First Time Teacher

Mark House mhouse at
Sat Sep 1 14:59:30 EDT 2001

"Christopher L Lang" <langc at> wrote:

> I am a new subscriber to this list and a first time teacher of Greek.

Welcome to the list, Christopher. I've found the discussions on BGreek to be
a tremendous help to me as I have developed curriculum for Beginning Greek
over the past six years.

> Any ideas what to expect here and what level of competency to shoot for?

What I have come to expect of first year divinity students is a) that the
bulk of them have a very shaky understanding of their own language, and b)
that although most will have taken a foreign language in college or high
school, few will have gained much from their language instruction beyond the
most basic conversational level.

This has meant for me that I am as much an English teacher as I am a Greek
teacher, and that this has tremendous value all by itself. I tell my
students that the understanding of Biblical content or Christian theology
rests firmly in the foundation of language, and that if they gain nothing
else from taking my class, they will at least grow in their grasp of
language, and that will have tremendous benefits in every endeavor that they

So in terms of langauge, I'm arguing that if you shoot too high with respect
to competency, you'll quickly leave them in the dust. But having said that,
I do believe you have good reason to hope that you will be able to take your
students, in a first year course, beyond a mere ability to pronounce Greek
words and use English commentaries more intelligently. At the end of my
first year courses I assign a brief exegetical project which puts students
through the paces of all that we've learned, and I've been quite impressed
with their ability to pick up the grammatical and lexical tools and work
through to come kind of Greek-based understanding of the text. (We don't use
commentaries for this exercise at all.)

As far as pacing is concerned, I think most of the grammars a designed for
one chapter per week. Using both Mounce's and Black's beginning Greek texts,
I've followed that pace in my courses, and it has worked quite well. I will
occasionally combine light chapters or expand more difficult ones (such as
the participle) into a two-week unit, but on the whole, the chapter-per-week
scheme seems to work well. If you are able to meet twice a week, I would
recommend dividing your course content into a content-oriented class
followed by a more lab- or practically- oriented class. The first could
contain your summaries and explanations of the textbook material,
illustrated by NT texts. The second could include quizzes, working through
translation exercises, any worksheets you might want to assign, and fielding
the host of questions that will come your way every week.

To add spice to my courses, I have also used Greek songs and games. The
songs aid in pronunciation and are fun. The games are parsing-oriented
challenges using cards. More about that offline if you're interested.

Finally, let me lend a hearty "amen" to Ward Powers' advice, summarizing it
by saying that Greek is as much caught as taught. If you're interested and
excited about what you're teaching, it'll rub off. One of my college Greek
professors, Dr. Harry Sturz, left me (and others as noteworthy as Wallace)
with a great legacy in this respect. He truly loved the New Testament, and
the language in which it was given, and that love was displayed in the way
he taught. May his tribe increase!

Mark House

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