JCL Activities (Latin Club)

New to the Junior Classical League? Want to do more than just JCL competitions? Then you have come to the right place. Below you will find ideas for activities and games for your Latin/JCL club.

Do you have ideas that should be added to this page? Please e-mail them to Andrew Rist, TCA web manager [arist (at) sasaustin (dot) org]

Starting a JCL Club

If you do not have a JCL club yet, you do need to do a few things.  Sponsors need to be members of the Texas Classical Association, the American Classical League, and also the National Junior Classsical League  in order to be a member of the Texas State Junior Classical League. Lucky for you, each has membership information at their websites. Some of the membership forms are in the form of PDF files and will thus require you to download an Adobe Acrobat reader (from the Adobe site) in order to download and print the forms. 

AND IF YOU NEED CERTAMEN QUESTIONS, try Certamen Questions Databank.


Why not start a serious club meeting with a bit of fun? Try playing games the first half of a meeting and then taking care of business for the second half. If there is no business, then just have fun!  Maybe have a full competition with a prize (such as pencils with Latin on them, candy, whatever--look for good prizes from the NACCP Resource Center, L&L Enterprizes, Lumina, ACL's TMRC, and the children's section in your local bookstore).


The idea (of knucklebones or astragali) was to throw the knucklebones in the air and catch as many of them as possible on the back of your hand. The number you caught was your score. (Step into the Roman Empire by Philip Steele, p 48)

To make knucklebones: find self-hardening clay, paints, and a paintbrush.

1. Mold the clay into 10 knucklebone shapes like these.wpe5.gif (1185 bytes) Let the clay dry.
2. Paint the shapes gray and yellow, then flick brown paint on them, so that they look like bones. Let them dry.
3. Now you are ready to play. Give 5 knucklebones to each player. Take turns throwing the knucklebones up in the air and catching them on the back of your hand. Whoever catches the most is the winner.

(Ancient Rome: Come and Discover My World by Peter Chrisp, p 6)

Navia aut Capita/Heads or Tails

Just a simple coin toss game as today, except Roman coins often had ships on the back. Try finding some coin reproductions (I believe Lumina carries these) and let the kids use those to play. You can also use a coin toss (with teams properly calling Navia aut Capita) for choosing which team goes first when playing another game.

Par Impars/Odd or Even

As played by the imperial family, the game consisted only of a monotonous series of bets on the odd or even number of pebbles, nuts, or knucklebones hidden in the other player's hand. (from Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Jerome Carcopino, p 251). Of course, there's no reason to need betting! Keep score and declare a winner.  Just make sure everyone is using the Latin par impars.


There was another variety of the game derived from "Odd or Even"  in which the element of mere chance was somewhat corrected, limited by the quickness of sight and speed of the player, a calculation of probabilities, and a certain psychological flair. This was micatio--the still popular morra of southern Italy today.  The two players "each raise the fingers of the right hand, varying each time the number raised and the number kept down and call aloud the total of the fingers raised by both," until one or the other wins the round by guessing right. . . . From Cicero through the times of Petronius and Frontinus down to Saint Augustine, Latin tradition unanimously used to indicate a man of integrity by the phrase, "You could play micatio with him in the dark."  (from Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Jerome Carcopino, pp 251-252)

Marbles or Nuts

A number of bas-reliefs show children apparently playing "nuts," the ancient equivalent of our marbles. This would explain the Saturnalian custom of presenting grown-ups with bags of nuts for the festival. (from Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Jerome Carcopino, p 252)

Roman children played with ... marbles (made of glass or pottery). Marbles were either rolled together or onto marked game-boards. They were also thrown into pottery vases. Nuts, such as hazelnuts and walnuts, were often used like marbles. (Step into the Roman Empire by Philip Steele, p 48)

Roman Board Games

The Romans played a wide variety of board games, including Knucklebones (Tali & Tropa), Dice (Tesserae), Roman Chess (Latrunculi), Roman Checkers (Calculi), The Game of Twelve Lines (Duodecim Scripta), The Game of Lucky Sixes (Felix Sex), Tic-Tac-Toe (Terni Lapilli), Roman Backgammon (Tabula), Egyptian Backgammon (Senet), and others.

Roman Ball Games

Ball-playing was popular among the Romans, and they often spent their morning exercises playing games on the fields (palaestra) or ball-courts (sphaerista). The Romans enjoyed a variety of ball games, including Handball (Expulsim Ludere), Trigon, Soccer, Field Hockey, Harpasta, Phaininda, Episkyros, and certainly Catch and other games that children might invent, like Dodge Ball. We have theorized an additional game called Roman Ball to fill the gaps.

