Animals (May 2014)

Lions, and tigers, and bears…oh my!

This month’s theme is animals. Inside this issue: a spoken Latin lesson with stuffed animals, acting out fables, a crossword puzzle generator, alphabet beads, and more!

Email us to suggest a topic for a future issue! 


Main Feature: Two New Lesson Plans
Each issue will feature two lesson or activity ideas: one related to the Latin language, and one related to Classical Studies (Greek or Roman culture, mythology, or history). 


Background: Stuffed animals are a highly effective way to motivate students to speak Latin.  Even shy students will begin to feel comfortable speaking because the props add a certain amount of humor and levity to class.  A knowledge of Latin animals will help students read fables, understand animal symbols in ancient art, explore the use of animals in Roman games, and make connections to English vocabulary and the zodiac signs.

Introduction: The introduction of stuffed animals will guide students toward language production, because the teacher will ask questions to provide a structured method for students to respond.

Special Concerns: It may feel overwhelming to start speaking Latin if this is your first experience using communicative methods.  This is a great way to start speaking because the sentences are simple.  Depending on your level of spoken Latin, you may want to write some key questions on note cards or on the board so that you can rely on them if you need to.

Objectives: To learn Latin words for animals and help students feel comfortable forming the accusative case of animal words.


  • one large bag
  • enough stuffed animals for each student


  1. The first activity is a worksheet (visit: which has two columns. In one column, there is a list of Latin words for animals.  In the other column are pictures of animals.  The entire worksheet is in Latin so that students are not focusing on translating the vocabulary and can stay immersed in the language.  Students are asked to draw lines connecting the animal to the word which describes it.  Thankfully, many animal words are easy for students to guess through derivatives and astrological signs, so students will probably complete this activity quickly.  It may be helpful to provide hints through derivatives such as avian flu and aquiline for the words students struggle to recognize.  This activity builds vocabulary through images and spoken prompts, and prepares them to speak about the animals with greater ease.Here is a list of animal words in the nominative and accusative singular to get you started:

    avis/ avem                 bird
    canis/ canem             dog
    felis/ felem                 cat
    leo/ leonis                   lion
    aquila/ aquila            eagle
    cancer/ cancrum       crab
    piscis/ piscem            fish
    vacca/ vaccam           cow
    equus/ equum           horse
    cygnus/ cygnum        swan
    mus/ murem              mouse
    ursus/ ursum              bear
    lupus/ lupum              wolf
    ulula/ ululam              owl

  2. Place a bag of stuffed animals (small ones are best) in front of the classroom and remove them one by one from the bag.  Each time an animal is removed, ask questions like “Quis sum?” (“Who am I?”) in the voice of the animal, or “Quis est?” (“Who is it?”) in your own voice.  Students respond with the correct form of “esse” and the name of the animal in the nominative, for example: “Est leo” (“It is a lion”).
  3. Introduce the accusative form of the verb by asking “Quis leonem vult?” (“Who wants a lion?”) and any student who would like to be assigned the lion needs to respond “Volo leonem” (“I want a lion”).  This is easy to scaffold because by asking the question in a more complicated way, teachers can prompt more advanced students to use “Volo habere…” (“I want to have”) instead.
  4. Next, say “Iaciam” (“I’ll throw”) and toss the beanie baby toward the student who wants it, calling out “Carpe leonem!” (“Catch the lion!”) and the student responds “Carpsi leonem.”
  5. The activity can be extended in many ways, so teachers should feel free to keep it simple or to adapt it further.  If students are learning the ablative of place, the question “Ubi habitat leo?” (“Where does the lion live?”) can give students a chance to produce “In Africā” in the correct case.  The ablative of accompaniment is also easily introduced with animals.  “Quibuscum habitat?” (“With whom does he live?”) can prompt an answer like “Cum simiīs” (“With monkeys”).  Students can also draw the habitat on the board and place the animal in that area to provide context for these questions.   Finally, this lesson can be used to practice forms of verbs.  To practice the perfect tense, teachers can ask students to say who wanted or caught each animal, and students respond with verb forms in a variety of persons and numbers.
  6. Nota Bene: This activity often becomes humorous when the teacher intentionally makes mistakes.  For example, if a teacher holds a lion and says “Ulula est,” giggles erupt because students know that they should correct the teacher. Laughter is a hugely effective tool because when one student starts laughing because he or she understands the meaning, other students are curious and are more driven to comprehend the language. A humorous classroom environment motivates students to produce sentences and speak creatively.


Background: Aesop is an excellent writer to introduce because the fables do not rely too heavily on historical context or biographical information, yet will still expose students to Roman values.   Creative lessons exploring Aesop could be especially effective with younger students.  The universality of Aesop’s fables may prove as interesting to students as they were to the first ancient readers.  For summaries of his fables, visit:

Introduction: Students explore Aesop’s fables first by reading each fable as a class and then by breaking into groups to write a script so that they can act out their own fable.

