Making Contributions, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As the first week of school in my face-to-face teaching world comes to a close, I’ve been realizing once again how valuable the Tres Columnae Project materials will be for so many teachers and learners. Unfortunately life has intervened a bit in our timeline for migrating to Version Beta, but that should still happen before too long. When it does, I hope the improved look and feel of the site, the ease of registration, the enhanced security functions, and the other new features will be worth the wait – not just for me, but for all of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī. Without you, and without your comments and encouragement, there would be no Tres Columnae Project. (I suppose I might have written a few stories to share with my students, but I probably would not have taken all the time and effort to develop the Metastory, the Continuing Virtual Seminar idea, and the ever-evolving system of users’ contributions “just” for myself and a few hundred learners. Anyway, please know that I really appreciate you!

I’ve had interesting conversations with my face-to-face colleagues this week: it seems that we’re all stepping out of our comfort zones and trying new things. For some, it’s new technology; for others, new teaching techniques; for still others, new ways of engaging and relating to students and their families. I guess the Tres Columnae Project involves all of these areas, but the most important one for me is the issue of student engagement. Even in these first few days, I’ve seen that some of my new Latin I students (especially those who are new to the school) are wary. They’d like to believe in the idea of a Joyful Learning Community – and my face-to-face school really does try to be one – but they’ve never really experienced that before, and they’re not sure whether to trust us or not. And trust, of course, is the foundation on which a Joyful Learning Community has to be built.

Those first few days of school can certainly help to build trust, but they can also make trust-building difficult. Sometimes schedule adjustments have to be made; sometimes classes have to be extended or shortened for logistical reasons; and sometimes busy teachers and administrators forget to keep our students “in the loop” about what’s happening. Even when we tell them what’s happening, we sometimes forget to explain why it happens … and that can take a toll on a fragile sense of trust. I realized yesterday that I needed to be absolutely, utterly clear about transitions between small-group and large-group activities – apparently some of my newer students, and even some of my “veterans” in Latin III, were having trouble with a signal that used to work beautifully. So we adapted … and adopted a much clearer signal, which seems to be working well. We also took the time to talk about why … and I think that contributed to one of the best seminars about “Knowing Vocabulary” that I’ve ever had with a Latin III class.

If you recall, I talked briefly about the plan for that in yesterday’s post, but I was a bit apprehensive: some of these students really struggled with the seminar process when they were in Latin I and II. In the end, though, I was delighted because most of the critical issues came up in students’ conversations – I didn’t have to ask questions about them. My III’s have really taken Ownership of their learning, and I’m eager to see how that new-found sense of Ownership will play out as we continue through the semester.

But why did I begin this post with a claim that the Tres Columnae Project materials will be so useful and valuable?

  • Partly because I’ve seen, once again, how much my students need learning materials other than traditional textbooks.
  • Partly because the budgetary realities of schools in the current economic conditions have left me with significantly larger classes (a good thing!) and insufficient numbers of textbooks … and we’re a well-run school district that so far has avoided severe budgetary issues.
  • Partly because I can see how much better it is for students to have individually responsive learning materials … and things that offer them immediate feedback when they’re struggling.
  • Partly because I can imagine how hard all this would be for a new teacher, when it continues to tax my imagination and energy even after almost two decades in the classroom.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time, when we’ll wrap up the themes of this week’s posts and have a short preview of what’s coming next. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on August 27, 2010 at 10:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Contributions, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! While there haven’t been many blog comments recently, I’ve really enjoyed the private email conversations I’ve been having with some of our long-time lectōrēs fidēlissimī. It’s particularly exciting when people make great suggestions about additional stories they’d like to see, or backstory about characters they’d like to know, or additional ways to practice and reinforce grammatical concepts or vocabulary. Of course, you should know that if you want to do something like this, you can! You be able to make formal Submissions as soon as Version Beta of the project is ready, but even before then, please feel free to work on stories, exercises, explanations, or other things you’d like to Submit one day.

And for those of us who are concerned about financial issues, I’d like to announce a possible solution. You’re probably familiar with our proposed financial structure for access to the project materials:

  • Free subscriptions allow you to read stories, listen to audio, see images, watch videos, and make comments.
  • Basic subscriptions allow you to use the exercises and quizzes.
  • Standard and Premium subscriptions allow you to make Submissions to the project.
  • Single Submissions allow you to make Submissions on a pay-as-you-go basis.

In addition, we’ll also be inviting some subscribers (and potential subscribers) to become what we’ll call Contributing Editors to the project. Someday, we may have a vast staff of well-paid editors 🙂 … but pretty soon, as our Submission rate goes up, we’ll be in the awkward position of needing additional Editors but not being able to afford them. As a Contributing Editor, you’ll be able to make a certain number of Submissions to the project for free in exchange for editing and commenting on other contributors’ Submissions. We haven’t worked out all the details yet, but if you’d be interested, please let me know – either leave a comment here, leave one on the Version Alpha Wiki site, or send me an email if you have that address. As you may remember if you’re a long-time reader, Jeff Howe’s book about Crowdsourcing was a major influence on the Tres Columnae model; if you’re familiar with crowdsourced editing projects, you’ll probably see the influence even more clearly. Some crowdsourced projects allow everybody to make edits, but we’ll be a bit selective; we want to see your best Latin writing before we invite you to edit other people’s writings! You will, of course, retain almost all rights to what you write, though you’ll grant us a limited right to publish it … and you’ll grant other participants certain rights to use and remix it. But if anyone wants a physically published version of your writings or illustrations – or if they want a physical product with your writings, illustrations, audio, or video – you’ll be entitled to royalties as part of our commitment to Ownership.

So if you’d like to be considered as a potential Contributing Editor for the project, please get in touch! I’ll send you a private message with the details of what we’re looking for.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the Contributing Editor model?
  • Do you think crowdsourced editing is a great idea or a terrible one?
  • Where are some places that you think we need supplementary stories? And what would you want those to focus on?

Tune in next time for more. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 9:02 am  Comments (2)  
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More Renovations and Communications

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I do apologize that there wasn’t a post on Saturday. I had expected to be able to write one … and then life intervened with some sort of brief, but intensely exhausting illness Friday evening and early Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon brought that long-awaited trip to the Apple Store that I mentioned earlier in the week. It turned out that the needed part hadn’t arrived, but they were miraculously able to resuscitate the iPod for a few days; it’s been working pretty well and we were able to perform a full backup. Everyone was also very apologetic about the confusion, and we got a further discount on the repair, and my favorite-and-only little boy got to spend some time at the brand-new Lego Store in the mall. So it was a good day, but a very full one … not one that could be spent writing blog posts!

Of course, since the themes of our recent stories have revolved around construction, I suppose that delays should probably be expected! Have you ever known of a construction project that was finished on time and on budget? 🙂

On Thursday and Friday, I had promised the next story in the sequence about the possible renovation of Caelius and Vipsania’s house. You may recall that we started out with this story, in which Frontō the architect was asked to prepare a plan for the renovations. Then we saw this story, in which he invites his brother the contractor to be involved with the project. Last Monday brought this story, in which Fronto’s brother was not exactly eager to be involved. Tuesday we saw this one, in which Fronto and his brother had a rather awkward conversation about the project. Then on Wednesday, we looked at this one, in which Caelius and Vipsania saw the plans for the first time – and did not react with the overwhelming approval Fronto had been hoping for, to put it mildly! In today’s featured story, which you can now find here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like, we find out some of their objections:

Caelius Frontōnī “ō mī Frontō!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō iocus optimus est hic liber! ecce turrēs maximī! ecce fenestrae! ecce tria ātria et vīgintī cubicula! num urbs antīquissima Troia tanta et tam mīrābilis erat?”

