Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Mendax! and the Veracity of Card Games in Class

I still clearly remember one of my early lessons in classroom methods with the late Gareth Morgan, a pillar of the U.T. Classics Dept. and internationally renown professor of classics. He sat before me in his office and picked up a deck of cards. He began flashing them before me one at a time with the clear expectation that I was to respond with the corresponding Latin term for the number before me.

I was struck at the profound simplicity and brilliance of this scheme. The goal was to connect a Latin word with a concept, an image, the idea of a quantity as opposed to another English word. It also took a very familiar and comfortable representative of that number, an image of delight, to accomplish this goal.

Since gaining my own classroom, I regularly use Dr. Morgan’s lesson with my own students and with great success. Often, this lesson comes as a nice ice breaker in the first days of the school year, a great way to shake off the dust and warm the gears in the Latin part of the mind to start turning anew.  After reviewing the numbers and adding color (ruber and ater), we then begin to use this skill to play a couple card games. The first is Mendax! (more commonly known among students as B.S.).

The rules of the game are fairly simple.  The students set in a circle and cards are distributed until the deck runs out. The player to the left of the dealer begins by placing all of their 2 face cards in the middle, face down. The player must declare, however, how many 2 cards he has. The next player must do the same for her 3 face cards. The next with his 4 face cards, and so on through the proper sequence all the way through the Aces. It is inevitable that at some point someone will not have any of the cards he is supposed to place in the middle, forcing that player to “lie” about how many of what kind of card he is placing in the middle pile. When anyone suspects a player of such an untruth they are to cry out MENDAX (liar)!

Our Latin twist of course requires that as each set of cards is placed in the middle, the player must declare her cards in Latin. If a player mistakenly declares in English, she loses her turn.  Thus:

Playing Mendax!


Player 1:  unus duo (one 2-cared)

Player 2: unus tres (one 3-card)

Player 3: duo quattuor ( 2 4-cards)

Player 4: tres quinque (3 5-cards)

et cetera . . .

The player who rids himself of all his cards first wins and should victoriously shout VINCO!


The terms we use for the royal cards.

Ace = Primus ( We use “alpha”)

King = Rex

Queen = Regina

Jack = Dux (cf. duke, a derivative of dux)





For an added educational benefit, teachers should consider choosing decks of cards with images tied to Rome or Latin. This summer I happened upon a wonderful deck of cards produced by a company called Midnight Cards.

Photos are from Midnight Cards website.

This company prizes itself on beautifully designed playing cards. Among their treasures is a set of two complementary decks called Rome. The red deck is titled Caesar and the blue deck Antony. The back of each card is adorned with artwork featuring these two heroes (or villains depending on which side you take). The face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are historical personages caught up in the dynastic rise of the Caesars and their political enemies.

Face cards feature historic rivals such as Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar (shown here) as well as Octavian/Augustus (hearts) and Antony (spades).

This beautiful teaching tool not only provides a great lesson in numbers, but also in history, and even art. Once the students know the connections of all these figures and images, each time they “play” they are caught up in a wonderful review integrating all these disciplines. Truly marvelous.

Follow this link to Midnight Cards for more information on their Rome Decks and other beautiful card designs: Midnight Cards

Follow this link for instructions within this blog site on how to play another card game, Go Fish in Latin: Go Fish

Postcards from the Ancient World

Invite your students to join you on a journey of discovery by sending them postcards from the Ancient World!

The Grammar School teachers at our school often send a short notecard to their students the first of August to welcome their new charges into their classroom. My kids and I always loved this introduction. I noticed this small gesture put them at ease and often made them feel welcome. And who doesn’t love getting a piece of personal mail?

A few years ago I decided to adopt this practice for my Rhetoric School (High School) students, but with an ancient twist. In addition to teaching Latin and Greek, I also teach Ancient Humanities (history and literature). In August I send my students postcards from Greece or Italy.  The first time I did this, I actually was in Italy on a study tour for teachers with the Vergilian Society. I mailed the postcards from Italy. Unfortunately, I am not able to spend every summer in Italy. I have, however, found Greek and Italian “postcards” online in places like Zazzle. From these online vendors, I select a series of postcards that showcase sites and subjects that relate to what we will study.

postcard prep at my favorite local coffee shop

  • Oracle at Delphi
  • Palace at Knossos
  • Parthenon at Athens
  • Harbor of Rhodes
  • Famous frescoes such as the Minoan Bull Leaping in Knossos or Sappho in Pompeii
  • Famous mosaics such as the Alexander Mosaic
  • Colosseum in Rome
  • Pantheon in Rome
  • Ruins of Pompeii
  • Mt. Vesuvius
  • Medieval art inspired by ancient people or places (School of Athens)

On the back I include a brief note of welcome and an invitation to join me on a journey of discovery through the ancient world. Then I include a small prompt for that journey: “Bring this postcard to the first day of class and share ONE THING you can discover about what you see in this postcard.”

This is not a formal assignment and it is not for a grade. It is meant to be simple. After all, school has not begun. It is simply an invitation for discovery. I am impressed at how students rise to the occasion. There are those who don’t really do the assignment, but most embrace this idea. I am even impressed at how many go above and beyond to really dig in to this first mini lesson and find something fascinating. It is not unusual for the student to offer a new “fun fact” or fresh perspective on the postcard subject.

