Preparing Students to Read the New Selections on the AP Cicero Syllabus for 2006-2007

Judith A. Hayes

New Trier High School

With the advent of the new Cicero AP syllabus, surely the Latin community is hoping to reawaken interest in the prose of Cicero.  By inviting students to read one of his most significant orations, the Pro Archia, as well as portions of a philosophical work, the De Amicitia, it is encouraging a more thoughtful look at the breadth of this remarkable man of letters.  No matter what rationale we provide for reading Cicero, his extremely complex and challenging prose can be quite intimidating to students.  The ability to translate, comprehend and appreciate Cicero's elaborate periodic style does not come easily.  Furthermore, students reading Cicero as part of the AP curriculum may bring vastly different backgrounds and skills to the task. However, with the proper support students can be guided with success through the structure of each individual sentence and the work as a whole.  As students embark on each translation they will benefit from preparatory questions which guide them in the process.  In order to serve as a valuable resource these questions should do more than ask students to simply identify form and syntax. This is only one of the preliminary steps involved in approaching Cicero.  Readers need to visually and mentally diagram or organize a sentence into clauses.  Furthermore, they need to understand the parallelisms that Cicero employs so frequently.  A well-designed and carefully organized series of questions that ask students to make associations and connections among parts of the sentence should provide students with the confidence necessary to read Cicero with increasing facility.


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