High Ability pupils are among the most disadvantaged children we teach at The Latin Programme.
One of the biggest challenges that The Latin Programme meets every week is delivering lessons to support the most able students in our inner-city classrooms.
Since day one, The Latin Programme’s innovative approach to improving literacy in schools has offered a welcome challenge to gifted pupils without alienating the less able learners in the classroom. This article is all about why the Latin Programme will remain true to its whole-class approach to teaching, whilst also meeting the needs of every pupil, including those who show great academic promise.
According to the UK schools’ inspectorate, OFSTED, high ability pupils often tend to underperform in non-selective state schools like the ones we teach in. Sir Peter Lapl argues in a July 2018 report for the Sutton Trust that we are ‘experiencing an extended crisis of social mobility in our schools’. He argues that ‘too many talented young people from less well-off backgrounds are falling behind during their school career, as the barriers they face take a toll’ (p.1).
According to the report Potential for Success (2018), children from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be in the top 10% for attainment in English and maths at the end of primary school. Indeed, only 4% of less well-off pupils have high attainment at Key Stage 2 (the end of Elementary school in the UK), compared to 13% of non-disadvantaged pupils.
Furthermore, many highly able pupils are not even being identified as high attaining in the first place. The numbers are incredibly small for high-achieving children in non-selective state schools, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. There may only be one or two of these pupils in a class, and teachers are sometimes not even aware of pupils’ promising track record.
The most able pose a real challenge for teachers. In a typical class of 30 pupils, in which the majority of pupils are underachieving or of average attainment, teachers tend to focus on meeting the needs of the majority. School leadership, on the other hand, will often put their already-limited financial resources (especially their pupil premium funds) into boosting attainment amongst the lowest attaining children in the class, or into supporting those pupils with special educational needs.
The Latin Programme is aiming to tackle this issue on a number of levels. Several reports by the schools inspectorate OFSTED and the Sutton Trust have identified targeted interventions that are inclusive as one of the key ways of supporting pupils to achieve their best. Our inclusive and targeted literacy intervention does just that.
From day one, well-meaning schools have asked whether we could deliver the Latin Programme just to the high ability pupils. We have always said no. A Latin Programme lesson will always have elements that are accessible to all learners, even those with special needs. These include games like ‘magistra dicit’ (Simon Says in Latin) or mock gladiator trials, aimed at engaging children’s imaginations, and allowing them to learn from each other whilst still having fun. Other inclusive tasks include songs and raps. We always support grammar learning with accompanying hand gestures or rhythmic exercises, even adapted nursery-rhymes. The in-built differentiation within the Programme is also supported by our no-textbook approach. For us, focused tasks need to be tailored not only to the needs of the class, but to allow individual children to take ownership of their learning and decide whether to master the most basic level of task or to challenge themselves to attempt a higher-level activity that accelerates their learning within and beyond the lesson’s learning objective.
The children we teach at the Latin Programme, who are aged between seven and eleven years, are simply too young for a one size fits all approach. Furthermore, Latin often reveals hidden talents in learners, demonstrating their underlying potential for working with patterns, their metalinguistic skills and their ability to absorb and benefit from cross-curricular content and think about cultural/historical connections that are thousands of years old.
Latin class is often a fresh start for learners. Those who speak English as an additional language find themselves on a level playing field with their peers for the first time. It is these children, in particular, that gain a lot from working with a less-familiar teacher with high expectations of what they can achieve. Our pupils continue to develop academic confidence and ambition over the four years of the Programme. Surely everyone deserves this chance?
This 2018-19 academic year we have introduced even more ways to support pupils with high potential to flourish. Firstly, Teaching and Learning Director, Jonathan Goddard has transformed the way in which we share resources across our teaching team. This means that teachers can quickly identify a number of suitable ways to work towards a single lesson objective, with options available for every ability level and to support diverse styles of learning. All classes have built-in stretcher activities and children can choose to take on these further challenges of their own accord, rather than being prompted to do so by their teacher.
We have also, this year, reworked our assessment framework to monitor, more closely, the progress that all learners are making over the course of each year and identify students’ unique talents early on. The new assessments build on the SHINE model developed in 2013 to monitor our pupils’ actual achievement against their expected progress. The new framework tracks progress in literacy and Latin and allows us to monitor attainment alongside other factors, such as the level of disadvantage that the pupil faces. We also hope to be taking part in a study led by the University of Essex assessing the metalinguistic benefits of studying Latin this Autumn.
Finally, at Holy Trinity NW3, one of the newest schools to come on board with the Programme, we have pioneered the ‘University Ambitions’ project, an extra-curricular literacy booster for those pupils who are identified both as high ability and facing significant disadvantage, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to accelerate progress for the most able students who face other challenges. This also links in with our annual Year 6 trips to the University of Cambridge where students get a taste of university-style learning with an academic lecture led by the Classics Department, lunch in a Cambridge college, and a chance to meet students and ask questions about going to university.
