Reviews for ‘Starting to Teach Latin’

Review by Sharon Kazmierski, in The Clearing House, The Classical Outlook, Journal of the American Classical League, Volume 91, Number 1, (2016).

Starting to Teach Latin is an important new pedagogical handbook of particular interest to new and prospective teachers of Latin and the Classics, but it also deserves attention as a helpful update and reference guide for experienced professionals. It is written by Steven Hunt, who currently serves as the Subject Lecturer for the Postgraduate Certificate in Education in the disciplines of Latin and Classics at Cambridge University (UK), while holding the 2015-16 presidency of the Association for Latin Teaching (ARLT) and the editorship of the Journal of Classics Teaching, published by the Classical Association (CA). Mr. Hunt received his own PGCE teaching qualification in the mid-1980s and does all of the above, and much more, while also continuing to actively teach Latin at a state secondary school in Cambridgeshire, England. Starting to Teach Latin therefore comes from a decidedly English perspective, but the practical advice and resources provided by this highly experienced mentor / teacher are certain to prove of considerable value on both sides of the Atlantic.Starting to Teach Latin Cover

The book is divided into main three sections. In the first, Hunt sets the study and teaching of Latin into historical context by providing an account of methodological practices over the last half-century and describing current issues and challenges that face education today. He relates how British and American Latin and Classics departments emerged from a period of declining enrolments in the 1970s, dealt in the following years with the resurgence of interest in the language combined with a critical shortage of qualified teachers, and have struggled in the years since with the often conflicting and contradictory demands made by politicians and educational reformers. Hunt explores how educators at the secondary and university levels can work together to redefine a traditionally elitist subject with a narrow purpose into a ‘cross-curricular, interdisciplinary subject ‘ (25) that uniquely enriches learning outcomes for modern students, specifically pointing to the 1997 Standards for Classical Language Learning, which resulted from collaboration among the American Classical League, the American Philological Association and the various regional Classical Associations in the United States. He closes this first section with a discussion of the three main teaching approaches employed by Latin curricular programs in the United Kingdom and United States – Grammar-Translation, Reading, and Communicative – and a reminder to teachers in training that their classrooms will include diverse educational needs.

In the second section of the book, ‘Teaching Language, Civilization and Literature’, Hunt is concerned with applied teaching methodology, choosing to focus primarily upon practices that support the Reading Approach and, in particular, the Cambridge Latin Course, which is hands down the most widely used textbook in the United Kingdom. That said, most of the techniques described within this book can easily be used within any Latin curriculum in which there is a continuous, connected, contextualized storyline that embeds language, culture and vocabulary. With a target audience of pre-service and beginning teachers, Hunt offers comprehensive advice on course organization and time allocation, writing learning objectives, planning lessons, appropriate use of formative and summative assessment, written translation, differentiation, cognitive styles, scaffolding, reading comprehension, dialogic teaching, content issues, learning process, educational technology, vocabulary acquisition, the teaching of literature, and testing. Case study transcripts from actual teaching observations provide an opportunity for teachers to visualize effective (and sometimes not-so-effective) classroom implementation of the techniques laid out in the book.

The final section of Starting to Teach Latin is an overview of essential resources for teachers, beginning with a survey of the most popular Latin curriculum series currently available in the United Kingdom (Most have been adopted in the United States as well). Each textbook is identified by teaching approach and accompanied by details describing additional print and digital support materials and training opportunities. Next follows a selection of subject-specific methodological handbooks and guides, important Classical journals and magazines, national and local teaching organizations for Latin teachers and academics, conversational workshops, assessment boards, achievement tests, and competitive examination series. Contact information and links are provided where available for all resources. Hunt concludes with some brief but specific information for those interested in pursuing Qualified Teacher Status (in the UK) or state certification in the US.

Ultimately, the overall aim of Starting to Teach Latin, is to advance for ‘a coherent narrative’ for the language and to ‘get it into schools’ (169). With this book, Steven Hunt has created an essential toolkit for prospective, new, and experienced teachers of Latin.

Review by James Morwood, for Classics for All

This is a valuable, indeed invaluable book. Replete with the assured wisdom of a creative, insightful and reflective teacher, it is to be treasured not only by those who are starting out on the journey but by everyone at every stage of a teaching career. H.’s illustrations of what works in the classroom and what emphatically doesn’t are highly illuminating. They are usually based on real-life lessons that he has observed, and those who gave the lessons which didn’t work (Case Study 2 is particularly and hilariously blunder-prone) should feel no shame: we have all been there; and H.’s important book will enable all of us to do better. In addition, as a regular visitor to the American Classical League’s annual meetings, H. is splendidly placed to ensure that his counsel will be well worth heeding on the other side of the pond.

The strategies he advocates will result in enjoyable, stimulating and at the same time demanding lessons. He is thoughtful and constructive about ways in which vocabulary and full grammatical understanding (see especially Case Study 1 for the latter) can be mastered, and insistent that this should happen. (Quite why he should be worried about the grammar identification questions in the new GGSE I can’t imagine. Such an activity seems to chime in with his recommended methodology and is very much in line with the Teacher’s Guides to the Cambridge Latin Course.) While he demands high standards, his book is informed throughout by common sense and an awareness of what is realistic. I envy his PGCE students, but we can rejoice that this book will spread his illumination of good practice far beyond the confines of Cambridge.

