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Latin, Classics, and Learning Styles: Chapter III – Visual Learning

Hello all, and welcome to the third chapter in the series Latin, Classics, and Learning Styles. I apologise for the lateness of this entry. Today’s theme is visual learning and the role of visual stimuli in teaching Classics. As usual, I will explore how the subject naturally lends itself to this styles and will then include tips for activities which appeal to promote visual learning and engagement. I once again re-iterate that I use the term learning style nor learner style. Pupils, even if they strongly favour one type, should be able to experience and practice different learning styles.

Classics and Visual Learning

i) The Nature of the Beast

Does Classics naturally appeal to visual learners? How long have you got? Monuments, cities, ruins, pots, statues, coins, art, frescoes, temples…for those who respond to visual stimuli, this aspect of Classical Civilization and Ancient History is a gift, not to mention offering some of the most unbelievably amazing sites and sights that could form part of education.

Classics is a brilliant opportunity for those who respond to studying images, love art, and whose memory absorbs visual material well. And it is not simply about memorizing what is in the images. Objects contain cultural, social, and political messages and are important sources for understanding the society they came from. Visiting sites helps to capture some of the wonder that a people clearly aimed to create in their visitors at the time, for example the Acropolis.

It is a great subject for stimulating visual learning.

ii) Visual Learning Tips for Learning Classics

One of my whackier activities, which was visually based was Greek alphabet charades. Teaching a lovely, but tired group of year 10s (14-15 years olds, first year of GCSE) at the end of a long day during the Winter term, quirky activities were an absolute must. Pupils took turns to make the shape of a Greek letter, which the rest of the class then had to guess. Xi was nigh on impossible. But the group certainly never forgot it after the pupil in question’s valiant and highly amusing efforts.

Pictures are another great way to aid learning and stimulate recall. Greek vocabulary Pictionary was a favourite in the class. Draw the picture, guess the word, write down the Greek and the meaning. I even undertook one myself, only to be told that my trireme looked like a banana in an attempt to illustrate a sea battle (ναυμαχία). Oh well, they still guessed correctly. A similar activity was ‘act out the Greek verb’, which also contains an element of kinaesthetic learning.

A visual starter activity for a Year 12 class also proved very effective. I had made a slide with photos of people with different expressions and postures, each indicating a different question. They had to study the picture, work out the question it represented, and then give me the Latin. This also got their critical thinking skills as they studied the images carefully.

I even occasionally used to throw a ‘draw the meaning’ of a word into a vocabulary test.

Classics, its languages, history, and culture, are perfect material for visual learning activities, but equally, offer some of the finest visual material to fire the passion for learning.

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