Minimus to the Maximus

I introduced Latin in my the third grade class at St. Louise de Marillac School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA with Barbara Bell's Minimus (Cambridge University Press.) I learned that teachers without Latin background were using the text successfully in England and were experiencing wonderful results. My goal was to be able to introduce Latin and help students realize how much fun it could be, so when they enter high school they would not hesitate to chose Latin to study. Parents and relatives of my third grade class donated the needed funds for the textbooks and dictionaries to get us started. All I had to do was ask!

The children loved learning about the historically based family at Hadrian's Wall. The picture stories are wonderful and are beautifully illustrationed by Helen Forte in comic book style. The Words to Know section with the Latin and English translations are great for review. There is a Grasp the Grammar section and a section on stories from mythology. The audiotape helps with pronunciation and the Teachers Resource Book has lots of activities and reproducibles.

Zee Ann Poerio

While introducing Latin, we celebrated National Latin Teacher Recruitment week. (See the National Committee for Latin and Greek website at I invited guest speakers Father Mike Caridi, one of our parish priests, who spoke about the Latin roots in the Roman Catholic church; Mr. Joe Luvara, an attorney and former high school history teacher, who presented a slide show on Rome; and Scott Stickney, Pennsylvania Classical Association Treasurer ( and a Latin teacher from Hampton School District, who spoke about Latin names and word derivations. We also had the opportunity to study ancient coins in our classroom through Ancient Coins for Education, Inc. (See Ancient Coins for Education at

I wrote a play which featured the third graders and taught the audience a few Latin words like ridete (smile), plaudite (applaud), and salve (hello). Act One of the play is available on the ETC website under the classroom materials section at and could be adapted for use in any classroom. For our production, students, parents, and friends helped make the props and paint a backdrop. They also donated fabric and sewed 62 togas; enough for two third grade classes.

Along with the skit, the third graders sang "Dona Nobis Pacem," and played the tune using recorders. We also featured a dialogue from Barbara Bell's text, Minimus, using puppets for the characters of the Vibrissa, the cat, and Minimus, the mouse and English translators. Our cast party was a complete Roman feast or Cena with ancient Roman favorites such as hard-boiled eggs, meat, cheese, olives, bread, and apples. "Ab ovo usque ad mala," (from egg to apple) or from beginning to end, the Latin experience was a great success. Studying Latin is great fun, the support form the classical organizations is unbelievable, and for a language that some refer to as "dead" it sure can bring your classroom to life!

Zee Ann Poerio St. Louise de Marillac School