Floors and Ceilings, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I was working on a draft of this post, I found this fascinating link from eSchool News about “Empowering the iGeneration!” It’s too good not to share! (If you’re not an eSchool News subscriber, you’ll only be able to see the first page of the article … but subscriptions are free and the content is usually quite interesting.) The article talks about a number of initiatives that involve today’s learners in online collaborative tasks with peers around the world … and their teachers rave about the positive effects on the students’ engagement and performance. I’ve always believed and known that Joyful Learning Communities are the way to go, but it’s nice to have some “official” validation of the concept! It’s also nice to see some public-private partnerships and to read about social entrepreneurs who are, as the old saying goes, “doing well by doing good.”

Today, as promised, we’ll be looking at a story that brings together our building metaphor of floors and ceilings with our discussion of alignment, connections, and core purposes. It’s been a while since I shared a new Tres Columnae Project story with you; I know that a lot of lectōrēs fidēlissimī look forward to those, and I do apologize. For some reason, I just hadn’t felt inspired to write much Latīnē for a while. Maybe it was the baking heat that’s afflicted my face-to-face world for the past few months!

Oddly, until I started working on the Tres Columnae Project in earnest last year, I had never subjected myself to the discipline of writing something on a regular basis. Many of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī are probably faithful journal writers, but that never appealed to me. Occasionally a family member would give me a journal as a Christmas present, and I’d make a real effort to write each day, but all too soon I abandoned the effort. One year I tried a more free-form journal, a notebook that didn’t have a set amount of space for each day; again, I quickly abandoned it. For some reason, writing about my own life – and writing in English – wasn’t very appealing to me. It was only when I discovered that I could write about the lives of characters I’d created – and that I could do so in Latin, and for an audience – that I found the blend of motivation, inspiration, and perspiration 🙂 that has enabled me to produce the core stories for the Tres Columnae Project. And only after writing in Latin for quite some time did I discover that I could enjoy the discipline of writing regularly in English, both here on this blog and in other places.

I suppose the problem was that writing had come to feel like work rather than art, to borrow terms from Seth Godin’s amazing new book Linchpin. But writing about Valeria, Lucius, Caeliola, and their family and friends doesn’t feel like “work” at all – it’s a joy and a privilege instead. In the same way, our conversation here has been both a privilege and a joy; I’m so grateful to all of you for the time you spend reading and responding. As our subscriber base grows, and as more and more lectōrēs become scrīptōrēs, I hope you’ll discover that same sense of joy in your Submissions to the project.

As I mentioned yesterday, we’ll be looking at a story that wraps up the themes of this week’s posts: floors, ceilings, alignment, connection, and core purposes. It comes from Lectiō XXI … a part of the project that I deliberately haven’t featured until now except in a few posts, like this one from February and this one from early March, about the grammatical elements. As I mentioned then, I deliberately postponed the introduction of non-present tense verbs for several reasons. First, I really wanted our subscribers to be able to use Tres Columnae stories as supplemental or “extensive” reading material. Even when you “know about” lots of other tenses, you can still understand and appreciate a present-tense narrative. Second, it’s culturally authentic: the Romans themselves frequently employed a “historical” or “narrative” present tense when telling stories. Third, I think the Latin tense system is endlessly fascinating and beautiful, and I want our subscribers to appreciate and relish its beauty. I don’t think that’s quite as easy to do when you, the learner, are rushed into learning the forms and asked to produce a formulaic English translation as proof of your “understanding” – or, to be more precise, your recognition of a given verb form.

As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, including this post, I really don’t object to translation as a strategy for language teaching and learning; I just think it’s been significantly overused, and sometimes even misused, in our profession for the last 150 years or so – especially when written translation becomes the primary tool for summative assessments. As a formative assessment tool, and as a way to assist with comprehension, oral translation can be quite helpful. For example check out this amazing Latin-BestPractices post, in which David shows how translation can be used in a TPRS classroom.

I’ve always been interested in the taxonomies of educational objectives developed by theorists like Benjamin Bloom and Robert Marzano. As you probably know, they both present a six-level scheme, beginning with Knowledge (Bloom) or Remembering (Marzano) and proceeding to Synthesis and Evaluation (Bloom) or Justifying and Creating (Marzano). In the middle, in both cases, you find things like Comprehension, Application, and Analysis. As with the goals I listed earlier this week, the higher levels presuppose proficiency with the lower ones.

