Monday, July 27, 2015

Untextbooking: Getting Ready for School Part 2

New update on my activities! I have been busy outside of school things, so things are moving slowly, but this is where I am:

The Novella

The big thing I'm working on to get ready for school at this point is writing the novella to review the vocabulary we worked on last year.

I had planned to write my own original novella (which I may still do at some point, just not these last few days of summer), but then something occurred to me that was probably obvious to all of you: it would be more efficient to have students read something based on Roman comedy as our review, since the first unit I'll be teaching that they chose is going to be all about Roman comedy. So instead, I'm adapting Auricula Meretricula to fit their vocabulary and adding in repetitions. My main goal is to keep the sense of humor and reflection of Roman tropes, while culling a great deal of vocabulary.

My process in picture form. Not
pictured: coffee.
So far I've completed two scenes out of ten and am working on the third. I am a huge technophile; that said, my process for creating in Latin always includes hand writing and having a list I can check off by hand--I require all that visceral experience to feel like I'm getting somewhere.

Once I finish adapting the play, I'll compile all the scenes (I'm writing them on separate Google documents right now) and the vocabulary lists (I'm creating separate lists for scenes and one unified vocabulary list all on one Google spreadsheet) into a booklet. Then I'll put our honors society students to use as booklet bundlers, which is totally a thing.

My one concern at the moment regarding the novella is illustration. While I'm not publishing this novella, since the story and situations in it are not my own, I still feel uncomfortable using the illustrations that are original to the book. I am considering making my own, which would be stick figures (I have little motivation to draw anything fancier). I am honestly not sure where I'll end up in terms of illustrating the booklet, but I think images break up longer novels, and just like younger readers, my students are using a lot of their brain power to read a novella in Latin and need the break and comprehension guidance images can provide.

My goal for the novella's length is 2000 or so words, based on Karen Rowan's Las Adventuras de Isabela, which is a charming Spanish novella I borrowed from a neighboring teacher a few years ago. Because of the format of the play, it is difficult to know exactly how many words I'm actually typing (every time I type a character's name to lead into dialogue it counts as a word), but I think I'm on track. Ideally, every word I need reviewed will have no fewer than 15 repetitions; that would mean that when discussing the novel there will be almost endless potential for repeating each word.


The other thing I'm working on, mostly in the back of my head right now, is planning. This will be the first time I've ever taught a novel in a Latin class; if you teach a modern language you have probably done it before, but access to novels that are accessible and graded and scaffolded is severely limited for Latin teachers. Some of us have started creating these novels, though, so it's an exciting time to be a Latin teacher.

Back to the topic at hand, I am using a planning document that Miriam created that is simple, clear, and helps organization both in planning and prepping for class:
What's brilliant about the document is that it lays out what we're doing and lets me link anything I need for my classes. If we're doing a powerpoint (which is generally a Google slides document for me), I can link it in the plan and then just click it when I need it. Anything I need to project goes there. At the bottom, I can help myself plan by letting myself know whenever I need copies for a class. Ideally I'll do my weekly copies every Friday before I leave; I probably won't every time, but this may help me stay organized enough to do so.

In addition to this microlevel planning (which I have not progressed very far on, as you can see), I am still thinking big picture. I'm thinking the novella will take 2-3 weeks and then I can start introducing new vocabulary and working toward authentic texts. My favorite Roman Comedy stock character is a Parasitus, so I'll be looking for my favorite parasite introduction to use with my students, and aside from that one, the braggart soldier and slave introductions can be interesting. I am also deciding which plays to include scenes from and which not to.

Lastly, in planning the Battles and Wars unit, I have determined that Fridays, after we've read something in Latin that week about a battle or strategy, etc., I'll tell students what has happened in the war against Hannibal so far and let them decide their next moves. I don't know yet if it will take entire class periods or not; this is pure experimentation for me. But I am feeling optimistic.


  1. Maximas gratias tibi ago! I have recently returned from Rusticatio Veteranorum and the NTPRS conference. My biggest question has been "now what?" I have been teaching with CI for two years and abandoned the textbook mid-year last year. The untextbooking process you are writing about here is exactly what I need! I love all of your details. I just might be able to do this. I polled my students and their top two categories were food / dining and games. Another top category was the relationships between gods and mortals. So my big picture plan is to use Ovid's story of Baucis and Philemon. I don't start school until August 25th, so I'll be checking in with your blog and your unit writing process. I'm super excited! Tammy Kantzes aka Luna.

    1. I am just so glad that it's useful to someone! Please keep me posted on how things go for you this year.

  2. I just love all of this:) I have been am untextbooker for years (although I steal from many text books). I love to use my own stories with my students.

    1. Thank you! I'd love to hear about what you do in your own classes then :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this window into your planning process. I will definitely be doing an Auricula unit with my students (3rd year). From what I have heard from mod. language teachers, a novella of 2000 words can be stretched out more than two weeks, depending on what you plan to do with the text (parallel story, dictatio, illustrations, traditional assessments, and of course student actors). This is a rich text, and could be the end in itself, as it will be for my Latin 3, since I don't think they will be quite ready for a real Plautus/Terence play (and neither am I right now!). Let me know if I can help with the planning. I don't start until the end of the month, so I have a bit of time.

    1. I'd love suggestions or resources for tackling a reading like a novella instead of a single setting reading. That will be an entirely new experience for me. And while we will be reading excerpts from Plautus (probably not Terrence; I just don't like his plays as much) we're not reading entire plays from Plautus in Latin or English. With lots of embedding and scaffolding! But ideas for tackling a novella would be incredibly helpful.