The best part – the first day of class no longer feels clinical like we are all going through the motions of schedules and syllabi. The first day really feels like we are all embarking together on a journey of discovery. At the end of our “show and tell” time I ask the students what they gleaned from this first task. What might I have aimed to teach them with this?

Answer:  History is not just found in a textbook. Yes, we can learn about History through reading texts and primary sources. But, we can also discover history by engaging with the places, the geography, the architecture, art, and ruins left behind. History is more than dates and wars and famous people, it is about people, places, thriving cultures and what they have handed down to us through time. What can we learn from them? That will be our journey of discovery!

Mother Moo’s Nursery Poems

In a recent post titled Texan Eclogues I reminisced over my first poetry composition assignment, one that involved the imitation of a distinctly classical poetic style. By that I mean involving the meters and literary style of those poets from the Golden Age of Latin Literature. In that assignment I asked my students to imitate Vergil’s pastoral poems. In this assignment we put a modern twist on classical style. I have been given the sweet appellation of Mother Moo by my Latin students. It is a title I treasure for many of these students I have known since their grammar school days. They have been my students and my daughter’s friends for many years. So as is not uncommon with teachers, they become “my kids” and I become a bit of a mother hen, or rather a mother goose. During the course of the year they asked me if they could compose a little book of Mother Moo’s Nursery Rhymes (reminiscent of Mother Goose).  While Latin poetry doesn’t exactly rhyme, I loved the idea. So with great delight I am able to present in this blog post the first edition of Mother Moo’s Nursery Poems.


Before you enjoy the poems, however, here are the parameters of the assignment:

  1. Poem must be a minimum of 4 lines long.
  2. Standard spelling and grammar rules apply (always).
  3. Poem must be composed in one of three Latin meters:
    • dactylic hexameter
    • elegiac couplet
    • hendecasyllabic
  4. Each poem is allowed 1 example of hiatus without penalty (the deliberate avoidance of an elision).
  5. Poem must include at least one rhetorical device (hiatus is not included).
  6. Poem must be based on a classic nursery rhyme such as those found in the canon of Mother Goose.


Poetry Preparation:

  1. The poetry composition assignment is given at the end of a semester on poetry study. Students have by this time read numerous Latin poems, both Classical and Medieval, using the meters listed above.
  2. Students have also learned how to scan all three metrical styles.
  3. Students have by this time been studying rhetorical devices in both their English Literature and Latin Literature classes. They are well versed in the most common devices. For an excellent list with copious examples visit University of Kentucky Glossary of Rhetorical Terms.
  4. For this project I place the students in pairs and together they select a short nursery rhyme.  The project takes approximately one week.

After reviewing all of the above it is important to remind the students that we are not translating so much as interpreting a classic English poem into a classical Latin poetic form. We cannot do that with a literal translation style. Instead, we ought to focus on transferring meaning from one art form into another. That means we have to break a few perceived rules (such as rhyme) in order to achieve our creation. Or in the case of Humpta Dumpta, we break a few eggs. The result is delightful. The students begin with a great excitement to engage with childhood nostalgia. Excitement becomes a frustrated determination as they encounter the difficulties presented in ancient meter. Determination through these difficulties gives way to triumph as their work takes shape. At last, when their little poems are finally complete, they gain a real sense of awe as they gain a deeper appreciation for the skill of poets such as Vergil and Ovid who wrote entire epics in this beautiful art form. They are very proud of their little poems, and so is Mother Moo.


I. Parva Stella (hendecasyllabic)

Parva stella mica, mica supra me

Nescit mens meus ipse cuius heu fis

Supra terram et ultra mollem album

non diversus abiecta gemma caelo

Parva stella mica mica supra me

Nescit mens meus ipse cuius heu fis

Twinkle, twinkle little star above me
Alas my mind itself does not know of what you are
Above the earth and beyond the fluffy white
not unlike a gem thrown in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little star above me
Alas my mind itself does not know of what you are


* * * * *


II. Cimex Parvissima (dactylic hexameter)

Presterem cimex grandem parvissima scandit

Imber aesuper interdum abluet evenit cimex

Sol exit, pluviam interdum restinquet totam

Presterem cimex rursus parvissima scandit.

The smallest bug climbs the bit waterspout
The rain comes forth from above and then washed out the bug
The sun comes out, meanwhile it quenches all the rain
The smallest bug climbs the waterspout again.


* * * * *

III. Humpta Dumpta (hendecasyllabic)

Humpta Dumpta sedet vertice muri

Humpta Dumpta cadit vertice muri

Toti huius equi virique regis

Humptam ponere possunt una rursus

Humpty Dumpty sits on top of the wall
Humpty Dumpty falls from the top of the wall
All of the king’s horses and men
are not able to put Humpty as one again


For additional posts on Latin poetry visit:

