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Lesson Plans and Ideas

Gingerbread Pantheon

Augustus was said to have found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble.  Our Classics Club at Grace Academy is rebuilding Rome as a city of gingerbread!  Each year our students take on the task of rebuilding a significant piece of ancient architecture from gingerbread and other edible materials.  This year our group took on the Roman Pantheon.  We entered the finished piece in the Georgetown Library’s annual Edible Extravaganza contest where it won first place in its division. This post will share some of the secrets behind the triumph.


The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient monument still in existence in the world today.  Its unique architecture with the rotunda and great dome were spared by the sack of the Visigoths  in the 400’s and the dominion of the Catholic Church. While many temples were destroyed, this one was spared.  It provides for us an excellent study of history, culture, and architecture.  The best way to learn from it, is to try and imitate it.

The shape of the rotunda is created by baking several circular rings from gingerbread. Stack them on top of each other using royal icing to “cement” each layer on top of the other.  Once hardened, cover the exterior with a thick coat of royal icing.  We used about 10 such rings.


doric columns of candycanes and gumdrops

The portico of the Pantheon features 16 pillars imported from Ancient Egypt.  We used candy canes and gumdrops.  The gum drops were an ingenious addition this year to our pillars. They offer an excellent support for the candy cane while also providing a good wide base for the royal icing cement.  We also felt they gave the peppermint pillars a little more of the style one would see in the doric columns of the ancient world.  We couldn’t quite fit all 16 pillars under the portico, so our version features 12 pillars on the portico and an additional 4 along the sides.

The famous inscription on the front is a tribute from Hadrian to Agrippa.  M. AGRIPPA L.F. COS TERTIUM FECIT 

Agrippa built the original temple in 26 B.C.  This temple was destroyed in the great fire of A.D. 80. Hadrian rebuilt the Pantheon (as it stands today) in A.D. 120.  We have added the inscription using alphabet pasta colored green with foodcoloring and lemon extract.


undecorated dome and its cake form

The greatest attribute of the Roman Pantheon must be the great dome.  It was a great feat of engineering in its own time as the first known unsupported dome ever built.  To this day it remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.  The dome for the U.S. Capitol building is 96′ in diameter. The Pantheon’s dome is 142′ in diameter.  Our dome is much smaller than either, but how can it be created?  Our culinary architect, Lacy Murphy, came up with the brilliant idea of using 1/2 of the cake form for ball cakes.  Roll out the dough to the desired thickness and carefully drape it over the form.  Use the opening to a classic soda bottle to cut out the hole for the oculus.

Nota Bene: We recommend leaving the extra dough around the bottom while baking the dome to prevent the dough from slowly sliding down the form as it bakes.  You can trim the excess cookie after removing from the oven while it is still soft.

The dome is covered with antique gold food coloring and adored with floral frosting.

The Christian holiday of Christmas comes at the same time of year as the Roman festival of Saturnalia and the celebrations of the Winter Solstice.  Christians derived many of their festive Christmas traditions from these Roman celebrations.  Most notable is the Christmas tree and decorative garlands.  The Romans would often decorate their trees and garlands with suns, stars, and moons in celebration of the solstice.  So we too have added Christmas trees.  The Christmas trees are made from ice cream cones covered in green icing using a decorative star tip.  This year they have golden ball decors representing the orb of the sun. In years past we have also used little star sprinkles.  In the week prior to our project the AP Latin class was reading the story of the fall of Troy as we came across the verse that reads

nos delubra deum miseri, quibus ultimus esset
ille dies, festa velamus fronde per urbem

Aeneid II.248-249

The Trojans, erroneously thinking they had defeated the Greeks, were decorating their temples with festive garlands. So this temple is also decorated with festive garlands.  Ours have flowers that resemble the traditional Christmas Poinsettias.

trees created from ice cream cones covered in frosting and edible decors

trees created from ice cream cones covered in frosting and edible decors

This Roman temple to “all gods” was converted into a Catholic Church dedicated to St. Mary of the Martyrs in A.D. 209.  This spared the achrictectural wonder from the fate of the Colosseum and other great buildings of Rome.  The temple/church also managed to survive the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in A.D. 410.  Perhaps they too thought this structure too wonderous for destruction.  The Pantheon is still in use today and remains a great tourist attraction for those seeking out a piece of history encased in beautiful and marvelous engineering.