Frontō attonitus, “mī domine,” respondet, “quid dīcis? nōnne parva et sordida est vīlla tua? nōnne antīquae et vīlēs pictūrae, quās pictor minimae artis ōlim in hīs mūrīs pīnxit? nōnne tē, senātōrem maximae dignitātis, decet in vīllā splendidā habitāre?”

tum Caelius, “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne māior est vīlla splendida tua quam urbs Herculāneum tōtum?”

et Frontō, “fortasse, mī domine, sī–”

Caelius tamen haec interpellat: “haud mē decet vīllam māiōrem quam urbem aedificāre! num īnsānīs?mē decet pietātem et dignitātem, nōn īnsāniam praestāre!”

Frontō attonitus, “sed domine,” respondet, “quid dīcis? sine dubiō haec vīlla mea–”

Caelius tamen īrātus, “num Imperātor ipse tālem vīllam habet? haud mē decet vīllam māiōrem quam Imperātōris ipsīus exstruere! praetereā, sī quis tālem vīllam purgāre vult, nōnne mīlle servōrum, mīlle ancillārum opus est?”

Caelius paulīsper tacet, et “fortasse mīlle ancillārum pulchrārum?” sēcum susurrat. Vipsānia tamen haec addit: “mī architecte, fortasse verba marītī meī nōn intellegēbās. tē enim arcessīvit vīllam renovātum, nōn dēlētum. hanc vīllam reficere in animō habēbat; novam exstruere nōlēbat. paulō enim minor est vīlla; parva sunt cubicula; antīquae sunt pictūrae. nōn tamen opus est vīgintī cubiculōrum, vel trium ātriōrum, vel quattuor porticuum. ecce thermae quās pīnxistī! ecce hippodrōmē! et hoc quid est? num amphitheātrum? marītus enim meus senātor est, nōn Imperātor. nēmō, nē deus Iuppiter quidem, in tantā vīllā habitāre dēbet.”

Frontō attonitus, “mea domina Vipsānia,” incipit. Caelius tamen haec interpellat: “mī Frontō, quaesō, ignōsce mihi – sine dubiō et ego et tū in hāc rē errāvimus. hoc tamen certum est: tālem vīllam exstruere nec volō nec possum. tē igitur decet librōs tuōs tollere et ēgredī. fortasse vel Imperātorī ipsī vel dīs omnibus vīlla tālis placet; mihi tamen valdē displicet. tē igitur librōs tuōs tollere et ēgredī iubeō.”

Frontō cum frātre tacitus ē vīllā Caeliī ēgreditur. in viā Marcus Iūlius Frontō librum prēnsat et frātrem suum identidem verberat. “siste! siste!” clāmat architectus, “siste, mī frāter! cūr librō meō vapulō?”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I hope you’ve come to expect some unexpected twists in Tres Columnae Project stories by now … and I hope you enjoyed this one!
  • Wouldn’t you love to see Fronto’s drawings?!
  • Which of the many over-the-top details is your favorite?
  • And what do you think of Fronto’s brother’s response at the end?

Tune in next time, when we’ll go in a somewhat different direction and look at other aspects of the Tres Columnae Project. School, in my face-to-face teaching world, starts on Wednesday, so our next few posts may be a bit short and sketchy. If all goes well, though, I hope to have some significant good news about the progress of Version Beta in the next couple of weeks.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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New Beginnings, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we begin a series of posts that will explore possible ways to use the Tres Columnae Project materials in a real, live, face-to-face classroom setting. Since the beginning of the school year is rapidly approaching – and for some of our lectōrēs fidēlissimī it’s already begun – this seems like a good time to consider such issues. Of course, some of us may want to wait until later in the year, when that first burst of energy has dissipated and students have begun to struggle with their textbooks, and bring out Tres Columnae as a much-needed refresher. Still others might want to save the materials for certain students – perhaps those who are struggling, or maybe those who need a bit of extra challenge – and continue with textbook-based instruction for others. I think these are all sensible, reasonable choices, depending on your needs and those of your students.

Even though I had the original idea for Tres Columnae, I’m also struggling with the “perfect” way to use the project materials with my face-to-face classes this school year. My Latin II, III, and IV students have been previewing the materials for Lectiōnēs I-XX that are published on the Version Alpha Wiki site as part of their summer review project, and we did a bit of exploration near the end of the school year as well. I’m excited to hear from them about their responses. Most likely they’ll use the stories (including those for Lectiōnēs XXI-XXX, which haven’t been uploaded yet, and for Cursus Secundus, which are still being written as I write this post) for extensive-reading practice, and they’ll use the exercises and quizzes for reinforcement of “problem” grammatical elements. When it comes to the Virtual Seminars, I think we’ll be creating separate seminar rooms, so to speak, for different groups of learners; for example, my face-to-face students will have one, our pilot school in England will have one, and our adult learners will have another. I don’t want to segregate our different audience members completely, but I do want to make sure that our younger students (and their parents) feel safe sharing their thoughts with each other rather than with a group of strangers. To that end, we’ll also be monitoring and approving Virtual Seminar posts before they appear. I’m sure I also have some upper-level students who will want to create Submissions, and I look forward to seeing those, too. We may keep some of them as decorations for that private seminar room, so to speak, but I hope that many of them will become part of the project materials. I also hope some of my students will want to jump in and create exercises, quizzes, additional grammatical explanations, and other things of that nature … especially those students whose thinking and learning styles are very different from mine.

But I’m still thinking about exactly how I want my Latin I students to use the Tres Columnae materials. At one point, I thought we might use them as the primary learning materials, saving our (rather venerable) textbooks for supplementary work. On the other hand, my students would greatly appreciate not having to take a textbook home – and the overwhelming majority of them do, in fact, have reliable Internet access at home. So I’m thinking about a system where some work would be done with the textbooks in class, but they wouldn’t be needed at home. It’s a big step out of my comfort zone; in a typical year, while I make minor tweaks and sometimes major revisions to course plans, I have a pretty good idea about who will be doing what, when, especially in Latin I and II. Stepping out into the unknown is exciting but slightly scary. quid mihi suādētis, lectōrēs cārissimī?

As I reflect on the Conscious Competence Learning Model I mentioned in Monday’s post, I realize it’s definitely time for me to make such a step. The problem with Step 4 or Unconscious Competence is that after you’ve been there for a while, it’s easy to get stale, lazy, and somnolent – to move from “I could do this in my sleep” to “no need to wake up for this!” I also realize that the development of the Tres Columnae materials has followed the model pretty closely:

  1. In the beginning, when I first had the idea, I just knew there needed to be “something different” for Latin learners in the twenty-first century. I wasn’t sure what that “something” needed to be, or exactly how it would be different from a conventional, twentieth-century textbook. I was definitely at the point of Unconscious Incompetence.
  2. Pretty soon, though, I started to consider some possibilities. I quickly realized that there were vast numbers of choices I’d need to make in designing the project … and that I had no idea how to begin making them! I was flailing around in Conscious Incompetence.
  3. Fortunately for everyone, I had the help of some caring, critical friends and read some very helpful books, many of which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. Before long, with a lot of help from you lectōrēs fidēlissimī, we had worked together to develop the basic idea of what a Joyful Learning Community with Ownership would look and feel like. We were starting to move to a point of Conscious Competence, which I think is where we still are.

