Living Latin: A Curriculum for K-5th Grade

Overview and Objective

Our Living Latin curriculum is designed specifically for students in grades K-5. It is a rich, joyful, and wonder-filled linguistic program that uses classical nursery rhymes, songs, poems, prayers, bible verses, little Socratic Conversations, beautiful works of art, the Gouin Series Method, and beautiful classical picture books in Latin.

It is also designed for teachers and homeschoolers with or without Latin background. Fully scripted and enjoyable lessons make this program perfect for the teachers who want to incorporate Latin in a delightful, simple, and structured way.

The main objective of this curriculum is to provide a joyful introduction to Latin that fosters students’ love of language. We believe a language program should take children seriously as persons who are capable of using language to communicate thoughts and ideas not isolated words. We do this by allowing students to hear (and very soon) say complete sentences in Latin, and by focusing on ideas and stories from Day 1. Students will interact with and in the Language in ways that are meaningful and interesting to a young child.

I really cannot even begin to tell you how much joy teaching this Latin curriculum is bringing me and the students of St Joseph. I have to share this with you. Last night, my 4 year old (who is in Kindergarten) told me spontaneously, ‘Mommy, Maya caudam movet’. Maya is our dog. My heart just about exploded. Since I have the privilege of being the teacher and a parent, I can see first hand how well this is working. Not one day goes by that I am not amazed by the joy that this curriculum is bringing to me and my students.  Not a week goes by that I am not enthralled by how much Latin we are all learning.  I say it all the time, but it bears repeating:  this curriculum is amazing!! 

Amy Carrillo, St Joseph’s Catholic School, Killeen, TX

Living Latin Curriculum Distinctives

The main distinctive feature of this program is its rich linguistic approach. This program helps students learn gradually and incrementally a wealth of full and complete sentences in Latin: in the course of a year students will learn about 144 sentences in the Gouin series, 4 nursery rhymes (some with several stanzas), 8 or more songs (again many with several stanzas), and they will learn to respond to, fully comprehend, and partly recite the 11 classic children’s books they will be read to in Latin.

This program is unique in that it presents all words in meaningful sentences, not lists of unconnected vocabulary items and noun declensions or verb conjugations in isolation. We invite you to read our teaching philosophy for a full explanation of our rationale and this blog post for the book that inspired our pedagogy. With our program, young children will not only learn a lot of vocabulary and grammar in context, but they will also naturally acquire an ear for the language and get a natural feel for Latin sentence structures – this is particularly important in a language like Latin with word order so much more flexible than English.

  • Vocabulary and grammar are taught in meaningful contexts (sentences, not isolated words), through songs, nursery rhymes, “little Socratic conversations” and the “Gouin Series” (see “Lesson Components” below)
  • Grammar is not taught through drills but is integrated naturally through learning at the sentence level rather than through isolated words.
  • Instruction is aural, visual, as well as kinesthetic – it includes lots of gestures and movement, as well as visual images. Students will constantly be doing something to interact with the material, so they will be actively engaged with their whole bodies, so this is a program that will also work well for ELL and students with learning disabilities

Living Latin Curriculum Components

The curriculum rotates various themes from book to book and grade to grade. Topics and Themes for Level I are:

Animals Everywhere

  • Animals at Home and in the Backyard
  • Animals on the Farm
  • Animals in the Forest
  • Animals in the Water
  • Animals in the Wild

Each Level Includes:

  • A teacher guide with scripted lessons surrounding a particular topic (for Level 1, this is “Animals Everywhere”). Lesson components include:
    • Memorizing prayers, hymns, songs and nursery rhymes in Latin
    • Little conversations about beautiful works of art related to the topic
    • “Little Socratic Talks” about the topic, all in Latin
    • Gouin Series related to the topic
    • Guided reading of beautiful classic picture books
  • Powerpoints to accompany the “Little Socratic Talks”
  • Latin translations of children’s picture book classics that are used in addition to some already existing story books in Latin for young children
  • Teaching demo videos to get you started
  • Audio recordings of all components and an audio-visual pronunciation guide
  • A 30-page Teacher’s Handbook for those wishing to delve deeper into Classical language pedagogy and the role of foreign languages in the Trivium

We are piloting it at our school this year and our students LOVE it and are learning so much. Parents say their children are talking about it at home…which is a big deal.

– Paula Flint, Flint Academy, Arlington, TX

Living Latin Lesson Components

Note: Not all components will be present in every lesson. Lessons are written with the idea that classes meet 3 times per week, 30 minutes per class, which we recommend to get the most out of the program. But we are happy to help you adjust to your school or homeschool’s schedule and needs.

Setting the Stage / Settling into Latin

This part constitutes the warm-up and review phase of every lesson, as it helps little people settle into the language by reviewing prayers, bible verses, songs, nursery rhymes, and Gouin series previously learned and rotated throughout the semester. Everything studied is kept active by reviewing at regular intervals throughout the school year so that students will fully internalize the vocabulary and grammar structures.

Invoking Wonder

Beautiful works of art introduce new vocabulary and grammar and invite students to wonder about and preview the topic of the new Gouin series or Socratic Talk.

Little Socratic Talk

Guided by the dialogue between Socrates and the little slave boy in Plato’s Meno, the Teacher’s Guide will include model “little Socratic talks” all in Latin. Just like Socrates, the Latin teacher will start from a concrete object and begin with simple yes/no questions to provide a lot of linguistic input for the students. The teacher will gradually move on to short answer questions. In second grade and up, this part may conclude with a short grammar lesson that focuses on the students’ wonder about the language.

Little Socratic Reading

The Teacher’s Guide includes instructions on how to teach for comprehension and how to guide students gradually toward the ability to narrate the story back in Latin.

Gouin Series

Frenchman François Gouin (1831–1896) was a Latin teacher who developed a “series method” of language learning. After repeatedly failing to acquire German despite his efforts in employing a long repertoire of “classical” methods, he realized that his young nephew had acquired his native language French, effortlessly and perfectly in the same amount of time. He noticed how the child was eager to retell new experiences as sequential actions. This led him to the insight that language is learned “sentence by sentence and not word by word.” Based on his observations and insights, Gouin developed the “series method,” also known today as “Gouin series.” A Gouin series is a series of actions that form a logical or chronological sequence. Once a Gouin series is mastered, it is kept active by frequent reviews throughout the school year (during the warm up phase), so that students will fully internalize the vocabulary and grammar structure.

Optional Grammar Extensions

In order to enable teachers to use our curriculum with a range of different grades, we include optional grammar extensions that are ideal for students in 2nd or 3rd grade and up. All grammar lessons are directly based on the language students have already internalized through meaningful memorization, so grammar lessons are likewise meaningful. Throughout Level 1, we focus on helping students understand (not just memorize) sentence components, especially nominative, accusative and prepositional phrases, as well as verb conjugations. Optional extensions also include guided sentence composition in Latin.

A student, a 3rd grader, exclaimed ‘I love learning!’ in the middle of my lesson on Wednesday!  He was so compelled by learning the 3rd person forms of verbs, he just said it. 

Amy Carrillo, St Joseph’s School, Killeen, TX