witness the integration of Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding, or in terms of the Trivium, we’ll see the integration of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.  Here’s how it works:

From where we stopped yesterday, almost all learners will continue with this explanation:

quid novī?

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a predictable relationship between cāsus nōminātīvus and cāsus genitīvus. See if you can sort these words so that their two forms are next to each other.

(There are 3-4 examples of each declension pattern, then a self-correcting question where participants physically move the words next to each other.)  Then we ask:

  • When cāsus nōminātīvus ends with -a, cāsus genitīvus ends with __
  • When cāsus nōminātīvus ends with -us, cāsus genitīvus ends with __.
  • When cāsus nōminātīvus ends with something else, cāsus genitīvus ends with __.

This, of course, might be a free-response question, or we might have radio-buttons or pull-down choices – what do you think?  Or should there be a choice of response formats, perhaps starting with the free-response, then moving to the others if “you” the learner are incorrect the first time?  Anyway, the explanation continues:

We have now seen three out of five groups of Latin nouns; they’re actually classified by the ending of cāsus genitīvus. English speakers usually call the groups declensions or declension patterns; the Romans called them dēclīnātiōnēs.

  • The –ae group are called prīma dēclīnātiō, or “first declension pattern.”
  • The –ī group are called secunda dēclīnātiō, or “second declension pattern.”
  • The –is group are called tertia dēclīnātiō, or “third declension pattern.”
  • (Just so you know, there’s also the –ūs group called quārta dēclīnātiō (including our friend cāsus, cāsūs!), and the –ēī group called quīnta dēclīnātiō. We’ll see some examples of these words in future Lectiōnēs)

There probably ought to be a self-assessment: on our scale from 1-5, how comfortable do you feel with this concept?  And then, of course, some additional practice for those who score themselves at 3 or less.  And then, for those who were comfortable, we continue:

When Roman teachers asked questions about words, they usually said:

  • cuius cāsūs est ….?
  • cuius dēclīnātiōnis est …?

Notice that they use the cāsus genitīvus form: if you “translated it literally” into English, you’d say “Of what case is …?” But , of course, in English we don’t say that, we say “What case is …?”

Then comes this set of exercises:

cuius cāsūs est nōmen?

(An exercise where you sort: nōminātīvī and genitīvī of familiar nouns)

And then this one:

cuius dēclīnātiōnis est nōmen?

(Another exercise where you sort prīmae, secundae, tertiae: nouns listed in their “dictionary” form with nominative, genitive, and gender.)

Note, again, how the Tres Columnae system tackles one idea at a time.  It’s so common (and not just in our field!) for teachers to “throw everything at them all at once” – common, but ultimately futile, I’m afraid!  Only so much can “stick” … and I prefer to err on the side of fewer, smaller “chunks” of learning.  Anyway, after another self-assessment opportunity (and a branch for more practice if needed), we continue with this explanation:

In a “big” Latin dictionary, and in the online dictionaries like Glossa (http://athirdway.com/glossa) that we can use in the Tres Columnae project, the listing for a noun usually looks like this:

urbs, urbis, f. city

  • urbs is cāsus nōminātīvus
  • urbis is cāsus genitīvus – from which you can determine the dēclīnātiō and make all the other possible forms.
  • f. is what’s called the genus or “grammatical gender” of a word. If you’re curious, this Wikipedia article has a very detailed explanation of grammatical gender. If not, please don’t worry about it yet.
  • And, of course, city is an English definition or meaning for the word.

And now another self-assessment:

  • On a scale from 1-5, my current ability to classify nouns by cāsus (nōminātīvus or genitīvus) is
  • On the same scale, my current ability to classify nouns by dēclīnātiō (prīma, secunda, or tertia) is

As usual, we’ll provide some branches for further practice for those who rate themselves as 1, 2, or 3.  For those who feel proficient, though, we now proceed to use and apply our new knowledge of dēclīnātiōnēs and cāsūs in this exercise:

rem exercē:  Picture a family tree that shows

  • Caelius – Maccia (but I’m not satisfied with her name, for reasons I’ll mention another day)
  • and, below them, as children, Prīma Secunda Cnaeus
  • and, with a dotted line to indicate ownership, Ūtilis – Planesium
  • and, below them, Pertināx īnfāns

Now we’ll use the family tree to complete the story.  I suppose there should be a free-response versions and one where you choose the person’s name for the blank?

  • in vīllā Caeliī, ___ est dominus. ____ est marītus _____, et _____ est uxor ______.
  • in vīllā Caeliī, Prīma est fīlia _____ et _____. Secunda quoque est fīlia _____ et _____.
  • Cnaeus est fīlius _____ et ______.
  • Prīma est soror ______ et ______. Secunda est soror _____ et _______. Cnaeus est frāter ______ et _____.
  • in vīllā Caeliī Ūtilis est servus, et Planesium est ancilla.
  • Caelius est dominus Ūtilis et Planesiī.
  • Ūtilis est vīlicus Caeliī, et Planesium est nūrus Prīmae et Secundae et Cnaeī.
  • Pertināx est īnfāns. Ūtilis est pater Pertinācis, et Planesium est māter Pertinācis.
  • Caelius est dominus Pertinācis, et Pertināx est servus Caeliī.
  • Pertināx est verna Caeliī.

