Res Novae, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! This will be the third in our series of posts about Change as a theme in my face-to-face teaching world, in the preparation of the Tres Columnae Project, and in the Tres Columnae stories themselves. On Wednesday and Thursday, we looked mostly at Change in my face-to-face teaching world, a theme which continues to surprise and delight your formerly-inflexible auctor here. Not only have I become ever more willing to change and adapt long-settled lesson plans and sequences of instructional activities, but I also seem to be increasingly willing to change and adapt lessons themselves when it’s clear my students need something different from what I’d planned. If you looked at my carefully polished, beautifully honed plans for this week :-), you’d see that my Latin III class was scheduled to take their first “real test over new material” today … but I realized they weren’t quite ready for that, so we postponed the test until Friday. For the past several years, I’ve “always” had a small-group review activity at the beginning of a class on test days, then finished the class period with the test itself. But I realized that my III’s needed to end the day today with that small-group review and start the day tomorrow with their test … and I was not only willing, but actually eager to adapt my plans to their needs. I don’t think I was ever as inflexible and unchanging as some stereotypic teachers – the ones who say “But the test is scheduled for today, and you should be ready, so you’ll take it today, ready or not!” But still, it used to be a lot harder for me to let go and give Ownership of the process to my students … and that’s been getting easier and easier for me the more I work on Tres Columnae materials.

Another big Change in my face-to-face teaching world has been a return to lessons that focus in detail on vocabulary work. Now, to be fair, I have always stressed the importance of vocabulary work, and I’ve always included specific work on vocabulary in the early lessons of my Latin I classes. But for several years, I had moved away from vocabulary work in the latter parts of Latin I and in my upper-level classes, moved by the belief (true enough, but incomplete) that vocabulary is best learned in context rather than in isolation. That’s true enough for certain types of learners, and it’s probably even more true for adult, self-motivated learners … but I work with high-school students, and many of my students are part-to-whole learners who really need to focus on specific words at some point. As I was designing the vocabulary exercises you’ve seen in the Instructure Demo Course, I realized that my face-to-face students needed similar types of reinforcement … so I’ve returned to a favorite old vocabulary-flashcard game and a choral-response formative assessment. My Latin III’s were delighted – especially those who had Latin I in middle school and had never experienced the glory (such as it is) of “Chartula! Chartula!” If you’re interested, here are the utterly simple rules:

  1. Everyone makes flashcards or a word list for an established list of words. (If you have a textbook, these would obviously be the words at the end of the chapter by default, but you could certainly add or subtract as needed. My Latin IV students, who don’t have a textbook with word lists, choose their own lists of “problem” words, so everyone’s cards or lists are slightly different – even more fun, since you might be asking your partner about words that you know fairly well.)
  2. At the start of the game, you exchange your cards or list with a partner.
  3. During the game, you try to win the words back, one at a time. (At the beginning, we use English equivalents on one side of the card, and the Latin words on the other. Later on, you can move to pictures, symbols, or Latin definitions if you prefer.)
  4. In Round I of a beginning game, your partner shows (or says) a Latin word and you give its meaning. If you’re right, you get the card back – or your partner checks the word off on your list. If you’re not right, you don’t get the card or the check. Now you select one of your partner’s words and give it to him/her Latīnē. Continue to alternate until you’ve won all of your words back, thus finishing Round I.
  5. For Round II, you exchange cards or lists again. This time, your partner shows (or says) the L1 word and you provide the Latin to win it back.
  6. Round III is like Round I, but faster.
  7. Round IV is like Round II, but faster.

I adapted the game from a wonderful strategy by Spencer Kagan and his associates called “The Flashcard Game.” It’s obviously not a high-level activity, since it’s clearly focused on Knowledge rather than Skill or Understanding. But Knowledge is important, too! And “Chartula! Chartula!” works very well if your goal is automaticity or over-mastery … not always an appropriate goal, but often helpful for “basic” vocabulary. My III’s have added a wonderful variation in which they come up with their own creative, original mnemonic devices for problem words and share the best of these with each other at the end of the game – in short, they’ve added an element of Skill and Understanding to a Knowledge-level task. Best of all, they did it all by themselves … and I was proud indeed!

As I work on the Tres Columnae materials in preparation for the launch of Version Beta, I find that I’m ever more willing to be flexible in the types of exercises and quizzes we include there, too. I also find that I’m really going to need the help of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī in designing and creating such exercises. Exercises and quizzes have always been one of the options for Submissions, and I really want to encourage you – and your students, too – to think hard about the types of exercises and other practice activities you’d like to see as part of the Tres Columnae Project. If you want something, please design it … and if you design it, please submit it! Do you think we should have a lower editing fee for exercise-type Submissions, which would presumably require less editing on our part? Or should every Submission be a Submission, priced the same?

quid mihi suādētis? et quid respondētis?

On Monday, we’ll finally see that long-promised new story about a favorite Tres Columnae character who has to confront significant Changes in his – or her – life. (There will be a post on Saturday, but it’s primarily in honor of that day and the Changes it brought to our nation and our world.)  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wedding Stories, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it? I had feared that my day of waiting for the car repair wouldn’t be very productive … and so it was hugely productive. I even had Wi-Fi access for much of the day! So I was able not only to draft stories, but to use online resources like GoogleBooks and Glossa to do some editing and fact-checking. (I’m eternally grateful to GoogleBooks for scanning Harold Johnston’s Private Life of the Romans, which is available at this link. At almost 110 years old, it’s a bit outdated in places, but it has a huge amount of useful information – including specialized Latin terminology for things related to Roman marriage that you’ll find in our current series of stories. Grātiās maximās tibi, Professor Johnston, et vōbīs, GoogleBooks team!)

Anyway, today we’ll look at the next story in the sequence about Valeria’s wedding to Vipsānius. I realized yesterday morning, while driving to drop off the car for service, that some of you lectōrēs cārissimī, who are familiar with the Big Three reading-method Latin textbooks, might be a bit concerned about a wedding-themed story. I’m thinking of one particular book, quem nōmināre nōlō, in which the wedding turns into a disaster because the bride is secretly in love with someone else … a really exciting and gripping story-line, and one of my students’ traditional favorites. But that’s not what will happen in the Tres Columnae stories.

I’m very fond of the Pyramus and Thisbe motif, but I must say I enjoy the ironic way that Ovid treats the story far more than I would a “straight-up” treatment. So no one will die horribly in Lectiō XXIV, I promise! Or I guess I should say, to be fair, that no one will die in our primary stories! If participants and subscribers want to create stories like that, they’re certainly welcome to do so … though, of course, we also reserve the right to edit and approve. In the primary story-line, though, I really don’t want any Teenage Relationship Drama; I get plenty of that whenever I talk with my face-to-face students and my almost-teenage daughter. 🙂

Anyway, in today’s story, which you can now find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, Caelia is dressing her daughter for the Big Day. I’m grateful, once again, to

  • Professor Johnston, quite posthumously, for reminding me about the tunica rēgilla and the nōdus Herculāneus, and that Hercules watches over married life (which, when you think of his problematic relationships with women, is rather ironic, isn’t it?)
  • Professors Lewis and Short, also quite posthumously, and via Glossa, for cofirming that cōmere is the verb you use for arranging hair in this context, that involvere is what you do with a flammeum, and that vīncīre applies to the nodus Herculāneus as it does to ordinary knots.

