Conversational Latin (February 2015)

Salvete, omnes!

This month, we have a lot to talk about!  Our theme is Conversational Latin!  Inside this issue: A tea party with neuter nouns, Roman foods, the online resource Wheel Decide, the words “eloquent” and “loquacious,” 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: Students benefit from learning in meaningful contexts.  Try teaching the neuter chart in a fun and interactive way by having a “tea party.”  If possible, try to use real tea and cookies — If this is not allowed at your school, then consider using props instead.

Introduction: This lesson is a “tea party” in Latin which will expose students to neuter words.  This lesson should use no noun chart because it’s not a lesson focused on the neuter chart; rather, this whole lesson is to help students understand one concept: Neuter words will always have the same form in the nominative and accusative cases.

Objectives: The goal is for each student by the end of class to have asked for a cookie (crustulum), a mug (poculum), honey (mel), or milk (lac) (all are neuter words of the 2nd or 3rd declension) in Latin.  This usually means they will have formed the neuter accusative case.  Ideally, each student will also have made a statement about one of these words using the nominative case as well, but if this feels like too much, the teacher can simply provide input by stating sentences using neuter nominatives.

Special Concerns: Every school has different rules about food and drink, so check with your school to make sure this lesson is allowed.  A trip to the cafeteria for this lesson might provide students with an exciting new experience.

Materials: There are a variety of materials needed, and teachers can make this lesson less hectic by asking students to bring some of their own materials.  Each student should have:

  • 1 mug = poculum, -i, n.
  • 1 teabag = thea, -ae, f.
  • 1 napkin = gausapa, -ae, f.
  • 1 cookie/biscuit = crustulum, -i, n.
  • milk (optional) = lac, lactis, -n.
  • honey (optional) = mel, mellis, n.
  • warm (not too hot for young children) water = aqua, -ae,


  1. The teacher begins by showing students the objects and making himself/herself a cup of tea.  The teacher should only do as much of this as is comfortable, which may mean that the lesson is in English except for the target vocabulary words which are in Latin.  One possible script could be: “Habeo poculum et theam.  Aquam calidum non habeo.  Aquam volo…Est aqua nunc in poculo meo.  Da mihi mel, amabo!  Habeo lac.  Nunc lac et mel sunt in aquā.” (I have a mug and tea.  I don’t have hot water.  I want water… Now there is water in my cup.  Please give me honey!  I have milk.  Now milk and honey are in the water.)
  2. The teacher can show students several prompts on the board in order to scaffold the students’ conversation.

Prompts may include:

A verb                         + a neuter accusative:
Da mihi (Give me)   + poculum / crustulum / lac / mel
Volo (I want)             + same as above
Habeo (I have)          + same as above

Some sentences using neuter nominatives:
Ubi est (Where is…)   + poculum / crustulum / lac / mel
Est crustulum in gausapā meā.  (There is a cookie on my napkin.)
Est lac in poculo meo.  (There is milk in my cup.)
Est mel in poculo meo. (There is honey in my cup.)

Ask students what they notice about the words poculum, crustulum, lac, and mel, and help them to discover that the neuter nominative and accusative forms are the same as one another. (For elementary students whose Latin learning does not yet include formal grammar, there is no need to discuss neuter nouns; instead, simply focus on the conversational activity.)

3. Students cannot have the materials until they have asked for it in Latin.  This really promotes learning! Before long, you will have many students saying “mihi! mihi!” even if this is the first time they have heard the word.

II. Roman Foods

Background: Lesson #1 above is ideal for emphasizing spoken Latin in the classroom and is centered on modern food and drink.  The Romans, however, ate many different foods than those to which we are accustomed.  Students should know about Roman foods, and this background knowledge will serve them well either when they may later encounter the myths of Ovid or the cookbook recipes of Apicius.

Introduction: This lesson will teach students about Roman foods using similar prompts to those found in the “tea party” lesson above. It focuses on vocabulary building and knowledge of Roman culture by using accusative nouns in sentences.

Special Concerns: If students do not know much Latin, they can simply ask for food items in English and use the Latin name for the food itself.

Objectives: Students will learn the words for at least five Roman food items.

Materials: Each student should be assigned a different Roman food.  For homework, the student should research the food and draw a picture of it on a piece of paper.  On the back of the paper, the student should write a short blurb in Latin or in English describing the food and/or its ingredients. Teachers should make photocopies of these so that there are several copies of each type of food. In order to reuse these, teachers may want to laminate them.  The teacher should also have paper plates for each student, or the students can draw a plate or placemat of their own.


