Saturday, July 26, 2008

Celebrating Triumph: Years 4, 5 and 6

Continuing from the last post . . . .

We've Done the "Why": Now a Little How

CAGSE offers samplers of the Latin programme for boroughs who are interested in offering it in their schools. Most often, we rent a venue, invite local schools, and do one interactive performance for several classes at once.

When asked, we also work with one class or several classes from the same school in their assembly hall.

What Comes Next

We begin by talking about Roman heroes and what they have in common with the kids' heroes today. Even Thomas the Tank Engine is honest and brave, so it's usually not much of a stretch.

More, But Different

We have a professional story teller present the origins and exploits of a Roman hero -- recently, it's been Aeneas -- ending with the bit about the armour created with his victories and exploits in mind. We then ask the children to close their eyes and imagine their greatest triumph -- if they were going to create a shield, what would they have on it? How would they articulate their greatest success? The kids are encouraged to consider their past experiences and also to envision their futures.

We then distribute paper shields and crayons, and we ask them to draw what they are most proud of -- or what they plan to be most proud of -- in ten minutes. We also ask them to give the pictures a title. We post all the shields in one place, and we talk about the impressive aspects of each.

If you'd like to see some, click here or here. They're not all posted yet, so stay tuned.

And Last . . .

Just for a sense of Latin's accessibility, we teach the kids a little chat. Hello, how are you, I'm fine, how are you, I'm fine -- that's it. In Latin.

They practice with a partner, they shout it as one large group to another, and there is usually a lot of laughter. Many of these children speak languages other than English at home. This just makes Latin another -- another that they can master.

If You'd Like Us to Come to Your Borough or Your School . . .

Please contact us through the CAGSE site. We've found the effect to be the same everywhere we go. Latin is fun, easy to learn, and connected to the culture (and land) in which all the children live.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Samplers for Latin: But First, a Quiz


I run an educational consultancy called CAGSE, which stands for Curriculum Articulation for the Global Support of Education. "Curriculum Articulation," you see, instead of "Development". The real trick before you teach is to clarify what you want to accomplish. Then you need to be precise about the reason to choose a particular activity to accomplish this.

For those who have not taught, articulating your goals and objectives is probably the hardest part of the job. Discipline is probably the second most difficult in primary school, particularly if you are not the regular teacher, but it can be mitigated -- or eliminated -- by a beautifully planned and executed lesson.

So really, articulation is the key, both for yourself and for your class. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

What We Teach

Latin. In State schools. Years 4, 5 and 6. In London.

For Americans, that means third, fourth and fifth grades in public school.

Why? I've written about this earlier, so if you've read it all before, please move on to the next post.

But If You Haven't Heard . . . .

A lot of benefits, particularly in London schools. The political valence of Latin here is heavy. It's a gentleman's language, taught to the elite. With few exceptions, it's taught to middle- to upper-middle class kids in fee-paying schools. And it's usually considered a subject for only the highest achievers. In other words, do well at everything else, and you will be rewarded with Classics.

This reinforces a class system that is as much about education as it is about breeding and money (similar, but not exactly the same, as in the States where money plays a much bigger role and breeding a much smaller one).

For the hundreds of thousands of non-European immigrants and their children, who wouldn't fit into the class system even with the fanciest education or an influx of dosh, Latin can help both with confidence (they are as smart and special as fancy English kids) and with their English (it's the best English grammar education they can get).

What's more, Latin is an inflected language. Most of the kids of immigrant parents' share languages that are also inflected. Learning Latin allows these kids to feel that English and the place they live belongs to them in a new way. Add the fact that their home town used to belong to the Romans, and the sense of connection is complete. Latin can be the passport that allows these kids to have ownership over the place they live and to the languages they speak.

But Wait . . . There's (Always) More

The benefits grow the more you think about them. Romance languages become easy to learn once Latin is under the belt, and there is a modern language requirement in primary schools here to be implemented universally by the year 2010.

One parent in Hampstead believes that regardless of the "modern" language taught in her daughter's primary school, Latin should be taught, too. What if the primary school teaches French, and the secondary school teaches Spanish (or visa versa)? Latin will level the playing field for every kid.

Last But not Least, It's Fun.

Unlike the older ways of teaching Latin, CAGSE uses age-appropriate activities in addition to traditional methods. Although I can't sing, I went around to classrooms all over London teaching a song about case endings. There were hand movements, loud and soft versions, and a lot of standing up. The kids loved it. More important, they remembered it.

For more on this subject in a more universal context, please see Via Facilis for extensive discussion of this topic.

For further ways CAGSE empowers kids through Latin language and culture, please see the next post.