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Lesson Plans and Ideas

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.

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.





Edible Architecture: Hadrian’s Wall

Among the most creative of our edible construction projects was Hadrian's Wall. This project was very unique, very different from other projects of its kind. First, instead of recreating a finished structure, we opted to recreate the structure in process. Second, this project did not use any gingerbread. However, like all of our other edible architecture projects we did recreate a structure that was significant to the classical world, and every piece was edible. Read on to learn a little history behind the real wall, and then how to build your own sweet replica. Read the rest of this entry »

Art-Literature Analysis: Student Assignment

As an end of year project for my AP Latin students, I assign an art analysis paper based upon a scene from either Vergil's Aeneid or Caesar's de Bello Gallico. The students are to choose a masterpiece that accurately depicts one such scene. This assignment is a student favorite as it causes the students to look back and call upon what they have learned of the story and the language from the vantage point of one who has completed a rigorous journey and now stands upon the mountain top, surveying the view of the road from whence they came. The remainder of this post is written by one of my Latin students. This is her piece of art-literature analysis based on a scene from Aeneid VI. Read the rest of this entry »

Composition Assignment: Classic Narratives

Our 3rd grade grammar school students love that first special moment that they are able to read a story in Latin for themselves. This is a huge milestone. Their eyes just light up with the realization that they are truly comprehending a story in another language. From that moment on, Latin stories become a favorite class activity. Another great milestone comes at the end of 5th grade when they are then able to compose a story in Latin for others to read. Up until this moment they have received the joyful gift of reading, now they are able to give that gift in return. This post outlines our grammar school composition project. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning the Invasion of Gaul

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . . Thus begins the first chapter of Comentarii de Bello Galllico, written by General Julius Caesar c.58-49 B.C. This is a line that most veterans of Latin studies know by heart for it has long been the traditional "first book" for young students graduating from grammatical studies into original readings. The work is chosen for its excellent prose, whose arrangment is fairly easy for novice readers to follow. That is once you become adept at recognizing ablative absolutes and extensive relative clauses and very long stints of indirect discourse. The work certainly cannot be read without great attention to the author, Julius Caesar, his military endeavors and his political ambitions. This work can also be enjoyed as a study in ancient geography as Caesar begins the very first chapter by laying out the geographical composition of Greater Gaul in the manner of a chartographer. Read the rest of this entry »