For some reason, I have found that whenever I get my upper level students, they have no historical context for what we are reading. This year, I worked very hard on giving my Latin 2 students that context, so that they would have it for Latin 3. But how to make them retain it?
This is where I came up with the Epic History Timeline. You will need: three rolls of that wide Bulletin Board Paper (Colors make it look awesome!), Colored pencils/Markers (Markers stand out more!), and devices that can access the internet.
I gave my students these instructions:
“Working in groups of 3, your mission, whether or not you choose to accept it, is to outline a period of Roman history on a Timeline. You must find 20 or more events for your time period.
Your group will select this time period by chance. Working in your group of three, you will each need to choose a role:
*Exquisitor—You will be researching the chosen time period on your phone and will be in charge of describing the event to the Scriptor and the Pictor.
*Scriptor—You will, on the description of the Exquisitor, put the event on the timeline, and write a concise description of the event.
*Pictor—You will draw a picture of the event on the timeline.
Once you have put together your piece of the timeline, you will present it to the class, discussing your events and their significance to Roman History. Then, add your timeline piece to the timeline.
Don’t forget to put your names on your section!”
They then drew their time periods out of a hat. I had seven groups, so I split the time periods up like this:
The Monarchy (753 BC to 509 BC)
Early Republic (510 BC to 367 BC)
Mid Republic (366 BC to 132 BC)
Late Republic (133 BC to 31 BC)
Early Empire (30 BC to 68 AD)
Mid Empire (68 AD to 96 AD)
Mid Empire 2 (96 AD to 180 AD)
Each group was instructed to cut 4 feet of bulletin board paper, and get started. The results were spectacular! This project took two to three 1.5 hour classes, from start to finish. (Three classes for most of my classes!) Each group presented their section to the class and talked about why the events in their section were important to Roman history. We then pieced the timelines together and hung them up All over the school. These things are a work of art!
(And, yes, I did give them a quiz about it, with fantastic results.)
I love this project because there is something for everyone. Those who would rather research can do so; those who have the gift of neat handwriting can make use of that talent; and, of course, the ones who like to draw can do that too. The students need to internalize and own the historical events so that they can explain them clearly to their peers. This project worked extremely well for my students and I hope yours enjoy it too!
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!