In Latin class, students are taking the lead on their learning.
Across the curriculum, our students are given the opportunity to drive their own learning. In Latin class this block, for instance, they have invented new ways of reviewing old material, moderated class discussions and activities, and written questions, both interpretive and grammatical, about the passages of Latin literature and history that we've read.
The students began the block by working in pairs to help each other review the Latin language they learned the last two blocks. Each pair came up with an interactive activity to review a particular grammar concept and set of vocabulary, and then led the whole class in participating. Some groups created out-loud verb-conjugation games that required the class to work together and listen to one another, while others used a trivia-style question-and-answer format. One group even gave a vocabulary quiz that included fake words to test the students' mastery of Latin nouns.
More recently, as we've been practicing reading comprehension of longer passages of Latin, the students worked in small groups to lead a class discussion of one of these excerpts. And rather than presenting the passage (reading aloud, translating, and analyzing it themselves), they had to lead the class in doing these things by serving as moderators and teachers. As part of their preparation, they came up with three grammatical and three interpretive questions to ask their classmates. This meant not only understanding what the text said, but identifying which aspects of the grammar or syntax were the most complicated or interesting, and even more importantly, which aspects of the language might help us explore the text through close reading and interpretation.
Students often were able to combine their grammatical and interpretive questions, asking, for instance, about the effect of shifting verb tenses in a dedication by the Roman poet Catullus. Students also brought up important issues of cultural comparison when examining, for instance, an excerpt by the Roman historian Livy about Lucretia, a woman who became famous for her virtue—an even an impetus for political revolution—when she committed suicide after being raped by the Roman king. Here the students even made connections to their Literature class, discussing the different meanings attributed to death in different societies and time periods.
Next week we'll continue our exploration of Roman history and life by reading a few texts in translation, including a fascinating legal treatise from 5th century B.C.E. We'll focus particularly on the hierarchical structures of class in Ancient Rome and the conflicts that arose between the different classes. These issues will tie in well with the high schoolers' topic of poverty and homelessness during last block's build week and will allow them the opportunity to think about class conflicts in America today through historical comparison.
By leading and creating their own activities and discussions, the Latin students this block are practicing synthesizing, reorganizing, and reconceptualizing their knowledge, and are coming to appreciate the depth and complexity of this new language they're learning, relating to it as a sort of sphinx who asks questions of those who come seeking answers.