Reflections on teaching Greek 102

Now that semester two is finally wrapped up across my diverse colleges, it seems an apt time to write some reflections on teaching Intro to Koine Greek 2.

At the start of semester I was met with a conundrum – zero of my students were face-to-face. It was to be all distance, all asynchronous. Hmm, what to do?

I’d also been talking to James Tauber, of course, about many things Greek, digital, and pedagogical. We’ve been talking for some time about how to sequence Greek pericopes by ‘least new vocab’, and also about reading environments. In my context, I was partly hamstrung by the need to provide video’d lectures tied to powerpoint slides, but through semester one I’d at least become accustomed to that.

So, I tried something new. I took our current sequence of pericopes, and I taught these texts one by one through the semester, ‘talking through’ each text. It was more grammar-driven than I’d like in other contexts, but I couldn’t see a way around that given the parameters. It was very interesting though.

We read almost entirely Johannine texts, ‘out of order’, even at times reading the back half of a chapter right before the front half. Early on the vocab is quite limited, and Johannine texts are wonderfully (pedagogically speaking) repetitive. They repeat not only key words, but phrases, and structures. Sure, we met things in the first week that textbook students wouldn’t see for months, but we were dealing with real Greek, and the number of exposures both to forms and to structures was very high. And as we went to each new text, the same elements would reappear again and again, just with a few new features, a few new words.

At the end of semester, we’d covered more Greek text than I think any comparable first year (New Testament Greek) course or textbook does. Our word count was high, but our vocabulary count was somewhat lower, though still covering a solid core. And I have no doubt that the repetition numbers were much, much higher.

I think this could be improved upon. And I think it could be made more CI-based, communicatively driven. If the first half of the course had gone better, or if students had a more active grasp of Greek, then a sequenced reading of texts could also be matched with discussion in Greek of those texts.

3 responses

  1. Cheers Seumas. Great post. I can remember doing 1st year Greek back in 2013 when I started my BTh and learning grammar and vocab, often being required to translate made up sentences as a means of reinforcing these. It took a while to actually engage with the Bible and I can remember doing the exercises but feeling a sort of empty feeling. A bit like someone teaching you to ride a bike but not allowing you to get on the bike and have a go at riding it. I’ve tried to keep my Greek going since then through many different techniques, but the one that I am focussing on now is something similar to what you are doing in 1 John. I’m working in Philemon using the Bible Vocab app by Rob Turnbull. I’m wanting to see the relationship that words have in phrases, clauses and sentences with the hope that I will see similar patterns/words in other parts of the NT. I realise there are many different authors with different styles of writing, however I don’t simply want to go through the mechanics of trying to memorise extensive vocab, some that I may never come across. How did your students go this semester in their learning with your initiative?

    • As far as I know, they went well! That sounds odd, but all my students in this class were distance-mode, so I didn’t get a lot of feedback and interaction from them. Based on their personal feedback and their assessment, they found it a useful approach, but I’m wary of claiming any particular stunning ‘outcomes’.

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