Texan Eclogues

Latin Haiku

Texan Eclogues

Nearly a decade ago I issued my first poetry composition assignment. This assignment was to reflect the culmination of Latin poetry studied that year. We had looked at poems short and long by the poets from the Golden Age of Latin Literature: Horace, Vergil, Catullus, and Ovid. Among these works we read a couple of Vergil’s Eclogues, beautiful pastoral poems that pre-date his magnum opus, Aeneid. We used Vergil’s pastoral style to inspire our own bucolics on the fields of Texas.  Over the years I have found no better way of instilling a deep appreciation for both the beauty and labor of Latin poetry than through a bit of imitation in writing. The assignment can, however, be a bit overwhelming. After all, I am asking my students to imitate the most “epic” of poets. The assignment was 5-10 lines of dactylic hexameter on a pastoral theme. Students were to be mindful of elisions and incorporate at least one rhetorical device.* I titled the collection Texan Eclogues since these eclogues were composed by young Texans.  This collection can be found in the first edition of The Vates Anthology of New Latin Poetry. I encourage readers to take a look at Vates where you will find a new age of Latin poets carrying on the craft and the tradition begun in that once Golden Age of Latin Literature.


upilio in pratum pulcherrimum agens gregem omnem.
laetificum carmen affirmanti uoce cantat:
‘o mi lanigeri amici cessate libenter
tempestiuo mane quod largiuntur gaudete
liberali di. dissoluunt hiemem radio auri
ueremque spargiunt ad agros artusque trementes.
Ver uerrit patulis pennis alarum auium horum.’

A shepherd leading his whole flock into a most beautiful
meadow, sings a joyful song with reassuring voice:
‘O my fleecy companions linger freely. Rejoice in
the ripe morning which the generous gods bestow.
They melt the winter with ray of gold and
spread the spring to trembling fields and bodies.
Spring sweeps with the outspread feathers of the wings of these birds.’

* * *

dic musa, spumo de Oceano Apollo quo
aethere transcenso ut aquae se submergit currus
bullent. dic insulam rauam luxuriosam.
Nymphae currunt saltant saxa et herbam in ora.
est hoc asylum et regia uxoris Hectoris feri.

Speak muse, concerning frothy Oceanus in which Apollo, after
The ether had been crossed, submerges his chariot, so that the waters
bubble themselves. Speak of a lush grey island.
Nymphs run over the rocks and grass, they dance on the shore.
This is the sanctuary and palace of the wife of fierce Hector.

* * *

nunc in caelo clar’ Aurora celeriter surgit.
aduocat iter in agrem rediret muner’ agere.
ingens pello canis prope me ad pascula currit,
ualde pecumque salutamus, illos congregarimus.
hos potantes aquam placid’ obseruo otiantes.

Now Aurora rises quickly into the clear skies.
She calls again to return into the field and to do [my] duties.
My huge dog with his pelt runs alongside me to the pastures,
And we greet the herd immensely; we herd them.
I watch these, relaxing, drinking the water peacefully.

* * *

papilliones pulchras fructices bacas circum uolant.
siluam per incendo pluit atque et caelum cantat.
de caelo imber re faciens cadit musicam
incurrit. incurrit in uirides arbores fragilesque
flores. spissus poculum imber Proserpinum fundet.

The beautiful butterflies fly around the berry bush.
I am walking through the forest and it rains and the sky sings.
Rain falls from the sky making music with the objects it strikes.
It strikes against green trees and soft flowers.
The heavy rain fills the cup of Proserpina.


*Readers, please kindly consider that these are novice poets. Their work is very good, but not perfect. Do not allow the rare metrical error to take away from the craft.

For more on Latin poetry composition visit the post Latin Haiku.

Laocoon and the Snakes


There is perhaps no more iconic scene from Vergil’s Aeneid, than that of Laocoon’s struggle against the serpents of Tenedos in Book II. The tragic scene is beautifully rendered by Vergil in his skillfully wrought poetic form. His playful use of word and sound arrangement draws the reader in to writhe with the victims and the serpents through the scene. This passage is closely associated with an ancient marble statue known to us as The Laocoon Group. The Roman copy stands today in the Vatican Museum. The Greek original is lost to us physically, but lives on through Vergil’s pen. It is widely believed that Vergil was familiar with the statue and even drew inspiration from the marble coils of the serpents and the desperation of the victims painfully immortalized in stone.

I enjoy reading this scene with students while the Laocoon Group is projected upon the wall of the classroom. The statue captures a single moment in time, but which one? From what place in Vergil’s lines might we draw this moment? How apt is his description? These are wonderful questions to stimulate student discussion on Vergil’s choice of words, his arrangement of the words, and the progression of the scene. Of course, the poem is not meant to be an exact description of the art and we can find differences. This too is a good exercise.


  • What is the same?
  • Which lines seem to describe the statue and how?
  • What is different?
  • Where did Vergil depart from the statue and why?








From there it is worth demonstrating how the iconic statue has inspired others beyond Vergil. Such lessons demonstrate just how timeless the classics are, and how much we can benefit from knowing classical literature and its references. Not just benefit intellectually, but also benefit by deriving pleasure and occasionally a really good laugh.

If you wish to integrate this art-literature study with science, consider this 1924 photograph of a statue by Josef Hyrtl.

Laocoon and his Sons by Josef Hyrtl

Josef Hyrtl was a 19th century Austrian anatomist.  In 1835 he presented his thesis, prepared in Latin, entitled Antiquitates anatomicae rariores. As a student he was a prosector in anatomy, preparing bodies for dissection. His work caught the attention of a Professor Czermark and through this connection Hyrtl came to be curator of a museum which featured anatomical displays. Hyrtl contributed many pieces to the collection himself, including this one inspired by the death of Laocoon in Book II.






