Next Steps?

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I’m afraid this post will be a bit disjointed, with two minor elements and one bigger one. We’ll start our next round of Tres Columnae Project stories tomorrow – which I know may disappoint some of you who like your daily dose of the adventures of Lucius, Valeria, Lollia, Caius, Prima, Secunda, Cnaeus, etc.

But instead of focusing on “core” stories today, I want to share some amazing work from our piloting subscribers, Ann M’s students at The Marist School in England. Prepare to be amazed and impressed by the multimedia stories they’ve created about Rīdiculus mūs through the Tar Heel Reader project. The direct link is – I’d love to know which one is your favorite before I tell you mine.

If you’ve been interested in Instructure, the company that developed the learning-management platform we’ve used for the Tres Columnae Lectio Prima Demo course, you might be interested in this very positive review by Michael Feldstein, a well-known name in the e-learning world. One quick quote from Feldstein’s piece:

If I had to summarize Instructure’s strategy in one sentence, it would be “They use the lessons learned by consumer web companies to clear the clutter out of LMS software design and business model.” They’re not focusing particularly on open education or analytics or any other hot topics in online education, although they are aware of these and do pay some attention to them. Rather, they are looking at core use cases and trying to make them as simple as possible, throwing out some outdated LMS design assumptions in the process.

As you know, I’ve become a big fan of Instructure myself … and I’ll be an even bigger fan once they figure out how to implement their Quizzes and “branching” lessons more fully.

Finally, as July begins, and with it the second half of this calendar year, I’ve been in a reflective mood about the past, the present, and the future. So I took some time yesterday to think about what I would want for the Tres Columnae Project, and for myself, in a “perfect” world in the next several months. Actually, I realized I wasn’t describing a “perfect” world – I was actually describing a vision that, meā quidem sententiā, is very achievable in our actual world.

  • For the project itself, I see a “finished” version of Cursus Primus – but I need to define “finished,” since in one way, TC won’t ever be finished as long as contributors continue to add new content to it. By “finished,” I think I mean that
    • the core stories are all posted for Lectiōnēs I-XXX;
    • comprehension exercises for all of them are in place;
    • quid novī explanations are in place for all major grammatical concepts;
    • at least 1-2 forms practice exercises and/or quizzes are in place for each Quid Novī;
    • we’ve finished and posted the correlation of our “core” vocabulary to other “core” vocabulary lists, such as those for the GCSE, O-levels, and A-levels in the British national system; and
    • we’ve contributed to a conversation among American Latinists that will, sooner than later, lead to an agreement on a “core” vocabulary list. (It’s shocking and scandalous to me that we send thousands of children every year to take high-stakes examinations like the Advanced Placement Exam, but there’s no way to know what vocabulary items will or won’t be glossed for them! I commend the AP® Test Development Committee for the work it’s currently doing to develop common standards for other facets of that examination, but it does seem odd to me that, while they’re working hard on a “common language” for rhetorical and grammatical terms, no one has apparently even raised the more basic “common language” issue of core vocabulary.)
  • There are well over 1000 paid subscribers – including a large core of Standard and Premium subscribers who contribute regularly. Even the Basic subscribers are frequently choosing to make contributions, and some of them are choosing to upgrade their subscriptions so that it’s more convenient for them to contribute. We’ve begun to achieve viral growth, since (meā quidem sententiā) the Tres Columnae Project should generate some network effects – the more who participate, the more engaging and attractive the experience should be for others. (My favorite illustration of network effects is to imagine a world where one person has a fax machine. Not much incentive there – after all, whom could you send faxes to? Or receive them from?)
  • We’ve successfully convinced large numbers of homeschooling families to join TC. No longer do they need to purchase printed material of dubious quality, and no longer is there a need for parents (who don’t know any Latin themselves) to worry or hesitate if their children express an interest in Latin.
  • We’ve also convinced a large number of teachers and schools to provide subscriptions for their students (or to encourage their students to subscribe). In particular, we’ve been able to offer some relief for young teachers, for teachers with very diverse classes, for teachers with multiple-level classes, and for students who need some extra help and support with reading Latin.
  • We’ve helped to change the conversations among Latin teachers. No more “my method is the only way” or “your method is wrong” – instead, people talk to each other, listen to each other, and seek the good in each other’s approaches. (Yes, I know this is a dream! But bear with me!)
  • The first wave of TC subscribers will soon overwhelm, in a good way, college and university Classics departments. Professors, surprised and delighted by the presence of so many well-prepared students who read Latin fluently and can play the “grammar game” well (and, in fact, can play it Latīnē as well as Anglicē), will be compelled to use more oral Latin and more hands-on, collaborative activities in their classes. But those who prefer the “hard-core” Classical authors are surprised and pleased to discover a group of learners who are well-prepared, both in reading skills and in cultural background, to read and engage with those authors – and to do so in a way that hasn’t happened within the living memory of the profession.
  • We’ve been able to implement our planned royalty system, and some of our subscribers are receiving enough revenue from products based on their “stuff” to cover – or more than cover – their subscription costs. And I hope we’re able to make significant contributions to the profession – and the study – of Classics around the world, and to other important causes.
  • We’ve provided a model for thoughtful teachers and learners in other academic areas, inspiring them, as well, to escape from the “factory model” school and to develop interesting alternatives.
  • In our success, we’ve held on to our core valuea and have truly built a Joyful Learning Community.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of these goals? Realistic, or utterly wishful? Worthy, or unworthy? I’d really love to know how the community feels about the project before we go too much farther with it.
  • What are your goals for the upcoming school year? To what extent does Tres Columnae fit into your goals?
  • And what do you think of Ann’s students’ stories? Personally, I love the Tar Heel Reader project, and I think there are all kinds of fruitful connections and collaborations that we can develop between “them” and “us.” But I’d really like to know what you think.

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin a new series of posts about a set of stories we haven’t yet featured … and a character who may have been feeling a bit overlooked. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Editing and Revision, II

salvēte, amīcī! As promised, today we’ll take a look at the Editing and Revision process through the lens of our faithful reader, subscriber, and contributor David H, who has not only contributed stories but graciously agreed to let us use them as examples for editing. Once again, here is the first draft of his first story:

Casa mea pura est, nec sordida nec mucida. In una situla scopae et peniculus sunt. Cotidie pavimentum lavo. Itaque neque muscas neque formicas in casa mea vivunt. Vespas et arenas non amo, et eas quoque in casa mea non vivunt.

Ego quoque matellam habeo. Non barbarus sum! Hahahae! Iocum facio.

Before I could suggest any revisions, David himself made some! Here’s the current version of the story, which you can see here:

Salve! Nōmen mihi Ortellius est. Ego Hibernicus rusticus sum, et senex. Ego in insulā Hiberniā habitō. Dē casā mea tibi nararre volō. Casa mea valdē vetusta est. Casa in quā habitō in silvā densā et obscūrā prope rīvulum parvum et clarum est. Extra casam meam multes arbores sunt.

