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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching English Language Arts and Literacy

The Charleston Latin Program provides an innovative, engaging approach to developing, expanding, and enhancing students’ English language arts and literacy skills.  The program is designed for use in elementary and middle schools by regular classroom teachers and homeschoolers whether or not they have any prior knowledge of Latin or foreign language pedagogy.  Teachers complete the two-day Latin, Literacy, and Language Arts Workshop in which they gain content knowledge and pedagogical strategies necessary to teach the Charleston Latin Program.

The program has the following general objectives:

  • To deepen and enhance students’ literacy in English through direct instruction in Latin root words and their English derivatives within an engaging cultural context. The focus is on thinking critically about vocabulary acquisition and understanding more deeply how languages and words work.
  • To broaden students’ horizons by introducing them to the culture of the ancient Romans. Students observe, compare, and contrast the differences between modern and ancient cultures. In the process they learn how the past and present are linked together in the words they speak, their architecture, governmental institutions, and daily customs.
  • To generate interest in and readiness for the study of foreign languages. Students experience and become aware of important linguistic phenomena that are very different from those of English.

The Charleston Latin Program consists of two sets of instructional materials.  The first is based on Roman family life, and the second on Greco-Roman mythology.  For each set teachers receive an instructional kit that contains a teacher’s guide, a packet of visual cue cards, a map of the Roman Empire, audio CDs for the teacher, and a teacher’s edition of the student activity book.
What do teachers and students do with these materials?  Following instructions in the first teacher’s guide, Marcus et Julia, the teacher discusses with students information about a Roman family and roles of the members of that family, where the family lived, how they dressed, what they ate, and how they worked, entertained, and educated themselves.  At the same time as they are discussing particular aspects of Roman culture, teachers and students recite Latin mottoes, sing Latin songs, and engage in short Latin dialogues that are lexically connected to these discussion topics.  Students also read and write the targeted Latin vocabulary words in their activity books. 

Through these activities students gain a lively, contextualized understanding of Latin root words.  With this new knowledge of Latin vocabulary, teachers and students discover English words that derive from Latin words and discuss how their knowledge of Latin words informs more deeply their understanding of what English words mean and how they work.  Students explain relationships between English and Latin words, formulate definitions of English words, note connections between Latin root words and their academic vocabulary across disciplines, and then use these English words in conversation and in reading and writing exercises in their activity books. 

Pursuing activities of the second teacher’ guide, Fabulae Antiqui et Novi Mundi, the teacher  introduces students to Greco-Roman mythology as it pertains to the origin of the universe, the successive generations of the Titan and Olympian gods and goddesses, explanations of nature, stories of love and adventure, and stories about great heroes, the Trojan war and the founding of Rome.  Teachers and students engage in activities similar to those described above, but activities are now based on Latin words that are lexically connected with stories of myth.  Fabulae Antiqui et Novi Mundi is under revision.  Not all units are currently available.

The instructional materials are flexible, and models for the implementation of the program vary.  For example, some teachers complete the set on Roman family life in one semester in 50-minute classes that meet every day; some extend the instruction of this set through two years; still others choose to complete only selected units from the set and limit instruction to a 9-week exploratory course.  Limited editions of the activity book are prepared to meet the varying needs of particular schools and teachers.  The materials have been used in all grades, K-12, but are most commonly being used in grades four, five and six.

The objectives, materials, and methodology of the Charleston Latin Program derive from Latin in elementary school programs that evolved in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles in the last quarter of the 20th century.  These programs achieved impressive results:

  • In Philadelphia fifth grade students scored one year higher in vocabulary on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills than fellow students who did not have it.
  • In Indianapolis sixth grade students scored eight months higher in word knowledge, one year higher in reading and one year and one month higher in language on the Intermediate Metropolitan Achievement Test. 
  • In Los Angeles fifth and sixth grade students generally scoring in the lowest quartile improved their reading, vocabulary, and comprehension scores by more than one month for each month of instruction. 

The cost of a Teacher’s Instructional Kit is $105.00.  The complete edition of the student activity book costs $40.00.   The cost of a limited edition of the student book is proportionate to its size.  These prices are based on current costs and are subject to change.

The two-day in-service workshops for teachers are of two kinds: those contracted by a school district for its teachers and those offered in a central location and open to individual teachers and homeschoolers.  A workshop for individuals is held each July in Charleston, SC.  Others are scheduled as needed.  The costs of particular workshops for school districts or individuals vary.    

The Charleston Latin Program is housed at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.  It is the authorized revision of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Language Transfer Program.  Dr. J. Frank Morris is the Director of the program.  Please address all enquiries about the program to him:  Dr. J. Frank Morris, Director of the Charleston Latin Program, Department of Classics, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424; phone: 843-813-3481; email: