Latin, Classics, and Different Learning Styles

Updated: Apr 15

Chapter V – Kinaesthetic Learning


Okay, you say, now she’s really lost it, how can Latin, Greek, and Classics a. offer material for kinaesthetic learning, and b. benefit from kinaesthetic learning techniques, that is to say, physical activities?


Well, let me tell you, it can, and once again in both respects:


· The subject’s intrinsic material.

· Techniques that can assist learning for those who favour this learning style,

and can bring a new dimension to the learning of these great subjects.


It’s in the Subject


If you read the chapter on Auditory Learning, you will remember that I wrote about the performative aspect of Classics. Recitations, dance and music, and readings were all part of the culture of the Greeks and Romans. And movement was part of this.


The Greek theatre had a circular region that was the lowest area of the theatre between the auditorium and the proskene, what we call the stage.





Nowadays, we call this the ‘orchestra’, where those marvellous musicians play. However, the Greek verb, whence the term derives, actually means ‘to dance’. When a Greek play was performed, the chorus sang and dance down in the orchestra, after entering via the side entrances that you see on the diagram. The lyric rhythms of the Greek tragic chorus (and also those of comedy) were sung, possibly alternating between solos by the chorus leader and collective choral performance, and they also danced. How can we reconstruct that? With difficulty, but I am not sure that this necessarily matters hugely if your aim is to create a sense of the power of a Greek theatrical work. Movement which captures the flavour of the choral piece’s mood or atmosphere will encourage students to look beyond both a simple translation of the text or a translation that they have to scour for thematic quotations, as the syllabus will most likely require.


But the syllabus can only be helped by a little extra-curricular exploration. A little acting and physical engagement with these texts can only help students remember key points, lines, and even aspects of characterization.


And this doesn’t work only for theatrical dramas. If you’re teaching Herodotus, pretend to be him giving lectures. Cicero lends himself wonderfully to some kinaesthetic activities. Pretend you are the great orator owning his courtroom, making eye contact with your pupil-jury, or firing your bitter insinuations while a pupil plays a glowering Clodia (pro Caelio).


A lovely sixth form group I once taught created a live broadcast of Cicero lambasting Catiline. One of them donned a toga (bedsheet) and declaimed in Catilinam I, while one of the others announced that we were about to go live to the forum.



Activities

Here are two I am fond of using:


· The set text shuffle

· Greek alphabet charades


Set Text Shuffle


When revising a set text, one can do a simply run through as a play. But to make it a little more challenging and creative, divide the text into four or five scenes, get some pairs to act a scene each, and the rest of the class then have to discuss and arrange the pairs in line in the order the scenes come in the text. Great for team work, collaborative learning, syllabus delivery, and kinaesthetic learning.



Greek Alphabet Charades


I believe we also met this when we looked at visual learning and Classics. It obviously also has a kinaesthetic element. The individual who has to make the shape of the letter has to carefully envisage the letter in their mind and move accordingly. It does not matter how good their letter tableau is. That letter (especially xi, which seems to be nigh on impossible) will stay in their mind. This activity can also be done more generally with vocab.


Do you have any others? I would love to hear about them.

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