One method he recommended for little kids was a Gouin Series. François Gouin was a French Latin teacher who wrote about his difficulties in learning German based on grammars and dictionaries. The approach he advocated was to have "themes" such as The Plant and to have students memorize sentences in sequence relating to the theme:
- The acorn sprouts.
The oak plant takes root.
The shoot sprouts out of the earth.
The stalk buds.
Gouin's frustration with traditional grammars and dictionaries is similar to the frustration found in endangered language communities when they see the work that linguists have done. Linguists who document a language usually produce a reference grammar (a description of how sentences and words are formed), a dictionary (a list of all the words), and a text collection (stories, conversations, and other samples of language). These are of little use for people who want to learn how to ask their grandmother to tell a story or to lead a ceremony.
Gouin's method is attractive for its emphasis on actions. Verbs are particularly important in the native languages of the south: verbs are often the only words used in sentences, and the verb encodes everything from the person and number of the participants in a sentence, to tense, location, and direction.
The Gouin Series Method could also be useful in connecting themes kids are learning elsewhere in school with a language class. If kids are learning about frogs and amphibians in science, they could learn related series in their language class (The eggs hatch. / The tadpole swims. / The tadpole forms legs. / The tadpole becomes a frog.) Themes can be based on time (In the morning, In the spring, etc.), and some will lead to actions that kids can act out in a group, possibly in first person:
- When it's time for PE,
I run outside
I play ball with my friends
I slide down the slide