The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice


The founder of ARLT, W.H.D. Rouse, practised the Direct Method of language teaching. With R.B. Appleton he published "Latin on the Direct Method" (University of London Press 1925), in which he gave an overall view of what they accomplished in the Perse School, Cambridge by this method.

On this page is part of Appendix A to this book, in which the first steps in using the Direct Method are explained.


The general character of the first lessons, and the rate of progress, both depend on how the boys have been prepared. When the whole plan of the school work has been organised on the Direct Method, they will come to their Latin after two years of French, in which they will have learnt what that method is; and in particular, they will be accustomed to the "Series," which play so great a part in the method. In that case, a few minutes' talk in English will be enough to warn them what to expect. It is well to begin with a lesson, in English, in which a sketch shall be given of the Romans and their language, with reasons why we should learn Latin, and anything else that may seem useful. Then we may say : " Latin differs from English, In that what we express by putting words before a verb or noun the Romans express by changing the ending: so you must look at the tail." To impress this lesson, we draw on the board (say) a fox with a huge tail, and without any further remark, write aspice caudam. If anyone asks any question about these words, or their form, we may explain; if not, leave it so. We then add

 "The Series that you will practise tomorrow will describe what we shall do; you must use your wits to find out how — just look at the tail."  Perhaps it may be well to go through the seven motions of the First Series, describing them in English.

When the boys have not been prepared by the study of French, the whole idea will be new. In that case, longer preparation in English will be necessary, and a whole lesson may be given to going through the Series in English, and generally rehearsing what they will afterwards do in Latin. They will need, even then, interludes of English questioning and explanation, to make sure that they understand. No model can be given for this, when so much depends on the boys' natural powers and earlier training. For our purpose, the less English the better; and the master must decide for himself.

In what follows, the two years' French is assumed, and only the successive steps will be indicated, without a suggestion as to the time necessary, or how far English explanations should be used. A group containing clever boys, at least in a majority, will probably catch the meaning of new words and new actions at once; others may need several repetitions or even an English explanation. Anything in English should always be introduced by Anglice or ut nos dicimus, to keep up the illusion of a Latin world.

Magister (entering). Salvete. (No answer ; or not improbably, someone repeats)

Boy. Salvete.

M. Non : tu dic Salve (pointing to him), Salve. — Salvete.

B. Salve.

M. (offering chalk). Scribe, salve, salvete. (Points to board. Boy writes.) (So at the end of the lesson, Valete, vale.)

M. (calling in a colleague, or elder boy, who is in waiting: they seat themselves side by side; then they rise). Surgimus. (They sit down.) Considimus. (Beckoning to the boys, and clapping his hands at each word of the Series.) Universi! Surgimus, Considimus. (They repeat words and acts several times; then the master beckons to another boy) Scribe—Surgimus(he writes), Considimus(he writes).

M. and Colleague. Surgimus — eximus — inimus — considimus. (They move away from the chair, and back as they say the new words: always word and act go together. Class drill.)

M. and C. Surgimus—eximus—ambulamus(they walk a few steps)—

revenimus — inimus — considimus — sedemus. (The words are written as before, first one by one, then the whole series of seven.)

M. Nunc " aspicite caudam " (points). Quae est cauda ? (After a while, or at once, someone will answer) —

B. -mus.

M. Quid valet -mus Anglice ? (He may have to ask this in English, but the answer must be got somehow.)

B. We.

The reason for beginning with the plural is, that the whole class may be able to act and speak at the beginning, and by speaking all together may get confidence. But with a clever set it is quite possible to begin with the singular, calling on one boy after another to take his part, and then calling up anyone to act as helper for the plural.

When the plural is done, if we begin with the plural as above, the helper may be dismissed, and the singular may follow. With less responsive pupils, the plural, or even a part of the plural series, will be enough for the first lesson ; in which case, the naming of boys, and the drill with nouns which will follow, should begin now. In deciding these matters, the master must be guided by circumstances. He should always put as much life as possible into his acting, and enter into the fun of the game.

