Ancient Roman Literature in the Latin Classroom
Latin grammar is my main passion, and I put 100% of my effort into making that engaging for my students. While Roman history and literature are not my specialty, I do feel obligated to expose my students to ancient Roman literature and its authors. Especially when I taught high school and AP, it was important to me that my students know the names of Cicero, Ovid, Caesar, Vergil, etc. More importantly, students should be curious about what Romans wrote about and the controversial topics of their time. So much of what Romans discussed is relevant today, both in a Catilinarian “that politician has the same strategy!” way or in a “wow, his advice was to sit next to your crush at the Circus?!” way. Roman literature is relevant for college students, high school students, and my middle school students.
So how to integrate ancient Roman literature into a philology class? For me, I knew I wanted to integrate the material in English. Because we create our own curriculum, I don’t have a textbook that dictates when I introduce Roman authors. I also didn’t want this inclusion of literature to be abrupt or unrelated. For instance, our 6th grade classes complete a Julius Caesar unit leading up a debate every year. What a perfect way to tie in Caesar as an author, expose students to a tiny bit of AP Latin visualize, and talk about Roman imperialism and propaganda? This coincided with my PhD studies of The History of Latin Literature and I began to assemble Latin author and literature worksheets.
My favorite way to include Latin literature at the middle school level is through love advice from Ovid. I have used Ovid at various places in my curriculum in the past, namely Valentine’s Day, but since my Latin class Valentine’s Day activities were Polyphemus-centered this year, I waited until another activity to include his love advice. Later in the Spring, as my 8th graders were studying imperative verbs, I incorporated Ovid’s love advice in imperative form. By minimally adapting the original Ovid literature, my students then had an engaging classroom activity (two thousand year old crush advice is entertaining at every age) as well as exposure to advanced Latin!
By far my favorite integration of ancient literature this past year has been on Valentine’s Day. I transformed my classroom into the Cave of Polyphemus for two days, and my students completed cyclops-themed activities. On the first day, they completed a Cyclops-decorated grammar lab, and on the second day they completed a Polyphemus DBQ. I’d always wanted to make a DBQ (nerd alert) and Polyphemus and Galatea is my favorite myth. In the DBQ I posed the question: “Polyphemus, Monster or Misunderstood?” and it includes 5 documents with essay questions. The 5 documents are