Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Should Study Latin?

There are those who still believe that Latin is an incredibly difficult subject and only suitable for the academically talented.

However, many students with disabilities want to study Latin too and should be encouraged to try and given the tools to succeed! (Remember, everyone spoke Latin in ancient Rome, not just the intellectuals!) In the United States, everyone is entitled to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (which is a placement made by a multidisciplinary team and could be a self-contained or mainstream classroom.) If you are a public school teacher and have a student with an individualized education plan, you have an important role that you must carry out and you are obligated to follow the provisions in that document.

Many students with learning disabilities are quite capable of learning a foreign language. Teachers may need to expand their repertoire of teaching strategies as well as learn about different types of accommodations and modifications, but of course, the result of this is a better-informed professional and a higher quality of teaching for every student.

"While beginning Latin teachers are not trained to diagnose learning disabilities, they should begin to find and use strategies that help students with common learning differences to succeed in their classes. When confronted with a particularly puzzling or unfamiliar case, the beginning Latin teacher should know where to turn (both at school and in the larger community) for assistance. Beginning teachers also need to be aware that some students' learning differences may manifest themselves for the first time when they begin to study another language. Like all teachers, they must be proficient at applying mandated accommodations for students with learning disabilities or differences." (Standards for Classical Teaching, Draft 1, page 13)

Here are some resources for teachers who want to learn more about teaching inclusively:

Latin for Students with Learning Disabilities, a detailed brochure from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South.

When Dead Tongues Speak: Teaching Beginning Greek and Latin See especially Chapter 3, "Latin For Students With Severe Learning Disabilities." However, the entire book is invaluable and well worth reading! (This book is readily obtainable from the publisher as well as, Barnes and Noble, and other large bookstores)

Here's a powerful story about the example of high standards set by a Latin teacher, Garry LeGates, who happens to be blind. When he first started looking for a teaching job, he initially had a difficult time obtaining a position. He recently retired after thirty years.

Althea Ashe wrote a chapter for Latin in the 21st Century (editor, Richard A. LaFleur) entitled "Latin for Special Needs Students: Meeting the Challenge of Students with Learning Disabilities." Read an archived story about Dr. Ashe in the Athens Online from Athens Daily News. (Order Latin in the 21st Century directly from the publisher; for some reason, online bookstore prices are significantly inflated for this title. It lists for about $35 from the publisher.)

Ginny Lindzey reveals a secret about teaching Latin on her blog: "Don't believe lines like this, that it's the easiest job and all the students are highly motivated." According to Ginny, "It's a lot of work." (At the same time, she also notes "there are rewards...there are definitely rewards...")

Read this blog entry by a dad whose wife is teaching their learning disabled son Latin. He has some interesting things to say about the power of motivation. Pretty informative blog too!

Also see Ronnie Ancona's article “Latin and a Dyslexic Student: An Experience in Teaching,”Classical World 76 (1982), 33-36. (Not available online.)

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic has accessible audiobooks for students with documented visual impairment, dyslexia or learning disabilities, including a number of Latin textbooks: Ecce Romani Vols I-III (2005 and 2009 editions available); Latin for Americans, Vols 1-3; More Greek and Latin Roots: Teaching Vocabulary to Improve Reading Comprehension; Oxford Latin Course, Parts 1-3; Wheelocks Latin, 6th Ed., Revised; A Song of War Readings from Vergil's Aeneid; Cambridge Latin Course, Units 1-4; Wheelock's Latin Reader Selections from Latin Literature, 2nd Ed. There are also a number of books on Ancient Greek and Roman culture.

An excellent resource for audio books that are in the public domain (and free, with no restrictions) is Librivox, where you can find many Classically-themed materials: for example, Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome by E.M. Berens; Famous Men of Rome and Famous Men of Greece by John H. Haaren; Gibbon's History of the Decine and Fall of the Roman Empire; Bulfinch's Mythology. Plutarch's Lives and other titles of interest to Classics teachers are currently in production.

Hilary McColl maintains a comprehensive website devoted to modern foreign language learning and inclusion. Latin teachers are still likely to find much of value at her website, which explores the benefits of learning a second language and offers a number of suggestions for improving learning and teaching practices.

"Children with Autism: Strategies for Accessing the Curriculum, Modern Foreign Languages" is a document prepared by the Northwest Regional Special Education Needs Partnership in the United Kingdom.

Mobility International USA offers ideas on helping disabled students access foreign languages and also has a number of inclusive travel tips for going on overseas trips.