Reading a history textbook is a lot like being at the end of a line of players in the old game, “telephone,” in which a message is passed along in whispers from one person to the next. By the time it gets to the end of the line, the message has often changed quite a bit, and is often shorter and less detailed than it was at first — if it is not hilariously wrong!

By the time an event is narrated in a textbook, it has likely passed through many hands and tellings: The textbook author has herself read it in an article, whose author, in turn, read it in a historical anthology (such as one of the Cambridge “companion” volumes). The authors of the anthology, in turn, may have read an account of the event in a famous monograph written by an eminent historian of the last century, and so forth. But what was the original “message” in this game of telephone? What did the first narration of the event sound like?

Take the story of Julius Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon: He knew, both as a matter of tradition and according to Senate declarations, that to cross the Rubicon into Italy with his army amounted to a declaration of war and an act of treason against Rome. His decision to cross the the river in 49 BC led to a war and to developments in his life which have had incalculably many consequences for all subsequent history. Even the phrase, “to cross the Rubicon,” has become a proverbial way to express the idea of taking an action which cannot be reversed.

So what was that first Rubicon-crossing like? Thanks to the internet, we can easily get close to the original telling of this story.

When it comes to the history of ancient Greece and Rome, there is no better resource for those of us who are not Classics scholars than the Loeb Classical Library. The LCL is a collection of over 500 volumes of the most essential surviving literature of the ancient world, presented in the original Greek and Latin with facing-page English versions.

The Loeb project began in 1911, so many of the translations are now in the public domain. These have been gathered into a digital library of PDFs called Loebolus (or “little Loeb”), which can be downloaded either individually or complete in one file. There are also more browser-friendly versions of many of these available on LacusCurtius and at the Perseus Digital Library.

The LCL includes three volumes containing five of Caesar’s own historical works but, alas, in none of them does he offer his own account of the Rubicon moment. But Plutarch and Suetonius, two authors who wrote less than a century after the event, offer us very compelling accounts from much farther up the “telephone” line than our textbooks!

Plutarch (in his Life of Caesar) tells us:

He [Caesar] himself spent the day in public, attending and watching the exercises of gladiators; but a little before evening he bathed and dressed and went into the banqueting hall. Here he held brief converse with those who had been invited to supper, and just as it was getting dark and went away, after addressing courteously most of his guests and bidding them await his return. To a few of his friends, however, he had previously given directions to follow him, not all by the same route, but some by one way and some by another. He himself mounted one of his hired carts and drove at first along another road, then turned towards Ariminum. When he came to the river which separates Cisalpine Gaul from the rest of Italy (it is called the Rubicon), and began to reflect, now that he drew nearer to the fearful step and was agitated by the magnitude of his ventures, he checked his speed. Then, halting in his course, he communed with himself a long time in silence as his resolution wavered back and forth, and his purpose then suffered change after change. For a long time, too, he discussed his perplexities with his friends who were present, among whom was Asinius Pollio, estimating the great evils for all mankind which would follow their passage of the river, and the wide fame of it which they would leave to posterity. But finally, with a sort of passion, as if abandoning calculation and casting himself upon the future, and uttering the phrase with which men usually prelude their plunge into desperate and daring fortunes, “Let the die be cast,” he hastened to cross the river; and going at full speed now for the rest of the time, before daybreak he dashed into Ariminum and took possession of it. It is said, moreover, that on the night before he crossed the river he had an unnatural dream; he thought, namely, that he was having incestuous intercourse with his own mother.

Suetonius gives his account in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars:

Then, overtaking his cohorts at the river Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, he paused for a while, and realizing what a step he was taking, he turned to those about him and said: “Even yet we may draw back; but once cross yon little bridge, and the whole issue is with the sword.”

As he stood in doubt, this sign was given him. On a sudden there appeared hard by a being of wondrous stature and beauty, who sat and played upon a reed; and when not only the shepherds flocked to hear him, but many of the soldiers left their posts, and among them some of the trumpeters, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, rushed to the river, and sounding the war-note with mighty blast, strode to the opposite bank. Then Caesar cried: “Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast,” said he.

Accordingly, crossing with his army, and welcoming the tribunes of the commons, who had come to him after being driven from Rome, he harangued the soldiers with tears, and rending his robe from his breast besought their faithful service.

It should be clear that using the internet to “go up the telephone line” and to get closer to the sources of history is a great way to make the events and stories more lively and easier to relate to, as opposed to waiting for the messages to get all the way down to the textbooks we use in the classroom.

larry-headshotAbout the Author
A former math teacher in Georgia, Larry Coty is now USATestprep’s Math Content Team Leader. He has two daughters and resides in Tucker, GA.

Students and educators around the nation are concerned with their ACT and SAT test scores. Most of their efforts are focused around increasing their scores based on their academic efforts. What if there were a quick and easy way to ensure you’re maximizing the results of your students’ hard work and study? This great infographic shows a few non-academic ways to make the most out of testing day. The first couple are fairly obvious, get sleep and eat well. The rest of them, not so much. They include body language, inner dialog, gum, and others.

Groza Learning Center Shares 8 Hacks to Improve SAT and ACT Test Scores
Read the full article at the Groza Learning Center.