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Carnival Ideas

Sponge Toss

We have a Roman figure on a board with its head cut out.  Teachers and administrators stand behind it and we charge $1 for three wet sponges to chuck at their heads.--Penny Cipolone

Delphic Oracle

We also have had a fortune teller booth (the Delphic Oracle) but you have to be careful with this depending on your community sensibilities.  --Penny Cipolone

Quackus Maximus

Last year we sponsored a duck pond for the little kids to win prizes.  We didn't make a cent (in fact it cost us) but it generated a lot of good will.  Name of booth?   What else "Quackus Maximus - The Aqua Ducks." --Penny Cipolone

Photo Opportunity

Make two figures on a board with their heads cut off--one Mars and one Venus. Take Polaroid photos and charge a $1 or whatever might turn a little profit to be photographed as a God or Goddess!--Ginny

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(see Carnival Ideas above)

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Community Service

Christmas Bears for Children

My JCL chapter makes 8 inch high bears from scraps, stuffs them with panty hose or fiberfill, and delivers them to children in the hospital at Christmas. We get permission from the Children's Ward, find out how many children are there, and go up and down the halls singing Christmas carols in Latin and distributing the bears. Last year one mother told us that was the only time her little boy stopped crying all day. After the delivery we go to someone's house for chocolate and snacks. Anyone who wants the bear pattern can send me a stamped, self addressed envelope and I'll be glad to send it.--Rose Williams

Book Collections

Before I moved away from Houston two weeks ago, my kiddoes always collected coloring books, puzzle books, activity books, crayons, colored pencil sets, watercolors, etc. for the children at Texas Children's Hospital. (everything was new -- nothing was used)   They began collecting these items in early November, and we delivered the items to the hospital the weekend before Christmas.  The last year that my Latin club did this, they set as their goal 1400 items, and they wound up with well over 3000! An "item" consisted of a coloring book with more than twenty pages, a complete set of crayolas, etc.  Merchants were always thrilled to contribute, but we had to catch them early in the holiday season while they had not yet met their quotas for give-aways.   It took three cars to deliver 3000+ items!  We had thought that 3000 items would last the hospital for a long time, but TCH told us that it would last less than a month.--Janet Burns

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Holiday Festivities

Erupting Volcano Cake Recipe--perfect for any Latin party!

Courtesy Arielle's Recipe Archive http://recipes.taronga.com 

Materials Needed

six 8-inch baked round cakes Brown and green Frosting one fresh egg 2 to 3 drops red food color 1 1/2 ts sugar 1/4 lb dry ice 1 To 2 oz hot tap water


1. Make six 8" round cakes using your favorite mix or buy cakes from a bakery.

2. Buy two or three dollars worth of dry ice from an ice cream store the day you will need it. Keep the dry ice in freezer. Be sure to handle the dry ice with gloves or tongs just to be safe. If your ice cream store doesn't have dry ice just look in your local Yellow Pages telephone directory under "Dry Ice."

3. Now use your juice glass or cookie cutter and cut out a hole in the center or the top two layers of cake. This hole will form a well in the center of the cake and hide the special effect.

4. Now construct the Volcano cake, round pyramid style, on a cake platter or large dish. Trim each layer into successively smaller rounds and stack and frost them into mountain shape using the last two layers with the holes as its top.

5. With a small piece of aluminum foil, line the well in the center of the volcano cake. Use the juice glass as a mold and form foil around the glass.

6. Now frost the cake, smoothing out the small step-like ledges. Use chocolate frosting for the whole cake first. Then use green frosting as highlights around the mountain to resemble vegetation.

7. When you are ready to serve the cake, make the "lava." Separate the cleaned egg and discard the yolk. Put the egg white in a small mixing bowl with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and 2-3 drops red food coloring. Beat until the egg white starts to thicken. You don't want stiff peaks to form, just a thick, foamy texture.

8. Now place two or three small chunks of the dry ice into the foil-lined well of the cake and pour in the red egg mixture. Nothing much will happen yet. Now fill your juice glass with hot tap water and take the Volcano Cake and water to the table where your guests are.

When you are ready to produce the Special Effect, simply pour one or two ounces of the hot water into the egg and dry ice mixture and your realistic Volcano Cake will erupt large quantities or orange, foamy "lava" and white "smoke" for several minutes while you serve your delighted guests pieces of genuine Erupting Volcano Cake.

Alternate Foam Generating Technique: If you can't find dry ice in your area, you can still produce the foaming "Lava" effect. There will be no smoke, but you will have plenty of foamy lava. You will need a small, short juice glass or a shot glass that will fit snugly in the center of the Volcano Cake (a glass 3" tall and 1 1/2" in diameter would be perfect). You will also need one small box of Jell-o, one small bottle lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda. Make Jell-o according to package directions. Let cool 15 minutes. When Jell-o is still (not hot), fill juice glass 1/2 full with the warm Jell-o. Pour in enough lemon juice so that the glass is almost full, or about 1/2" from the top. Place glass down into hole in the cake so lip of glass is flush with top of cake. You are now ready to produce the effect. When ready, put 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda into the glass and briefly stir (1-2 seconds). Jell-o foam will immediately pour out the top of the glass and flow down the sides of the cake.


Come as your favorite Mythological monster.

During Halloween week we hold a pumpkin decorating contest for Latin, Spanish and French Club members.  The pumpkin submitted by each club must portray some aspect of the culture...some the Latin Club has done include: Arachne (as a spider), the Temple of the Vestal Virgins, La Bocca Della Verita (The Mouth of Truth) complete with hand caught in mouth! --Linda Chester


Many clubs usually have a big feast and dress up in Roman garb. What does your school do?

