Mount professor pens latest in Latin texts for young students

July 31, 2019

The third Latin teaching text in an ongoing series by Mount Saint Mary College Education professor Frances Spielhagen – this time taking the form of a graphic novel – was published this summer by Royal Fireworks Press.The cover of Casus Fabulae Romanae I, written by Mount Saint Mary College Education professor Frances Spielhagen.
Casus Fabulae Romanae I is an immersive dive into the Latin curriculum designed to appeal to students from about 9 to 13 years old. It follows the life of the title character, Caecilia, in ancient Rome, and includes the full text of the first two volumes of Spielhagen’s Latin curriculum series: Ecce Caecilia et Verus and Caecilia et Verus in Foro Romano. Both primers are already in use in across the United States, including classrooms and homeschools, introducing students to Latin and the language’s culture and history.
While the ongoing series of primers is intended for elementary school aged students, the graphic novel provides more input on each double page. Through the images and the repetition of words, students grasp the Latin text’s meaning and develop their vocabulary gradually.
“The text is still very simple, with each line building on the ones that preceded it,” Spielhagen noted. “And of, course, the illustrations are key! Graphic novels are very popular with middle grades students and have good support in literacy research, so I am confident that this text will meet the needs of the students in that age group.”
The graphic novel approach is intended to keep modern students interested and engaged in the content: “I am convinced of Latin’s value for young students,” she explained. “The immersion/review method I have designed seems to meet the needs of 21st century students who are visually inclined and open to new ideas. The days of rote memory that were the basis of traditional Latin instruction are long gone, but students can and do engage in Latin texts when guided through them with inquiry-based instruction.”
Instead of learning Latin roots in pieces, such as by memorizing a list of prefixes and their meanings, students will learn the same things in a “more organic fashion” in Casus Fabulae Romanae I, said Spielhagen, who taught Latin for 30 years at various grade levels before coming to the Mount.
Spielhagen is happy to reveal that Caecilia’s adventures are far from over: the passionate educator is already working on follow-ups to both the new graphic novel and the first two Latin primers. The next volumes will feature the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompei and Herculaneum.
“It has been great nerdy fun to bring that story to life through the eyes of Caecilia and her twin brother, Verus, who is as mercurial as she is serious,” Spielhagen said.
A fourth primer will conclude Caecilia’s story. By the time students reach the end of this final installment, they will have covered the content of a traditional Latin I course.