I’m pleased to have another guest post from Dr. Sebastian Carnazzo (see the first here). He teaches Greek communicatively with the Academy of Classical Languages through an interactive online format. Here’s Sebastian’s report on his experience teaching 2nd graders to speak and read Ancient Greek:
The course was offered for the San Luis Obispo Classical Academy. As you might guess from the name, the curriculum is classically based and, as you might guess again, it also has a rigorous Latin program. Its curriculum had not, however, until now, incorporated any Greek (the nerve!). Hoping to amend this glaring deficiency, the school asked if I would be willing to offer a course for their eight-week extracurricular enrichment program. Translation: I would have one hour a week for eight weeks to teach the kids something meaningful about Classical Greek. Hmmm, sound like a challenge?
The students were grouped into three classes by grade (K–3rd, 4th–5th, 6th–8th). Each class was conducted in Attic Greek through TPRS for 50 minutes, with the exception of a few things in English here and there to bridge the gap (e.g. τί ἐστι τοῦτο; ναί, φῦλλόν ἐστιν. καὶ τί ἐστι τὸ χρῶμα; ναί, χλωρόν ἐστιν [then a break into English] “as in the word chlorophyll that most of you already know from your science classes”). I focused solely on vocabulary and constructions that in some way or another make their way into secular English or the vocabulary of the sciences. Outside of class the students used Living Koine Greek, vol. 1, MP4.
Within the initial ten minutes of the first day of class, one of the more outspoken kids yelled out, “So why aren’t our Latin classes taught this way?” Not wanting to lose my job on the first day, I just smiled and changed the subject. The excitement continued throughout the eight weeks, but I had a lot of help along the way from Hollywood.
I’m sure some of you have heard about the Percy Jackson movies. Well, most of these kids knew them by heart. Fortunately for me, on my thirty hour trip back from South Africa (see recent post below, 3/11/14), in an attempt to avoid death by boredom and anticipating some use in the course with the kids, I had watched the first two of the series. As expected, throughout the next eight weeks, kids randomly shouted out things like, “Hey, that’s the same word as in the Percy Jackson movie when Percy…!” By the end I’m pretty sure they thought I knew Percy personally.
The last day of class was spent doing the readings in Living Koine. Comprehension was checked with Q & A in Greek. I’ll admit, even I was shocked by these kids. They were all great, and I mean really great, but one 2nd grader was particularly impressive. He read every sentence with ease and perfect pronunciation and even produced accurate and dynamic translations when asked. So to challenge him I started asking progressively more and more complex questions about the text. He just shot back responses in perfect Greek as fast as I could ask. Move over Percy Jackson!