Latin Resources - Grote's Notes

Preamble and Preface


Wheelock's Latin is now, and probably will be for sometime in the future, the most widely used introductory Latin book used in American colleges and universities.
And with good reason.
His exclusive emphasis on the details of Latin grammar squares with the general expectation that students acquire a rudimentary, independent reading ability in real Latin after only two semesters of study.
Surely Wheelock has its drawbacks and limitations, but it is still the best text around.

A growing difficulty with the book has become apparent in recent years, a problem that is entirely external to the text itself: students are less and less able to understand his explanations of Latin grammar because their grasp of English grammar is becoming more tenuous.
This obsolescence hardly comes as a surprise, since the main outlines of Wheelock's grammar were set down in the forties and fifties, when it was safe to assume that college students were well versed in at least the basics of English grammar.
We may lament this change, write heated letters to school boards and state legislatures, but all this is of little help when confronted as we are with classrooms filled with beginning Latin students who have never learned the difference between a participle and a pronoun, or who have never heard the word "case" in their lives.

As the years went by, I found that I was required to dedicate unacceptable amounts of class time to discussions of elementary grammatical concepts and to redrafting Wheelock's explanations into forms my students could understand, leaving less time for actually confronting Latin in the classroom.
The results were predictable: it became nearly impossible to complete the forty chapters of grammatical material in two semesters.
The third semester had to be called into the service of the basic grammar of the language, thus reducing the reading we could do and delaying the feeling of mastery and independence that drives students on to read more.

Slowly, I began to compile a rather extensive body of notes and exercises designed to teach the basic grammatical concepts to students of Latin, as they needed them, while learning Latin from Wheelock, and to slow down and recast Wheelock's treatment of the grammar into language which they could understand on their own.
My intention for these notes was to get the repetitive transfer of basic information out of the classroom, so that we could spend more class time reviewing, translating, and drilling.
These notes, therefore, represent nothing more than what I found myself repeating year after year in front of a class.
By setting them into a written text, however, and removing it from the daily classroom agenda, there is no doubt that I have greatly increased the productivity of class time.
Whereas I previously struggled to finish twenty chapters in a semester, my first semester class now easily finishes twenty-seven chapters in the first semester, with time left over for some connected readings.
In the second semester, we have time to do considerable amounts of extended reading after the forty chapters of grammar have been covered.

There is really nothing miraculous about this increased productivity.
In fact, it was to be expected.
Previously, students, who could make neither heads nor tails of Wheelock, relied on my in-class presentations to explain Latin grammar to them.
After the grammar was explained, they would review their classroom notes, and begin the chapter exercises, without ever having read Wheelock, which had been replaced by my lectures.
In essence, then, I was doing their homework for them, but I was doing it in class, not outside of class.
By removing basic grammar from the class by putting it into a workbook, I only transferred the time spent on learning Latin grammar outside the class, and freed up time in class for drilling and taking specific questions.

An unexpected, and admittedly self-interested, advantage I reaped from these printed notes was that students who tend to fall behind, or to miss class (and fall behind), had a body of notes which they could use on their own to catch up, and - perhaps more importantly - to which I could refer them when they came knocking at my door to find out "if they'd missed anything important in class."
Previously this presented a real moral bind.
Either I spent hours re-teaching the class (or classes) for them, in the (usually vain) hope that they would reform once they had been set up on a sure foundation, or I sent them away uninformed, knowing that things would only get worse for them because they couldn't possibly draw the information they needed from Wheelock by themselves.
Now, I refer them to my notes, express my willingness to answer their specific questions after they've worked through them, and send them on their way, hoping for the best.

Here's how I've incorporated these notes into my syllabus and classroom routine.
In the first place, going through my notes for each chapter is entirely optional.
I make no assignments from them, nor do we use class time to go over any of the exercises they contain.
Instead, I merely assign the Practice and Review sentences of, say, Chapter 5, for the next class period.
How the students learn the material in Chapter 5 is entirely their affair, though I do recommend they read my notes.
If, however, a student can understand Wheelock perfectly, then s/he is under no obligation to read my presentation of the chapter.
Most students do read my notes instead of Wheelock.
After reading my notes, I recommend that they read Wheelock's chapter, which provides a compressed "review" of what I leisurely set out in my chapter notes.
For an added review and translation exercises, I also recommend that students work through Wheelock's Self-Help Tutorials before turning to the specified assignment.
After so much preparation, students regularly find the sentences quite straight-forward.
In class, then, after a verbal review of the important concepts in the chapter, we work quickly through the sentences, then, in the time remaining, we sight read either from the Sententiae Antiquae, or from the book 38 Latin Stories designed to go along with Wheelock.
My class covers three chapters per week - one chapter per day, since we meet MWF for an hour and half.
Classes meeting five times per week, of course, would divide the material differently.

I would like to stress again that I don't claim to have created anything new, revolutionary, or destined to reshape the way Latin is taught for the next 25 years.
Perhaps I do have one claim to originality, insofar as my book combines a grammar text and workbook, but I hardly think that's worthy of much note.
I merely believe that I have put together a study guide which will help teach Latin from Wheelock more efficiently by making more classroom time available for direct contact with the language itself.
The text is not meant to intrude directly on classroom work.
It is for students use at night, by themselves, to prepare for classes and exams.
I myself designate the book as an optional purchase and make it available at a nearby copy store, and at first a substantial fraction of my class doesn't buy it.
After three weeks, however, nearly all of them have a copy.
My students, at least, find the book very helpful, and frequently make remarks about it on their course evaluations.
For what it's worth, here are their remarks from last semester.

"The book the instructor made that goes along with Wheelock's book provided a much better understanding of Latin."

"His notebook that went along with the Wheelock book was also immensely helpful. The explanations were thorough and easy to understand."

"The workbook that he created to go along with the text helped a lot in the understanding of the work."

"Dr. Grote's handbook for the class is a great teaching tool and helped students be prepared for class."

"Grote's handbook - especially helpful."

"He supplies a handbook written by him that helps a great deal in learning Latin."

"Dr. Grote's book was very helpful! His explanations are elaborate and very clear. I'd vote for publication!!"

I'm providing you draft of my book for the usual reasons.
I would appreciate your making the text available to your students - as I do - at a copy shop and calling their attention to it.
Would you please take note of their reactions, positive and negative, and send them along to me during or at the end of the semester.
I would greatly value, of course, any remarks you would care to make about my presentations.
Since I'm preparing the copy myself, any corrigenda you spot would save me a lot of embarrassment.
If you have any questions I've left unanswered, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Dale A. Grote
UNC Charlotte
Department of Foreign Languages
Charlotte, NC 28223
(704) 547-4242


Dr. Rollinson

ENMU Station 19
Portales, NM 88130

Last Updated : July 8, 2017

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