The Latin Programme is continuing, even in the face of deep cuts to school funding, to value and nurture the needs of all of its young minds. Please help us to continue doing so.
This month at the Latin Programme we’re…
Developing a new course called “How Languages Work” for Key Stage 3 (for pupils aged 11-14years) introducing pupils to linguistics, with Latin and English as our case-study languages. The Programme will be delivered by Tutors from the National Charity The Brilliant Club next summer.
Completing the last edits on the AENEAS PROJECT FILM.
This was our rap/film/animation version of the Aeneid, Virgil’s epic poem shot this summer in 10 primary schools across London and involving over 200 or more 9-11-year-olds. We’re also working to confirm a cinema screening for pupils to attend with their schools later this year. Our working title is ‘AENEAS 18’. What do you think? Submit your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Working towards amalgamating all of our YouTube rap resources and aiming to share our teaching resources more widely on our new website. Have you visited it yet?
`And one day we shall lift
your children to the stars’
(Aeneid Book III)
AENEAS PROJECT 2018
During June and July, The Latin Programme is embarking on a documentary film project about the reimagining and dramatising of Virgil’s Aeneid with Year 5 and 6 pupils (aged 9-10) across 10 London inner-city state primary schools.
Project Manager and Creative Director: Lucia Yandoli (The Latin Programme)
Shoot Director: Nic Wassell (Strage Day Films)
With drama facilitators from Talawa Theatre Company, the oldest black-led theatre company in the UK and The Kallos Gallery and raps produced by Jonathan Goddard.
“Wait, come, my guest,” she urges, “tell us your own story,
start to finish […] the pain
your people suffered, the wanderings you have faced.
For now is the seventh summer that has borne you
wandering all the lands and seas on earth”
(Aeneid, Book III)
Stage 1 – Behind the scenes filming as the children in ten London primaries learn the story of The Aeneid with professional storytellers and teachers and respond to it through creative writing, drawing, sound sampling, storyboarding. They discuss themes, characters and different kinds of journeys in relation to their own life (e.g. a difficult bus journey, the journey to meet a new baby). We talk to pupils afterwards about what they’ve understood about Aeneas’ journey. We see glimpses of what they are learning about language and what they understand about myth and legend.
Stage 2 – The children from 3-4 primary schools work with an animation specialist during half-day workshops to create drawings/collages inspired by some sections of the poem. They can continue to work on their creations independently after the workshops have taken place, ready to be animated by the professional animator at a later date. (3-4 days of workshops – ½ day of behind the scenes shooting in one school scheduled for w/c 25 June 2018)
Stage 3 – The children from 3-5 Latin Programme primary schools will focus on dramatizing sections of the Aeneid. These sections are: 1. the beginning Aeneas escapes Troy and receives a prophecy that he must travel to Italy, 2. Dido and Aeneas (retold as a primary school friendship) 3. Aeneas’ descent into the underworld to meet his father and vision of hope for the future.
A small professional crew (sound recordist, shoot director/DOP, camera assistant, drama practitioner) will film the pupils’ final workshops with their drama facilitators. Each school will focus on material from a specific section of the script (one of the 3 main sequences) and whilst we will aim to shoot some specific shots that have been planned in advance we also aim to capture lots of spontaneous moments during the workshops, moments when children are absorbed in their activities and don’t necessarily feel aware that they are being filmed. Every school will film the same finale in which the children rise one by one from kneeling in the playground. (Filming – half-day workshops scheduled for w/c 2 July 2018)
Stage 4 – A professional film editor edits the footage and animated material – weaving children’s readings / re-imaginings of passages of the Aeneid with images from their storyboards to create a 7-10min final film for a collective screening to the communities, schools and families involved in October or November 2018 – to be scheduled soon. After this, we will submit the film to festivals and edit it into a series of 2min clips to be distributed in an interactive section of our website dedicated to sharing responses to the film. (4-6 days of editing in July 2018).
Stage 5 – We edit the behind the scenes material to distribute in short (30sec) clips on our website. (Oct -Dec 2018).
Output: 1 short piece of ‘lyrical’ film (7-10min) and a series of short behind the scenes footage.
Why the Aeneid?
The Aeneid feels completely relevant to the lives of children in London today. Many London children have even travelled a journey across the Mediterranean themselves, one that mirrors the one that Aeneas took himself as it is retold in the epic. Focusing on rich but accessible themes of journeys and hope for the future allows the children to re-frame their own experience through this epic poem and allows us as the audience to re-experience the story through their eyes. How do these myths of journeys and their experience of the city differ from our own? How do today’s children find a place in the metropolis today? How does the meaning of the poetry change when we see it recited in a non-traditional setting and by London school children? Yet, also running through this is always the question of language and history. We wish to celebrate the voice of the children – their readings, their raps, their re-tellings as well as the language of the Latin poetry itself.
