How to Teach Latin for Grade School

Two questions are bound to come up, because of my article on the necessity of Latin and Greek. (1) How do I incorporate Latin and Greek into my curriculum, and (2) how do I teach Latin and Greek when I don’t even know it?

First off, I will say, I hear you on both fronts. I was worried that learning two languages was going to be overwhelming and impractical. I wavered, thinking maybe we should just learn Latin. Who learns Greek anymore, anyway?! If you would like to know more about why to learn Latin and Greek see the article here

Further, how am I going to teach any foreign language without having even a vague understanding of it, and only a passing knowledge of my own? Enter Memoria Press

No knowledge of Latin and Greek? No problem!

I will discuss Memoria Press and its wonderful homeschool materials later, for now, let me just say that everything they offer is what homeschoolers call “open and go.” This means that no prior knowledge is necessary, and no materials, other than those stated in the set (if sold as a set), are necessary to teach the subject. Teacher notes, helps, talking points (sometimes even scripted—having exactly what to say), and of course, answers are all provided in the teacher manuals for their materials.

All of my children are learning (or will learn) Latin and Greek. I have been teaching Latin for going on six years now, and have three children currently learning Latin. My oldest is able to translate basic Latin sentences and will be working on translating paragraph-long passages this year, having mastered all material through Second Form Latin. My second oldest can translate simple sentences and is starting on First Form this year. I am no master, though, and am only learning along with my children, but I hope to share with you my experience to help you with yours.

First of all, it must be made known that my husband and I say family prayers out loud every day with our children, and, usually, one set of prayers is recited or sung in Latin, so our children are exposed to Latin before they start officially learning it. We also listen to Gregorian Chant occasionally, which provides exposure as well. In addition, a few years ago, we were regularly attending a Mass that was in Latin. 

I don’t believe these are necessary to learning Latin, but the exposure does help them to hear what it sounds like before they start learning it. It also means that my husband and I know how to correctly pronounce Latin, having prior experience. So, even though I do not use them, you should consider buying the pronunciation CD and/or the teaching DVD to go along with the book set, as well as downloading a Gregorian Chant album or two to listen to. (John Rutter’s music with The Cambridge Singers is beautiful!) The links I chose for the sets below includes both the CD and DVD, but you can buy the materials without these two.

Now, you may think, with the preceding paragraphs that I knew Latin before teaching it, but I actually did not. I enjoy reciting and singing it, because it sounds so beautiful, and I only pray what I already know in English, such as the Hail Mary, but I didn’t know, before starting homeschooling, what any of the words meant individually.

Latin Curriculum and Notes on Teaching

Before starting Latin, my children complete their phonics book. Now, I deviate from Memoria Press here, because Susan Wise Bauer’s phonics book is exceptionally well-presented and concise, and although I do occasionally (depending on the child) have to supplement with Memoria Press’s phonics materials, all of my children have mastered phonics in two years, at the most— kindergarten and first grade. (I will discuss more on phonics in a separate post.) Now, this is important so that they can read the Latin textbook in second grade along with me, thereby better learning Latin by not just hearing it, but seeing it too. 

Second Grade

We start with Prima Latina. It is a slow and gentle introduction to Latin with only about 90 vocabulary words and one conjugation and one declension (just the paradigm, not the “how to”) taught at the very end. We go through one lesson per week, which consists of five vocabulary words, one saying or useful word (such as “hello”), and one line of a prayer (like the Our Father). We review flash cards daily. And we take the tests found in the teacher manual at the end of every five lessons. 

Even including the tests, everything I do with Prima Latina is oral. My children do not write in the workbook, copy vocabulary, or anything else. It only takes about 10-20 minutes to read through the lesson with the child on Monday. On Wednesday we do the lesson’s questions together. The other days of the week we review the flashcards, with, usually, just one pass through the stack we are working on each day, thereby only taking about two minutes.

One other important note: I always go through flashcards with the child. They do not do them on their own (except on that exceptionally rare occasion where I want them to get the cards reviewed that day and both I and their siblings are busy). Sometimes, as I’m sure you’re aware, children have a tendency to be sloppy, and I want to make sure that they read the word with the correct pronunciation and say the correct word as translation, both of which can slip without correction when they are doing the cards by themselves. 

