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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

Latin: Music and Manuscripts

Latin II - III, IV AP, grades 10 - 12: Lauri Dabbieri's class explores how Latin manuscripts are interpreted, translated, and created. Latin IV students work independently to translate a passage from Vergil's Aeneid, while students in Latin II and III are guided through activities in translation and interpretation. Then the whole class works in pairs to create their own versions of illuminated Latin manuscripts.



Lauri Dabbieri






Westfield High School, Chantilly, Virginia

Lesson Date

March 19

Class Size



Block schedule, 90 minutes every other day

Video Summary

In this multilevel lesson, students learn to distinguish between translation and interpretation in a classical language class. While the Latin IV students translate a passage from Vergil’s Aeneid, Latin II-III students discuss how Mozart’s opera Il sogno di Scipione reflects themes from Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis. The class then comes together to create their own versions of Latin manuscripts and make historical connections to Roman culture.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpretive

Cultures: Practices, Products

Connections: Making Connections

Comparisons: Language


Advanced Placement (AP)
Advanced Placement is a program sponsored by the College Board. The AP program gives students the opportunity to take college-level courses in a high school setting; passing the course exam may earn them college credit or advanced standing. AP courses follow guidelines developed and published by the College Board.
authentic materials
Authentic materials are resources that have been developed specifically for native speakers. These include print, audio, and visual materials.
backward planning
In backward planning, also called backward design, the teacher plans a unit or lesson by first identifying the desired end task or product, then working in reverse to identify the prerequisite learning tasks and benchmark assessments.

Connecting to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice
As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • How do you balance enrichment activities with analytical activities?
  • How do you use content to promote higher order thinking, even as students are developing communication skills?
  • How do you design group work so that students remain on task and move smoothly through the assignment?
  • What aspects of culture can you teach so that students experience making a product or doing a practice? How does this experience further understanding?
  • How do you help students interpret literature as both a cultural product of another age and as a source of ideas for today?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

Politics of Art (Spanish) illustrates cultural experiences students can simulate in the classroom. Interpreting La Belle et la Bête (French) is another example of using interdisciplinary content, different media, and adaptations of authentic texts.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Introduce topics from different disciplines that use material in your target language or are associated with the target culture. Ms. Dabbieri used lyrics from Mozart’s operatic aria and illuminated manuscripts to connect to the Cicero text. Brainstorm a list of topics from the arts, history, geography, science, and more, that might integrate with an authentic text you are teaching. Or introduce adaptations of authentic texts (for example, the musical Rent from the opera La Bohème) to enrich the text and appeal to student interests and their multiple intelligences.
  • Use the Cultures standards to help students relate products and practices to culture. When students understand cultural perspectives, they are more likely to abandon stereotypes. Ms. Dabbieri moved from a tangible product — the illuminated manuscript — to the practices associated with its design, in order to help students understand why it was highly valued in Roman and medieval society. To organize your thoughts, draw a triangle and label one corner of the base “products” and the other corner “practices.” At the peak of the triangle, write the word “perspectives.” Then hypothesize about the values and attitudes of the culture rather than idiosyncratic practices of individuals. Once you organize this triangular framework, you can easily design a lesson incorporating products, practices, and perspectives.



World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpretive Communication

Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.

Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations

Making Connections

Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively.

Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence

Language Comparisons

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.


Lesson Materials
Davis, Sally, and Gilbert Lawall. Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis: The Dream of Scipio. White Plains, NY: Longman, 1988.

Mirow, Gregory. Medieval Designs. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1997.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Il sogno di Scipione. Mozarteum-Orchester Salzburg. Salzbuger Kammerchor, Rupert Huber. Phillips Classics Productions 422 531-2.

Shailor, Barbara A. The Medieval Book. Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching, vol. 28. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Curriculum References
AP Latin Course

Fairfax County Program of Study

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2