Catholicity · Community in the Latin Classroom · Vocabulary

Prayers: Community, Vocabulary, and Some Ideas for Non-Religious Schools

I want to start this post out by stating two things: 1) I work at a Catholic school, and 2) I am not Catholic. This blog isn’t the place for me to hash out my personal religious beliefs, but I do want to make clear the setting in which I work and my place in it.

Anyway! Despite not being Catholic, I haven’t had a very difficult time working at a Catholic school. True, I did study (because I am a crazy person) for my first ever mass by watching YouTube videos, and I also was a little out of the loop on some of the prayers: Hail Mary, the Memorare, etc. But I love going to work every day, and at least at my school, I don’t particularly feel out of place as a non-Catholic.

One of the requirements of our classes – so much so that it is the first or second item on the sheet for our formal observations – is that we start each class with prayer. We also pray as a school once during second period (morning announcements) and at the end of the day (afternoon announcements). I’ve always thought it would be cool to watch the security cameras during announcements, since you are supposed to stop if you are in the hall during prayer. I like the idea of everyone stopping at the same time to do something together.

But I’m getting off track. We start each class with prayer. In my history class, I lead it, and we switch between Hail Mary and Our Father (the Lord’s prayer). In Latin, until we get to second semester with our aedile election project (to be explained in a future post), I also lead. Here’s how that looks:

  • Discipuli/amici, quis preces habet? Students/friends (depending on my feeling toward them that day :P), who has intentions? (Read about intentions here if you’re unfamiliar, as I was, but the way it’s used in our school is essentially “who are you praying for today?”)
  • Students raise their hands and name their preces. From the very first time we do them, I echo whatever they say in Latin. After a week or so, they have a vocabulary built up to say these in Latin.
  • Then we make the Sign of the Cross (in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti) and recite a prayer in Latin together. For Latin I in the fall, this is either Ave Maria or Gloria Patri. We close with the Sign of the Cross again.

One of the reasons I love that we start with prayer is that it builds community in our classroom. Students hear each other’s prayers – and they are really actually listening. I think they all understand that this time is intended to be a sacred, solemn time, so (most of them) cut out any goofing off. Some students pray for the same thing every day, and their classmates all know their daily intentions. This is not an uncommon occurrence in my class:

  • Me: amici, quis preces habet?
  • Student: quattuor res. Oh, and John isn’t here today, so John’s mater.

This leads me to a more selfish reason that I love starting with prayer: it is a pretty low-stress way for us to build vocabulary. We have a sort of core prayer vocabulary that the students end up acquiring: mater, pater, familia, amicus/a, certamen, athletae, fabula, examen, res, morbus, etc. They also get number practice in, and it’s sometimes an interesting exercise in translating to Latin (“Ms. B., how do you say wildfire in Latin?”). They also hear a lot of vocabulary before we see it in Cambridge: res, quis, etc. It’s pretty cool to watch students see quis in the textbook for the first time and hear “We know this word! Quis preces habet!”

Obviously, for a non-religious school, this short activity (it takes maybe 3 minutes at most) isn’t directly transferable. But there are some ways to adapt it or incorporate mindfulness using Latin into non-religious classrooms. Here are a few ideas:

  • I worked with a teacher once who had a “Let it Go” (Frozen-themed) box, where students wrote anything that was weighing on their mind and threw it in the box, symbolically “letting it go.”
  • You could let students write what’s on their mind on a sticky note and place it in a dedicated place in the room, anonymously or not. Padlet is the same idea, but digital.
  • You could ask students “What’s on your mind?” (maybe Quid est in vestris/nostris animis? off the top of my head) and have them volunteer the same way ours do, although this might be getting close to looking too much like a religious practice.
  • And then there’s always the classic journaling.

I think it’s important that these things don’t necessarily have to be in Latin. Like I said above, what I love most about this is the community-building. Requiring it to be in Latin might cause anxiety. The other issue you may run into, especially if you do anonymous “intentions,” is a student writing something either inappropriate or alarming. It’s a risk you’d have to weigh, certainly.

Let me know if you have questions about this practice, wherever your classroom falls on the religious or non-religious spectrum.

Learning Disabilities in the Latin Classroom · Vocabulary

Noun Foldable Examples and Some Thoughts on Error Correction

I wrote last month about one of my favorite vocabulary tools: noun foldables. Now that I’m finally on Christmas break, I thought I would share some student examples so you can see what these look like from real students in their first semester of Latin.

First, a note about these students. This specific section of students, by design, is my class with a majority of students who have learning disorders. To be clear, these are not students who would be in Special Ed in public schools; many of them simply have dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder, ADHD/ADD, etc. This class moves at a slower pace than our other Latin I classes so that we can have an even greater focus on reading and reading comprehension.

I say this so that you keep this fact in mind as you look at these students’ work. This is an activity that is accessible to students at all readiness levels, and it can easily be differentiated. Some of these students wrote their “fabula”/description section by copying directly from the textbook (CLC 4th ed.), while others composed them themselves. Moreover, while there are definitely spelling and grammatical errors in this work, as long as the text is comprehensible, I don’t correct the work. We do have explicit grammar instruction in this class (and all my Latin classes), but for the most part, I don’t correct errors in students’ written work unless they ask or it obscures the meaning of their work.

You can see some of these errors below:

There are a number of spelling and grammar errors in this foldable, but that is overshadowed by the content. “Laborat hortus” – what a great way to hint that this person does work somewhere, just not in the garden. 




