Improving our Key Stage 3 Latin curriculum (CLC 2 and Roman Britain)

I have never considered the strangeness of teaching a completely different subject at A-level than at KS3/ GCSE. Many Classics teachers will teach a mixture of Latin/ Greek and Class Civ/ Ancient History and like me, will enjoy doing so. It has only occurred to me this week quite how strange this is in the teaching world, the very different models of teaching required for different subjects, and the necessity for a Classics teacher to develop two different models of teaching different types of content (of course there is crossover, with History and Literature in Latin lessons too).

Having spent the last two years focused on the changes at A-level and GCSE, this year I have the space to reconsider my teaching of Latin at Key Stage Three. This week in a whole-school Twilight training evening, I worked with a fellow Lead Practitioner, Jake, a super inspiring Biology teacher, on Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, and how subject areas can consider them in the context of their subject and develop a subject-based vision of effective teaching. Jake shared the following model, which he uses as the basis for his lessons:

slide 1

I have been thinking about how this applied to Latin and Classics, and, apart from definitely inspiring me to sharpen and vary my checkpoints, this does not feel too different to my GCSE and A-level lessons, albeit not as something I have though too explicitly about. GCSE Latin has a great deal of grammar, each aspect with its own nuances, rules, and exceptions to its own rules.

But when I think of Key Stage Three Latin, I struggle to see it in the same way. When comparing KS3 and KS4 Latin (at least how we teach it at our school), the differences that spring to mind are:

time: KS3 students have two 50 minute lessons per fortnight, KS4 students have 3x 100 minute lessons per fortnight.

course: The Cambridge Latin Course is a reading course, with lots of stories for practising new grammar. On average it takes about a half-term to study one Stage (more is possible but I find this is the optimum for not overloading students and giving time to comprehend and read the stories in a meaningful fashion and explore the civ), which means acquiring about two new grammatical structures per half-term. The GCSE Latin course is also reading based, but with much more grammar to learn in between.

In Key Stage Three Latin then, it is not so much about content being learned every lesson, but about revisiting past (grammar and civ) content, reading Latin, and investigating the content of the stories in the context of the Roman World. It has got me thinking that a model for Key Stage 3 learning would help ease the cognitive load of KS3 planning, and provide more clarity for students on the different aspects of the CLC course and what they are expected to know, in preparation for them sitting the CLC Book 2 (Stage 16) certificate in April/ May.

There is a lot of work to do here, and my first priority has been to create knowledge organisers for the Class Civ aspect of the course, both to improve my own knowledge of Roman Britain (which I have never studied formally, and has always seemed faintly depressing: see picture below from Stage 13. The people remind me too much of myself without recourse to hair products or make-up, which makes sense).  Presentation2I am now however a Roman Britain convert, and realise that my distaste came from my insecurity in teaching a topic I knew little about. The knowledge organisers (below is the first one, for Stage 13) will be for the students to revise the key facts of the topic, but were far more helpful for me for considering what the ‘core’ (essential) knowledge was, and the ‘hinterland’ which Christine Counsell describes as “The little examples, the stories, the illustrations, the richness, the dwelling on this but not that, you know, and the times when you as a teacher go off-piste with your passion”. We are creating a clear core, and I am building my hinterland for Roman Britain. With this new-found confidence in my subject knowledge, I look forward to planning a lesson for Year 9 this week on how Romanisation affected British Iron Age society: something I have taught many times before, this time it will be with a clearer focus on exactly what I want students to learn (including related key vocabulary), which will give me more confidence in checking their understanding, correcting misconceptions, and ensuring that they learn.


The Literature and Culture paper: Latin GCSE (Part One)

Judging from conversations on the Classics Library, I am not the only Latin teacher to be questioning my understanding (and less charitably, OCR’s clarity) of the Literature and Culture paper for Latin GCSE. I have taught this paper for five years, and last month was the first examination of it in its new form for the new specification. My last post explored what a Key Stage Three Latin curriculum should look like, and in order to articulate what the cultural aspect of this should look like at KS3, I will start with my efforts to articulate this first at Key Stage Four, in the context of the new Latin GCSE.

