Textkit Logo

Composition Books - thumbs up or thumbs down

Textkit is a learning community- introduce yourself here. Use the Open Board to introduce yourself, chat about off-topic issues and get to know each other.

Moderators: thesaurus, Jeff Tirey

Composition Books - thumbs up or thumbs down

Postby Jeff Tirey » Mon Dec 15, 2003 5:25 pm

I thought I would start off a new thread to hopefully get minds back onto more sutiable 'open board' discussions...

With the posting of North and Hillard's Latin Prose Composition my mind is once again on composition books and their current and historical use in Greek and Latin educations.

I would be curious to know more about how and where composition books are currently used in schools. I would think that from about 1885 to 1950 composition books enjoyed their greatest use. During this time there were many composition book series on the market and it seemed that every textbook had its own composition book to go with it.

(BTW - I just acquired Latin Composition to accompany the already posted Second Year Latin.)

But their use at the high school and college level in the United States has been on a decline.


Here are my questions and comments for others:
1. How widely used are composition books in your country/region and if used, at what level are they first introduced

2. If you feel composition books are declining in use - why so?

3. If you have used them - do you think they have helped you. If you haven't used them - why not?
Textkit Founder
User avatar
Jeff Tirey
Administrator
Administrator
 
Posts: 891
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2002 6:58 pm
Location: Strongsville, Ohio

Postby Episcopus » Mon Dec 15, 2003 6:08 pm

I know that I won't be any help, jeff, but thankyou for your composition books. I love the HCP Composition on Cicero (is that the full book though?)
I don't know about other people but composition books should make the student more fluent. There aren't any Cambridge Latin Course books in use in my area, let alone any prose compositions, but I've witnessed British Examination Boards scrapping altogether the English --> Latin Passage translation. Also exams are becoming easier here and when there are choice questions the candidate always opts for the easiest.
In Britain standards are dropping. In the 60s you were required to translate many passages of English into Latin, and now none whatsoever.

In Britain unfourtunately there are set courses (now only two to choose from) and even at Advanced Level Prose compositions are not used. Cambridge Latin Course, then the Anthology, study of a few set texts, harder material i.e all the books of Pliny etc. There are set word lists. No
time really to do a prose composition. But I will because I study whatever I like :D
User avatar
Episcopus
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2563
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2003 8:57 pm

Re: Composition Books - thumbs up or thumbs down

Postby Lex » Mon Dec 15, 2003 6:44 pm

jeff wrote:I thought I would start off a new thread to hopefully get minds back onto more sutiable 'open board' discussions...


I understand that some topics in this board may not be to your taste, and I also understand that this is your forum and you can control it as you wish. However, the stated description of the 'open board' is:

"This is our general purpose board. Use this board to introduce yourself, chat about off-topic issues and get to know each other."

Politics and religion, and the relative merits of Jaffa cake, all qualify as "off-topic issues", and discussing them helps us to get to know each other. In other words, this is what an 'open board' is for.

If you have decided that "off-topic" means "something to do with Greek or Latin that doesn't fit neatly into one of the other existing boards", you should more explicitly say so in the description of the board.
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
User avatar
Lex
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 732
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:34 pm
Location: A top-secret underground llama lair.

Postby benissimus » Mon Dec 15, 2003 6:49 pm

I was thinking the same thing, but I do miss the old atmosphere of the Open Board, which was more friendly. I think heavier topics should be discussed in the Academy, but that would mean less mudslinging and more coherency for... some.

As for the topic of this thread:

1. How widely used are composition books in your country/region and if used, at what level are they first introduced?
You live in basically the same region as I do (on the world scale) so you probably know more about this than I do. I do not know of any class for any language nearby that makes use of a composition book, unfortunately. The focus here seems to be a sharp ultimatum between either a reading coursev(e.g. Oxford) or a grammar course (e.g. Wheelock), for Latin at least. There are only a few places in the entire state where you can learn Greek in a classroom, so I know nothing about that.

2. If you feel composition books are declining in use - why so?
Certainly. I think people tend to want the quickest method these days, at the cost of comprehension, vocabulary, and appreciation of the actual literature... with Latin (who even learns Greek these days?).

This has all been said before though. Just as English-speakers are fearing and disregarding grammar in our own language, they are loathe to learn the grammar of another language, unless it is disguised by stories, pictures, and layman terms.