After a self-assessment, and some additional practice if you need it, we read a longer story.

First, with pictures, we’ll be introduced to some new vocabulary:

  • cavus, cavī, m. cave or hole
  • nōmine: named or “by name”
  • parvus or parva: small
  • laetus or laeta: happy

And, as usual, there will be audio and illustrations for every paragraph or so.

in domō Valeriī est cavus parvus. in cavō habitat mūs callidus, Rīdiculus nōmine. in cavō quoque habitat secunda mūs, Impigra nōmine. Rīdiculus est marītus Impigrae, et Impigra est uxor Rīdiculī.

Impigra est laeta, quod cavus est optimus. Rīdiculus tamen nōn est laetus. “uxor!” exclāmat Rīdiculus mūs, “hoc cēnāculum est, nōn cavus! hoc est cēnāculum optimum! cavus enim est parvus et sordidus! in cavō habitat ursus vel leō! in cavo habitat serpēns vel aper! in cavō habitat mustēla vel formica! hoc est cēnāculum optimum, nōn cavus! hoc est cēnaculum Rīdiculī mūris!”

Impigra est mūs callida. Impigra rīdet, sed nihil respondet.

in cavō habitat tertius mūs, Rapidus nōmine. Rapidus est fīlius Rīdiculī, et Rīdiculus est pater Rapidī. Rapidus est fīlius Impigrae, et Impigra est māter Rapidī. “mī Rapide,” exclāmat Rīdiculus, “hoc est cēnāculum Rapidī! hoc est cēnāculum Rīdiculī et Impigrae – nōn cavus.” Rapidus est mūs callidus. Rapidus rīdet, sed nihil respondet.

in cavō quoque habitat quārta mūs, Rapida nōmine. Rapida est fīlia Rīdiculī, et Rīdiculus est pater Rapidae. Rapida est fīlia Impigrae, et Impigra est māter Rapidae. Rapidus est frāter Rapidae, et Rapida est soror Rapidī.

“mea Rapida,” exclāmat Rīdiculus, “hoc est cēnāculum Rapidae! hoc est cēnāculum Rīdiculī et Impigrae – nōn cavus.” Rapida quoque est mūs callida. Rapida rīdet, sed nihil respondet. Rīdiculus ē cavō laetus exit.

Impigra clam rīdet. Impigra est mūs callida. Impigra susurrat, “minimē! hoc nōn est cēnāculum – est cavus Rīdiculī et Impigrae! est cavus Rapidī et Rapidae! Rapidus marītus optimus, nōn mūs callidus est. hoc tamen est vērum: Impigra est uxor Rīdicuī, et Rīdiculus est rīdiculus mūs!”

As my self-imposed 1000-word-or-so limit went by some time ago, I’ll save the comprehension and extension exercises for tomorrow. 🙂

quid tamen respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the dēclīnātiō exercises and explanations?
    • In a reading-only world, I think it makes sense to de-emphasize declension patterns (after all, what you’d really need to do there is to be able to recognize the case form!)
    • But Tres Columnae isn’t a reading-only world.
    • Soon enough, right after this story in fact, participants will have the opportunity to write their own stories.
    • And of course, to write Latin, you do need to know something about how word forms are made.
  • What do you think of the Latin dictionary explanation?
    • In a reading-only world, I think you could get away without it.
    • After all, the textbook would have a glossary, and you could wait as long as you wanted to introduce genitive case forms.
    • That, in fact, is the route that the “big three” reading method textbooks take … and it makes sense for them to take it.
    • But Tres Columnae isn’t a reading-only world.
      • Our participants will be doing content creation from the very beginning.
      • If they want to use a “new” word, I’d like them to be able to use it correctly.
      • I’d also like them to have ownership of that new word – to know how to use it and form it, without having to “get help from the teacher.”
    • So, to me, it makes sense to teach learners early how to use the information in a Latin dictionary, whether it’s a paper version or an online one like Whitaker’s Words or Glossa.
  • What do you think of the exercises?
    • Is there too much or not enough practice here?
    • Are we trying to do too much at once, or not enough?
    • Do they achieve the objective of measuring – and practicing – distinctions by declension pattern and case?
  • And finally, what do you think of the story?
    • It’s short and simple, and it re-uses a lot of vocabulary (and even whole sentences) from previous stories. Is that a good or a bad feature in your book? And why do you think so?
    • How do you like the balance of old and new?
    • What would you do with the important, but previously unknown vocabulary?
    • And do you think I’ve beaten genitives to death in this story? 🙂

Tune in next time for what comes after this story. And even though I may not be able to respond right away, please keep those comments and emails coming.

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