Caroliola et amici sunt in taberna. linguam Latinam loquuntur.

When I look back through the archives of this site, I’m frankly astounded that I’ve written anything on it. You see, I have two small children. The older one started school last term, in reception class. Somehow this is much more exhausting for everyone concerned than when she was at pre-school, even though she only does half days still. The necessity of getting her there, the necessity to provide clean uniform, remember her school bag, remember to put the right books in it, remember to take the right things out of it – none of these things mattered at pre-school. I haven’t even considered the element of encouraging reading and writing skills… So, it’s all quite hard work, and subsequently I haven’t published anything for months. My apologies are offered sincerely to any reader who cares/ exists.

What I have been doing, however, (on top of school runs and infinite laundry etc) is teaching. Teaching A Level Latin, GCSE Latin and A Level Classical Civilisations (and some German). I have also been having conversations with teachers, and students, about teaching, and learning, Latin.

I am a big fan of David Carter’s Classical Workbooks which provide study resources for GCSE and A Level Latin and Greek set texts. I have been talking to him about some of the ideas expressed both in his workbooks and more explicitly on his website, namely immersive learning techniques. He advocates in his books reading the Latin or Greek text ‘many times ALOUD and FAST’. He also advocates knowing what the text means before attempting translation and provides a very literal interlinear translation as an aid. I must confess that although I think this is a great idea and have indeed suggested to A Level pupils that they look up translations in case of really struggling with a piece of homework in order to figure out on their own how it fits together, I still struggle with it as a face to face teaching approach — mainly because I haven’t fully and consciously considered it as an approach until this week. Another of his projects currently under construction is spoken versions of set texts for students to listen to alongside written and interactive texts. His approach to teaching and learning set texts for GCSE and A Level is totally immersive.

Talking to another teacher recently we discussed the Cambridge Latin Course and its potential short comings. Personally, I love Book I, I love Caecillius and all his household, but I really struggle with Book II partly on account of how the characters become less likeable but mainly because the stories become impossibly long. On the grammar front, I feel it is the teacher’s responsibility to fill in any gaps or correct any lies that the books might present (currit does not mean runs!!!) so I don’t hold a grudge on that front. I also recognise, however, that not all Latin teachers these days are subject specialists and perhaps don’t have the skills to fill in those gaps. The person I was chatting with, however, is another advocate for a more immersive learning style and a fan of prose composition in beginner classrooms, a subject I have written about here.

In short, and not least because my children are now fighting each other and it’s bedtime, I feel it is time that Latinists got together and considered new approaches to teaching Latin in schools, and by new I probably don’t mean anything new at all. A glance at American Twitter users’ profiles shows that in the US quite a different approach is taken already – American Latin teachers’ Twitter handles are Magistra or Magister and meet ups in cafés are advertised at which Latin will be spoken. We Brits do not do this. Why not? Like I say, I think it’s time for teachers, academics, teacher trainers and even students to get together and talk about how we teach and learn Latin in Britain today. Caroliola et amici sunt in taberna. linguam Latinam loquuntur.

If I were in Boston, Mass. I would definitely go to this.

I’d love to know readers’ thoughts – please do comment!


How to run an excellent INSET¹ day

I attended an excellent INSET day on Saturday. I shall describe it briefly in the hope that others will follow in its footsteps.

The day was organised and hosted by the University of Cambridge Classics Faculty and billed as Teaching GCSE Classical Civilisations. It formed part of their outreach programme and was free to attend.²

The programme comprised two lectures, one from Professor Tim Whitmarsh, the other from Dr Ingo Gildenhard³, both pitched academically and also accessibly so we felt educated and not patronised; lunch (plentiful and delicious); next a choice of either a session on film in the classroom with soon-to-be-Dr Stephen Harrison or a talk/ interaction with the fabulous Cast Gallery in the Museum of Classical Archaeology focused on getting the best out of study visits with the very engaging Jennie Thornber, the museum’s Education and Outreach Coordinator; then a plenary session, chaired by John Taylor of Latin text book fame who was also attending the day, with three five minute presentations from teachers who had volunteered in advance on things that they do in the classroom; finally a feedback session where our comments were listened to and noted.

In short, I believe I speak for the majority of attendees when I assert that the day was excellent. A perfect blend of teachers being educated, sharing expertise, interacting with each other and the leaders, and being listened to.

Thanks and praises to the Classics Faculty’s outreach team and to Max Kramer in particular for organising.

Did you also attend? I’d love you to add any extra comments below.

Do you have further views on how to run INSET days? Please also add your comments.


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¹ INSET just means teacher training. I don’t know why.

² It was explained to us that initially their outreach programme was aimed purely at Sixth Formers as there was no point reaching out to anyone younger than that. The current reachers decided to ignore this protocol and now reach out to GCSE age groups as well as teachers. How revolutionary!

³ I was disappointed to learn from him that he thought JK Rowling had NOT used his name as inspiration for Gilderoy Lockhart. Everything else I learnt from him was positively joyous.