Using the Teacher’s Guide

I began writing this post before schools closed for the school year due to COVID-19. Since more and more teachers are now considering and/or already using novellas with their students, I figured I would finish it. Maybe someone might find it useful.


We are reading Rufus et arma atra in my first year Latin class. This the second year we’ve read this in class, but the first year I’ve had a teacher’s guide as a resource.

This particular teacher’s guide is organized by chapters.

Within each chapter, there is a list of vocabulary – organized by phrases and structures centered with verbs, and noun-adjective phrases. The vocabulary included is not the complete list, but those of frequent appearance or use and/or those which might become confusion-points for students.

There are also possible discussion questions provided, in both Latin and English, depending on how exactly you’d like to use them. Below, I explain how I use them. Then, expanded readings, which continue or add more detail to the basic story presented in the novella chapter. Each of the expanded readings also increases in complexity – more new vocabulary, longer sentences, more complex grammatical structures, etc.

Finally, there are resources for activities. There are “sentences” for Dictatios and Word Clouds in both Latin and English.

Here’s how I’m using each chapter’s resources to get the most from our class readings:

I use the vocabulary phrases to determine what we’ve already done in class; which ones I am positive they understand, which ones they are maybe okay with, and which ones might be new or good as new (we haven’t seen them in soooo long). Then, I use those labeled as new, good as new, and maybe to Circle or play a bit of PQA.

Once I’m pretty confident the phrases are primed, I use the Dictatio sentences to do my favorite version of Dictatio: the Write, Pass, Draw. Students listen to each Dictatio sentence read aloud, in Latin, twice. They write what they hear, in Latin, then correct it, after everyone’s done writing. Students then pass their paper. Students look at the sentence written on the paper, then illustrate as much of the sentence as they understand. Without passing the paper another time, we begin again. It is literally: Listen, Write, Correct, Pass, Draw, Listen, Write, Correct, Pass, Draw, ad nauseum. Some students really enjoy the passing part and you might have to remind students the order of operations multiple times.

I like it because no one is on-stage, but by taking a quick look through the papers, I can see whether I was right and the class has a good grasp of the vocabulary.

I also find this activity builds a lot of interest. Since the students don’t have much of any context for the sentences, they are free to let their minds wander and the illustrations can get crazy. By the time we do read the chapter, the students are looking to see whether they were right or wrong in their versions of the story.

Though I haven’t yet needed to do this, you can also use those pictures created for a Picture Talk to review the still confusing vocabulary.

I then create a slide for each chapter, which I have displayed as we read that chapter. On the slide, I might put one or two of the vocabulary phrases which I feel still need a bit of support as well as some of the Discussion Questions provided – especially those which ask for an opinion from the students. As we read the chapter, I stop and ask students those Discussion Questions as a comprehension check. Because I admittedly suck at remembering to do comprehension checks often enough, this slide forces me into slowing down and doing them.

I use a few of the remaining Discussion Questions as a part of a quick assessment at the start of the next day. Basically, “what do you remember” and “yes, I do want you to remember something from day to day”.

I similarly use the Expanded Readings also with assessments: Whiteboard Drawings, 1-2-3 Illustrations (a Textivity from the Comprehensible Classroom), First or Second? (another Textivity), Summary & Write, Reading or Listening Quick Quizzes, etc. Because the Expanded Readings include four variations of graded difficulty, I like using them for assessments because I can differentiate for each student.

To be perfectly clear, I don’t do everyone of these for every chapter. We read for only a part of class. Depending on what else we are doing that day, I choose the assessment which is the most novel. Additionally, I may not even assess every chapter.

The Word Clouds are my kryptonite. I use them, but I don’t think I’m doing so often enough to utilize their true value. My students, being mostly 8th and 9th graders, love games and competitions. The Word Clouds are where we bring in that competitive spirit. Particularly the Quadrant Races, as students race each other to listen and highlight the correct phrases in each quadrant first. I don’t find the game particularly useful for feedback or assessment, but it is a great, easy source of repetitive input and it is fun. And, sometimes fun is enough.

So, that’s how I use a teacher’s guide for novellas. Hopefully, you’ve gleaned at least one new activity to try with your own students as you read together in class.

Oh, and p.s. You don’t have to finish a novella as a class. Allow students to read on their own if they want to finish it or just end the novella when the interest is gone. Maybe ask the students to write what they think will happen next or their own ending. Doesn’t matter, but unlike me, don’t go in thinking you MUST finish the book. It is okay if you don’t.

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