Community in the Latin Classroom · Latin Club/Junior Classical League · Seasonal Activities

March Madness, Latin Style

I am not really a sports enthusiast. I do watch a lot of basketball and I love UGA football, but I don’t know much about the logistics of the game. I do love a good competition, though, and I really, really love Latin… thus, March Madness, Latin style, also known as Martia Dementia.

I used Martia Dementia in Latin I CP last year, and I’m using it again this year with the same class now that they are in Latin II. I actually wasn’t planning to do this again for whatever reason, but some of my students asked about it today. They all really enjoyed it last year, and I am all about anything that gets them to have fun while using Latin.

Here’s how we did it. Our awesome librarians printed a large poster of a blank single-elimination blind draw bracket for me from Print Your Brackets. I kept this poster on the wall in my room and filled in the bracket as we progressed through the tournament. You could also print the seeded bracket, but I would randomly seed students for this (e.g. draw a name for 1 seed, 2 seed, and so on). I then had students claim a character from CLC Unit 1. I kept track of who represented whom in a Google spreadsheet.

Once we did that, I randomly assigned matches to students. Once they saw their opponent for the first round, they got to work on answering this question in Latin: “Why is your character more likely to survive the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius than your opponent’s character?” They were tasked with answering this in one sentence.

I gave them sentence starters (_______ supererit quod…) and we brainstormed vocabulary that they might want to use (fortior, callidior). This was a great way to practice using comparatives and superlatives in a fun context.

I gave them about 15 minutes to work on this in class. Then the next day we held the first round. Students faced their opponents in the front of the room and explained in Latin why their character would survive the eruption. Once each “match” was completed, the students voted anonymously on who had won – although, as with all decisions in my classroom, I have the final say (this is also known as the “I am in charge of everything” rule). We played one round of the tournament each day, so it only took about three or four days total for the entire activity, using between 5 and 20 minutes (depending on the round) in class each day.

One thing I was really worried about with this activity was that students would try to pull the thing that I always did in elementary school when we played dodgeball: purposefully trying to get out early to avoid having to play. I was pretty pleasantly surprised that each student really did try hard to win their match, and they were excited to come up with new sentences to beat their next opponent.

This year, we are bringing Martia Dementia back, but we are using (mostly) the characters from Unit 2, while bringing a few Unit 1 characters back from the dead. Our question this time is “Who would survive the vias periculosas of Alexandria?”

I think you could play Martia Dementia using any number of premises: FVR books, historical figures, mythological creatures/figures, etc. It really just depends on your class and their interests.

A final consideration: I don’t grade this event. It’s just something fun for us to work on in class. If I did grade it, it would be a classwork/daily work grade.

In other Latin March Madness news…

  • We are doing another version of March Madness in Latin II CP. This version is “real” March Madness. One of my students requested that we make a class bracket, and after doing a quick poll with the class, I approved. The catch was that they had to justify their choices in Latin. To facilitate this process, I split the class into four groups, each one choosing a region. Each group will complete the bracket for their region, and we will decide the Final Four and championship outcomes together. The groups have to turn in a list of sentences justifying each choice. Now, some of my kids aren’t that into basketball, and they are not going to be able to give an eloquent Latin explanation of why they made each choice. This is where I think you have to have a little fun with things like this. They are free to justify their answers however they wish. If they like the mascot better, fine. If they just dislike a certain school, fine. As long as they can explain their choice in Latin, I’m happy. To help them out, I gave them some sentence starters they can use if they want (____ est melior quam ____ quod…; ____ vincet quod…), and we (again) brainstormed vocabulary (fortis, longus, etc.).
    Each group must submit their sentences before I enter our class bracket into…
  • The Latin Club March Madness tournament. I had this idea yesterday morning, and I’m pretty excited about it. We are hosting a Latin Club March Madness group through the ESPN Tournament Challenge website. I emailed the kids about it and put up flyers with a QR code to the site and the password for the group. So far, we’ve got 30 students signed up. We can’t play for money or prizes per our school rules, but I’ve got designs to start a small “Hall of Fame” in my classroom for the winner. I’d really like to make this an annual tradition. It’s one of those things that might not be directly Latin-related, but it’s something fun that builds community and fosters friendly competition.

