LaFleur SPEAKS!

You know how I said in my last post that Fatih Akin is one of my heroes? Well, add Richard LaFleur to the list.

In the 1960s, Latin teaching in American high schools took a nosedive. People asked themselves, “Why are we teaching our children this dead language?” and pulled their kids from classics programs. It wasn’t until the 1980s that class offerings and enrollment at the high school level began to pick up again, and it was largely due to the efforts of University of Georgia professor Dr. Richard LaFleur. In 1981 he published a rather self-explanatory article entitled “Latin Students Score High on SAT and Achievement Tests,” and followed it up in 1987 with his book The Teaching of Latin in American Schools: A Profession in Crisis. Once people started rediscovering the advantages of a classical education, they also started putting their kids’ butts in the seats. Latin teachers nationwide owe him their gratitude.

LaFleur might be a Emeritus professor over at UGA now, but I have a li’l secret. His class website for Latin teaching methodology is still online. And I found it.

The site is geared towards his Latin 4770 students, obviously, but there is a lot of additional resources on hand that any Latin teacher would appreciate. Some is student generated, and some if by LaFleur himself. For those that can’t/won’t spend the time to scour the site for useful tidbits, I’ve gleaned a couple that I’ll post here.

Don’t forget your SANDALS!

Spectate Audite Nunc Dicite Agite Legite Scribite!

We should learn a second language, as nearly as possible, in all the same ways we acquired and learned our native language, i.e., by watching, listening, speaking, doing (i.e., by acting in response to what we’ve heard or been asked to do), reading, and writing. Too many Latin classes focus in too limited a way on the last two learning skills, reading and writing, which are the most complex, without paying enough, or any, attention to watching, listening, speaking (conversing, not just reciting conjugations), and doing as additional (and enjoyable) ways in which we learn any language.

Love that quote. I’ve picked up some living languages after learning my dead ones, and the teaching methodology was vastly different when comparing the two. But it doesn’t have to be. Why can techniques like Total Physical Response (TPR) be applied to all languages, the living and the dead?

Also of note is his advice for introducing and teaching passages of Latin (PDF). He stresses the need to actually read the text aloud, which is a step many teachers skip. I understand his reasoning for including it, however. Although Latin is no longer a spoken language, it once was, and we shouldn’t neglect its beauty in that respect. In addition, many students are aural learners, and hearing the words aloud may help their brains come across the “aha” moment that will make the passage click for them. LaFleur also stresses follow-up questions on the passage to discuss form in addition to function. It is poetry we’re reading, after all.

Lastly, take a moment to check out his list of links. These are for the teacher of Latin as well as for the classicist at large.

Ever since high school when I got a copy of his Latin for the 21st Century in my hands, I’ve benefited from his work, and as I enter teaching profession I doubt that will stop anytime soon.

(Oh, and did I mention he also wrote Wheelock’s Latin? Like I said, he’s kinda a big deal.)

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