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  • Writer's pictureSkye Shirley

Actūs IV et V: Reciprocal Reading

In my classes I frequently use Reciprocal Reading strategies to guide students through the reading process. In small groups, each student is given a role for reading. Possible roles I use are:

Typical Roles

-Vocabulary Searcher: Identifies potentially troubling vocabulary words and clarifies the meanings for others, ideally using a Latin-Latin thesaurus, picture clues, or Latin definitions rather than a Latin-English dictionary.

-Questioner: Asks questions about the text.

-Summarizer: Highlights key themes, provides concise overviews of what is happening using simpler words.

-Predictor: Makes predictions using the future tense to anticipate what might occur next.

Other Roles*

-Reader: Reads the text aloud to the group, pausing every paragraph or so to provide a chance for others to do their roles.

-Clarifier: Answers the Questioner's questions

*I usually only add other roles if there are extra students in the group or if students are particularly motivated, since big groups often are more challenging to manage and keep engaged.

I've assigned this activity to students ranging from middle school to adult level, beginning Latin through advanced.

Latin teachers following Reciprocal Reading Strategies in my session on Quintilian at the Paideia Conference in NYC this year.

But you know what I have never done? Actually participated in Reciprocal Reading as a student!

Unfortunately, my group was a group of one... But I nevertheless created separate roles for myself, to make sure I was doing a deep, sleeves-rolled-up reading of Acts IV and V.

Welcome to my notebook pages for this activity!

A few things surprised me:

-How empowering it was to write rogatrix, breviloca, and praedictrix in the feminine form, and own my learning as a female scholar. In a field where so often women are rendered invisible, from the "salvete discipulī" masculinized plural ending to the "magister" rather than "magistra" in Latin textbooks, I often feel like I'm the uninvited thirteenth guest to the Latin table. Most days I don't think of it on a grammatical level; but writing the feminine endings was a distinctly personalized touch to bringing Latin home to my own autodidacticism.

-How intense the process was, juggling these many roles! I often caught myself forgetting to keep up with one of them. I'm relieved that most of my students don't experience this, since each of them can focus on only one role during the activity. But I'm also painfully aware that we frequently expect this deep level of reading from students without giving the necessary supports to facilitate the process. If I, a highly motivated Latin learner with over a decade of Latin behind me, felt overwhelmed by the task of reading, how do our students feel?

-It was challenging to focus on the Latinity of each section while also trying to focus on comprehension of the passage. Usually, the entire activity is spoken, with a few scaffolded sentence frames in the role labels themselves. This means students might feel less pressure to produce high level Latinitas, but nevertheless I personally found myself torn between focusing on the sentence writing versus the deep reading.

I first heard of Reciprocal Reading in a RETELL class at UMass (Rethinking Equity in the Teaching of English Language Learners), and I can see why it's such a successful technique. On April 2, I'm hosting the first-ever "Lupercal" meeting: a Latin reading and speaking group for women at my apartment, and this would be a great chance to try out the technique as a student. Stay tuned for updates on how it goes!

Next post, I'll wrap up my study of Amphitryo with a commentary on a German podcast on the plot, and provide a reflection on my readings of Dutsch's Female Discourse in Roman Comedy, before diving into the next play: Terence's Hecyra. And this time, I'll have a fellow time-traveler, reader, and spoken Latinist along for the ride: Daryl Grissom, known to me as "Augustus" of the Quomodo Dicitur Podcast!

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