Here we go:

in ātriō domūs, Valeria togam suam praetextam exuit et tunicam rēgillam induit. Caelia crīnēs Valeriae in sex partēs hastā cōmit et vittīs retinet. tum Caelia, fīliam suam amplexa, “mihi laetandum est, Valeriōla mea, quod hodiē vespere iuvenī optimī nūbēs!” māterfamiliās, haec verba locūta, flammeō caput Caeliae involvit. tum, fīliam iterum amplexa, lacrimīs iterum sē trādit. Valeria, mātrem quoque amplexa, “ō mater mea,” inquit, “quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimēs! nōnne ego ipsa gaudeō? nōnne iuvenis optimus mē uxorem vespere dūcet? quaesō, amābō tē, nē lacrimās ita effundās!”

Caelia tandem lacrimās retinēre potest. Valeriam iterum amplexa, “ō fīlia,” inquit, “nōnne lacrimō quod laetissima sum? rēctē tamen dīcis: mihi haud lacrimandum est! haud decet mātrem diē nūptiārum fīliae lacrimāre! ōmina enim optima tibi praebēre dēbeō.” Caelia sē colligit et haec addit: “siste nunc, mea fīlia, et nōlī ita tē movēre! mē enim oportet nōdum Herculis vīncīre. difficile tamen est nōdum rīte vīncīre, cum sponsae nōn cōnsistunt!”

Valeria “ignōsce mihi, māter,” respondet, et statim cōnsistit. Caelia cingulum sūmit et nōdum Herculāneum perītē circum īlia fīliae vīncit. “heus,” sēcum putat, “nōnne tempus fugit? nōnne paucōs ante diēs māter mea nōdum Herculis mihi ita vīnxit?”

Valeria tamen, “māter mea,” subitō inquit, “cūr nodum vīncīre haesitās?” et Caelia “ignōsce mihi, fīlia mea,” respondet. “haestiābam enim, quod diem nūptiārum meārum in animō volvēbam.” Caelia nōdum cōnficit et “nunc iam,” inquit, “nōnne nōs decet precēs Herculī ipsī, quī mātrimōnia omnia custōdit, iam adhibēre?”

Valeria manum Caeliae prēnsat. tum māter fīliaque verba sollemnia prōnuntiant. haec verba locūtae, ambae ex ātriō ēgrediuntur rēs nūptiālēs parātum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you happen to be a specialist in Roman wedding ceremonies, please let me know if there are any factual errors here! I think I’ve accurately depicted what we do know, but I’m always open to corrections. And, of course, the beauty of an online “text” like the Tres Columnae Project is that it’s easy to make such corrections – no expensive reprints, lists of errata and corrigenda, or economic decisions about new editions!
  • You can probably see that I was trying to strike a balance between “universal” emotional issues and culturally specific details in this story. And, of course, I’ve never been a bride myself, nor have I ever been the mother of a bride! So, how well does this story depict the “universal” emotions of Valeria and Caelia? That is, if you’ve been a bride (or the mother of one), can you see yourself in Valeria, Caelia, or both? And if not, what do we need to change?
  • How well does it depict the specific cultural details of Roman wedding preparations?
  • How is the balance? Is there too much of one or the other, or did we manage to get the balance “just right”?
  • And, most of all, does this story grab your attention and make you want to keep reading?

Tune in next time, when we’ll explore some other stories in the sequence. By the end of Lectiō XXIV, not only will we follow Valeria through her wedding day, but we’ll also witness

  • the servī et ancillae who are preparing for the wedding feast;
  • the nervous bridegroom, with his father and servants;
  • the recent wedding of Caius’ sister Lollia, in a flashback;
  • our friend Lucius’ response to Lollia’s wedding; and even
  • preparations for the weddings of two of your favorite mouse-children.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments and emails coming, and I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend in Winston-Salem, NC, for the 2010 American Classical League Institute.

Building Understanding, VII: A Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday in the U.S., we’ll continue to focus on the Roman concept of pietās – which, as you probably know (or discovered in yesterday’s post) has some intriguing similarities to, as well as some obvious differences from, the American ideals of family, patriotism, and devotion to one’s comrades that are celebrated this weekend. Specifically, we’ll consider ways that our characters have shown – or not shown – pietās in the stories we’ve shared on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, and we’ll close with a new story that – at least according to my sometimes-fallible memory! 🙂 – hasn’t previously appeared there or here until now.

Yesterday, I closed with these questions:

  • What do you think about pietās (and the other principal virtūtēs) as an organizing principle for the Tres Columnae storyline? If you’ve explored the stories beyond Lectiō I, can you see how we’ll continue to play with pietās, dignitās, gravitās, and the other big –tās words as we consider our characters’ motivations, behaviors, thoughts, and words?
  • Have you seen any characters who seem utterly un-Roman in their conduct or attitudes?
  • And what about our “naughty” characters like young Cnaeus Caelius? His parents frequently complain that he impiē sē gerit … and what conclusions should we draw from that? Is he behaving in an un-Roman way, or just a bad Roman way? And is there a difference?

It’s clearly been a difficult week for a lot of our faithful readers (it has for me, too, as we’re preparing for exams to start on Tuesday in my face-to-face teaching world). So let me address each question briefly, then move us on to the exciting new story.

A number of years ago, it occurred to me that pietās was such an important virtūs Rōmāna that I ought to bring it to my students’ attention. At the time, there was no Tres Columnae project; in fact, I hadn’t even begun to consider anything like it. So I went looking for examples of pietās in the “Big Three” reading-method Latin textbook that I still use with my face-to-face students, and I was pleased to find a lot of them. In fact, it seemed that pietās was a constant motivator, especially for the “good” characters … but the word itself rarely appeared. So I decided to bring this “hidden” theme to the front and make it more visible. We began that year in Latin II (and have continued until now) with a seminar about pietās, and we returned to the theme with additional seminars at the end of each chapter. By mid-semester, my students were a bit tired of pietās, but they were also very clear about its importance … and we had wonderful discussions in the Latin IV and AP Vergil classes that grew from those Latin II students. Sadly, though, my current students are just not very keen on seminars! 😦

Anyway, once I realized that one could use pietās (or any other virtūs Rōmāna) as an organizing principle for thinking about existing stories, it only seemed natural to me to weave them into the storyline of the Tres Columnae project in a thoughtful and intentional way. As I outlined the plots for the Lectiōnēs of Cursus Prīmus, I found that I needed to track the virtūtēs so I could remember when they were introduced, what we did with them, and how they influenced each character’s words, thoughts, and actions.

