Thursday, February 21, 2019

Rassias Method Workshop Experience

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Rassias method class at Belmont Abbey College with Nancy Llewellyn, Jason Slanga, and Carson Thomas.  Here are some of my thoughts after the weekend:

·      It is most useful to learn new skills and then have the opportunity to practice in front of and get feedback from colleagues.  I have too few opportunities to do this, but whenever I do it results in powerful learning.  This was a great reminder to me of how I need to be more intentional about creating these opportunities for myself as a teacher and learner.  It also was an important reminder of how imperative formative feedback is for my students.  The Rassias method drills provide great ways to give non-threatening formative feedback to students during their process of constructing linguistic knowledge. 
·      Observing other teachers is amazing professional development.  The opportunity to see Nancy Llewellyn teach a class to her seminarians was essential for helping me to build my understanding of how these methods could combine into a lesson.  We were given that opportunity to see her teach early on in the workshop before we had been taught many of the methods.  That observation was important for building my own motivation to learn the techniques.  Motivation is essential for all learners, and I need to make sure I am paying attention to that with my own students.
·      Language learning should be fun.  Nancy’s students were clearly having fun during class – at the same time as they were being challenged.  This made the challenge feel non-threatening to them and clearly amplified their learning.  When we were practicing the methods ourselves, we teachers also spent a lot of time laughing together.  The fun we had learning motivated us to be more creative in our linguistic production to keep the fun going, contributing even more to an already powerful learning experience.  I want to recommit myself laughing more with my classes.

Teachers know that it is incumbent on us to model lifelong learning for our students.  Attending this workshop was a great way for me to experience being back in the classroom.  If you ever have the chance to attend yourself, I can’t recommend the experience highly enough.  I know they already have dates up for an October workshop, which you can see here.  My recommendation is to start thinking now about what grants you can apply for to get there.  - Parva

Thursday, December 20, 2018


This year has given me lots of opportunities to think about mentors and mentoring.  First, I took a course called Mentoring last spring.  Although I had been asked to mentor fellow teachers many times, I had never really received anything more than a few cursory instructions about how to be a good mentor.  On the other hand, I had received very good mentoring in my transition to teaching from Gaylan DuBose and in my transition to college counseling from Darryl Borges.  I am profoundly grateful for the influence of both of these gentlemen on my life and career.  In that course, I was surprised to learn that there are well-researched, agreed upon practices for mentoring.  Unlike my previous experience with mentoring programs, most experts agree that a mentoring programs should extend over a period of years - not just one school year.  However, I was not surprised to learn that both Gaylan and Darryl had been using many of the agreed upon best practices, whether they were aware of it or not. 

After that intense semester of learning about mentoring both in theory and in practice (since we were assigned undergraduates to mentor), I have had several moments to reflect on mentoring during the second half of this year:  as I received my silver bowl for attending 20 NJCL conventions, as I prepared to graduate from my Master's program this fall, and when Gaylan passed in September.  I couldn't have been more thrilled when the Texas Classical Association began a teaching award in memory of Gaylan or more humbled to be the first recipient.  I hope that I can help to carry on his legacy of mentoring.  Now that I have a bit more time since graduating, I hope to work to help set up mentoring supports and relationships in a variety of ways.  We all need to be asking these questions, among others:

In what ways do each of us as teachers, JCL sponsors, coaches, and classicists need mentoring?  
How can we set up formal and informal supports for each other?
What organizations can have a part in creating mentoring relationships?
How can we support younger teachers and more veteran teachers through each phase of their careers?

To help continue the conversation, I'm pasting my own personal mentoring credo below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about mentoring as well.

Mentoring Philosophy and Credo 
Mentoring is one of the central foci of my life.  Like my teaching philosophy, my mentoring philosophy centers on building relationships.  If I am a good match to support a student or fellow teacher who seeks mentoring, I believe it is incumbent on me to do so even if no formal mentoring relationship exits.  Part of my role as mentor is to serve as a model for others.  I must model a good work ethic and cultural responsiveness;  I must model both giving and receiving critical but respectful feedback.  However, the most important thing for me to model is mutual respect and valuing of each person for who he or she is and for what he or she has to offer the world.  

My philosophy of mentoring is focused on the idea of collaboration.  Mentoring relationships must begin with a discussion of the needs and expectations of each member.  My preference is to move each mentoring relationship towards collaborative co-mentoring as each mentee becomes ready for that phase.  Mentoring relationships exist between two people who both have a great deal to offer, no matter the situation.  The mentoring dyads I have been a part of have taught me a great deal and will continue to enrich my life and work.  Mentoring should not be a one-sided relationship.  If a relationship is built on shared work, learning, and respect, then both parties can benefit fully without issues surrounding power and accountability.   - Parva

Saturday, November 10, 2018

TCA 2018 Presentation: "Ludi Romani: Bringing Ancient History to Life"

Here is a link to a Google Drive folder for Jennie & Lauren's presentation. It includes our slideshow, as well as numerous files covering the three different versions of the game that we've played with our students, in class and at our annual Latin Banquet.

