Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Glorious Moment - They are Hooked!

In August Rachel began the year with an adapted novella for her Latin II classes. I also teach one class of Latin II, so I was able to follow along with her and experience much of the same things she did.

Now, in Latin I, we are reading the original Latin novella Pluto: fabula amoris. It is different from Rachel's because it is not a play, but rather a narration, told from people's point of view. I am building teachers' resources as I teach the novel (which will be offered through PBP later this year) and I am learning some things as I go. I borrowed from Rachel's experience, along with the plethora of research she and I did in the hopes of finding activities and suggestions for teaching a novella in a second language. I also am keeping notes on things I see in my students as well.

Building To It

We started the year using edited version of mythological stories Rachel wrote last year. They covered the beginning of the world, the birth of the gods, and introduced us to important characters like Jupiter, Juno, etc. Students were exposed to vocabulary based on frequency lists and the 50 Most Important Verbs list. As we read, the length of the readings increased slightly, but were still fairly short. We also discussed culture and mythology as well as the implications of it. 

I purposefully made sure that we'd learned most of the words in the novella by the time we read it. My intention was to spend a little time at the beginning of chapters filling in words, but by the time we got to the chapters with the action, just be reading with the class. 

Basic Structure

I will post more on this when I discuss the details of the teachers' resources for the book, but we've settled into a general schedule for things in which activities may vary or may be options for teachers and students:

Introduction and Vocabulary Instruction

This beginning section can include a variety of things and may be as simple as 5-10 minutes before reading or, in some cases, an entire day or week before reading. Here are some of the things we've done for this:
  • Culture videos, presentations, and discussions - Some of these will be included in the teachers' resources, others are readily available on the internet. I used a variety of videos, and artwork from various eras to introduce our two main characters and discuss perceptions of them, prior to reading. I also used this opportunity to pose questions that students have been considering as we read. Some will have definite answers in the book; others are open to interpretation. 
  • Activities with Vocabulary - You can see more details of the things I typically do here. This activity greatly varied in time depending on how far into the story we were and how many words needed to be introduced. Today, for example, we had two new words, so I introduced those words, we took brief notes, and then I circled them a little during our reading. At the beginning of the book, when we'd have 5-8 new words, I'd take a week or so to teach new words and circle.

Reading and Comprehension

I am including any and all activities that we use to ensure comprehension while reading in this section. Here is a link to some of the regular activities we use. Typically, I space these things out like this:

  • Dictatio - I only do this for some chapters. Since they were short, I did not want to do one every time. These activities are very useful, but only if done once in a while. They are tedious and students tire of them very quickly.
  • Reading and Discussion - This can take many forms. I try to alternate between them to keep things moving and give students lots of ways to demonstrate their understanding. This usually takes between 1-2 days to do, depending on the activity. 
  • Comprehension Checks - These activities reinforce the reading, help me see just how much students understand on their own, and provide support for students who need more. These can be whole class activities (like the seek and find activity we're doing today - Rachel will post on this later), group activities (like musical/popcorn reading) or individual (use of the reading guides, comic strips, etc.)

Follow Up

One of my first presentations that I gave to my colleagues was on teaching culture in the target language. Since then, I've tried as much as I can to make culture applicable to students and keep as much as I can in the target language. The same holds true when I consider teaching culture in my novella. So far, I've been keeping a list of things students ask questions about and things that I want to teach. I will discuss this in more detail when I finish the teachers' resources, but for now, we've done a variety of activities including:

  • Artwork Discussions - Latin and English
  • Character Analysis - Latin and English -
  • Reflection on Products, Perspectives, and Practices  - Mostly English - Students write, or discuss, in English the products, perspectives, and practices of Roman life based on our readings.
  • Discovery of Traditions (Practices) - Mostly Latin - I am writing a follow up post on this for the teachers resources; essentially I am using dictations, picture vocabulary, and manipulatives to teach culture traditions. 
  • Audio Recordings - Latin - As we've posted before here and here, we're beginning to build students' listening skills with audio activities. We pair these with text, an opportunity to take notes and discuss, and, often, artwork. 


I am still working on teaching this novella and I find myself trying to come up with new ways to teach vocabulary and the text so the kids don't get bored. What I've found, however, is that a compelling text that is in their range keeps them from getting bored. We are now in the section of the text where actions are occurring and things are getting interesting. Students are asking to know what happens next, who people are, why they are doing what they are doing. They want to know when we'll see certain characters again and what people are thinking. They are analysing on their own, without little to no guidance from me and, as I teach this, I am finding their interests and aspects of history and culture that go with this novella that I otherwise wouldn't have thought of. 

Do you have success teaching a novella? Do you have any suggestions for my class? Let us know in the comments!

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