When I was a teenager, I poured over Glamour, Mademoiselle and any trashy girly magazine that I could get my hands on. One of my favorite sections of the magazine was the survey where you delved into such important issues such as "How Flirty Are You?" and "What's Your True Style?" through a series of multiple choice questions. At the end of the survey, there was a scoring rubric where each answer was weighted by points and your point tally indicated which category described you: Super Flirty! A True Tease, etc.
Today, Facebook seems to be dominated with similar surveys. You can find out what type of drink or breakfast sandwich you are or what character you would be on Gilligan's Island. It's the same procedure, you take the survey and at the end, it tells you something albeit completely fictional but nevertheless about you.
This is the important point, the series of nonsensical questions promise to tell you something about yourself: everyone's favorite topic, especially teenagers. In the classroom, time you can turn the concept back to themselves, you stand a much better chance of grabbing their interest.
Facebook or Glamour type surveys is another tried and true technique I have used to introduce many different concepts to teenagers. There are three surveys that have been uploaded to this folder that use this. The first is a survey about Optimates and Populares, the second is about the difference in philosophy between the Stoicism and Epicureanism and the third is entitled simply "Are You Caesar?" The most important part of the survey is the scoring. At the end, the survey needs to tell the student something about themselves. The categories need not be particularly relevant or well reasoned. Students will diligently tabulate their answers and then immediately begin comparing results with their classmates. That is the hook by which you can launch a thousand different discussions.
To milk this technique for maximum interest, give the survey to the students first without the scoring guideline. Tell them nothing about the topic - just have them take the survey. After everyone has taken it, then hand out the scoring key and take a poll to see where everyone stands. Most often, they all will want to tell each other what they got. Now tell them about the difference between Stoicism and Epicureanism or the Populares and Optimates or whatever topic you intended to discuss.
Voila! what was simply another boring lecture removed from any relevance to a teenager's life is now a reflection of or a contrast to themselves. So glad that adults have evolved out of such narcissistic self-absorption.
Incidentally, I'm the Professor, a glass of red wine, and berry yogurt - smooth but a little bit fruity. Don't judge.
Google Drive Link
When I wrote that there is nothing funnier than a Latin puppet show, I lied. Movies in Latin are funnier. I'm not sure why but they are. Creating a movie in Latin is a great end of the year project. It was my traditional after-A.P-Project and the anticipation of it kept many students slogging through the second half of the Aeneid.
Basically, this project works best with a smaller class: 10-15 students at the most. The first step in the process is to choose a movie to film. We tend to choose movies that have already been filmed and then redo them in Latin. Writing an original movie in Latin adds a step that we usually don't have time for. Besides, translating movie dialogue into Latin is both challenging and entertaining. I begin by asking students to brainstorm movies to film, reminding them that we have limited sets, costumes and no special effects or budget. This fact eliminates most Superhero movies and action films. We list possible movies on the board and then vote. In the past, I have filmed Psycho, The Shining and Lord of the Rings in Latin. The Lord of the Rings Movie turned out particularly well and won the Terence Award for Best Picture in 2010. The Terence Award is sponsored by Professor Tunberg, a great advocate and pioneer of spoken Latin. I would love to link the winning movie here but unfortunately the link is broken. I'm hoping to remedy this at a later date.
The next step is watch the movie itself as a class and jot down the scenes that are both pertinent and possible to film. Obviously you won't be able to do all the scenes, just enough to tell the story. After that, you should cast the movie from your class. The fourth step is to find the script. I have never found this particularly difficult. We found both The Lord of the Rings script and Psycho online. I think we had to guess at The Shining dialogue but as so much of that dialogue is so famous, it wasn't really a problem.
Now you give each person in the class a section of the movie to write in Latin. This becomes the basis for the grade that you give this project. If your class has been hard at work translating high poetry or prose, a few lessons about conversational Latin would be appropriate here.
After this you are ready to film! We made Dominus Anulorum during a particularly rainy spring so we filmed all our outside scenes in only a few days. Students need to be honest about when they will be absent because unplanned absences can really screw up the filming schedule.
What about rehearsals? Fughettaboutit! Who are you? Scorcese? I ask all students to practice their lines ahead of time so they can say them without tripping over them but we never memorize them. Besides, I'd be more likely to fly to the moon than to get seniors ten days from graduating to memorize a Latin film script. Luckily It's not necessary. In my class, we used the little white boards and wrote the lines on them. Students not in the scene held up the boards off camera in the direction where the actor being filmed was looking. It's the low-tech version of the Latin teleprompter.
As far as finding a camera and editing equipment, when I began this project, I really had to scrounge. We borrowed one from a student and leaned on the A.V department to help us with the editing. Now of course, a smart phone can be used to do both. You will probably find that you have at least one student who is skilled at the task and eager to take on this project. I held onto the job of director for far too long. In Dominus Anulorum, it's painfully evident which scenes I filmed, by their stilted nature and which scenes the student who edited the picture filmed due to his fluid use of close-ups and different camera angles.
Finally, if you have time, hold a movie night. Borrow the auditorium if it is available and show the complete movie to the class and friends of the class.
The nature of this project is truly transformative, a great end to a high school Latin career. It's great P.R. for your program as well. My Latin I and II students, buried in review material for the final, were fascinated by the heap of costumes and props in the back of the room for Dominus Anulorum. Like desk bound paparazzi, they peppered me with questions about the movie. "We'll talk all about it" I said, "in Latin IV." This prompted a lively discussion of movies that they would make. I let them talk for a while and then turned their attention back to the work at hand. The seed had been planted.