I break the cards down into the units (test breaks, actually) from the book, so I have five groupings of approximately the same size. I also hand-wrote out the sayings and prayers as they are not a part of the flashcard set that I have, and I wanted the children to memorize them. The flashcards are sold in a set bundled with the Latina Christiana cards (the next book).

Flashcards get reviewed all year long on an ever-rotating basis with longer periods in between the next viewing of that stack as we add more units. But I try never to go more than about one week to ten days, at this point before the child sees that stack again so that they have no chance of forgetting it. 

After the book is finished at the end of week 30, we review one stack per day each week for the rest of the school year in order to cement the words into the memory, before adding more next year. 

Third Grade

After Prima Latina (PL) comes the book called Latina Christiana. PL is not required to be used before Latina Christiana as the information learned is not built upon, but instead repeated and added to. Therefore, if you did not complete PL in second grade, skip it and just take extra time to make sure all of the vocabulary from Latina Christiana is mastered. 

Now, coincidentally, I break Latina Christiana (LC) into two years, just like Memoria Press (MP) does in their Curriculum Packages, but I did it through my own curriculum planning because I never purchased their curriculum package or Latin lesson plans to know exactly how or why they break it up, and at the time, they marketed their review worksheets book that I decided to use during the year as summer break material. We utilize the student workbook, teacher manual, flashcards, Latina Christiana Games and Puzzles (I have the older version called Ludere Latine), and the Latina Christiana Review Worksheets.

Now, again like Prima Latina, except for the LC Games, all of the work with Latina Christiana is oral. 

We cover fifteen lessons in the third grade. I teach Latin three days per week and do flashcards five days per week. (The other two days are set aside to teach the Greek Alphabet to be discussed in a later post.) There are ten vocabulary words with every lesson, but since all Prima Latina vocabulary words (except the constellations) are included in Latina Christiana, many of the words are review. It takes two weeks to go through each lesson so there is plenty of time to review the new vocabulary, declensions, and conjugations before moving on. This ensures mastery.

The first week we read the lesson, do the exercises in the workbook, and work half the exercises in the Review Worksheets book. The next week, we complete the Review Worksheets for that lesson, do a worksheet from the Latin Games and take the lesson quiz. The rest of the worksheets for that lesson are split up to do one worksheet per Latin teaching day during those two weeks depending on how many worksheets the book has for that particular lesson. 

For the flashcards, we review Prima Latina flashcards every day (which stay separated from LC) as per the end of year plan from above. We add in the new LC cards, sectioned by units (test breaks) just like PL, rotating and reviewing constantly all year long. (MP did include the sayings for Latina Christiana in the flashcard set.)

Fourth Grade

In fourth grade, we finish the Latina Christiana (LC) and accompanying materials, which amounts to only ten lessons. If you are just starting Latin in fourth grade, you can start LC and finish it in one year, making sure to master the flashcards, or still take two years to go through it, especially if you are learning Greek alongside. 

I only do Latin teaching two days a week this year, covering each lesson over a period of three weeks, following the same order as for third grade, and still reviewing flashcards daily.

The reason for this stretch is (a) there are only ten lessons to finish the book and I want to stretch it out over the full school year, but more importantly, (b) we start our Greek textbook this year and I devote three days a week to the Greek, and (c) the material starts to get a little tougher with the introduction of second conjugation vocabulary and paradigms and even third declension vocabulary. So the child has plenty of time to master the new lesson’s material before moving on. 


This slow introduction works extremely well to acclimate the children to learning two languages at the same time without overwhelming them. 

Fifth grade through eighth grade will be covered in the next post. This is a series with individual articles for Latin in Elementary School, Middle School and Junior High, as well as a post for Greek. I will not be including a post on high school since I have not taught it yet, but I have heard great things about the Henle Latin series written for high schoolers with four levels. I will be using it myself and through it the children will be reading Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil’s Aeneid in their original language. That is the power of slow-and-steady training.

If you like what you’re reading, share this with a friend, and don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss my next post on How to Teach Latin for the later grades! As always, love your children; give them a beautiful Fundamentally Classical education, and as always, make sure you include Latin!

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