«How to Teach Latin (A Guide to Using Latin for Children) • By Karen Moore N OTA BENE: This guide is intended for the use of teachers in various ...»
For the Primer A students, the chapter worksheet is often the end of their grammar lesson. The sequential primers do often provide additional exercises for grammar application, often in the form of translation worksheets. Budget your class time appropriately for these additional exercises. Begin each one by modeling how to complete the exercise. End by reviewing the students work. If you do not have time to review the exercise that class day, make sure to allow time to do so soon. Students cannot learn from their mistakes unless they understand them.
For primer A students who would like additional practice, there are more than ninety such worksheets available free of cost on the Classical Academic Press website. These vary from exercises that rehearse declining nouns to parsing verbs to translating simple sentences. Latin teachers using LFC have created these for use in their classroom and have generously made them available for public use. Students using Primers B and C can benefit from some of these exercises as well. I created the declining and conjugating worksheets, as well as the generic parsing worksheet for Latin students of all levels. The wider the variety of practice offered the students, the better they will understand their grammar and how to use it.
Classical Academic Press • www.ClassicalAcademicPress.com TRANSLATION: Applying the tools of the trade.
Now that the students have their bricks, mortar, and the knowledge to use them, it is time to create – or rather construe. To put it simply, you cannot begin training children to construe Latin too early.
Even if this exercise begins with a simple one-word sentence consisting of a lone verb; train them to identify the verb, parse it, and translate it appropriately into a complete English sentence. All too often I have heard bewildered Latin teachers lament that their upper level students could not “read Latin.” They had diligently trained them by reciting vocabulary lists and grammar paradigms. They had conjugated the verb amäre in every known tense a thousand times. The students knew their language tools backwards and forwards, but they did not know how to use them. They had the hammer and the nail, but they did not know how to construct anything with them.
As soon as students learn about the person and number of a verb they are ready to begin translating.
First, provide them with a parsing worksheet. Parsing (from the Latin pars, meaning “part”) requires students to identify the parts that make up a verb and then put them together again to understand the verb as a whole. This worksheet consists of five columns, designated as follows: VERB, TENSE, PERSON, NUMER, and TRANSLATION. Some parsing worksheets designed for beginners leave off the column marked “tense.” Advanced levels can add columns for mood and voice as it becomes appropriate. Fill in the far left column with a list of verbs the students are learning. Make sure to vary the tense, person, and number of these verbs appropriately. In class ask students to identify the items as requested in the remaining columns, and then translate that word appropriately.
This exercise will train the students to consider all the characteristics of a verb when translating. As mentioned earlier, such a worksheet is available on the Classical Academic Press website.
Once students have mastered this exercise you can provide them with one-word sentences, consisting of a single verb. Again ask students to parse the verb before translating. They will be sorely tempted to show off their newfound skills by merely translating the little sentence without showing their work.
However, the point of parsing is training them how to look at Latin sentences and consider all the elements of grammar before jumping to a conclusion on how to interpret the meaning. Just as with math, the study of Latin is a means to discipline the mind; students must show their work.
Gradually nominative nouns can be added to these sentences, then predicates, objects, and so on.
Require students to parse their nouns and adjectives as well, identifying case, number, and gender. Every time a new case is added to the mix make sure that students know how to parse it, and also how to identify its function in the sentence. Diagramming or labeling sentences is not just for English class. Students should use these same notations in Latin class as well. As students parse, then diagram a sentence, they are creating a type of road map for themselves. When it comes time to translate the sentence, all they need do is look at the instructions they have written. They should now easily identify the subject, verb and object Classical Academic Press • www.ClassicalAcademicPress.com and be able to transfer them into an English sentence. Once again, some will be eager to skip the grunt work when they are cutting their teeth on short simple sentences. However, as their skills mature and they begin to encounter more complex sentences with possessives, indirect objects, and subordinate clauses, these habits will become extremely useful. The flexible word order for which Latin is famous if not notorious can sometimes be the student’s greatest obstacle. The ability to parse sentences correctly will guide them in construing effectively.
The next step in reaching our goal, to construe original Latin texts, is to begin providing students with small passages. Primers B and C provide a few such passages in some of the review units. These passages are borrowed from the history reader series, “Libellus de Historia” (A Little Book about History), the companion reader for the Latin for Children series. This series is modeled after the graded readers that Latin students have used for many decades. A graded reader is one that begins with short passages containing very simple grammar, and gradually increases the readings in length and complexity. We designed “Libellus de Historia” to work in tandem with the LFC series, grading the difficulty of the readings to coincide with the grammar lessons in the primers. The subject matter follows the Veritas Press History Card Series, and is particularly useful for those programs that use both of these curricula. Should you prefer, there are other graded Latin readers available that use stories strictly pertaining to Roman culture and history. No matter which topic you prefer, the approach to passage translation is the same.
