by Karen Moore
As the annual summer sabbatical sets in, parents often ask me how to help their students keep up with Latin over the summer. The idea is not necessarily to learn new material, but rather to help them maintain the knowledge and reading skills they have gained over the course of the year. It is summer, however! Here are some games, activities, and books that can help maintain the joy of Latin through the summer months and beyond—scholé with Latin.
- Tagging the House. Younger kids may enjoy using index cards to create little signs to “tag” items in their house. You can make a tag for the windows that reads fenestra, for the table that reads mensa, for the doors that read ianua, and so on. Then, blend your language at home to insert those words in normal conversation. Ask your child to open the fenestra near the mensa or to close the ianua to the domus. You can add more words throughout the summer. Young children will see this as a fun game. Don’t worry about the grammatical endings—the main goal is to build and retain vocabulary over the summer months.
- Gardening. This is a great activity for all ages. Latin is the language of the sciences, and that includes botany. Most garden centers will sell little markers for plants. Look up the names of the plants in your vegetable garden, flowerbed, or yard in general. Find the scientific names (genus and species) for each plant. Look them up in your Latin dictionary to see how they relate to or describe the plant. Then create a plant marker for your garden.(Caveat: Some scientific names may contain Greek words that are not in a Latin dictionary. Other scientific names are the latinized versions of the name of a scientist, country, or geographical region.)
- Nature Walks. Similar to the gardening activity above, consider taking your Latin dictionary along with a good flower guide or bird guide the next time you go hiking. My children and I enjoy identifying various flora and fauna on nature hikes. A pocket-size dictionary can help you discern the meaning of the scientific names, which often have interesting connections to the character of the plant or animal.
- Reading a Good Book. Truly the best way to practice a language (English, Latin, or any other) is to READ. There are many Latin readers available for students of all levels, and most of them provide dictionaries in the back of the book. Choose a Latin book appropriate to the level of your student’s studies. Reading may come slow at first, but the more they read, the more their vocab and grammar recognition skills will progress, and the faster and easier the reading will become. Below are a few of my favorites:
- Libellus de Historia—These are excellent for grammar school students. The Primer C reader is good for a Latin I middle/high school student.
- Olivia—The popular pig is now in Latin!
- Fairy Tales in Latin—This collection of twelve familiar fairy tales in Latin features relatively short stories, ranging from 500 to 1,000 words. The grammar will vary, but due to the great familiarity of the stories, students should have little problem following along. These are a great opportunity for your students to enjoy using what they have learned while challenging themselves just a bit.
- Aesop’s Fables—Ready to sink your teeth into some real Latin? Laura Gibbs has created an intermediate Latin reader based on these fabulous fables. You can also read a collection of Aesop’s Fables online at the Bestiaria Latina blog site.
- Children’s Literature—There are many, many children’s books that have been translated into Latin. You can find most on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. Your local bookseller also just might carry a copy! Titles include Olivia, Ferdinand the Bull, Walter the Farting Dog, and many more. Most will include a glossary in the back to help with unfamiliar vocab. Grammar levels will vary.
- Seuss—Several of these titles in Latin would be fun for advanced students. The translators wanted to stay true to the rhyming style of Dr. Seuss, which makes for a wonderful read, but challenging Latin. Titles include Green Eggs and Ham, Cat in the Hat, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
- Winnie Ille Pu—This Latin book once made the New York Times Bestseller List! Now you can read Milne’s classic in a classical language. This is for advanced students, meaning you will need to have completed a full Latin grammar course such as the Latin Alive! series.
- The True Classics—Hungry to read some true classical literature? There are a number of readers out there for advanced students, readers that guide you through the writings of the most well-known Latin authors. I highly recommend the Legamus Reader series.