A Few Thoughts about Teaching Case
In my 25 years of teaching Latin, case has always been the most difficult aspect of the language to teach. I remember in 7th grade when I learned that meaning was dependent upon endings rather than position in the sentence, it represented a seismic shift in my assumptions of how language operated. Honestly, I wasn't pleased. With an incomplete understanding or no understand of how case creates meaning, students can read a great deal as long as there are other clues such as pictures or context to guide their understanding. However, to write in Latin or read material without these supports, they need to understand how cases function in Latin.
Unfortunately, most textbooks don't provide enough practice and the practice they do provide is fairly dull. I hope on this page to provide some activities that have both engaged and instructed regarding how the various cases function.
My modus operandi in teaching case has always followed this trajectory. First I teach how the case functions. It is 's or the direct object etc, then a song to help students memorize the endings (See songs and videos). Then we simply practice putting the new endings on words so that students can see how the words are formed with the new case. Next, we translate some phrases that use the case and finally we read a story or two that features the case heavily, re-translate sentences that use the case and then practice writing some original phrases and sentences with the case endings.
By the end of the unit which takes me about 2 weeks, everyone has both the case endings down and can demonstrate understanding of how it is used. While it is tempting to breathe a sign of relief, and move on, case ending and usage must be revisited again and again, particularly for the beginning student. There are many games on this blog that can help students review past cases. Unus in card and board games and Circum Mundum in Kinetic Activities are particularly well suited to this, but just about any game on this blog can be used to review past cases.
There are several strategies that lead to understanding rather than confusion. The first is to make sure you connect the case with meaning. Secondly, use vocabulary students already know. Don't try to introduce new vocabulary and case at the same time. Thirdly, use a mnemonic hook to help students to identify and memorize endings. Once you have provided these supports, you will find that nearly all students can understand how case functions - not just your superstars or future AP scholars.
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