As I hope is evident in this blog post, our gingerbread lessons are much more than “holiday fun,” they are an opportunity to engage with the history, engineering, and beauty of the past in a unique and creative way.  As we build, we learn what once was great, and how it can be made again a little sweeter.



For another delectable lesson in gingerbread architecture, visit the posts:

Gingerbread Greek Theater

Gingerbread Circus Maximus

Imitation in Writing through Latin

l believe the purpose of learning the Latin language is in order to study Latin literature.  By studying Latin literature, I mean studying the Great Books. These are great pieces of literature of outstanding merit that have stood the test of time. Such works reflect the worldview of the culture and time in which they were written. Such works have often influenced not only the people of their own time, but the people of times that would follow.  Such works should demonstrate some combination of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.  By studying such works we better understand the flow of human thought over the course of history. We better understand our civilization when we know from whence it came.  We better understand what is truly great literature.oldbooks_thumb


By studying Latin literature, I mean studying great literature that was originally written in Latin.  All too often great meaning is lost in translation.  When we can read the original words chosen by the author in the arrangement the author chose to write those words, we are better able to interpret the design and meaning of the author.  We are also better able to study the artistry of the author’s intended style and syntax.

By studying Latin literature I mean digging into the craftsmanship of great literature.  As an artist might study the color palette, lighting, and brush strokes of a master painter, so we can study the vocabulary, style, and syntax of the work.  This enables us to better understand not only what great literature looks like, but how we can become excellent craftsmen ourselves.

Many an English literature course will do the same.  Many a teacher will advocate for taking such study a step further from reading to composing.  Many a curriculum will provide such an assignment.  I sometimes do the same in my Latin literature courses.  After reading a particular piece I will ask my students to compose their own work on a similar topic with a similar style. I always assign parameters that include length, topic, content, grammar requirements, and some requirements on literary/rhetorical devices.  My high school Latin classes focus entirely on the study of Latin literature through the ages, from the time period of Cicero down to the work of Newton.  We read a variety of literary genres from people of different time periods and very different worldviews.  This also allows us the opportunity for a very wide variety of compositions.  Whenever possible, I enjoy integrating these assignments with something else the students are studying in English Literature, History, Theology, or Science.  Following are a few of the composition assignments I have given. Those assignments whose lesson plans are shared on this blog site will include a link for that particular lesson.  I update this list as such assignments are shared.

Exploration – Read excerpts from the *Latin Letter of Columbus. Then compose a descriptive paragraph on the flora and fauna where you live or go to school.

Thanksgiving Theses – Read selections from *Luther’s 95 Theses. Then compose a set of theses on the topic of giving thanks.  This assignment works particularly well in November between Reformation day and Thanksgiving.

Latin Haiku – As students begin to read short poems from *Horace or *Catullus allow them to compose their own.  A Latin Haiku introduces them to the idea of a metrical line in a very simplistic fashion.

Latin Eclogues – As students progress in their poetry skills, allow them to imitate Vergil with some pastoral eclogues using dactylic hexameter.

Laws of Motion – Read the three laws of motion as defined in Newton’s *Principia along with the scholia (or examples) that follow each one.  Then assign the students to compose their own scholia for one of the three laws.

Challenging the Status Quo – Read selections from the *Magna Charta. Many of these use the jussive subjunctive (present tense) and are great practice when first learning the subjunctive.  Then ask students to create their own set of laws to submit to your local magistrate/principal/head of school.  This is a great lesson in the language of diplomacy.

Fabulous Fables – Read Aesop’s fables as translated or added to by *Phaedrus. Then ask students to compose their own fable in a similar style.  For an added challenge, submit the fables to the annual Phaedrus Latin Contest.

*These works are included in the Latin Alive Reader: Latin Literature from Cicero to Newton, published by Classical Academic Press.

Latin Composition: Thanksgiving Theses

The philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying “docendo discimus” [by teaching we learn].  The idea behind this statement is that one must learn something really well in order to turn around and produce that learning for someone else. We teachers could also say “linguam scribendo discimus” [by writing we learn language].  I love for students to practice the grammar and vocabulary they have learned by reading authentic Latin literature.  We can take these lessons a step further by challenging students to practice these same tools by producing a composition that imitates the literary works they read.  These are two very different disciplines that engage the students in language from two different angles.  Such assignments allow them to cement their language lessons, study important pieces of writing in history and literature, and explore the writing styles of some excellent authors.  Such a composition assignment can feel overwhelming at first.  The lesson plan for the Thanksgiving Theses is a great assignment for it allows students to focus on composing concise statements of gratitude rather than a longer composition.