The Importance of Process
We feel it is very important, particularly when working with young children to allow some fluidity to the project and allow the children to guide us rather than impose our own views on them. However, there is a grammar to the imagination as well and during the first three to four weeks the children follow a pre-designed scheme of work that encourages them to explore the story, and study the language. This scheme of work will incorporate some storytelling, drama, poetry etc. to inspire the children and help them to understand and think deeply about the core themes we are exploring. That’s why the script of the film will have a sense of openness. However, we also aim to capture as much as possible about that process on film so that this itself also becomes a fascinating story in itself, one that we very much hope to be able to communicate.
What we will need
We are working with a small budget of £8,000 already secured by the Latin Programme to produce the film. The producer/creative director will not earn a fee but the rest will go towards paying the crew, drama facilitators, animator and for all other costs of making the film. We also hope to be able to raise additional funds to grow the project and publicise the great work the children have done! Please support our project in any way you can.
The Latin Programme's mission is to teach an innovative Programme of literacy through Latin in state schools. We strive for Latin to be embedded in both the curriculum and culture of the schools we work in. We teach Latin because it is the most orderly, logical, disciplined, structured, systematic, and consistent grammar in existence. Latin is also the base of over half of the English language. Learning Latin dramatically broadens pupils' vocabulary while deepening their understanding of language. 2016-17 marked a significant year for the Programme and our pupils. On average, 18% of our pupils were eligible for free school meals. Despite facing disadvantage, 86% achieved their expected levels in literacy in the end of KS2, compared to the national average of 75%. Our Programme is streetwise, focused on impact and dynamic, engaging children through raps, songs, games and interactive storytelling sessions. Our mission is to deconstruct the imposing and daunting grandeur of Classics; we are liberating it from its ivory tower and breaking down prejudices.
Overall our classes are considered underachieving according to usual criteria: a high number of children receive free school meals (FSM), have English as an additional language (EAL), are from ethnic-minority backgrounds and/or have special educational needs. Therefore, our targets have always been realistic. But the results far surpassed our expectations. By the end of 2017, 92% of students were at the expected level for Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation compared to the national average of 77%. We find that the greater the number of years of the programme, the better the results. Students who do Latin for one year do well last year, but results for students who have experienced three or more years of the programme showed a 10% overall improvement. For 2017-18 we’ve hired a data officer to ensure that the programme is having a remarkable effect on every pupils’ progress in literacy.
Pupils also feel the impact for themselves. In our end of year survey (2017) 94% of our Year 5 pupils felt that knowing Latin supported their learning in other subjects, esp. MFL, English literacy and history. Teachers also commented on the benefit of the Programme for developing confidence, resilience and for providing a leveler for EAL pupils. Even OFSTED commented that the Programme challenged and stretched pupils by helping them to ‘think hard about the structure of sentences’ (OFSTED Report, St Monica’s, Hackney 2017).
After ten years, our focus is on the future with a film project based on Latin literature (Virgil’s Aeneid) and creating an interactive section on our new website – launching in May 2018 – to showcase the dynamism and creativity of our pupils. As one Year 4 pupil from Hackney says, “Latin is epic – you learn everything!” (2017).
The Latin Programme’s full 2016-17 Impact Report will be available to download on our new website in May 2018.
Sharon van Dijk “At this young age they are so excited by everything”
Teacher, Sharon van Dijk (25), talks about her teaching day in two London schools for the Latin Programme, her fascinating research cataloguing Latin poetry and why The Latin Programme stands out.
‘I have a really early start on my teaching days. I’m up by 6am so that I have time to pack my things, eat some cereal, drink some tea and make my lunch. I have a long commute from Hertford where I live, changing onto the underground at Finsbury Park and on into Victoria, Central London where both my schools are based. I use the commuting time to read and prepare for the day ahead.I arrive around 8.30 at my first school in time to prepare my resources. I teach one year six class at 9am and two year three classes during the morning. In the afternoon I teach two mixed year four and five classes at another local primary school.
Before becoming a Latin Programme teacher in 2016, I previously taught Latin in secondary schools. The Latin Programme has a very different approach to language learning. Latin Programme pupils get up off their seats a lot more, using kinesthetic techniques to learn new material and there are more games and songs too. My favourite game is ‘magistra dicit’ (Simon says in Latin). The focus is also much more firmly on the structure of language at The Latin Programme. For example, I wouldn’t usually have covered all the Latin noun cases and their functions until Year 9 in my secondary school teaching. At the Latin Programme we are introducing this in Year 4!