So what have you seen in the stories in those first few Lectiōnēs? In looking back at them, I see that

  • Both the Valeriī and the Lolliī are very family-focused;
  • There’s a clear distinction between those who labōrat and those who lūdit according to their status in the family;
  • Valerius seems to treat his slaves well, and they respond with respect (at least most of the time);
  • Lollius, though poor, also treats his family with respect, and they respond appropriately;
  • There seem to be some issues with pietās in familia Caelia, and they’re clear from the disrespect and unpleasantness with which the children treat each other (even as early as this story), not to mention the interactions among the servants!
  • I want to think some more about the Caeliī, who clearly are typical Romans in a lot of ways. If you’re a Roman who impiē sē gerit, does that mean you aren’t a real Roman, or does your very recognition of the impietās prove that, in fact, you really are a Roman?

Ponder that, if you dare, while you enjoy the following story from Lectiō XIII. Everyone is on the way to Pompeii to see a spectāculum, but, of course, Cnaeus starts behaving badly….

sexta diēī hōra iam adest. Valerius et Caelia ad iānuam domūs contendunt. Valeria et Caeliōla quoque ad iānuam contendunt. “tandem ad urbem Pompēiōs proficīscimur!” inquit Valerius. “attonitus sum, quod hōra sexta adest, nōsque parātī!”

in viā stat carpentum magnum. duō equī carpentum trahunt. Milphiō iuxtā carptentum stat et lōra tenet. servus Trāniō quoque adest. Trāniō lōra trium equōrum tenet. Valerius Lūcium vocat et, “mī fīlī, tē oportet mēcum ad urbem Pompēiōs equitāre, quod octō annōs nātus es. sorōrēs tamen et māter in carpentō iter facere dēbent, et amīcus tuus Cāius tēcum equitāre potest. tertius equus adest, quod decōrum est Lolliō quoque equitāre. breve est iter, sed multō celerius equīs quam pedibus prōgredī possumus.”

Lollius et Cāius domuī appropinquant et Valerium familiamque salūtant. Cāius laetissimus equum post Lūcium cōnscendit. Lollius laetus grātiās patrōnō agit et equum suum quoque conscendit. Valerius equum cōnscendit et “nōs oportet proficīscī!” clāmat. Trāniō “heus! equī” clāmat, et equī carpentum lentē trahere incipiunt. omnēs per viās urbis ad portam prōgrediuntur.

post breve tempus Cāius montem spectat et “ecce! mōns Vesuvius! quam altus et quam pulcher!” exclāmat. Lūcius tamen, “ecce! consōbrīnus meus! quam molestus et loquāx!” susurrat. Cnaeus enim cum mātre et sorōribus in carpentō splendidō sedet. iuxtā carpentum Caelius, avunculus Lūciī, vir magnae pecūniae magnaeque dignitātis, superbus equō splendidō prōcēdit.

Valerius Caelium cōnspicit et, “salvē, mī Caelī!” exclāmat. Caelius, “mī Valerī! exspectātissimum tē salūtō! nōnne tū et familia quoque Pompēiōs contenditis, gladiātōrēs spectātum?”

Valerius cum Caeliō cōnsentit. “certē, mī Caelī, et nōnne amīcus noster, Vatia ille, nōs ad vīllam invītat?” Caelius, “et nōs quoque!” exclāmat. “nōnne dī nōbīs favent, quod omnēs cum ūnō amīcō manēre possumus?”

Cāius et Lūcius Cnaeum in carpentō sedentem cōnspiciunt. “heus!” Cāius Lūciō susurrat, “nōnne Cnaeus māior nātū est quam tū? cūr carpentō, nōn equō iter facit?” Lūcius, “st!” respondet, “equī haud cordī Cnaeō sunt,” et rīsum cēlāre cōnātur.

Cnaeus puerōs equitantēs cōnspicit et “vae! heu! mē taedet carpentōrum!” exclāmat. “māter! māter! equitāre volō!” Prīma et Secunda rīsibus sē trādunt. Vipsānia “mī fīlī,” lēniter respondet, “nōnne iter ultimum memōriā tenēs? nōnne corpus tuum etiam nunc dolet?”

Cnaeus tamen, “vae! heu! cūr ista commemorās?” clāmat. “eque! tē oportet istōs in terram dēicere!” Cnaeus saxum manū tenet et ad caput Cāiī iaculātur. Vipsānia saxum per āera volāns cōnspicit et “puerum īnsolentem! num mīrārīs, quod carpentō iam iter facis? īnfantem nōn decet equitāre, et tū es pēior quam īnfāns!” Vipsānia Cāium prēnsat et vehementer verberat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

I’m especially interested in your response to the question I asked above, right before the story!  Where can you see themes of pietās (or its opposite) at work?  And (thinking ahead to that Continuing Virtual Seminar about pietās) what if a person knows what’s right (as we all do, at times) but doesn’t do it?  Or does Cnaeus genuinely not know the right thing to do?

And I wish you a good, happy, and peaceful Memorial Day weekend … one that’s entirely free of the family drama in this story. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Building Understanding, IV: Derivatives

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue our series about building Understanding as well as Knowledge and Skill from the very beginning of the Tres Columnae project. (Again, if that distinction is new to you, please check out this link to the National Paideia Center, a huge influence on my thinking and on the Tres Columnae project.) We’ll be looking at the third goal of Lectiō Prīma today, which is that learners will

recognize and explore English derivatives of Latin words

Depending on your experiences with Latin teachers – and Latin textbooks – you may have very different reactions to this goal.

Sadly, for some teachers, “Latin” has come to mean “English Vocabulary Development,” with instruction in the language and culture taking a distant second place to “roots and prefixes” or “making derivative trees.”

For others, English derivatives are “something you memorize with the vocabulary” – there’s a list of them, and you, the learner, are to reproduce that list on the vocabulary quiz. If you know the words, that’s fine; if not, there’s clearly something wrong with you (or with your previous English teachers) :-); but in any case, you are to memorize those words and list them along with those principal parts, genders, and other things in the dictionary listing. And heaven help you if you say dux means “leader” when the book clearly lists “general” as its meaning … or if you list duke as a derivative and forget about ducal! 😦

For still others, English derivatives are so much less important than language or culture that they (I should probably say “we”) de-emphasize them, forgetting about two huge benefits of derivative study for different groups of learners:

  • For those with a strong English vocabulary, it’s exciting to make the connections between Latin words one is learning and English words one already knows well. (Our faithful reader Laura G, for example, mentions in this blog post that she had never known that isolate derives from īnsula.)
  • For those who don’t have a strong English vocabulary, Latin words that one knows well can suddenly become a key to unlock long, mysterious English words whose meaning used to be opaque and mysterious. For example, once you know pater, suddenly paternity, patron, patronize, and patriotism begin to make sense.

Unfortunately, when we focus only on the Knowledge level of derivative work, we short-change both groups of learners:

  • The students with strong English vocabularies are bored because they already know the English words, and they don’t see the point of associating them with their roots.
  • The students with weaker English vocabularies are lost – they don’t know the Latin words that well, and they’re suddenly being asked to learn a bunch of other information (English words they don’t know) as well as a bunch of new information (several forms of a Latin word and a list of meanings).