M. (rising). Surgo. (Beckons to a boy, who rises.)

B. Surgo. (This is repeated with several; then by similar steps the whole series is done—) Surgo, exeo, ambulo, revenio, ineo, consido, sedeo. (Drill)

M. Quae est cauda ?

B. o.

M. Quid valet o Anglice ?

B. I.

M. Nunc audite me (makes signs for attention, touching his ears, and so forth: beckoning). Surge tu ! (The boy rises, understanding the gesture at least).

B. Surgo.

M. (pointing to him). Surgis! Conside (gesture).

B. Consido.

M. (pointing). Considis! (Repeats with several, and carries on throughout with the other verbs, finally asking —) Quaenam est haec cauda?

B. is (or es, or s, but by some way the result must be got that there are four forms, with s in common, and that this means —)

B. You.

M. Una persona (holding up one finger), tu, you vel thou (they will understand this readily from French).

The boys should now be directed to go through the actions one by one, while the rest all point to the actor and repeat surgis, exis, and so forth. The next step is to introduce the third person.

M. Surge tu.

B. Surgo.

The rest. Surgis!

M. (jerking his thumb at the boy, and looking at the others). Surgit!

B. Exeo.

The rest. Exis!

M. Exit! (and so on with the whole seven).

After deducing the third personal ending, the plural will be completed in the same way, and the whole series in full, and in order, will be written down in the notebooks to be learnt. Henceforth, the whole series will be repeated every day at the beginning of the lesson, different boys being chosen as the actors : one for surgo, two others for surgimus, the rest being the chorus. It is desirable as soon as possible to call up boys in turn and make them take the place of the master.

At some place in the first lesson, the boys must be named, and nouns must be introduced.

If the group be small, Primus, Secundus, Tertius, and so on may do for names; and with a mixed class of boys and girls, Prima and Secunda are a natural introduction to the endings that mark gender. But for a large class, and indeed for any set of boys who will stay with us in later years, distinctive names should be chosen. Some names have Latin forms, as Marcus, Philippus; some can be translated, as Fulvus (or Fulvius), Faber, Olor : for the others, we may choose any Roman names or use a school nickname, if it be inoffensive. The names given, which each must write in his book, some one is sure to notice the difference between Marcus and Marce, and to ask what it means ; if no one does, someone must be led to ask : and this may be linked with the imperative aspice or scribe, whereupon the whole series should be practised thus:

M. Surge.

B. Surgo.

The rest. Surgis, surgit.

M. (to two). Surgite.

The two. Surgimus.

The rest. Surgitis, surgunt.

M. Exi, etc.

To return to the nouns. The first lesson may simply name dominus or magister, and discipulus or puer, with a few articles such as libellus, stilus, creta, porta, fenestra, and very soon the pronouns hic and ille must come into use (haec has been used already, and someone may very likely have asked its meaning); the boys must be taught to answer thus :

M. Quid est hoc?

B. Stilus est ille.

Next comes the greatest difficulty of all so far, the difference between nominative and accusative. It will be a long time, years perhaps, before this is completely learnt, but it will be learnt in the end. A good way to introduce it is this.

M. (making a circle of thumb and finger, and peering at something). Video. (With or without the help of another, he must lead up to —)

B. Vides, videt (and so for the plural).

M. Video libellum (looking and touching one), portam, Marcum.

Henceforth, when a new noun is brought in, it is well to repeat this formula:

M. Haec est porta : video portam. Ille est ignis: video ignem.

The relation of subject and object will need to be fully explained in English at the end of the lesson (after Valete, vale), with the illustration of "I" and "me". "he" and "him".

Probably in the course of this lesson, ego and tu will have been naturally introduced; and when that is done, the boys' greeting should be enlarged to their proper forms — salve tu quoque and vale tu quoque. When the first Series has been learnt, it is enough to go through it with pronouns — Ego surgo, tu surgis, and so forth — that the other pronouns may be learnt.

New nouns are taught with the aid of the things themselves, or pictures drawn on the board. If the pictures are bad, never mind, so long as they can be recognised: so much the more fun. Before the first, week is out, a Rana may be drawn, then Aqua round about; canit or crocit and sonat may be explained by action : and the little frog-song may be learnt and sung. And a fable may be told, written out, and learnt; the next day a boy taking the master's place and telling the story, with the usual questions.

M. (draws tree). Haec est arbor : quid est hoc ?

B. (pointing). Arbor est illa.

M. Video arborem. Quid videtis?

All. Arborem videmus.

