Student-generated Grammatical Definitions: 
WAC in the Latin and Greek Classroom

Charles O. Lloyd

Marshall University

As a serious exponent, practitioner, and instructor in Writing Across the Curriculum pedagogical strategies, I have devised various means to use writing to enhance language learning in both beginning Greek and Latin classes.  The most successful of these writing-to-learn strategies has been the use of student-created and student-revised definitions of grammatical phenomena peculiar to inflected languages.  Students are required to create, revise, and reproduce their own definitions, stated entirely in their own words.  They must generate definitions which answer these three questions: 

a) what is the function or purpose of the construction/phenomenon (why does it exist in Latin or Greek? What does it allow a Greek or Latin speakers to do in their language?);

b) what are the parts or elements significant to this construction or phenomenon?  (How do you identify this part/element?  How do you make one of these things?  How do you form it?  What are the steps in the formation process?); and finally

c) what is an accurate definition which states in general terms what this phenomenon is and incorporates at the same time the crucial parts of both a) and b). 

Results of this exercise are promising because many students claim that for the first time they understand grammatical relationships and even weaker students begin to use grammatical terms in appropriate ways. 

This strategy has theoretical basis in the work of an important sociologist, Anthony Giddens, who formulated a concept which he calls "discursive consciousness,"  the state we must move into when we focus on problems or attempt to reduce our anxiety by trying to respond to problems.  In this kind of consciousness, two things become important:  the needed knowledge becomes accessible through verbal expression so that a vocabulary and syntax emerges which allows the ordinary motions of life entry into consciousness, and this expression is equated with "reflexivity" or reflection which allows us the opportunity to examine our actions in the first place.  This kind of consciousness is often connected with writing, and the writing of definitions of grammatical terms allows students to possess for themselves their own vocabulary and syntax concerning Latin or Greek.  This developed vocabulary and syntax in turn grants students tools to solve problems with both forms and translation.

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