In only one area does he abandon his tone of amiable advocacy. He is clearly enraged by OCR’s decision—the result of pressure from the book’s villain, one Michael Gove—that 5% of the marks at Latin GCSE should be awarded on four very easy English into Latin sentences, which are in any case optional. At the risk being branded one of those whom he considers crass right-wingers, I do not see any harm in making this option available: we are talking about elementary translation of simple English into Latin (no-one is asking for Gladstone to be rendered into Ciceronian Latin, for heaven’s sake! The most challenging sentence in the specimen paper is the admittedly clunky ‘We greeted the son of the man’); on the contrary it should be a reassuring exercise for pupils, helping them to see whether they have fully mastered a concept. I also think that it would be very straightforward to include such sentences in a non-time-consuming way from the earliest stages. (The Balme/Morwood Oxford Latin Course includes them right from the start.) I feel that H. is being alarmist when he finds it likely that ‘the latest round of examination reform … may close off many of the routes that have recently opened up’. Be that as it may, I also feel that it’s regrettable that Peter Jones, the man who has over the years done as much as anyone for ‘the cause’ should be accused of using his privileged position (meaning what exactly?) ‘to carry the debate away from where it matters’.

That said, I am fully in favour of H.’s earnest wish that teachers of classics should have a meaningful say in the future of their subject. H. is not altogether correct to assert that there was no consultation with teachers about the introduction of the National Curriculum: in fact Pat Easterling, John Murrell and Martin Thorpe (the latter two Executive Secretary and President of JACT respectively) visited Kenneth Baker at York House. Baker ended by saying how happy he was to reassure them—which he had most decidedly not done! But H. is certainly right to feel that at present the voice of the practising professionals is not being heard or listened to nearly enough. It is splendid, however, that he feels able to end his generally excellent book on a note of quiet optimism.

James Morwood—Wadham College, Oxford

Review in Euroclassica by Franck COLOTTE (Trésorier d’EUROCLASSICA
Président de l’Association Luxembourgeoise des Professeurs de Latin et de Grec)

Starting to teach Latin de Steven Hunt, « University Lecturer in Classics Education » à l’Université de Cambridge, est un manuel destiné aux enseignants, qui fournit à la fois des conseils pratiques, la mise à jour ainsi qu’un aperçu théorique sur un certain nombre de sujets clés dans l’enseignement latin. En s’appuyant sur une multitude d’interviews, d’observations et de transcriptions d’élèves, Steven Hunt utilise comme preuves l’étude de cas pratiques dans l’enseignement et l’apprentissage à partir d’une grande variété d’institutions : des programmes de sensibilisation, les écoles communautaires et les écoles au Royaume-Uni, des écoles à charte à New-York, les écoles élémentaires aux États-Unis, etc.

Cet ouvrage donne par ailleurs des conseils pratiques sur des sujets variés tels que l’écriture d’essais, l’enseignement des sujets controversés, y compris les femmes, l’esclavage, l’ethnicité et la hiérarchie sociale, ce qui rend pertinente l’utilisation de sources primaires ainsi que l’utilisation des TIC pour faire progresser les compétences linguistiques. Ce manuel participe également à l’élaboration de questions plus larges relatives à l’approche et à la théorie de l’enseignement du latin. Celles-ci comprennent une enquête sur les trois principales approches de l’enseignement latin : grammaire-traduction, communication et approches de lecture ; explication des approches cognitives et sociales liées à l’apprentissage ; analyse des différences entre la motivation intrinsèque et extrinsèque. En outre, les arguments traditionnels portant sur la valeur et le but de l’apprentissage latin au niveau de l’école sont réexaminés à la lumière de la pensée éducative actuelle et l’élaboration des politiques gouvernementales.

Ce livre est par conséquent remarquable dans sa conception, notamment pour les stagiaires, les enseignants nouvellement qualifiés, ainsi que les praticiens les plus expérimentés à la recherche d’idées pratiques et de stratégies pour motiver et mobiliser les apprenants de latin. Par ailleurs, une riche bibliographie complète avantageusement le volume (p. 175-189), à l’attention notamment de ceux qui souhaiteraient approfondir la base théorique de l’un ou l’autre aspect des différents dispositifs didactiques évoqués dans l’ouvrage. Enfin, un site d’accompagnement (, encore en construction, contiendra une gamme de ressources et d’informations pour les enseignants, ce qui constitue un avantage supplémentaire non négligeable à l’heure de l’internet et du multimédia.

En définitive, l’on comprend mieux dans quelle mesure Steve Hunt manifeste un intérêt particulier pour l’enseignement de la langue latine et pour les moyens par lesquels les élèves peuvent développer leur compréhension du monde romain par l’exposition aux realia d’origine. Cet universitaire est également intéressé par la conception et l’utilisation de matériaux destinés à l’enseignement et à l’apprentissage des cours de civilisation classique. Il considère qu’il est essentiel en tant que stagiaire de lettres classiques de rester en contact avec la mise en place de pratiques innovantes, et dans l’ensemble du Royaume-Uni.