Welcome to the Classics Department
Children at Mowden Hall School begin to study Latin in Year Five. We use a range of textbooks to spark the pupils’ passion for the subject, beginning with the ‘Cambridge Latin Course’. This is a fantastic text as it encourages a reading approach from the start, drawing the children into the life of Caecilius and his family in Pompeii. Language points are introduced through a series of captioned pictures; pupils are encouraged to identify connections with English and other languages they know, alongside the images, to work out the structure and meaning of the Latin. From this they quickly realise that many English words are derived from Latin, and consequently improve their command of their own language by adding to their vocabulary.
Once a buzz and curiosity about the language has been developed, we begin using elements of more grammar focused textbooks: ‘So You Really Want to Learn Latin: Prep’ and Bass’ ‘Latin Practice Exercises’. This more traditional approach gives the pupils a structured framework upon which to formalise their understanding of Latin’s structure. It is from this early point that we begin practising their Latin composition skills.
In addition to this, over the four years of study, we look at a number of stories from Greek mythology, from Jason and the Argonauts, to Heracles’ labours to the epic adventures of Odysseus. A number of approaches are used to explore these areas and bring them to life, for example research projects, writing newspaper articles, and dramatic retellings to name a few.
Vocabulary Practice: Memrise
Through the use of a website called Memrise, progression in terms of vocabulary learning is clear and personalised. Pupils begin learning the Level I vocabulary in Year 5, and move on to the Level II and III word lists at an individual pace. Memrise is a very clever vocabulary learning programme. Pupils begin by being shown two Latin words and their English meanings; this is followed with multiple choice questions on these words. The programme gradually intersperses new words, while continuing to test the earlier words in a wide range of ways, both into and out of Latin.
The programme effectively personalises each pupil’s vocabulary learning, as if they keep getting a word right it fades into the review section; if they keep getting it wrong, it keeps testing them on the word until it is sure they have learned it. When they next use Memrise, each pupil must review their previous words before learning new words (either through ‘regular’ review or the ‘sudden death’ round); in this way pupils regularly revisit earlier vocabulary and ensure they are committed to their Long Term Memory (LTM). These LTM scores are tracked and recorded by the teacher. Since moving away from weekly vocabulary tests and implementing this personalised approach, pupils have grown in confidence with and enthusiasm for learning their vocabulary.
Lesson allocations (per week):
Ancient Greek is a beautiful language full of fascinating words and concepts. Winston Churchill famously said: “I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat.” This treat is sadly becoming a rarer occurrence in schools across the country. At Mowden Hall students in the upper stream of Year 7 are still given this wonderful opportunity to study Ancient Greek, using a range of textbooks and sources. Two lessons a week are allocated in both Year 7 and 8, and pupils go on to take the Level I paper in their Summer CE examinations. Pupils find their Ancient Greek language studies an enriching experience.
Common Entrance Levels
In Year 7, the pupils are streamed into two sets: the lower stream work towards completing Level II at Common Entrance; the upper stream complete Level III Latin and Level I Classical Greek.
Potential academic scholarship candidates, who generally sit their examinations in February or May, are placed in the upper stream. Additional tutorials enable the scholars to cover the Level III material at a faster pace and to quickly move on to the content required for Scholarship during both tutorials and within lessons. Scholarship candidates can also be prepared for Ancient Greek Level II and Scholarship papers in this way.
Scholarship candidates who take their examinations in February subsequently follow a paralinguistic course, looking closely at topics such as Pompeii, Gladiators, Julius Caesar and the Roman Army, whilst beginning to explore some texts by original authors such as Catullus, Virgil and Apuleius.
We are extremely fortunate to have Hadrian’s Wall right on our doorstep and trips to sites such as Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum are organised annually.
Further to this, students at Mowden Hall are able to take part in a trip to Pompeii and Herculaneum, which takes place bi-annually. This is an awe-inspiring opportunity to bring the history and culture of the Romans to life. The recent trip in Autumn 2018 was a huge success and all the pupils returned aglow with enthusiasm for the culture and their experiences.