Sometimes, of course, I feel hugely incompetent at the thought of helping to build a Joyful Learning Community … and I definitely feel incompetent about some of the business-structure decisions I need to make in the next few weeks and months. I think it’s good for teachers to have that feeling of incompetence from time to time – if nothing else, it humbles us, and it also reminds us how our students can all too easily feel in classrooms where expert performance is routine. Also, in those business-related decisions, I don’t have to make them by myself; I know and trust some experts who can help me make wise choices. Besides, even after 18 years and various accolades, sometimes I still feel utterly incompetent in a face-to-face classroom. And I don’t think anyone ever gets all the way to Unconscious Competence 100% of the time!

In light of our focus on new beginnings, our next few posts will focus on ways to use the Tres Columnae Project materials with two different new-beginning groups of students in a face-to-face classroom setting. We’ll think about actual beginners, Latin I students who haven’t had prior experience with the language, but we’ll also consider those upper-level students I mentioned in Monday’s post. The more I think about them, the more helpful I realize a self-paced, easily differentiated set of materials can be for review at the beginning of a school year … especially if you have a very diverse class, or if you need to diagnose their learning needs, or if you have students who struggled in the past and would benefit from a quick, but genuine success.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the Conscious Competence Learning Model and its implications?
  • What do you think of Tres Columnae materials as a self-paced review for Latin II students and beyond?
  • Which group do you want to focus on first? I’ll be glad to decide if necessary, but I’d love to hear from you.

Tune in tomorrow to see which group we will focus on first. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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dies lustricus

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll attempt to wrap up the themes of this week’s posts, which have included

As I made this list, I realized that everything related, somehow or other, to the theme of new birth and new beginnings. Changes in practice are obviously a kind of new birth, especially when teachers adapt or even eliminate practices that we’ve used for years or decades. Paulla’s decision and the lesson structure I described in Thursday’s post are also, in very different ways, examples of a major change and a new beginning. Even though I created the character of Paulla, I realize I don’t know why she decides to go and help. Does she feel some responsibility for the death of Tertius? Is she moved by Lollia’s pleas? Is she just glad to get some money from Lollius? Does she have a sense of professional obligation that overrules her economic calculations? Did she, perhaps, lose a child of her own? Does she identify with Maccia for some other reasons? We don’t know; we just know that she does, in fact, go and help with the delivery … and she seems to be a lot happier than her typical dour, cynical self as a result.

Perhaps that’s a message for all of us about the importance of giving back when you feel down and discouraged, as Paulla definitely is at the start of this story. Like many teachers, I love the summer months, but the lack of structure for my days and weeks can sometimes take a toll on me – even though I’m careful to set up other, self-imposed structures and tasks. This summer, of course, those tasks have largely related to the Tres Columnae Project. It’s really helped to know that we’re creating something that Latin teachers all over the world can freely use, and it’s an even greater help to know that we’re building a community of learners as well as a set of learning materials. So, to all of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who are part of the Tres Columnae community, grātiās maximās iterum!

Of course, the Tres Columnae Project is by no means the only way to learn Latin. There are all kinds of textbooks and other materials out there, and depending on your needs, you might find one of them to be a better fit for you, your students, or your learning goals. For example, check out this Latin-BestPractices post for a venerable and highly successful programmed-learning approach available both in book form and on CD-ROM.

As I think about the wider community of Latin teachers and learners, I’m always impressed by the thoughtfulness and generosity we tend to show each other. But one thing has been bothering me this week – especially when I read and reflect on the thoughtful things that Latin teachers say to each other on the various lists I subscribe to. For the most part, our hard-won professional knowledge is locked up in our own heads and in our own classrooms. Yes, we share our ideas, strategies, and materials freely when asked, and we ask, quite vocally, when we need help. But still, a new teacher joining our world has so little access to the “tricks of the trade”! Things are certainly better now than they were before the advent of the Internet; at least a young, overwhelmed teacher can now look for help from colleagues online! And if that young teacher knows where to look, there’s even a consensus about what beginning teachers ought to know and be able to do by the end of their first few years of practice. There are, of course, some wonderful books for beginning teachers: Harry Wong’s First Days of School, Fred Jones’s Tools for Teaching, Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, just to name a few. (These are actually for all teachers, young or “young at heart” – but they’d be especially useful for young teachers who are struggling to survive.) Unfortunately, though, there’s not a collection of content-specific daily survival strategies – things like how to implement differentiated lessons in a Latin class, as Magistrastein noted on Wednesday, or how to reconcile the anti-homework movement with a concern that language learners need more practice than class time allows, as Magistrastein mentions in this blog post. Not that there’s a single right answer for any of these! But there are a lot of good, hard-won answers … and new teachers don’t usually have access to them.

I’ve often said in this space that you can’t directly transfer Understandings, but you can help learners (including new teachers) develop them – and you can definitely help them develop their teaching Knowledge and Skills. I’ve been trying to figure out how the Tres Columnae Project might help with that, but I’m really not sure. quid mihi suādētis, lectōrēs cārissimī?

So much to think about, and so much on the horizon! But sometimes that leaves us in a “hurry up and wait” state. So perhaps it’s fitting that we close the week with this story, which you can now find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like. Little Quartus, of course, has to wait the requisite eight days to be named; his brother Caius had to wait to see him; and there’s a lot of other waiting that goes on, as you’ll see:

quārtō diē post Quārtum nātum, familia Valeria Herculāneum regreditur. Cāius laetus ad cēnāculum currit. “quam mīrābilis est urbs Mediolānum!” exclāmat. Cāius cēnāculum ingreditur et, “heus! quid est? num īnfāns iam adest?” attonitus rogat. Maccia Quārtum īnfantem tollit et “ecce frāter tuus!” inquit. Cāius attonitus et laetissimus ōsculum īnfantī summā cum cūrā dat. tum grātiās maximās dīs omnibus agit et “heus!” exclāmat, “mihi ad domum Valeriī statim regrediendum est! nōnne patrōnus noster hunc nūntium optimum audīre dēbet?”

familia Valeria quoque laetātur, et Valerius ipse Lolliō epistulam mittit. “mī cliēns cārissime,” inquit, “tē decet diem lustricum nōbīscum celebrāre. nōlī timēre; mē decet omnia parāre, quod familia tua mihi cordī est.”

nōnā diē post Quārtum nātum, diem lustricum celebrat familia Lollia. Lollius cum Cāiō Lolliāque scālīs dēscendit et per viās ad domum Valeriī celeriter contendit. Maccia Quārtum īnfantem manibus fert. Lollius iānuam domūs pulsat et Milphiō per faucēs festīnat iānuam apertum.

in ātriō domūs tōta familia Valeria cum augure adventum Lolliōrum exspectat. Valerius ipse Lollium amplectitur et, “nōnne Fortūna tibi favet?” laetus exclāmat. tum omnēs ad peristylium prōgrediuntur. Maccia Quārtum in mediō peristyliō dēpōnit. Lollius ipse crepundia collō pōnit et pompam dūcit. tum bullam quoque collō pōnit et omnēs vehementer plaudunt. “fēlīciter! fēlīciter!” exclāmant omnēs. Lollius sacrificia rīte offert, et omnēs vōta precēsque dīs omnibus offerunt.

tum augur caelum spectat ōmina cognitum. “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne aquila ad dextram nunc iam volat! ōmina optima dī fīliō tuō dant!” Lollius augurī grātiās maximās agit et sacculum pecūniā plēnum trādit.

