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Subject:"concept lesson" for teaching Latin?
Time:01:12 pm
Current Mood:frustratedfrustrated
I hope that this is within the community guidelines. You all are always so helpful, and I'm very stuck.

So, I’m in school studying to become a Latin teacher, and in my general methods of teaching class this semester we had to do microteachings of a “concept lesson” — something basically outside of content. So the math teachers taught the “concepts” of equality, proofs, and ratios without numbers. The history teachers talked about the “concepts” of liberty, industrialization, and source material without any specific events.

I… got very stuck. I couldn’t think of any overarching “concepts” related to Latin (or any language!) that can be taught separately from the language itself. I can’t point out “real-life uses of the dative case” the way a math teacher can point out real-life ratios.
My topic was case-marking, so I tried to explain how case-marking in Latin allows for freer word order which allows more freedom for emphasis and stuff. 2 problems: a) it came across as all content (partly because no one in my class knows anything about Latin, so I can’t rely on background knowledge the way everyone else can), and b) that’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t have talked about til 3rd year at least, when we get to Cicero and poetry and “real Latin”, so I have no idea how to teach it the way my prof wanted it, as in “intro” to the concept of case, period, in the first month of 1st year.

My professor thinks I should have talked more about how case-marking affected/was affected by/somehow is connected to Roman culture. She is dead sure that somewhere out there there is a connection between how the Romans lived and the fact that they had sort-of free word-order and case markings. She is stuck on Latin teachers being “too traditional” and that that’s why I haven’t figured this out yet, but at this point it basically seems to me like she doesn’t understand how language works?

She gave, as an example, that in French, “activities” are mostly masculine and “passive nouns” like table and chair are mostly feminine and that this plays into the patriarchal structure… to which I just blinked dumbly. I’m reasonably certain that’s not true for French, and I know it isn’t true for Latin. I mean, the word for manliness is virtus, which is feminine! Different kinds of chairs are different genders. In Greek, there are words for men and women that are neuter!

And yes, I know there are the studies of madori/ao colors in Japanese, or the people in Australia(?) who navigate only by cardinal directions, not left and right, or people who don’t have full (or any) tense systems and how that affects their perception. But those are few studies, and they are WAY over the heads of 7th graders, which is the age I’m aiming at. Not to mention, I feel hugely uncomfortable saying anything about how anything affected Roman culture because I don’t know that much about Roman culture, and this all just REEKS of bogus pop-psych stuff to me.

I mean wouldn’t you have to do a study of all languages that have case-marking vs all languages that don’t?

Ugh, anyway. tl;dr, what kind of “concept” lesson can I give about case-marking? or the accusative case? I’m so lost…

Thanks in advance! (x-posted to some education communities and linguaphiles )
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jamoche
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Time:2013-03-26 05:35 pm (UTC)
Don't know how you'd make this into a 'concept' (it seems kind of vague) but when I want to show someone the influence Latin has had on English, I point them at Uncleftish Beholding - it's English without any loanwords from Latin, Greek, and a few other languages.

Edited at 2013-03-26 05:35 pm (UTC)
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thaichicken
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Time:2013-03-26 07:04 pm (UTC)
Ooooh that's cool! I don't know if it will help in this situation, but I'll definitely check it out! Multas gratias :)
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rebecca_selene
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Time:2013-03-26 06:58 pm (UTC)
What about teaching grammar without the Latin part? The concept of a sentence map (subject verbs the direct object, "bonus" information in the form of prepositional phrases/adverbs/adjectives/subordinate clauses, etc). Goodness knows somehow students get to college-level courses without understanding what a verb is. *headdesk*

ETA: And the concept of active vs. passive voice, which students think they understand until they actually have to translate it.

Edited at 2013-03-26 07:05 pm (UTC)
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thaichicken
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Time:2013-03-26 07:06 pm (UTC)
That's what I was trying to do, but my prof really wants there to be a "why should I care" component, like something to "grab" students who don't want to be learning a language in the first place, and something that they can take away as a "big idea" even if they forget every Latin word and every grammar term they ever learned. =/
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rebecca_selene
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Time:2013-03-26 07:27 pm (UTC)
Ah, gotcha. Well they certainly will want Latin to do well on the SATs...sad that the language has to be framed in terms of making the students succeed elsewhere/being interesting for some other reason rather than being interesting in its own right.

