As The Latin Programme seeks to improve English literary in state primary schools through the study of Latin, we use a diverse range of teaching methods to make learning Latin accessible, engaging and fun. One of these involves the use of songs and raps to teach children aspects of Latin grammar.
Any student of Latin dreads learning the endless grammar tables. Surely they can only be learned through mere repetition? Well, it has in fact been scientifically proven that words set to catchy music make it easier to remember those pesky bits of grammar!
Music and education have been talked about as a match made in heaven since the middle of the last century. An article from 1969, for example, states that ‘songs provide a means of increasing the amount of repetition possible without losing the learner’s interest’, and so ‘help the teacher by consolidating his teaching’. Yet new scientific research has come to light since the turn of the millennium, and has shown that rhythmical music lyrics can ‘itch’ our brain into creating memories. What’s even more interesting is that repetitions of that particular piece then ‘scratch’ the itch, and help us to produce clearer memories of the images invoked by the lyrics!
With this in mind, our teaching syllabus aims to use songs to their full potential. Songs composed by our teachers are then sung by the students, which are used to reinforce the teaching throughout the lesson. While we are always looking to increase our repertoire, the current favourites include the ‘Noun Song’ and the ‘First Declension Song’, composed and recorded by our teacher Jonathan Goddard!
Examples of our songs and can be found by following the links below –
‘Noun Song’ – https://soundcloud.com/user-549272957/noun-song
‘Bo Bis Bit Song: The Future Tense Song’ – https://soundcloud.com/user-549272957/bo-bis-bit-the-future-tense-song
‘The Case Song’ – https://vimeo.com/68384986
‘How we teach Latin and literacy’ – https://vimeo.com/139577445
 Richards, J. (1969) ‘Songs in Language Learning’, TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 161-174.
 Anuta, J. (2006) Probing Question: What Makes a Song Catchy? (http://news.psu.edu/story/141354/2006/06/05/research/probing-question-what-makes-song-catchy)
Under a new formula designed to distribute school funding more fairly across England, schools in London are set to lose out. Those in Hackney, Camden, Lambeth and Lewisham will suffer the deepest losses, losing 2.8% of their funds, while those in Southwark, Haringey and Tower Hamlets will give up 2.7%, according to figures compiled by London Council.
While 2.8% may not seem like much, these cuts come on top of a £3 billion cut to schools across the country. This is equivalent to an 8% loss in real terms, meaning that many inner-city London schools are looking at a loss of over 10% of their operating budgets. Some schools are even asking parents to donate money  and "essential" items such as toilet roll and tissues.
The cuts to schools will disproportionately impact already vulnerable children. Boroughs like Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Islington, where The Latin Programme works, have elevated crime rates, poorer-quality housing and a higher incidence of child poverty. In fact, 50% of children in Hackney and Islington are living in poverty and almost 60% in Camden come from low-income families.
Studies show that children from poorer backgrounds lag at all stages of education:
“By the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be, on average, nine months behind children from more wealthy backgrounds and according to Department for Education statistics, by the end of primary school, pupils receiving free school meals are estimated to be almost three terms behind their more affluent peers. By the time they reach 14, this gap has grown to over five terms and by 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE.”
The research evidence is clear: educational failure is strongly associated with the process of social exclusion. However, The Latin Programme has demonstrated that this link can be weakened. The Programme increases children’s literacy levels, a recognised cornerstone of social mobility and the foundation for educational attainment and, ultimately, access to employment.
We know that children from low-income families have to forgo experiences that most of us would take for granted. For example, many of these youngsters miss out on school trips; can’t invite friends around; and often never holiday away from home. Because The Latin Programme is taught during school hours as an established part of the curriculum, all children can benefit, not just those who can afford extra-curricular activities, or whose parents are able to devote more time and attention to their progress.  However, the funding cuts currently proposed are threatening to undermine—if not wipe out—these proven equalisers.
We rely on schools to contribute to the cost of having The Latin Programme in their classrooms, yet an increasing number are no longer able to afford any contribution at all. We are therefore writing to ask for your support.
Please consider donating to help us to continue to give inner-city children the best shot at the future they deserve.
Essential to The Latin Programme approach is the wide variety of teaching techniques we use to excite, inspire and engage children. Games, songs, raps, drama, critical thinking and storytelling are all indispensible to the programme, each offering children different experiences and opportunities for learning.
As National Storytelling Week falls in February we thought we'd focus this update on how The Latin Programme uses stories and storytelling to solidify the Latin and literacy learning of our students.