Casa mea neque ruīnōsa neque turgurium squālidum est. Tecta rīmosā nōn est. Casa mea sicca est. Casa mea quoque nōn sumptuōsa, sed commoda est. Id parva est, sed casam meam mihi valdē placet. Casam meam parvam amō.

Casa mea munda est, neque sordida neque mūcida. In una situlā scōpae et pēniculus sunt. Cotidie pavīmentum lavō. Itaque neque muscas neque formicas in casā mea vivunt. Vespas et arāneolas nōn amō, et eas quoque in casā mea nōn vivunt. Ego quoque matellam habeō. Non barbarus sum! Hahahae! Iocum faciō.

So, as you think of the rubric I shared yesterday and in early February, how would you rate this story in each category?

Acceptable Not Yet Acceptable
Morphology and Syntax Errors, if any, are typographical and require minimal editing. Constructions are familiar to the learner. No new / unfamiliar forms are used. Errors of morphology and syntax are present. More than typographical correction is needed. New/unfamiliar forms are used without clarification, or forms are used incorrectly.
Vocabulary All important words are previously learned (on the master vocabulary list) or clear from context/derivatives. Words are used correctly and idiomatically, or there are only minor errors, easily corrected. New words are included without attention to vocabulary development. There may be evidence of “random dictionary diving.” Some words are used incorrectly or in unidiomatic ways; errors require more than minimal editing to correct.
Storyline Characters’ behavior and motivation is consistent with previous stories. Setting, tone, and other features “make sense” with what has gone before. Characters’ behavior and motivation is inconsistent with previous stories, or with “what a Roman would do” (for Roman characters). Setting, tone, and/or other features “don’t make sense” with what has gone before.

Of course, some categories may be hard to rate. You don’t yet, know, for example, what words are included on the master vocabulary list. You also don’t know exactly where this story would fall – which Lectiō it would be attached to. It’s obviously Not Yet Acceptable for Lectiō I, since it includes a lot of words (and forms) that aren’t familiar at the very beginning. But the Vocabulary and Storyline would be quite acceptable as soon as the learners have encountered infinitives and a few plural forms – even if datives aren’t yet “known” for mastery, a learner wouldn’t be likely to have problems with the few datives in this story. If you had your red pen out :-), you probably made note of the minor grammatical issues, most of which had to do with (1) adjective agreement and (2) use of an accusative where a nominative was needed. If you were going to give David H specific, but positive feedback to help him revise these errors, what would you say? And would you “do it for him” or “show him the problems and let him fix them?”

If I were to write global comments on the story, I’d say something like this:

David, I like this story! It’s grammatically simple and straightforward, but it holds my attention and ties in nicely with the storyline of Lectiōnēs I-V. Where do you think it would “fit” best? (Obviously we need to know a bit about plurals, or have them glossed.) Just a few minor grammatical errors: (1) You might take another look at the word multes in the last sentence of the first paragraph. (2) I see two minor problems with the sentence beginning with Id parva – a gender problem and a case usage problem. (3) I see a similar case usage problem in the fourth sentence of the last paragraph, with muscas and formicas, and in the next sentence with eas. Also, some slightly obscure or vocabulary (like mucida, situla, scopae, matella) might need to be explained or glossed for our readers.

Overall, though, this is a great first effort. Thanks so much for contributing it! With a few simple revisions, it will soon become part of the Tres Columnae Project!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • How do you respond to the story?
  • How do you respond to the (small number of) grammatical errors? So often, Latin teachers focus on – and expect – “perfection,” a state which is probably not achievable for most people, and certainly not for most beginning students. High expectations are great, and we embrace them! We also need to remember to have high expectations of ourselves as teachers, and we need to make sure that our expectations, while high, are still attainable by our students or other learners.
  • What do you think of the character of Ortellius?
  • How do you think our Roman characters would respond to him? And what about our non-human characters?

Tune in next time for a response to your comments, and also for a similar exploration of David’s second story. We’ll get back to “primary” Tres Columnae stories on Monday with a series that focuses on the introduction of participles and (non-present-tense) infinitives.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus, and please keep those messages coming! Remember, if you’d like a Free Trial subscription, just let us know at this link; space is still available.

Hope to hear from you soon! 🙂

Editing and Revision, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Welcome to a Joyful Latin Learning “first” – our first story that was actually contributed by a community member! We also want to celebrate our first Free Trial subscriber, Claire S, who will probably be introducing herself on the website in a bit. If you’ve been following developments at the website (, you know that our faithful readers Laura G and Ann M have made internal blogs at the site, and you also probably know that several of those blog posts have been in Latin. For example, here are Ann’s posts, and here is a great fable adapted by Laura. But David H, who is not a professional Classicist, is our first subscriber to submit a full-scale story; in fact, he’s submitted two to date and has graciously agreed to allow us to use them to show you a model of the Tres Columnae editing and revision process.

We think that editing and revision are very important for several reasons.

  • First (as you know if you’ve ever read any writing by young people), it’s a much-needed and seldom-practiced skill, whether in your own language or in a language you’re learning.
  • Second, it can help to build Ownership of your writing (and of the thoughts in your writing) … especially if the editor engages in a dialogue with you rather than simply “fixing it for you.”
  • Third, and perhaps most important, the possibility of editing and revising (which makes it clear that the current version doesn’t have to be the final, perfect version) makes it safe and acceptable to take risks, to make mistakes, and to learn and grow from those mistakes. Too often, in the “school world,” mistakes are seen as the enemy rather than a critical part of learning!

In any case, David H’s stories are quite good, but (like any early draft) they’re not perfect yet. So, in the mature Tres Columnae project, they would not yet be linked to the “major” or “existing” stories – not until one of our editors had the chance to look at them, engage in a dialogue with him, and ultimately approve them. Eventually, we hope that a lot of participants will become interested in editing … and proficient enough with reading and writing Latin to become good editors. Of course, they’ll receive a discount on their subscriptions if they do! At the moment, though, there’s only one available editor, also serving as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. 🙂

Today we’ll preview David H’s two stories, and tomorrow we’ll begin to look at the editing and revision process. With thanks again to our faithful reader, here is the story exactly as David H submitted it. You should be able to see it at this link as well if you’re interested.

Casa mea pura est, nec sordida nec mucida. In una situla scopae et peniculus sunt. Cotidie pavimentum lavo. Itaque neque muscas neque formicas in casa mea vivunt. Vespas et arenas non amo, et eas quoque in casa mea non vivunt.

Ego quoque matellam habeo. Non barbarus sum! Hahahae! Iocum facio.

