• Skye Shirley

Setting the Stage

Updated: Jan 29, 2018

I am a language learner, Latin teacher, and writer with a passion for

illuminating ways that ancient history and “dead” languages help us

ask big questions of modern life. My vision for this blog is to share

what best practices in language teaching I will be using as I explore

the genre of Roman comedy.

As a Latin teacher, I try hard to stay current with research into

language acquisition and infuse each lesson with activities shown to

improve language fluency.  I want students to do more than know Latin;

I want them to know how to teach themselves languages as effectively

as possible.  Learning happens not with charts and flashcards but with

communication and color, risk-taking and wonder.  The strategies I use

to teach can dovetail with other subjects, from science labs to

history classes and more.  I promote these strategies at conferences,

defend them over enthusiastic debates with my fellow teachers, and

read voraciously about how our brains learn best.

Yet so often, when the student in front of me is myself, I quickly

return to the least demanding and most traditional methods for

language learning, and under-employ the strategies that I have seen

work with my students because I, too, have a deep attachment to

tradition (isn't that one thing that drew me to Classics in the first

place?).  Instead of pre-reading, I sometimes just try to wing it by

reading a text out of context.  Instead of staying in Latin using the

various Latin-Latin thesauri that are indispensable to me as a

teacher, I'll reach for a Latin-English dictionary.  Most commonly, I

shortcut around the creativity and warmth that I pour into my favorite

lesson plans.  Aren’t I deserving of the same standards as my


Well, I'm ready to change that.  As I finish my final term in my

Master's in Latin at UMass Boston, I close with a course on Roman

Comedy.  This spring, I'll read one play from each major author:

Amphitryo by Plautus, and Hecyra by Terence.  Each week, I'll reflect

a bit on the experience of teaching and learning from such

assignments, with an invitation for any of you, my readers, to join me

in reading, sharing, and participating in the next week's assignment.

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