The same problem happens when we focus exclusively or primarily on Skill without Understanding:

  • Again, the students with strong English vocabularies are bored: they already know how to separate a word into root, prefix, and suffix, so why practice what you’ve already mastered?
  • And again, the students with weaker vocabularies are probably lost: they don’t know how to separate a word into its elements, but the teacher is too busy yelling at them 😦 to notice. Besides, the teacher probably doesn’t know how to teach this word-attack skill … especially if the students are in high school or college at the time! Word attack skills, after all, are supposed to be the province of elementary teachers and reading specialists, aren’t they? “I don’t have time,” moans the teacher, “to teach these kids” – or worse yet, “those kids” – “things they should already be able to do. What’s wrong with those elementary teachers?” Or “those kids” or “those parents” or “society” or … the blame game goes on and on, but the poor child still can’t see that impetuous consists of a prefix, a Latin root, and a suffix, and Ms. X has just spent her whole planning period complaining rather than developing a solution!

If there is a solution, I think it has two elements. First, we Latin teachers need to acknowledge that our students do come to us with different levels of Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding of things we’d consider to be prerequisites for success. They’re not interchangeable parts, and rather than complaining about this, we need to (1) accept it and (2) find out what our learners do know. Once we know that, we can be more effective – rather than boring or frustrating a child with work that’s too easy or too difficult, we can match the task to the learner. And that’s a lot easier to do with a learning system like the Tres Columnae project – unlike a textbook, which is, by nature, linear and standardized, we can offer multiple pathways, exercises that are actually responsive to students’ patterns of errors, and immediate feedback. We can also help our learners build Understanding along with their Knowledge and Skill, whether they’re working on derivatives or on any other linguistic or cultural element.

How exactly will we do that? I’ll show you tomorrow, when we’ll actually look at some derivative and vocabulary exercises. intereā, quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Please let me know if you feel I was too harsh! I actually have a lot of sympathy for the “English Vocabulary Development” folks; I just would like to widen their perspective a bit and show them that really, deeply learning Latin will be better for their learners in the long run – and that their learners can, in fact, achieve real, deep Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding of Latin along with a growth in their English vocabularies.
  • What about my claims regarding students with strong or weaker English vocabularies? Have I diagnosed their difficulties accurately? And if I have, do you agree with my potential remedy?
  • Do you think it’s possible – or desirable – to match the task to the learner, or do you think everyone should be doing exactly the same thing at the same time? In either case, why do you think so, and what arguments would you use to persuade “those poor misguided fools” on the other side?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at some of your responses and also take a closer look at some specific quid novī explanations and exercises for derivation from Lectiōnēs Prīma et Secunda. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

What about Vocabulary? V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I left you on Monday with this thought, which I addressed just a bit on Tuesday:

Oddly, I find myself very opposed to adult authority figures‘ “paying students for grades” as this retired teacher in California is planning to do … but I’m very much in favor of learners’ paying each other for the use of learning materials they create. What’s up with that? Am I an utter hypocrite? Or is there a real difference between the two situations?

Today I’ll try to answer these questions, and I’ll try to connect the answers to the core values of Tres Columnae and to the larger issues about vocabulary – and learning – that we’ve been addressing in this series of posts.

I actually have a lot of sympathy with the motivations of the retired teacher, who (according to the article), had noticed that students at the highest-achieving school in the district did have a sense of ownership of their academic achievement, while those at the school he’s targeting did not. Unfortunately, all the research about effects of extrinsic motivators predicts that his effort will produce the exact opposite of what he hopes. Study after study shows that when learners are offered extrinsic rewards (coupons, food, money, you name it), their academic performance actually declines over time. Yes, they initially do (or at least act as if they’re doing) the behaviors that earn the rewards, but over time, their focus on the rewards causes them to lose interest in the task. It’s a humbling body of research for teachers and school administrators, to say the least!

I found it serendipitous that this article showed up as we were considering both Vocabulary, broadly defined, and Roman Slavery, broadly defined, in our series of blog posts. Why? Because I think “paying for grades” has some remarkable connections with both of these big ideas. In terms of Vocabulary, it seems to me that, in the end, “paying for grades” is just a nice word for “bribery” – the immediate reward (of learning something new and useful) isn’t enough, and neither is the long-term reward (of graduating from high school, or getting into college, or getting a good job), so we “sweeten the pot” with another reward. As for Roman Slavery, dominī were always giving their servī some pecūlium, or renting them out to others and splitting the proceeds with them. The pecūlium, in this case, is the “extra reward” that’s needed when even the immediate reward (of not being killed or beaten for disobedience) or the longer-term reward (of being praised by the master as a “good” servant) isn’t enough to get the task done.

The problem with pecūlium, of course, is that the need for it doesn’t go away over time.  How likely is it that a servus, having received pecūlium in exchange for some horrible task, will suddenly tell his dominus that there’s no longer a need to pay him?  In the same way, once you start down the slippery slope of “paying for A’s,” it’s very unlikely that a student will suddenly refuse the money!  Far from increasing the motivation of the servus – or of the student – the monetary “reward” actually decreases his or her motivation!

I really don’t think we want to create an even greater power imbalance between teacher and student by bringing pecūlium into it … especially when the pecūlium comes, as it inevitably must, from an outside source who is thereby asserting power over both the teacher and the students! And yet, I can certainly empathize with Mr. Warren, the teacher mentioned in the article. I’m sure he has no sinister intent at all! In fact, I’m sure he sincerely wants to help the students he’s offering money to, and I’m also sure he thinks that paying them would be the best possible way.  It’s sadly typical, I think, for us adult authority figures (especially those of us who work in schools) to design “rewards” or “incentives” without actually consulting the people we’re attempting to reward.  Then, of course, we complain when they don’t find our “rewards” very rewarding! 😦

So, given that I’m deeply suspicious of adult-imposed extrinsic rewards, why would I design the Tres Columnae system so that learners (and teachers) could benefit financially from high-quality work they contribute? Isn’t that just the same as Mr. Warren’s $100 and $500 checks for straight-A report cards?  Obviously I don’t think so, or we wouldn’t have included royalties and credits as part of the system … but what’s the difference?

quid respondētis, amīcī?  Is there a difference or not???

Tune in next time, when I’ll try to outline some ways that (nostrā quidem sententiā) Tres Columnae’s reward system is completely different from a “pay for A’s” plan.  Then we’ll switch gears and look at another new story … focusing on an entirely different aspect of the Tres Columnae system.  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

What about Vocabulary? IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll take a closer look at a specific type of vocabulary-learning material that Tres Columnae participants might first work with, then create for each other. We’ll use another new story to get there, and then we’ll return to the question I left you with at the end of yesterday’s post, about the differences – if any – between adults paying children for good grades and learners paying each other for the use of learning materials. It’s a hugely important question, and I’ll have more to say about it on Wednesday.

