an article by Lynda Goss
Note: This appeared as an article in JACT Review in 1991 and is offered here unrevised. Things have changed in the past few years, and some of the references eg to exams are out of date, but the ideas remain useful and exciting.
With the arrival of LMS, the biggest factor threatening the survival of Classics in many schools is 'the numbers game'. Every stratagem in the book is needed to maintain and preferably increase the numbers studying Latin. This article contains a few tried and tested ideas which have resulted in 500% more Latin pupils in my school, a 13-
I have concentrated on Latin because that is the bread-
A: Initially, at ages 12 or 13
1. SELLING TO PUPILS
Study the market: what is the competition? How can Latin appear more attractive than any other option? List potential sources of opposition -
Ask the consumers: use 'satisfied customers', i.e. current Latin pupils, to assist in the advertising campaign. It is very encouraging to hear reports of younger brothers, sisters, friends and neighbours who have been enthusiastically urged to take Latin. Current pupils are also invaluable m telling you what information about Latin has the most appeal for teenagers. Hardly any writing in lessons and not having to speak the language are the two top selling points, according to my pupils, neither of which would ever have occurred to me.
Define the target area: if your school has a policy of compulsory Latin in the junior secondary years for everyone or for the upper ability range, then read no further. Otherwise, whom are you trying to attract? Anyone and every one? If so, there is no need to say too much about the language, and certainly nothing about the difficulties!
Three years ago I had a beginners' class containing two potential Oxbridge Classicists and two Special Needs pupils, with Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all in between! The two Special Needs survived until the autumn half-
Prepare the paraphernalia: dress for the occasion -
The sales talk: keep it brief. Outline the course that is used, say whether there is a Graded Test Scheme, mention any trips or activities that occur regularly, perhaps highlighting any recent Classical event in the school, and DISPEL MYTHS. Yes, Latin is a dead language, but many employers give it a rarity value and its literature, written 2,000 years ago and still being published, has as much relevance now as then. Devise your own strategy for conveying the message that Latin is fun, easy and, above all, useful. If at all possible, give a 'taster' lesson. In 15-
Questions: allow time for these, since they often reveal a misunderstanding held by others besides the questioner. Two of the commonest are: 'Do you need Latin to be a nurse/ footballer/pilot?'; I always say yes to all professions and explain why; and 'What's the point of doing Latin?' -
Free gifts: always have some: copies of 'Why Latin?' or your own propagandist leaflet or back issues of Adulescens and Minibus.
Follow up: ask how many had made a choice before the sales talk. Who influenced them -
2. SELLING TO PARENTS
Parents fall roughly into three categories: those committed to Latin; those who are happy for their children to make their own option decisions; those suspicious of or openly hostile to Latin. Much myth-
The following ideas -
Have the room candlelit. It is not difficult to find plenty of ancient-
Provide free samples. Safeway's vegetable samosas and falafel are consistent with the ingredients available to the ancient world and are best described as 'the snacks the Romans ate after an afternoon in the baths'. No-
Quick and easy Roman biscuits can be made. If, as mine sometimes do, they turn out too crumbly/heavy/dry/whatever, so much the better. For who would expect the diet of 2,000 years ago to seem palatable today?' Pupils can be sent round the school at intervals to distribute these and to entice parents towards the Classics room. The togas and the biscuits soon attract custom.
Invariably, there are the parents who sidle suspiciously into the room and say 'I didn't know they still did Latin nowadays,' looking at you as if you've just walked out of the ark. Respond with a gracious smile, a look of wide-
As well as course books and pupils' work, display Graded Test certificates (these arouse considerable interest) and lots of T-
B: GCSE Options
The spadework must have been done over the preceding terms or years to make the course so appealing that pupils have a strong desire to continue with Latin. If this is so, all the arguments about the use and benefits of the subject become corroborative rather than just coldly clinical.
Parents may also need further convincing at this stage, especially as we will increasingly be teaching first generation Latinists, whose parents were educated in schools where there was no Latin and who feel that Latin in 1991 is no more than an anachronism.
