Latin Question

James Hosler has a question for our core group of Latinists:

I feel I’m getting a hang on the ideas, if not the practice yet, of jGR, PQA, CWB, R&D and all the day-to-day stuff.

The one thing I am looking nervously at is SSR. Texts just don’t exist in Latin. Especially not for level 1 students. What novels do you use for level 1 SSR? I am thinking my only option will be to translate simple TPRS-style novels from English into Latin, but even then how do level 1 students read a novel with 100+ unique words?!

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6 thoughts on “Latin Question”

  1. I wouldn’t recommend SSR for level 1. I say this after trying it last year without really thinking it through. Oops! It is not worth doing because they don’t have enough language under their belts, in my opinion. Maybe second semester level 1? But my kids (French) gave honest feedback that they didn’t think it helped because they didn’t understand most of what they read. There were a few exceptions, like kids who read simple stories like Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood Good Night Moon, etc. But unless it is a story that is very simple and that they know already it doesn’t really work.

    Since the idea is that the reading should be easy enough to feel like “light reading,” I think that level 1 kids are not yet able to handle this. Probably the best reading for level 1 kids are the class stories. I am just thinking off the cuff right now, and have never tried this, but I might…have them read old class stories for SSR???

    1. I’ve been thinking the same thing that level 1 wouldn’t get much out of SSR. I think Ben has said something like that before too, that the new students need time of aural input first. That rings true to me.

      I like the idea of using “level 1” texts in level 2 and maybe even into level 3. The problem for Latin teachers, though, is still present: There just aren’t any texts that are truly level 1 (aside from maybe the first few chapters in a few “reading method” textbook series like Cambridge and Oxford).

  2. I don’t know if this helps, but I thought that a number of Dr. Seuss books have been translated into Latin. Would those work?

    Chinese has a similar problem. Most books designed for Chinese kids have tons of vocabulary (even if they show the pinyin, it’s way more than most early learners can really get something from). I found a series of basic readers truly designed for Chinese learners (not fluent kids) that has worked well with motivated students — but the content is aimed at 5-year-olds so they have to be willing to see something silly. I have had beginning students “read” this way – or let them choose from English-content books about China (I figure it’s cultural knowledge), or browse through books designed for Chinese kids (comic books, poetry books, folk tales). Those are well over their vocabulary, but they look for words they do know, browse the pictures, and find out how a new word or two look.

    For 5 minutes once a week I think it’s been useful in classes where they enjoy learning for its own sake. It hasn’t worked with several older students (that’s 7th and 8th) who aren’t motivated unless something is graded. Since I don’t have novels or readings that I can easily use for this, I’ve stopped doing free reading with those classes.

  3. Yeah, this is an issue for me as well in Latin class. The Dr. Seuss stuff or Winnie Ille Pu are crazy hard even for me, so forget that for a kid. I have tried to read bits of the Cat and the Hat for my 2nd year middle schoolers, but even then it is too tough. My kids do love kindergarten reading which we have only done a few times. Look at tarheel readers and there are a couple of things there.

    I also have tried to adapt some of my students’ freewrites to use as quiet reading material at the beginning of class. As an end of semester project I had them type up on google docs their favorite freewrite of the year and try to expand it to 200-300 words. I graded it, but very gently and only based on comprehensensibility and complexity. They also created comics of their story at toondoo.com which is a ton of fun for them. Then I went through and fixed up the stories so that they are correctly written, and I glossed a few new words that might be hard for them.

    Honestly, it was too much work to do that all at once, but if I took one freewrite a week to fix up, by the end of the year I would have 30 of them – all with basic vocabulary. In fact, I am going to use the ones that my beginners created in my second year class. My idea is to make 2 copies of each one with the comic stapled on, and put the bunch of them in the front of the room at the beginning of class and let the kids choose one to read. We’ll see how it works.

    1. I agree that even “children” books have way too much vocabulary. What I really need is about 500 pages of simple Latin prose that reads just like Cambridge Latin Stages 1-4. I guess nobody has had the stomach to write something like that!

  4. I spent years going back and forth on the question of whether to make/adapt/translate easy Latin prose for SSR/FVR. And thanks to this PLC and my experience and conversations at NTPRS, I dropped it–aside from the goal of embedded adaptations of the textbook I am using, which has good stories, just with too much vocab. Again, I teach middle school, so I have to be realistic about my kids’ maturity level, and No pre-made text could compete with the stories students come up with and therefore have interest and ownership of. It’s just not worth the effort of busting one’s a** to create something that students don’t really give a darn about, and is just another assignment given to them by a teacher. I mean teachers need to stop spinning our wheels to create more and more “tools” for the “toolbox.” Haven’t we agreed that that metaphor is wrong and played out? We don’t need any more materials. We need to change the way we teach the language.

    As a side note, the Latin “childrens'” books are attempts by Latin scholars to show off, not to create a readable text. The only exception I can think of is Tela Carlottae (charlotte’s web), which a colleague read with his 4th year AP’s. But even that is pushing it for most HS age students. I have studied with the translator of the Seuss books. He is one of the most intimidating teachers I have ever met. He stares at you while you attempt to speak to him in Latin, and physically cringes at every grammatical error you make, before correcting you. He lurks on Bob and my list, waiting to lash out at any perceived affront to his program or textbook or method.

    Another aside: a teacher was recently fired from a private middle school in Tampa, FL because, among other things, he “slapped a student in April and referred to students by demeaning nicknames that sometimes made fun of their learning disabilities and weight.”
    This is part of the tradition of Latin pedagogy.

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