Let me know if you have questions about how to set any of this up.

FVR/SSR · Technology in the Latin Classroom

FVR Setup and Tour

I’ve written a few posts on how I do FVR , so I thought I would post some visuals to help you… well… visualize our routine.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my Latin 2 CP class does FVR, which I refer to as “silent reading” with them. We do silent reading for a minimum of 5 minutes each time, but I increase the time by 1 minute each week or so (it really just depends on how I feel and how they are getting on that day).

I tell whoever gets into class first to grab the doc box, which lives in this podium that I picked up from the band teacher, who was giving it away a few years ago:


That student puts the doc box on one of the empty desks in our room. The students know that they are supposed to grab their reading log and current book out of their hanging folder from the doc box as they walk in.

Some students choose to start reading before the bell rings and class begins, but most of them wait until I have taken attendance and we have prayed. Most of them don’t mind silent reading, and some of them really like it, but only a few of them are fond enough of it to do it before I start the timer.

If it’s the beginning of a new month, students know they should grab a reading log from behind my desk. The space behind my desk is pretty open, and I generally don’t mind students being back there as long as they aren’t at my actual desk. I love that this class knows exactly where they are supposed to go to get reading logs and that they do it without being prompted. The reading log folder is behind the no name papers folder. By the way, I bought this contraption at Wal-Mart for about $15. It has three paper trays (I use those for ZipGrade forms) and five folder slots at the top. As you can see, I use those folder slots for what I think of as “universal” items – things that apply to most of or all of my classes and aren’t specific to a certain stage or unit.


Once the kids are in their seats with their books and reading logs, I start the timer (just Google 5 minute timer or whatever you need). Sometimes I project it on the board. As students read, I circulate. Some teachers read while their students read, but this is not a class that can go without me watching them like a hawk for 5+ minutes. It’s just not going to happen.

A few students will finish reading their book or story before the timer is done, and that’s okay. They know that they are supposed to fill out their reading log (feel free to use), give the book they just finished to me, and then request a new book by first looking at the options on what we affectionately call Lil Bib (read about here; view my library here). After they find the book they want, they request it through a Google Form on my Haiku page (our LMS).

This is where I come in. I have set the Google Form to alert me whenever a student requests a new book. I find the book they want either in the milk crate where most of the books live or on the cardboard display I got from the Chessex booth at Dragon Con (for free!). Both of these things are immediately behind my desk for easy access.

I use the barcode on the back of the books to check them out quickly. I am very Type-A and have a secret wish to be a librarian, so when I realized that libib gives you the ability to print barcodes to use to check out books, I went to town.


I place the returned book in a “check-in” spot on the window ledge next to my desk and place the new book with the student’s last name written on a post-it note on the cover in a “check-out” spot.

I have my work study student place the check-out books into the students’ file folders in the doc box when she comes in after school.

This whole process sounds like a lot of work, I am sure, and it is definitely more work than having students simply put their books back on the shelf each day. But since I share a classroom, I just do not have the space to have a set-up like that. Surprisingly, though, the process really only takes about 5 minutes total to check in all the finished books and check out all the new books.

I’ll close this one out with some photos of the books I have either printed from places like Tarheel Reader or created in Google Docs. Our library is awesome and binds these for me for free. These are easily some of the most popular titles in the FVR library. I think it’s for two reasons: 1) they are pretty easy, since most of these are either written by students or for novice-level readers, and 2) they are colorful and have pictures.


Assignment/Assessment Ideas · Vocabulary

Sub Day Options

I hate taking off work. It’s a pain to prepare work and instructions for a sub, and I would like my students be able to work on something meaningful and worth their time. On the other hand, sometimes it can be hard to give them something that I can trust them to do if I’m not there – and, if I’m being honest, that doesn’t require me to grade a whole stack of papers when I return from wherever I’ve been.

