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Vocabulary Building with Picta Dicta

Picta Dicta is an innovative and highly engaging tool for students to build their Latin vocabulary. This program could easily serve as an introduction for young students into the delightful world of Latin. The lessons would also prove a wonderful supplement to any Latin curricula, or even as a summer strengthening program for Latin students. The approach engages students in learning vocabulary through pictures and images rather than the usual vocab word list found in most textbooks. Instead of being shown two words such as vir, viri, m. – man. The students are shown a Latin word connected to a picture.  In some cases, as the students advance, a sentence is included for context.  This is a fabulous way to instill the true meaning of a word as connected to an image or an idea as opposed to another word. For students who are visual learners this can be a powerful tool.  However, the program does not leave it entirely to the student’s intuitive understanding to connect the word to the right idea.  The NOTES tab will still provide a traditional dictionary entry and other helpful information.  When offered the SENTENCES tab will use the word in a Latin sentence to provide context.


Picta Dicta not only builds vocabulary skills by connecting pictures (picta) to written words, but also to words spoken (dicta).  As the images appear on the screen a voice can be heard reading the word or even the sentences.  This is a great tool for the parents who feel anxious about modeling correct Latin pronunciation at home. With this program student and parent can learn together through modeling and repetition.

The more senses students use to learn something, the better they will retain it. Picta Dicta uses visual cues of both written words and pictoral images, the program uses audio cues for them to hear (students would do well to repeat the words they hear form more audio reinforcement), and it uses tactile elements as it requires students to respond to questions they have learned. After learning a specified set of words, the progam will then begin to sollicit responses in a number of ways – clicking on a correct image, fill in the blank (choosing from multiple words), or even typing in a word using the keyboard. A HINT button is always available to give the student a boost. When an error is made the program gently redirects the student to a correct answer and then makes note to quiz that concept again soon.


From a teacher perspective this looks like an ingenious idea.  However, I wanted to obtain a student perspective.  There are multiple levels for students in grades K-12. I was able to get a sneak peek at the lower two levels and share them with my own daughter who has just completed the 9th grade. She gave Picta Dicta an enthusiastic two thumbs up.  She looked through a program built around human anatomy.  Some of the words she already knew from her Latin classes, but several words were new to her. She really enjoyed the way the program engaged memory and review by asking questions from several different angles. She found the notes not only helpful, but very interesting as they often give additional insight into eytmology and derivatives. For example the notes tell students that umerus (meaning shoulder or upper arm) is also the funny bone – a “fun” play on the word humorous (humerus).  My daughter happens to be a gifted artist. As such, visual learning suits her very well.  Another feature that she really appreciated as a student is the built in accountability feature. Picta Dicta uses Cerego, a brilliant memory program. Parents can see how Cerego tracks the words that students have successfully learned, those that are weak, and those they labels as “fading” because it has been a while since the student reviewed them. As the program tracks a student’s progress, it will bring up words needed for review. Cerego will also send friendly email reminders to students that it is time to get back in the game in order to continue to build vocabulary skills.

Overall I think this is a truly brilliant program for building Latin vocabulary in a highly engaging and enjoyable manner for students of varying ages and ability levels.  I am often asked for ideas to keep Latin fresh over summer break or for tools to help build vocabulary in general, PICTA DICTA will be my new answer for such questions.

You can sign up for Picta Dicta at

For another great site for interactive games and visual learning visit the post on Headventureland.

Art-Literature Analysis: Student Assignment

As an end of year project for my AP Latin students, I assign an art analysis paper based upon a scene from either Vergil's Aeneid or Caesar's de Bello Gallico. The students are to choose a masterpiece that accurately depicts one such scene. This assignment is a student favorite as it causes the students to look back and call upon what they have learned of the story and the language from the vantage point of one who has completed a rigorous journey and now stands upon the mountain top, surveying the view of the road from whence they came. The remainder of this post is written by one of my Latin students. This is her piece of art-literature analysis based on a scene from Aeneid VI. Read the rest of this entry »

Rainbow Resource: Review of Latin Alive Book 1

The following review of the Latin Alive series is posted on Rainbow Resource Center.

Maybe you just recently decided to incorporate Latin into your homeschool, and you’re looking over your shoulder at the fun and simple elementary programs that are now too basic and ahead at the thick and intimidating upper-level courses available. You wonder, “Can my child really handle that?” If you’re wanting to begin now, never fear! This well-designed and manageable course by Classical Academic Press is designed for middle school and high-school students who are just starting out in Latin. The series, which will eventually consist of three books which make up a 3-year program, provides students the opportunity to learn the Latin language and grammar, using an incremental approach. Drawing upon the successful teaching methodology used in Wheelock’s Latin, the authors of this program have in essence taken the best approaches and features of Wheelock’s, and designed a thorough course that is more appropriate (and exciting) for middle school and high school beginners. Also, because the novelty of studying Latin only goes so far, the program also does a fantastic job of demonstrating how relevant Latin is to us, even today. If you are not just starting out in Latin, or perhaps even wanting to continue your journey from Latin for Children, you will find much review in Book One, but thorough coverage of grammar and the reading passages from Latin writers will be well worth continuing your journey.