Around October 31 of each year we read selections from the 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther on the doors of Wittenberg Castle on October 31, 1517.  Luther’s purpose in writing these theses and nailing them to the castle door was to grab the attention of his fellow priests and to provoke a conversation.  He wanted to write with powerful emphasis in order to focus attention on issues he believed were important.  So how did he do that? Our class reading focuses on a collection of theses that have to do with giving to the poor and the needy and a set that discuss salvation.   Several of the theses we read begin with the phrase Docendi sunt Christiani [Christians must be taught]. The repetition of this phrase is an excellent example of the grammar construction known as the passive periphrastic.  This repetition is also an excellent example of the use and power of the literary device known as anaphora (the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a clause or sentence, usually for dramatic emphasis). This is a great device for driving home a point, grabbing attention, creating emphasis. As we enter November I assign the students the task of writing their own set of theses on the topic of Thanksgiving. The assignment is as follows:

  • Compose 5 Theses on the topic of gratitude.
  • Each thesis must use a gerund or a gerundive.
  • Each thesis must be an average of 12 words in length.
  • The collection of theses must use a total of 3 or more different literary devices.  Anaphora may count as one of these three.

As we approach Thanksgiving of 2016 I am pleased to share with you some of my freshmen favorites. See if you can discern some of the literary devices they incorporated in their theses.

Christiani sunt exhortandi agere gratias pro omnibus rebus quas Deus dedit.  [Christians must be encouraged to give thanks for all things that God has given.]

Christiani sunt exhortandi agere gratias pro amicis, qui sunt dona, commoda, solacia ab Deo.  [Christians must be encouraged to give thanks for friends who are pleasant, comforting gifts from God.]

Docendi sunt Christiani ut sit bona res dare gratias quod sic Christus nos iubet.  [Christians must be taught that it is a good thing to give thanks because thus Christ commands us.]

Christiani sunt memoranda dare gratias per omnes, non modo ubi vita est facilis, sed etiam per tribulationes.  [Christians must be reminded to give thanks through all things, not only when life is easy, but also through trials.]

Gaudium est demonstrandum Christianis de nostris amicis, familiis, animalibus, domo.  Hoc Deum honorat. [Joy must be shown by Christians for our friends, families, animals, home. This honors God.]

Docendi sunt Christiani quod qui gratias agat beatus ipse sit.  [Christians must be taught the one who gives thanks is himself a blessing.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis et pluvia et sole, impleti cum magna gratia cotidie.   [Thanks must be given by Christians both in rain and in sunshine, daily filled with great thanks.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis quod Deus regnet caelum et terram, victus leonem vagantem.  [Thanks must be given by Christians that God rules the sky and the earth, having conquered the prowling lion.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis pro avibus, arboribus, caelo, terra, stellis, omne creatione Dei.  [Thanks must be given by Christians for birds, trees, sky, earth, stars, all God’s creation.]

Gratiae agendae sunt Christianis pro familia et aqua et cibo et domu et multa bona.  [Thanks must be given by Christians for family and water and food and home and many things.]

Tandem, docendi sunt Christiani quod necesse est bonis est malis esse laetus, velut Christus erat in terra.  [Finally, Christians must be taught that it is necessary to be happy in both good and bad, just as Christ was on earth.]


For more information on the Latin text of Luther’s 95 Theses visit the previous post titled Reformation Day Latin.

Language Tree Project

The Latin Family Tree is a beautiful creation.  Its roots run deep into the Proto-Indo-European language spoken through most of Europe c.5,000 B.C.  Its trunk reveals beautiful hues of Italic languages influenced by the Etruscans and the Greeks.  Its lofty branches reach far and strong to provide the arboreal beauty of modern Romance languages: Italian, Spanish, French, Romanian, and Portuguese.  What delight to play in its shade and admire its beauty!


Chapter 5 of Latin for Children, Primer A offers young students a peek at the Latin Family Tree.  Our third grade class at Grace Academy engages in this study through a simple yet delightful two-day project.


  1. Create 5 language worksheets, one for each of the Romance languages listed above.  Each worksheet should have three columns:  Spanish Word*, Latin Origin, English Meaning. (See image for Spanish Worksheet below.)
  2. Create a set of leaves for each language equivalent to the number of words on the worksheet.  These can be purchased or cut out of construction paper.
  3. Create a large trunk, about 3-4 ft. tall, with 5 large branches.  Mark each branch with a different Romance language.

