On a humid Saturday at the University of Manchester around 35 teachers gathered for a day of short talks and workshops on Latin teaching at KS3 and beyond.
In the keynote lecture entitled Classics Now!, Steve Hunt (Cambridge PGCE Subject Lecturer) emphasised the cross-cultural aspects of Latin teaching and showcased his work in a wide range of schools in London, the Midlands and, in detail, at East Point Academy in Lowestoft. He made suggestions about how to sell Latin to school management, emphasising its relevance to literacy themes while also pointing up its cultural aspects: his message is that classics in the classroom is about people not just words. He picked up some of these themes in a workshop session on Teaching Inductively, explaining the difference between language learning and language acquisition. Teaching inductively privileges understanding language in its cultural context and emphasises comprehension of narratives.
We heard accounts from schoolteachers about their introduction of Latin classes in places where the language was not previously supported or endangered: inspiring reports on this topic were offered by Liam Holian (Levenshulme High School for Girls), Martine Molyneux (Beamont Collegiate Academy), Caroline Booth (formerly Loreto High School (Manchester) and now Turton High School), Jo Carrington and Dulcima Morgan (Clevedon School). Joanne McNamara (Liverpool College) outlined ideas about starting Latin clubs and getting Latin on the school curriculum. A wide range of experiences was discussed, including introducing Latin to both aspirational and non-aspirational pupils, introducing Latin into both monocultural and multi-ethnic classrooms, and perspectives from teachers of History and MFL who have championed Latin. There was a lively discussion of the value of rote learning and ‘Socratic’ styles of learning. We discussed ways of ensuring retention in Latin classes: ensuring that pupils take the subject seriously (as well as having fun) with support from their parents is a vital aspect of ensuring the success of classes. Holly Eckhardt (Cheadle Hulme High School) talked about her experiences in introducing the WJEC GSCE at a school which had never previously offered Latin; she emphasised the importance of combining different methods in order to teach Latin effectively in a crowded curriculum.
Some afternoon sessions showcased important resources: Charlie Andrew presented her open-access Maximum Classics resource and James Watson talked about the Cambridge Latin Course and its associated electronic resources. Jonathan Goddard talked about how Latin can be supported at KS 2 without a textbook with The Latin Programme resources (https://www.thelatinprogramme.co.uk/). Specifications were discussed later on: Jessica Coatesworth and Matt Ingham (Manchester Classics for All) and Holly Eckhardt explored aspects of the Educas Level 1/2 and GCSE qualifications. Over the course of the afternoon, John Taylor (University of Manchester) offered classes for those who are interested in learning Latin language.
The next session explored the organisation and running of classics clubs, discussing ways in which Latin classes can engage with ‘Enrichment’ activities and also the role of hands-on activities, games, crafts, sounds, songs, rhythms, and kinaesthetic and mnemonic approaches; moreover, Latin classes can be a starting point for new cultural experiences. We emphasised the importance of helping learners realise what they have understood over the course of a Latin lesson. Joanne McNamara asked how you can overcome the inherent difficulties of Latin: its inflectedness, the peculiarities of word-order, the lack of definite article, and the breadth of vocabulary. The next session, led by Pete Munday (Manchester Classics for All) discussed the benefits of introducing Latin in terms of engaging with gender and ethical issues. Holly Eckhardt looked at how Latin Clubs might be promoted within schools (e.g. through publicity at morning assemblies) and might become the starting point of introducing GCSE to a school.
This was a very rich and informative event; the audience came out with a feeling of renewed optimism about the future of Latin at schools and the sheer amount of possibilities that there are for making Latin inspiring but also inclusive. Our concluding remarks focussed on the progress that has been undertaken in terms of making Latin accessible to all but also noted regional divisions in terms of resources, expectations and approaches. Two things that were communicated very clearly were (a) the amount of hard work that is being put in by teachers into developing Latin in schools where institutional support is sometimes limited and (b) the amount of innovative resources, both online and printed, that are being developed to support classics. It is clear that classrooms of many types are benefitting from the sense of experimentation and adventure that is currently supported by many Latin teachers.
Initiating Latin at KS3 at the University of Manchester, 13th October 2018
An event supported by the Classical Association Teaching Board, the University of Manchester and Manchester Classics for All.