I loved this student’s non-examples for “sanguis”: other liquids. This is one of the reasons I find this activity so helpful – it requires students to make connections between vocabulary words, helping to build their regard for Latin as a language. This student also did the “cibus” foldable above, about a month after she did this one. Funny (and kind of gross) that “aqua” and “vinum” are both non-examples for “cibus” and “sanguis.”

As you can see, there are errors above… accusative instead of ablative endings, 1st/2nd declension adjective endings for 3rd declension adjectives, etc. But all of it is comprehensible, and it’s what the students are able to produce right now (or when these were made). Finally, it’s low-stress for everyone. My artists get to draw, my writers get to write, and my squirmy kids (of which I have many!) get to do something. Win-win-win in my book.



Noun Foldables

I made this one in about two minutes for this post. 

I’m taking classes to earn my teaching certification for Latin, and one of the most helpful has been my Methods class. Our professor has tons of great ideas that I’ve been able to implement in my classroom – this is one of them.

My Methods professor introduced this activity to us as a foldable, but I’ve since narrowed it down to noun foldables, since these are difficult to make with verbs and other parts of speech. These are easy to make and require very little prep on your part, and they are great for vocabulary acquisition.

For these instructions, I’ll be using Cambridge Stage 4 (4th ed.) as a reference. Here’s how it works:

  1. Assign each student a noun from the current stage. This is the only part of this activity that requires much labor on your part. I list all these nouns in a Google Sheet so I can type students’ names next to each noun. This can be tricky depending on your number of students. Since our class sizes are small, I rarely run out of nouns for students, but try these ideas:
    1. I use nouns first from the vocabulary list in each stage. In stage 4, this gives you 7 nouns (8 if you include “negotium” from “negotium agit”).
    2. Then I go through the stage and list any other nouns, glossed or otherwise. The stage 4 model sentences, for example, give you 3 nouns we haven’t seen before.
    3. I also use nouns from any outside stories we read, whether they are from the Cambridge Fabulae Ancillantes, the Minimus series, stories on Tarheel Reader, etc.
    4. Use culture-related nouns. The Stage 4 culture reading includes lares and duoviri, for example. You could also use mythological or historical figures if they are part of your curriculum.
    5. Finally, depending on whether or not we have done foldables for previous stages, I would pull in vocabulary from old stages. If you have done foldables for old stages, pull them out and let students add on to them (to their own or someone else’s).
  2. Students fold their papers so that there is a diamond in the middle. We use colored paper, but notebook, construction, or plain computer paper works fine too. Have them fold their papers horizontally (hamburger), then horizontally (hamburger) again. Then they should fold down the inside corner so that there is a folded-over triangle – my students call this the Google Docs logo. Open it up, and you should have four squares with a diamond in the middle.
  3. Students write their noun inside the diamond on the sheet: Latin word on top, English word on bottom. Establish the most important rule of the noun foldable, which is: The vocabulary word, whether in English or in Latin, can only appear inside the diamond.
  4. Students label the boxes.
    1. Top left: Illustration (pictura)
    2. Top right: Description (depictio… if you have a better idea for what to call this, please let me know)
    3. Bottom left: Examples (exempla)
    4. Bottom right: It’s not… (non est…)
  5. Then students fill in the boxes. They are pretty self-explanatory, but you will probably have to explain them a time or two. 🙂
    1. pictura: Draw a picture of the noun. Stick figures OK!
    2. depictio: This is usually the hardest for students. The description should come from the stories and from their brain. Depending on the student, you can do some scaffolding here. There are three general “levels” of depictiones…
      1. Just writing an adjective.
      2. Writing a sentence from the story with a blank where the word should be. (Example: for canis, writing “____ est in via.”)
      3. Writing a complete sentence without using the word in the diamond. “est in via,” “dormit in via,” “latrat et salit,” “est pestis,” etc.
    3. exempla: Their chief examples should be from the book/story, but they are welcome to incorporate outside “sources” too. For “mater,” e.g., students would write “Metella,” “Iulia” (mom in the Minimus story), “Mella” (mom in the Gilbo stories on Tarheel Reader), and on and on. They could also write the names of famous mothers. At our Catholic school, for example, “Mary” would be an example used by many students – but “Mother Teresa” couldn’t be, since it uses the word “mother.”
    4. non est…: These are non-examples using vocabulary that students already know. There are a few ways to do this:
      1. Words in the same category. For pavo, for example, a student might list canismusequus, etc. as non-examples, since they’re all animals.
      2. Words that are easily confused. For mus, I’d definitely put murus. Same with liberlibertus, etc.
      3. Words that are the opposite. puer for puellapater for mater, etc.
      4. If all else fails, words that start with the same letter. This is a last resort, but undoubtedly you will run into something for which you use this option.

So what do you do with these when done?

Speed dating! Line students up into two lines facing each other. Students fold their foldables so only one panel is showing. They then try to guess what the person facing them has. The first time I did this, I was really surprised by how many of my students enjoyed it and didn’t immediately give up if they couldn’t tell what they were looking at; they asked their partner for another panel, then another, then another. Most of them get it this way, and since students become “experts” on the noun they worked on, they can coach their classmates through figuring out the answer. After 30 seconds-1 minute, I have students rotate. It’s a great review game.

Finally: save these! Save all of them, even the ones that aren’t great. Put a Post-it note on those or put them in an extra file to be re-done. You will want these later on to have a quick sponge activity, and those “not-great” ones become great resources when you are short on nouns in a later stage and need a word for a student to work on. You can also go back and add on to old foldables – this is a great activity for early finishers.