At the end of each term professional storytellers visit our classrooms and recount ancient Greek and Roman myths. Each session begins with a short drama skit in which students play the roles of characters from the story they are about to hear. This kinaesthetic learning solidifies their knowledge of Latin conversation, builds their confidence and offers children who do not excel at paper-and-pen-based activities another way to engage. Our storytellers then perform and by retelling a tale that has been told for thousands of years they invite students to explore universal themes and complex emotions that empower and transport.
In our first ever podcast below we meet and talk to two of our storytellers, Lucy and Alys about telling tales, learning language and accessing culture. Have a listen and let us know what you think.
This September The Latin Programme began teaching at St. Edward’s, a primary school in North London. Like many of the schools we work with (and in fact, many in London) St Edward’s has a high number of students from BME backgrounds and who speak English as an additional language (EAL). Sixty-nine per cent of the St Edward’s students are EAL (compared with the national average of 17%) and 66% come from BME backgrounds (compared with the national average of 26%).
Those who speak a language other than English come from countries including Poland, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Latin’s influence is evident in many of these languages and children get very excited when they recognise words in the Latin vocabulary they are learning. Even in non-language subjects, such as Religious Education and History, children are consistently noticing how many English words derive from Latin. This detection improves the confidence of EAL students in particular, who can often struggle, and encourages them to participate further. Sharon, The Latin Programme teacher at St Edward’s has noticed how Latin is also helping improve students’ analytical skills, which are being honed as they work to decipher inflected grammar.
St Edward’s has embraced Latin and the students are engaging with real enthusiasm. Sharon recounted how, after his first Latin class, one student exclaimed “the whole lesson felt like a minute!” Classroom teacher, Liliana, said ‘It is lovely to see how children are engaging with learning Latin in a funny and didactic way. It is also interesting to see the connections they make with English, especially in grammar and expansion of their own vocabulary!’
Just this month St Edwards’ held a Latin themed assembly to which parents were invited. Sharon explained the many benefits of learning Latin and why starting to learn it while in primary school is such a good idea. She stressed the importance of Latin and its value in today’s world highlighting how much it helps with the future study of foreign languages and the enormous impact of Roman culture and society has had on European peoples and languages. Children performed in Latin and sang the carol Gaudete and parents were treated to a taste of a Latin Programme lesson discovering how omnipresent Latin is in modern English--such as in the prefixes of everyday words (like ab in absent) and in common abbreviations (like a.m. and p.m).
We are so grateful to supporters like you. We believe Latin is having an exciting and positive impact on the children at St Edward’s. By offering stimulating and fun lessons we hope to excite children’s innate desire to learn and to ensure they leave school with solid literacy skills that will serve them throughout their lives. We couldn’t accomplish any of this without you. Thank you for helping us to reach and enthuse the children at St Edward’s and all across London.
From all of us at The Latin Programme, and on behalf of all the children with whom we work, we wish you and yours a happy holiday season and all the best for 2017.
Meet Laura (she's the tall one in the background to the right). She has been a teacher with the Latin Programme for the last five years, and like all our other teachers, she uses her creative background in the classroom. Before joining The Latin Programme she worked for a theatre company and ran an educational programme in cinema.
Laura's background in visual arts and drama is evident in the way she teaches. She brings a highly kinaesthetic approach to her lessons, using her body and expression to physically demonstrate the concepts she teaching. For example, when teaching the component parts of a sentence – subject, verb, object – Laura encourages the children to move from one place in the classroom to another, one for the subject, another for the verb and another for the object. This is a particularly effective method of teaching children whose first language is not English--of whom there are many in The Latin Programme’s schools.
The most rewarding lessons for Laura are those in which children make links for themselves. Last term, one little girl from Russia realised that the Russian language was connected to Latin and has since scored particularly well in vocabulary quizzes.
Interactive games are key to The Latin Programme’s unique way of teaching and Laura's use of drama and storytelling techniques engage the children to such an extent that they hardly realise they are learning because they are having such fun. In fact, one of the class teachers overheard a pupil saying, “It’s great this year, it’s like we’ve only got 4 days of school. Mondays start with Latin, that means you want to go to school”.
Your support of The Latin Programme helps Laura, and all of us, to make a significant difference in the lives of inner-city children. By improving their literacy and language skills we are enhancing their life chances and encouraging them to become involved and active community members. Thank you for your continued generosity.
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