Special Concerns: Young students benefit from guidelines when writing scripts, so it is important to provide them with a worksheet or template.  A sample worksheet is available here:


  • To draw on the common themes throughout Aesop’s fables in order to produce a new fable
  • To collaborate with classmates in a creative project
  • To discuss differences between the values of Romans and Americans


  • Worksheet or template to structure skit-writing
  • Animal masks, headbands with animal ears, or animal hats to distinguish characters


  1. Read between 5-10 fables by Aesop so that students are familiar with his work.  At the end of each fable, make a list of possible morals and ask students whether they agree with the moral illustrated.  A beautiful collection of Aesop’s fables can be found here:
  2. Have students assist in acting out some of the fables in front of their classmates.  This will allow children to be actively engaged and brings the story to life.
  3. Divide the students into groups of 3 or 4 and explain that they will create their own fable to act out as a skit for their classmates.  Share the worksheet and provide at least one class to brainstorm and write the script.  Students can then act out their skits, wearing costume pieces to clarify which animals are speaking.  An alternative to this plan would be to have students make their own puppets or use stuffed animals to act out the skit.
  4. After each skit, lead a class discussion about the fable and its moral.  Ask students to guess the moral, and explain whether the moral is universal or reflects the values of a specific culture.


Online Resource: Crossword Puzzle Maker
Each issue will feature a new or popular online resource that could prove useful for Latin and Classical Studies instruction. We aim to stay current so that you can wow your students with how “with-it” you are when it comes to technology!

image008“Crossword Puzzle Maker,” provided by the Teacher’s Corner website, is a great way to review material.  Many students are more excited to take quizzes if they know the format will be a crossword puzzle, which seems less intimidating than regular assessments. Students need to focus on spelling because the boxes reveal whether their word is too long or short.  These puzzles are easy to make and can be used for history, mythology, or Latin.  You can also encourage your students to produce the correct form in a sentence by writing prompts which can only be completed by declining correctly.  The link can be found by visiting: Here are a few prompts about animals in Ancient Rome to get you started:

This animal nursed the twins Romulus and Remus (Lupus)

This sacred animal on the Capitoline saved Rome (Cygnus)

This animal symbolizes prophecy, because its call sounds like “cras,” the Latin word which means “tomorrow” (Corvus)

This animal is the symbol of Juno, queen of the gods (Pavo)

This animal is the zodiac sign of the crab (Cancer)


Holiday: Ludi Piscatores
Each issue will feature an upcoming holiday from ancient Greek or Roman culture that you may wish to explore with your students.

On June 7th, Romans celebrated the Ludi Piscatores, a fishing festival held in Trastevere.  To celebrate this holiday, share this ancient game board, found outside a Roman tavern, with your students.  The game board words are spelled differently than usual, so students will enjoy trying to recognize “abemus” as “habemus,” “paonem” as “pavonem,” and “benatores” as “venatores.”  Point out the word “piscem” and ask students to identify the other words in the game board.


Translation: “Hunters, we have at dinner: chicken, fish, ham, peacock”


Random Find: Alphabet Beads
Many items being sold today do not directly connect to Latin and Classical Studies, but with a little effort, we can adapt them to serve our purposes. This section explores these types of objects. 

 image016Kids are often eager to make crafts, and alphabet beads (visit: are an easy way to craft without creating a mess.

How we found them: Skye Shirley, writer of Shooting Star, has her students make bookmarks every year to mark grammar pages, translation passages, and cultural readings.  Because bookmarks are seen every day, they can refresh the memory of a concept.  Beads make bookmarks more beautiful, so she thought: why not have the beads themselves carry some information, too?

Possibility #1: These beads can be used alongside the animal lesson plan outlined above.  Students can make necklaces for stuffed animals which spell out the Latin word for the animal.  After they have completed the necklace, make a pile of all the strands and have the students match the necklace to the animal.

Possibility #2:  Another possibility is to make bookmarks with beaded words and have students illustrate the bookmark with the meaning of the word.  For very young kids, they may even enjoy wearing a bracelet with their favorite Latin quote or a fun sentence on it. You can buy these beads at any craft or bead store, or here:


Featured Word: serpentine
Each issue will feature a challenging English word that we encourage you and your students to explore together.  The English word will always come from one or more Latin words.

This issue’s word is “serpentine.” It means “related to a snake, snake-like” and comes from the Latin word serpens which means “snake.”   “Serpentine” has many uses.  It is the name for the stone used by the Romans in many monuments, mosaics, and buildings, and is even found in the Pantheon.  This is because the stone is a dark green color, like a snake.

A serpentine wall is a wall which zigzags like a snake.  The University of Virginia has many serpentine walls, one of which is pictured here.


A serpentine belt is a car part which attaches to pulleys in the front of the engine, and is named because it winds through several different pulleys.


Advice & Questions:
What are some small ways I can work a little history or culture into my classes every day?

Make taking attendance more fun by assigning each student an emperor and have students say the names of the emperors in order.  Another approach is that you can give each student the card of a different emperor as they arrive every day, and they need to find their seat based on which emperor they received, being careful to sit next to an emperor who ruled right before or right after the one on their card.  If you have desks in pairs, you can hand out index cards with gods or goddesses and they need to find their “other half.”  For example, “Aphrodite” would need to sit next to “Venus.”

Teachers can also teach quick mini-lessons about a different myth each class.  D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (visit: provides many myths to base a short lesson on.  Alternatively, a painting of a myth can be an easy springboard for discussing the myth, and gives students a mental image of the character and story.   These paintings can be projected so that when students arrive, they are ready to begin to discuss mythology.