*Students discover the meaning of Spanish words (left column) using their Latin vocabulary (center column).


Day 1: The class is divided into 5 groups, based on the five Romance Languages.  They are each given a three-column worksheet for that specific language. The first column offers 7 words from that language.  The students must use the Latin vocabulary they learned in the first four chapters of LFC, A in order to discern the meaning of these foreign languages.






language_tree_leaves2Day 2: Once our linguistic detectives have identified the Latin root and the English meaning for each of their assigned words, they are given a set of leaves.  Each language is given a set of leaves that differ in color and in shape from the other languages. The students write the words they were given for their respective language on the leaves.  The leaves are then fastened onto the appropriate language branch.


Finished Product, The Language Tree:  In the end you should have a beautiful tree that demonstrates the Latin root words on the trunk and the words derived from each root in 5 different languages.  The real beauty of this project is the sparkle in students’ eyes as they discover for themselves that Latin holds the key to knowing so many languages.  One young linguist looked up at me and smiled, “Spanish is easy now!”  I responded, “Of course, my dear, that is because you already know some Latin.”


Latin teacher, Mrs. Smith, assists our arboreal linguists as they finish the language tree.

The Language Tree is adorned with a different set of colored leaves for each of the five Romance Languages.  The list of word we use is provided below.  See if you can find their common Latin root in the first few chapters of Latin for Children, Primer A.

French (Red): donner, pénetrer, porte, terre, paginer, patrie, île, reine, onde, gloire
Spanish (Yellow): dar, entrar, puerta, tierra, página, patria, isla,reina, onda, gloria
Portuguese (Orange): dar, entre, porta, terra, página, patria, ilha, rainha, onda, glória
Italian (Green): dare, entrare, porta, terreno, pagina, patria, isola, regina, onda, gloria
Romanian (Pink): da, intra, poarta, teren, pagina, patrie, insula, rgina, unda, glorie

Poetic Art Assignment

In a recent post (July 5) I discussed my love for exploring the connections between Latin poetry and art in my classes.

Within that post I shared suggestions for a class lesson that would integrate the analysis of poetic imagery with pieces of art.  In such lessons we must begin with the work of master artists.  We learn what is truly beautiful by studying the work of those who have mastered the art form, whether that be in the visual arts or in the literary arts.  The next step in the art-poetry study is for the students themselves to become creative interpreters of the poem.  In my last post we looked at the story of Pyramus & Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Liber IV).  So let us continue with that same story in our next art lesson.

We begin by reading the story in the original Latin and soaking up the masterful wordcraft of the poet Ovid.  We discuss word choice, arrangement, imagery, and all sorts of literary devices.  We next look at works by master artists to see how they interpreted Ovid’s poem upon their canvases.  We discuss the art in light of the poetry (see July 5 post for guidelines).  Next, I assign the students the task of producing their own piece of art that interprets one scene one moment from the poem.  After looking upon the work of masterful artists this naturally causes a bit of intimidation.  I comfort the students by assuring them that I don’t expect a masterpiece.  I do expect their best work, careful, neat, thoughtful, with attention to the detail in the poem.   I am pleased to share the work of one of my freshmen ladies below.  This is her interpretation of Book IV, Line 71:

saepe, ubi constiterant hinc Thisbe, Pyramus illinc



What I absolutely love about this particular piece is the manner in which she interprets the chiastic imagery from Ovid’s work.  A chiasmus is an ABBA word pattern.  Here the word arrangement highlights the tortuous juxtaposition of the two lovers separated by the wall.  The wall itself becomes an impersonal character within the story.  Later on the young lovers would talk to the wall both chastising it for their separation while also expressing gratitude for the crack (seen here above Pyramus’ head) that allows them to share secret whispers of gentle affection.  Many other pieces I receive have used the death scene (my students seem to love gore) and include a greater multitude of details. This piece, however, was bold enough in its abstract simplicity to drive home the image of the wall and the manner in which it divided the two lovers, here Thisbe, Pyramus there.

Well done, my young poetic artist!

Art as a Poetic Interpretation

Latin poetry is without a doubt my favorite genre of writing to read with students.  The writing of poets such as Vergil, Ovid, and Horace is pure art.  I often tell students that these poets are literary artists.  The page is their canvas, the stylus is their paintbrush, the words are hues of color, and the literary devices are their brush strokes.  It is the choice and implementation of the latter two that set all artists apart as masters.