First, though, let’s look at this suggestion from our faithful reader Laura G, which she made in response to Saturday’s post. She’s referring to this story from the Tres Columnae project, which appeared in Saturday’s post and now can be found here on the Version Alpha Wiki as well:

WORD GROUPS: One fun task for readers might be the following: find examples of words you could put in the following groups – don’t define them; just identify them as being in the group:

At least 5 words in the passage that refer to SOCIAL ROLES (lots of possibilities here: ancilla dominus maritus senator servulus servus uxor verna)

At least 5 words in the passage that refer to BUYING, SELLING AND GIVING (e.g. emo vendo venalicius donum dos gratis pretium praebeo)

At least 5 ADJECTIVES NEGATED WITH IN- PREFIX (this is trickier because I think there are just 5 total: ignavus impudens ingratus inutilis infans… but maybe I missed one?)

Challenging students to find words that fit into specific groups demands that they know something about the word, but it avoids the tedious task of asking them to provide the English definition.

I thought Laura’s suggestion was absolutely inspired! And, in the spirit of the Tres Columnae system, I immediately imagined ways to involve learners themselves in creating such materials. After all, our story comes from Lectiō XVIII – if we’ve done our job well in the earlier lessons, our participants should be quite ready to create their own Word Groups activities (complete with possible answers) and share them with each other. Even if there were a few errors (as we’d define them), those in themselves would probably be interesting learning opportunities, both for the learners who created them and possibly even for others who used the materials later. For example, imagine that a participant has created this Word Groups activity:


with suggested answers (festīnat, contendit, revertere, ēgreditur, celeriter)

Obviously celeriter isn’t a verb … so how might we improve the Word Groups? Participants could submit their own suggestions, such as

  • Replace celeriter with something that is a verb (like mittō) or
  • Change the category to WORDS, not necessarily verbs, WHERE SOMEBODY IS MOVING

I know some readers have been suspicious of “correct the error” assignments when we proposed those in the past, but I think this is a bit different: the error would be explicitly pointed out, and your task is to make a change that eliminates the error. (It’s rather like the difference between “Tell whether each statement is true or false. If it’s false, explain why” and “Each of the following statements is false. Please explain why, or change each one so that it’s true.” The second task is less difficult than the first, but more complex – check out this nice summary of David Sousa’s work from a school district in Arizona if you’re not familiar with this distinction.)

It would even be possible for learners (and for your friends at Tres Columnae) to create self-scoring Word Group exercises – which of the following sets of words fits the category? I’ll have more to say about that in a bit, after we have some text to work with. First, please take a look at this story, which immediately follows the one from Saturday’s post.  (As of today, you’ll also be able to find this new story here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site.)

Ūtilis ē vīllā celeriter contendit. casam suam ingreditur et lacrimīs sē trādit. Ūtilis in casā vītam servōrum plōrat. “dī magnī, dī magnī, cūr nōs servōs ita afflīgis?” iterum iterumque clāmat. Planēsium sollicita casam quoque ingreditur et “mī Ūtilis!” exclāmat, “cūr flētur et lacrimātur? cūr tot lacrimās effundis? quid accidit?”

Ūtilis trīstis, “vae! heu!” exclāmat et lacrimīs ululātibusque iterum sē trādit. Planēsium, “num mortuus est Pertināx noster?” perterrita exclāmat. “num dominus tē vēndere in animō habet? an mē, an Pertinācem nostram? lacrimās retinē et rem nārrā!”

Ūtilis tandem Planēsiō cēdit et “vae! heu!” inquit, “nec mē nec tē nec Pertinācem, sed innocentēs dominus vēndere vult. ille enim mē Pompēiōs mittit vēnālīcium quaesītum. ‘necesse est mihi,’ inquit dominus, ‘servōs inūtilēs vēndere.’ sine dubiō dominus Dulcissimam et Fēlīcissimam cum īnfantibus vēndere in animō habet. vae īnfantibus innocentibus! vae ancillīs miserrimīs!”

Planesium, “et vae tibi, quod cum istīs cubitāre nōn potes?” īrāta Ūtilem rogat. “et vae dominō, quod eum oportet ancillās pulchriōrēs quam illās emere? meā quidem sententiā, tibi gaudendum, nōn ululandum est.”

Ūtilis tamen, “ō Planēsium, quaesō, amābō tē, nōlī mē contemptam habē! nōnne vīlicum oportet mandātīs dominī pārēre? quid, sī dominō pārēre recūsō? quid, sī cum Fēlīcissimā vel Dulcissimā cubitāre recūsāre soleō? nōnne dominō necesse est mē verberāre, quod servus impius sum? an in agrōs labōrātum mittere? an necāre, quod parum pāreō? nōnne et manus et patria potestās et pietās ipsa servōs cōgit dominō pārēre? quaesō, amābō tē, nōlī mē contemnere quod pius esse cōnor!”

Planēsium Ūtilem amplectitur et, “vae tibi, mī Ūtilis, ignōsce mihi, quod piissimus servōrum es,” iterum iterumque mussat. tandem Ūtilis surgit et, “vae! heu! mē oportet ad urbem Pompēiōs contendere,” inquit. Pertināx casam ingreditur et, “pater! pater! quō contendis?” innocēns rogat. Ūtilis, “dominus mē ad urbem mittit, mī Pertināx,” respondet. “pater! pater! cūr?” clāmat puer. Ūtilis, “mī Pertināx, quaesō, nōlī mē causam rogā!” trīstis respondet.

Pertināx Ūtilī ōsculum dat et, “valē, mī pater!” laetus clāmat. “laetus tē exspectō!”

Ūtilis ē casā contendit et “vae puerō! utrum puerō meō annōn, vae puerō Pertinācī!” sēcum putat. vīlicus trīstis per agrōs ad urbem Pompēiōs contendit vēnālīcium quaesītum.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What are some possible Word Group activities for this story?
  • What else might we do to help learners see relationships among words … or draw distinctions among words (or constructions) that are somewhat similar in meaning?
  • And why on earth do we plan to offer royalties – and personal Ownership – for content created by our participants?
  • How can we facilitate payments to our subscribers without sending a message that we’re “paying you for your good school work”?
  • And why do we think it’s so bad to “pay for A’s” anyway?

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

What about Vocabulary? III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! On Saturday, I left you with this story, which is now online here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site. I also left you with these questions:

  • Which words are likely to be new to our participants?
  • Which ones are important enough to present first, in a fabella, with pictures, or with some other explanation?
  • Which (new or familiar) words might learners still want, or need, to practice?
  • And what kinds of practice would work best?

Today we’ll develop some preliminary answers to the questions, and we’ll also use them to address the second and third of the larger issues about vocabulary that I listed on Friday:

  • If not lists, what?  Obviously some words can be introduced with pictures; some are clear from context or English derivatives; and some can be defined through paraphrase.  But what do we do with a word that can’t easily be introduced in one of these ways?
  • How should we decide which words are core, critical vocabulary and which words are nice to know?  Or should we even make such a distinction?

We’ll start with the smaller questions and move out to the larger ones. Then, tomorrow, we’ll look at some other issues … and a great suggestion from our faithful reader Laura G, who made this comment in response to Saturday’s post.