So here’s my list of go-to assignments for when I need to be out. Some of these options might fall into the “busy work” category for some teachers, to which I can only say… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I don’t feel bad because we do almost no busy work otherwise in my classes, and I truly believe a worksheet once in a blue moon is not going to kill a kid.

Low Prep 

  • Workbook pages and/or worksheets from our textbook series (Cambridge) and other series.
  • Crossword puzzles created using the website Armored Penguin. I usually make these puzzles about vocabulary, but you could really do any number of things, like questions about a story you’ve been reading. I like crossword puzzles because of their self-checking aspect.
  • Old National Latin Exams. The easiest way to assign these is to just print them off and pair them with a Scantron or something like ZipGrade, but over the past year I’ve slowly put together some Google Form versions of these so that they are self-grading.
  • Reading comprehension questions about Cambridge stories from Quia and Quizizz. You can print these off or have students take them online (I think you need a paid account on Quia to do this, but this option is free on Quizizz).
  • “Tests” from Quizlet. Every Quizlet set has the option to create a test, and you can adjust the settings so that the test creates different types of questions (fill-in-the-blank, matching, short answer, true/false). You can print these off for students. I’ve also had students complete activities on Quizlet, but you need a paid teacher account to keep track of what students have done.

No Prep – good for emergencies or the “sub folder” because they can be adapted to any chapter, stage, story, etc.

  • Magic puzzles. This is something I think you have to have done together in class once or twice before to make sure students know how to do them when you’re not there. Magic puzzles are a vocabulary activity, although you could also use them to match something like a character and a description. I usually have students hold their magic puzzles until I get back. Then they cut them up and switch with a neighbor to try to complete their neighbor’s puzzle. Here’s an example I made a few years ago for my students.
    Magic puzzle example.jpg
  • National Latin Exams, like I mentioned above. Reserve a set for your emergency sub plans.
  • 4-word stories. I have created a template for these for my students (feel free to use it) that has up to 12 frames. Normally when we do these in class, I just do an adapted version of what Keith talks about in his blog post: I give the students XYZ number of words they can choose from and then tell them something like “you must have XYZ number of sentences that are compound sentences.” To create instructions that could apply to any lesson or unit, however, I would just say that students must use at least XYZ number of words from the vocabulary list or Quizlet set for that chapter/story/stage. One last thing: if assigning for sub work, I would not let students work in groups, only in pairs (if they can be trusted to behave for a sub) or alone.
  • Reading guides (here’s my template), which we use in our program as a regular assignment. The idea of a reading guide (h/t Maria Kepler) is that students read a story on their own before coming to class and write down vocabulary and structures that give them trouble or are unfamiliar. When we do these as homework in Latin II (about twice a week), I just assign them a story and a number of lines, usually no more than 20. For a sub folder assignment, I would use instructions that say that students should use the next story in their book.

There are also options that are a little bit more prep-heavy like having students complete an EdPuzzle or a student-paced Pear Deck. I haven’t done either of these for sub days, but depending on what you do with them, you could get close to replicating a normal day in class.

Classroom Organization · FVR/SSR

More Apps and Websites I Love

I left off two websites from my first post on this topic in December, and I can’t believe I forgot to include them. I use both of these on at least a weekly basis.

