Over the past month and a half the children and I have been learning something new: Latin. We’ve been using Picta Dicta Natural World by Roman Roads Media, and today we’re sharing our review with you.
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What is Picta Dicta Natural World?
Picta Dicta Natural World is a brand new online subscription and we received 3 student accounts: one for Tristan (10), Kallista (8), and one for me, too. You don’t need anything else other than an internet connection for this program; we have used it on a PC, laptop, and a Kindle Fire device. However, if you are planning to use this at the library, don’t forget to take your headphones with you so you can hear the vocabulary!
Picta Dicta is a self-paced, mastery-based course to learn 400 Latin nouns so that you have a good foundation before you take your Latin learning further. The main target group are students in elementary school or older; however, I’m enjoying this as well, and I’m quite a bit past my public school days.
When you first set up your students in Picta Dicta Natural World, you have several levels from which to challenge them. I currently have Kallista in Reader I, Tristan in Reader II, and I’m doing the Express version. We are all learning the same things in the same order, but at a different pace and using our different abilities. For the youngest students, they can learn the vocab without doing any reading, while the more advanced classes have more reading but fewer lessons for each set of target words.
Because I’ve been doing the Express level myself, I’ll talk mostly about this level. The Express class is set up with 3 lessons for each set of target words. In the first lesson I am given a word, I can listen to it being pronounced as many times as needed, and then there’s a passage to read that tells a story, a fable, or some background to the target word. After about 3 or 4 words, then you are tasked with being given a word and then matching it up with the picture of the correct item of the six options given. Then you will learn a few more words, and the process repeats.
In the second lesson, you are given a word, then you pick the correct picture to go with it from the six options; or in reverse.
In the third lesson you should have spent enough time with the vocabulary so that you can now be shown a picture, and then spell the target word. Having to do this means that you have to pay attention to the spellings, as well as the pictures and the voiced words in the previous lessons.
When you complete each lesson you are given 1-5 stars, depending on how well you have answered the questions along the way. At any point, you can hear the word pronounced or ask for more info to refresh your memory. When you answer a question wrong, you are given immediate feedback by being given the correct answer, and then given another chance to answer the question correctly. I find this is a good way to know where you need extra focus and you don’t have to wait until the end and continue to get the same answer wrong all the way through before finding this out and given the opportunity to learn now and apply it to future questions.
You need only achieve 1 star to continue on to the next lesson, but of course, mastery is key and children love to earn the additional stars so they can go back at any time to repeat any of the previous lessons for improvement.
If you want to practice without risking a full set of stars, there is the option to for this. The actual lessons are considered ‘games’ and the practices are considered ‘training.’ When you train, you can choose which of the lessons you have already done that you would like to practice. The format is pretty similar, but your scores aren’t kept and you don’t have the stories to read.
In the Reader II level, each unit of vocabulary has 5 lessons, and in between each unit, there are 5 review lessons that combine the previous units’ vocabulary to keep it in the brain. In this level, Tristan also has the stories to read about each vocabulary item.
In the Reader I level, there are 8 lessons for each unit of vocabulary, and 5 lessons of review between the vocabulary units. In this level, Kallista doesn’t have the longer passages to read for each vocabulary item; just a sentence.
I should note that the vocabulary words aren’t translated word for word, but rather a description is given for each word. This gives a deeper level of understanding.
How we used Picta Dicta Natural World
The children used Picta Dicta Natural World each morning, rotating it between their English and math lessons. Because each individual lesson doesn’t take too long, it didn’t feel like too much for them and it was easily added to their routine. As for me; I am going to admit that I tend to do some binge learning on weekend mornings when I usually do my blog writing. I take a little break and work on a couple of lessons before returning to the blog. With the three of us learning at different levels, with different amounts of lessons for each unit, it’s interesting that we are all at roughly the same place in the course. But this means that we are also able to support each other and quiz each other as we’re learning the same vocab at similar times and it’s all fresh in our minds.
Tristan has taken it upon himself to type out each new vocabulary word, and its English equivalent into a document. This is giving him a little extra practice, and he can then take a couple of minutes to review the vocab before starting the program, just to get his brain in the right frame of mind. For a kid that is emphatically against ever taking more time and doing more than is asked, doing this on his own and being excited about his own ‘study sheet’ means he really does like Picta Dicta Natural World!
There is a parent dashboard where I can see all of the students on one screen; it tells me the last lesson that they each completed, the time they’ve spent using the program, and a percentage grade for how well they’ve performed. I have the option to see this information in day, week, month, or all-time periods, which is good.
From the dashboard, I can also change the level of the course the children are taking if it doesn’t suit them well.
What We Liked About Picta Dicta Natural World
Besides the fact that the lessons are set up like matching games so they don’t feel too much like ‘work,’ we have all found it interesting to find out how many English words are derived from Latin. Of course, I have had my own many years of schooling and life experience to be familiar with this, but connecting the two for the children is a new experience. They are understanding more about the complexities of the English language.
The children have learned a little anatomy for their Ju-Jitsu training, and now they’re learning a little more about how each of the terms has come from Latin. And we all just learned something today when I turned my lesson on for Land Forms and Terrains. Back in my area of Canada growing up a valley was a valley. Over here in Northern Ireland, not too far from us are the Nine Glens of Antrim, and often we hear about the Yorkshire Dales in England. Today I learned vallis is the Latin term for valley, but also that a glen is a small or narrow valley, while a dale is a broad valley! Yes, it’s all coming together! I love that!
I like the additional information given about each of the vocab words and that it’s not a strict, simple translation. My brain still translates it, generally when I think about it, but I am also seeing in my mind the picture that is associated with the word, and that’s helping me to remember the words. Their longer English descriptions are also starting to stick with me for some of the more unfamiliar words as my mind tries to make its own connections that make sense for me. And I can hear the narrator’s voice, even when it’s not there. So this means that this program really is building connections in the brain and using more than one sense to help children learn Latin, and that’s the best way to learn. The most difficult part of the program for me, anyway, is when it comes time to correctly spell each vocabulary term after being shown a picture of the target word. I know I need to pay more attention to the spelling in the earlier lessons, and I’m working on that. The children tend to do better than I in this area.
Just in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, all three of us are really enjoying Picta Dicta Natural world. It’s interesting that we are just learning nouns and not how to use them in sentences as you would normally learn a language. However, I like this. It means that you don’t have to stress over grammatical structures; you just have one thing to focus on and then later you’ll have lots of vocab to drop into sentences.
The course isn’t overwhelming; it’s broken down into reasonable chunks of knowledge. It doesn’t take a lot of time out of your schedule and can be done on many platforms, which makes it portable. The format is game-like so that children don’t feel like they are doing rote learning, and there is also some additional information (in the higher-levels) that make it more interesting, too.
I have always wanted my children to learn some Latin, but didn’t know where to start because it isn’t something I’m familiar with. If you’re in the same position, then I would recommend Picta Dicta Natural World because it is easy to use within minutes, the information is well-retained because of how it is introduced, and best of all, the children enjoy it!
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