The Wilde Collection arrangement of Laocoön and His Sons at Death by Natural Causes




Drawing inspiration form Hyrtl’s interpretation of Laocoon, Lawyer Douglas, Tyler Zottarelle of the Wilde Collection and artist Joshua Hammond created their own interpretation of the Laocoon Group for an exhibit titled Death by Natural Causes at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Whether or not this gruesome death was exactly “natural” is up for debate, but it is a fascinating study in anatomy, art, and literature to compare the two anatomical creations.






And then there is this sculpture, a sci-fi interpretation of the classic.

Storm Troopers vs. Dianoga



If you wish to integrate this art-literature study with history or political science, consider the following set of political cartoons from three different generations. Each one show cases politicians entangled with policies that seem to devour them. This classical scene is one that transcends time and culture. It is worth considering that Laocoon too could be perceived as a political casualty. He was a pious priest, fulfilling his duty, seeking to do his best to serve gods and country. Unfortunately, he was on the wrong side of the winning team in the foreign-policy entanglement of Troy vs. Greek Federation. He became a pawn of the gods. How does his story compare to those represented here (if at all)? What pathos might that create for those who know the classical tale?


1930’s pre WWII Isolationism


1960’s European Conflict




2000’s Energy Crisis and Foreign Entanglements







































Lastly, there is one other artist to consider who took inspiration from the Roman version of The Laocoon Group. This artist was present in Rome as archaeologists uncovered the remains of the famous statue in January 1506, buried in the ground of a Rome vineyard owned by Felice de’ Fredis. Italy’s most beloved sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti visited the actual excavation site and at the Vatican when the repaired statue was put on display. Scholar’s believe, and it is hardly without doubt, that Laocoon’s torso with its twisted position was a source of great inspiration for Michelangelo and appears in multiple works, most notably the figure of Christ in his painting of The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. Study carefully the position of the torso, his raised right arm, and even the legs. Like Laocoon, Christ is viewing a scene of horrendous divine judgement. Unlike Laocoon, Christ is a willing sacrifice who then as a triumphant savior presides over a righteous judgement instead of falling victim to a perverted one.


While Christ’s head is clearly not that of the tortured Laocoon, it is highly probable that Michelangelo took for this feature the model of the ancient sculpture Apollo Belvedere, also housed in the Vatican Museum.

What can we conclude from this study of Laocoon and the snakes in both art and poetry? Namely, that the classics are timeless. Their message continues to inspire and to bear relevance to the world around us today. From them we can draw a sense of truth and beauty and goodness that continues to resonate within the mind and soul of man.

SCL Preconference on Classical & Modern Languages

The Society for Classical Learning will hold its annual conference in Austin, Texas on June 26-29, 2019. This year SCL will feature a full pre-conference day workshop on teaching foreign language. This conference will not limit itself to Latin, but will also consider Classical Greek and modern languages.

This preconference features several seasoned language instructors and leaders within classical Christian Education. Karen Moore (Grace Academy, Georgetown, TX;, Lisa Snyder (Covenant Christian Academy, Colleyville, TX), Dr. Tim Griffith (New Saint Andrews, ID;, Marcus Foster, Daniel Faubus, and Dr. Jason Merritt (Covenant Classical School, Ft. Worth, TX) will consider the following questions:

Why Latin? Why foreign languages? Must we commit to only one method? Is it possible to teach a language’s grammar through immersive conversation in the target language? How do we keep the struggling students supported while challenging those who are advanced (and having some fun along the way)? What are the pitfalls and benefits of a Foreign Language Program that offers both classical and modern languages? Can a modern languages and methods (TPR, CI, etc.) benefit and enhance Latin instruction or overall curriculum and vice-versa? Can a diverse, multilingual program really adhere to the maxim multum, non multa?  How do we teach our students to love learning languages, especially when asking them to do something so difficult as conversing in a foreign language in front of peers or reading great authors in the original language?

Each talk will also feature considerations of both principles and best practices that can be brought directly in to the classroom, aiming to be applicable to teachers of any language with any curriculum in any school. Besides speaking to these topics, our speakers will also lead round table discussions on various issues such as: AP Latin, classical languages in college and beyond, department culture, lateral entries & remediation, hosting immersive workshops, and adding new language offerings.

For a look at the complete schedule and registration details visit:


SCL’s 2019 Conference will also include workshops in Latin by the following:

The Art of Latin, Karen Moore
The 12th and 13th century A.D. have been hailed as the Aetas Ovidiana for the great extent to which Ovid influenced the literature and art. The 8th and 9th century have similarly been dubbed the Aetas Vergiliana for the great influence of Vergil. Even today should you attend any of the excellent collections of Renaissance art, should a student of literature know the stories of Ovid, Vergil and the Bible that student would be able to well interpret the great majority of any piece that should capture his gaze. He would do well to consider, however, that the artists of such masterpieces were inspired not merely by the concept of a story, but the artful writing of Ovid and Vergil. This workshop will look at several masterpieces from these time periods as object lessons in the art of Latin. Such lessons integrate the study of Latin literature with art history enhancing the students’ understanding and appreciation of both studies. Such studies better equip our students and ourselves to grow as life-long learners and life-long lovers of both art and Latin.