The other aspect of the Latin Programme that I love is working with primary school children. At this young age they are so excited by everything. They have their own favourite verbs, like ‘necare’ (to kill) or ‘ambulare’ (to walk), and they love the challenge of learning a new language in depth. We’ve enjoyed looking for Latin inscriptions on (old) pound coins, and learning Latin football mottos.
I think that the Latin Programme faces a big challenge surviving all the cuts to school funding at the moment. I hope that more schools can still offer The Latin Programme to pupils despite this.
My teaching day finishes at 3.30pm and I usually arrive home in Hertford by 5pm, in time to eat and then head on to choir practice. Beyond singing, I also like horse riding and I play the guitar. I’ve even developed a few new songs for The Latin Programme – like the ‘sum es est’ song which are now being taught in schools across London.
On the days that I am not teaching, I am studying for a PhD as part of a research team led by Dr Victoria Moul at King’s College London. The title of our research, which is funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is ‘Latin Verse in English Manuscript Verse Miscellanies, 1550-1700’. This involves working with original manuscripts in archives across the UK. We are looking at neo-Latin verse (written in the early modern period) in miscellanies (collections of pieces of writing by different authors). Some of the poetry has been written by school children in the days when Latin was the language of education from when a child began school at age 8 right up until they left university. Some of the poetry I’ve seen is by well-known English authors like Milton who wrote in Latin to appeal to a wider international audience. Sometimes I come across beautifully illustrated poems to commemorate a king or queen and even figure poems -poems written in the shape of something. It is so exciting to discover unknown work and catalogue it for readers of the future.
My research really demonstrates how fundamental Latin was to the development of British education and to the development of the English language. It is wonderful that our Latin Programme pupils are contributing to that second life of Latin in schools themselves and in doing so are developing a deeper understanding of English.’
This week I’ve been…
Reading Blair Worden The English Civil Wars 1640-1660 as background reading for my PhD.
Listening to Christmas carols and Christmas songs.
Watching the BBC series Dickensian on Netflix.
Teaching and Learning Director, Jonathan Goddard (37), on a typical day’s teaching in London schools with The Latin Programme. He tells us about the challenges and rewards of the innovative Programme to help improve literacy in schools. He tells us about the daily challenge schools face and why you should support the Programme’s future.
"I usually wake up early – between 4 and 6am while my wife and 18-month-old son Blake are still sleeping. It’s a good time for creativity and for thinking about things that nourish my work. I like to take a moment to visualize what I want to achieve with my day. I’ll then have porridge or cereal with my son and drink a lot of coffee because I'm tired.
I leave my home in Peckham, South London at around 7.15am to make sure I’m in school on time and photocopy teaching resources. There’s often a queue for the photocopier and schools have a really limited budget for this so that is what made me think of designing some new interactive resources this year for iPads (Jonathan has designed a new Interactive Latin Textbook for iBooks coming soon).
School staff are always friendly and really welcome you as one of their community. That’s really nice but it also suits my nature to travel from school to school for my teaching. I like to be independent and be in different environments. Each day I will teach six classes of between 20-35 pupils in two different inner-city London schools. Sometimes I’ve even taught classes of 43-43 pupils. There’s not much space to move around in classes as big as that."
A Typical Lesson
"Teaching starts at 9am. A lesson will start with an interactive activity or role play such as Gladiators, ‘Simon Says’ in Latin, listening to a song or doing a clapping game. I use these exercises to get pupils moving and establish a tone in the room before we settle down to work.
Then we usually introduce a grammar point in English. Literacy is a big challenge for many of the schools we work with and it really lays a foundation for success across the whole curriculum, even subjects like maths. After that, we’ll begin linking this grammar with the Latin, applying the same rules and relating them constantly back to English.
After 3-4 hours of back-to-back lessons I travel by train or bus between schools on my lunch break and try to eat something on the way. Once a week I can sit down and eat some West Indian food in the Roxy Bar in Hoxton."
"At the end of each day I’ve taught over 150 individual pupils. They are little firecrackers: absorbent and ambitious. They want to do well but sometimes need to be shown how to persevere, how to structure their thoughts and work independently. By the end of the Programme they have learnt as much in weekly lessons as pupils in private schools who have three times that amount of Latin lessons per week.
I love the challenge of teaching such difficult material: material that requires real intellectual discipline to master it. When pupils develop these skills it is incredibly satisfying. It is wonderful to hear stories of my former pupils who are going on to study languages at secondary school or even university and see how excited they are about this new content and how much they’ve achieved.
I’m not a classics scholar. I stopped studying Latin at School when I was 18 and I was skeptical at first about the Latin Programme, but it has proved robust. What I see more and more in schools today is the challenge that literacy presents but the schools we work in are addressing that challenge creatively. And it is working.
I think The Latin Programme has a great future."
This week I…
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