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Bringing Latin to Life – View from Kelly at Jubilee Academy

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At ATT’s Jubilee Academy Mossley in Walsall, West Midlands, Vice Principal Kelly Vaughan leads on languages.

Following on from successfully winning a Classics for All bid which resulted in Latin being rolled out across our academies, Kelly outlines her top tips for bringing Latin to life for pupils:

Become ‘language detectives’ – We spend time being ‘language detectives’ by investigating Latin words to see if we can work out the meaning of English words by using our Latin knowledge, e.g. signum is Latin for sign, what could designate/signal/signature mean? benignus is Latin for friendly, what could benign mean? Simple investigations like this not only increase children’s vocabulary but they help them to problem-solve by applying their knowledge of related words to unfamiliar words as well as seeing how Latin is still relevant today. Investigations like this can be extended to other languages like Spanish.

It’s OK to make mistakes – Children need to feel safe to make mistakes when practising a language. As adults think how self-conscious many of us feel when we go on holiday and can only say a few basic phrases in the local language. I’m convinced lots of this dates back to secondary school language lessons where you were forced to speak in front of others. In Latin, we know there are a few basic rules which the children pick up very quickly, e.g. v is pronounced as w.  They get the opportunity to read Latin in the form of a comic strip, work out the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary (using context clues – a vital skill in English reading), hear it being modelled and then practise speaking in pairs. They then get the chance to read one of the comic strip boxes aloud in front of the class if they want to – this might be as part of a pair or individually, it depends on the confidence level of the children involved.

Children are praised for what they get right and given a prompt to improve for next time. Children love to feel successful in any part of school and languages are no exception to this.

Contextualise learning as much as possible. Our Latin learning is linked to a real Roman family who lived near Hadrian’s Wall 2000 years ago. We make our learning as practical as possible – when learning about Roman soldiers, children in a class formed a small army who had to respond to Latin commands practically. This helped to cement vocabulary by linking the words to physical movements.

Drama is a great way to apply knowledge of vocabulary. Children enjoy it and tend to feel less self-conscious than they do when in a traditional behind-a-desk classroom environment.

Storyboards also give children opportunities to show off their vocabulary knowledge – apps like Comic Life or websites like www.storyboardthat.com are a fun way for children to do this.

Pupils at Jubilee Academy enjoy playing with the language of Latin and spotting the connections with English.  This is allowing pupils to understand more carefully about the origins of words and this is reinforcing more accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar in pupils’ written work.

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