Student Dot Rank Settings

  • On any content area page, students can track their own progress and proficiency.
  • Proficiency is displayed using Dot Rank, our system of green, orange, pink, and grey dots.
  • Students have two options to calculate their Dot Rank scores — best practice question set only or cumulative total of all test, benchmark, and practice questions.
  • New easy toggle at the top of the page makes it easy to switch views.
  • Click on the Dot Rank link to view scoring breakdown for each color dot.
  • Vocabulary, performance tasks, and videos are tracked through the Progress bar.

Watch a video about the Dot Rank settings.

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Did You Know…?

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The day after a test, every math teacher has heard this student complaint:

“But I did all my homework, and I got the problems right! How could I have made a 50 on the test?”

Of course, the question is usually intended to advertise the student’s powerful work ethic, and perhaps to give the teacher a twinge of guilt for having flunked him.

On the other hand, if the student really has been working hard on the homework, then there may be some easy adjustments he can make to improve his results. Ask these questions:

  • Are you making yourself too comfortable when you work?

A common mistake is for students to work on math problems in too relaxed a posture. They should be sitting at a desk, with minimal distractions, and working the problems exactly as if they were testing.

  • Do you have too many reference aids? Are you using your notes, homework problems, formula sheets, stuffed animals, Twitter buddies, etc.?

Students often practice with far more assistance than they will have on the test. Stress to them that EVERY problem should be attempted — at least to begin with — as though it were being done on a test. Students should get as far as they can and then, if they get stuck, try to get just enough information to continue the problem, but no more. They may have to resort to little “tricks” to make this happen; for example, covering the bottom part of a solution so as to see only the next step, or asking a friend to tell them what the next step is, etc.

  • Are you checking every problem — NOT by looking at a solution, but on your own?

It is just as important to practice the checking process as it is to practice the solving process. On a test you do not have a place to look to see quickly whether your answers are right — you have to decide if your answer is reasonable and check it on your own. Do this every time to develop this extremely useful habit! You may be surprised at how many of your own errors you can catch, and learn from.

The goal of all these items is the same: Complete all your practice as if you are working on a test. Do not fool yourself into thinking you are “getting them all right” when, in fact, you are only getting them after checking your notes, trying ten formulas from your sheet, calling two friends (including Uncle Frank, the math professor), and posting a request on a homework help site.

All Practice Is Test Practice!

larry-headshotAbout the Author
A former math teacher in Georgia, Larry Coty is now USATestprep’s Math Content Team Leader. He has two daughters and resides in Tucker, GA.

felicia-shotDiscover how to utilize USATestprep through classroom stations. You’ll learn about five key stations that can be used in your classroom. Join USATestprep expert and former teacher, Felicia Zorn, live to learn about these five, student-centered stations that will transform your teaching approach.

The Token System is Here!

  • Students earn tokens for completing assignments and independent practice activities
  • Students earn varying amounts of tokens based on performance and type of activity
  • Students do not earn tokens for benchmark assessments
  • Students can spend tokens to play games in the new arcade
  • Students have free play games to choose from as well, but those games incorporate questions
  • Teachers can check a student’s token history and even lock the game arcade when necessary
  • Many games have transitioned to the new arcade, which means fewer options within the assignment system

Watch the video below to learn more about the token system:

Free Response

Need to add your own free response questions? Now you can! In Step 3 when creating a benchmark, click the button to author a new question. Decide between multiple choice and free response, then input your question. If adding a free response question, an answer key and keywords are optional.

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New Ambassador Program

Would you like to receive free perks and be recognized for your passion? Then check out USATestprep’s new Ambassador Program. Our Ambassadors help spread the word and educate teachers about USATestprep. In exchange, Ambassadors are rewarded with free swag, online recognition, first-to-know status, and more! Apply here to join this exclusive group.

Congratulations on making it to the end of another school year. We trust it was a successful one and that we helped you to prepare your students accordingly. As the school year concludes we wanted to make you aware of two things.

Data Management Policy

Before the start of each school year, we do move around some data within our system. We do not delete users – that is a job left for school admins – but some data older than 1 year will be deleted. For complete details, please refer to our data management policy located here in the Help section in the “Downloads” tab.

2016 User Survey

Over 1,600 educators from across 23 states completed our survey.  98% of these respondents felt that USATestprep helped their students review for their tests. We are very proud of this statistic.

Congratulations to Our Winners

These survey-takers had their names drawn and will each receive a $50 Gift Card:

  • Rae from South Carolina

  • Marilyn from Pennsylvania

  • Phillip from Tennessee

As always, thanks for using USATestprep, and have a great summer!

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Here are some new features and tips to help you get more from USATestprep:

Recently-added features:

  • Raw score (“Total Correct” column) added to your benchmark results Excel export.
  • Graphs to track monthly progress by standards and individual students –> You can even save, print, and annotate if needed.

Tips of the month:

  • Need to adjust the due date or add a student to an assignment? Make changes to existing assignments without duplicating them by using the Options menu –> Settings.
  • Can’t see a shared benchmark? Double check that you have your classes associated with that subject area. Go to your Classes tab –> gear icon on the far right –> “Edit Class” button. Add necessary subject(s) in step 1 and save in step 2.
  • Want to instantly create assignments for students to target their weaknesses? Automatically create assignments for students in their three weakest areas from your benchmark results –> Student Dot Rank section. You can then view these assignments within your Assignments tab –> “View Suggested Practice.”
  • Need assistance with anything? Use the Feedback & Contact button located at the bottom of every page to ask questions –> let us help you more quickly! When appropriate, please provide the name of the assignment or benchmark, student, class, etc.

Hope you have had a smooth February!

The USATestprep Team