I hope that everyone is off to a good start to the school year. I am excited to work with my full Challenge III class this year. I am also excited to formally start Latin (besides the Classical Conversations’ memory work) with my fourth grade daughter.
Here are my tips for assessing your student’s/students’ Latin work (please take cum grano salis):
- Be very picky on any of the memorized Latin vocabulary. Quiz, quiz, quiz them on the vocabulary and the paradigms. Make sure they learn for every noun: the genitive, gender, and all meanings. For every verb: all the principal parts and all the meanings. For adjectives: all the nominatives (e.g. magnus, magna, magnum OR brevis, breve) and all the meanings. For prepositions: they should tell the case that governs the preposition and all the meanings. It is important that they know all the meanings. Consider the word ago, agere, egi, actum: it has the meanings “do, drive, act, treat, discuss.” Those are vastly different and so they need to be able to manipulate the verb and use the best meaning for the translation. You do not want your fourth year Latin student to be looking up basic words like ago! Vocabulary quizzes are easy to give and easy to score. I just count the number of blanks on the quiz (for nouns, there will be three blanks; verbs, four blanks; adjectives, three blanks; prepositions, two blanks) and divide the number of correct answers by the total number.
- Be very picky on any of the Latin paradigm charts. Use the charts within the grammar book or use your own. Have your student decline and translate a noun or conjugate and translate a verb on a quiz. I do not count off for macrons, but I do for any misspellings. Again, I divide the number of correct answers by the total number. Make sure you always have them translate the paradigm because translation of Latin is the end goal (in my estimation).
- Remember, on vocabulary and Latin paradigm charts, if it is not right, it is wrong. Be extremely picky. If they misspell something, it is wrong. If they miss one translation, it is wrong. It will not hurt your student; instead, it will make them detail-oriented. Memorization is a basic building block of any subject. If a student is lacking in the knowledge that comes with memorization, they will be lacking as a Latin student. In my high school Latin class, my Latin teacher gave us daily quizzes either on vocabulary or a paradigm chart. It kept us on our toes and it kept us studying! Also, we could retake quizzes as many times as we wanted. (Homeschool students could also score their own quizzes.)
- Give grace on sentence translation. I am picky on verb tenses and noun case/number, but give your student grace if their translation is not exactly like the answer key. (On a test, by the way, you could give them sentences straight from the book.) Sometimes they will not have things in the order the key has them. Sometimes they will have the wrong article adjectives. If translating from English to Latin, they may not have the words in the right order. Those things do not matter as much as long as their cases and tenses are correct. I usually give partial credit if the student translates the word correctly vocabulary-wise but not case/tense-wise. I give sentence translations and English derivatives on tests. If you quiz students enough, they should not need a test on every lesson (maybe every three or so.)
- In conclusion, be picky on the memorization and be lenient on sentence translation. Quiz, quiz, quiz them on things that need to be memorized for their entire Latin career. Be lenient on the things that require higher order skills such as translation. Be especially lenient on English to Latin word order. (It is hard enough to translate from Latin to English. English to Latin is like trying to learn how to drive a manual vehicle before learning how to drive an automatic. There are so many things involved in translating English to Latin, so give them a lot of grace.)
Assessments like these ensure your students are loading their brains with Latin grammar for the long haul. Remember, they should study vocabulary and paradigms and know them for their entire Latin careers (whether it is four years or forty years).