3. If you have used them - do you think they have helped you. If you haven't used them - why not?
I love them, although when there are no explanations for the concepts, it can sometimes be hard to place yourself at the correct place in the book, especially since they proceed in not the same progression as every teacher uses today.
Last edited by benissimus on Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Postby Jeff Tirey » Mon Dec 15, 2003 7:30 pm

Hi Lex,

You are correct and I hope I was making myself clear that no threads on this board have gone against our current rules.

I suppose the Open Board will always be the wild west of the Texkit Forums and I'm not trying, nor do I want to try, to control it. It was originally created as way to keep digression and off-topic postings out of the more targeted Greek and Latin boards - and I think that's working.

But I do ask myself, do we really need to be talking about American foreign policy on a Greek and Latin education website? The problem is when the threads lower into shouting matches. To me, this alienates new comers, sets the wrong tone and it doesn't make the board appear all that welcoming - which is an important role of the open board. So this posting is my attempt at getting things back a bit more towards off-topic education threads.

thanks,
jeff
Textkit Founder
User avatar
Jeff Tirey
Administrator
Administrator
 
Posts: 891
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2002 6:58 pm
Location: Strongsville, Ohio

Postby Lex » Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:20 pm

Jeff,

Fair enough. I think a balance has to be struck between not alienating new posters, especially those who are not used to Internet culture in general (which may tend to be the case with people interested in the classic languages, especially older ones); and alienating those who are younger or are otherwise used to the quasi-anarchic feel of most open boards. Since a lot of the posters here seem to be young, making things *too* tame might also lower the traffic here.

Best regards,
Lex
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
User avatar
Lex
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 732
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:34 pm
Location: A top-secret underground llama lair.

Postby benissimus » Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:22 pm

Interesting that anarchic youths find classics fascinating though, is it not?
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Postby Lex » Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:23 pm

benissimus wrote:I was thinking the same thing, but I do miss the old atmosphere of the Open Board, which was more friendly. I think heavier topics should be discussed in the Academy, but that would mean less mudswinging and more coherency for... some.


Hey, I resemble that remark! :wink:

I always thought the Academy was more directed to classical philosophy, so that's why I tend to tread lightly there.

benissimus wrote:Interesting that anarchic youths find classics fascinating though, is it not?


Yes, but that's not *all* they find fascinating.
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
User avatar
Lex
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 732
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:34 pm
Location: A top-secret underground llama lair.

Postby benissimus » Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:25 pm

Ha! With threads about human rights being violated over forced school attendance, I hardly call it anything but a debate forum with a slight quirkiness.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Postby gsh » Mon Dec 15, 2003 9:28 pm

I can only answer #3: at the Feltre School (feltre.org) here in Chicago, our 2nd year Latin class is using the Bolchazy reprint of N&H. We recently finished a very long and largely unsuccessful bout with participles.

I am as frustrated by the exercises as I am happy to be challenged by them. I know that learning to compose in Latin in the surest way to strengthen my knowledge, but egads! I learned Latin via Wheelock and N&H uses different terminology for grammatical concepts and makes assumptions about one's Latin knowledge which make for tricky English to Latin translations.

My dream is for someone to take the time to modernize N&H while tracking it to how Latin is taught currently.
gsh
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2003 2:14 am

Postby Keesa » Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:34 am

First of all, a quick thanks to Jeff. Textkit is the nicest forum I've ever found on the web. With the exception of a few posts/threads, it's the most polite, the language is the most appropriate and the people are the nicest.

It's also the only forum where I've ever gone beyond just reading the posts and actually posted myself.

You have a hard tightrope to walk here, Jeff, and I respect you for it. You're doing a great job. I like the quieter, laid-back atmosphere, and I hope you can keep it up while still keeping people here.

On subject:

I am actually not very familiar with the term "composition book." Please correct me if I'm wrong; this is a book that uses exercises to teach you to write in the language you are studying (as opposed to just reading or speaking the language.), correct?

Of course I can't speak for my country/region, since I'm homeschooled, but I don't think that these books are used nearly enough. No one I know uses them. I've used English books (composition books, if those are the books I've described above) to improve my writing, and I absolutely loved them.

I've never used them for any of the languages I study because I can't find them.

I also can't compose anything except simple sentences in any of the languages I'm studying, although I've become quite fluent in reading French, and I'm getting much better in the others.

If composition books in Latin (or French, or Greek, or Gaelic, or anything else) can help me as much as my books in English did, I'm all for them.

Keesa
Keesa
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1108
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2003 10:59 pm

Postby Bert » Tue Dec 16, 2003 1:15 am

I have never used a compostion book but I am excited about your composition corner.
As long as the level of difficulty does not go sky-high too fast it will be a great help. Thank you very much.

If I am allowed to make a comment about political threads etc. I don't think world event or politics should have to be considered off-topic but slanderous comments should be off-limits.
Bert
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1890
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 2:28 am
Location: Arthur Ontario Canada

Postby Jeff Tirey » Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:51 pm

gsh wrote:I am as frustrated by the exercises as I am happy to be challenged by them. I know that learning to compose in Latin in the surest way to strengthen my knowledge, but egads! I learned Latin via Wheelock and N&H uses different terminology for grammatical concepts and makes assumptions about one's Latin knowledge which make for tricky English to Latin translations.


First, hats off to your instructor for such an excellent choice IMHO. They use plenty of grammatical terms in their brief discussions and they assume the student has a healthy and full understanding of grammar. I think this adds to the challenge.

Very true, the make plenty of assumptions about the student's Latin skills. It's not really a beginner's book so it's expected that the student already has a firm handle on construction and other basics.
Textkit Founder
User avatar
Jeff Tirey
Administrator
Administrator
 
Posts: 891
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2002 6:58 pm
Location: Strongsville, Ohio

Postby Jeff Tirey » Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:57 pm

Keesa wrote:Please correct me if I'm wrong; this is a book that uses exercises to teach you to write in the language you are studying (as opposed to just reading or speaking the language.), correct? Keesa


That's correct. Anyone who has done composition exercises knows that it's much more difficult and demanding to compose rather than to read. When composing, you're the author and you have to work through lots of little issues like word order, agreement, those little articles, case and such. I think when reading it can be a bit deceptive because your mind prompts your memory better. But when composing you have to force yourself to apply everything you've learned.

My composition instructor when I was in college always liked to mention the Socratic example where knowledge is within us and it just needs to be coaxed out. Composition is a lot like that. It's difficult at first but it becomes easier with more and more practice.
Textkit Founder
User avatar
Jeff Tirey
Administrator
Administrator
 
Posts: 891
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2002 6:58 pm
Location: Strongsville, Ohio

Postby Jeff Tirey » Tue Dec 16, 2003 1:03 pm

Bert wrote:I have never used a compostion book but I am excited about your composition corner.
As long as the level of difficulty does not go sky-high too fast it will be a great help.


For the most part they'll be basic. The sentences I post will also need to basic because my Greek is no-where near where it needs to be to be conducting the very advanced composition exercises. But hopefully others can join in who whis and conduct more advanced examples.

Bert wrote:If I am allowed to make a comment about political threads etc. I don't think world event or politics should have to be considered off-topic but slanderous comments should be off-limits.


Yeah, I don't want to limit topics and I don't think it's practical to try. But I do think that some threads are predisposed to spiraling down into angry and less than constructive comments - this is what I would like to limit. I'm not really sure how though except to be a more active force in maintaining board politeness.
Textkit Founder
User avatar
Jeff Tirey
Administrator
Administrator
 
Posts: 891
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2002 6:58 pm
Location: Strongsville, Ohio

Postby Jeff Tirey » Tue Dec 16, 2003 1:07 pm

Keesa wrote:First of all, a quick thanks to Jeff. Textkit is the nicest forum I've ever found on the web. With the exception of a few posts/threads, it's the most polite, the language is the most appropriate and the people are the nicest.


Thanks. That's what we're aiming for. This is an education board and it needs to be a moderated/polite/class-room like discussion in order that younger learners feel encouraged to step up and start asking questions. We also need to earn the trust of high shcool and college instructors in order for them to recommend us as a learning resource to their students. So we naturally need to be somewhat conservative/helpful/friendly around here in order for that to happen.
Textkit Founder
User avatar
Jeff Tirey
Administrator
Administrator
 
Posts: 891
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2002 6:58 pm
Location: Strongsville, Ohio

Postby Episcopus » Tue Dec 16, 2003 1:56 pm

benissimus wrote:Interesting that anarchic youths find classics fascinating though, is it not?


I know what's Nexus Ferocis doing?!

Indeed. There are 60 million people roughly in Great Britain. About 300 took Ancient Greek A Level last year :shock: And I doubt that any of them have studied a prose composition because the courses are so tight and even at Advanced are focused on reading.

Have you noticed that when you speak french or another modern language, even German with its classic word order, it comes out quickly and without thought (unless like me you don't know a certain word due to a lack of a decent vocabulary) whereas with more complex speaking in Latin it's very hard. I think prose compositions can give one not only fluency in writing but also in speaking.
User avatar
Episcopus
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2563
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2003 8:57 pm


Return to Open Board

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: reky90 and 37 guests