tum Gallicus ē culīnā, “nōnne epulae optimae sunt parātae?” exclāmat. omnēs laetī ad triclīnium festīnant epulās optimās ēsum. Lollius manūs Valeriō prēnsat et, “ō mī patrōne,” inquit, “laetissimus tibi grātiās maximās agō, quod tantō honōre familiam meam afficis!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in on Monday, when we’ll shift gears yet again and look at an entirely different part of the Tres Columnae Project. But we may find a few recurring themes as so many new things continue to be born. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Quartus infans and Differentiated Instruction, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll continue with some examples of Differentiated Instruction in Latin, with a focus on how the Tres Columnae Project materials can support students and teachers. First, though, I wanted to point out this fascinating article from eSchool News about the Kansas City schools. In a time of budget crisis, they’re moving away from age-graded classrooms to a system that they (quite erroneously, meā quidem sententiā) call “ability grouping.” “Ability grouping,” to me, implies fixed groups that are assigned by some pre-determined cut scores on a standardized test … or, as my more cynical friends would say, by “how rich and white you are.” But the Kansas City model isn’t like that at all. It’s actually a flexible, multi-age system of differentiated instruction! Students are pre-assessed early in the school year, and based on their performance, they’re assigned to a temporary, flexible group where they work on what they need. They then are re-assessed, and the groups are restructured. Apparently students are actually expected – and encouraged – to progress at their own pace! Of course, I have no idea how well this system will actually be implemented, but what a great idea! But check out the quote from the superintendent about the “outdated, industrial, agrarian” model of education that’s based on seat time rather than mastery!

If students don’t move to different physical classrooms this way, is it still possible to provide them with high-quality differentiated instruction? I hope that yesterday’s post has answered that question for you; it helped our friend Magistrastein, as she says in this comment. It’s actually not even necessary to move students into different groups to differentiate instruction, and in some cases it may be logistically simpler not to. As Doug Lemov points out in his remarkable book Teach Like a Champion, teachers can construct a differentiated lesson by carefully preparing different levels and types of questions, then directing the questions so that each one is just a bit of a stretch for the student who’s selected to answer it.

If you have a class that doesn’t work well in groups – or if it’s early in the school year and you haven’t yet had a chance to develop and practice procedures for collaborative work – differentiated questioning can be a great solution. And, of course, it’s also possible to develop tasks of different levels of complexity that students complete individually.

If, like our thoughtful friend Magistrastein, you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea of actually implementing such an approach, the fully-formed Tres Columnae Project materials will help with all four of her major concerns:

(a) determining the current level of each student, (b) creating/finding materials targeted at that level, (c) using those materials in such a way so that everyone knows what they’re doing and is comfortable with it, and (d) bringing everyone back together.

Let’s return to yesterday’s scenario: students are practicing creating sentences with nominatives, accusatives, and verbs, but this time they have access to the Tres Columnae materials and at least one Internet-capable device per working group. (Tres Columnae is designed to run well not just on desktop and laptop computers, but also on tablet devices, the iPod Touch, and even mobile phone browsers.) The pre-assessment would be similar, but instead of the teacher wandering around to monitor, students would get immediate feedback about right and wrong answers from the activity itself (Concern a). After creating 3-4 sentences, they’d be directed to a self-assessment (on a scale from 1-5, how comfortable do you feel with …?) with an opportunity to rate their vocabulary and their comfort with the nominative-accusative distinction. Then they’ll see a page with suggested pathways or ITINERA depending on their ratings in each area (Concern b). As the teacher, you might then ask the learners to find someone else who chose the same ITER, and who would be a comfortable partner to work with (Concern b). The equivalent of “Group Red” from yesterday’s post would collaboratively create a Tres Columnae Project Submission (a story with audio and illustrations). “Group Blue” would first work through an exercise where they made the accusative forms of familiar nouns – but they’d get immediate feedback from the exercise itself. After they made five accusatives correctly in a row, the exercise would automatically “excuse” them to the directions for the Submission that “Group Red” was working on. As for “Group Green,” they’d begin with a vocabulary review, then be “excused” to an exercise like the one “Group Blue” was working on, then be “excused” to the Submission. In all cases, the directions are clear, and there are links to click to review anything that might seem confusing. (Concern c)

Version Beta of the Tres Columnae Project will have a “private staging area” where Submissions like this can be viewed – and improved – by classmates and teachers before they’re Submitted for “official” editing and inclusion in the project. For that matter, we may be able to provide a “private Submission area” where your students’ work could be housed and viewed by you, and by their classmates ,but not made publicly available to everyone … just let us know if you’re interested in that feature! The teacher would, of course, want to evaluate the Submissions and have the learners share them with each other … but sharing could even happen asynchronously. For example, if Group Green needed some extra time, they might finish their stories while Groups Red and Blue were exploring each other’s Submissions and rating them against a rubric. The members of Groups Red and Blue would then be able to read and rate Group Green’s Submissions at home that night, and Group Green members would also be able to read and rate their classmates’ Submissions. (Concern d)

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • One common fear about online curricula, especially when they involve self-correcting assessments, is that they’ll “displace the teacher.” But I hope you can see that both teacher and students still have an active, important role. It’s a different role from the conventional classroom – but we think it’s much more creative, collaborative, and enjoyable.
  • Another common fear is “loss of instructional time” caused by system outages. Of course, Internet sites do go down, and so do schools’ servers and school districts’ networks. It’s always good to have a backup plan! But when things operate as they should, the Tres Columnae Materials should save you a lot of time. Both teacher and student are freed from the drudgery of “checking papers” and “recording grades” and “handing back work” – and that can fill countless hours in a conventional classroom. Why not take advantage of good tools, eliminate that wasted time, and use it for learning?
  • Of course, the biggest concern about an online learning environment is that it’s pre-packaged and static; there’s no room for creativity by the teacher or the students. We hope you know us well enough to know that Tres Columnae is all about creativity! Also, if you as a teacher want to create a unique exercise for your students, we’ll be glad to host it for you … and we’ll even review it for you, like other Submissions, if you’d like. You can keep it private, just for your students, or you can choose to share it with others – and if you do that, you can decide whether you want to give it away or charge others to use it. For that matter, if you’re a teacher – or a learner – and you want to charge for access to one of your Submissions, we should be able to manage that, too.

As you know, Ownership is really important to us. If you want to profit from the work you’ve done, we won’t stand in your way. But we also won’t stop you if you prefer to give things away. After all, our core stories, audio, and illustrations are our gift to the world of Latin learners.

It seems that new things are being born all over the place! I’m glad that our current set of stories is focused on new birth! And speaking of birth, how did you feel about Wednesday’s story, in which not-so-little Quartus finally arrives and is unfavorably compared to Hercules? At Tres Columnae, we always try to “sneak in” some interesting tidbits that you, the learner, can pursue if you’d like … so we wanted to provide an opportunity for our mythology lovers. I once had friends who tried to “sneak in” vegetables for their children by grating them (the vegetables, not the children) and putting them in meatloaf and spaghetti sauce – but I hope our “sneaking in” works better than theirs did! 🙂

Anyway, in tomorrow’s post, we’ll see young Quartus’ lustrātiō and try to wrap up the themes of this somewhat disjointed week. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Quartus infans, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday was an exciting day for the Tres Columnae Project, and today looks like it will be full of adventures, too. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the recent thread on the Oerberg listserv about passive verbs, in which this blog post of mine from February was mentioned very favorably. That led to an interesting exchange about the mechanics of teaching such structures. Two items, in particular, stood out for me:

  1. Rebecca, our regular reader who started the exchange, mentioned that it helps her to think about how a construction (especially an impersonal one) might be “literally” expressed in English – not as an end in itself, but as a gateway to understanding the differences between the Latin and English structures.
  2. One teacher who responded mentioned that his students’ eyes glaze over when he tells them about such things. He also mentioned that his students understand who does the action and who is affected by it in both passive and active sentences, but they have trouble transforming sentences from active to passive – to change his metaphor just a bit, they seem to get lost in a jungle of endings. He wondered if this was a common problem.