  • ZipBooks. In my first two years as Latin Club moderator, I used a combination of pencil-and-paper records and spreadsheets to keep track of club spending. You might not expect it, but Latin Club (what we call our JCL chapter) has a pretty decent amount of cash inflow and outflow every month. I allow students to sign up at any point in the year (although I highly encourage them to sign up by the Phase 1 deadline for GJCL), which means that if nothing else, we usually have dues to charge. But there are also field trips like Fall Forum and GJCL Convention for which we have to charge students and then send off checks, and there are pizza orders, bus reservations, T-shirt orders, NJCLHS registration, and more. I didn’t really have a great setup for keeping track of these simple debits and credits from our Latin Club account, so I did some “shopping” online for a free basic bookkeeping website. I tried out quite a few, including Wave, but I landed on ZipBooks because it is easy to use, allows for custom categories, and has a simple interface. I don’t need something complicated, and while it looks like ZipBooks could be used for business bookkeeping (especially with a premium subscription, which gives you a general ledger, 1099 summary, and a bunch of other goodies), the free version gives me everything I need: a button for deposits, a button for expenses, and a balance sheet. I highly recommend it if you want an easy-to-use site to keep track of club expenses.
  • Libib. We share classrooms at our school, which means I do not have room for an FVR library. Instead, I keep my FVR books in hanging folders in a milk crate for compact storage. But this presented me with a problem from the very beginning. I wanted students to be able to “browse” the books that are available to them, but I wanted to know who was reading what at any time. I looked at several different websites for classroom libraries, but nothing gave me exactly what I wanted… until I found Libib (pronounced luh-bib, but my kids and I call it Lil’ Bib). Here is a link to my classroom library. I want to say upfront that I pay the $5 each month for the premium version, but it has everything I dreamed of and more. I haven’t found another library site that gives you all of the following:
    • Custom entries. Most free library sites I found required you to enter an ISBN when creating a catalog entry, but because so few FVR titles exist for Latin, I do a lot of printing from sources like the Mille Noctes database.
    • Custom groupings. Other sites would group by AR level or Lexile level, but again, this is Latin, and a lot of this stuff is just printed from Google docs. I am able to create custom groups based on difficulty levels that I have created for my students. I have also been able to set up my classroom library site so that the books are displayed by difficulty group rather than by ABC order.
    • Descriptions and photos. I wanted my students to be able to see the book covers and read a summary description of each book.
    • Book status and multiple copies. My students can see how many copies of each book I have and how many copies are currently available to check out.
    • Tons of stats. I can get reports on what books a given student has checked out, reports on general lending data from my class, and more.
    • Tags. Students can view books according to their difficulty groupings, but they can also click on a list of tags I have created to find books according to their topics. When we did an FVR self-assessment last fall, most of my students reported choosing a book based on its content rather than its difficulty. I don’t mean to say that most of them are choosing books completely out of their ability range, but most of them will choose a book that’s a little bit harder if it’s interesting to them. The tag list helps with this. The tags they seem most interested in are the graphic novels/comic books tag and the scary stories tag. Finally, it’s also a great way to organize series. I use tags for the Puer Ex Seripho series, Lance Piantaggini’s Pisoverse series, the Secunda comics, the I am Reading Latin series, and more.
    • Playing librarian. I can check books in and out with my desktop or phone, and, because I am a giant nerd, I have been able to use Libib and the Avery Labels online lab to generate barcodes for all of my books (even my custom-created books) so that I can quickly scan books to check in/out. You can even make library cards for your students, and if you’re so inclined, you can set up a “kiosk option” where students use an iPad to check books out to themselves.
Technology in the Latin Classroom

Apps and Websites I Love

I am not a “technology for technology’s sake” person. I do a lot of old-school pen-and-paper work in my classroom, and I am happy about it. When I do love an app or website, though, I love it, and the following tools have made their way into my everyday teaching life:

