September 11, 2018

Learning the Natural World While Building English and Latin Vocabulary Skills {Picta Dicta Review}

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A few months ago, I had took a leap and decided to teach my son Latin. Since he's quite young, we do take a slow and steady approach to his lessons. Just having him learn a little bit here and there has proven to be successful. I also find repetition to be quite helpful, not just for him, but even for myself, since I'm pretty much learning right there along with him. We recently had the chance to implement a new Latin program into our regular lessons from Roman Roads Media called Picta Dicta Natural World.






Picta Dicta Natural World was specifically created for elementary-age students, and solely focuses on vocabulary words that pertain to nature and science. In the program, students not only have the opportunity to learn the English and Latin translations of over 400 nouns all pertaining to nature, but they will also receive a brief introduction to what each one is.





What sets this apart from anything we've used before is that there are actual illustrations to accompany the vocabulary words. Not only do students hear and see the spelling of a word, but they also receive a visual of it. This makes the program really nice for younger children, especially those who are still learning how to read. In fact, the program has proven to be quite a useful tool for helping my son practice his early literary skills. Since Picta Dicta covers both the Latin and English translations, he is learning new words, as well as practicing previous ones he had already learned.

Picta Dicta Natural World can be used with multiple students depending on how many licenses you have. The program offers several different tracks to accommodate various learning levels. These levels are easy to change under the student's profile at anytime.



The levels that are currently offered in Natural World include:

  • Natural World Basic: Offers exercises using both English and Latin vocabulary words, as well as brief, easy to read sentences to introduce each word.
  • Natural World English I: Designed to teach English words to children who are just learning how to read, while also using multiple choice activities.
  • Natural World Reader I: For children who are already comfortable with basic reading and need more of a challenge. It offers exercises using both English and Latin vocabulary words, along with extra spelling activities.
  • Natural World Reader II: For older students who are experienced readers. It includes both English and Latin lessons, as well as lengthier fables, stories, history lessons, and even etymology.
  • Natural World Express: Jumps right into the Latin portion of the program, and is perfect for teens and adults who prefer to skip through the English translations.











I had my son begin the program using Natural World Basic, which is what he's been working on for the past few weeks. Here are some of the topics that are covered in the program:

  • Basic Animals
  • Fruits, Berries, and Nuts
  • Anatomy I
  • Land Forms and Terrain
  • Small Animals
  • Parts of Trees and Plants
  • Human Anatomy II
  • Water
  • Birds I
  • Growing Things
  • Sky and Weather
  • Animal Anatomy
  • Sea Life
  • Trees
  • Hand and Foot
  • Constellations
  • Exotic Animals
  • Flowers and Herbs
  • Vegetables and Legumes
  • Human Anatomy III
  • Birds II
  • Insects, Arachnids, and Worms
  • Sign and Habitat
  • Light and Fire
  • Metals and Stones
  • Ground Cover and Vegetation



  



 
 



In Natural World Basic, each topic includes a series of different exercises. The lessons are consistent, with my son first learning a collection of images and vocabulary words in English, along with a general introduction to what each word means. The lessons then move on to the Latin version of each word, also including the physical spelling and illustration to introduce it. For instance, the first topic includes basic animals, so my son will learn English Words such as dog, pig, horse, sheep, kid (baby goat), bull, etc. He will then be challenged to pick out the words through a series of images. The Latin exercise also does the same thing, but proves to be more challenging, because my son is actually learning an entirely new language at the same time.










The program doesn't allow you to skip around, so students must go in an ordered lesson layout. At first, I wasn't a fan of this aspect, but after having my son spend some time using the course, I now appreciate the reason as to why this is done. You see, after several sessions in each course, there is a series of review exercises to test students on what they've learned. As my son moves through the course, and completes a certain topic, not only will he be tested on the last topic, but all previous topics before that. It seemed a bit intimating to have him initially do some of the cumulative reviews (let's say for the last four topics), but it's amazing to see how well he retains all of the information from previous lessons. He really does seem to work through the reviews without any issues. Needless to say, I'm impressed! The program also offers students the option to go back and redo any lessons or exercises that they've previously completed. This is a convenient feature that's nice to have, just in case students happen to need a little extra refresher. 



 





As far as technical aspects, the program is really easy and pretty straightforward to use. Students have the option of using a touch screen or keyboard to complete the learning activities. We have no problems with the general interface of the program. I like that the illustrations are nice and large, not only for viewing purposes, but this makes it easier for my son to click on the pictures while doing the activities. My only wish would be for a larger button to help students transition from one page to the next. The program uses a "thumbs up" button to submit answers and move on to the next screen, but it's rather small and positioned way down on the bottom right of the page. Because of this, we found it quite easy to accidentally click our computer's bottom taskbar, instead, leading us to open various other windows instead of clicking on the actual button to proceed. Perhaps this is something that could be changed, so that the button is placed further up on the page and a little larger. Other than that, we had no issues and using the program was a breeze, even for my kindergartener. 







Roman Roads Media also offers a collection of additional programs to help teach English and Latin, including Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder and the soon to be released Picta Dicta Ancient World. The Ancient World program is something that looks really interesting and one that we may want to try down the road.  








I like that Natural World revolves around a central idea of all things pertaining to natural science (zoology, geology, botany, anatomy, meteorology, astronomy, etc.) It's a great resource to use, not only for teaching basic English and Latin vocabulary, but I plan on also incorporating some of the program activities into my son's science lessons for the school year. The inclusion of beautiful watercolor illustrations and full audio lessons are just some of the features that make Picta Dicta fun and interesting to use. I personally like that it also helps build vocabulary skills in both English and Latin.







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