And here is David H’s second story, available at this link:

Quid agis? Si vales, deinde valeō sum. Quid nomen tibi est? Ortellium mē vocant. Unde venitis? Ubi habitas? Quam patriam habēs? Hibernicus sum. In Hiberniā habitō. Hibernia insula parva ac pulchra est, prope Britanniam. Dē vitā meā tibi narrare volō.

Rusticus summissus sum, atque senex macilentus et stomachosus. Nec fratres nec sorores habeō. Uxorem quoque nōn habeō. Baccalaureus sum. Quamquam multos amicos et multas amicas habeō, solitarius homo sum, et vītam quiētam ac simplicem vīvō. Hoc mihi placet.

Senex invenustus sum, nōn pulcher. Barbam longam et horridam habeō, sed caput meus calvus est. Ego quoque caecus in unō oculō sum. Genūs meae nōn bonae, sed malae sunt. Genūs meae semper tumident ac dolent. Praeterea claudus sum, ergō agilis non sum. Multis abhinc annis in lutō lapsavi et ad terram cēcidi, atque coxam meam frēgī. Paulisper ambulare nōn poteram. Iampridem iuvenis validus eram, atque currere celeriter poteram. Hodiē currere nōn possum. Difficilis est mihi ambulare, ergō baculō lentē ambulō. Claudicare mihi nōn placet.

Ō mē miserum! Tempus fugit atque senescere mihi quoque nōn placet. Quam molestus est! Interdum melancholicus et morosus sum. Quamquam senex sum et sine dubiō vita dura et onerosa est, nihilominus nōn desperō. Magnam pecuniam et dives nōn habeō, sed pauper non sum. Ut dixi, ego multos amicos et multas amicas habeō.

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re an editor for the Tres Columnae project. Your goals are

  • to make sure that finalized versions of stories are “high quality” (I think that means they have good grammar, idiomatic vocabulary, and inherent interest that makes you, the reader, want to keep reading … and what other criteria would you employ?);
  • to help contributors improve their stories – and their command of the language;
  • to guide them to improve their stories, but not “do it for them” (especially in terms of grammatical or lexical problems); and
  • to avoid getting bogged down in endless “red pen” type comments, especially as the project grows and the number of submissions increases.

You may recall this post from early February, in which I shared a draft of the rather simple rubric we’re planning to use when editing stories. If you don’t, I’ll repeat the essence of the rubric here:

Acceptable Not Yet Acceptable
Morphology and Syntax Errors, if any, are typographical and require minimal editing. Constructions are familiar to the learner. No new / unfamiliar forms are used or, if they are, they’re clear from context. Errors of morphology and syntax are present. More than typographical correction is needed. New/unfamiliar forms are used without clarification, or forms are used incorrectly.
Vocabulary All important words are previously learned (on the master vocabulary list) or clear from context/derivatives. Words are used correctly and idiomatically, or there are only minor errors, easily corrected. New words are included without attention to vocabulary development. There may be evidence of “random dictionary diving.” Some words are used incorrectly or in unidiomatic ways; errors require more than minimal editing to correct.
Storyline Characters’ behavior and motivation is consistent with previous stories. Setting, tone, and other features “make sense” with what has gone before. Characters’ behavior and motivation is inconsistent with previous stories, or with “what a Roman would do” (for Roman characters). Setting, tone, and/or other features “don’t make sense” with what has gone before.

So how would you rate David H’s stories in regard to each of these elements? And what advice would you give him (keeping in mind that he’s an adult re-learner of Latin, not a professional Latinist) to improve any elements of either story?

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin with the first story; then, on Friday, we’ll look at the second. Next week we’ll return to our theme of infinitives, with some more stories about the destruction of Herculaneum and its sister cities. And then we’ll look at some stories with participles. In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! 🙂

Introducing Aspect, IV, Another Story

salvēte iterum, amīcī et sodālēs – et inimīcī novī iam legentēs! I hope there aren’t too many inimīcī as a result of the last post, but I want to be very clear: Tres Columnae is not, at its heart, “about” translating Latin into English. We’re not opposed to translation; it’s just not our primary focus.  Here’s our perspective in a nutshell:

  • Translation is a reasonable tool, but one that has been significantly overused in our profession for a very long time, along with English (or other L1) discussions of Latin grammar and the use of nineteenth-century English (or other L1) “grammar” terminology to analyze the construction of a Latin passage.
  • We think of the old saying, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” There’s nothing wrong with the hammer, per se, but it isn’t the only tool you need!
  • In the same way, translation, L1 discussion, and L1 terminology have their place, but they aren’t the only tools you need, either.
  • Since “everybody” (by which I mean the vast majority of the Latin and Classics community) already knows how to use those tools, we aim to show you how to use some other tools, too. And we think you’ll find it a lot easier to cut things with a saw, for example, than with that hammer of yours. 🙂 But we don’t want you to start driving nails with your new saw … depending on how you hold it, that could be extremely painful for you!

Anyway, in today’s post, we’ll be looking at our first real story that uses present, imperfect, and perfect tense verbs together. If you’re reading this “live,” you know that I wrote it in late winter or early spring, “real world” time. In narrative time, though, today’s story takes place a bit earlier in the year, during the feast of Parentālia in mid-February. As the Wikipedia article reminds us, this is the festival during which Romans commemorate (and celebrate, and proptiate) the spirits of their ancestors, the Larēs and the dī parentēs.

By contrast, later in the year, in mid May, Valerius and his family will celebrate the Lemurālia or Lemuria, casting black beans over their shoulders at midnight and clanging bronze pots together in order to feed – and scare away – the “restless” or unfriendly spirits of the unknown, unhonored, and unburied dead. We plan to have a story about that, too, and about the other major (and not-so-major) Roman festivals. There will obviously be a lot for our participants to say in the Continuing Virtual Seminar about burial customs – and about views of the afterlife!

Anyway, some time has passed since everyone returned home from the races (and the negotiations) in Milan. Plans are underway for the wedding of Valeria and Vipsanius, which will take place later in the year, much to the continuing disgust of her little brother Lucius. Valerius, the paterfamiliās, is a sentimental soul and will be telling a lot of old family stories; hence the need for the additional tenses. Of course, as for all Tres Columnae stories, there will be at least one illustration per paragraph, and there will be an audio version for you to listen to as many times as you’d like.

So, if you will, imagine the audio and illustrations for this story:

diēs Parentālia adest. hodiē omnēs Rōmānī sacrificia et vōta dīs parentibus offerunt. “dī parentēs,” inquiunt, “sī nihil laudis, nihil precum, nihil cibī accipiunt, saepe īrāscuntur et neglegentēs pūniunt. necesse est nōbīs poenās deum parentum vītāre!”

proximā igitur nocte Valerius ipse multās horās vigilābat, quod sacrificia parābat. hodiē māne, ante hōram prīmam, Valerius ē lectō surrēxit et ad ātrium festīnāvit. Caelia quoque per tōtam noctem vigilābat, quod precēs dīs parentibus offerēbat. nunc hora prīma est. Caelia in cubiculō dormit, quod fessissima est. Valerius nunc in ātriō stat.

imāginēs māiōrum in ātriō pendent. prope imāginēs stat larārium, ubi Valerius et Caelia larēs adōrāre solent. Valerius prope larārium stat et imāginēs māiōrum spectat. Valerius imaginem patris suī spectat et precēs lacrimāsque effundit.

