Resources


Project Domus

For the past couple of years, I have enjoyed leading my eighth-grade Latin class in a project on Roman houses. I am sure that many teachers of Latin have some sort of domus-related activity, and this is mine. The project aims mainly at introducing students to this important aspect of Roman daily life; it also offers plenty of opportunities for students to compare and contrast their own lives to ancient ones and to engage in Latin language composition and communication through simple descriptive sentences.

I like to start this project by discussing different the living situations of Romans, from the insulae of cities to urban domī to elaborate villas in the countryside. They study a number of houses that were preserved and excavated around the bay of Naples. We hone in on the typical Roman domus, discussing different generic rooms in the Roman house and their apparent uses and features (e.g. the vestibulum, atrium, culina, peristylium etc.). An impressive array of resources are available to students, and here are just a few that I have enjoyed using:

VROMA does a lovely job of clearly labeling rooms with links to names and longer descriptions of the rooms’ apparent uses. I love the simple floorplan as well.

This site does a similar job with a few more rooms added to the layout.

This virtual tour is a neat video, and it works for activities where you want students to identify different rooms (they could even do it in Latin!).

This video was created by a student (of either History or Latin). He brings up some interesting points and identifies room names for a quick and dirty review.

Khan Academy has a number of resources as well, like this article on the house of the Vetii.

After discussing and describing the Roman house, students are tasked to create their own domī. They go about choosing features, frescoes, and furniture for their houses, which would appeal to Roman taste as well as their own. In years past, the final products have come in the form of posters, dioramas, and google drawings, and I also ask students to describe their houses and the function and/or appearance of the rooms and the objects within.

Students tend to enjoy this project because of the degree of personal choice and creativity that goes into designing their own home. Some students–and even some adults–may never have given any thought to the architecture and design that they might want in their own house; this project gives them an exciting opportunity to do just that. I will add lastly that the project brings together culture and language learning and is easily tailored to students’ ability and comprehension.


Beyond God of War: Latin and Ancient Rome in Video Games

Latin puns: Fun for the whole familia

Latin puns: Fun for the whole familia

For me, one of the funniest moments of every year is when my beginning Latin students learn the word ubi. When I was a kid, this is when we first learned the faux-Latin phrase semper ubi sub ubi. Nowadays, it’s when my students realize that the name of the French video game developer Ubisoft, which publishes some of the most successful gaming franchises in history (Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell), is a Latin pun on the word “software.”

While teachers are usually happy to embrace films (GladiatorBen-HurThe Eagle, etc.) as an entertaining way to engage their students with ancient history, video games are still slow going. As a lifelong gamer, I find that disappointing. To that end I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite games to show, talk about, and (on those rare occasions when we have a free class day) play with my students. I’ve selected games that are rated Teen or below and have some meaningful educational value to them, so you don’t need to worry about things getting absurdly violent – or worse, sacrificing historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment.

Civilization VI

The Civilization Series are strategy games in which you play as the leader of a civilization of your choice. Players attempt to conquer the world through a combination of warfare, cultural influence, and technological superiority. Everything – names, building types, military units – is based on historical fact, and is a wonderful opportunity to spark students’ curiosity.

The two most recent entries, Civilization V and Civilization VI, are the only games I am aware of that contain spoken Classical Latin, courtesy of Augustus (in Civ 5) and Trajan (Civ 6).

Rome II: Total War

Known for its massive real-time battles, Rome II: Total War is for the military enthusiasts among your students. Players have the option to replay historical military engagements (how would you have fared against Hannibal at Cannae, or in the Teutoburg Forest?) or create their own with a wide variety of military units, from hastati to ballistae to war elephants. While the graphics are a bit dated now, these games give a sense of the sheer scale of ancient battles.

An expansion pack, Caesar in Gaul, could be fun during the post-AP exam doldrums.

Europe Universalis: Rome

Your more diplomatic and detail-oriented students might enjoy Europa Universalis: Rome. A so-called “grand strategy game,” you are plopped into the Roman Republic in 280 BCE, given control of one of 53 separate factions (you can control Rome, obviously, but how might you handle being in charge of Numidia? Colchis? Bithynia?) and maneuver your way to the top through bribery, diplomacy, compromise, assassinations, strategic marriage, and warfare.

EU: Rome is far and away the most challenging of these games and isn’t for everyone, but it gives players a good idea of the complexity of politics and diplomacy in the ancient world and is worth, in my opinion, the considerable time investment.

Minecraft in Latin

And finally, simply for the possibilities, is good old Minecraft. Over the years I’ve had a number of students who’ve preferred to do architecture projects in the game, which has led to some beautiful creations I still have on my hard drive.

There are also a wide variety of user generated Minecraft creations available on YouTube, which always captivate my students as a sort of “guided tour.” You can look at all kinds of baths and villas, of course, but what about a full-size recreation of the Colosseum?

For additional fun and challenge, the default language can be set to Latin.

Happy gaming!


Conferences: Why We Need to Care 5

Last weekend, I attended SALVI’s Biduum Virginianum.  As we sat around dinner talking on Friday night, one of the participants mentioned that he was going to NECTFL in March.  Another participant looked at him incredulously.  “Do you teach another language too?” he asked.  The NECTFL-goer shook his head no.  “Then why,” asked the other participant, “would you go to a modern language conference?”

The truth is that Latin is not always accepted or even noticed by other foreign language teachers.  Yes, it is starting to get better, and already has at some schools, but we are still, mostly, in our own game.  Yes, it is important to go to the Classical conferences, such as CANE, but more Latin teachers need to start going to the Regional conferences, like NECTFL.  But why?  Why should we take time to go to a conference that doesn’t pertain directly to us, people ask.  Here is my response to that:

Last year, I attended ACTFL in Orlando, Florida.  Encouraged by the fact that Bob Patrick was the first ever Latin Teacher nominee for Language Teacher of the Year, Latin teachers turned out in force.  As a result, there were more sessions that pertained directly to Latin.  Teachers of other languages remarked over and over again, to each other, on Twitter, and to me directly, “Wow, there are a LOT of Latin teachers here.”  We were noticed.

There are techniques we can learn from the Modern languages and there are techniques they can learn from us.  TPRS, Whole Brain Teaching, Reading strategies, connecting across the languages, cool summer programs…the list goes on and on.

There are vendors who do not necessarily have products for Latin…yet.  If we want cool products for Latin, too, we must visit the vendor tables and talk to the vendors, and show them that there is a need and a market for these products and how their products could be adapted for Latin.

Latin may be a bit strange to other teachers, who believe it to be “dead.”  We need to make it come alive.  We can do this by speaking it, and learning the “Modern Language Strategies”  to demonstrate this to the Modern Language Teachers and our Administrations.  (HINT: Many administrations get very excited when a Latin teacher asks to go to a Foreign Language conference and makes the argument that they want to learn more about language teaching!  Often, you can score some money!)

Let me put this challenge to you:  Go to a Foreign Language Conference. (NECTFL is in BOSTON this year–March 27-30!!)  Take a serious look at the program and try, with an open mind, to attend one session about a teaching technique that is not specifically for Latin.  If you do not come away with something useful, try another one.  I can make this promise to you:  You will go home with something interesting–whether you needed a reminder or it is totally new to you.

We Latin and Classics teachers may be the “odd” bunch, but we are by no means the ugly stepchildren.  Getting everyone else to see that as well requires taking an interest in ALL language pedagogy and working with the other languages.  We can just keep talking about how no one notices Latin and that we don’t have interesting products for Latin, or we can do something about it.  It’s time to start changing everyone’s thoughts about Latin.  So, Sodales, take up the challenge!