Many artists must share this view as they allowed the literary artwork of these great poets to inspire their own graphic compositions.  In fact, the Metamorphoses inspired so many paintings in the 12th century that it was called the Aetas Ovidiana [Ovidian Age].  I explain to students that the artists of this time period would have been well versed in Latin and quite possibly Greek.  They would not have read the Metamorphoses in English or Spanish or French, but would have read Ovid in Latin.  The diction, syntax, and style used by Ovid would have created images and impressions in the mind of the artist who then interpret those images upon a canvas.  I challenge students to read a piece of Latin poetry and then study a piece of art in light of that poetry.  Consider the words and arrangement of the poet.  Then seek to discover those elements within the poem.  Where does the artist interpret the poet? What lines/phrases do you see interpreted? How?  Where does the artist take license? Why?


Consider the following two pieces inspired by the myth of Pyramus & Thisbe in Book IV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.


Pyramus and Thisbe by Gregorio Pagani

  • Where are we in the story?  What has happened thus far?
  • What scenery here is described by Ovid? mulberry tree – arbor,  fountain – gelido contermina fonti (Metamorphoses IV.90), Thisbe’s tattered cloak – vestem quoque sanguine tinctam (Metamorphoses IV.107)
  • What elements are different than perhaps what Ovid may have described? Why?  The clothing is not entirely Greco-Roman, but has been influenced by fashion in the time period of the author.  The statue on the fountain is a small cupid. No such statue is mentioned, but this statue adds an element of personification to the fountain as witness to the deed.
  • How does the author use color?  Very little actual blood appears in the painting, but there are copious amounts of red.  The red appears most notably on the cloak/garment on which Pyramus is lying. Is it a red pattern? Is it blood? Does it give the appearance (with respect to color and folds) of blood pouring from Pyramus?
  • How does the author use lighting?  The light falls most notably on Thisbe who must be the center of the piece due to her position and her depicted action (clearly her death scene), but also falls greatly upon Pyramus the cause of her death.  The fountain statue (witness) also receives some light.
  • ALWAYS introduce or conclude discussion with the author, time period, and location of the work.  If possible gather information online also for any additional elements about the art that may be of interest to students or help further their appreciation of the piece. This piece is an oil on canvas painted in Florence, Italy (c. 1558-1605).  It is now on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.


It is always nice to juxtapose two pieces to see how authors interpret the same scene differently.

Pyramus and Thisbe by Pierre Gautherot

  •  This too is an oil on canvas.  This is a more recent painting, created in 1799 by a French artist.
  • Repeat discussion questions from above noting both similarities and differences.
  • The fountain is represented in a different way (which do you think is truer to Ovid’s description)?
  • The tomb and city are present this time – cumque domo exierint, urbis quoque tecta relinquant (Metamorphoses IV.86) . . . conveniant ad busta Nini (Metamorphoses IV.88).
  • How is the clothing different?   Note that the artists both use red fabric in a similar manner.
  • How is the mulberry tree different (foliage and fruit)? – madefactaque sanguine radix/
    purpureo tinguit pendentia mora colore (Metamorphoses IV.126-127)
  • The sword in Thisbe’s hand is more directly tied to Pyramus and his empty scabbard. – Quae postquam vestemque suam cognovit et ense/vidit ebur vacuum (Metamorphoses IV.147-148)
  • Particularly note the difference in style: lighting, human form, use of color, etc.
  • Discuss how these differences reflect the genre of art and the time period.
  • HINT:  Pull in an art teacher to either give you guidance in leading the discussion, or integrate lessons by discussing in his/her class, or act as a guest instructor in your Latin class.






The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is included in the Latin Alive Reader: Latin Literature from Cicero to Newton.  In a coming post I will share a student assignment related to interpreting poetry through art using this same story.

For a similar art study using Caesar’s work visit the previous post: Romans Under the Yoke – an Art Study for Caesar.

Latin Alive Reader: Latin Literature from Cicero to Newton!

LA Team: Steven, Chris, Karen, and Gaylan at the book release during the national conference for the Society for Classical Learning in Austin, TX.

