Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Review of The Bridge to the Latin Road, Schola Publications

“Latin? Why Latin?'

This was the response of my dad when I first told him of my intentions for his grandkids to study Latin. From my father's perspective, and many others, studying a dead language serves no purpose. Unless the initials M.D. are in the future, wouldn't Spanish or French be more practical?

It depends on your goals. If you plan on moving to a Spanish speaking area, well then yes, Spanish would be they way to go. However, that isn't my goal. My primary goal is for better understanding of our OWN language, which has its roots in Latin. My daughter aspires to be a writer and enjoys creatively composing and playing with words on paper. Latin will help her expand her vocabulary and understand words better to further develop her writing style. Conversely, my son is not a writer and struggles with word structure and meaning. However, he is very analytical. If he can learn to dissect his own language, in a way that he would deconstruct a Lego structure, he will be better equipped to write and understand word meaning.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review The Bridge to the Latin Road, Intro to Latin by Schola Publications. The Bridge to the Latin Road is the transition course between The Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling and The Latin Road. The Phonics Road is a complete language arts curricula for grades K-4 and The Latin Road is a 3-year Latin course for grades 5-12. The Bridge to the Latin Road, for grades 3-6, is designed to lay the framework the student needs for Latin study.

Barbara Beers, author of all three programs, likens learning language to building a house. Once the foundation of basic spelling, writing and reading skills are laid, it is time to build upwards with the framework of the house. As a result, you will find Beers takes a very systematic approach for both the teacher and student.

Each package contains:

Teacher's Guide in 3-ring binder with DVD presentation, Framing Codes, Sentences to Analyze, and Designing Codes

Complete Student Package in 3-ring binder with custom pages for Framing Codes, Sentences to Analyze, and Designing Codes, 3 pencils, Scaffolding Ruler

Verb Memory Game for learning irregular verb forms

Designing Cards for learning Latin prefixes, base words, and suffixes

Each lesson is fully explained to the teacher on the six instructional DVDs. The DVDs also include Grammar Rule Tunes, used to help the student remember the components of English sentences. Barbara Beer goes over each work page, the objective of the lesson, and how to teach the material. The Teacher's Manual contains every page in the Student Package and as it should look when completed by the student. By the end of the course, the student will have an organized reference manual to use during The Latin Road to English Grammar course. The 36-week program is broken down into 4 days per week, with an assignment schedule for each day. For a full scope and sequence, click here.

The course is structured with three main categories, Framing Codes, Sentences to Analyze, and Designing Codes.

Framing Codes covers eight specific areas or codes:
  • Sentences, Phrases, Clauses
  • Uses of Nouns
  • Uses of Adjectives
  • Uses of Pronouns
  • Uses of Verbs
  • Uses of Prepositions
  • Uses of Adverbs
  • Uses of Conjunctions
Each code has 5-10 pages of material to be completed, each building upon the previous. For example, the first page of the Sentences, Phrases, Clauses code defines a sentence and goes over the four sentence types. By the end of that particular code, students are diagramming, or scaffolding as Beer's terms it, relative clauses. Before the students are able to get to this point, they have also worked through the other codes at the same rate, slowly adding layers to their understanding for all the parts of speech.

The Sentences to Analyze section contains the dictated sentences for the students to apply what they learned in the Framing Codes. At first, this involves writing the dictated sentence and circling, underlining or marking various parts of speech. In the later weeks, students will be able to fully diagram complete sentences.

The Designing Codes is where the Latin is introduced in the form of prefixes, suffixes and base words. Designing Codes are first introduced in Week 11 after the basics of the parts of speech are covered. By the end of the program, the student will be able to use the Designing Cards to build approximately 400 words from Latin roots.

My daughter has a strong language arts foundation, so she began her Latin studies this fall. My son, age 9, requested that he start this year too. I hesitantly allowed him to take a 10-week introductory course to comply with his request, but he simply isn't ready to go beyond Latin exposure. He does not have the foundation and framework established to move forward.

I was excited to be able to try The Bridge to the Latin Road with him. He has strong reading skills, but writing skills are another issue. My focus has been to get him functional in writing before fully covering grammar. As a result, we've done very little grammar in exchange for spending a great deal of time in spelling with an Orton-Gillingham approach. Initially, flipping through the Teacher's Guide, the program looked overwhelming. With nearly 200 pages of written work through the course, I was wondering how my non-writing son would fair. Once I watched the first lesson on DVD and flipped through the book to better understand the organization, I was ready to get started.

There are a couple references to the preceding program, The Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling, and pages completed during the program. I would have preferred to have a reference page, but it wasn't too much hassle to work around. Otherwise, the instructions for the teacher were clear. While there is a lot of writing for the student, I was surprised to not get too many complaints. I was sure to not do the program directly after other written work for other subjects. Most days my son was able to complete the assignment for the day, but a few times we split up the assignment. Since the schedule is based on a 4-day week, this did not cause a problem as far a keeping to the schedule. For the average 3-6th grader, the writing requirements would most likely would not be a problem. It should also be understood that the student pages are not worksheets, to be completed independently. The teacher guides the student, giving instructions and dictating words and sentences.

While Latin prefixes, suffixes and base words are introduced, this is not a Latin program; it is a study of the English language. The Bridge to the Latin Road is simply that...a bridge. After completing this program, your student will be prepared to study Latin more formally. Even if your student has no desire to study Latin, this course is an excellent grammar study.

What I appreciated most about this program was its thoroughness. The student is given adequate practice to apply new material before introducing more. The structure of the English language is slowly built from each framing code simultaneously. Even with very little grammar exposure, my son was able to move through the material with little trouble. If the student needs review, they are able to refer back to their own personally-created reference manual. I can't say this is an exciting and fun program that will have your student begging for more, but where it is going and what is being learned will be quite clear. You can't build a framework without having a clear picture of what the structure is to look like. There is no clutter of unnecessary graphics or colorful pages, just the tools needed to learn the information. This program simply gets the building done and leaves the student with the blueprints for future reference.

The Bridge to the Latin Road sells as a complete package for $139.00. Visit Schola Publications to find out more about this program or the others mentioned, as well as to request a free sample packet.

Curious about what others think about Schola Publication products? Visit the Official TOS Crew blog to find out more!


Eleanor said...

What a truly informative post from you. I have wanted to study latin myself for a while now however having had difficulty in finding something to start with I have put it on hold. I will definately look into this, thank you, Eleanor

Heidi said...

Hi Eleanor,

Thank you for your post!

You may also want to look more into The Latin Road, the program that follows The Bridge to the Latin Road, if you have a good grasp of English grammar. The Bridge is more a study of English and grammar, which provides the foundation to study Latin. Latin is only introduced in the form of English roots. Click the link at the bottom of my review to find more reviews, including some of The Latin Road.