It’s a classroom of 24 students writing Latin, speaking Latin and figuring out core words. They are engaged and working hard.
This is Covedale School, and these are sixth-graders. Yes, these are 11- and 12-year-olds, smiling and waving their hands excitedly after puzzling out an answer in Latin to questions posed by teacher Cindy Tisue.
Covedale added Latin as part of its Alternative College Preparatory Program, which focuses on preparing students for success in high school and beyond, and aligns with CPS’ new My Tomorrow initiative that aims to involve students more deeply in their educations.
“What can we do to prepare kids for college? Latin!” Jebens says.
Tisue, the school’s Arts/Gifted Coordinator, teaches three Latin classes, one each in 4th, 5th and 6th grade. Eventually, Latin will be offered to all Covedale students.
“I teach prefix, suffix and root,” Tisue says, to prepare students for testing and learning as they go forward. History, geography and fun are woven throughout.
An exercise in introducing themselves to each other in Latin becomes a combination of lessons in vocabulary, feminine and masculine forms, and grammar.
“Use your Latin name if you know it. Go to the front of the book where you wrote it,” Tisue tells the class.
“You are Olivia. You are already a Roman,” she says, sharing a laugh with one student.
The class warms up for a game of “Simon Says” by reviewing a version of the children’s song, “Head, shoulders, knees and toes,” using “feet” or, in Latin, “pedes,” instead of "toes." Consulting their body parts worksheet, students touch their hair, fingers and nose in response to Tisue’s “Simona dicit.”
Tisue uses her time with students to build dreams, too.
“You might even be an archaeologist. You might go to the University of Cincinnati and you might study that. They might say in the summer you have to go someplace and dig….You might go to Vindolanda where Romans lived and built a famous wall In England,” Tisue says.
Any issues teaching Latin at this age? “None, none at all,” Tisue says. It helps students prepare for their SATs and to study other languages and science. “If you know Latin, you can learn other languages,” she says.
Latin is also taught to young students at Kilgour and Hyde Park elementary schools.