In Latin, we're synthesizing our learning through magic spells, historical orations, literature analysis, and board game creation.

 

This block the Latin students synthesized what they've learned and revived a culture. Through a series of magic potions, we took everything we had learned, put it into a cauldron, and uttered the magic (Latin) word, bringing a dead language and an ancient world back to life! Our activities this block required students to bring to bear the full range of skills and knowledge they had learned this year: they wrote their own Latin magic spells (and you thought it was just a metaphor!), performed historical Latin orations, analyzed Latin literature, and created board games based on Roman culture.

Before writing their own spells, students got another taste of modern Latin by reading spells from Harry Potter and the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”; they translated, found a few grammar errors, and—since we always discuss language as part of a specific social context—considered the fictional circumstances of each spell. Students then created their own spells, the effects of which ranged from freezing a person in place eternally to joining two friends into a single body to conquer evil.

Students continued to explore and discuss ancient Latin texts as well. We read an excerpt adapted from Cicero’s famous oration in the Roman senate against Catiline and his co-conspirators. After close reading the passage, noting especially how Cicero uses various rhetorical devices to persuade his listeners, students got a chance to perform the oration themselves. Working in pairs, they practiced reciting the Latin aloud, modulating their tone and volume, as well as their hand gestures and facial expressions, to bring emphasis to important moments, show structural shifts, and call attention to the meaning of the words through performance.

For their final exam, students had to translate a long Latin passage narrating the mythical story of Echo and Narcissus (adapted from Ovid’s Metamorphoses), and answer a range of questions about it. A few of the questions about the passage were in Latin, and students had to answer in Latin. Some questions aimed to check students’ understanding of the story and its language, asking them, for example, to identify the three different verb tenses used in a particular sentence and explain (in English) what those shifting tenses indicated in the story. The last question asked students to interpret the passage as a whole and consider why the story of Echo and that of Narcissus would be paired together. Throughout, students had to organize their thoughts into paragraphs and to quote the Latin text directly to give evidence for each of their ideas.

For the final project of the year, students created board games to synthesize and showcase what they’ve learned this year. The game had to be based in some way on Roman history and culture and had to require players to answer Latin language questions of a variety of types—translation, grammar, interpretation, speaking, etc. We played these games in our last class! One student’s game shows the connection between Roman religion and political authority during the monarchical period: priests of the god Jupiter try to overthrow King Numa by making sacrifices or holding feasts to win the god’s favor and thus gain political authority. Another student’s game has players contending in a Roman chariot race. And another’s is a version of Clue, but instead of Colonel Mustard and a billiard room, the people are historical Roman figures and the rooms are temples and other buildings in the Roman Forum. The students all learned a huge amount this year and grew in their language skills. They are excited to display their games at the Symposium!

--Sydney Cochran