This workshop will greatly benefit teachers of Latin, Art, and Ancient Literature.

Teaching Latin That Good Old Way But in the Twenty-First Century, Dr. Tim Griffith
It may seem impractical to spend valuable class time learning to write or speak in a dead language . As almost everyone capable of using Latin is now dead, even those who see the value of learning the language at all usually only see the value of learning to read it. But composing Latin, whether aloud or on paper, has been proven for centuries to be an excellent way for students to learn to read it better. This workshop will demonstrate how teachers can teach Latin the old and proven way—through composition and oral composition—while using powerful tools from the 21st century.

Basics of Speaking Ancient Greek, Dr. Jason Merritt
Many classical educators have only limited exposure to the Greek language, and the different alphabet employed by Greek presents an impediment to further learning. This workshop seeks to bridge that gap by introducing the attendee to the Greek alphabet, pronunciation, and basic vocabulary through spoken exercises. This workshop is ideal both for lower and upper school teachers who deal with Greek history, culture, and literature in their curriculum and would like to explore the language further and incorporate basic elements of the alphabet and language into their instruction.

The World has Lost a Great . . .

Gaylan DuBose (1941-2018) Co-Author for Latin Alive

The world has lost a great ____. With these words Father Jerry opened the memorial service for Gaylan DuBose. This, he explained, was the title of his sermon, a title with an intentional empty space. A space that only Gaylan could fill, and fill in a different way for each one of us. Gaylan was an amazing man in so many respects. Each one who had the opportunity to know him was blessed by him. For some it was as “Dubie”, the amazing Latin or English teacher, who never failed to captivate a classroom and inspire the countless students who filled his classrooms for over fifty years. For others it was as the author of countless books on academic subjects, which inspired both students and teachers alike. For still others Gaylan is cherished as the faithful organist at St. Augustine’s Orthodox Church in Pflugerville, TX. Here he worshiped the Lord and blessed the body of Christ for many many years at mass, religious services, and innumerable quinceaneras. For more people than we will lever know he was the incarnation of Matthew 6

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

Gaylan’s generosity knew no bounds, particularly to those he saw in need. As a career educator he did not have great wealth, but what he did have he constantly was giving to assist those around him. He gave not only money, but time, advice, action, prayer, and a genuine love for humanity. And in his giving and in his doing he was, as Father Jerry often likes to say, “indefatigable.”

So how does one fill in this blank to articulate what has been lost as Gaylan departs this temporal world for that eternal? Father Jerry prompted the family and friends today to modify this opening line to I have lost a great ____.  So I will answer this charge with whatever tribute I can give in what Gaylan DuBose has meant to me.

My first memory of Gaylan DuBose is as a Latin teacher at Westwood High School in Round Rock (Austin area). Gaylan along with Jo Green, Jane Nethercut, and my own Latin teacher Susan Fugate had years before established the National Junior Classical League in the Austin Area. I and thousands of other students benefited from their great passion and enthusiasm in bringing middle school and high school students together each year to enjoy classical competitions. I clearly remember watching Gaylan interact with his team, with other students, and other sponsors, and thinking to myself that there was a man to be admired. Little did I realize then how our paths would soon connect and where they would lead.

Inspired by my own Latin teacher, Susan Fugate, I pursued a Classics Degree at U.T. Austin with the goal of myself becoming a Latin teacher. The benefit of entering a student teaching program in your home town is that you know exactly who you wan to work with. I had been watching most of these teachers for years and I knew the area schools pretty well. I requested to work with both Susan and Gaylan, both were granted. Upon our first meeting, Gaylan immediately took me under his wing, adopted me as one of his own. He became a second mentor and then a friend. It was in those early years that Gaylan tasked me with volunteering at the JCL art competition. There I assisted the incomparable Franklin Brothers in judging the various works of art, advising on classical themes. This triumvirate were such a joy to work with each year. I learned so much from them on classics, art, and, of even greater value, the art of gentile chivalry. I still run the art contest at our Area JCL convention each year and often I quote them in advising our art judges. The event continues to be a highlight for me because of them.

Those early days would lead to a friendship of 25 + years filled with wisdom, admonition, wonderful teaching ideas, and always encouragement. When Chris Perrin asked that I write what would become the Latin Alive series, I knew I did not want to take on such a task alone. I immediately thought of my mentors and will be forever grateful to Gaylan for joining me in that adventure. I am grateful not only for the great work he contributed, which is of inestimable value, but even more I am grateful for the time with him. For many years we met at the same small orthodox church where I sat at this morning’s memorial service to work through texts together. I would bring my small children, who would play in the fellowship hall while we worked. Gaylan was never bothered by their company, but rather cherished the opportunity to watch them play, drink in their laughter, and delight in the little stories they wanted to share with him. He adopted them as he adopted me so many years before as part of his extended “family” to the extent that after our first book was published Gaylan insisted that I take his royalties for the LAI teacher’s edition along with mine to establish their college fund. The gift of friendship Gaylan had given me, became an inheritance of friendship for my own children.

