They begin with a day of looking at familiar Latin poems printed in a variety of fonts. Think about that for a moment. How do you relate differently to these different printings of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?
After setting the stage, we move into an exploration and discussion of Roman writing materials. The University of Michigan has a wonderful site on this. From there we look at the Vindolanda tablets, an excellent collection of Roman writing materials from an army camp in England. We conclude with a couple of days of learning to read and write Old Roman Cursive. Students must decipher familiar texts and then unfamiliar texts that have been printed in ORC and re-write in their usual handwriting. They must then bring in Latin texts of their own choosing and work at copying those in ORC.
Then comes the fun part! Student choose one of two groups. They may work with imitation papyrus and reed pens or wax tablets and styli. Those choosing the former glue strips of textured paper into a "papyrus" sheet. With X-Acto knives they carve dowel rods that I have hollowed out with a drill into usable pens. those in the second group assist me as we melt crayons in a pot and pour wax into small wooden tablets that I have prepared. They also use X-Acto knives to carve dowel rods into an imitation Roman stylus, with one pointed and one flat end for erasing. After making their instruments, they must then copy a familiar text in ORC using those instruments.
When they turn in their completed projects, they must also submit a short paper explaining why they chose the text they did. The paper must discuss the challenges they faced in four areas: learning to read ORC, learning to write ORC, making their writing materials, and using their writing materials. Finally, they must include a reflection on what insights they have gained into Roman writing.
Below are some pictures of the students working with their own, hand-made materials and some of the final products. I especially like the ones that show ancient and modern technology working side by side!