Maybe the concept of the use of Latin over time, whether scholarly or not, vulgar vs classical Latin, medieval Latin, etc.

Or the abundance of Latin phrases that exist in modern times. On money, in government, law, economy, mottos, etc. Anyone who wants to pursue a career in those areas will be interested in that.

Or the concept of zero. That always interested me haha.
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mundane
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Time:2013-03-27 11:29 am (UTC)
Hmm ... maybe something along the lines of a humorous "why grammar matters" (ie. the difference between "Let's eat Grandma" and "Let's eat, Grandma!" or "Capitalization: the difference between "I helped Jack off a horse" and "I helped jack off a horse"") could be really fun.

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thaichicken
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Time:2013-03-26 07:16 pm (UTC)
Right. Unfortunately I'm kind of tied to doing accusative-case-related stuff because that is the topic for the unit I'm writing for my semester project. But teaching these grammar concepts in English and then applying them to Latin is DEFINITELY a thing on my radar. Thanks!
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rebecca_selene
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Time:2013-03-26 07:28 pm (UTC)
Oopsie! Just saw this comment. Ignore my suggestions above then...sorry!
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agatharuncible
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Time:2013-03-26 08:02 pm (UTC)
I was going to suggest doing a teaching-grammar-without-getting-into-Latin lesson, too, but I just read that you can't do that. (By the way, I don't get why. The way I see it, understanding certain parts of grammar that are not Latin-specific doesn't get into Latin, and will help students learn later on.)

I think you could do the free word worder thing. We actually discussed that on one of my very first lessons when I was starting out. We were given an overview of how Latin grammar worked, what cases were, word order, etc. I feel like that was actually really helpful to know from the start, and the fact that my professors mixed things up a bit did too, because I think that having absolutely no idea would have made it so much harder to get used to poetry (for example). However, I'm not sure you could actually do this without getting into Latin; it would probably be easier to give examples, even if students aren't required to learn those examples by heart and it's mostly just to illustrate how it works.

The other idea I was going to suggest was a lesson about words that come from Latin, and especially Latin phrases which are still used nowadays. That was actually what we did in the first Latin lesson I ever took, as an introduction of sorts. That probably gets into Latin, too, but maybe less so than the other examples?

Something I can think of which is similar to what your professor seems to want (and yeah, I'm not sure if "table" and "chair" are feminine because they're "passive"... what) is talking about the gender of things like plant names, place names, etc.

As an aside, I'm kind of baffled that a French professor is teaching you how to teach Latin. A Latin professor would be a better option, surely?
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thaichicken
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Time:2013-03-26 09:41 pm (UTC)
1) It's not that I can't do that, because that's sort of what I was trying to do, but that she wants an outside connection beyond the grammar of any language, I think. I'm not sure. I was trying to explain the difference in emphasis between puella pilam iacit, pilam puella iacit, and iacit pilam puella, which is difficult to translate into English, but she wanted it to be even more...abstract?

2) I just worry that throwing all that stuff at 6/7th or 9th graders (when students usually begin studying a language in my experience) will scare them? I'd rather introduce case and word-order things as they come up and talk about them in context. Am I underestimating them?

3) Yes, I will do a lot of that, but not for this particular assignment. I'm supposed to connect it to my topic for the semester project, which is case-usage.

5) She's actually a history-education professor who was assigned to teach the general methods class. She does really well with my history-ed classmates, but I feel like she's kind of struggling with the rest of us. She even mentioned to me that her French wasn't that good(??? she might have just meant her pronunciation) but yeah, I'm basically really fed up with the lack of support for foreign-language education programs in my school.
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agatharuncible
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Time:2013-03-27 11:28 am (UTC)
1) What about discussing specific grammatical functions (subject, direct object, etc)? They're not Latin-specific but it is probably helpful to understand and know those concepts while learning Latin. You could use simple examples in English, for example.

2) Probably. When I first started out, we didn't go into huge detail with lots of examples or anything. We were basically told what cases were, what they were for, and that they allowed for a freer word order. It was very general, and of course that we still got reminders when the first stances of this happening in literary texts started showing up. (Plus, along the way, we were regularly reminded of this in other contexts as well.) It's not really that scary if you explain what cases and such are, and that they will be able to unscrabble the word order when they get to that point. You don't have to get into specifics or exceptions or anything of the sort. If you're dealing with younger kids, you could probably give them the example of a puzzle -- looking at them, you can probably figure out what general area of the picture they belong to, and when you don't, figuring out the more obvious ones first will help.