  • Tiny Scanner Pro. Free basic version. $4.99 for the full app, and worth every penny. I have not been teaching for long, but even in a few short years I had managed to amass an ungodly amount of paper. I use TSP to digitize almost everything. Just take a picture with your phone and the app creates a pretty decent PDF of your document. From there,  you can upload to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Evernote, and more. You can also print (if you have a wireless printer) straight from the app if you need to make a copy or two of the document. I use TSP primarily for digitizing things I want to recycle, but I use it for things like “scanning” workbook pages from other curricula that I want to use as inspiration later. I also use it to scan keys of exercises or “model” work to be posted on Haiku (our LMS) for students to refer to.
  • ZipGrade. Free basic version. $6.99/year for unlimited scans and custom answer sheets. I made the switch to ZipGrade this year after having heard a lot about it for a long time. ZipGrade has made my life so much easier. It has cut down on the time it takes me to grade because I’m not waiting to go run Scantrons; I can scan students’ responses as they turn them in, leaving me to spend my planning time actually planning or giving feedback on their written work. I love that ZipGrade automatically makes item analyses, and I love love love love that it re-grades papers instantly if I change the key. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Scantrons.
  • Screencastify. Free basic version (and the basic is nothing to sneeze at), and I think about $24/year for full features like video cropping. I have only started using Screencastify in the past few months, but I love how easy it is to make a recording of my Surface while I’m working. I use Screencastify to make short videos for my students showing them how to use an online tool (like Magistrula – see a sort of awkward video here as an example) or walking them through an exercise like conjugating or declining. Next semester, I plan to use it for storytelling – this would be great to incorporate with a website like EdPuzzle. The best part of Screencastify is that it syncs with Google Drive, so your videos are housed there and easy to share.
  • PearDeck. Free basic version, but you most likely want the pro version, and the price will depend on whether you’re buying it individually or as a school/district. PearDeck, which is an interactive presentation tool, is great for having students show their understanding, and I (usually) love the anonymity of student responses in the default display. It makes it easy to discuss a response as a class. I’ve run into some problems before with students submitting inappropriate or off-topic answers, but now I usually require them to include their name in their response. (NB: You can see who made a certain response, but not, as far as I know, in the default way that student answers are displayed on the screen. That’s why I have them put their name in their response most of the time.) PearDeck also has a fun new game called Flashcard Factory and a few more bells and whistles, like their “takeaways” option and their Google Slides add-on, that make it an attractive option for increasing student engagement.

And then there are the “classics” like Quizlet and the things I love, but don’t really have any say in choosing, like our LMS, Haiku (well, PowerSchool Learning now). These are all things that make my life easier and make instruction better (I think) for my students.

Technology in the Latin Classroom

Working with Prepositions

We are working on Stage 14 in my Latin 2 CP class right now, and we are having a lot of fun with prepositions and the cases they take. I was trying to think of a way to get students to understand how prepositions work in Latin (and just to learn what they mean), so I came up with this series of activities, and it’s worked really well these past 2 days:

  • After explaining prepositions that need ablative objects vs. accusative objects, we did a quick round of “Prepositions Charades.” I wrote about 10 phrases out on some cards using two objects we have in our classroom: a Beanie Baby lion (leo) and our flat-top rolling desks (mensa). The phrases were things like “sub leone” and “in mensā.” Students volunteered to act out two phrases while the rest of the class wrote the phrase they were acting out on our mini white-boards. They had a lot of fun with this one, and it was quick and easy.
  • Then I let them work in pairs to take at least 7 pictures with prepositional phrases – basically doing what we had just done, but creating the phrases on their own. They were allowed to use any item in the classroom, so the pictures involved a lot of books and chairs, but some students also used my stress pears (pear-shaped stress balls provided by Pear Deck) and some of my Funko Pop figures. They inserted the photos and the captions into a Google Slides template that I made for them and distributed via PowerSchool Learning (formerly Haiku, our LMS).
  • When we meet again on Thursday, I will have a Pear Deck presentation prepared for them featuring most of their photos. Depending on the photo, students will write the prepositional phrase they think is depicted or answer questions about the photo. The students seem excited about this one; they love seeing their work displayed for others, even “just” their own classmates.

This has been a pretty simple lesson, but they are enjoying it, and it seems to be helping them get the hang of how prepositional phrases are structured.

Examples of student work below!

pro sella
liber est prō sellā.
in mensa
stylus est in mēnsā.
in mensa 2
Super Mutant est in mēnsā.
sub toga
puella est sub togā. We tend to call all clothing a “toga” in this class.
pro pede
cibus est prō pede.

Starting FVR: How

I’m following up a post from yesterday entitled “Starting FVR: Who, Why, and What.” I want to share the logistics of doing FVR in my classroom, but with one caveat first: I am doing FVR with a class of 20. I am not doing this with all of my sections, so there is nothing to keep up with between classes or among all three Latin teachers at my school.

