Listening and responding, ‘pupils should show that they understand the gist of a range of authentic passages in familiar context.’ This approach gives the pupils a variety of factual and fictional passages relating to the context of the language and asks them to summarize, report, and explain the extracts orally or in writing.
Speaking which allows the ’pupils take part in discussions covering a range of factual and imaginative topics.’ This encourages the pupil to speak fluently and with correct pronunciation and this is done with few errors.
Reading and responding. This means ‘pupils show that they understand a wide range of authentic texts in familiar contexts.’ By either writing or talking about the material that is being covered in the lesson the pupils will gain confidence in independent reading by discussing stories, articles and plays this can be done in accordance to their interests.
Writing, here ‘pupils should communicate ideas accurately and in appropriate style over a range of familiar topics.’ This approach helps the pupils to write coherent sentences and improve their literacy and writing skills.
These aims can help as a framework when teaching Latin. I have used many of the recent MFL techniques including (1) using Latin as a language to improve literacy in English, (2) oracy, (3) intercultural understanding and (4) MFL approaches to teaching materials. These are some examples:
1. Using conversational techniques with Latin, it is actually quite easy for English speaking pupils to follow and understand as the words since many can be recognized from their sound as having very similar roots to English words. Reading and speaking Latin encourages pupils to think about words and their meaning, and allows me to teach basic grammar. These aspects should help them in key elements of the KS2 curriculum.
2. I found that immersing pupils in simple, practical use of Latin by using greetings, instructions, information and every day conversation pieces gave the pupils an accessible way of picking up the language by practice rather than just theory. This also allowed the pupils’ listening and speaking abilities (oracy) to be enhanced as they were be surrounded by the language as if it was alive, listening to the pronunciation of the words. It kept boredom at bay and appealed to pupils with different learning approaches and difficulties; best of all, it reinforced the learning process in a way that was fun.
3. Even though Latin is a dead language, it facilitates intercultural understanding. By engaging the pupils in the Romans’ culture they can be encouraged to draw comparisons with their own culture and way of life. Making these connections not only encourages them to see how much has changed (and whether for the better), but also provides and reinforces a better understanding of the language itself. Roman culture is very new and exciting to pupils and is something they enjoy learning about; they are able to learn language as well as some history. This in turn will create a well-rounded education by improving the pupils’ literacy, cultural understanding and interest in languages. It is interesting to read an American study which shows compelling evidence that these approaches improve literacy through the use of Latin. This is, of course, exactly what our project is aiming to do. To quote the study: “Poor readers, including the lowest level, have gone from bottom to top, far more rapidly than those studying a MFL.”
4. Modern approaches to teaching materials are not only encouraging the use more diverse and graphic ways of presenting information and interacting with it. Team games and low-key competitive activity, such as ‘whack’ are very helpful in breaking up a lesson and reinforcing messages. MFL guidance also stresses the importance and usefulness of the internet in language teaching. The Web makes enormous resources available to teach about Latin and the culture of the Romans. This lends itself to the modern day pupil who tends to be interested in computers and helps to make them familiar with internet research from an early age. The internet also allows the pupils to learn even when the teacher is not there, and with video clips and tests, this teaching can be as interactive as the classroom. The original approach to teaching Latin required pupils to read blocks of standard classic texts and then write the words to practice the language.
Using the MFL framework allows us to have a structure for teaching a dead language that the pupils will be used to from other lessons. This helps to show that the language is neither as complex nor as outdated as pupils first believe. There are very few dead languages being taught in a national curriculum these days, and yet they can be very helpful to pupils as a means to understand grammar and language structure and also a bridge to cultural and historical understanding. It is entirely logical to teach them, and achieve these objectives, by following the well-tested and researched MFL approaches.
Written by Alexandra Montgomery, 31 March 2014