We are very excited to announce the publication of the fourth and final installment of the Latin Alive series!  The Latin Reader is the fruition of the dream Gaylan and I shared for the series from its earliest beginning. It was our desire to create a series that would train students to read original Latin literature and then enjoy the fruits of such literature, not just from ancient Rome, but literature that reflects the great breadth and depth of Latin influence through the ages. This unique reader provides excerpts of Latin literature that includes the prose of Cicero, Caesar, and Bacon; the poetry of Vergil, Ovid, Queen Elizabeth and Milton; the theological treatises of Augustine, Luther, and Aquinas; and the scientific musings of Pliny and Newton.  And these are only a few of the authors represented!  So great is the content, that we are delighted to welcome Dr. Steven L. Jones as a third author for this special book.  You can read more about Steven on the “about the authors” page of this blog site.


As with previous LA books we include biographies of each Latin author so students can learn about the context of each piece: historical, social, and even political.  Footnotes abound which provide further insight to the language, idioms, and cultural references for each piece.  We have also provided a variety of reading comprehension questions (Latin and English) to allow teachers to explore the readings further with students.  For all intents and purposes, this book serves as the basis for a humanities class in Latin.  For my students, this is their favorite Latin class.

Another distinctive unique to this book is the inclusion of a thorough grammar review in the second section.  Teachers and students may use this to review aspects of Latin grammar that apply to the pieces of literature they are reading.  Numerous appendices with reference charts, pronunciation review, and lessons in both Medieval Latin and poetry make this book on Latin literature complete.  There truly is nothing like this in circulation to date.  We are overjoyed to share this treasury with all of you.

You can read more about the Latin Alive Reader on the CAP website, including sample chapters.  Here is a sneak peek at the wealth of literature contained within its pages.  Among these you will see many of the authors and titles often included among the literature lists of classical schools.  This is very intentional as it is our hope through this book to support and enhance the study of these pieces of literature.

  1. Pro Archaia, Cicero
  2. Cornelia Gracchi, Nepos
  3. De Bello Gallico, Caesar
  4. Tria Poemata, Catullus
  5. Aeneid, Vergil
  6. Quattuor Poemata, Horace
  7. Metamorphoses, Ovid
  8. Fabulae Breves, Phaedrus
  9. de Ira, Seneca
  10. Evangelium secundum Sanctum Lucum, St. Luke
  11. Evangelium sucundum Sanctum Mattheum, St. Matthew
  12. Naturalis Historia, Piny the Elder
  13. Institutio Oratio, Quintilian
  14. Alia Epigrammata, Martial
  15. Perigrinatio Egeriae, Egeria
  16. Confessiones Sancti Augustini, St. Augustine
  17. Confessiones Sancti Patricii, St. Patrick
  18. Institutiones Divinarum et Saecularium Litterarum, Cassiodorus
  19. Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Bede
  20. Vita de Caroli Magni, Einhard
  21. Magna Charta, The 25 Barons
  22. Summa Theologica, St. Aquinas
  23. Epistola ad Ciceronem, Petrarch
  24. Epistola Latina Columbi, Columbus
  25. Disputatio pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum, Luther
  26. Stultitiae Laus, Erasmus
  27. Adversus Lutheranos, Cajetan
  28. Carmen et Oratio, Queen Elizabeth
  29. Elegia Secunda, Milton
  30. Historia Regni Henrici Septimi Angliae, Bacon
  31. Principa Mathematica, Newton

In addition, we have provided two readings included on the AP Latin syllabus from Caesar and Vergil.



Latin uses participles extensively. It is essential to understand how to read the various forms, for they appear frequently in Latin literature. The participle is basically a hybrid between a verb and an adjective. As with verbs, the participle will have tense and voice. As with adjectives, the participle will have number, case, and gender and the ability to modify a noun (or even act as a substantive adjective in place of a noun). Because Latin uses participles more frequently than English does, there is a great deal of variety in the way a translator can render the Latin into English. The following is a brief review of the participle forms and their meanings.


Please take for an examle the verb edo, edere, edi, esum (to eat).

 A. Present Active Participle, Stem: second principal part + –ns/-nt + third declension endings.

 Exempli gratia:  edens, edentis

             Liberi edentes crustula sunt laeti.

            The children eating the cookies are happy.

            The children who eat cookies are happy.


 An ablative noun + an ablative participle create a phrase, independent of the sentence, which may express cause or time. The present participle in an ablative absolute:

 Crustulis edentibus, liberi sunt laeti.      When eating cookies, children are happy.


