“Mr. S,” the intermediate and advanced Latin Family groups at District Y asked me, “can you say an English version of what we read after each paragraph?” We’ve been working on gradually building proficiency with things other than word-for-word translation: I’ve asked questions in English and questions in Latin, and just the other day we tried listing the ideas and details we understood in a paragraph. They’ve also been reading the Latin for me, and we’re all impressed with the quality of their Latin pronunciation. So I was happy to say “yes” … although at one point, not too long ago, I probably would have said “no” if someone at the Former School had asked me.
Context makes a difference, of course. At Former School, “everybody” knew that the Latin Family aimed to use as much Latin as possible, as much of the time as possible. If someone had asked for an English translation, I probably would have provided it or asked the Family to do so; in fact, as I think back, we did that with particularly complex or difficult sentences, and the AP groups obviously had to make “literal” translations from time to time. We’re still building that shared context in District Q and District Y, and we’re also working with an existing context where translation was more frequently a primary check for understanding, and where knowing about Latin and the Romans was sometimes stressed more than using your knowledge.
Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that I “followed the textbook” and measured students’ knowledge about more directly than I do now. So I know where they’re coming from, and I’m glad to build gradually from there toward a larger, longer-term goal of proficiency.
The beginning group is already on board, of course, since they know no other way. And the Gifted Homeschoolers are on board, since joyful learning is what they do anyway. We’ve found a rhythm in those groups, to pick up a theme from yesterday’s blog post, and that rhythm seems to be working well for most of us. We’ve lost a few members of each group, folks who needed a different rhythm or a different approach … and while I’d love to keep them all, I also know that new rhythms and new approaches aren’t for everybody.
The intermediate and advanced groups used the Complete Noun Forms Consolidation Sheet, an old Latin Family tool, to classify some familiar nouns by declinatio and then to transform them into specified casus and numerus. We talked briefly about why I tend to use the Latin grammatical terms rather than their English equivalents, and I was glad to see that just about everybody could use the chart successfully to recognize and apply the patterns. Our next step, of course, will be to use Latin noun forms in context as we create our first Minor Assessment product. We’ll be creating our own new characters, reading more about an existing character, and creating a short Latin interaction between the new character and the old. I haven’t assigned homework in a long time at Former School, but the demographics, the expectations, and the rhythm of school life are very different at District Q, where just about everybody has reliable Internet access at home. So I did ask them to spend about 30 minutes last night working on their new characters, and I’ve already received some emailed responses and some excellent, thoughtful questions about how to handle the task.
We’ll see what the new characters look like today, and then we’ll start reading some of the earlier Tres Columnae Project stories about those characters. I made them a collection of links, and it leads to a Google Form where they can tell me how much they were able to read in 30 minutes and how well they were able to understand the story. S, at District Y, has already started that process, and he says he was able to read 3 whole stories about his character with roughly 70% comprehension.
That’s good news because independent reading like that is a new rhythm for the Latin Family. I quickly learned, as a new teacher, that “read this story in The Textbook” wouldn’t work; I knew, ever since my own days as a Latin student, that “write a translation of this paragraph” was even less effective. I’m curious to see how reading for meaning with a time limit will help the Latin family gradually build proficiency; it worked well, Back In The Day, as a summer review assignment for intermediate and advanced classes, but I haven’t usually used it during the “regular” school year.
Of course, Back In The Day, the number of available stories was limited. As the “Tres Columnae Universe” expands, there will be more and more participant-created stories for us to read and share and build upon. Creating the stories helps us build proficiency, of course, and reading each other’s stories is a great way to build proficiency, too. And the creation and sharing of the stories will build community as well; that’s a vital purpose I don’t want to overlook.
And sometimes, at Former School, when things got busy and hectic, I think we did forget. We’d make the stories, but it took time to share them … and sometimes we didn’t because I’d be “thinking about timing” or “concerned about getting behind.” Without me there to forget and rush, the Latin Family there seems to be doing a great job of sharing stories and building community.
And in the end, who decides about “timing” and “getting behind,” anyway? If you’re building proficiency rather than factual knowledge, “covering the book” is less important … and there isn’t a book to cover with the Tres Columnae Project anyway. “I’m so impressed with how well they read!” said Ms. G, who had dropped in yesterday. And I realized I was, too; they were exactly at that Novice High point where they ought to be.
I wonder what other discoveries and insights await us all today!