3) Then I can't really see how you could connect case-usage with a very general lesson. Unless you go for something more general (like the things above), there isn't much that is related to case-usage that doesn't imply teaching cases. For example, you could do datives of possession, but it's probably easier to understand them if you know what a dative is to begin with. :/

4) That really sucks, and I'm sorry. :| It's probably hard for a professor who doesn't really know how a certain language works to give out general assignments like that.
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spiderine
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Time:2013-03-26 09:57 pm (UTC)
This isn't case marking, but I found it fascinating when I first started learning Latin: there are no words for "yes" or "thank you." It would be interesting in context of a lesson on how it affects Roman culture.
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thaichicken
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Time:2013-03-26 10:37 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. That is true there is no word for "yes" as such, but as far as I know, there is a thank you? Gratias tibi ago - I give you thanks, or I thank you. I've seen it shortened to 'gratias' (thanks), but maybe that's a back formation based on modern Romance languages?
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spiderine
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Time:2013-03-26 10:43 pm (UTC)
I may be mistaken because it's been a very long time since I studied Latin. :)
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tomcatkins
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Time:2013-03-27 12:56 am (UTC)
That, and neglect for personal pronouns. Indeed, who needs those, when the inflected verb says it all. They're just redundant.

"In Latin the verb is King". Rubbish, surely, but could work on that sort of school authorities.

Not exactly about case as well, though.

Oh, wait a minute. Case is very much about verb! Acc. vs. Abl depending on the verb the noun is subordinate to, that sort of thing.

Also, the role of pronouns in all of this.
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lysimache
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Time:2013-03-26 10:50 pm (UTC)
Okay. It sounds to me like perhaps what your professor wants is an Understanding By Design (Grant Wiggins) "big idea" focused unit lesson. (I'm assuming that from what you said above.) Big ideas (also called 'enduring understandings') are things that are the things that a student will "remember 30 years later" that are about life, not the details of your subject. In language, these are often things like "languages change over time" or "different languages express the same idea in different ways."

Your unit here is on nominative v. accusative. (Just as side note: it's not actually considered good form to base world language lessons around a grammatical topic; they are supposed to be themed: the family; going to the store; etc. Then your 'nominative v. accusative' should actually be embedded within a context. Some books do this naturally: Cambridge is great for this, Ecce also good, although not as good, Wheelock would be terrible at it). So your enduring understanding might be "languages express the same idea in different ways." The essential question would be "how do different languages express an idea?" I often start with the "man bites dog" vs. "dog bites man" idea in English and get the kids to tell me about how word order determines grammatical function in English, then show the Latin equivalents and get them to see that endings determine grammatical function in Latin.
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tomcatkins
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Time:2013-03-27 12:58 am (UTC)
nominative v. accusative

Actually, Acc. v. Abl is way more interesting.
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agatharuncible
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Time:2013-03-27 11:36 am (UTC)
Considering that the OP is going to be teaching a beginner's class with no previous knowledge of the language, nominative vs. acusative may be much easier to grasp (especially resorting to English examples and what they would be like in Latin).
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tomcatkins
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Time:2013-03-27 12:33 am (UTC)
1. Latin is a language where a single word can convey A LOT of meaning. (Any decent synthetic language is, but your lads wouldn't know that). Give a lot of impressive examples. Speculate on what implications it might have for philosophy, military success, law, politics and scientific reasoning in the Romans.

2. Latin is a language which defies word order and mocks it as it pleases. Give impressive examples from poetry. Speculate on how it frees the mind and stimulates creativity.
Alternatively, make up some rubbish about how SVO is about things (focus on object) and SOV is about actions (focus on verb). Or do both.

3. Most people speak some Latin every day. Use your students own remarks to illustrate your point. Or anything on the web. Use other languages as well if you can. "There's a Roman in everyone"; for many it is also true genetic ancestry-wise. The last bit may be construed as not PC, so avoid.

4. Roman brevity and Roman eloquence and how they allowed for Roman conquest.

5. English is the new Latin - the lingua franca of today. So Latin is a lot like English.
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gtrnvox
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Time:2013-03-27 04:44 am (UTC)
She is dead sure that somewhere out there there is a connection between how the Romans lived and the fact that they had sort-of free word-order and case markings.

Hasn't modern linguistic work pretty much demolished this way of thinking?
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