Lesson Plans

A Unit for Pluto: Fabula Amoris

I wrote this summer about how we combined the Latin 3 and 4 CP classes and how I am “untextbooking” those classes. It’s been fairly successful so far, minus some initial hiccups from combining two grade levels and mixing two cohorts together. The kids have settled into a routine with one another (and me), and I think we’re going to have a great year.

The fall semester of this class is in line with the NLE mythology topics. The first unit was a brief introduction to and refresher on the gods and goddesses. We spent about two weeks on that one. After that, we moved into a unit on the Underworld, with Pluto: Fabula Amoris by Rachel Ash and Miriam Patrick as our anchor text. I’ll post a nice unit plan document soon on the Resources page, but for now, here’s what we did, what I would do again, and what I would do differently:

  1. We started off by reading “The Underworld System” by Donna Gerard from her book Roman Life. (Brief side note: I highly recommend buying this PDF. It’s called a workbook on ACL, but it’s really a lot of short non-fiction and mythology passages in Latin about Roman culture with some comprehension worksheets thrown in.) After we read it together, I drew students’ names and had them pick a phrase from the reading (get the template for that here). They then had to represent that phrase with a sound or visual on a Padlet that I made for this activity. We followed up the Padlet with GIFtionary, which is a name I made up for an activity that my students love. Give the students a list of sentences from a reading, ones that are easy to represent visually. In pairs or groups of three, they pick one sentence to either act out in a short (<10 second) video (which they need to make into a GIF using giphy) or picture, both of which they take with their phone. They submit these to the dropbox and I compile the pictures and GIFs into a Google Slides presentation. We use the original list of sentences to guess which picture/GIF represents which sentence – the students input their guesses using the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides, but you could just call on them or have them use mini-whiteboards. We finished these two days of work with a short quiz on the reading, which I’m happy to share with you if you email me or DM me on Twitter.
    1. The verdict: The Padlet was a great way to start the unit. I love doing anything that gets students thinking with their senses, so creating a “sense-scape” of the Underworld via Padlet was an easy way to do this. The Padlet part took about 20 minutes to do from start (introducing the activity) to finish (displaying the final product on the board and commenting on the posts). The only thing I would change is that I wish I had talked to the class about the Padlet final product Latine. As for the other activity, GIFtionary, this is a favorite activity in all of my classes, and I highly recommend trying it out once or twice.
  2. We spent the next week reading “Orpheus et Umbrae” by Lorna Robinson from her book Telling Tales in Latin, a beautiful adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The subtitle of this book is “A New Latin Course and Storybook for Children,” but “Orpheus et Umbrae,” the last story in the book, is actually fairly challenging Latin. It required a lot of scaffolding and re-reading, but the trade-off was we got some really great discussions about the line “non donum sed usum rogo” (“I ask not for a gift but a loan”), spoken by Orpheus as he begs for Eurydice to be returned to the land of the living, as well as about the gods’ motivations for allowing Orpheus to take Eurydice back in the first place. There are references to Tantalus and Sisyphus in here, so we took a break for a day for the kids to do some quick research to present briefly on one aspect or character of the Underworld that I assigned to them. I gave them a matching quiz over those after they gave their presentations.
    1. The verdict: I need to compare this Orpheus reading to others I can find (other than the full Eurydice novella that Miriam Patrick wrote, which is great but too long when combined with doing this novella too) – I know there is one in Latin Via Ovid and one in Using Latin. This reading is beautiful and prompted some great discussion, as I said, but a lot of the vocabulary was difficult and distracting. Doing the mini-presentations on the Underworld locations and figures was necessary for this reading because my students weren’t familiar with or had forgotten about them.
  3. Then we moved into Pluto itself. I’m not really a creative person, so we read the entire novel together as a class, doing about a chapter a day (or over two days for the longer ones) with some discussion and games to get vocab reps in. I did dictations where they were provided in the teacher’s guide, and I made a Pear Deck for chapter 6, which is (I think) the shortest chapter in the book. We took two quizzes over the course of the book, and I wrote reading guides for each chapter. (Email/DM me if you want these.) I was worried the kids would get bored with our routine of whole-class reading + some vocab game (Gimkit, Quizlet Live) + work on reading guide, but here is something I have learned about teaching. You teach the kids in your room, not the kids in someone’s TED talk or a journal article or a teaching methods textbook. My kids want a daily routine and structure, and they enjoy working quietly for brief periods of time (10 minutes or so). They also need to re-read what they have read to revisit and consolidate the Latin, so doing these reading guides was a great way for that to happen.
    We also did a project for Pluto that counted as their test grade for this unit. I had them create a playlist for the book, choosing a song to represent each chapter (get the instruction sheet/rubric here and the playlist template here). They loved this project (most of them). They got to be creative and I got them to work on using textual evidence, something we are working on across subjects and in all grade levels at our school. They are giving an informal (i.e. ungraded) one-minute presentation on this on Tuesday just to share their work with their classmates.

    1. The verdict: I loved reading Pluto, and the kids were excited to see Orpheus show up on the last page or so of the book. They were big fans of the playlist project, so I will definitely do that again. I also think Pluto was the perfect intro book for a class moving away from a textbook (CLC). The Latin is easy – it’s really designed for the end of year 1, I think – so it’s easy to move the kids along at a brisk pace while still allowing them to truly read the Latin rather than just translate it (which still happens, lest you think my classroom is a Latin-only-speaking-and-reading utopia :P).

Some paraphrased comments about this unit that I got from my students:

  • I liked doing the playlist instead of taking a normal test over this book.
  • I got everything in Pluto the first time I read it.
  • Doing the reading guides made me realize how much I understood the book.
  • I’m glad we’ve been doing silent reading because it made reading a novel together easier.

Please let me know if you want any of the resources I mentioned above or if you have questions for me about this unit. I’m pretty proud of it and I’d say it was a great success!