Valeria et Lūcius, postquam vōcem patris audīvērunt, sollicitī ē cubiculīs exeunt et ad ātrium celeriter festīnant. Caeliōla, ubi pater lacrimāre coepit, in cubiculō suō cum Medūsā lūdēbat. puella attonita canem in cubiculō relinquit et ad ātrium celeriter festīnat. līberī ātrium ūnā intrant et, “pater cārissime, quid agis?” rogant. Valeria patrem amplectitur et “ō mī pater, nōlī lacrimāre,” inquit. “num trīstis es? num tē offendimus?”

Valerius, quī vehementer lacrimābat, adventum līberōrum haud cognōvit. nunc tamen, postquam vōcem fīliae audīvit, lacrimās retinet et “ō Valeria dulcissima, nōlī timēre,” respondet. “lacrimō quod memor patris meī cārissimī sum. nōnne vōbīs saepe dē patre meō, illō Mārcō Valeriō, anteā fābulās nārrāvī? nōnne pater meus hōs quīnque annōs cum dīs mānibus est? nōnne decōrum est mihi patrem commemorāre et flēre? et nōnne mē decet mātrem aliōsque māiōrēs commemorāre?”

Lūcius nihil respondet, quod ipse lacrimat. Valeria quoque tacet et lacrimat. Lūcius enim, ubi avus periit, trēs annōs nātus est, Valeria septem. avus Valeriam et Lūcium saepe laudābat, rārō pūniēbat. avum vīvum Valeria et Lūcius valdē dīligēbant; mortuum iam meminērunt. ab omnibus lacrimātur et flētur. Caeliōla quoque, etiamsī nāta nōn erat ubi periit avus, lacrimās piās cum vōtīs effundit.

tandem omnēs lacrimāre cessant et precēs dīs pārentibus adhibent. Valeria flōrēs in hortō quaerit. Lūcius panem cum vīnō et sale ē culīnā fert. Caeliōla patrem amplectitur et ad cubiculum revenit. Valerius, postquam līberōs suōs laudāvit et omnia sūmpsit, ad sepulcra parentum ambulat.

And you can probably imagine the types of questions (both for comprehension and for cultural connections and comparisons) that will follow this story. As for grammatical analysis, picture some questions like these:

(for the second paragraph)

utrum Valerius semel an identidem vigilat?

You, as a learner, answer identidem. If you choose the wrong answer, you get an explanation like this one:

Look more closely at the sentence. There are actually two clues that should have led you to choose identidem. Can you see them?

If you choose “no,” there follows a sequence where we highlight

  • multās horās – this obviously took a while
  • vigilābat – this is a verbum temporis praeteritī inperfectī. It also shows that Valerius’ lack of sleep was continuing or ongoing.

Then, of course, there’s a similar question:

utrum Caelia precēs semel an indentidem offert?

And there’s a similar path of explanations for wrong answers. And then there are questions like

utrum Valerius semel an identidem ē lectō surgit?

In this case, if you don’t choose semel, the explanation looks like this:

Look more closely at the sentence. There are actually two clues that should have led you to choose semel. Can you see them?

If you choose “no,” there follows a sequence where we highlight

  • hodiē māne, ante prīmam hōram – this is a single point in time
  • surrēxit – this is our old friend, a verbum temporis praeteritī perfectī. It shows that the action was completed in the past.

And, of course, there will also be some questions where you just have to identify the tempus of the verb, or change a verb from one tempus to another.

quid respondētis, amīcī – et inimīcī iam legentēs, sī adestis?

  • First, what do you think of the story itself? We’re aiming to highlight a couple of things that make Romans very different from many twenty-first century readers: the open expression of emotion and the views and beliefs about the afterlife. How did we do?
  • Do you think that readers would be sympathetic with all this emotion, or do you think they’d be annoyed by it?
  • Second, what do you think of the shifting verb tenses? Do they “work” in the context of the story? Do they make sense to you? And, more important, do you think they’ll make sense to the learners?
  • Finally, what do you think of the morphology-focused exercises – especially the questions with semel and identidem, which will both be familiar vocabulary items by the time of this Lectiō?
    • If you’ve always thought that “translation is essential,” are you starting to see some ways that translation can be postponed, but understanding – and even grammatical analysis – can still happen?
    • And, if you do want your learners to translate at some point (which is perfectly fine with me if you do!), can you see how translations would actually be improved if they’re postponed until after the learner has good comprehension and good analysis of the passage?
  • In other words, am I beginning to “sell” translation fans on the idea that, if used, translation might be better as a summative rather than a preliminary task? Of course, Dexter Hoyos, in his rules for reading Latin, says much the same thing … and more eloquently than I ever could. But sometimes it’s helpful to see for yourself as well as to hear from the experts.
  • As for you “no-translation” fans, what do you think of our approach to tense and aspect … and to comprehension?

Tune in next time for your responses, and for a sequence where we’ll introduce the pluperfect tense. And in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

A Complete Lectio, VI

salvēte, amīcissimī! As promised, today we’ll consider Continuing Virtual Seminar questions that might relate to Lectiō Secunda. In a face-to-face teaching environment, the Paideia model proposes that about 20% of instructional time should be devoted to these “collaborative, intellectual dialogues about a text” – which, in my face-to-face context, would translate into one full class period per week. As a friend of mine says, with a rueful smile, “I’m good, but I ain’t that good!” I certainly try to engage my students in collaborative intellectual dialogues every day – and frequently we do engage in formal seminars or the “mini-mini” ones I’ve described in a previous post. But the pressures of time and “coverage” keep me from using seminars as regularly as I’d like to.

Of course, in the Tres Columnae system, there’s no pressure for time or coverage. Learners can take as much time as they’d like, and they can progress at the proper rate for them rather than a standardized, factory-model “pacing” that’s too fast for some and too slow for others. In that context, the Continuing Virtual Seminar is an opportunity to stop and reflect, whenever you’d like, on what you’ve been learning. You might go back to a previous Lectiō with a new insight; you might look forward to a future Lectiō whose subject matter fascinates you; you might have a lot to say, or you might have very little to say. And, of course, no one will make you participate at all!

