21st Century Latin at Ardvreck School

By Annie-Sophie Bulder

To some, studying Latin may seem outdated and they struggle to see the relevance of it today. However, at Ardvreck School, we take a creative approach to teaching Latin; it is far from dull and demonstrates to pupils why studying the Classical past matters.

Naturally, we want our pupils to excel in Latin, and this requires them to master complicated grammar rules and an extensive vocabulary list. In our modern classroom, we want to inspire and motivate our pupils to engage fully with Latin. We do this by focusing on active learning and incorporating eight motivational triggers for engagement: rapport; competence; curiosity; imagination; relevance; challenge; choice –  and fun! By doing this our pupils learn the basics of Latin, knowledge that we hope stays with them long after they have left Ardvreck School.

We enliven the learning of Latin by using fun as a motivational trigger. Indeed, as the philosopher Edward de Bono noted, ‘When some students stop having fun, or don’t see the possibility of ever having fun in their learning, they may easily become disengaged’. The Latin Minimus course brings great joy to Forms 1 to 3. Each form even has its own mouse mascot, which takes its name from the three genders in Latin: Minim-us, Minim-a and Minim-um. The course includes humorous cartoon stories in Latin mixed with Roman tales and history, offering variety and retaining pupils’ attention. We also include other activities, such as finding out how Latin was a linguistic inspiration for Harry Potter, hand jives to learn conjugations and ball games to remember declensions. Pupils also love to play on Memrise, an app to learn and practise vocabulary. Forms 2 and 3 are also participating in the Primary Latin Project Myth Competition of 2021. Based on the myth of Pandora’s box, pupils have represented their interpretations of the story in pieces of creative writing, drama, and art works. Pupils in Form 4 have also directed their own Roman dinner party, fully dressed in togas and with plenty of garum (Roman fish sauce). Through these enjoyable challenges, our pupils are absorbed in the learning process and enter a state of flow, improving memory retention.

Children begin to see the relevance of Latin through their drama-based lessons. Theatrical work improves pupils’ language development through social and active learning and develops their vocabulary, speech, reading and subject knowledge. In Forms 5 and 6, we often re-enact stories from the Cambridge Latin Course and Learning through Mythology, which are accessible, challenging and engaging. To prepare for a re-enactment, pupils complete reading of cultural background material so that they understand the context of the story. While working with peers, pupils use transferable skills, such as effective communication, problem solving and teamwork.

When they perform, pupils verbally practise the Latin word order and read Latin fluently. Although Latin examinations no longer have a listening or speaking component, we feel spoken Latin in the classroom ensures correct pronunciation, helping pupils to absorb vocabulary more efficiently and fluently. Our pupils take great pleasure in being able to converse in Latin, even at a minimal level, as it allows them to showcase their familiarity with the language. Form 5 pupils are also preparing for an Annual Latin Reading Competition. They have translated the story of Grumio et leo and are working on the correct characterisation of each character. Each pupil brings their own personality to the reading of the story, making it a fun experience for those listening. Through drama, our pupils are thus creating lasting and memorable learning experiences.

Our methods to make Latin fun and relatable ensure that Latin will never become a ‘dead language’ at Ardvreck School.