As the kids grew older and their visits grew less, Gaylan and I reconvened our meetings to the Starbucks in Pflugerville to continue our work on the series, a project that would require more than 8 years to complete. Here I sit now writing this tribute. After leaving the church where we worked together over so many years this coffee shop was the only place I could go. It just felt right. I started to work on my next book, one whose manuscript I had eagerly looked forward to sharing with Gaylan this month. Instead, my thoughts just filled with memories of Gaylan mingled with Father Jerry’s words, “I have lost a great  . . .”

I have lost a great mentor, a writing partner, a friend. And yet, the faith we shared tells me that one day I will see Gaylan again. That hope brings joy in the midst of sorrow. That joy compels my thoughts to drift away from what I have lost to what I, in knowing Gaylan, have gained.

In Gaylan I gained a magnificent mentor, whose creative teaching and penchant for correct grammar lives on in my classroom. I gained a writing partner, who continued to teach me even as we began teaching others. I often feel as though I went through a graduate program 1-1 with the most incredible professor; what greater gift could exist for a life-long learner? Above all I gained a friend, a man who I will forever admire and respect, whose kindness and generosity knew no bounds. This man took the time to call me friend, encourage me, invest in me, and to pour into me and even through me into my own children and my school kids.

Today, I remember the great Gaylan that I gained and the blessing that his life continues to be to mine.



magno cum amore,


Back to School Supplies for Latin!

As we all gear up for the start of another school year, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my favorite study tools for students of all ages and teachers of levels.

Flash Cards – all ages, beginning levels

Index cards have become the quintessential vocabulary study tool. I like using the colored packs as they can provide a creative mnemonic tool for differentiating between parts of speech and the gender of nouns. As students create the cards, they must consider carefully which color to use for each word. As they study the cards they will often subconsciously memorize that color in association with the card. For visual learners, this can be VERY helpful.

Some students will find these tools helpful throughout their years of study and will keep up with them on their own. Others after a few years may drop the practice in favor of other vocab methods in their advanced years.

  • pink – feminine nouns
  • blue – masculine nouns
  • yellow – neuter
  • green – adjectives
  • purple/orange – adverbs
  • white – verbs

Colored Pencils & Highlighters – all levels

I like using colored pencils as a tool for conjugating verbs or declining nouns. I will ask students to write the stem in regular pencil and the series of inflected endings in another color. Students love using colors in class and the varied color change is another subtle yet effective means of learning how to distinguish between stem and endings.

If your students learn Latin via a consumable workbook, highlighters can be helpful in highlighting important definitions or main ideas in a lesson.

As students advance, I find many like to use both colored pencils and/or highlighters to mark up printed copies of a Latin passage. They may use parentheses to identify clauses, or draw arrows to signify agreement. In complex poetry where word order is very loose, they may underline one noun-adjective pair in blue and another in red. This is particular useful when studying rhetorical word patterns such as synchises and chiasmus.

Latin Dictionaries – middle and high school students

I am often asked for recommendations for Latin dictionaries. I typically allow students the freedom to choose the one that best suites their own learning style. However, I recommend either Cassell’s Latin Dictionary or the Collins Gem Latin Dictionary. I like these because they write out all the principle parts. Some dictionaries will omit the second principle part (i.e. infinitive) and instead include a number 1, 2, 3, or 4 to identify the conjugation. Students are expected to infer what the infinitive will look like based on the number of the conjugation. That is fine in theory, but many students find that confusing. Advise students to thumb through a copy before they buy. These can be found at most major book stores and at discount stores such as Half-Prince Books. Most of my students prefer Collins Gem because they like the compact “pocket” size.

Grammar Cards – Grammar/Elementary School

Memoria Press offers a really nice set of grammar cards in two different sizes. There is a desk size that a student may keep at his own personal desk. These can easily be pulled out for close individual reference in class or at home. For many students these large laminated cards are very handy when placed on the table next to their work for quick easy reference (as opposed to flipping through pages at the back of the book). Memoria Press also carries larger wall charts that can be posted in any classroom.

Grammar Cards – Upper School

All grammar textbooks will contain an appendix with reference charts. As students move past these texts into transitional or advanced Latin readings, they many not always have such an appendix in their reading source. My students love the Graphic Latin Grammar Cards from Bolchazy-Carducci. These provide a very comprehensive listing of all noun, verb, adjective, and participle forms (irregular words too) as well as some concise reminders on syntax. If I forget to pass these out at the beginning of the year, they ask for them by name within the first couple weeks. These are a great tool to have ready at hand when working through Latin readings.  (Bolchazy-Carducci also offers Greek Graphic Grammar Cards for Greek lovers!)

STAMPS! – for students or teachers

I absolutely LOVE a good stamp. Most teachers I know do too. When a student has done well on an assignment, particularly if it is a break-through moment or a personal best, I love putting a sticker or stamp on the paper.  I find that even high school students appreciate a little stamp-love. One of my colleagues, the indominable Ginny Lindzey, recently created a whole series of Latin Classroom Stamps. Whether you are a teacher who likes a motivational stamp or a student who wants to add a bit of Latin stamp art to your assignment, or you are a stamp fan who enjoys the stationary thing, you will enjoy these!

Do you have some favorite tools for Latin study that you would like to recommend?  Please share in the comments below.