So I envision at least two Continuing Virtual Seminar opportunities in each Lectiō, maybe more. One will be primarily concerned with Language features, while the other is more concerned with Story or Culture. And, of course, participants can start their own new Continuing Virtual Seminar if they want; all they have to do is post an internal blog, or a comment on a story, and see what happens.

In the case of Lectiō Secunda, the Language seminar will focus on our big new concept: that Latin words have different forms to show their different functions in a sentence. We might start out with something like this:

As you reflect on your own native language – and other languages you know – what are some similarities to the Latin system of cāsūs? What are some differences?

Our Story and Culture seminar (or seminars) might focus on the characters:

From what you have seen and learned about Roman gender roles, to what extent do Ridiculus and Impigra seem to embody a “typical” Roman marriage relationship?

Or on their attitudes:

From what you know of Roman social class attitudes, how do you suppose a Roman might respond to Ridiculus’ insistence that it’s a cēnāculum, not a cavus?

Or on “material culture”:

Using your favorite search engine, look for images of houses in Herculaneum and, if you’d like, in Pompeii, Stabiae, and Oplontis. What are some of the thoughts and feelings you had when you looked at these?

“We” (that royal or Imperial we for the moment) will be reading participants’ responses … and responding to them, as needed, to help them connect and deepen their ideas. Sometimes “we” will ask additional questions, but sometimes other participants will do that for us. And, of course, there’s no formal Closure or Post-Seminar step with a Continuing Virtual Seminar since, by their nature, they continue! 🙂

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Do these seem like reasonable topics for a Continuing Virtual Seminar for Lectiō Secunda?
  • What are some other good topics?
  • What responses might participants make … to any or all of them?
  • And how would you respond to these if you were “we”?

Tune in next time for a Big Question of a different sort … a Big Question about verbs. In some ways, Tres Columnae has chosen a very “traditional” order of introduction of grammatical concepts: we start with nominative and genitive case nouns so that you, the learner, can use a standard Latin dictionary. Of course, in other ways, we’re rather “untraditional”: you learn about all 5 declensions from the beginning, and you use your knowledge of nouns to create stories, not to fill out declension charts. But we’re contemplating something very untraditional when it comes to verbs, and I’d really like to know what you think!

Tune in next time for the question, and after that for some answers. And please keep those comments and emails coming!

A Complete Lectio, V

salvēte iterum, amīcī et sodālēs! As promised, today we’ll look at a possible rubric for scoring the participant-created writing.  Next time,we’ll also consider possible Continuing Virtual Seminar topics. And then I’ll have a hugely important question about Verbs! We’ll probably take a look at some stories from Lectiōnēs Tertia et Quārta later this week, as well.

If you’re just joining us, I’d like to remind you (or possibly even tell you for the first time) that the official Tres Columnae website is now up and running at if you’d like to see “the whole thing” – or at least an early version of the whole thing! You can register for a free subscription there, if you’d like, or you can explore the site without registering if you’d prefer.

By registering, though, you do get the opportunity to create your own, internal Tres Columnae blog – or several blogs, if you’d like – where you can comment on the stories and other aspects of the project. You can also make comments on individual wiki pages if you’re a subscriber. In a few weeks, when we have some multimedia content ready, we’ll also be offering the opportunity to become a basic or standard subscriber if you’re interested.

  • Basic subscriptions will cost about $10 per year, and will give you the ability to take the interactive quizzes and record your scores.
  • Standard subscriptions will have a monthly cost (we’re still working out the details, but we’ll let you know as soon as we know!) and will give you the ability to create and upload your own stories, images, audio, and video. We hate to have to charge people for this! But, unfortunately, someone will need to screen our user-created content. We have to make sure that
    • It’s not from a spammer who’s cleverly included an ad for … whatever! … in a story, an image, an audio file, or a video;
    • The Latin is grammatically correct and idiomatic;
    • The participant has made provisions for “new stuff” (vocabulary or grammatical forms) that participants wouldn’t have learned by the Lectiō for which their creation is designed; and
    • The storyline is “appropriate” – not too racy or terrifying for our school-aged participants, for example.

(If we get a lot of adult learners who want to explore “adult” stuff, I’m not sure how to handle that. quid mihi suādētis, amīcī? I’d thought about just telling them “no,” especially for “stuff” with what’s euphemistically called “mature content” by some people. But there might possibly be some “stuff” that adult learners could handle, but which would disturb younger learners. For example, when our characters are stationed in Germania and Iudaea during Cursus Secundus, they might witness something that wouldn’t bother an adult, but would give a 14-year-old nightmares. How should we handle those issues?)

Anyway, when participants do submit content, we’ll ask them to do a self-rating, using the same scale that “we” (OK, “I” – but as the project grows, “I” will presumably become “we” over time) will use to rate their content. In my face-to-face teaching life, I’ve discovered that self-rating has an amazingly positive effect on the quality of students’ work, especially when they know the criteria in advance. I’m sure I had “known” this as a beginning teacher, but I actually learned it (or at least owned my learning) when I first began to work with the College Board’s Advanced Placement program.

Though Latin teachers may well disagree about the aims of the AP ® Latin program, one great thing that the College Board does – and has consistently done for over 30 years – is to publish the free-response section of every AP ® Latin Examination, along with the scoring system and even some sample student responses.  For many years, these reports were published by the Chief Reader in a journal like Classical Outlook or Classical World, but in recent years they’ve also been available on the College Board’s website. As a result, any AP ® teacher – or student – can see actual questions, actual answers, and actual rubrics. So, for more than 15 years, my AP ® students have followed a process where

  • They receive a sample prompt, with or without the rubric;
  • They talk about how they might respond to the prompt;
  • They actually write a response (or, sometimes, just outline what they’d say and how they’d support their argument);
  • They rate their response against the rubric;
  • They read and rate sample responses;
  • They compare their ratings with the “official” ratings; and
  • They discuss what they might need to do to improve – or, more often, how surprised they are by the “low” quality of responses that got high marks. (I teach a lot of perfectionists, and they tend to forget how little time is available for AP ® students to write their responses.)

Inspired by the success of this process, I gradually “worked down” self-assessment, first to my Latin III students, and then quickly to my II’s and I’s as well. In each case, I found that as the criteria were made clear, and as students knew they’d be rating their own work (and sometimes each other’s work too), the quality increased exponentially. So, having seen the process work face-to-face, I’m confident that it will also work in the Tres Columnae environment.

