The Great Latin Adventure (GLA) offers “serious” Latin study for students beginning in either third or fourth grade, although students might even begin this program as late as sixth or seventh grade. It teaches the grammar of Latin, so students should have already had about two years of English grammar including the ability to identify nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, and the subject of a sentence before starting Level I. Some children might be ready for The Great Latin Adventure in third grade, but fourth of fifth grade is the most likely starting point for the majority of children.
There are two levels to the program. Younger students might take a year or more to complete each level. Students in grades 5 or 6 might take two years or less, and students in seventh grade might finish both levels in a year and a half. So pacing depends upon the age and ability of students. Students need not have any prior exposure to Latin, but it does not hurt if they do.
The first chapter of Level I's twelve chapters begins by teaching pronunciation. A pronunciation CD also comes with the course. While author Katharine Birkett teaches the classical pronunciation, you can fairly easily teach the ecclesiastical pronunciation if you prefer.
After the first chapter, most chapters follow a similar sequence and might take about three weeks to complete (with more or less time needed as mentioned above). Begin by introducing new vocabulary. Next begin teaching the grammar lesson, which might take two or three sessions to cover. Students will work on creating vocabulary flash cards on their own. While working on the grammar lesson, students will also be working on the grammar study worksheet. For “homework,” students also complete “derivative” worksheets that focus on English words derived from the Latin vocabulary. (Note: these might be too difficult for young students and might be skipped until students reach a point where they understand words such as “cogitate, immutable, expectant,” and “curative.”) Students should be taking a vocabulary pre-quiz around the fourth day of each chapter. Students then begin work on the translations worksheets. With a little discussion in advance, they might be able to work on these independently. You should go over each completed worksheet with the student before moving on to the next translation worksheet. Each lesson ends with a chapter quiz.
The Great Latin Adventure uses a “grammar-translation” approach, so students can easily continue on into most other Latin programs that do not use a conversational or immersion approach. Other programs will likely be covering much of the same material in GLA, but they will do it more quickly. GLA students will have learned how an inflected language is structured, first declension nouns (how to decline and understanding of most cases), adjectives in the first declension, first conjugation verbs (but not all tenses), gender of words, and other basics that will make later study much easier. They will also develop a substantial vocabulary in Latin while expanding their understanding of English words derived from Latin. In addition, building from a basic familiarity with English grammar, they should develop an excellent understanding of syntax (usage within a sentence) in both English and Latin. You will likely need to do less work teaching English if you are using this program.
GLA requires students to do quite a bit of translation work, more than in most other program for these grade levels. While this might make the program more challenging, it also makes it likely that students will remain more engaged in the lessons as they try to puzzle out the answers. GLA uses an interesting structure to provide practice translating Latin into English as well as English into Latin. Generally two or three chapters teach vocabulary and grammar concepts using exercises where students translate Latin into English. Following each such group of chapters is a “review” chapter that introduces no new concepts but, instead, reviews previously-taught concepts and vocabulary and challenges students to translate from English into Latin. The structure of the lessons in the review chapters varies a little from the structure described above since no new vocabulary words or grammar concepts are introduced.
The vocabulary in GLA differs from some of the other “grammar-translation” courses that use a large number of words derived from Caesar’s Gallic Wars. While there are some violence-related words such as “pirate,” it doesn’t deal with the “soldiers in the camp.” Also, there is a significant amount of Christian content, particularly in the derivative exercises. The content has a more modern tone; it does not deal with Roman history, culture, or mythology as we find in some other programs.
GLA differs from some other programs in that it challenges students to work at higher levels of thinking. It goes beyond repetition and memorization, especially in some of the vocabulary and the English to Latin translation work. For example, students have to “analyze and synthesize” to determine syntax and the proper case endings for nouns and adjectives while also recalling their vocabulary.
The teacher/parent does not need to have studied Latin to be able to teach this program. Lessons are laid out with explicit instructions. Student pages are reprinted in the teacher's manuals with answers included. The teacher can work from her own binder while students work from theirs. Lessons need to be taught, although, as mentioned above, students may work on some activities on their own.
The teacher's manual adds extensive teaching notes for each chapter to help both inexperienced and experienced teachers. Some of the material there is essential while other material is interesting or helpful. The teacher's manuals also explain the structure of the program, quizzes, and answer keys. Both the student and teacher books have Latin to English and English to Latin glossaries at the back. When you order The Great Latin Adventure, you receive shrink-wrapped packets of pages including cover and spine inserts; you need to procure your own binders for both teacher and student. This design allows you to remove and copy quizzes from the teacher's manual, then to insert completed quizzes into the student book .
While this is an introductory Latin program, it is more purposeful and ambitious than many others for the middle-elementary grade levels.