Building Understanding, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we begin to look at the ways that the Tres Columnae system builds not only

  • Knowledge (of vocabulary, morphology, details of Roman culture and history) and
  • Skill (at reading, hearing, speaking, writing, understanding, analyzing, and interpreting Latin) but also
  • Understanding (of what our friends at Paideia call “concepts, ideas, and values about the curriculum”).

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post,

We’ll actually look in detail at the Understandings that might be developed during the first two Lectiōnēs of Cursus Prīmus. We’ll take apart the stories themselves, looking for important cultural – and trans-cultural – ideas implicit in them. And then we’ll explore how you, the members of the Tres Columnae family, might create stories or other submissions that encouraged further exploration of important ideas.

So what are some of the big “concepts, ideas, and values” we’ll be addressing? And how do they relate to the stated goals for Lectiōnēs I and II? If you recall (or if you’d like to look at the relevant page on the Version Alpha Wiki site), the goals for Lectiō I are to help the learner

  1. directly comprehend a Latin sentence
  2. distinguish Latin nouns and verbs
  3. recognize and explore English derivatives of Latin words
  4. compare housing and family structure in Roman world with our own housing and family structure
  5. Begin to understand, analyze, and explore the concept of pietās

I realized – and our faithful reader Laura G pointed out kindly in a blog post of hers – that I had forgotten to upload the exercises for goals 2 and 3 … they’re on the way, and we’ll look at them on Monday. Goals 4 and 5 are closely connected … and there’s a lot more material for both of them coming as well.

As we consider the goals again, you’ll probably notice that Goal 1 is primarily about Skill, though learners certainly build some Knowledge (of the meanings of Latin words and of typical patterns of Latin sentence structure) and some Understanding (if nothing else, the concept that Latin and English word order are sometimes different) in the process. Goal 2 is also primarily about Skill, though it also builds some Knowledge (of typical endings for Latin nouns and verbs, for example) and some Understanding (that Latin, like other languages, has different parts of speech, and that they can be recognized even if you don’t know the exact meaning of the word in question).

The last three goals, though, are primarily about Understanding, as you’ll see starting on Monday when we examine them in detail. Yes, even the Derivatives and Culture goals are more about Understanding than they are about Knowledge – which, alas, isn’t universally true in Latin textbooks or Latin teaching! I’ve seen a lot of “Derivative Trees” and lovely models of Roman buildings in my life, but I’ve also known a lot of Latin students who didn’t make the connections to deeper understanding … and, of course, many of those students were mine! 🙂 So the quest for Understanding is very personal and very important for me.

Sadly, many American learners come to the study of Latin after a unit (or several) about “Greek and Latin roots and prefixes” in their English classes … but they’ve never developed the Understanding that languages borrow words from each other, or even the Understanding that languages change over time, or that you can often predict the meaning of a word if you know the meanings of its various components. So, while we’ll also develop some Knowledge of English derivatives and some Skills at working with them along the way, our primary goal is this Understanding. In the same way, while we want our students to develop some Knowledge about Roman history and culture (including the housing and family structure topics we address in Lectiō I), our main goal is to help them Understand some ways that cultures are similar – and different – over space and time, and to begin to grapple with some of the issues that this Understanding raises for them.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the Paideia model’s three-fold division?
  • What do you think of our application of it?
  • And what do you think of our claim that we are, in fact, aiming for Understanding with these final three goals?

Tune in on Monday, when I’ll try to prove this claim with some specific exercises, explanations, and other tasks from Lectiō I … things that, until now, have not been featured on the Version Alpha Wiki site. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!


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