Here’s my preliminary thought about the rubric we’ll use for text submissions (obviously we’ll need appropriate ones for audio, for video, for illustrations, for collections of links, and for exercises/quizzes as well). If you’re not familiar with the language of rubrics, they’re usually classified as either analytic (if there are multiple criteria on which the product is rated) or holistic (if there’s a single, global rating). For video and illustrations, I expect a holistic rubric would work best, but for text, we probably want to assess multiple factors. So I envision something like this:

Acceptable Not Yet Acceptable
Morphology and Syntax Errors, if any, are typographical and require minimal editing. Constructions are familiar to the learner. No new / unfamiliar forms are used or, if they are, they’re clear from context. Errors of morphology and syntax are present. More than typographical correction is needed. New/unfamiliar forms are used without clarification, or forms are used incorrectly.
Vocabulary All important words are previously learned (on the master vocabulary list) or clear from context/derivatives. Words are used correctly and idiomatically, or there are only minor errors, easily corrected. New words are included without attention to vocabulary development. There may be evidence of “random dictionary diving.” Some words are used incorrectly or in unidiomatic ways; errors require more than minimal editing to correct.
Storyline Characters’ behavior and motivation is consistent with previous stories. Setting, tone, and other features “make sense” with what has gone before. Characters’ behavior and motivation is inconsistent with previous stories, or with “what a Roman would do” (for Roman characters). Setting, tone, and/or other features “don’t make sense” with what has gone before.

I originally had an additional column called “More than Acceptable,” but it didn’t want to display correctly! 🙂  And the more I think about it, the more I like this very simple rubric.  Factory model schools tend to breed an invidious perfectionism in learners: you strive for that “A” in everything, even if your work is already extremely good.  I think of my former student who burst into tears because she’d received a 108% score on a test … she wanted a 110! 😦

Since we’re not attempting to grade Tres Columnae participants, we don’t need a precision instrument for assessing the work! Either it’s really good, quite good, or … not good enough yet. And if it’s not good enough yet, we’ll work with you, the participant, until it is good enough! We’ll give you detailed feedback, if you’d like, or suggest particular pieces of Lectiōnēs, or send you to particular outside resources. Or, if you’d prefer, we’ll make your work available as a CORRIGENDVM – a story with promise, but some problems, that others can edit and improve if they’d like to.

quid putātis, amīcī?

  • How do you feel about “imprecise” assessment like this? Are you crying out for a 5- or 6-point rubric? And if so, is it because you like the A-through-F implications of such a measure?
  • Do you think a learner would find this rubric helpful? Or should we be more specific in each Lectiō? For example, in Lectiō Secunda, might it make sense to say “the only forms used are nominative singular nouns, genitive singular nouns, and familiar verbs and prepositional phrases?”
  • What do you think of our process for “not acceptable yet” work? Do you find it encouraging or discouraging?
  • And what about the idea of a CORRIGENDVM?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at some of your answers to these questions and explore Continuing Virtual Seminar prompts that might relate to Lectio Secunda. Then, after that, we’ll ask a Big Question about the introduction of Verbs. In the meantime, thanks again for reading, and please keep those comments and emails coming.

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 ( 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.

A Complete Lectio, II

salvēte iterum, amīcī.  In this post, as promised, we continue our adventure through Lectiō Secunda of Cursus Primus of the Tres Columnae project.  Again, if you’d like, you can see the whole thing (in draft form!) at this link.

Last time, we looked at the short fabellae with which this Lectiō begins, and at the initial grammatical explanations for the “new thing” (nominative vs. genitive case nouns).  Now we’ll look at a slightly longer fabella and the “new thing” there – questions that incorporate nominatives and genitives.  As I’ve worked with the Tres Columnae project, and as I’ve experimented with more and more oral Latin questions in my own face-to-face classes, I’ve become increasingly committed to the idea of “lots of oral questions, most of the time.”  In fact, as you read this post (if you’re reading it live), I’m away from school at a meeting.  But my Latin I students are asking each other oral questions (with answers provided) about a story they’ve just read.  I’m excited to see how they – and the substitute – respond to this process. 🙂

Now for that longer fabella:

Picture … a picture of Valerius’ house, with the whole familia standing outside. Again with clickable audio, we read:

  • in domō Valēriī, Valērius est paterfamīliās, et Caelia est māterfamiliās.
  • Valerius est marītus Caeliae, et Caelia est uxor Valeriī.
  • in domō Valeriī, Valēria est fīlia, Lūcius est fīlius, et Caeliōla est fīlia.
  • Valērius est pater Valēriae. Valērius est pater Lūciī. Valērius est pater Caeliōlae.
  • Caelia est māter Valēriae. Caelia est māter Lūciī. Caelia est māter Caeliōlae.
  • Valēria est fīlia Valēriī et Caeliae.
  • Lūcius est fīlius Valēriī et Caeliae.
  • Caeliōla est fīlia Valēriī et Caeliae.

There’s an option to sort nouns into cāsus nōminātīvus and cāsus genitīvus groups, which we’ll encourage you to do if

  • your initial self-rating, above, was 1, 2, or 3, or
  • you had to repeat the rem probā or rem exercē steps I described last time.

Then we have some examples of quaestiōnēs et respōnsa:

  • quis est marītus Caeliae? Valērius
  • cuius fīlius est Lūcius? Valēriī
  • quis est uxor Valērī? Caelia
  • cuius marītus est Valērius? Caeliae

Once again, no English and no preliminary explanation; just an opportunity to interact with meaningful language.  When you’re ready, you click and move along to the explanation.

quid novī?

  • We’ve now learned how to ask who someone is: quis?
  • We’ve also learned how to ask whose someone – or something – is, or who someone or something belongs tocuius?
  • With a quis? question the answer is a nōmen cāsūs nōminātīvī.
  • With a cuius? question the answer is a nōmen cāsūs genitīvī.

As you might imagine, there’s an opportunity for self-rating, with a branching structure depending on how high you rate your comfort with the concept and on how much additional practice you want.  For most learners, the preferred path will probably be:

rem exercē:

The fabella is repeated, and you’re presented with 5 multiple-choice questions drawn from the following list:

  • quis est marītus Caeliae? Valerius / Valeriī
  • cuius marītus est Valerius? Caelia / Caeliae
  • quis est uxor Valeriī? Caelia / Caeliae
  • cuius uxor est Caelia? Valerius / Valeriī
  • quis est pater Valeriae? Valerius / Valeriī
  • cuius pater est Valerius? Valeria / Valeriae
  • cuius fīlia est Valeria? Valerius / Valeriī
  • quis est fīlia Valeriī? Valeria / Valeriae
  • quis est pater Lūciī? Valerius / Valeriī
  • cuius pater est Valerius? Lūcius / Lūciī
  • cuius fīlius est Lūcius? Valerius / Valeriī
  • quis est fīlius Valeriī? Lūcius / Lūciī
  • etc.

For each question, the right answer returns:

ita vērō! rem acū tetigistī! (and the complete sentence)

But the wrong answer to a quis question returns:

minimē! quis requires a nōmen cāsūs nōminātīvī as an answer. But you chose a nōmen cāsūs genitīvī. Would you like to try again?

Similarly, the wrong answer to a cuius question returns:

minimē! cuius requires a nōmen cāsūs genitīvī as an answer. But you chose a nōmen cāsūs nōminātīvī. Would you like to try again?