Reading Caesar has been a rite of passage for all students of Latin for centuries. If I had dime for every time some person, upon learning that I was a Latin teacher randomly yelled out, "Gallia est omnis divisa!" I would have my retirement pretty much set. I would like to say here that I have found a way to make translating Caesar a joyful and exciting experience, but alas I have not. My students love the idea of reading Caesar more than they actually enjoy his prose. Included in the "Stuff for Advanced Students" folder are three activities that have increased students' enjoyment of reading Caesar. They will add spice to the reading of Caesar but will not transform the substance.
The first is a short survey that I gave students at the beginning of the Caesar unit to introduce students to this extraordinary man and his character. It's short. It will only take you 15 minutes tops to use with your class. If you are not familiar with the life of Caesar, the correct answer on all of the questions, is "D." Incidentally, if you aren't familiar with the life of Caesar, you should read up before giving this quiz because the kids will have some questions afterwards.
The second is a Mad-Lib based upon the most read and least interesting of all Caesar's work, the aforementioned, Gallia est omnis divisa. This will help to refresh students knowledge of Caesar's vocabulary and sentence structure as well as make them giggle a bit.
The third is a larger project that I used at the end of our Caesar unit. Students, working in small groups of 3-4 students "explore" and write about the different departments or "tribes" of the school in Latin similar to the way that Caesar described Gaul. The presentation of their findings is usually quite hilarious. In the past, students have brought in "captured tribesman" from the math department or artifacts from physical education to aid their presentation. This project has always sparked the enthusiasm of the class and is a welcome break from the sedentary struggle of translating Caesar's prose. Here I must add that this imaginative project was created Lauren Donovan, the Latin teacher who proceeded me at Oakmont Regional High School. Ms. Donovan has now completed her doctorate and has moved on to teach at the University level. I was very grateful when I took over her position that she generously left me all her lesson plans as well as this very fine project.
Roman Feast with a Twist...
In many classes, the highlight of the year is the Roman feast, when students wrap themselves in bed sheets and bring in various attempts at Roman food. To add a new dimension to the feast, I created this role-playing activity to accompany the dress-up and food. This activity works best with a smaller, more advanced group of 6-12 students who are juniors or seniors and can be trusted to work well together.
In the role-play version of the feast, I assign everyone to play a different member of Augustus' family. I myself play Augustus. Before the feast, I take the class to the library and have them research the different family members. Each student needs to make a case about why they or their spouse or child should be appointed the next emperor. They are also told to look for "dirt" on different family members so that they could make a case that they should not be made the next emperor. If you are at all familiar with Augustus' family, you know that there are some pretty salacious stories about many of them. Realistically speaking, Tiberius, although not Augustus' first or second choice to be his heir was the only viable choice at the time of Augustus' death. Therefore for this to work, I have resurrected quite a few family members as characters for the feast who died earlier.
Then, to add further interest, I explain that some depictions of Livia, Augustus' wife, portray her as an accomplished poisoner. Therefore, I give each family team a sugar packet with a symbol. I explain to them that the packet represents a vial of unlabeled powder that you stole from Livia's private chamber. It may be poison, it may be make-up. You don't know. However, during the course of the feast, you may, if you choose, put a small amount of powder on the opposing team's plate. If they eat it, then possibly you have poisoned that character or perhaps you have just flavored their food with face powder. If you are caught, then the food is considered "not poisoned." That way we don't waste food that has simply had a small bit of sugar put on it. There are five sugar packets with five different symbols. One of them contains "poison." At the end of the feast, I reveal to the teams what the symbols mean and they reveal where they put the powder. From there we deduce, which members are left "alive."
The time-line of this activity is as follows:
Pre-planning: Assign students to family members and take them to the library to research their family members. Usually one class period suffices for this. Also hand our recipes and assign food to be brought in for the feast.
The day of the feast: Students bring in food, dress up in "Roman finery." We spend the first 10 minutes eating and milling about. Then, I arrange the students in a circle and ask each family member to tell me briefly who they think the next emperor should be and/or reasons why they think some family members should not be chosen. They can speak from notes but should not read a report. We clean up several times, serve different courses to allow people to get up and move and possibly "poison" each other. At the end, I tell them who made the best case to be emperor. We then reveal who put some of their sugar packet on which food. Should the next emperor have been poisoned, the second choice becomes emperor.
This activity has been hugely successful with my advanced class. The feast is best accomplished during a longer period - a block of 80-90 minutes if you have the time. If you are teaching A.P. Latin, this is an excellent break from the grind of translating. The hand-outs and activity description for students can be found in the google drive under "Stuff for Advanced Students." Happy Feasting!
The Bayeux Tapestry
Reading the Bayeux tapestry with Latin III students is a real treat - an important historical document that students can actually read in the original Latin. It's full of purpose and result clauses and has a lot of vocabulary in common with Caesar. There are many websites about the Bayeux tapestry, many that break it down panel by panel as well as an ingenious Youtube video that animated the panels into a short movie. See below:
Once you have read the tapestry with your students, a terrific project is to ask students to create their own "tapestry" based upon a historical event. This is easily and hilariously accomplished with the "historic tale construction kit" which allows students to create their own Bayeux Tapestry cartoons. Click on the link and you will see what I mean. Students have written about the World Series, the death of Michael Jackson and many other "historical" events of rather dubious importance using this tool. I use this exercise have students practice writing subjunctive clauses, particularly purpose and result clauses. The historic tale construction kit has been modified from it's original form. I found the old site was full of glitches and though it supposedly allowed for students to save their creations, we were never able to do so.
An enterprising student discovered that if she moved her creation to either PowerPoint or Microsoft paint that she could pretty easily save her cartoons. Soon the rest of the class was doing that as well. I haven't used this new version of the historic tale creation but it's definitely worth trying.
The rubric that I wrote to guide students to create their historical cartoons is in the folder on the drive "Stuff for Advanced Students."