Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Living the Happy Life

I offered this poem to my Latin III students recently. They dutifully translated it, but, as it should be, they did not appreciate the message:

Martial X.47: "Living the Happy Life"

Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
Iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
Res non parta labore, sed relicta;
Non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
Lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
Vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
Prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
Convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis;
Non tristis torus, et tamen pudicus;
Somnus, qui faciat breves tenebras:
Quod sis, esse velis nihilque malis;
Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

And here is my (somewhat free) translation:

Martial, my good man, these things make for a happier life:
stuff not gotten from work, but left to you;
a happy garden, always a fire in the stove;
never being called to court, a little-used suit, a mind at peace;
free-born strength, a healthy body;
straight-talking wisdom and friends who feel the same way;
modest entertainment, simple food;
not partying all night, but free from cares;
not sleeping alone, but not around either;
dreams which make the night pass quickly:
may you want to be who you are and long for nothing;
may you neither dread your final day nor look forward to it.
Certainly words of wisdom which could have been typed by anyone seeking to shut out the frenzy of the modern world and not penned by someone over 1,900 years ago.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cheering for Compositions

Composition, the translation of English into Latin, has long been a chore for students learning Latin. I've always enjoyed the mental exercise and find it to be a useful teaching activity. What other assignment requires students to apply everything they've practiced and learned in one, neat, little package? My students, though, can find it tedious and even frustrating. I'm sure that I'm not the only teacher who has this experience!

I do have a game we play occasionally to make composition more interesting and exciting... turn it into a competition!

This is what I do:

1) Divide the students into three teams. You can do this randomly or assign them by ability to get a good combination on each team.

2) Divide your blackboard/whiteboard into three sections; assign each team to a section. Keep the sections close together so that you can see all three at the same time.

3) Announce that each team will be translating the same sentence into Latin and the first team that gets the sentence completely correct will win the point or get credit. Here's the catch: each team puts their sentence on the board but the teacher can only say, "There are no correct sentences on the board" until one of them is completely correct. The teacher can offer no assistance or even tell the teams where the problems are -- that is the job of each team to determine.

4) Continue assigning sentences from a list or an exercise in the textbook as time and tolerance will allow. The team with the most points at the end of the game will receive credit, extra credit, or some other reward.


A) Only one person from a team at the board at a time. This allows the teacher to see the whole board and determine which sentence is correct first. Students have to "tag team" to get to the board. A team shouting at a member on the board often leads to confusion or frustration. Have the team member return to the group's huddle.

B) Don't assign the sentences for homework ahead of time. One diligent student can dominate the team and the whole game.

C) Don't worry about teams "copying" the sentences from other teams on the board. This is part of the learning process. Also, savvy teams have been known to leave an obvious error which can lead another team astray but can be easily corrected to catch the win.

D) Encourage the members of each team to work together to figure out the sentence. When the pressure is on and there are three incorrect sentences on the board, the suggestion or idea of everyone on the team can make the difference between winning or losing.

E) You can make more than three teams if you have enough board space and you feel comfortable looking at multiple sentences at the same time.

I have found no other technique which makes translating into Latin so exciting. To hear students cheer when they have translated a sentence correctly is truly music to a Latin teacher's ears!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Amy High Latin Foundation

I attended a fundraiser for the Amy High Latin Foundation on Saturday, May 13. I decent event, all in all. One of the highlights was a demonstration by the Legio XX:

It seems there is a living history event called Roman Days 2006 coming up in Maryland the weekend of June 3-4, 2006. I just might have to check it out!

But back to the subject of my post... Amy High was a dynamic teacher who taught Latin on all levels, her last assignment was teaching third-graders in Fairfax County, VA. You may have seen an article on her in Time magazine back in December of 2000. You may also remember her as Iulia Pauli, the roving reporter in the Forum Romanum video series produced by the National Latin Exam. Tragically, Amy died a few years ago. She loved traveling to Rome and studying oral Latin under Reginald Foster, the Latin cleric to the Pope. As her legacy, her husband and several very close friends established the Amy High Latin Foundation to support aspiring and experienced Latin teachers who have a desire to travel to the Eternal City and study. To date, the foundation has awarded more than $30,000 in scholarships.

If you are a Latin teacher (or will soon become one) and have any interest in traveling to Rome to brush up on your oral Latin skills, this is a valuable source of inspiration and funding.

Finally, the Foundation is always looking for donations. If you have extra funds in need of a worthy cause, this is one of the "biggies" for the study of oral Latin.