The aim of the Literature and Culture module, according to OCR, (page 14) is to “develop learners’ knowledge and understanding of Roman civilisation and culture through the study of ancient literature and other ancient source material.”

For guidance on what to teach: “Learners should study the prescribed ancient source material in the ‘Prescribed Sources Booklet’ for both of the topic areas set in any given year. Learners should also study additional ancient sources covering similar content to help illustrate the topics they are studying and provide opportunities for comparison.”

The following table is then provided: I am not sure what the difference is between what learners should be able to and will be required to do, but overall it is a useful list.  gcse-table.png

Anyone who taught the module in its previous form will know that the quantity of topics and sources has both been greatly reduced, and that there are fewer literary and more material sources. This year is the second time I have taught the module (our school starts the new academic year after the May half-term, so I have started with my new GCSE class), and, having evolved my teaching of the module as I taught it the first time, I am keen to articulate how I teach this before I start, and share this with students, so that they experience the same level of clarity in the teaching of Literature and Culture as they do with their Language modules. This is a work in progress, and I hope that by sharing my practice, others might be encouraged to comment and share what they do, and I hope that it helps anyone new to the course in understanding what it looks like to bring structure and clarity to this module. I have divided the post into two parts: this one is on what knowledge students should learn about the topic and how they can do it, and how to study the prescribed sources. The second post will be on non-prescribed sources, comparing sources, contrasting ancient and modern sources, and selecting, analysing and evaluating evidence in response to a question, through written response.

Each sub-topic is taught in the following order, covering each point:

  • Knowledge on the topic and activities to check understanding
  • Prescribed sources: context; what they tell us about Roman culture, social practices and values; their usefulness.
  • Further sources (literary/ material and inscriptional): same as prescribed sources.
  • Comparison of sources on the same topic.
  • Comparison of sources, ideas, values and social practices from the ancient and modern worlds.
  • Selecting and analysing sources to make an evidence-based response to the material studied.


As an example, I will start with the Roman Gods sub-topic of the Myths and Beliefs topic, and show what this looks like in theory. OCR’s description of the sub-topic is “Roman Gods Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Venus, Neptune, Minerva, Apollo, Diana, Vulcan, Vesta, Pluto, Mercury and their roles.” Prescribed sources are:

spec sources

  • Knowledge on the topic and activities to check understanding

I start this with two resources which I find invaluable for this course: Renshaw’s ‘In Search of the Romans’; and Cambridge Latin Course Books 1-5. I collate a booklet of information on the given topic, read all the information, creating questions and activities for students to complete (with sub-titles or page references), and then create a Knowledge Organiser on what students should know about this topic (read here for an excellent summary on why Knowledge Organisers are so useful for learning that sticks), with an accompanying Quizlet (the software we also use for vocabulary learning). The reading and answering questions would be set as a homework the lesson before we start the topic, and the Knowledge Organiser and Quizlet would be introduced after the first lesson as a homework to learn the information by heart.

There would then be an activity in class to check the understanding of the reading, and to discuss any questions and address any misconceptions. This might consist of: each student writing a question on a post-it and sticking it on the board. Whilst the subsequent activities are happening, I would read these and order them into groups, addressing them at different moments throughout the lesson, starting with any simple fact-based questions, which I would ask other students to help with, moving on to questions which we might hypothesise the answer to, and, for any which I am not able to answer, making a point of this and taking it away to research for the next lesson to provide an answer. The next activity took the form of a quiz, “Guess the God”, where statues and images of gods (from the Classical period where possible) were shown, and students worked in pairs to work out who it was, explaining how they could tell. For this image of Jupiter, questions might include, after students have worked out who it was:Jupiter

  • How did you know?
  • If you took away the lightning bolt, could you still tell? How?

Students were then given scenarios (e.g. a woman trying to conceive) and had to choose who they should pray to and why. These activities help students to apply their knowledge from their reading. At some point during the activities, students would have been asked to close their books and try to answer without recourse to their books: if this turned out to be too difficult at this stage, books could be opened after ten seconds of thinking time.


  • Prescribed sources: context; what they tell us about Roman culture, social practices and values; their usefulness.