First, sourcing the books. I put together my FVR library by using a few sources:

  • I bought (out of pocket) the novellas. You can see which ones I own in the link to my library above. My school has the funds to purchase these materials or reimburse me for them, but I bought them out of my own pocket a little at a time so that in the off chance that I ever leave my current school, I will be able to take these with me. There are a couple of titles that I am missing, but I am working on them.
  • I cobbled together stories from a few different places online: Tarheel Reader (especially anything by Anthony Gibbins – and especially his Gilbo “novel”) and the Latin Teacher Toolbox Story Database being the two big sources. There are some story collections in the Latin Teacher Toolbox database, but I compiled my own in a series of Google Docs.
    • Let me say a quick shout-out here to the librarians and library staff at my school. These ladies are amazing. They have allowed me to print several copies of each story collection and then bound all of them for me. About half of my students are using one of these bound copies for their first FVR selection, and I can’t overstate how big of a blessing it is to have these resources available.
  • I threw together my Latin I students’ 4-word stories into a Google Doc and had that printed and bound. I plan to do this with all of the 4-word stories that they write this year. I am not sure what scanner or app Keith used in the link above, but I use TinyScanner Pro on my phone and it is awesome for this, especially because you can upload directly to Google Drive. Here is a link to the Google Doc that this first round of stories ended up in; please let me know about any grammar errors, since I (somewhat notoriously, I think, among my students) do not actually proofread anything like a good teacher should.

Second, leveling the books:

  • I created my own system for leveling these books. You can see the levels in the link to my FVR library above. I wanted something that would be student-friendly; that is, I wanted students to be able to translate the levels into something they actually understood and that meant something to them. What I ended up with was Level 1-A, 1-B, 2-A, 2-B, and so on. The way that I explained this to my students was that an average student in the middle of the first semester of Latin 1 could read a Level 1-A book. An average student in the middle of the second semester of Latin 1 could read a Level 1-B book. You get the idea.
  • When making these levels, I had to consider a handful of factors. First, vocabulary. Anything that deals exclusively with CLC vocabulary from about Stage 1 to Stage 8 is Level 1-A in my mind, unless it throws in some (second factor) really advanced grammar… all of which is to say, if you do your levels the way I did, yours will probably look different. It all depends on what you target (or don’t target) as you progress through your program. We follow CLC, so that’s the guide I was using.

Third, creating the hype. I did this by:

  • Talking up the program over a few days. Some of my students were intrigued and excited, but most were apprehensive or apathetic. (It’s okay. They are teenagers, after all.)
  • Setting aside a half day in class in which I gave them a quick talk about each book in a Google Slides presentation. I then had students fill out a request form. I do not plan for them to keep filling out request forms since they will all be ending their books (and thus starting new ones) at different times, but for this first go-around when everyone would be starting at the same time, I wanted to “assign” the books based on their requests just in case there was an overwhelming demand for a given book. Luckily, each of my students was able to get their first choice.
    • You’ll see that the request form has a section that says “I think I should start at level…” I have been pretty impressed with most of my students. The majority of them chose a level that I would have chosen for them as well: out of a class of 20 in their first semester of Latin II, about 12 of them are at 1-B reading. Of the other 8, I would say about 3 of them are 2-A while the other 5 are 1-A. That’s one of the reasons I love teaching this class: there is such a wide variety of students in it, and they all learn from each other every day.
  • Making a big production of showing students where the books would be kept. I am keeping them in hanging folders with students’ names in a milk crate.
  • I had my students sign a pledge that the library (again! don’t know what I would do without them) printed for me as a poster. The pledge details the 6 rules that I needed to lay out for FVR to work in my room.

Finally, I created a reading log that each student fills out every time they read their book, even if they are doing it as an “early finisher” activity. I have been peeking at these as they read, and I am pretty excited to see most of them circling 4 and 5 for understanding. I am considering changing this to a Google Form in October so I can get consolidated instant data every time they fill it out, but I’m also not too keen on them immediately opening their computers – it always takes a minute (or more…) to get them “back to reality” when the devices come out.

I want to follow this blog post up with a more detailed “where and when” FVR post and maybe include some pictures of my classroom setup and (faceless) pictures of some of my kids reading. Fingers crossed that I can get it done this week!