Friday, August 12, 2016

Latin by Numbers

In Latin II this year, we are reviewing the numbers in Latin (cardinal, ordinal, and numerals). They learned 1-20 last year (and we looked at 30-100/1000). This year, we have taken a day to review them so that we can use them as part of our daily goal of 90+% Latin time.

In this post, I'm including a variety of activities and lesson materials that both Rachel and I have used to teach these lessons


Via Song

Last year, when I was teaching the ones, I worked with children's songs to help teach the numbers. I edited/translated two children's songs into Latin and recorded myself singing them. While translating them came fairly easily, I also edited them so that the Latin fit the meter. This proved slightly challenging, but fortunately Latin grammar made it very easy to work with:

Decem in Lecto

This song is based on the English song that goes, "There were ten in the bed and the little one said, 'roll over! roll over!' So they all rolled over and one fell out." And it goes to "There was one in the bed and the little one said...." And then you get variations in how the song ends, depending on the version of the nursery rhyme. 

  1. The Song - This is me singing using a website that provides free beats and background music depending on choices I make. There are lots of these for free online or for download if you have Windows. 
  2. The Lyrics - I passed this out to students. It has the Latin, English, and hand signals we used in class. 
When we did this song, we went over it together and then sang it until we understood it well and students could sing it on their own. 

Decem Ursulae

This song is based on the counting song that goes, "one little, two little, three little.." it usually goes to 20. I chose to use the term "little bears" and, at the end of each verse, "Romae" (in Rome). 

  1. The Song - Again, me singing, using the same website. This song definitely goes fast, but the students found it to be a fun challenge.
  2. The Lyrics - There are no hand signs for this. Since the song goes so fast, I chose not to include hand signs. What we did do, however, is counted using fingers. I counted using American Sign Language, allowing us to count to 20 on one hand. 
  3. The Activity - Rachel used a different method to teach this song to her class. She made signs of the lyrics (numbers, ursulae, Romae, etc.) and passed them out to each student. When they sing the song, and get to their number or word, they must hold it up. At first, she did this in order of their seats, but then she switched it up and students had to pay special attention to the sign they had and where in the song they were.

Via Counting

I stole this from a language teacher who taught me when I was younger and, while some kids find it a bit tedious sometimes, I always sweeten the pot with a potential "100" on a standard grade. 

  1. practice counting with students. Go up and down the rows/groups/etc of students and they count one at a time. For example, the first student says "unus", the second "duo", the third "tres", and so on.
  2. Every time someone messes up significantly (read: not on a minor pronunciation error), or forgets, the class helps and repeats the number, and we start counting from the beginning. 
  3. When we have gotten through everyone successfully, a small round of applause is given.

Then.... we make a deal

I give students a set amount of time to study the numbers and then we count again in a new order. If they get them all right (after a practice round of course), the entire class can earn a 100 on the appropriate standard. Students love this. It builds community and allows them a chance to show off their skills in what appears to be a high pressure situation, but in reality, is very low pressure. I make it low pressure by:
  1. first counting with them, as a class, and discussing the patterns within the number "formulas"
  2. counting repeatedly in the rows/groups/etc. allowing for errors and rewarding everyone for a job well done with applause.
  3. allowing them time to practice and study together and ask questions
  4. including a "surprise" practice round where I correct any major errors and they get to see where they will fall in line
  5. feigning "hearing problems" when mistakes are made.... For example:
    teacher: twenty one
    student: undeviginti (19)
    teacher: I'm sorry, I couldn't quite hear you.... 21?
    student: oh! viginti et unus
    teacher: ah, yes, 21 
My rationale (especially for number 5) is this. Numbers can be hard. We only use certain numbers regularly and, unless you are used to the patterns presented in the language, learning how to form numbers doesn't come naturally (think of someone learning English who might say, "oneteen" instead of "eleven" or saying "eleventy"). By providing these safety nets and feigning hearing issues, I ensure students will take the risk and succeed. There are plenty of other opportunities to reinforce the numbers. 

Via Math

For this activity, I combined what is commonly called a "Tea Party" and math equations in the target language (only addition). Here is how it worked:

The Set Up

I made pairs of equations that had the same answer; for example: duo et tres = 5 = quattuor et unus. Then I cut up each equation separately. I wrote out to the side the answer in Roman numerals just to help me keep track of what I was doing. I mixed up the equations so that no two pairs were near each other. Then, I gave each student an equation.

The Game

I told students they had to find their "equation buddy", but there were rules. These are also the rules for the general "Tea Party" activity. 

  1.  Fine the person who has the matching piece to yours. 
  2. You may only speak Latin.
  3. You may only say what is on your card. 
  4. When you find your partner, sit down. 
So, for example. If I have the cad that says, "duo et tres". I need to find the person whose card matches (in answer) mine, but I can only say, "duo et tres" to each person. 

The Added Bonus

When students found their partners, I added a second step, with the promise of a sticker for the first 5 teams done. Students and their partners must solve the equation and write the answer in Roman numerals. So, students who had the example equation above would come show me the Roman numeral V.


Numbers can be interesting, and also boring, all at once. Often, since they aren't super high frequency, they are easily forgotten, and yet, at the same time, we need them, especially if we use the target language in our classroom every day. Class flew by today, for me and my students and they walked out feeling successful and having practiced numbers a variety of ways.

Building safety nets allows students to feel, and be, successful, which is key to learning. Allowing students to "make a deal" lets them be in control of their own learning and tells you about their confidence and skill level. "Making the deal" also lets you see how they work as a community. Hopefully, students will work together, lift each other up, support each other, and laugh together when mistakes are made. 

No comments:

Post a Comment