Ludi Romani TCA 2018 Presentation

Jennie and I welcome any questions about this game and its variations. The rules are constantly in flux too, as our students find loopholes that they want to attempt to close or exploit! Lastly, many thanks to Mark Damen for the original inspiration of these iterations of his game.

Friday, November 9, 2018

TCA 2018 Presentation: Opportunities for Inclusion in the Latin Classroom

Here is a link to the digital handout for my 2018 TCA Fall Conference presentation, Opportunities for Inclusion in the Latin Classroom. On it, you'll also find a link to the slideshow from the conference.

I welcome feedback and follow-up questions about any of the topics from that presentation. I would LOVE to know about additional strategies that you and your colleagues are using to make Latin more inclusive!

- Ashley

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Declensions Roundtable

I have just recently taught my Latin IA students about the first three declensions. We are using the textbook Latin is Fun, and it introduces the cases in a piecemeal fashion. My students were doing great with the nominative, accusative, and ablative, but weren't going to be able to do much without learning about genitive stems for nouns, so I decided to go whole-hog with them.

After doing two days of talking about case uses, applying them to some short Latin compositions, and writing the declension chart in our notes, it was time for my students to do some declension practice.

For this "Declensions Roundtable" activity, I made large-font pages with 2 animal words on each page. They were from declensions 1-3, but didn't include neuters (for obvious reasons). I had each kid get out a special pen/pencil/marker color and told them they should write three answers on a page before heading off to find another page. Their answers could either add to the paradigm that had been started or make corrections to previous answers. There were a lot of corrections to be made! I put on some Taylor Swift and monitored as they moved around and declined. I had them turn in the pages once all of the answers were written correctly.

Pretty fun lesson, and a very low-stress way for my sixth graders to get in declension practice.

Here's the list of vocabulary words that we declined.

And here's a short video of my students during the lesson.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Monumenta Funerum

Each year in Latin 3 at the end of October and beginning of November, we do a unit on Roman funerary monuments.  Although it's a bit morbid, the students seem to enjoy thinking about how we memorialize the dead versus how the Romans did it.  They make great connections between Roman customs and the celebrations we have at an Episcopal school such as Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.

I start the unit by using this Powerpoint to introduce the concepts, to get them thinking, and to start looking at some simple Latin epitaphs and talking about the specific vocabulary need to read the next epitaphs we'll look at.  Students really enjoy reading and learning about people they would not hear about otherwise.  Another plus of the unit is that we get to reinforce all of those praenomen abbreviations that we talked about in preparation for our Dies Lustricus celebration last month.

After the Powerpoint, we move on to looking at several tombstones, for which I have created tiered readings. I introduce the first two with a Movietalk for each and then a Dictatio with a simplified version of the Latin, i.e. the first tier.  Here are those materials:

 MovieTalk for Monument I
Dictatio for Monument I

This first monument is a riff off of Pacuvius' epitaph so we take a look at that too.

MovieTalk for Monument II
Dictatio for Monument II

(Many thanks to Bob Patrick and Rachel Ash for sharing the templates I used to create those MovieTalks and Dictationes.)

Students have lots of fun with this unit, and I supplement it with the singing of Parvula Arachne and Arida Ossa which both reinforce vocabulary.  "Ossa" is used in that first monument and "parvula" helps me teach about diminuatives, which is also reinforced by the word "saxolus" also in that first monument.

Following the reading of these epitaphs, students are tasked with creating their own epitaphs in Latin, which I display on the wall in my room.  They create a first draft, and then edit that with peer help.  I then proofread the second draft for them.  Google classroom makes that process pretty easy.  Then, they simply use an appropriate font, large size, and all caps to print out the tombstone.  After cutting it into the shape they want, they add appropriately an spooky black paper backing with glue or double-sided tape.  Assembly takes 10-15 minutes since there is a printer in my classroom for their use.

This unit ties in nicely with the season of Spooktober.  I find it also has many connections to the letters of Cambridge Stage 35.  I'd love to hear about what others do for Halloween in their Latin classes. - Parva

Sunday, September 30, 2018

SALVI's Rusticatio Virginiana

Thanks to the generosity of the American Classical League scholarship committee, I had the opportunity to attend SALVI’s Rusticatio spoken Latin immersion workshop for the second time this July. My first time at Rusticatio was in 2014, thanks to a Parent Association teacher grant fund at my school, which has since been discontinued. What follows are my observations and lessons learned from both experiences, since repeated Rusticatio experiences are truly cumulative, and in no way redundant.