Of course, translation is such a hot-button issue for so many Latin teachers! And I’m sure we all struggle with students who get lost in that metaphorical jungle. For those of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who don’t subscribe to the Oerberg listserv, here’s a portion of what I said… and I invite you to join in, especially if you disagree!

As for “translation of a structure,” for want of a better term, for it to be most successful, I think the key is that it has to be done by the learner, not by the teacher! Now, obviously, as a teacher, you can ask or even require your learners to participate in the process, but “translation of a structure” is a high-level cognitive task. It has to do with what learning theorists would call Analysis and Synthesis, or what the Paideia model calls Understanding. For that to happen, and to stick, the learner has to do the analysis and synthesis him/herself. Otherwise, you’re just imparting factual Knowledge (“the Latin literally means …”), which is probably why you get those blank stares.

That principle of small steps with plenty of practice is definitely operative when it comes to passives. It sounds like your students are at a good place: they comprehend the sentence AND can tell who is doing and who is receiving the action. Those are two important steps in making that transformation, but there are MANY others. Perhaps the next step is to practice _matching_ a passive sentence with its active equivalent, and vice versa. Picking a frequent example from the Tres Columnae stories, “Cnaeus ā sorōribus dērīdētur,” the choices would be “Cnaeus sorōrēs dērīdet” or “sorōrēs Cnaeum dērīdent.” From there, you might move to having students just change the verb ending (since the passive verb endings are the “new thing” in this context): “Cnaeus ā sorōribus dērīd____.” Then you might practice one of the two noun transformations (acc to nom, or nom to abl) in isolation, and then practice changing it AND the verb at the same time. Then you’d add the other transformation, first in isolation and then in context. And, of course, if you want to “go the other way,” you’d need to model and practice each step of that process, too.

Actually, I think the “thicket of changing cases and endings” – like other “thickets” in which our students get lost – is a sign that there are too many steps going on at once. Latin teachers (and teachers in general!) tend to fall into the trap of explaining or demonstrating a complicated process once or twice, then assuming our students should be able follow all the steps perfectly. But that rarely happens! Breaking the process down this way might appear to take more time in the beginning, but it saves a lot of time later … no anguished cries of “I don’t get it,” fewer low quiz scores, less frustration!

I went on to mention that the Tres Columnae self-correcting exercises (like the samples you can see here at our Instructure Public Demo site) are designed to build students’ skills in this step-by-step manner. I also noted the old axiom that comprehension precedes production, which I hope was helpful to him and to the other list members there. Even if you haven’t used the textbook, I think you’ll find a very congenial, creative, insightful bunch of teachers and learners on that list … and many of them don’t participate in such “mainstream” groups as Latinteach or Latin-BestPractices.

At the moment, though, let’s return our focus to the Tres Columnae Project stories featured in this week’s posts. Today, as promised, we feature the story from Lectiō XVI in which Maccia Lolliī, mother of Cāius and Lollia, is about to give birth to their baby brother Quartus. Cāius, conveniently, is still on the trip to Milan with his friend Lucius that begins in Lectiō XVI, and Lollius himself (as we saw in yesterday’s featured story) is busy praying for a safe delivery. So Maccia turns to her daughter Lollia for help summoning the midwife.

As I think about the Latin textbooks I know well, I realize that midwives aren’t very prominent, even when (as usually happens in the “Big Three” reading-method books) a character does give birth. I don’t know why that is, either. Of course, midwives are the archetype of the independent woman in the ancient world – and, for that matter, they’re just about the only independent women in the ancient world – so Roman men probably found them a bit terrifying. Other than the father’s role of acknowledging paternity by picking up the newborn child, men had very little to do with birth in the Roman world, and that probably helps to explain the silence of the textbooks. But we’re aiming for more, so Paulla the obstētrīx (like her mouse-counterpart in this story from later in Lectiō XVI), plays a major role in the birth narrative, which you can also find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you prefer.   We think you’ll find her a memorable character, too!

dum Lollius ad sepulcrum māiōrum Mānēs precātur, Maccia quoque mātūrē surgit et deae Iunōnī Lucīnae precēs adhibet. tum per cēnāculum celeriter ambulat onmia bene purgātum. dum mūrōs lavat, subitō “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne venter mihi maximē dolet. Lollia! mē audī!” Lollia ad mātrem celeriter contendit et, “quid vīs, māter mea?” sollicita rogat. tum Maccia, “heus!” inquit, “venter mihi maximē dolet! tē oportet obstētrīcem quaerere, quod tempus adest!”

Maccia ad cubiculum prōgreditur et statim recumbit. Lollia iānuam cēnāculī aperit et celeriter ēgreditur. obstētrīx est anus sexāgintā annōrum, cui nōmen Paulla est. in īnsulā proximā habitat. Lollia igitur celeriter quīnque scālīs dēscendit et hanc īnsulam ingreditur. tribus scālīs Paulla in cēnāculō pulchrō habitat. Lollia iānuam pulsat et, “quaesō, Paulla obstētrīx, māter mea Maccia Lolliī tē rogat!”

Paulla in cēnāculō clāmōrēs Lolliae audit et “hem!” sēcum putat, “sine dubiō iste pauper Lollius mē grātīs uxōrem adiuvāre exspectat.” īrāta et fessa est Paulla quod hīs tribus diēbus quīnque mātrēs īnfantēs suōs gignere iam adiuvat. ad iānuam cēnāculī igitur haud contendit, sed in sellā suā prope fenestram sedet. Lollia tamen, ignāra īrārum Paullae, iterum iterumque iānuam pulsat et clāmat. tandem Paulla “heus!” sēcum putat, “mē oportet istam iānuam aperīre! sine dubiō ista puella eam frangere in animō habet!” Paulla igitur iānuam aperit et, “quis mē ita appellat?” īrāta Lolliam rogat. Lollia anxia, “salvē, obstētrīx,” inquit et Paullam rīte salūtat. Paulla “salvē atque tū, puella,” respondet et, “num tū partūrīs?” magnō cum rīsū rogat. Lollia ērubēscit et, “nōn ego, sed māter mea, illa Maccia Lolliae, amīca tua,” obstētrīcī respondet.

