A Journey into the Ablative

Today’s Feature Post is brought to you by Sara Cain, who teaches at Monomoy Regional Middle School in Chatham, MA.

Practicing the ablative case is an excellent opportunity for student movement. In Grade 6, on our 8th class meeting, we do an activity called โ€œThe Longest Journey.โ€ The classroom is set up with about 12 different Roman place names taped on walls and windows around the room. Students, in groups of 2-4, are told that they must get their group (and their Magistra!) from Africa to Roma, making as many stops around the Imperium Romanum as possible. To make a stop, the group must simply write a grammatically correct Latin sentence. The first stop is the same for everyone, so I give them this model sentence: Marcellus, Clara, Tullia, et Magistra in Africฤ sunt. The group, of course, does not need to stay together while travelling (an opportunity to practice est and sunt), and some groups even choose to leave Magistra alone in Africฤ for the entire trip.
I usually give 10 minutes for groups to plan their journeys and then we get up in front of our peers – who are anxious to count and beat the number of stops each group has – and travel around the classroom to the places taped up around the room. See the Final Product in action on YouTube. For Grade 6 Latin, I read the scripts in order to fix mistakes as we go. In upper levels, I might insist that group members read their scripts while audience members listen to mistakes and earn extra points for raising their hands and offering helpful edits to their peers.
This activity can be tailored to fit upper levels of Latin by increasing the complexity of the sentences that the students must write. When we revisit the activity, we add in second declension places (in Aegyptล, in Nilล, in Rhenล, in opppidล Brundisiล) to practice the second declension ablative. Teachers could also choose places that are plural in nature (Athenis, Bruxelles) to provide practice of singular and plural. Another step up would be to use sentence formulas with different prepositions in them: Marcellus ex Aegyptล (ad urbem) Romam venit. The focus could be anything from the locative to verbs of movement to the deponent (vehor) with ablatives of means (nฤvi,ย raedฤ,ย equล, etc).
This is an engaging, controlled way to practice Latin composition with students at any level. The assessment of the activity can be as simple as participation points or as complex as using a writing rubric and giving each group a score on indicators such as comprehensibility, mechanics, variety of vocabulary and use of the grammatical structure(s) identified.

Teaching the Tenses

Today’s Feature Post is by CANE regular Ruth Breindel, who shares a PowerPoint that she uses to help students understand tense.

I have found that some students donโ€™t understand time โ€“ how the various tenses interact with each other.ย  Here is one way I show them, using a PowerPoint of a Christmas tree – seeย tree tensesย here!
How to use this:

  1. After you have explained and explained and explained how the tenses relate, and they still donโ€™t get it, show them the slides.
  2. They are arranged so that the time sequence is: Pluperfect, Perfect, Imperfect, Present, Future and Future Perfect.ย  Note too that the tenses are not put in a straight line, but in a โ€œswoopโ€ down and up.ย  For some unknown reason, this does help some students to understand the relationship better.
  3. With the first presentation of each tense, there is a time assigned to it, so students get the idea of the passage of time.
  4. The future perfect, being an โ€œunrealโ€ tense, is shown last, as an amalgam of the future and the perfect.ย  Personally, I tell my students that they may never use the future perfect in a sentence, because Iโ€™ve found that they will translate the perfect (amaverunt โ€“ they loved) as the future perfect (they will have loved) just because they are so enamoured of the future perfect!ย  I think this is because the โ€œeruntโ€ ending on the perfect looks just too much like the future.ย  Iโ€™d rather have them wrong 1% of the time by using the perfect for the future perfect, than wrong 99% of the time by using the future perfect for the perfect!
  5. I tried to inject some humor into this, too:
  • the imperfect has a broken ornament, making it โ€œimperfectโ€
  • the present tense is a present under the tree

Feel free to modify this โ€“ add color, or Latin, or whatever!


Lights, Camera, Action! Making and Using Movies in your Classroom

In this age of Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, itโ€™s wondrously easy for both us and our students to make short films as projects in our classes.ย  Editing software is often cheap, even free, and anyone who has a smartphone or tablet can capture video footage.ย  Students are excited about movies – adults are too (did you see how many advance tickets Star Wars: The Force Awakens sold before itโ€™s premiere?).ย  So the question naturally becomes how to harness this tool and enthusiasm in a useful way in your classes.
Below I present some ideas Iโ€™ve used myself or seen used by others.

  1. Myth Movies – mythology is a core part of almost any Classics teacherโ€™s curriculum, and what more fun way for students to connect with myth than to recreate a favorite myth with bad costumes, bad acting, and cheesy special effects?ย  When I first started this many years ago, Iโ€™d let students get into groups and film their adaptation of their favorite myth.ย  Most turned out OK, a few abysmally bad, and some have been brilliant for one reason or another.ย  One idea that has been very popular is a vote for Best in Show, in which laurels and extra credit are given to the movie with the most votes.ย  Sometimes I let a second class decide the winner (helping create a culture of continuity and expectation through the levels), and sometimes I also give a Best Reason Award and ask every student in the class to explain what part of the adaptation they liked best about their favorite film.ย  But after awhile seeing mostly the same myths picked year after year led me to the idea I tried last yearโ€ฆ
  2. Myth Mash Up! – In this idea we test mythโ€™s power of symbolism, trope/stereotype, and theme to tell us interesting things about the human condition.ย  Students divide up into groups and then pick a random genre, two characters, and a place that they must turn into the trailer for a movie or TV show.ย  Last year I filled the character and place bags with the usual suspects (Jupiter, Pan, Achilles, Medusa, Mt. Olympus, a sacred grove, the wine-dark sea, etc.) and in the genre category I had Medical Drama, Cop Show, Horror, Romance, Sitcom, Talk Show, Documentary, and Comedy.ย  The movies were some of the most creative Iโ€™d seen in years, and since I also asked each group to explain the motifs, stereotypes, and so on of their movie before they presented it, the groups really thought about how to use the attributes of their places and people to work within the genre they were assigned.
  3. If youโ€™ve got a good crew of upper level Latin students who can speak at the intermediate level, you can use them to make videos that your Latin 1 students can watch and get some comprehensible input from.ย  I havenโ€™t made good use of this yet, but itโ€™s in my wheelhouse for this year or next.
  4. Our school has a school-wide Language Fair and the upper level students in all languages create videos for their peers in the other languages to enjoy.ย  This can be a great way to showcase student talent and maybe even get a few people to double-up in Latin next year!ย  Last year my students did Myth-o-Mercials – Medea sold love potions, Pandora promoted boxes, and so on.
  5. There are short videos on YouTube presenting funny situations without using any words.ย  Here are some examples – Wildebeest from BirdBox Studio,ย Dinner also from BirdBox Studio, or Snow Cat from Simonโ€™s Cat. ย While I was at Rusticatio last year, we were shown two such shorts with many stops in order to not only describe what was going on but also to wonder about what might happen next.ย  Thereโ€™s lots of opportunity for fun discussion and comprehensible input here while everyone practices their language skills.ย  This is best probably in an upper level Latin class where students have some command of basic vocabulary and can speak at the sentence or paragraph level.

How do you use videos and movies in your classes?ย  Weโ€™d love to know!ย  Add your ideas to the comment section of this post.