Famous Men Of Rome ~ Memoria Press #Review
We’ve used products from Memoria Press before (Geography and First Form Latin) but nothing quite like these books, the Famous Men of Rome Set. It’s written for 4th-8th grade students; we’ve been using it with a 7th and a 9th grader. (The 9th grader has been doing it first, and writing on his own paper; the 7th grader then writes in the book. It’s a bit tricky, but it works for us, and they like working on things together and being able to discuss them. And this way, I have record that they’ve both done it, and neither one can let the other carry the weight the way they might if they were reading, discussing, and both writing down answers together.)
There are three books in the set: a reader, a student guide, and a teacher guide. They are large-format, softcover titles in what appears to reasonably study binding. The student guide (I’d call it a workbook) runs 120 pages, while the reader clocks in at 157. The teacher’s guide is the lengthiest, at 172 pages.
(One silly little thing I appreciate – the covers are all different colors, which makes things just a little bit simpler for me – I am terrible at mixing books up! I wish every publisher would do this; it seems like such a no-brainer, really… don’t make me stop and read the words to figure out which book I need to grab when I’m in a hurry!)
The reader is quite nice, with many full-color images in addition to black-and-white line drawings. It’s surprising how much more approachable that the color really does make text. You’d think that teens wouldn’t be quite so susceptible to that “trick”, but oh, they still are. Especially when the sun is shining and all they want to do is go outside…
Chapters in the text don’t quite match up directly with lessons in the student guide, but it actually works out ok, because the table of contents in the front of the student guide makes it very clear which pages and chapters go with each lesson. Some weeks will have more reading, some will have less; it seems to range from 3 to 10 pages. While that might sound like a great deal of variance, it’s not really – remember, some sections have quite a few images – there are relatively few pages that are a wall of text.
There are 25 regular lessons in the book, and then 5 review lessons, after every 5th regular lesson. Tests are provided in the teacher’s guide that may be used after the review lesson. This setup makes it quite easy to spread out the materials over 30 weeks. In the back of the teacher’s guide, there is also a “European Geography Supplement”, which consists of maps and a final test. Rather than just tacking this on at the end of the school year, I’d recommend that it be something practiced in small amounts along with the regular curricula during the entire year. It’s be much more likely to be retained that way.
The student guide is a typical workbook; each lesson is presented on two facing pages, and consists of “facts to know” (which is generally names of people or places, and occasionally includes things like idiomatic language and quotes. Sometimes these are given to the student in a list format, other times the student will need to fill in the blanks. It’s followed by a vocabulary section in which the student will find the appropriate word, then a series of comprehension questions, and finally a section labeled “activities”.
The activities consist of items such as adding a detail to a timeline, locating places on a map, drawing assignments, along with questions that require more analysis than basic comprehension questions.
Even though this wasn’t a must-have subject that I would have sought out on my own for my students, we’ve found it surprisingly enjoyable and it’s encouraged an interest in a period of history that we’ve never engaged all that well with. I’d be interested in using similar materials in the future, and the kids agree that should time permit, we should do so. We’ll be finishing out this set!
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