Include one or two punchy sentences, either verbally or in writing, if your school produces an option handbook, such as: 'The further you go with Latin, the better it gets. Can you afford to miss it?'
How to slip Greek in through the back door
If you have a Classical Civilization course estalished, it is easy to adapt this for Greek and Greek Civilization (still offered by LEAG -
My first guinea-
C: Sixth form courses
1. Define the resistance to A -
If pupils have become sufficiently inspired by the ancient world by GCSE, the usual problem is fear that a Classical subject at A-
2. Explore the possibility of introducing GCSE Latin
MEG, for example, offers a course without any set books. (This is no longer true; a verse set text is compulsary in OCR -
Positive points for Latin in general
Modern language teaching now includes only the minimum linguistic structures necessary to achieve the goal of communicative correctness; foreign literature is even optional at A-
One of the brightest pupils I have ever taught told me that, after four years of Middle School French, she sincerely believed that foreign languages had only the present tense until she started Latin and encountered the present, perfect and imperfect within the first three weeks! Implicitly or explicitly, Latin can capitalise on these trends in language teaching, especially when comment is being initiated by the pupils themselves.
Regular appraisal of the classroom 'vibes' is important to the marketing process: has the class gelled as a group? Have the class and I established a warm rapport? How many of the pupils are really coping with the language so far? Is the atmosphere in most lessons one of enthusiastic anticipation? Is the subject-
From a marketable point of view, trips to Roman sites or museums put Latin on a par with fieldwork in the humanities and sciences, trips abroad match the glamour of foreign exchanges and visits to Roman and Greek plays compare favourably with theatre trips run by English and drama departments. Such a variety of excursions is another bonus for Latin.
Also, in many state schools, at least, the pressures of fulfilling the Education Reform Act have sapped the energy of staff to such an extent that there has been a great curtailment of extracurricular activities. My pupils not infrequently remark: 'We never go anywhere except on Latin trips.' The effort involved in organising trips of all kinds is therefore well worthwhile.
To cut down on the cost of a trip involving a overnight stay, an exchange with Latin pupils at a school in the vicinity of a Roman site is an excellent idea which we tried with great success last year when visiting Bignor, Fishbourne, Lullingstone and St. Albans in just two days.
An easier way to arrange these, particularly if you are the only Classicist, is to combine with another school. Each school provides one course or part of a course and/or one piece of entertainment, e.g. a short play in English or Latin, a musical item, Latin songs, etc. The pupils prepare the food, after you have given them the recipe. They are usually very adept at making their own Roman costume. One of my pupils came as a retiarius, wearing only the most diminutive black swimming trunks and carrying a trident on a particularly cold day in March! Local press and radio are often very happy to give a good coverage to such an event.
The following, called Cricket, is a favourite of mine because it is extraordinarily popular with children, needs no equipment or preparation, can be played by any number of pupils of any age-
Divide class into two teams. One team takes it in turns to 'bowl' a question to the first member of the 'batting' team. A correct answer gains one run. .Question continue to be 'bowled' to the same pupil until he/she answers incorrectly or fails to answer. The question then passes to a second pupil, and the procedure continues, until the whole team is out. The teams then change roles. Any number of innings can be played, the score being announced at intervals. The only proviso is that the 'bowler' must know the answer to his/her devised question. To keep the momentum going, if more than ten seconds elapse without a question being 'bowled', an extra run is gained. Questions can be on vocabulary, morphology, syntax, background, character, set books and so on. Just before exams, if limited to specific topics in turn, the game acts as a good x-
One of the secrets of successful selling at my school has been a spontaneous resistance movement on the part of the pupils who keep the flag of ancient versus modern languages flying for the former, shower me with newspaper cuttings in support of Classics and canvass the countryside for Latin candidates.
Once this sort of attitude comes into being, it seems to be self-
Finally, I should like to express my thanks and appreciation for their unstinting support to Duncan and Heil -
Codsall High School
1 Recipe available on receipt of SAE.
2 'Today', May 23, 1990.
3 Leaflet available on receipt of SAE.
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