M. Hic est ramus (etc.). Hic est corvus (draws one), haec est volpes (draws one). Hicest caseus (shows a piece, then draws it in crow's beak). Edo caseum (eats some) : quid facio?

B. Edis caseum.

M. Dic "es caseum" ; non "edis, edit," sed "es, est."

B. Es caseum.

M. Quid edo?

B. Caseum es. (Devorare avoids the irregular edo.)

M. Hoc est rostrum (pointing to crow's beak ; so with eyes, tail, feet, if desired). Rostrum tenet caseum. Haec est volpes; sedet volpes: video volpem. Volpes dicit: O corve, bene canis, excellentissime canis: cane mini (draws these words, or some of them, in a loop issuing from the fox's mouth). Corvus rostrum aperit, cadit caseus (draws it falling) : corvus lacrimat (draws tears falling) : volpes ridet (turns up the fox's mouth into a smile).

It should be noted that in these questions the pupil is taught the meaning of order in the Latin sentence. Since this is constantly practised all through, and since order is the key to style, the instinct for style is gained quite unconsciously ; and this makes it possible later to understand a passage of Latin as the thoughts come, without picking it to pieces and puzzling out the various words in English order. It is our aim, please remember, to teach how to understand and to appreciate Latin as we find it. The same tale may be told later with other cases when they have been learnt: as sedet in ramo; cadit de rostro corvi. Prepositions, and their proper cases, may be introduced whenever it is convenient, by means of the Series.

M. Surgo de sella, exeo e sella, ambulo a sella, revenio ad sellam, ineo in sellam, consido in sellam, sedeo in sella.

Numbers, up to ten, come next, because then we can play at the ancient game of micare. Roman boys used to say : Bucca bucca quot sunt haec? flashing up one or more fingers quickly, and then closing the hand. This is a lively game, and each boy should take the turn of flasher. We may say Mico mico quot sunt haec if we prefer, in order to teach the word. A mild game of ball may also be played now and then, with the proper words : pilam iacto, remitto, demitto, repeto, excipio (excipe!), pila cadit. Another good scene is this, which is first taught by pictures, then acted.

M. Puer in lectulo dormit (draws him). Ancilla portam pultat is shown outside the door). Puer aperit oculos, oscitat, exit, vestimenta induit, per scalas descendit, atrium intrat, dicit Salve pater, salve mater, soror, frater, avuncule, patrue, amita, ave, proave, abave, atave, tritave (these may be pictures on the wall, or simply imagined to add to the fun): considit ad mensam, ovum est unum (picture), duo, tria (and so on, drawing each, and asking for its number).

These examples must suffice to show how a scene may be devised which shall at once amuse and teach the desired new words, whether verbs, nouns, or adjectives. Very little English is wanted, except for words like et, sed, and other adverbs or conjunctions which come later. Even these, as so much can be introduced early if occasion serve. Thus, if someone be present who has not been named: (This, like all my other examples, actually happened.)

M. Quid est tibi nomen? (No answer.) Ecce sine nomine. Quid valet anglice sine nomine?

B. Without a name.

Another. Has no name.

M. Contrarium : cum nomine. Quid valet anglice sine?

B. Without.

M. Cum ?

B. With.

These will then be used in the next lesson.

Let us return now to the Series. This formula has proved very useful : it serves with intelligent pupils to teach new tenses and new constructions, and with all, to practise them. Thus:

M. (sits still). Surgam: (rising) surgo! exibo: (moving out) exeo! (And the rest, followed by) Surgam.

B. Surges, surget, etc.

M. Surgo. Exibo.

B. Exibis, exibit, etc. . . .

So with the perfect.

M. Surgo (rises and stands still): surrexi!

B. Surrexisti, surrexit, etc.

M. Exeo : exivi! etc.

Or finally all three may be said together: Surgam (surges, etc.), surgo, surrexi (surrexisti, etc.). These once learnt, boys must take turns in the leading. So with the imperfect:

M. Surgo: sedebam.

B. Sedebas, sedebat.

M. Exeo : surgebam, etc.

The difference between perfect and imperfect must be explained in English.