For the “Would you like to try again?” questions,

  • Yes brings up a new question from the bank.
  • No brings up a new question: Would you like a different explanation of the difference between cāsus nōminātīvus and cāsus genitīvus?

quid respondētis, amīcissimī?

  • I thought about a flow-chart, but I wondered if you’d prefer a narrative like this.  Would the flow-chart help or hurt your comprehension?
  • What do you think of the alternation between fabellae and quaestiōnēs?
  • Are the learners active enough for your taste, or not active enough, or too active?  What changes would you make in their activity level?
  • You may have noticed, again, that there are no Latin-to-English (or vice versa) vocabulary glosses at all in these fabellae.  Does that seem like a strength or a weakness to you?  Why?
  • Have you noticed the places where my description (here) is different from the draft (over there)?  If so, did you wonder why the differences?  In my face-to-face classes, they’re called “mistakes,” and they happen from time to time to keep learners on their toes! 🙂
  • Do you like the “real” or the “described” project better in the places where they’re different?

Tune in next time for the even longer fābula from Lectiō Secunda.  If you enjoyed Rīdiculus mūs before, I think you’ll love this next story!  And in the meantime, thanks so much for keeping those emails and comments coming.

Assessment and Testing Redux, Part I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this “live” – and if you’re located in the midwestern or southern parts of the United States – you’re probably grateful to have escaped the worst of the winter storm. For those in other parts of the world, and for those who will read this post in future years, I expect you have your own reasons to be grateful. In any case, I’m glad you’re continuing to read, to think, to comment, and to participate in our Joyful Learning Community.

In the next few days after I write this post, you should be able to see a complete Lectiō from Cursus Primus of the Tres Columnae project, and possibly as many as five. More Lectiōnēs will be coming soon, too. As you look at them – especially if you’ve had any experience at all with traditional schools and textbooks – you may have a number of questions! One that a lot of readers will have is, “Where are the tests?” Or perhaps, “what kind of test do you give for something like this?” Or even, perhaps, “How would you keep students from cheating on a test if they’re taking it online, without your direct supervision?” They’re all important questions, especially if you come from the perspective of school-based learning. And we’ll address them … but not in this post! 🙂

My goal today is to consider a hugely important distinction: the one between assessment and testing. Just this morning, on the Latinteach listserv, our colleague “obliquelywadling” made a really good point about what’s required, in a perfect world, for a test to be valid (that is, to measure what it says it’s going to measure) and reliable (that is, to give consistent results:

I once read that for a test to be valid and reliable, it must at the least not have its contents announced in advanced, or its date, and there can be no consequences attached to the tests, which of course must themselves be nameless. If these conditions are met, it is easier to say with a straight face what it is that students have learned or not. When I have tried this, it was very humbling! Otherwise, one may be measuring the effects of wealth, private tutoring, test prep classes, panic, the Pygmalion effect etc.

Of course, obliquelywadling’s points are about tests, rather than assessment in general. What’s the difference? We’ll explore that today, but we might start by saying that all tests are (or at least should be) assessments, but not all assessments are tests. There are lots of other ways to assess besides a formal, pen-and-paper (or computer-administered) test.

And, of course, it’s possible to use a formal test for purposes other than assessment, or measuring learning. Some teachers, for example, use them to fill time on Fridays; others use them to punish students for “being bad” or “not listening to me” or “playing around and wasting our time yesterday.” And, of course, it’s possible to use a test for multiple purposes – for example, as a teacher, you may genuinely want to fill that hour on Friday, or for that matter, you may genuinely want to punish those naughty children for not paying attention! 🙂 But, at the same time, you may also genuinely want to know how your students are doing with the material you’ve been teaching recently.

And, of course, if a test is designed to be an assessment, it clearly needs to be valid (that is, to measure what it says it is measuring) and reliable (that is, to give similar results for different learners, and at different times that it’s given). Any assessment would need to meet these criteria if its results are to be useful! But both validity and reliability are big issues in the testing industry … and so is the bigger question of usefulness! Usefulness … for whom? In other words, who is the primary customer of test results, or of any other assessment data?

Let’s return for a moment to obliquelywadling’s valid and reliable test, which

  • is not announced to the learner in advance;
  • is not described to the learner in advance; and
  • has no consequences for the learner.

If you designed and gave such a test, would you even share the results with the learners? Or would such sharing invalidate future results, or make a future administration unreliable? Even if you did share the results, such a test is clearly not designed for the learner … though it will have an indirect benefit as the teacher uses its results to modify or confirm his or her teaching.

Just a brief rant here: What does it say about the “high-stakes” testing movement that its goals are so diametrically opposed to this definition of validity? And in a quest for reliability, experts in the field of test design often include “equating” questions, repeated from year to year or from one test to another. Of course, if the tests are publicly released (as teachers, parents, administrators, and legislators understandably desire – and sometimes insist in a high-stakes world), reliability can be called into question because the equating questions no longer equate! OK, I’m done with my rant now. 🙂

But for assessments that aren’t tests, and especially for assessments that help learners measure their own progress, it’s possible to maintain both validity and reliability without secrecy. For example, in the world of Tres Columnae, a learner might choose to demonstrate proficiency with a particular set of vocabulary and morphological items by constructing a story. There are other, similar stories out there, and there’s a rubric that was used to assess them. The learner is welcome, even encouraged, to consult the other stories and the rubric. After all, even if you look at these, you’ll still have to make your own story … you’ll just have a better idea of what to do. If you copy an existing story verbatim, we’ll know. After all, we will have a catalog of them … and as I remind my face-to-face students, if you can Google it, I can Google it too! 🙂 But if you have ownership of your learning – and if you want to take ownership of the assessment process, too – you’re quite unlikely to copy someone else’s story in the first place.

quid respondētis, amīcissimī?

  • Who is the primary customer for assessment (and testing) results in your world?
  • Is that who you think should be the primary customer?
  • If not, what changes in assessment practices would need to happen so that your preferred primary customer did have primary ownership?
  • And how does your ideal assessment system compare with what we’re proposing for Tres Columnae?

I don’t want to dismiss testing completely … I’ve given tests for years to my face-to-face students, and I find the results helpful, both for me and for them. We’ll explore one critical purpose of testing (and, to a lesser degree, of all forms of assessment) in our next post. But I do want to find at least one Via Media, at least one “Third Alternative,” between a “high-stakes” approach that’s neither valid nor reliable, on the one hand, and a “touchy-feely” result that’s equally invalid and unreliable, on the other. Tune in next time for more about that, and about an overlooked purpose of testing that, in the beginning, was the reason for external assessments!

Examining the Story: culture and Culture, IV

salvēte iterum, amīcī fidēlēs! As promised, in this post we’ll look at the most recent story from a Cultural prespective.