Newton’s Prinicipia: a lesson in Latin and Science

Once I asked my good friend Ravi Jain if I were to include a Latin reading from a math/science source in my reader, what would he advise. Ravi is a math-science teacher at the Geneva School in Orlando. He is also the co-author of The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical EducationRavi is very well versed in subjects on math, science, philosophy, theology, and even a bit of language. Moreover, he is a wonderfully engaging teacher, and thus the perfect person to direct me to the best resources to mine gems on Latin and science. When I asked Ravi for his recommendation on a Latin piece by which to study science his immediate response was Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. 

This work, originally published on July 5, 1687, has since been considered one of the most important works in the history of science. It is in this work that Newton sets forth the laws of motion, which form the foundation of classical mechanics; the universal law of gravitation; and a derivation of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Full copies of the original work can be found in Latin or various translations online. On Ravi’s advice, I chose passages covering the three laws of motion for the Latin Alive Reader; for this classical set of laws is well known to most students even if they have not yet studied physics. The rest of this post will be dedicated to how I teach Newton’s laws of motion via Latin or teach Latin via Newton’s laws. Whichever way one chooses to look at it.


Reading the Principia:

Caveat Magister: The Principia will not “read” like most Latin texts read in class, and may even differ from all those you have read in most teachers’ own training. This work is neither poetry nor prose, but it is a scientific treatise. The frame work consists of the three leges [laws], each followed by a scholia [lesson] that expounds upon the law. The laws themselves must be read as extended forms of indirect discourse without a proper introductory statement.  For example, normal indirect discourse would read something like:

Lex dicit objectum actioni contrarium semper & aequalem esse reactionem

The main clause, if you will, would be Lex dicit [The law says]. The indirect discourse would be the remainder of the sentence or what the law says. The verb within the indirect discourse is always an infinitive that we would render in English as an indicative verb: actioni contrarium semper & aequalem esse reactionem [for an action there is always an opposite and equal reaction].

Newton, however, foregoes the main clause as he states each law. He just lists the three laws of motion with infinitive vebs in lieu of indicative verbs as is read in indirect discourse.

Actioni contrarium semper & aequalem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse aequales & in partes contrarias dirigi.

Teachers will want to point this out to the students before beginining any reading of the Prinicipia as this unfamiliar format may throw them off. I find that once I explain the structure and advise them to pretend or assume the phrase lex dicit before each law, the students flow along with the reading of the laws themselves very well.

The scholia that follows each law is more or less in a form of prose that is easy to follow. Newton does like to use the ampersand in place of et (as seen in the above example). The scholia will give an expanded explanation of the law and provide examples of the law in form. These provide great material for class discussion (in English or in Latin) on the laws and the Latin text. I usually like to end the study with some composition assignments as will be seen below.

General Lesson Plan:

  1. Ask the students to create an “unfamiliar vocabulary list.”

Before reading or translating, ask the students to create a list of all the Latin words they do not immediately recognize. This will help warm their minds to the reading and topics to be considered. This will also make your time reading flow more smoothly as it provides a reference aide and prevents the frustrating stop-start-stop-start pattern of reading as students fumble to look up words. The exercise will also lead students to recognize the high level of English derivatives in Latin during the 17th century.

When making an unfamiliar vocab list I generally ask students to write down the genitive singular and gender for nouns and the principle parts of verbs. This also allows for discussion on appropirate agreement, tense, syntax, etc. as we read. It is wise for students to also write down more than one meaning as sometimes the meaning most applicable to our context might not be the first word listed in the dictionary.

2. Reading the laws themselves

There are two approaches I generally follow for reading. The first is a prepared translation, meaning that students work through a written translation prior to a class reading and discussion. The second is a sight reading. With Newton’s passage I generally prefer a sight read, so that is the process I will provide here. IF you do prefer to assign students the task of translating the passage prior to the class reading, please please please do NOT allow them to read off their English translations during discussion time. Such time should be devoted to reading from the Latin text, not their English work.

A) Ask a student to read a portion of the Latin text in Latin. You may choose to have them read a clause or a phrase or an entire sentence. I sometimes, as the teacher, will read the entire law myself first to model pronunciation, particularly since some of these words are new. However, it is very important for the students to read out loud and to hear themselves and their classmates reading the language out loud.

B) Check for general understanding. Before someone renders an English interpretation of the phrase, discuss in general what is being discussed or happening. This does not necessitate taking every single word into account. If there is a word that is unfamiliar or unknown – skip it. Don’t let the words they don’t know rob them of what they do know. Use what they recognize and the context to get at the general meaning. This can be done in English or in Latin or in both languages.

C) Ask a student to interpret the phrase or sentence into English. This can be intimidating for some, so make sure to give praise for everything that is correct. If the student interprets the general sense correctly but errs in some grammatical particulars such as the number of a noun or the tense of a verb or skips over a word, I will praise the student for understanding the sentence. Then I will go back to “clean up grammar” but make sure the class (and student especially) understand we are doing that as an opportunity to review and understand the grammar. It is very important that students understand they can still read a passage and understand a reading even without 100% accuracy on vocabulary and grammar. After all, how many times do they understand Shakespeare’s English 100%?