Begin by having each student compile a list of unfamiliar vocabulary words. This exercise may seem tedious at first, but it will save time later. The exercise also asks students to look closely at each individual word, considering its part of speech, the declension or conjugation to which it belongs, possible cases or tenses, and the wide range of meanings that may need consideration. While the Libellus series does seek to incorporate as many known words as possible, it would be impossible to describe these historical events using only LFC vocabulary. We view this as an opportunity for students to expand their Latin vocabulary further. The main goal of the reader is to practice the grammar learned. This is a particularly effective exercise when new words appear that students must parse more carefully.
With the vocabulary list complete, students are ready to begin construing the text. Small groups of two to three are the most effective in the beginning. After students have translated several passages, gaining confidence in their skills, you may wish to have them tackle a passage individually. One advantage the Libellus series has over other graded readers is the manner in which the actual text of the story appears.
The large font and extra spacing not typically found in other readers, allows the student additional work space. They can parse their sentences within the text if they find it helpful. While I sometimes encourage this practice in the beginning, I no longer require it. At some point the students must begin to stretch their wings without the use of these visual cues. Under no circumstances do I allow them to translate the stories within the text. Instead they must use a separate sheet of notebook paper. Some teachers may wish to have students keep their own spiral notebook set apart for just this purpose. This notebook becomes a type of journal, recording the progress in their studies. It is fun for students to be able to look back over the course of a year or more and see how far their skills have improved. Often we do not realize how far we have come until we see where we have been.
Now we have come to my favorite element of Latin, both as a teacher and a student; now we read Latin – aloud. After completing the written assignment arrange students in a comfortable group setting (I like having them in a circle) with their Latin text and unfamiliar vocabulary list, do not allow them access to their written translation. The purpose of this exercise is to train the students to read Latin; we already know they can read English. Before you begin, give everyone, including yourself, permission to make Classical Academic Press • www.ClassicalAcademicPress.com mistakes. No one is fluent in Latin yet; we are all learning. Call upon individuals to read the passage aloud in Latin first, then English. Guide students having trouble through the sentence by asking questions. A question and answer flow is provided inside the front of the history readers. Avoid giving the answers if possible. Again, our goal is to train them how to think, how to consider the language before them, not merely to get the right answer. After you have guided a student through a sentence, ask him to re-translate that same sentence smoothly. Occasionally ask another student to again translate that same sentence, but in a slightly different way. By doing this, you can illustrate how the role of the translator is truly the role of an interpreter. Students begin to see how different points of view can interpret the same sentence in a slightly different manner. Now they have begun construing.
Teaching students how to read for comprehension and specific information is an important goal at the grammar stage. It need not be limited to English grammar classes. Comprehension questions follow each story in the history reader. This is another feature unique to this particular reader series. Not all readers include comprehension questions, but they are a great asset. Students may use them as a written exercise. However, I recommend asking them orally following the time of oral translation. It gives students a thrill to know they are having a Latin conversation, while at the same time exercising both their oral and reading comprehension skills. A little Latin dialogue can be a great way to conclude a particularly constructive class.
Afterwards, allow the students time to return to their written translations. Now they have the opportunity to apply what the class has discussed, what they have learned, in order to improve upon what they had initially written. Then, they may submit their final translation to the teacher. Some complain that it is impossible for them to remember all that the translation meant. However, the purpose of this exercise is not to teach the students dictation, but how to construe language. The goal is not to earn an ‘A’ on every assignment, but to improve an understanding of how language works.
This assignment is extremely rewarding, but can also be time consuming particularly for grammar students. I would not advise that the fourth and fifth graders using primers B and C tackle a passage with each new chapter. However, I do think it important that they begin building their reading skills by translating appropriate passages when possible. Teachers should consider the stories in the readers they choose carefully and plan ahead. Choose stories that will emphasize a particular element of grammar that you feel needs extra attention. I particularly like using translation assignments with the review chapters.
What better way to review the grammar learned over the past several chapters, than to apply it to a good story?
ASSESSMENTS: What are you evaluating?
It is important every so often to assess how much each individual student truly knows on their own.
This is very important, as Latin is a cumulative subject. Every sequential lesson depends on the previous lessons. Each year builds on the one before. Proficiency can often be hard to detect with daily assignments, as students have the use of their texts, teacher, classmates, and sometimes their parents. The primer series does provide a quiz at the end of each chapter. I myself prefer to use this as a type of pre-quiz. It reminds the students very clearly of what they must know in order to continue successfully. I ask students to consider this a “pretend quiz” that they should try to complete on their own without using their book for help. Once finished, they are allowed to go back and correct their errors. They are then to use this as a study guide for the quiz to come the following day. I intentionally keep the quizzes I assign similar, Classical Academic Press • www.ClassicalAcademicPress.com virtually identical, to those found in the book. These are grammar stage students, and the modus operandi is repetition. Presenting them with “surprises” will not always give an accurate picture of knowledge. It can instead unnerve young students and damage the confidence you are trying to build. I deviate from the LFC quiz in that I only provide the first grammar form for the vocabulary section. I ask that students, even third graders, recall all remaining grammatical information along with the meaning of their vocabulary words. This is because I feel it very important to evaluate how thoroughly the students are learning their whole vocabulary. These are the building blocks from which everything else is constructed. If they have them imbedded properly now, they will own them forever. If their understanding seems shaky, they may struggle in lessons to come.