Teach Greek! Even If You Have Never Studied
From the Athenaze Newsletter, Fall 1996
by Vi Patek John Jay High School Katonah, New York
The stimulus for attempting to teach Greek, even though I didn't even
know the Greek alphabet, was a conference on Advanced Placement courses in
New York City. In our Latin group we were discussing the eternal question,
"What to do for the month after the AP exam?" Someone suggested
teaching Greek. I laughed! Then I listened! It turns out that there is a
new book that is designed to have students reading Greek as soon as they
learn the alphabet with no intervening transliteration. This book is
called Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek by Balme &
Lawall, Oxford University Press, 1990.
With considerable trepidation I bought the book and the teacher's
manual and decided to try teaching Greek to my AP class. I started the day
after the AP exam. Here is what we did:
- I handed out copies of the alphabet so that the students could have
them on their desks for constant reference.
- We practiced chanting the letters.
- We practiced writing the letters, using the handout on page 3, which
was sent to me by Dr. Lawall for this purpose.
- I gave a quiz a day on writing out of sections of the Greek alphabet
until the students mastered it and could read the letters aloud.
- I taught the entire Introduction of the book.
- Since I believe that it is beneficial to write out Latin, my
students write out all the material for the AP courses (except the
Metamorphoses). Therefore every exercise, starting with the
"Practice in Writing and Pronunciation," was written out in
- Students were required to make flash cards of Greek
- Students were tested every other day or so on vocabulary.
- Starting with Chapter 1, students copied out the Greek story on
every 6th line. English was written under every Greek work; this
strongly reinforced vocabulary power. A line was skipped and smooth
English was written out. Structures were labeled as necessary.
- Students practiced reading the Greek aloud in class from their
- Students practiced translating from the Greek, holding a paper over
the English under the Greek so that they could have instantaneous
reference to the correct translation.
- As we proceeded through the stories, we labeled or highlighted all
grammatical forms: e.g., subjects, verbs, objects, and prepositional
phrases. This greatly improved identification of forms and ease of
- Grades consisted of an accumulation of quiz grades on vocabulary.
There was not enough time for deeper testing. The quizzes consisted of
Greek words requiring translation.
- Correcting written exercises was greatly speeded up by distributing
photocopies of the answers in the Teacher's Handbook.
- Students really enjoyed the Greek. Several are taking Greek this
coming year at college, and at least one took Greek at college last
- Students were fascinated by the new layer of derivatives that Greek
provides to Latin. Students of science especially enjoyed the
- Students who had taken only Latin as a foreign language enjoyed the
challenge of a new language.
- In one month, minus all sorts of gaps caused by special days for
seniors, trips, etc., the class completed pages 37 and 38 of Chapter
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