Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Song in Case: Latin to the Oldies

I had the privilege to teach Latin cases to a group of year 5's at a school in Tower Hamlets this week. I can't remember the last time I've had so much fun at work.

Silly Works

To a non-classicist, the song's words are pretty dull (see the end of this post), and the melody doesn't have a lot of oomph either. But neither did Schoolhouse Rock in the US in the '70s, and a 40-something friend of mine and I can still sing through the preamble to the Constitution because of it.

I'm the first one to admit that our CAGSE composers aren't exactly on the level of those Schoolhouse Rock folks. Still, together with arm movements and the ability to stand up while they learn, it was a room full of enough energy and smiling faces that you might have mistaken the lesson for a party.

Story Time

After we sang for about 15 minutes, Sarah Mooney, CAGSE's Director of Storytelling, told a story about a boy with a flute and a princess who makes choices about who she'll marry ("this isn't one of those stories where the boys get to boss the girls around"). It was peppered with Latin vocabulary already familiar to the class.

A pretty sophisticated discussion ensued about both the plot and the words Sarah chose. Then we sang the song again (to make sure that they had learned the grammar, both in Latin and English).

They did.

Can you believe I get paid to do this?

The Song

Ovid, it ain't -- but the kids couldn't care less:

The nominative case is a person or thing doing the action in the sentence.
The accusative case is a person or thing receiving the action in the sentence.
The genitive case is of.
The dative case is to or for.
The ablative case is by, with, or from.

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