For the full review, which includes a thorough description of the book click here.

Composition Assignment: Classic Narratives

Our 3rd grade grammar school students love that first special moment that they are able to read a story in Latin for themselves. This is a huge milestone. Their eyes just light up with the realization that they are truly comprehending a story in another language. From that moment on, Latin stories become a favorite class activity. Another great milestone comes at the end of 5th grade when they are then able to compose a story in Latin for others to read. Up until this moment they have received the joyful gift of reading, now they are able to give that gift in return. This post outlines our grammar school composition project. Read the rest of this entry »

The Classic Texan – April 21, 753 B.C. and A.D. 1836

All classicists know that today, April 21, is the anniversary of the founding of Rome. All Texans know that today, April 21, is the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. Do you know the story of the Classic Texan, the legendary figure of Sam Houston and the imprint of the Classics in his own life? His tale is truly that of a modern Odysseus or Aeneas beset with a torment that forces him from his home and sends him wandering through the wild west. Eventually, Providence would guide him to Texas where his destiny and that of the land he came to love became forever inextricably linked. Read the rest of this entry »

Excavating the Circus Maximus!

Archaeologists are discovering what some call the greatest shopping complex of the ancient world. I suppose this really shouldn't surprise us at all. Modern man is not really that different from ancient man. Visit any NASCAR or Formula One race track and you are likely to find a plethora of concession stands, clothing venues, souvenir shops, and large bathroom facilities. You might also find stories posted of the greatest drivers and the cars that set records. All this has been discovered at the Circus Maximus. Several shops have been found including ancient laundromats that would clean your garments with the preferred agent of the time: urine. Large latrines have been uncovered that used the nearby aqueducts to continually "flush" water and waste through to the sewers. Archaeologists have even found images of a winning race horse by the name of Numitor, who seems to have gained some measure of fame in the great city. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning the Invasion of Gaul

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . . Thus begins the first chapter of Comentarii de Bello Galllico, written by General Julius Caesar c.58-49 B.C. This is a line that most veterans of Latin studies know by heart for it has long been the traditional "first book" for young students graduating from grammatical studies into original readings. The work is chosen for its excellent prose, whose arrangment is fairly easy for novice readers to follow. That is once you become adept at recognizing ablative absolutes and extensive relative clauses and very long stints of indirect discourse. The work certainly cannot be read without great attention to the author, Julius Caesar, his military endeavors and his political ambitions. This work can also be enjoyed as a study in ancient geography as Caesar begins the very first chapter by laying out the geographical composition of Greater Gaul in the manner of a chartographer. Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty and the Beast and Latin

Walt Disney has turned many beloved classical fairy tales into successful movies. Often classical references may be found hidden within them as precious gems. To find them is to better appreciate the artistry of their cinematic work. This is particularly true of the older movies, but can be found in more "recent" creations that have drawn from the earlier tradition. Such is the case with the 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast. The opening sequence is stunning for its visual and musical elegance that draws the viewer deep into an enchanted forest. As the castle comes into view the scene focuses attention on a lovely stained glass window that seems to resemble a royal family crest. Beneath the scene, etched on a scroll in Latin one reads Read the rest of this entry »

How My Road Led to Rome – A Latin Teacher’s Testimony

I am often asked why I became a Latin teacher. The story is not what one might expect. It is every bit a testimony of God's direction in my life. The Lord had a plan and a purpose for me. He made sure to lead me down a path that He clearly purposed for my life, my own Roman road of sorts. Read the rest of this entry »

Latin Alive vs. Henle – A Comparison

To tell the truth, I didn’t think it was possible to have a better Latin education than I was offered. But my mind went wild with the Latin Alive! Reader book that comes after, or perhaps with, level 3 of the series. I would have loved that book!!!

My son and I have jumped right in with Latin Alive! Book 1 this summer. Last school year, he completed the first pass of Henle in Classical Conversation’s Challenge A program. Already, though, just working a little over the summer with Latin Alive, we are much happier with this new program. Furthermore, I can see that my son is understanding and retaining more readily with Latin Alive. This is a much better program than Henle—which I always held in high regard before.

The above quotation is an excerpt from a letter written by a co-op leader from Classical Conversations.  To read her full review of the Latin Alive program and how it compares with Henle (another excellent Latin curriculum) please visit the full article on the Classical Academic Press blog site:  Switching from Henle to Latin Alive – A Letter.