Paulla “haud mihi amīca māter tua, sed pater certē dēbitor!” exclāmat. “nōnne pater tuus mihi trēs dēnāriōs hōs duōs annōs iam dēbet?” Lollia iterum ērubēscit et, “obstētrīx benigna,” Paullae respondet, “nōnne adveniō dēnāriōs tibi datum?” sacculum pecūniā plēnum obstētrīcī offert. Paulla sacculum aperit et pecūniam avida numerat. tum “ēhem! trēs enim dēnāriōs, duōs sestertiōs quoque! dī mihi favent … et sine dubiō dī patrī tuō favent! cūr tamen mē hodiē petis?”

et Lollia “ō obstētrīx benigna,” respondet, “quaesō, amābō tē, venī mēcum ad cēnāculum! māter enim nunc iam partūrit et tē exspectat.” Paulla “veniō nunc iam,” Lolliae respondet. “fortasse iste pater tuus mihi dēnāriōs dēbitōs celerius iam potest.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Since this post is getting a bit long, we’ll save my questions … and any that you want to share … for tomorrow’s post. We’ll also find out what happens when little Quartus arrives. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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More about Casina, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Before we get to the next story about Casina ancilla and her morbus novissimus, I want to pause for a moment to think about some of the issues raised by yesterday’s featured story, which you can find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you don’t want to do a lot of scrolling and clicking around the blog. You may have noticed that it falls into several natural sections:

  1. Casina, Valeria, and Caelia in the lectīca (and the crowds’ reactions – I was inspired by some “latest celebrity gossip” links that showed up on a website I was using for an entirely different purpose);
  2. Valerius and Lucius at Claudius Pulcher’s house (with a bit of Roman history and a few literary references thrown in for good measure);
  3. interactions between the women and the sacerdōs Bonae Deae (did you notice the rather ironic allusion to Catullus?); and
  4. the very short conclusion, where Casina consumes the herbās and everyone returns home.

As I wrote and edited the story, and much more as I re-read it while writing yesterday’s blog post, I noticed several interesting themes that one might pursue in conversations with a group of learners that focused on Understanding rather than just Knowledge or Skill. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • You may have noticed that I deliberately didn’t identify the gender of the sacerdōs Bonae Deae. How might our understanding of the story change if we knew for sure that the sacerdōs was a Roman man addressing a group of women? Or if we knew the sacerdōs was a non-Roman man? Or if we knew the sacerdōs was a woman, Roman or otherwise? Why do you suppose I kept you, the reader, in suspense about his/her gender (and, in fact, went back to edit the story to remove any gender references)?
  • Depending on your training and reading in Roman history and literature, you also may have noticed that this story “sneaks in” a number of references to “classical” Roman literature. Cicero and Catullus, in particular, play important parts – and so does the famous scandal of Clodius’ dressing up as a woman for the rites of Bona Dea at Julius Caesar’s house. If you recognized those references, did you find that they deepened your appreciation of the story, or that they annoyed you? For comparison, think of the “sneaky” references to pop culture that often appear in movies marketed for children, or the jokes for adult watchers that show up in Sesame Street segments from time to time. How do you feel about those? And if you respond differently in the two cases, why might that be?
  • What about the social-class dynamics, particularly the ways that the sacerdōs does – and does not – interact directly with Casina?
  • And what about Casina’s own emotional reactions, both to the sacerdōs him/herself and to the advice?

Many of these issues continue to be prominent in today’s story, now available from this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site. As poor, exhausted Casina is on the way home, she falls asleep and has another dream – but does it complicate or simplify our understanding of what’s “really” going on?

lectīcāriī lentē per viās urbis Rōmae prōgrediuntur. in lectīcā, quam lectīcāriī umerīs ferunt, Caelia et Valeria cum Casinā anxiae colloquuntur. “Casina mea,” inquit Caelia, “quid agis? utrum herbae remedium tibi ferunt annōn?” Casina paulīsper tacet, quod fessissima est. tandem “ō domina,” respondet, “nesciō. corpus meum nōn dolet; febrem nunc iam nōn habeō; sed fessissima sum. fortasse mē oportet in hāc lectīcā quiēscere.” Valeria et Caelia cum Casinā celeriter cōnsentiunt. mox ancilla oculōs clausit et somnō sē trādit. longum est iter, quod multitūdinēs maximae viās urbis complent. difficile igitur est lectīcāriīs per multitūdinēs prōgredī. perītī sunt lectīcāriī; iter tamen cum longum tum difficile est. saepe enim lectīcāriōs oportet cōnsistere, quod cīvēs servīque eīs obstant. Valeria et Caelia, quamquam fessae sunt, dormīre haud possunt; dormit tamen Casina.

subitō tamen in somniīs Casina lemurem īnfantis cōnspicātur. lemur manūs Casinae prēnsat et, “ō māter, māter mea,” inquit, “tē haud decet dormīre! nōnne enim dormīre est paulātim morī? tibi surgendum est, māter mea!” Casina in somniīs, “ō mī īnfāns,” respondet, “tē valdē amō, tēcum esse valdē dēsīderō. nōnne mē quoque decet morī et tēcum semper esse?”

lemur tamen, “ō māter,” respondet, “mihi decōrum est quiēscere. nōnne ille Vergilius, poēta nōtissimus, hōs versūs rēctē scrībit:

vīxī et quem dederat cursum Fortūna perēgī,
et nunc magna meī sub terrās ībit imāgō.

tibi tamen multī annī, multa gaudia parāta nunc iam manent. nōlī mortem dēsīderāre! quī enim ante diem nec fātō nec meritā morte pereunt, deōs īrātōs reddunt! nōlī perīre, sed convālēsce!”

subitō lemur abest, et vir ingēns in somniīs adest. flagellum tenet et servum aegrum identidem verberat. servus perterritus lacrimat et “cūr vapulō, domine?” rogat. “vapulās, quod ignāvus morbum fingis et mortem igitur merēs!” respondet dominus īrātissimus. Casina perterrita exclāmat et clāmōribus suīs sē ē somniīs excitat. Casina valdē timet et somnium tōtum Valeriae Caeliaeque statim nārrat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • My first thought – even as the writer of this piece – it that the lemur is one awfully well-read and articulate īnfāns mortuus! Of course, he’s been down there in the Underworld for some time … but do Roman ghosts age, or do they stay the age they were when they died?
  • My second thought was that this dream is very different in character from the others. Casina is not terrified of the lemur, but actually engages in a two-way conversation with him … and receives some very sensible advice. I wonder if perhaps the herbae and the contents of the pōculum contributed to the different feeling of this dream!
  • And then I wonder about the end of the dream … the part with the dominus and the servus perterritus. You may recall, if you’ve been a longtime lector fidēlissimus, that the sequence of stories with Casina’s morbus novissimus comes right after this story from Lectiō XVIII, in which Casina witnessed the near-death of a servus while she was (innocently enough) at the fullonica picking up Valerius’ clean laundry. Some details – that I myself didn’t notice at the time – might be intriguing now:
    • The servus looks like (but turns out not to be) Casina’s own frāter;
    • The servus genuinely is sick – from exposure to the fumes of the ūrīna;
    • The dominus refuses to acknowledge this illness, instead punishing and almost killing the servus in a truly horrible way;
    • The servus is – barely – rescued by the intervention of a most unlikely rescuer.
  • Casina says nothing about the situation to her dominus. Perhaps she’s afraid he won’t believe her, or perhaps she fears he will take the side of his cliēns (and tenant), even though she has had ample experience with Valerius as dominus benignus. (Of course, even if a dominus is benignus, he’s still dominus and still has manus over you – so how benignus can he actually be? Or do you want to find out when he kills you, beats you, or sells you because you’ve exceeded his limits? I don’t think we can forget about the horrible side of Roman slavery – of slavery wherever it’s practiced – even when we’re dealing with supposedly “kind” and “enlightened” masters who “treat their slaves well.”)
  • Could it be that Casina’s trauma causes the suppressed memory of her īnfāns mortuus to rise to the surface, and that this combination of psychological factors causes – or at least contributes to – the morbus novissimus and the visions?
  • Or is it even appropriate to apply our twenty-first-century diagnostic terms and understandings to Casina’s situation? Would we do so if she were a character in an “authentic” Roman text from the time period?

