Writing in Latin

Sunday, 8 October 2017 12:31 pm
ginlindzey: At ACL (Default)
[personal profile] ginlindzey
 Last year I tried having Latin free write days where for 7-10 minutes students would do a timed write in Latin. We used sheets with word blanks provided (5 per line) and word counts provided at the ends of the lines.

I had mixed feelings all year about what to do with them, how to provide feedback or whether to provide feedback. Written? One on one sessions? The effectiveness? Towards the end of the year I just stopped doing them. I didn't feel it was a productive use of their time or mine. There was no structure at all. If anything, I felt it allowed for the reinforcement of their own errors. Instructionally it felt poorly designed.  Yes, some students liked it and, yes, it did diminish their fear of trying to write in Latin since they had been doing it all year. But otherwise I didn't feel that it added to their learning.

Yet there is no question that while my students typically end up being strong readers of Latin, most of them couldn't compose worth a darn on the fly. It is something I don't really work on. Thus writing IS something I want to do more of. Somehow.

One of the things I enjoy doing from time to time is rewriting a passage of Latin to suit my own needs. I recall once rewriting a passage of Martial complaining that "friend" wasn't reciprocating on dinner invitations to make it about a "friend" not replying to my emails. I was mindful of the structures used in the passage and even tried to keep the meter (but that wasn't critical for my purposes), carefully monitoring my changes in vocabulary and how it affected other structures, etc.

This, I felt, was always a way to control and improve my writing. So I tried it Friday with my Latin 1s.

I demonstrated via this Google Slides Presentation what sort of thing I wanted. In it, you will see the story "amicus" from CLC Stage 2. It's a short, simple story. I pointed out grammatical structures/forms we had been discussing (Nominiatives vs Accusatives, prepositional phrases, action vs linking verbs, etc). Then on the next slide is a story I had created using the name of a student in one of the classes. I pointed out how I had started with the "amicus" story and used only one change per sentence until incorporating those changes led to something more interesting (story-wise). For instance, when I decided the father needed to curse at both the cook and his daughter, I realized the story line was about how the cook apparently had tried to teach the man's daughter (my student) to cook but that she was still a horrible cook. In the process I stole some lines from other stories like "in triclinio" and even "Cerberus" to fit my needs. In other words, I didn't have to stick tightly to "amicus;" it was just a guide and a starting place.

The challenge for the assignment is using ONLY what you know and what you have seen. The rules were: 1) You could NOT use any vocabulary we had not seen either in the book or elsewhere (greetings and such we had worked on before starting the text) this year. 2) It could not be rude.

The students had the last half hour of class so there wasn't a rush. There was time to think and have fun. We used the same paper that I had made up last year for automatically counting words, and most students wrote between 40-60 words. Of course the results weren't perfect (they are students after all), BUT I felt there was a lot more right and productive about writing like this than just a loose free write. And the students seemed to enjoy it.

I think I will keep using this kind of writing for the rest of the year to see what happens. If you try this as well, let me know how it works for you and your students.

P.S. I am not declaring that free writes or timed writes are bad; only that I felt they didn't work for me. My spoken Latin isn't fluent enough thus my students don't get a 90% exposure to comprehensible input, which I feel they would need for this to work well. I am simply positing another possible writing activity that isn't just composition from English to Latin.


"There's nothing I enjoy as much as a jolly catastrophe"
—J. G. Ballard

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