A Day in the Life of Your Latin Teacher
All pupils begin their Latin studies in Upper 5. In order to prepare for this, the children are taken to Verulamium, the Roman site of St Alban’s, in the summer term of Upper 4. We march in formation across the park and take a turn on guard duty. Latin lessons are up-beat, sometimes energetic and make use of technology as well as kinaesthetic methods of learning. There is more thinking than writing involved, since the code of Latin has to be broken. The children are asked to see themselves as linguistic detectives! By the end of Upper 6, the children can read short stories, answer comprehension questions, give translations and analyse the grammatical elements in their texts. They are taught strategies for learning vocabulary as well as for memorising the conjugations of their verbs and the declensions of their nouns.
Things move up a gear in Upper 7 and Upper 8 but there is a “fresh start” opportunity for new students joining at 11+ with no previous experience of Latin. This is a tiered subject at Common Entrance: boys can take Levels 1, 2 or 3 according to their ability, length of study and the requirements of their future school. Scholarship candidates are given extension work so that they can attempt their senior school papers with confidence. Common Entrance Latin is unlike Senior School Latin, in which there are set texts by actual Roman authors such as Virgil, Caesar, Pliny or Ovid. Prep School Latin courses are specifically tailored to prepare students for the Independent Schools Examination Board papers: the vocabulary at all Levels is limited and the emphasis is on precise and accurate translation. The texts are based on myths, legends or history rather than on realistic domestic scenes. At DHS, we specialise in Greek myths and Roman legends, which brings plenty of fun into our lessons, as well as introducing the children to cultural and spiritual concepts that may seem quite foreign to them.
There are plenty of cross-curricular moments. The Upper 5s do a project on Medusa in conjunction with the Art Department and the Upper 6s study Pompeii A.D.79 in Latin alongside their unit on Tectonic Plates in Geography. When the Upper 7s study the Periodic Table in Science, they realise that they are already familiar with some of the elements because of their Latin work. Whenever the chance arises to roll out a poster of an Old Master or to project an image of an exhibit from the British Museum or to make connections with a poem usually studied in English lessons, we make the most of it. There are shields on the classroom wall and Roman numerals on the classroom clock. And every now and then, there are Latin assemblies…
What We’re Up To Now:
On Monday 16th June the U4s went on a trip to Verulamium Park at St. Albans. This was Mrs. Waldron’s introduction for us to Latin, which is a subject we will be studying from September. At its busiest time, about 2000 years ago, Verulamium was the third biggest Roman settlement in Great Britain. Today we know it from its more modern name of St. Albans. Before the Romans it was a settlement called Verlamion established by Tasciovanus, who made coinage there. Boudicca of the Iceni burned the Roman settlement down in AD 61. There is a layer of ashes found in the excavations that shows this.
At first Mrs. Waldron led us outside to do some marching practice. When we came to a halt, some of us were chosen to pretend to be Celts and the rest of us Romans. We then acted out a mock battle, and then marched back to the museum. There were no casualties.
Inside the museum we saw many small architectural sculptures, mosaics, skeletons, coins and, oddly, sponges too. We were given little tasks to find different things around the museum and to discover what materials they were made of.
The guide at the museum gave us costumes to dress up in and we had to find objects which would have been used by the people living in Verulamium when it was first built. Finally, we had a yummy lunch and then went to the gift shop, where I bought a decorative bracelet. This was a great trip and I can’t wait to start learning Latin. I have just watched my brother sit Latin GCSE, and I have to admit there is a lot of studying to do to become good at it.
By Raffi, U4