Tune in next time, when we’ll consider how questions like these are related to a Joyful Learning Community where Choice and Ownership are important. We’ll also find out how Valerius reacts to the news of Casina’s latest somnium. What are the limits of his benignitās? And how will he react to the details of the end of the dream? Will he see himself as the cruel dominus, and if so, how will he react to his ancilla aegra? You’ll have to wait till tomorrow to find out. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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More about Casina, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I continued to reflect on the themes of community and identity we’ve been addressing in this series of posts, I noticed several things. First, of course, there are obvious connections between these themes and the core beliefs of the Tres Columnae Project. Even our commitment to providing for various types of learning stems from a passionate commitment to the very different identities of our participants: Some of you learn best in one way, while others learn best in another; some would like to make and create a lot of Submissions to the Project, while others would prefer to focus on their reading and listening-comprehension skills. Rather than dictate every step of the learning process, we aim to provide you with lots of different material, and we’ll guide you (if you need some guidance) to find the right path for you. At the same time, though, if you do join our community, we ask you to commit to building your Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding of Latin and of the Roman world.

In order to join any community – and perhaps especially a Joyful Learning Community – you, the potential member, have to make a conscious choice to identify with the values and expected behaviors of that community. In our case, of course, those values include Joy, Learning, Community, and Ownership, and expected behaviors include extensive reading, active creation, participation in thoughtful dialogue, and an avoidance of what Dexter Hoyos calls “translation in order to understand.” A lēctor fidēlissimus made an excellent point about the connection between values and behavior in an email to me the other day, which I’m quoting with his permission:

I suspect that it is true of the human being that anything we do, repeatedly over time, both expresses and shapes who we are. Early on, it may express more, and through time, shape more.

So, that language that we use about what we do does express and shape who we are. A teacher who chooses to speak of what “we are doing together” is expressing something and, I believe, radically reshaping the work of education. I find that when I run into a parent in the grocery store or somewhere, and we begin to chat, I usually tell them that I have enjoyed “working with” their son or daughter. I just find it uncomfortable and really not quite true to say “I’ve enjoyed teaching your child.” Some days, some class sessions, it’s not always clear who the teacher is!

We could probably spend at least a week unpacking all the implications of this comment, and relating it to the points about I, they, and we that we’ve been considering this week! For the moment, though, I invite you to read it again and let each phrase and clause sink in.

Speaking of Joy, Learning, Community, and Ownership – and Identity, too, for that matter – check out this amazing video from our faithful friend and collaborator Ann M and her Year 7 students in England. It’s the beginning of their slightly adapted version of the story of Cnaeus and the horse from Lectiō XIV. I’m told that there’s more to come!

Themes of identity and community are also important to the development of the story-line itself. By their decision to seek a cure for Casina’s morbus, Valerius and Caelia have clearly chosen a form of community with their ancilla: they’ve taken the whole familia on a difficult, expensive trip to Rome in an attempt to cure her, and Valerius himself has faced some surprise (and even some ridicule) from friends and acquaintances in the process. He seems to be committed to the spirit as well as the letter of notions like pietās, and of the complicated customs and laws that govern the interactions between dominī and servī in the Roman world – in sharp contrast to his brother-in-law, who has displayed a very different attitude about servī (and ancillae in particular) in stories like this one and this one. In fact, even Caelius’ friend Claudius Pulcher, with whom the familiae are staying in Rome, seems shocked and surprised by Valerius’ pietās, despite his not-entirely-serious exclamation of respect near the end of this story.

As the overall story-line of the Tres Columnae Project continues to unfold, we’ll see some further repercussions of Valerius’ pietās, and we’ll also find out whether young Lucius fulfills the childhood dream he expresses in this story. But that’s for another day! 🙂 Today, let’s continue to explore the sequence of stories about Casina and her morbus novissimus with the story, now available from this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, in which Valerius is explaining the initial treatment plan to a bewildered, but ultimately delighted Casina:

hodiē māne Casina ē lectō anxia surgit. Valerium quaerit et “mī domine,” inquit, “cūr mē tantō honōre afficis? nōnne ancilla sum tua? cūr igitur mēcum iter Rōmam facis? cūr remedia mihi quaeris? plūrimī enim dominī, cum servī aegrotant, illōs vel pūniunt vel vēndunt.”

Valerius “Casina mea,” respondet, “nēminem oportet servum aegrum pūnīre vel vēndere. nōnne enim et legeēs et pietās ipsa tālia prohibent? praetereā, nōnne somnia tua sunt ōmina perīculōsa? sī lemur dominum tuum quaerit pūnītum, haud mē decet tē vēndere; lemur enim sine dubiō et mē et dominum novum sānē petere potest! num quis dominōrum tam audāx est? num quis tam stultus? perīculum ā familiā meā āvertere volō, sed hospitī vel clientī trānsferre certē nōlō. nōs ergō decet tē cūrāre et remedia tibi quaerere. fortasse et dīs et lemurī sīc placēre possumus!”

Casina attonita nihil respondet. haec Valeriī verba in animō iterum iterumque volvit. tandem Valerius, “heus!” exclāmat, “tibi ad cubiculum regrediendum et quiēscendum est, Casina. hodiē enim ad templum Bonae Deae cum Caeliā Valeriāque festīnāre dēbēs, et iter longum est.”

Casina anxia, “mī domine,” rogat, “cūr ad hoc templum prōcēditur?”

et Valerius, “in hortō templī,” Casinae respondet, “sunt plūrimae herbae, quae remedia morbōrum plūrimīs aegrōtīs iam praebent. tum hodiē vespere in templō Aesculāpiī dormiendum est. nōnne deus Aesculāpius saepe somnia mīrābilia aegrōtīs mittit? fortasse vel Bona Dea vel deus Aesculapius tibi remedia praebēre potest.”

Casina, “tibi gratiās maximās agō, mī domine,” Valeriō respondet et ad cubiculum regreditur quiētum. “heus!” sēcum susurrat, “fortasse īnfāns meus lībertātem quam mortem mihi fert? nōnne enim servī aegrī, quōs dominī prope templum Aesculapiī relinquunt, sunt līberī sī forte convalēscunt? dīs dominōque grātiās maximās agō! sī enim mors mihi imminet, cum īnfantī meō erō; sī vīta manet, fortasse līberta erō; et dominus mē Valeriolae meae dōnō nūptiālī nunc iam prōmittit. grātiās maximās dīs vōbīs īnfantīque agō, quod nūntium optimum mihi fertis!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • As I wrote this story, and even more so as I read it in preparation for this blog post, I was struck by the many issues it raises. Issues of gender, of silence and speech, of authority and the response to authority, of freedom and slavery – we managed to pack quite a lot into a relatively simple little story! Which issues do you think would be the most productive to discuss with your students, and how would you want to shape the discussion? Are there issues you would not want to raise with them?
  • What do you think about Casina’s morbus now – especially her visions of the īnfāns? Do you suppose that, at some level, the sickness and the dream might have been caused by Casina’s desire for freedom? What evidence from this or other stories might you use to support such an interpretation?
  • If you accept that interpretation, I suppose it raises a number of other questions. For example, is Casina taking advantage of Valerius’ generosity and pietās? If so, is she doing it consciously or unconsciously? And would that – or should that – make a difference in Valerius’ response to her?
  • Or, if you don’t accept that interpretation, what do you suppose did cause the morbus and the dreams? And how do you respond to Casina’s sudden realization about the potential for freedom if, in fact, it is a sudden realization – or at least a sudden conscious realization?
  • How do you want the story to end? Should Casina recover? Should she join her īnfāns and be at rest? Should she become a līberta? Or should she go with Valeria as a dōnum nūptiāle? Or should this be one of the cases where we provide several alternate endings and let you, our lectōrēs fidēlissimī and subscribers, choose the one that works best for you?

