Teaching Literacy with Latin at Oundle School

William Ma |

On the very first Teaching Literacy with Latin site in Britain, founded by a Living Latin in Rome High School alumnus.

A cohort of young after-school Latin enthusiasts at Oundle's Teaching Literacy with Latin site.

Oundle School is located in a historic market town two hours' drive north of London that is steeped in history. The town has a palpable sense of its past, having existed since the Iron Age, with extensive settlements during Roman times and a beautiful streetscape featuring impressive limestone buildings. The Talbot Hotel, located in the town center, boasts an oak staircase that is said to be the same one that Mary Queen of Scots was escorted to her execution on in 1587. Established in the 16th century, the school itself has a deep sense of history. As I wander through the Cloister where I have my Latin lessons, I feel a profound connection with the rich history surrounding me, a sentiment I aspire to impart on my Teaching Literacy with Latin students.

Last summer, I had an unforgettable experience attending Paideia’s Living Latin in Rome High School program, where I learned firsthand how interactive and lively learning Latin can be, especially when surrounded by numerous Roman sites of historical importance. Upon returning to Oundle School, I was determined to share my experience with less privileged primary school students in the area. I volunteered to teach these students on a regular basis for a year, hoping to instill in them an appreciation for the resources around us and a passion for our inherited history.

The existing structured curriculum for teaching Latin, which focuses on memorizing grammar and vocabulary, has not been the most engaging, so I introduced the Aequora curriculum to my classes. This curriculum change had a profound impact, with the kids' faces lighting up with enthusiasm. We utilize an interactive and hands-on approach to make Latin and Classics more engaging for students. From performing skits based on historical narratives to drawing depictions of Roman gods and goddesses, our curriculum fosters an immersive learning experience. A favorite among the students is choosing a story, like the fable of Romulus and Remus, to perform as a skit. We would read through the skit, give them time to make their own props and finally perform it. I assigned roles to each student, from team captain to director of the skits, to keep things fresh and exciting.

When I met with the primary school teachers to discuss the students' progress, they were surprised to see that previously students who weren’t exactly thrilled to go Latin club were now Classics enthusiasts and excelling in class. During the last lesson, I awarded all of the students trophies for their outstanding performance. Seeing how happy the kids were made me proud to have made such a positive and lasting impact on their journey through Classics. I think ultimately my passion for teaching comes from seeing the children having a light bulb moment after trying to understand something and them being so happy after each class.

Ultimately, the beauty of the Teaching Literacy with Latin program lies in its ability to promote higher-order learning. Instead of merely focusing on rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules, which is considered lower-order learning and can often be dull for students, the program encourages students to engage more deeply with the material. Through acting out historical narratives and drawing scenes from mythology, students are required to analyze texts, synthesize information, and apply their understanding in creative ways. This makes learning not just more exciting, but also more meaningful and effective, fostering a genuine enthusiasm for the Classics among the students.

Beyond academics, I believe that I can bring history to life. The town of Oundle has traces of its Roman past, with discoveries of Roman coins, pins, skeletons, cups, fragments of pottery, and a Roman villa in Castor, only fourteen miles away. With this in mind, I am hoping to organize a trip to visit some of the archaeological sites and museums in the area, including the Peterborough and Oundle Museums, which both have good collections of Roman finds in their Archaeology Gallery. Castor Praetorium, a monumental Roman building that stood on the northern edge of the Nene Valley and dates back to 250 AD, and the charming Church of St Kyneburgha which is another destination we must visit. Although this trip will be on a smaller scale than the one I experienced in Rome, it will give the students an opportunity to learn about Classics, which is something that I was fortunate enough to receive from Paideia.

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William Ma

William is a student at Oundle School in Northamptonshire, England, and and alumnus of Living Latin in Rome High School. He is proud to be the first person to start a Teaching Literacy with Latin site in the UK.

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