Latin Alive! (Gr. 7-AD)
Maybe you just recently decided to incorporate Latin into your homeschool, and you're looking over your shoulder at the fun and simple elementary programs that are now too basic and ahead at the thick and intimidating upper-level courses available. You wonder, "Can my child really handle that?" If you're wanting to begin now, never fear! This well-designed and manageable course by Classical Academic Press is designed for middle school and high-school students who are just starting out in Latin. The series, which consists of three books and a Reader level, which make up a 3 to 4 year program, provides students the opportunity to learn the Latin language and grammar, using an incremental approach. Drawing upon the successful teaching methodology used in Wheelock's Latin, the authors of this program have in essence taken the best approaches and features of Wheelock's, and designed a thorough course that is more appropriate (and exciting) for middle school and high school beginners. Also, because the novelty of studying Latin only goes so far, the program also does a fantastic job of demonstrating how relevant Latin is to us, even today. If you are not just starting out in Latin, or perhaps even wanting to continue your journey from Latin for Children, you will find much review in Book One, but thorough coverage of grammar and the reading passages from Latin writers will be well worth continuing your journey.
Book One contains 36 chapters, each intended to take a week to complete. Chapters are grouped into units, with several lessons of new material followed by a review lesson. A consistent format is followed through the lessons which always begin with vocabulary and pronunciation before continuing into grammatical lessons, exercises, and reading. The first chapter covers the classical pronunciation of the consonants, consonant blends, vowels and dipthongs. Examples of similar sounds from the English language are provided for each, followed by a Latin example. Syllabication, accent, and basic sentence structure are also discussed, which provides students the foundation to write out the syllables and practice the pronunciation of the rest of the vocabulary in the book which they are asked to do immediately after all new vocabulary is introduced throughout the rest of the book. The grammatical component of the lessons are divided into sections, each of which focus on one grammatical concept. The grammatical rule is explained and then modeled through examples. Exercises are then included for student practice. Several different types of exercises are found in the lessons, including identifying parts of sentences, declining and conjugating new vocabulary, parsing/diagramming/translating, conjugating verbs, translating only, and more. While the grammar portions of the lessons often utilize sentences, each chapter (starting in Chapter 4) also contains a Latin passage for students to read. In Book One, these have been carefully adapted from Livy's History of Rome.
In Book Two, the readings are less "adapted" to match the student's growing skill. The goal in Book Three is for students to be able to read original Latin texts with little help. The readings offer students the opportunity to read real Roman literature while they are learning the language, rather than the invented stories most beginners "cut their teeth" on before they are allowed to jump into the classics. To aid in comprehension, a list of characters mentioned in the passage and a glossary of words that have not been introduced yet in the lesson vocabulary are also included. Reading comprehension questions, which often include both Latin questions (to be answered in Latin) and English questions (to be answered in English) follow the readings and reinforce vocabulary. Additional segments which crop up in most lessons include Colloquāmur, Culture Corners and Derivative Detective.
Colloquāmur sections provide questions and responses in Latin, with the question translated into English. Students can use their knowledge of Latin and clues from the questions and responses to determine the English translation to the response. Additionally, they can use these as conversation practice in Latin. Culture Corners provide a dash of Roman culture and history to learning the language. In Derivative Detective, students dig into the English language to find the Latin origins of words and phrases. Occasionally a Latin in Science tidbit is also included, where students see how the Latin vocabulary they are learning has found its way into science vocabulary. I also like how every lesson begins with one of the state mottoes and seals which is also translated into English.
The Reader level can be used for a fourth year of Latin, or alongside Book 3 for additional translation work during that year. It includes Latin reading selections in many different genres from a variety of authors along with "About the Author" and "Culture Corner" features, helpful appendices and more.
A unit review is included at the end of each unit. These primarily consist of reading passages and multiple choice questions about the passage. Each review includes a passage in English that provides relevant historical and cultural information. This is followed by a suggested series of steps for the reading comprehension review. First, the Latin passage (with English title) is given, with each line numbered for easy reference and a glossary of vocabulary words. The following comprehension questions are multiple choice and many of them reference specific lines in the passage. The review readings have been designed with an eye towards preparing the student for the National Latin Exam or the AP Latin Exam, which is a feature I can’t say I’ve noticed in many other Latin programs at this level.
There is a nice balance in this program between self-instructional and teacher-directed. All the instruction is found in the student book as they read the lessons, work the exercises, and translate passages. The teacher’s book is basically a version of the student’s book (which correlates directly page-to-page) with answers. If you have no background in Latin and your child is a motivated student, you will probably use the teacher’s manual as primarily an answer key. However, there are just enough “extras” included in the teacher’s manual to make it useful for the co-op teacher as well. Besides answers, small shaded boxes appear here and there on the teacher’s manual pages offering suggestions for extra practice, additional activities, and teacher helps.
Although the introduction to the student at the beginning of the book describes the goals of the course well, the teacher’s book provides more background on the specific exercises. At the end of the teacher’s book, you’ll also find translations of all the Latin passages used, as well as unit tests (with answer keys), additional worksheets, and project ideas. Both teacher and student books include appendices with vocabulary presented in each chapter, reference charts and a complete glossary. Please note that the student books are not reproducible, but that the additional worksheets and tests in the teacher’s book are, for your family or classroom only.
The DVD & CD Sets are the next best thing to actually taking a Latin class. Or perhaps they’re better, since you can rewind and pause each lesson as needed! Although at first glance the price tag seems hefty, the set for Book 1 includes seven DVDs which contain video lessons for all 29 chapters. Although I half-expected author Karen Moore to fly through the lessons and concepts, she steadily and methodically progresses through each lesson, presenting material that complements the textbook beautifully. If you are serious about your Latin study and neither you nor your student has ever taken Latin previously, you will find the DVD/CD set a huge help purely from a pronunciation standpoint. As Karen teaches the lessons, she pronounces all of the Latin example words used. Just the repeated exposure to spoken Latin would be a huge help to a student learning to train their ear and tongue to the pronunciation of words that look – but don’t necessarily sound – similar to English.
The CD included in the set features seven tracks that correspond to the seven Unit Readings. An experienced Latin speaker reads each selection slowly and clearly, so students can follow along, and eventually speak along as well. The audio quality of both the DVDs and CD is excellent, and Karen’s deep love of Latin comes across in the lessons. If you are learning Latin for the first time, I think you would find this set a worthwhile investment. With its similarity to Wheelock’s Latin, the variety of activities and extra, and the solid vocabulary and grammar presented, I think you’ll find this a rigorous yet appealing choice to begin learning Latin at the upper grades. – Jess