The new (or newish) words in this story include partūriunt, nāscitur, vultūs, and nūtriunt (though we’ve known nūtrīx since we met Planēsium back in Lectiō ()).

We obviously don’t want pictures of these words … especially the first two verbs! But it wouldn’t be hard to construct a fabella that introduces them:

īnfāns (with picture)

māter īnfantem partūrit, et īnfāns nāscitur.

ecce ōs et oculī et nāsus īnfantis!

ecce vultus īnfantis!

īnfāns ēsurit! “vae! vae!” clāmat īnfāns.

īnfāns tamen cibum ēsse haud potest!

māter igitur īnfantem nūtrit.

  • quid significat partūrit?
    • is born
    • gives birth
    • gives milk
  • quid significat nāscitur?
    • is born
    • gives birth
    • gives milk
  • quid significat nūtrit?
    • is born
    • gives birth
    • gives milk

Since these words are clustered or related semantically, it’s probably easier to learn them all together than it would be to learn them separately. (What does linguistic research say about this?  I have to confess I’m not sure! 😦 )

All the other words in the story are at least fairly familiar to our participants, though some – vēnālīcius and arcessit, for example – haven’t been used much recently. Of course, each learner’s vocabulary is unique, so it probably makes sense to customize the vocabulary-practice activities as much as possible. One simple way is to

  • Pull out the “important but theoretically familiar” words from the story … even, perhaps, in a list, but just a list of Latin words 🙂
  • Perhaps let each word be clickable so the learner can check meanings easily if necessary.
  • Have the learner rate each word on a scale like this
    • 1 – I don’t even recognize this word! Has it really been used before?
    • 2 – I think I have seen this word before, but I did not remember what it meant.
    • 3 – I must have seen this word before, but I have trouble remembering what it means.
    • 4 – I am fairly comfortable with this word and its meanings.
    • 5 – I am very comfortable with this word and its meanings.
  • Encourage the learner to create – and upload and share – something that helps him/her remember a few “problem” words that he/she rated at 3 or below.

That gives the learner a tremendous amount of Ownership, since he or she is free to

  • select the words;
  • create something personally meaningful;
  • make it part of the Tres Columnae system; and possibly even
  • receive royalties, down the road, if others like and benefit from his/her submission.

So we’ve begun to develop answers for the two large questions I mentioned above:

  1. If not lists, what? Lots of different things, mostly created by our learners and shared with each other.
  2. How to distinguish core, critical vocabulary from “nice to know”? To some degree, it depends.
  • If you’re an independent learner, not aiming to take any external examinations, you get to decide what’s core.
  • If you’re working within a system where certain words “must be known for the test,” that list of words will obviously determine which words are core for you.
  • We’ll provide lots of repetitions of the words we think are core.
  • You can always create activities, stories, exercises, or other kinds of material to help other learners work on words you think are important.

Of course, we may be making things a bit difficult for teachers who want to “give everybody a vocabulary quiz because it’s Thursday” (and, of course, the “chapter test is on Friday”). But then, Tres Columnae isn’t really designed for that type of teaching! If that’s what you need or want to do, there are some excellent traditional textbooks that would fit your teaching style a lot better and cause you a lot less stress. But if you’re not that type of teacher, you may just find that your students’ vocabulary increases exponentially precisely because they conceive of it as a useful, necessary tool rather than an end in itself or a thing we do because the school makes us.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, what do you think of the story? All I can say is, Poor Utilis! Poor Felicissima and Dulcissima! And, at the same time, poor Vipsania! No wonder everyone in that house is always saying “vae! heu!”
  • Second, what do you think of the vocabulary development process … the fabella and the creative products?
  • And finally, what do you think of the Ownership issues?

I have to tell you that my thinking about Ownership has really changed in the past few months. When I first realized that Ownership was a core value of the Tres Columnae project, right up there with Building a Joyful Learning Community, I was still thinking of Ownership as a metaphor, in the way that teachers often talk about “taking ownership of your learning” or parents (I’m guilty here!) talk about “taking ownership of your life” or your choices and their consequences. But I’ve realized that literal Ownership is important, too – Ownership of the content you create, and of the financial benefits of good work that you do. Oddly, I find myself very opposed to adult authority figures‘ “paying students for grades” as this retired teacher in California is planning to do … but I’m very much in favor of learners’ paying each other for the use of learning materials they create. What’s up with that? Am I an utter hypocrite? Or is there a real difference between the two situations?

Tune in next time for more thoughts on this issue, and for more on some other issues of vocabulary. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

What about Vocabulary? II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll take another look at vocabulary-related issues in the Tres Columnae system … and we’ll also take a look at a new story, thinking about the types of vocabulary exercises (and other vocabulary questions) that we might ask about it. When I look at blog traffic statistics, lectōrēs cārissimī, I’ve certainly noticed that you all like posts with stories better than posts without them. So I’ll try to give you plenty of stories, even in the more philosophically oriented posts.

Anyway, here are some quick thoughts about vocabulary, partly in answer to the questions I asked yesterday, and partly in answer to a great question from our faithful reader Laura G. You can read her comments and my preliminary response if you’re interested.

Today we’ll focus on Vocabulary Lists and Flashcards. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m deeply skeptical of the kinds of lists that present a “Latin word” and “its English meaning.” Of course, I grew up with such lists; the textbook I use in my face-to-face teaching life uses them; and I continue to assign list-related vocabulary work to my face-to-face students. But I’ve grown increasingly skeptical that vocabulary lists can actually promote deep, meaningful learning of vocabulary. Instead, I’m afraid they send two messages that I don’t want my students to receive.

First, they seem to send a message that “Latin and English are exactly the same; there’s a one-to-one equivalent for everything.” I didn’t realize this until recently, when I was reflecting on the homework assignment turned in by a (very capable) Latin III student. We’d been reading the Daedalus and Icarus sequence from Book X of the Metamorphoses, and the assignment was to vertite Latīnē a couple of English sentences that summarized part of the action. (I deliberately don’t say “translate into Latin” because I want my students to think about turning thoughts rather than looking up words.) Anyway, the sentence involved an English indirect statement with a “that,” and she did a creditable job of making ōrātiō oblīqua out of it … but she also threw in a seemingly-random ille to represent the word that in the original sentence. Of course, if you look up that in an English-to-Latin dictionary, you will see the word ille! And that’s pretty much all you’ll see … certainly not any guidance as to different ways the English word that is used, and the different ways that Latin represents them. After all, dictionaries have to be reasonable in size and price, and that type of detailed explanation would make them unmanageably large in both respects. But an unfortunate consequence is that, even when using a dictionary, a learner thinks “Latin Word X = English Word Y.”

