How to Teach Latin for Middle School & Junior High

This is part of a series which started here. If you have already read the introduction, feel free to skip down to the section: Latin Curriculum and Notes on Teaching.

Two questions are bound to come up, because of my article on the necessity of Latin and Greek. How do I incorporate Latin and Greek into my curriculum and 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 five years now, and have three children currently learning Latin. My oldest is able to translate complex, but 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 link I chose for the sets includes both the CD and DVD, but you can buy the materials without these two. 

Now you may think, with the preceding paragraph 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

This article assumes that you followed the curriculum plan starting in second grade. If you did not, most likely you will have to tailor the plan to fit you needs, which will undoubtedly include more time in review or a slower pace through the materials. 

With the Forms Series, each book builds on prior material with very little review, so you have to start with First Form and work your way through each book in order, but you can start with First Form at any time from fifth grade on up with no prior Latin knowledge. 

First Form includes all the prior forms and almost all the vocabulary from Latina Christiana and Prima Latina, so it is easy to teach from and learn if the child does have that prior knowledge. 

Fifth Grade

For fifth grade, my children do the full First Form Latin set in one year. We still do everything, occasionally even the tests, orally. Most of the time, though, they write out their answers to the test. Latin is done everyday of the the week.

Monday, we read the lesson and complete the drill in the textbook, if any. The teacher manual says to do the drill at the end of the week after completing the workbook pages, but because of the prior Latin knowledge, my children can do the drill after reading the lesson. Tuesday through Thursday we split up as evenly as possible the workbook pages and I have the child complete them orally. Friday, they take the lesson quiz or unit test.

We review the grammar questions every day (or less, if the review is getting tedious, as some weeks add few or no questions) from the back of the workbook; the plan for review is given in the teacher manual.

I still review cards with the child this year. We review the flashcards, separated by units, every day with the rotation method similar to Prima Latina—we review the current unit’s cards daily and add in one extra stack per day of the previous unit(s), not going more than a week to ten days before we review the same stack again. We do not review prior years’ flashcards, as almost all their words are found in First Form, so I just use the FF cards.

I also purchased the Latin Grammar flashcards to use along with the First Form Series. First Form does not have the grammar paradigm cards in the flashcard set, so to review those, the Latin Grammar Recitation set is necessary. I, sadly, used this set for over two years before I realized that it gives you the recitation from the teacher manual and all the card numbers to go along with the recitation for each lesson. I originally just grabbed cards as I needed them, searching with the index in the book. So, note to readers (and self), read the introduction when you get a new book, so you know how to use it properly!

We spend a total of approximately 20-45 minutes per day at this point for the Latin lesson. 

Sixth Grade

In sixth grade comes Second Form Latin. In Second Form, the total vocabulary almost doubles, making this a huge year for mastering vocabulary. Prior years are approximately as follows: PL-90, LC-200, FF-210. This year an extra 180 words are learned for a total of almost 400.

The same plan is followed as for First Form. We still do everything orally, except the tests. Latin is done everyday of the the week. Monday, we read the lesson and complete the drill in the textbook, if any. Tuesday through Thursday we split up as evenly as possible the workbook pages and I have the child complete them orally. Friday, they take the lesson quiz or unit test. 

All tests are written out since the material gets more complicated, and it’s actually better for the child to see it written out, because they catch their mistakes easier that way. 

We review the grammar questions daily from the back of the workbook, like last year; the plan for review is given in the teacher manual.

At this point, the review becomes more independent. I expect the child to review the flashcards and grammar questions themself. If you think this would be an issue for your child, then continue reviewing with them as in prior years, especially since the vocabulary amount explodes! I also add to the flashcards any extra grammar forms (from the separate Latin Grammar flashcards) that seem to need work when we do the workbook exercises.

First Form vocabulary, forms, and grammar questions are reviewed according to the plan in the teacher manual for that lesson. 

Mastery of the material is essential. Remember that slow and steady learning is much better than rush and miss. Third form adds a lot of forms and vocabulary so it is essential to have a complete mastery of all the material from First and Second Form prior to starting Third Form. 

Seventh Grade

This year we’re learning Third Form Latin. As I just stated, Third Form adds a lot: 240 vocabulary words added to the 400 already known, and many grammar forms. The books are thick compared to First and Second Form. Many additional worksheets are included to master the material of each lesson. Again, mastery is what is important. If you (or your child) need to slow down this year, do it!

Again, this being a series, the teaching plan is the same, but more time is spent each day on Latin because of the extra material. Monday is still reading the lesson, sometimes doing a workbook page or two since there are no drills in the book this year. Some lessons have up to 10 workbooks pages that are completed within that week for the lesson. Quizzes and tests, as before, are on Friday. 

Also, make sure you give plenty of time for review. The plan to review grammar questions and vocabulary, including that from First and Second Form, is in the teacher manual for each lesson. 

Eighth Grade

This is the last year for the forms series, as the children complete Fourth Form in eighth grade. We have not done this yet, but I assume it is just like Forms First through Third and therefore would follow the same teaching pattern. I will update this post after I purchase the materials, if I notice any changes. 

Wrap Up

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

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 Greek! As always, love your children; give them a beautiful Fundamentally Classical education, and as always, make sure you include Latin!

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