I have now presented the first steps word for word, and act for act, and the material for the later stages ; after which any intelligent teacher can go on by himself. This is not set forth ;is the only way, or as the best way, but as one good way which has been tested. Another good way is described in the Teacher's Companion to Initium ; * and the best way for any given master is that which he will devise for himself to suit his own tastes and the capacity of his class. A list of the various forms of the Series follows ; they belong partly to the first year, partly to the second.


The seven words are: surgo, exeo, ambulo, revenio, ineo, consido, sedeo. Suit the action to the word. The catchword (in brackets at end) serves to call for each series as wanted.

I. A. Surgo. Chorus (to A, jointing) Surgis, (to Master, pointing over at A) Surgit.

B and C. Surgimus. Chorus (to B and C) Surgitis, (to Master) Surgunt.

So on through the series of verbs.


II. A (sitting still) Surgam. Chorus (as before) Surges, surget.

A (rising) Surgo. Exibo, etc.

Plural as before, and series of verbs.


III. A. Surgo: (rises: then standing still) surrexi. Chorus. Surrexisti, surrexit. Plural, and series of verbs.


IV. A. Surgo (rises) : sedebam. Chorus. Sedebas, sedebat.

Plural. So exeo : surgebam, ambulo : exibam, etc.


V. A. Surgo ut exeam. Chorus. Surgis ut exeas, surgit ut exeat. Plural, etc.

[surgo ut.

VI. A. Surgo : surgebam (or surrexi) ut exirem. Chorus. Surgebas ut exires, etc. Plural, etc.

[surgebam ut.

VII. A (sitting still). Surgam. B. Veto surgere. Chorus. Vetas surgere, vetat surgere.

C. At ego iubeo surgere. Chorus. Tu iubes surgere, ille iubet surgere.

A (rises). Surgo (standing still) Exibo. Chorus. Exibis, exibit.

B. Veto exire. Chorus. Vetas exire, vetat exire.

C. At ego iubeo exire. Chorus. Tu iubes exire, ille iubet exire. A. (goes out). Exeo: (then standing still) ambulabo, etc.

This may be practised with the plural also, but as the forms are known, and only the construction is new, it is simpler to use only the singular. The Chorus may be omitted also, and several boys put on for A, B, C, in turn.


VIII. The same with Impero ne surgas and impero ut surgas instead of veto and iubeo. The Chorus may say simply Imperas ne surgat etc., or Imperas tu ne surgat hic (pointing), and to Master Imperat ille ne surgat hic, or imperat hic ne surgat ille, according to the places of each.


IX. The past may be added thus : I give it without Chorus, which would make this too long.

A. Surgam. B. Impero ne surgas. C. At ego impero ut surgas. A. Surgo. B. Imperavi ne surgeres. C. At ego imperavi ut sur-geres. A. Exibo, etc.


X. Variations may be added, which anyone can make for himself. Thus : A. Surgam. B and C as before. A. Nil te moror : surgo.

XI. A. Surgam. B. Veto te surgere. A. Quamquam vetas, surgo. Exibo, etc.


XII. The same, with quamvis vetes.


XIII. A. Si mihi permittes, surgam. B. Permitto ut surgas. Chorus. Permittis tu ut surgat hic, permittet hic ut surgat ille, A. Surgo, etc.

[si permittes.

XIV. The same, with subj., Si permittas, surgam, etc.

[si permittas

XV. A. Si mihi permittes, surgam. B. Permitto ut surgas. A. Surgo. si non permisisses, non surrexissem. Si mihi permittes, exibo, etc.

[si non.

XVI. A. Surgam. B. Prohibeo ne surgas. A. Non potes prohibere quominus surgam: surgo. Exibo, etc.

[non potes.

The Ablative Absolute may be the subject of another series, as : A. Sellam relinquo. Chorus. Sellam relinquis, etc. A. Sella relicta, cretam prehendo (or sumo). Chorus, etc. A. Prehensa creta verbum in tabula scribo* Chorus, etc. A. Verbo in tabula scripto sellam repeto. Chorus, etc. A. Sella repetita consido. Chorus, etc.

Rouse on Teaching Latin by the Direct Method

Latin on the Direct Method - Rouse and Appleton 1925
The Direct Method applied to Latin
Linguaphone handbook for teachers - Rouse