Sinister dexter!

This month our guest blog is by Pete Munday, a tutor with MCfA who is running a Latin club at Ladybarn Primary School.

At the start of the Spring term, we sat down and took the register as usual. Three out of four of the Year Six pupils (all girls) answered “hic” in the manner that, no doubt, schoolboys and girls have been doing for centuries. I had one (more scholarly) “adsum”.   They then decided to regale me with “Senex MacDonald habuit fundum” something we had been practising before Christmas, and somehow, despite all the attendant problems of maintaining discipline and interest with tired pupils on dark evenings, it all suddenly seemed worthwhile.

Other highlights have included marching round the classroom going “Sinister dexter! Sinister dexter!”. I think this proves that time spent watching “Carry On” Films is seldom wasted. They also enjoyed reading and trying to understand Catullus’ “Odi et amo” and seeing a little bit of real Latin literature in print.

Year Six is a difficult age. Moving from childhood to adolescence. Minimus is probably at the upper age limit for some Year Six pupils. Nevertheless, they like the cartoons and the family situations. We’ve all fallen in love with Pandora the slave girl.

However, even in a small group the range of abilities can be wide. Vocabulary is a little bit challenging – not in terms of the Latin but the English. You cannot take it as read that when you translate a word from Latin to English, the English word will be readily understood. Knowledge of English grammar is also patchy.

The old cliché of education being about lighting a fire rather than filling the coal bunker holds true though. We managed to write a short play based on Minimus. The pupils seemed to really enjoy expressing themselves emotionally in another language. Whether it will ever see the light of day is questionable as we are now down on numbers: two of the pupils have now defected to the Street Dancing class. I may go the same way.

Pete Munday