Second, vocabulary cards and lists seem to send a message that “vocabulary in a language class is like all the other vocabulary work I do in those other classes” – that is, it can be “learned for the test,” regurgitated in some form, and promptly forgotten. I talked about that in more detail in this post from January, but it continues to bother me … especially when I watch my face-to-face students do reading-comprehension activities in class. The most faithful vocabulary-card and vocabulary-list makers, in general, are the same young people who chronically raise their hands, plaintively seeking my help because “I can’t find this word in the dictionary.” It’s there, of course, and it’s also on the cards or lists they just turned in – but it’s in a declined or conjugated form, and they can’t make the connection. Or else it never occurred to them that there should be a connection between the cards/lists and the words in the reading passages … or that the cards or lists have any higher purpose beyond “do them and turn them in” … such as, for example, helping you, the learner, actually learn the words on them! 😦

Ten or fifteen years ago, my students eagerly made and used cards (or lists, for the card-challenged) because Latin class was the only place in their school experience where cards happened. Now, though, their counterparts make cards for everybody – including Mrs. X, who takes the cards up and never gives them back! So a strategy that once seemed different and special has become boring and ordinary, at least in my corner of the world. Has that happened where you are?

Lest I bore you :-), I’ll save further reflections on the other points I raised yesterday for another post, and we’ll turn to the obvious next question: If not lists, what? And how, in a list-free world, would the Tres Columnae system help learners process and reflect upon the Latin words they encounter?

I actually think a world without any vocabulary lists would be difficult to achieve … there are certain words that don’t lend themselves to pictorial representation, or that aren’t obvious in context, or that don’t have obvious derivatives or cognates. Even then, though, I’d like to make it clear that the connections between English and Latin words are rarely one-to-one… in other words, I’d like to build not only Knowledge of the basic meanings of the words and Skill at using them (for comprehension and for production), but also Understanding of the deeper issues and ideas involved in words and meanings. For example, I envision that learners might “adopt a word,” research its connotations in a Latin dictionary, and create a semantic map, illustration, or other learning tool that presents some of the differences in connotation between the Latin and English words. Even a simple word like et is rich in possibilities (for example, a Roman can have a series like Caelius et Valerium et Caeliam et līberōs salūtat, but we can’t say *Caeilius greets and Valerius and Caelia and the children). So imagine what you could do with a noun or a verb! And imagine trying to represent the differences in meaning, connotation, and what we might call “closeness of connection” among et, –que, and atque! 🙂

So, in the context of a real Tres Columnae story, what might we do to

  • present new vocabulary
  • help learners relate new words to words they already know
  • help learners practice the new words, developing their Knowledge and Skill, and
  • help learners reflect on the new words, increasing their Understanding?

Let’s look at this story from Lectiō XVIII, next in sequence after the one in Wednesday’s post about servī et ancillae.  (You can also find it at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like.)  Vipsānia, uxor Caeliī, has finally noticed that many of the vernae bear a suspicious resemblance to her husband, and she confronts him in a way that many Roman women would be unlikely to do. Of course, it helps when your own pater was a senātor, your marītus is an eques, and you were married sine manū….

annō proximō, Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima ambae parturiunt. Dulcissimae puer, Fēlīcissimae puella nāscitur. Caelius Ūtilī pecūniam dat et, “vernās optimōs mihi praebēs!” exclāmat.

Vipsānia tamen suspiciōsa “heus!” exclāmat, “vultūs enim Caeliō meō quam similēs! mihi necesse est istās ancillās pūnīre!”

Vipsānia ergō ad Caelium festīnat et, “marīte!” exclāmat, “tē rem maximī mōmentī quaerō. novās enim ancillās habēre volō, quod mē taedet Dulcissimae et Fēlīcissimae. ignāvae enim et inūtilēs sunt illae, quod īnfantēs iam nūtriunt. quaesō, amābō tē, illās vende et aliās ancillās mihi eme!”

Caelius, “hem!” respondet, “aliās ancillās habēre vīs? ancillās novās et pulchrās? fortasse, sī pretium aequum –”

Vipsānia tamen īrātissima, “pulchrās enim? pulchrās?! num mē contemnis? num spernis? haud caeca, haud īnsāna sum! rēs enim gestās tuās plānē intellegō! num pater meus, ille Vipsānius senātor, tālia ferre potest? nōnne mē decet–”

sed Caelius, “Vipsānia, Vipsānia, cūr tē vexās?” respondet. “nōnne dominus sum? nōnne mihi est patria potestās? nōnne quoque manus servōrum et ancillārum? tē haud vexō, haud contemnō! tibi dōna aptissima emō! et tibi servulōs grātīs praebeō! cūr tē vexās? num ingrāta mē dēplōrās? num dīvortium quaeris?”

Vipsāna tamen “dīvortium? num tū impudēns dīvortium quaeris? nōnne sine manū uxor tibi sum? facile igitur est mihi cum dōte Mediolānum revertere! num paupertātem cupis, mī Caelī?”

Caelius attonitus, “quid hoc?” tamen susurrat. “Vipsānia cārissima, num iocōs meōs agnōscis? sī enim ancillās novās quaeris, nōnne–”

Vipsānia attonita et īrāta nihil respondet, sed ē tablīnō celeriter ēgreditur. “tē oportet tacēre et istās ancillās cum īnfantibus statim vēndere!” exclāmat et ad cubiculum suum contendit. Caelius “haud necesse est Dulcissimam vel Fēlīcissimam vēndere!” clāmat. “tibi autem trēs ancillās novās emere in animō habeō!”

paucīs tamen post hōrās, Caelius Ūtilem arcessit et, “Ūtilis,” inquit, “tē ad urbem Pompēiōs mittō vēnālīcium quaesītum. mihi enim necesse est servōs inūtilēs vēndere!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Which words are likely to be new to our participants?
  • Which ones are important enough to present first, in a fabella, with pictures, or with some other explanation?
  • Which (new or familiar) words might learners still want, or need, to practice?
  • And what kinds of practice would work best?

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin to address these questions … and the other big issues I raised on Friday. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

What about Vocabulary? I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs!  I had intended to write a longer post this evening, but ran into a former student while I was doing some errands and ended up having a very long, productive conversation.  She was very excited to hear about the Tres Columnae project and had some great suggestions … and since she’s a former student of mine who has become a teacher herself, I was especially glad I ran into her.  More about that conversation another day!

I did promise you all the start of a series of posts about vocabulary development in the Tres Columnae system, and I wanted to make sure to keep that promise.  If you’re a longtime reader of the blog, you may remember this post and this one from January, the beginning of our previous series about vocabulary.

  • In this post from the last series, we dealt with the effects of Latin on English vocabulary.
  • In this post, we looked at some specific strategies for building ownership of vocabulary – most of which I’ve used in a face-to-face teaching situation, but some of which could be adapted, fairly easily, for Tres Columnae participants.
  • In this post, we started a five-part series about Ownership and Vocabulary, which continued with this post, this post, this post, and this post.

So you might think we had thoroughly addressed all issues relevant to vocabulary … and in some ways, we did.  But as the Tres Columnae system  has developed over the past few months, you may have noticed that we still don’t have a formal or “official” list of vocabulary for each Lectiō or for the program as a whole.  You’ve probably also noticed that there aren’t any vocabulary-specific exercises available yet.  And you may be wondering if this is a deliberate decision on our part, or if it’s just that we haven’t put everything online yet.