We’ll begin with a focus on characters, but this time we’ll compare them with characters in literature, folktale, and fable; consider their social class more carefully; and see their conduct in the light of core Roman values.  Actually, most of this post will have to do with Roman humor: what we know about it from literary sources, and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to the characters’ actions in this story.

First, though, the characters, as compared with literary characters.  The obvious comparison (for Classicists anyway) for the human characters would be with Petronius‘ characters, especially in the cēna Trimalchiōnis, and with the characters of Plautine and Terentian comedy.  Of course, the animals would benefit from a comparison with animals in folklore and fable.

Thinking about Petronius for a moment, there’s clearly no one like Trimalchio (or Encolpius or Giton or the other major characters in the Satyrica) in this story!  Could there actually be a character like any of them … anywhere? 🙂

  • From the previous story about Valerius, Lollius, and the salūtātiō, it’s apparent that Valerius is wealthy (and socially prominent) enough to have a client like Lollius.
  • He also treats Lollius reasonably well, unlike Trimalchio.
  • We might assume that he is of higher status – or, at least, older money – than Trimalchio was, at least by birth.  (Of course, it would be hard to be of lower birth status or newer money than Trimalchio; and that’s the whole point of his character!  But what does that say about Roman values, or at least those of Petronius and his circle?)
  • He’s also not a figure of satire in the way that Trimalchio is.
  • As for Flavius Caeso, he is a bit of a buffoon – I wasn’t thinking of Trimalchio consciously when I developed him, but I can certainly see the resemblance.
  • As for the women, they bear some notable resemblances to the women in Plautine comedy, in particular.  That’s not an accident: I love Plautus, and the servants’ names are an homage to him. 🙂
  • On the other hand, there’s not a servus callidus in this story – Milphio certainly doesn’t qualify, poor fellow! 🙂 – nor are there direct examples of the other stock characters of New Comedy.  No senex īrātus, no mīles glōriōsus (though perhaps Flavius Caeso was in the army in his younger years …?), and, of course, no love story … at least not in this episode!

We’ve already alluded to social class and class relationships a bit, but here I just want to note some ambiguities:

  • We don’t yet know exactly what Valerius‘ social standing is.
  • Nor do we know about Flavius Caeso.  He’s clearly wealthier than Valerius, who treats him with deference (but not exactly as a cliēns might treat his patrōnus).  But is he, in fact, a relative of the Emperor – which would make him an object of great deference for everyone in town – or is he a lībertus Augustī, which would make him an object of derision and contempt (at least in private) to prominent citizens.  We don’t know … and that’s deliberate! 🙂
  • Lollius doesn’t play an important role in this story, but we do know he’s a cliēns of Valerius.  We also know, from his nōmen, that he’s not a lībertus of Valerius … nor of Valerius’ wife’s family the Caeliī.  His wife’s name is Maccia; does that mean she’s related to Maccius Plautus?  If so, does that confer status on her (since her ancestor was a famous and still-popular author) or disfavor (since he was, according to many scholars, a low-status actor)?

Finally, before we leave our characters, we should consider their relationship to core Roman values.  As I wrote the preliminary outline for Cursus Primus, one big consideration was to include – not only in stories, but in background-information work and in the “continuing virtual seminars” we’ll address in a few days – a range of these values; they actually have a column to themselves in the outline.

I think the authors of the “Big Three” reading-method textbooks do a commendable job of creating characters who exemplify pietās, dignitās, gravitās, etc. – and their opposites.  But they don’t really draw attention to these values … except, on occasion, in notes in those “Teacher’s Editions” that bother me, as I’ve mentioned before.   So I wanted to bring these values to the forefront, giving our participants (and us!) the opportunity to learn about them explicitly.  In this case, I’d want participants to think about questions like

  • whether Valeria displayed pietās when she interrupted Flavius Caeso, defending her brother and sister;
  • to what extent Flavius Caeso was motivated by concern for his dignitās and gravitās;
  • to what extent Valerius‘ conduct was motivated by pietās, dignitās, and gravitās;
  • to what extent Ridiculusridiculous dash was motivated by pietās (in caring for his family) … or by a quest for personal glory, which might be an example of dignitās – or of its opposite.

In the end, though, what most participants will remember about this story is the humor.  Yes, it’s intended to be funny! 🙂  And it’s OK to laugh … out loud, if you’d like!  Just speaking as the author, I found myself laughing as I wrote, and I still laugh as I read.

But is this a kind of humor that Romans would find funny? I’m not sure, but I think so!

  • Horace’s country and city mice aren’t directly relevant to the theme of the story, but they’re a small part of the inspiration for Ridiculus.  (And, of course, his name is an allusion to the Ars Poetica … but you all knew that!)  And they appear in the Sermōnēs, which are part of the verse-satire tradition.
  • Not only Petronius, but the verse satirists would, I think, have loved a dinner disaster like this one.  Think of how Juvenal – or Lucilius, for that matter – would have depicted such a party!
  • I also think about the limited amount of information we have about Atellan farce (which I’ve always spelled with a final -e, but Wikipedia doesn’t) and other types of slapstick humor the Romans enjoyed, and the rather more information we have about Plautine and Terentian comedy.
    • How does the action in this story compare with what we know the Romans found funny?
    • And why did they find master-slave reversals and kidnapped-daughters-saved-at-the-last-moment funny and appealing, anyway?
    • Some say that humor is a way of dealing with secret fears … if so, what might the Romans of Plautus’ and Terence’s day have been afraid of?
    • Or should we be asking that question about the Greeks of Menander’s day?
    • Or should we be asking about the many, many later days in Greco-Roman history … and down to our own time … when New Comedy and genres influenced by it have been popular?
  • Do the animals behave as Roman animals should? Or as fable-tradition animals should? I’ll have to defer to Laura G on that issue, since she knows far more about fables than I do.  But I thought of the Aesop’s fables I loved (in English paraphrase) as a child, and I tried to model both Ridiculus and Sabina after their counterparts in that tradition.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • To what extent have I identified appropriate big-C Cultural issues inherent in the story?
  • Have I asked reasonable questions?
  • What are some possible answers other than the ones I’ve suggested – and, for that matter, what do you think of my attempted answers?
  • Is the culture-and-Culture distinction appropriate, or should we look at cultural issues in a different way?
  • Are there changes we need to make to the story to make it more big-c Culturally authentic?

I can’t wait to hear from you, so please keep those comments and emails coming! 🙂

Tune in tomorrow, when we’ll change our perspective a bit and talk about Connections and Comparisons.  First we’ll define them, and then we’ll begin to explore them.  Then, on Friday or possibly Saturday, we’ll look at the “continuing virtual seminar” aspect of Tres Columnae.  What are these things, how will they work logistically, and why are they such an important part of Tres Columnae?