D) At the end of a section, take time to recap or review what Newton has stated or is trying to explain. Once again this can be done in Latin or in English. Either way, you are now integrating physics and Latin!!!

See Step 3 Below on Class Discussion

E) I often will conclude these lessons by asking students to turn in a written translation. However, there are other ways to assess understanding of a passage and I used them abundantly!

3. Class Discussion


As we read through the passage together in Latin, I like to take the opportunity to discuss what we are reading. Go beyond just translating what each word or sentence means, and explore what Newton is trying to teach us via the examples he is giving. Some of these discussions can take place via oral Latin conversation. Some might need to use English to explore the concepts of physics.  For example, in his third law Newton uses the example of a finger pressing on a stone in order to explain the third law of motion – for an action there is always an opposite and equal reaction.  Newton writes:

Quicquid premit vel trahit alterum, tantundem ab eo premitur vel trahitur. Si quis lapidem digito premit, premitur & huius digitus a lapide.

Newton is trying to demonstrate that while the finger is pressing the stone, the stone is also pressing back on the finger with an “opposite and equal reaction.”  Bring a stone to class to demonstrate. Or even a class set of stones. Then ask questions such as the following.

Omnes, premite lapidem tuum. Quid premitis? [ lapidem]. Quid digitus tuus premit? [lapidem] Quid lapis premit? [digitum] Quid ab lapide premitur? [digitus] Quid ab digito premitur? [lapis]

Estne reactio et contraria et aequalis actioni? [Ita vero!]


Also take time to discuss Newton’s style of writing. He makes some intentional word choices in terms of both vocabulary and arrangement. For example, note that he uses both the verbs premit and trahit in that first sentence. This is the sentence that both follows the third law of motion (seen above) and introduces the scholia demonstrating the third law. Why does he use both of these particular verbs?  Note that premit is then used in the example of the stone. The lines that follow (not shown here) go on to use the example of a horse dragging (trahit) a rock tied with a rope.  Thus, these two verbs are chosen as they apply directly to the examples Newton will give.  Also note that in the second sentence Newton juxtaposes the words premit and premitur. He is using a rhetorical device called anadiplosis to place particular emphasis not only on this action, but on the change from active to passive in the example of this action. Brilliant!

4. Composition

As has been pointed out, each scholia follows the statement of each lex. The scholia usually provides at least one example of the law in action such as the trundling hoop or the horse with the rope and the rock. Ask students to compose their own original scholia in Latin to demonstrate one of the three laws of motion. I usually assign the topic of a baseball being hit by a bat. Before composing we discuss how this action reflects each of Newton’s laws, how this example might resemble those Newton has already given, and what parts of Newton’s writing specifically might be applied to such a scholia. Require that the students begin their composition by restating Newton’s law. Encourage them to use Newton’s vocabulary and imitate his style as much as possible.

I usually have the students turn in a rough draft to which I make edits. I advise them on corrections needed without giving the answers. For example, I might write that a tense or a case needs to be changed. Or, I might suggest that they pay attention to noun-verb or noun-adjective agreement in a certain sentence. I want to guide my young scientists in the right direction without doing the work for them. After the final copies are turned in, send an email to parent to praise the physics lesson and the scientific compositions the students created in Latin class! This is a lesson sure to encourage both your students and their parents in the value of Latin in the world of science.





Veritas Press Teacher Training 2018

I am pleased to announce that I will return to beautiful Lancaster, Pennsylvania this summer to speak at the annual Veritas Press Teacher Training Conference on July 11- 13. If you attended last year, you may recall that I walked through best practices in teaching through Latin for Children, Latin Alive Book 1, and Wheelock.  This year I will be taking on some different topics, though still related to these same ages and stages. (If you missed the 2017 conference you can get my Latin sessions through Veritas Press).

Here is a sneak peek at the topics I am speaking on this year!

Latin: The Key to the Grammar School

Latin is often considered a core element to a classical education, even in the younger years of grammar school. This session will explore the reasons why Latin is a key component in the grammar years and how this study can support and reinforce other subjects. Topics covered will include vocabulary, grammar, enrichment, and integrative opportunities with other subjects.

Latin: Taking it Beyond Vocabulary

This second session will build on the vocabulary skills introduced in session one. The goal of teaching Latin is to be able to read wonderful stories written in this ancient and beautiful language. In this session the class will move beyond vocabulary to consider how students can apply words to simple sentences, eventually reading simple stories. This class will use lessons within the Latin for Children series along with stories from the Libellus de Historia Reader series to demonstrate how to teach students to read Latin.

Latin I for All Children

As enrollment grows and new students join existing schools and programs, how do we bring new students into our Latin programs? This seminar will explore ways to welcome new students and set them up for success in classical languages. We will look at entry points for grammar, logic, and rhetoric programs. We will also consider opportunities for additional support as students adapt and grow.

Using Latin Alive!

As students mature their styles of learning change, and so must our style of teaching. The paradigms are the same, but we must move beyond them to find ways to make Latin come alive for our students. This session will highlight teaching strategies for older students utilizing some of the lessons and tools of the Latin Alive program. Karen Moore, Latin teacher and author of Latin Alive, will also share a number of techniques she has developed as we review the finer points of Latin grammar, reading, and even a little composition.


For more information on the Veritas Teacher Training Conference, including registration visit