Yes, there will be a list, and sooner rather than later … in fact, there will be a master list, and in each Lectiō we’ll distinguish words that you, the learner, should know well by the end of the Lectiō from those that are less important.

In the posts in our previous series about vocabulary – the ones linked above – I addressed some of the issues about vocabulary, especially for Latin learners in the United States, that made such a list harder to develop than you might expect.  But when you collate the available lists and look at the “standard” authors that Tres Columnae participants might read after they finished our materials, the “core” vocabulary is relatively easy to develop.  The problem is deciding which words to introduce when!

As for exercises, yes, we’ll have those too!  I actually would prefer for participants to create most of them, since they’re likely to have really interesting ideas (like Laura G’s amazing slide shows, which you can learn more about on her blog here, here, and here).  But we’ll certainly have a few available to get people started.

I actually have more questions than answers in today’s post … I’ll have some possible answers tomorrow, but there are several big questions where I really need input from you.  Here we go:

  1. When language teachers discuss vocabulary, we tend to assume vocabulary lists … lists of L2 words with “their meaning” in L1.  But we know, or at least I think we know, that the relationship between any two languages is a lot more complex than “servus means slave or servant and ille means that.”  (Learners quickly discover that ille and that have some partial overlap in meanings, but so do ut and that, and ōrātiō oblīqua and that, and … you get the idea!)  Do you think, on balance, that vocabulary lists (the kind that imply a one-to-one equivalent between L1 and L2 words) are helpful or hurtful for students?  And how might we improve them to make them more helpful … and/or less hurtful?
  2. If not lists, what?  Obviously some words can be introduced with pictures; some are clear from context or English derivatives; and some can be defined through paraphrase.  But what do we do with a word that can’t easily be introduced in one of these ways?
  3. How should we decide which words are core, critical vocabulary and which words are nice to know?  Or should we even make such a distinction?
  4. How can we tell – or help our learners discover for themselves – that they have mastered a particular word, or set of words?
  5. How do we build – or help our learners build – a desire to master or own words in general, or a particular word we’ve decided we want them to master or own?
  6. And what about flashcards … physical ones or virtual ones?  Do they help or hinder authentic ownership or mastery of words?  And should they be a part of the Tres Columnae system … or should we just encourage participants to make them if they, personally, find them helpful?

Tune in next time for some partial answers, including the ones you suggest.  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Exercises for a Story, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Since some of you have been a bit reticent :-), I’ll go ahead and share a few more of the questions I developed to go along with this story from the Tres Columnae project. If you’ve visited the “Semi-Public Sample” course at, you’ve seen five comprehension questions about the first paragraph and three questions that test the recognition or analysis of familiar grammatical forms. Today we’ll look at the draft versions of five more comprehension questions; tomorrow, we’ll look at three (or more) that test the recognition, analysis, and application of some of the newer grammatical elements, as well as some “higher-order” questions that can’t be answered with a multiple-choice response.

First, though, let me quote the first few paragraphs of the story, just so you don’t have to click on a lot of links:

in domō Valeriī, Rapidus et Rapida mūrēs prope līmen cavī lūdunt. Rapidus est fīlius Rīdiculī et Impigrae, et Rapida est fīlia Rīdiculī et Impigrae. prope Rapidum et Rapidam est Magnus catus. Magnus est fīlius Ferōcis et Medūsae. Magnus est amīcus Rapidī et Rapidae.

Impigra in cavō cibum parat. Impigra ad līmen prōgreditur et līberōs vocat. “mī Magne,” inquit, “tibi necesse est ad patrem et mātrem ambulāre. ego enim cibum Rapidō et Rapidae iam parō. necesse est Rapidō et Rapidae cēnam ēsse.”

Magnus trīstis amīcīs valedīcit et ad peristylium regreditur. Rapidus et Rapida quoque Magnō valedīcunt et cavum ingrediuntur. in cavō Impigra mūribus caseum et panem offert. mūrēs mātrī grātiās agunt et celeriter cibum cōnsūmunt.

tum Rapidus, “cūr, mea māter,” rogat, “omnēs hominēs tam mātūrē ē vīllā exīre parant? cūr ille Lūcius nōn in peristyliō hodiē lūdit?” et Impigra, “ō, mī fīlī,” Rapidō respondet, “nōnne ille puer octō annōs nātus est? necesse est puerīs hūmānīs ad lūdī magistrum ambulāre.”

Now here are some questions … a bit different from the previous set, as I think you’ll agree:

  1. “Impigra in cavō cibum parat.” quid facit Impigra?
    1. coquit
    2. ēst
    3. dormit
    4. lānam facit
  2. “Impigra ad līmen prōgreditur et līberōs vocat.” quid facit Impigra?
    1. ambulat
    2. fīlium et fīliam arcessit
    3. et ambulat et arcessit
    4. nec ambulat nec arcessit
  3. “mī Magne,” inquit, “tibi necesse est ad patrem et mātrem ambulāre.” quid Magnum oportet facere?
    1. cavum intrāre
    2. amīcīs vale dīcere
    3. cum amīcīs cēnāre
    4. pārentibus pārēre
  4. “Magnus trīstis amīcīs valedīcit et ad peristylium regreditur..” utrum Magnus Impigrae pāret annōn?
    1. pāret
    2. nōn pāret
    3. incertum est.
  5. “Rapidus et Rapida quoque Magnō valedīcunt et cavum ingrediuntur.” mūrēs ubi sunt?
    1. in peristyliō
    2. in cēnāculō Rīdiculī
    3. in īnsulā Valeriī
    4. incertum est

Whereas my previous set of questions were strictly about comprehension of the passage – at what the QAR or “Question-Answer-Relationships” system would call a “right there” level – these are more at the QAR level of “think and search.” They require you, the reader, to make connections between familiar words (what’s the closest synonym for parat?), to delve into relationships implied in the story (is Magnus Impigra’s child?), and even to make connections to previous stories we’ve read (what does Rīdiculus call his home, since he hates to refer to it as a hole?).

In case you aren’t familiar with the QAR system, it includes two higher-order levels of questions called “Author and You” and “In My Head,” which we’ll look at in more detail tomorrow or the next day. I must admit that I tend to forget about QAR for months at a time, then find myself reminded … I don’t necessarily use the terminology with my “sophisticated” high-school students, but I do think it’s helpful for them (and for us) to think about the different thought processes that are involved in answering – or, in our case, even in asking – different types of questions. But I realize I need to spend more time with QAR with my current Latin II students, who need some significant work with question-answering strategies. I’ll let you know how that goes….

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Do you find the QAR model helpful, or does its rather simplistic terminology make it unattractive to you?
  • Do you agree with my placement of these questions on the QAR matrix?
  • Can you think of some other questions in each of the QAR categories that might be asked about this story … in your native language or in Latin?
  • And what about grammatical-analysis questions? Can they involve different QAR levels, or must they always be “right there” in the text?

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