The problems I see with written translation happen when we employ it too soon in the instructional cycle. Formal, polished translations are definitely a work of evaluation and creation, and so, I would argue, are the highly artificial things that we Classicists call “literal” translations. When we take the time to use some other tools to help our students comprehend, apply, and analyze, translation is a lot less difficult and a lot less painful – especially when it’s not the only way that our learners can demonstrate evaluation and synthesis. But when we rush to high-level tasks for which we haven’t adequately prepared our students, it’s like building the roof of a house before the walls and foundation are done.

And that brings us to today’s story, which is about building and rebuilding. It occurs right after the lengthy trip to Rome to seek a remedium for the morbus novissimus that afflicted Casina, ancilla Valeriī. Everyone has safely returned, and Caelius’ wife Vipsānia – who has her own reasons to be suspicious of a dominus who takes good care of his ancillae – has decided she wants Caelius to remodel their farmhouse. If you’ve seen Lucy M’s amazing pictures of vīlla Caeliī, you may be wondering why! Perhaps she’s just jealous of the even fancier house of their friend Claudius Pulcher in Rome; perhaps she’s looking for assurance that Caelius really does care her; or perhaps she has other reasons yet to be revealed. See what you think as you read this story, now available here at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested:

dum Lūcius cum Marcō in urbe colloquitur, Q. Iūlius Frontō architectus ad vīllam Caeliī equitat. Caelius enim Frontōnem paucīs ante diēbus arcessīvit, quod vīllam suam renovāre in animō habēbat. nam Vipsānia, postquam tōta familia urbe Rōmā domum revēnit, īrātissima erat quod tam parva erat vīlla, tam pauca cubicula, tam antīquae pictūrae. cotīdiē igitur marītum suum quaerēbat castīgātum. “nōnne miserrima sum?” cotīdiē inquit. “num ille Claudius Pulcher, amīcus tuus, uxōrem tam contemptam habet? fortasse ille, ut tū, sibi ancillās pulchrās praebet – sed uxor Claudiī in domō splendidā habitat. num mē decet hunc dolōrem, hanc trīstitiam frātrī meō epistulā patefacere?”

Caelius, quī tālēs uxōris minās neglegere multōs annōs solēbat, Vipsāniae respondēre paucōs diēs nōlēbat. cum tamen Vipsānia Ūtilem iussit cērās stilōsque ad ātrium ferre, ille, “haud tē oportet,” inquit, “frātrem tuum epistulīs vexāre. praetereā Ūtilis tibi pārēre haud potest, quod eum nunc iam arcessīvī. Ūtilī enim necesse est epistulās mihi scrībere, quod architectum arcessere in animō habeō. nōnne vīlis et parva est ista vīlla? nōnne pauca cubicula? nōnne antīquae turpēsque pictūrae, quās pictor patrī meō in mūrīs multōs ante annōs pīnxit? quam mē taedet huius vīllae!”

Vipsānia sēcum clam rīdēbat, sed nihil respondēbat. Frontō architectus, cum epistulam Caeliī accēpit, maximē gaudēbat quod Caelius vir maximae pecūniae erat. servum suum statim arcessīvit et epistulam dictāvit. tum epistulam servō Caeliī trādidit et “tibi festīnandum est, puer!” inquit. servus ad vīllam Caeliī celeriter revēnit et dominō epistulam trādidit. Caelius, cum epistulam lēgit, quoque gaudēbat. Vipsāniam vocāvit et epistulam Frontōnis tōtam lēgit. Vipsānia, cum epistulam audīvit, clam rīdēbat.

hodiē māne Frontō in vīllae āream equitat et ex equō dēscendit. lōra servō trādit et “heus! puer!” clāmat, “Quīntus Iūlius Frontō architectus adsum! adventum meum dominō tuō nūntiā!” servus Frontōnem salūtat et mandātīs architectī celeriter pāret. vīllam ingreditur dominum quaesītum. Caelius, quī adventum Frontōnis avidus exspectat, per vīllam festīnat architectum salūtātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think about the cum-clauses with indicative verbs? Those are awfully common in “real” Latin even though our textbooks often claim otherwise. Check out this link, for example, and the relevant part of Allen and Greenough on GoogleBooks.
  • What do you think of the interactions between Caelius and Vipsania?
  • What’s your initial impression of Frontō architectus?
  • What do you think will happen once the renovations actually begin?
  • And how well does this story relate to our themes for the week?

Tune in next time, when we’ll witness the negotiations between Caelius and Frontō – and the beginnings of the actual construction. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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