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.