Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pluto: Fabula Amoris - The Good, The Bad, The Update

Back in October, Rachel and I announced our first publication as both authors and publishers of Pomegranate Beginnings Publishing. Since then, we've continued teaching and are both working on future publications to share.

I used Pluto: fabula amoris with my Latin I students from October to December of this school year. Both the midterm and final exam focused on this text and we incorporated a variety of activities to help students not only read and understand the story but to also enjoy it.

After teaching the novella and testing out resources, I am finally ready to share the Pluto: fabula amoris Teacher's Guide. It is available online for free and in print for those who'd prefer it in print from both Create Space and Amazon.com.

The Teacher's Guide includes lots of notes and items that teachers may find useful while teaching with Pluto: fabula amoris; but it is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other ways to teach with Pluto: fabula amoris. The guide is meant to assist and guide, but not dictate the way you use the text.

This has been quite a journey with our first book and we are so thankful to all of the people who helped us get there. I am also thankful to my colleague, and father Robert Patrick for working with me to teach this novella this fall and give me honest feedback on what was and wasn't working. I also want to publicly thank Robert Patrick, Keith Toda, Rachel Ash, and Alina Filepescu for allowing me to publish links to their blogs and use them for activity inspiration. From all this I developed what I wanted for the Teacher's Guide.
Teacher's Guide Cover

I believe the guide is self explanatory in that I tried to detail as much as possible, but I do want to preview it by giving a list of the types of things you can find:

  1. grammar/vocabulary usage notes
  2. outside culture resources
  3. culture questions to consider
  4. word clouds for each chapter
  5. images for each chapter
  6. reading guides for each chapter
  7. a variety of other activities for the chapters
  8. a list of activity resources you can use to make more activities
  9. audio readings for each chapter (nota bene: we've tried to make the downloadable, but at the time this is not available through our means. I will update if this changes.)

Teaching a Novella

I want to spend some time talking about my experience teaching with this novella. I used it with my Latin I students after they'd had about 2 and a half months of Latin study. 


I encountered many struggles when deciding to and while teaching my novella. The first was the lack of materials available on teaching with a novella. There are some out there, mainly geared towards modern language novellas, but overall the resources and ideas were lacking. I felt completely on my own and it was overwhelming. 

Additionally, I didn't want the materials I created to be worksheet heavy or made to feel like kids were doing book reports. Many of the resources I was able to look at involved something akin to a reading report for each chapter or were the same activities and worksheets for each chapter. This is not a criticism of others' work, but rather an explanation of where I drew from. 

The Reading Guides

I ultimately decided, based on what I was seeing for other languages and English courses, to make a reading guide for each chapter that would focus on basic vocabulary, and comprehension. None of the guides require paragraphs or reports, but try to make use of various activities to form different assessments. The first section on each guide allowed students to take vocabulary notes when they were reading or during our activities. The second always involved some form of drawing. I included:
  • comic strips
  • single scenes
  • character cards
  • dictatio/pictatio
The final piece involved some variety of comprehension activities:
  • Questions in Latin on basic comprehension
  • Questions in English on basic comprehension
  • False statements in Latin
  • Questions in English asking for deeper discussion on the culture themes of the text. 
Creating the guides this way kept them compelling for students and easy to work with and grade. Each one could be used for different standards in grading as well and highlighted different skills. 

The Structure of Each "Chapter Unit"

Before reading each chapter, I would prepare students for things in a certain way. While each unit was comprised of the same or nearly the same ideas, each activity varied. 

Introduction and Vocabulary 
  • Culture introduction (activity or discussion)
  • Teach new vocabulary: movie short, TPR, TPRS, dictatio, etc.
  • Reinforce new vocabulary: same conversation, Publius Publicanus, audio activity
  • Silent Reading and new vocabulary discussion
  • Reading Activity: Reading Option A, Read, Discuss, and Draw
Post Reading
  • Follow up Culture discussion (sometimes)
  • Comprehension activity: dramatic tableaux, False statements, comprehension questions, character cards, audio activity, etc. 
  • Final listening of audio from chapter for enjoyment
  • Timed Write


We assessed every 1-2 chapters depending on their length and whether we thought the students were ready. We made the assessments from material we'd done in class. I made the decision not to include the assessments in the teacher's guide. I didn't want teachers to feel like the tests were mandatory for teaching the novella and I didn't want teachers to feel restricted and like they had to "teach to the test". Rather, I wanted to encourage teachers to make their own tests match the way they teach. I am happy, however, to answer any questions regarding my assessments or the content of them. I will, however, lay out a variety of ways we assessed students. 
  1. Vocabulary Assessment: varied, but included giving Latin to English as well as translating sentences. Sometimes, it asked students to pick 5 of 10 words and draw a picture to define. 
  2. Comprehension Assessment: usually included questions in English about the text and/or false statements from the text. 
  3. Culture Assessment: we really stuck to discussions on this, basing our assessment on students' discussion and answers given in class. 
  4. Audio Assessment: we used this on our midterm and final (same link as given in introduction); but included descriptions of characters and students were to define who was being described. We always practised this in class before putting it on an assessment.


Feedback and Thoughts on this Method

Students responded well to these activities and enjoyed the book. They did well on the assessments and appreciated how we as teachers listened to their wants and needs. 


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