B. Perfect Passive Participle, Stem: fourth principal part + first and second declension endings

Exempli gratia:  esus, esa, esum

             Crustula esa erant gaudium liberis.

            The cookies (having been) eaten were a joy for the children.

            The cookies that were eaten were a joy for the children.


 The perfect passive participle in an ablative absolute:

Multis crustulis esis, liberi erant pleni.     

When many cookies had been eaten, the children were full.


 C. Future Active Participle, Stem: fourth principal part + –ur + first and second declension endings

Exempli gratia:  esurus, esura, esurum

             Liberi esuri crustula manus lavant.

            The children about to eat the cookies wash their hands.

            The children who are about to eat the cookies wash their hands.


The active periphrastic (also called the first periphrastic) uses the future active participle plus a form of esse.

Liberi sunt esuri.        The children are about to eat.


D. Future Passive Participle, Stem: second principal part + -nd + first and second declension endings

This form, also known as the gerundive, communicates action that is a necessity or obligation (though occasionally merely a future/present reference). The participle alone:


Exempli gratia:  edendus, edenda, edendum

            Mater parat crustula edenda.

            Mother prepares the cookies to be eaten.


 The passive periphrastic (also called the second periphrastic) uses the future passive participle plus a form of esse. This construction communicates necessity or obligation. To express agency, this construction must use the dative instead of a, ab with the ablative.

 Crustula liberis edenda sunt.        The cookies must be eaten by the children.


 Nota Bene:  It is easy to get the forms of the participles mixed up when first learning them.  Use these derivatives for the model verb agere to help keep them straight.

  • agent (present active participle) – a person “doing something”
  • actuary (future active participle) – someone who computes probabilities, things “about to” happen
  • act (perfect passive participle) – a law passed, a motion made, something already “done”
  • agenda (future passive participle) –  “things to be done”


*This review is compiled from excerpts provided in Latin Alive Book 2.   A smiliar review appears in the grammar section of the Latin Alive Reader (coming soon).


Latin Haiku

My students really enjoy composing their own original works of Latin.  Such assignments allow them to apply some colorful creativity to the routine of grammar.  The exercise also proves a wonderful way to reinforce lessons in Latin grammar and syntax.  I have incorporated some of these composition assignments into Latin Alive, Book 3. One such lesson is the Latin Haiku.

The Haiku, a form of Japanese poetry, is among the shortest of literary genre.  It is known for its compact yet powerful means of expression.  The Haiku should consist of three lines, 17 syllables in toto.  The first line should consist of only 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third line another 5 syllables.  This is a wonderful way to begin exploring Latin poetry, as the Romans wrote their poetry with regard to the number and rhythm of syllables as opposed to rhyme.   The Haiku typically contains themes related to nature or emotion, but you may write a bit of poetry to commemorate a person as Ennius does in the chapter reading.

Below are four examples of Latin Haiku composed by members of my 8th grade class at Grace Academy of Georgetown.


Ferus equus

In magna silva vivit

Totus sed solus


Canis effugit

Periculum nocte sed

Cadit in die


Offa suavis

suci plena rubraque

cocta perfecte


Avis non volat

Struthiocamelus est

Currit sub sole

Latin Brain Teasers

One of the Seven Laws of Teaching* states that a teacher should never attempt to begin a lesson without first having gained the attention of the student.  This can be a challenge, especially when it comes to bubbly (er . . . chatty) middle school students.  A strategy I have employed often and without fail is the Latin warm up.  I have a Latin phrase on the board ready to go before the student come in.  With very little training, students will know that as soon as they enter the classroom they are to get busy.  This eliminates wasted dead time that can creep in as the teacher waits for straggles or is pre-occupied with someone or something lingering from the previous class.  Such a warm up engages the students’ attention immediately and begins preparing their focus for the subject at hand – Latin. There is certainly no lack of pithy Latin phrases, but it is good to keep their attention by throwing in a puzzle or brain teaser amid the expected ancient proverb.  Several of these brain teasers and puzzles have made their way into Latin Alive, Book 3.  In this post we’d like to share some wonderful sources for more such diverting tidbits.

For Latin Puzzles see

For the Latin quote of the week, see

For Latin sayings, see

For handy Latin phrases, see

For palindromes, see


*The Seven Laws of Teaching is a treatise by John Milton Gregory that outlines the seven natural laws of teaching and how teachers may best work with such laws to maximize effectiveness.  It is an excellent read and highly recommended.