  1. The teacher should seat all of the students around a desk and place the food item papers on the table.
  2. Each student introduces his or her food item and shows the illustration.  When the food is introduced, the paper “food” is placed in the middle.
  3. Then, students will each go around and say “Da mihi…” (Give me…) or “Volo…” (I want…) and name their desired food in the accusative case (see guide below).  The last person who spoke should place the correct food item on the plate of the person who asked for it.
  4. As a follow-up activity, the teacher can ask “Quid habes?” (What do you have) or “Quid edis?” (What are you eating?), and students can answer the questions by listing their food items in the accusative.

Food items in the accusative case:

  • carnem = meat
  • garum = fish sauce
  • lenticulam = lentil dish
  • vitellam = veal
  • patinam = dish similar to omelettes/frittatas
  • ova = eggs
  • libum = sweet cheesecake
  • glirem = dormouse

Online Resource: Wheel Decide
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!

This website allows you to choose activities in a fun way!  Teachers or students can enter their desired choices onto the wheel and then spin them to determine what they will do next.

For example, the teacher could place on the wheel Latin words for different animals. Then, a student spins the wheel and has to impersonate the animal that he spun. The teacher could also type the Latin words for the colors. After spinning and landing on a color word, students have to identify something in the room that is that color.

Latin conversational prompts could also be added to this.  These prompts can allow students to hold conversations in pairs or as an entire class.

Some possible questions to add to the wheel might include:

  • Quid est nomen tibi? (What is your name?)
  • Quod animal habes/vis habere? (What animal do you have, or want to have?)
  • Habesne sorores an fratres? (Do you have brothers or sisters?)
  • Quot annos habes? (How old are you?)


Holiday: Birthdays of the Temple of Juno Sospita and the Temple of Concordia
Each issue will feature an upcoming holiday from ancient Greek or Roman culture that you may wish to explore with your students.

Did you know that buildings in Ancient Rome had birthdays?  Two temples, the Temple of Juno Sospita and the Temple of Concordia, both have celebrations during the month of February in honor of their founding (Juno Sospita on February 1st, and Concordia on February 5th).

Students can celebrate their own birthdays throughout the year by singing the Birthday Song in Latin whenever a classmate has a birthday.  In order to personalize the song, the teacher should help students form the vocative case of “dearest,” which is carissime for boys and carissima for girls.  After this word, they can sing the students’ name.

Felicem diem natalem tibi!
Felicem diem natalem tibi!
Felicem diem natalem carissime/carissima ______________!
Felicem diem natalem tibi!


Random Find: Lakeshore Learning Pockets

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. 

Lakeshore Learning Pockets:

How we found them: At the beginning of the school year, The Shooting Star writer Skye Shirley went to Lakeshore Learning Store.  There were no decorations for Latin classrooms for sale, so she looked for ways to create posters or decorations. She came across these learning pockets.  With a little formatting and laminating, she created reusable cards to help students build vocabulary and improve speaking abilities.  These boards are magnetic, which is wonderful because they can be either placed on magnetic whiteboards for the whole year, or they can be removed easily after each class.

Learning Pockets1

Possibility #1: Days of the Week

The pocket is labeled “Est dies…” (“It is the day…”) and the cards (free to download and print here) have the names of different days of the week.  Each class, the teacher (or a student, once the class is comfortable with the process) asks: “Qui dies est hodie?” (Which day is it today?) The student then selects or responds with the correct day in a complete sentence.  Ex: “Est dies Veneris.” (“It is the day of Venus/Friday.”)

Learning Pockets2

Possibility #2: Weather

Every day the students are asked “Quod caelum est hodie?” (What is the weather today?) and respond with examples such as “Caelum est ningidum” or “Caelum est ventosum.”  The cards are free to download and print here. Adverbs can be also added, such as “mox,” “tamen,” or “etiam.”


Featured Words: eloquent and loquacious

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.

 To accompany our “conversation” theme this month, our featured words are related to speaking. Loqui means “to say” and is the root for both the English words eloquent and loquacious.  An eloquent person is someone who speaks fluently and with beauty.  A loquacious person is a talkative person. Teachers can use this word in context by telling the class, “You’re being a little too loquacious today,” when they are too talkative. The students will learn the meaning in no time!


Advice & Questions:

Q: What are some resources that could be useful for exploring conversational Latin?

A: As an Ascanius member, you have access to an “Exclusive Materials” web page at In particular, the item titled Ten Great Latin Activities for 10 Years is a great resource for conversational Latin activities. In that document, you will find a detailed guide Simo Dicit (Simon Says), songs with various Latin vocabulary words, and several vocabulary card games. You might also be interested in one of our publications, Vocabula Picta (available for purchase here), which is a Latin picture dictionary that is especially useful for facilitating Latin conversations.