Tune in next time, when Casina and her domina travel to the first of the two templa. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

More about Casina, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! et grātiās maximās to our new Tres Columnae Project “free” subscribers – especially those of you who are planning to convert to Basic and Standard subscriptions when those are available! It’s an exciting time for all of us, and I truly appreciate your comments, messages, and all the other ways you’ve been supporting the project recently. Particular thanks to our friend Paul P, who very kindly pointed out that the -o- in Caeliola is short. We’ll be re-recording all the stories in which she appears, and future stories with –ola and –olus words will have correct accents and quantities! (Isn’t it odd, though, that –illus and –ellus words, with their double consonants, have a heavy syllable there?) Please do let us know, either with a comment or a private email, if you find other issues with quantities, accentuation, syntax, or anything else in any of the Tres Columnae Project stories.

Anyway, we’ll let you know as soon as the paid subscription options – and the Single Submission opportunity – become available. In the meantime, of course, if you’d like to start working on a story – or illustrations and audio to accompany an existing story, or a video version of an existing story – please go ahead! We’ll let you know as soon as you can start submitting them, but we really need to resolve the “backend software” issue I mentioned in Thursday’s post, and we also need to be able to accept your payments. We’ll be working on those issues behind the scenes for the next few weeks, and we’ll also be working hard on our software solution for Version Beta.

We’ll continue today with the sequence of stories about poor Casina, ancilla Valeriī, and the morbus novissimus that has caused her dominus to take her (and the whole familia) to Rome in search of a cure. It turns out that Valerius’ brother-in-law Caelius is also coming to Rome with his familia, planning to sell some of the produce from his vīlla for a better price in the big city – or to have someone do that for him, since it would hardly be suitable for a man of his status to deal directly with, gasp, commerce! Unfortunately, this means that young Cnaeus and his sisters are there, too – and, for you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who have been following the project for a while, Cnaeus has once again earned the privilege of riding a horse! (I think we can all safely assume it’s a different horse from the one in this story from Lectiō XIV; I don’t think either Cnaeus or that horse would want to continue their relationship!) Anyway, in today’s story, which you can also find at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site, different members of the familiae respond very differently to a typical roadside sight in the Roman world:

“heus!” clāmat Valerius, “quam mē taedet itinerum!” Valerius et Lūcius lentē per Viam Appiam equitant. quibus sequitur carpentum, in quō Casina cum Caeliā et Valeriā Caeliōlāque sedet. Milphiō equōs, quī carpentum trahunt, per viam agit. tum Caelius ipse cum Cnaeō equitat. carpentum splendidum Prīmam et Secundam cum mātre Vipsāniā vehit. tum duō servī mūlōs agunt, quī plaustrum maximum trahunt. in plaustrō sunt plūrimī saccī plūrimaeque amphorae. trēs colōnī quoque in plaustō sedent. Caelius enim olīvās ūvāsque suās cum vīnō et oleō Rōmae vēndere in animō habet; haud tamen decet senātōrem Rōmānum negōtium in forīs agere. colōnī igitur Caelium comitantur negōtium āctum et haec omnia vēnditum. Valerius laetissimus est quod olīvae ūvaeque Rōmae māiōris pretiī vēneunt quam Herculāneī.

“ūna tamen cūra,” sēcum putat, “mihi est. cūr Valeriō, amīcō meō et marītō sorōris meae, ancilla aegra cūrae est? num mē oportet –?”

subitō ingēns clāmor oritur. “heus! quid est? quī clāmant?” omnēs rogant et respondent. tum omnēs ad agrum proximum oculōs vertunt, ubi quīnque crucēs in summō collō stant. in crucibus sunt corpora lātrōnum; prope crucēs fēminae ululātibus et lacrimīs sē trādunt. adsunt duō mīlitēs Rōmānī, quī crucēs custōdiunt. “vōs haud oportet crucibus appropinquāre!” exclāmant mīlitēs.

Cnaeus avidus crucēs spectat. “vae! heu!” subitō clāmat. “num mortuī sunt istī? utinam nunc iam latrōnēs clāment et ululent!” Caelius Cnaeō, “ita vērō, mī fīlī,” respondet, “nōnne latrōnēs cruciātī spectāculum optimum nōbīs, monitūs optimōs sodālibus suīs praebent?” Cnaeus laetus cōnsentit, et pater fīliusque cachinnīs sē trādunt.

Lūcius tamen mīlitēs Rōmānōs avidus spectat et, “pater, mī pater,” tandem rogat, “ecce mīlitēs et gladiī! ecce scūta et galeae! hercle! quam mihi placent mīlitēs!” Valerius subrīdet et, “mī fīlī,” Lūciō respondet, “nōnne equitēs sumus? tē nōn decet mīles esse, sed fīliōs equitum certē decet tribūnōs fierī. fortasse, cum iuvenis eris–”

subitō ingēns clāmor in carpentō oritur. Casina enim crucēs cōnspicit et “īnfāns! mī īnfāns!” magnā vōce exclāmat. ancilla manūs extendit et subitō exanimāta dēcidit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

There certainly are a lot of issues that one could discuss with a class – or a small group, or an individual – after reading this story, aren’t there? But before we delve into them, I want to deal with one of my least-favorite phrases, which someone might be tempted to use in this context. We teachers often refer to “teaching a story” (or, in the case of some Latin teachers, “teaching a translation,” where the word translation is synonymous with reading passage because the not-so-hidden assumption is that translation is the only means of reading or comprehending such a passage). Maybe it’s just me, but that phrase has always bothered me! I don’t think I “teach a story” to my students at all; instead, we work together to use a story to learn (or practice) something – the actual learning goal of the lesson or unit. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually cringe when I hear “I’m teaching Chapter 8 this week,” or even “I’m about to start To Kill a Mockingbird.” Teaching is not an “I” activity! Nor is it a “they” activity, as in “they’re taking their test on Chapter 12 today.” By its very nature, meā quidem sententiā, the best and deepest form of teaching is a “we” thing … teacher and students working together, learning from each other and emerging with something deeper, higher, better, and other than the knowledge, skill, or understanding with which we all started the lesson or unit. Even in a factory-model school, after all, isn’t everyone in that assembly-line classroom working? And I think the “we” nature of teaching and learning is even more apparent if you have a retail-store or workshop model of learning.

Of course, no one is perfect as a teacher or a learner; I’m certainly not, and I definitely have some “I” and “they” days from time to time – especially if I’m not feeling well, or if I’m under stress, or if students seem completely disengaged or apathetic. You probably have days like that from time to time, too. But one truly important goal of the Tres Columnae Project is to increase the number of “we” moments in all kinds of teaching and learning environments. As we build a Joyful Learning Community together, and as everyone builds real Ownership through creating and sharing original stories with each other, the sense of “we” should increase – and that should leave less time, less space, and less energy for the “I” moments of isolation or the “they” moments of adversary relationships.

So if you already are a “we” teacher, or if you’d like to become more of one, I hope you and your students will enjoy working together to explore some of the many issues raised by today’s story. I’m sure you’ve already thought of plenty, but in Version Beta of the project we’ll have some suggestions for background research and some Virtual Seminar prompts to start the conversations.

Tune in next time, when we’ll continue the conversation about this idea of I, we, and they – and when the Valeriī and Caeliī finally arrive in Rome. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.