At Saturnalia we have a traditional party but beforehand, the club members draw names in a lottery. They then attempt to create a salt dough sigillaria of the person whose name has been drawn (making every effort to render the person and his/her interests accurately. They also take this person as their Secret Saturnalian Pal for a week, leaving a series of small nonsensical presents on the person's desk, taking care not to reveal their identity until the day of the after school party when each is presented with a sigillaria from the Secret Saturnalian Pal.  We also have a candle grab bag  during the party and play games (Achilles' Heel involves fastening a balloon around your ankle and attempting to break the other contestant's balloons without having yours broken. Club officers monitor this event carefully to avoid mosh-like behavior.  The students compete to make the candle they place in the grab bag as interesting as possible; they do set a price limit for these as well as the SSP gifts. --Linda Chester

Ides of March

from Ginny Blasi

Sites related to Julius Caesar and the Ides of March:

An internet search about Julius Caesar with questions and links provided is found at:


Rome's Birthday

Our fledgeling Latin Club set up a cake and a poster in the commons area which proclaimed felix dies natalis Roma! and as the first intrepid student asked about the cake we replied "habesne Latinam?"—Got Latin? Do yo know any Latin or have anything on you in Latin? A few (too few) knew e pluribus unum. Several remembered carpe diem! We pointed out to some about the back of the dollar bill having 3 Latin phrases. Some Latin students had taught their non-Latin enrolled friends to say salve or nomen mihi est ___. A real treat was to have science students come up with names from periodic chart (close enough) and choir students to come up and sing gloria in excelsis deo! Needless to say the cake flew! We plan to do this again. Latin students further celebrated by hosting an after school dinner for the custodians . . . nostri custodes. They were thrilled to be remembered and students got to use the ovens in Home Economics to cook pans of Lasagna and garlic bread. They made posters, and had purple and gold crepe decorations. We even made them business cards which read "A member of the Clean Team" with the school address and phone on it. We went home tired but feeling great! euge! A new group which appreciates Latin and the Latin Club.—Tish Dilworth

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There are numerous neat children's books out now that provide projects or have what I consider good inspiration for models or other projects.  Many of the ideas below are from these books.  Look for these books in your local children's bookstore.


One teacher in Texas covers one whole wall of her classroom in paper and then, with the help of students, draws in some sort of a view of the forum, which they then paint. It's a big project but anyone who visits the class is stunned by the effect.


Depending upon the age of your students and your resources, you can make real mosaics using proper materials or follow instructions for making mosaics that are in children's books, such as what is listed below here.

You will need: paper, felt-tip pens, scissors, modeling clay, paints, patinbrush, stiff cardboard, rolling pin, tile adhesive, sponge or stiff brush, varnish (optional).

1. Draw a fish or other animal. Then cut a piece of stiff cardboard, large enough to cover the whole design.
2. Draw your design on a piece of paper and chose the colors you would like to use.
3. Roll out the clay with the rolling pin until it is about 1/8 inch thick.
4. Use a pair of scissors to mark the clay into small squares.
5. Cut the squares to make small tiles, or tesserae. Let them dry.
6. Paint them in your chosen colors.
7. To create a more textured effect, you could dip a sponge in the paint and dab it gently onto the tiles. Or you could flick paint onto them, using a stiff brush.
8. Cover the stiff cardboard with a layer of tile adhesive. Press the tiles into the adhesive, following your paper design. Begin with the center tiles and work outward until the design is complete.
9. Let the mosaic dry. You could varnish it later.

(from Make It Work! The Roman Empire by Peter Chrisp, pp 24-25)

Writing Tablet

You will need: balsa wood, plasticine, craft knife, ruler, glue, string, paint, bradawl, twig

1. For both frames cut a flat piece of wood 7 x 5 1/2 inches, four thick strips of wood: two measuring 7 x 1/3 inches, and two measuring 5 1/2 x 1/3 inches. Glue together (sort of like a picture frame with a back).
2. Paint the frames a rich, woody color. With the bradawl, make two holes in one side of each frame. Thread string through the holes and tie the frames together.
3. Roll out two flat pieces of plasticine and glue inside each fram as shown.
4. To make a stylus, ask an adult to help you sharpen the end of a twig. Use it to write on the tablet. Smooth over the plasticine to use again.

(adapted from Make It Work! The Roman Empire by Peter Chrisp, pp 33)


Every classroom needs good models and sometimes you can't wait for student inspiration. Sometimes a little teamwork, not for a grade but because something is just neat to do, can go a long way. Such books as Make It Work! The Roman Empire, Step into the Roman Empire, and Ancient Rome: Come and Discover My World have great models of a domus, a kitchen, a Roman town, streets, insulae, bathhouses, merchant ships, Roman forts, aquaducts, and more. Showing such great models to students can inspire them to design their own.

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All content © Texas Classical Assocation. For permission to reprint articles or to report problems, please contact Andrew Rist: webmaster [at] txclassics [dot] org. Last update:November 11, 2011.