Thursday, April 10, 2008

Once Upon a Time . . . .

. . . there was a class with one hour a week of Latin language classes. In fact, there were 15, scattered about the kingdom's capital city. And they all had fun.

What Works

One technique that the kids enjoyed tremendously was singing a song about Latin cases.

No kidding.

Grammatical Structures as Narrative

By putting all the Latin cases and their meanings to music, they naturally fell into a sort of story about cause and effect, order and character, and so on. You don't have to try to make this happen: it just does. When you put language to music, you tend to get a sense of narrative.

Even better, with arm movements for each part of speech, the kids get abstract concepts into their bodies along with the words that represent them. It works.

What Else Has Works

Because CAGSE works only in State schools, Latin is about as foreign to these kids as -- well -- ancient Rome. Probably more foreign for the kids who have watched any TV at all.

To address this issue and to reinforce what the language teachers have offered, Sarah Mooney, our Director of Storytelling, created a story in English peppered with Latin vocabulary.

The reason this story worked (again) is relationship Sarah created between convention and what is new.

Once Upon a Time . . .

Sarah's story had nothing to do with Rome. It followed the experiences of a boy who played the flute, a princess, a garden and a king. The vocabulary stood out boldly because it was entrenched in what the kids took for granted (the princess wore a corona, the most beautiful corona the boy had ever seen).

In fact, the kids could name every Latin word used in a story that lasted more than a half hour. That's a lot to remember. And it happened in several different classes.

We learn through context -- in order to understand something unfamiliar, we need something familiar to give it context and meaning.

Stories provide a perfect venue to make the familiar new. More in the next post.