Upon arrival at Claymont Mansion in rural West Virginia, the quiet and solitude of the place is striking, but also intentional. The “dux,” “repititores,” (i.e. instructors) along with “sodales,” and “curatores” (i.e. support staff) greet participants warmly and casually. Though we are still speaking in English until bedtime the first evening, the nervous anticipation of the first-time participants and the excitement of the staff and returning participants is palpable. Accommodations are cozy though a bit spartan, and always with fellow participants so the immersion may continue even between programmed activities. It really is like summer camp for Latin enthusiasts.

After my first experience, I was lured back for a second time by the incredible warmth, camaraderie, and joyful attitude from the instruction staff, which filtered down to all participants. Expectation to speak or “perform” your Latin skills is minimal, and nervous participants are often treated like beginning students in order to ease the transition to a fully immersive environment.
To continue the immersion, most meals for the week are prepared with the assistance of participants on an assigned rotation, with the “coqua” and “subcoquus” overseeing and teaching “kitchen Latin” along the way. My first year I was terrified at this prospect (I do not particularly enjoy cooking), but during the meal prep I was surprised at how easy the coqua and subcoqua made the process, and I enjoyed the hands-on aspect of learning the names for utensils and foods.

The lessons I learned at Rusticatio for my pedagogical practices range from the philosophical to the practical. On the philosophical end I have internalized the importance of providing input to my students that is comprehensible and compelling. Limiting all the Latin a class reads or hears to stodgy stories about dead Roman men is rarely compelling for all but a few. I’ve learned to season the selection of Latin stories in our textbook with personal anecdotes about my life or my weekend or my dog, or through relatively simple conversation with students in the class. I have also been introduced to the concept of sheltering vocabulary but not grammar. Bombarding students with new words to learn while also learning new language structures is far more frustrating for them than being exposed to new ways to use the words they have already learned. I have also begun to shift my methods of assessment from verbatim translation to assessing their actual comprehension, often in Latin. I.e. many comprehension questions are in Latin, and their answers may be too. I do still occasionally ask for direct translation, particularly as part of an all-class reading of a story and for particularly tricky sentences or phrases, in order to check for understanding, but that’s usually as a last resort.

I have picked up a number of practical techniques and activities as well. I recall from my first Rusticatio learning methods of interactively practicing morphemes aurally and orally by establishing a comprehensible noun-verb phrase and then asking for one-word student input - a verb form - prompted by an instructor-provided noun or pronoun. I have used this method in my class in addition to or in place of grammar notes and worksheets. 

During Rusticatio this summer the “repititores” (i.e. assistant instructors) introduced a number of methods of practicing and reinforcing vocabulary which I plan to use this school year. One was a simple listing of known words by alphabet letter, an “abecedarium” As the students during the activity, we listed either words for things in sight of us at the time, or just words we know or had learned, e.g. under P, I wrote “pictura” and “phantasma.” A partner share followed, which included an element of competition as well; if one partner came up with a word the other didn’t, they got a point. Another activity included looking at a work of art (not necessarily ancient or Classical art, but could be) and choosing from a provided list of words to describe it, as well as the open option to provide our own known Latin words to describe the art.

Probably the most simplistic classroom practice that I picked up this summer (although the instruction staff did this in 2014 as well, it just hit me this summer how useful and helpful it was to me from the student’s perspective): keeping a running list of Latin words on a large-sized sticky note pad. As I talk about the weather, or my weekend, or my dog, or ask about how the students are doing, I may use Latin words or phrases that are new to the class. They aren’t going to be in any official vocabulary list in our textbook, but I still think they are good words to know and reinforce. I write the words (often with English meaning written, or a rudimentary illustration) on the large sticky note pad that hangs from my dry erase board for all the class to see. Things may get added throughout the class period, and maybe the list for a particular class continues onto a second sheet if the conversation or story goes for awhile. So far with this method, I’ve reviewed impersonal phrases like “me dolet” with my Latin 4s (upon the occasion that a student complained that his back hurt from a fall in dance class), and comparative adjectives “maior/minor” with my Latin 2s when we were talking about siblings and our age orders within our families, and many other random but useful words. By putting these ad hoc terms on the large sticky pad paper, I can keep each sheet after each class, instead of erasing it from the white board, with the intent of reinforcing these words and phrases. Students are also writing many of these words in their personal vocabulary lists that they keep in their class spirals for continued review.

Rusticatio has been a very eye-opening and mind-changing experience for me. The first year was much about simply changing my overall mindset about how to approach the teaching of Latin, and I’ve been on a journey since then. My second time this summer I was acquiring and refining the applications for my new mindset of teaching Latin. It’s also important, as it is for any language, for its teachers to simply have the experience of speaking and living in the language, even if it’s just for six days. Thanks to my time at Rusticatio I feel much more confident launching into a story, or discussing a Latin passage, or asking questions about a story in our target language during class time, all of which provides more input of the language for the students.

--Lauren Dill

For more information about upcoming "Rusticationes" and "Bidua" (Latin immersion weekends) visit SALVI's website.