I will then take the example of Livy’s ab urbe condita for how to approach a prescribed source. First I would seek a fuller version of the source online  In this case students were given the context of the source type (history); the context (Punic Wars, Hannibal, Rome close to defeat). We then read all of an annotated version of 22.10 (annotated with definitions of e.g. Quirites, Pontifex Maximus) , highlighting the sections where the gods are mentioned, and drew each aspect of what Livy describes as Rome’s ‘Sacred Spring’. We then discussed what the parts referencing the gods tell us about the Roman view of the gods (reciprocal relationship; anthropomorphic; capable of changing outcome of war; directly related to politics). Looking at the fuller source also introduced me to the concept of the lectisternium which gave me (and therefore the students) a greater understanding of this ceremony and its wider context. Lastly, we would discuss Livy’s usefulness, considering his aims; when he was writing; the type of source; and any other pertinent information. Some sources I can draw upon my own knowledge, sometimes it is more likely to be researched from Wikipedia and Livius.

Part Two will consider the second part of teaching a sub-topic:

  • Further sources (literary/ material and inscriptions).
  • Comparison of sources on the same topic.
  • Comparison of sources, ideas, values and social practices from the ancient and modern worlds.
  • Selecting sources to make an evidence-based response to the material studied.



The Key Stage Three Latin curriculum

Curriculum is an area I have thinking lots about lately, both for Latin and as part of my whole-school responsibilities. It has involved the necessity of articulating what is meant by curriculum, and how to plan one. As Ben Newmark points out in his excellent blog on writing a History curriculum, “gradual evolution of curriculum and schemes of work seems sensible but can very easily lead to curricular confusion and incoherence.” Going back to the start with the Key Stage Three Latin curriculum has been an instructive experience, and here I share some aspects of that journey.

Of course I’ll start with the Latin: the word curriculum derives from the Latin verb currere: to run, and the word curriculum in Latin has the following definitions:

  1. act of running
  2. chariot
  3. course of action/heavenly bodietracks
  4. lap, track
  5. race

This gives us the sense of what our English word curriculum means: a lap/ track giving the sense of a course of studies for students to complete; and the act of running giving the sense of the students making their way through this course. The curriculum is a planned course of studies, which students make their way round (running not being the best analogy- perhaps at a power walk!).

Happily, Ofsted have given renewed attention to the importance of curriculum, with Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, stating that “…despite the fact that the curriculum is what is taught, there is little debate or reflection about it…”. The conflicting definitions and theories of curriculum out there can be overwhelming, and I welcome Ofsted’s concept of a shared language which neither patronises teachers nor complicates a topic which is tricky to navigate. This table summarises the shared Ofsted definition of curriculum:

Intended Implementation Impact
Required knowledge, skills and understanding specified for a unit of study. What students experience as delivered by their teachers. Knowledge and skills and understanding encountered in assessments.

Using this to guide a review of our Key Stage 3 Latin course has been instructive for thinking about what we are teaching, and what we are assessing. Firstly we went back to articulate the aims of our course. We wanted these to be rooted in compelling reasons for why we think that learning Latin and about the ancient Roman world is important: the cultural and linguistic foundation; the analytical skills it helps to develop; the chance to reflect upon our own cultures:

  • We learn to understand Latin in order to gain an insight into the Classical period: a dramatic cultural and intellectual revolution, which continues to inform our modern world. An understanding of the ancient Mediterranean world provides the foundation for linguistic and cultural competence.
  • The study of Latin is uniquely multi-disciplinary: language is combined with history, archaeology, literature, art and philosophy.
  • Antiquity provides a safe space through which we might address some of the most challenging issues of the 21st century, and reflect on what it means to be human.

Considering these aims and reflecting upon our ‘intended’ curriculum (the what we want students to learn), we were teaching about English links to Latin, and we were teaching about Roman culture, but neither of these things were being assessed- assessment was on Latin language only. It is worth adding here that our students study the Literature and Culture OCR GCSE paper, so when considering what a five-year Key Stage Three to Four course should look like, a large part of that should be developing the analysis skills to interpret and evaluate ancient sources.

So, our curriculum was not well-aligned, and students were getting mixed messages about what was important and what we were meant to be learning. Our curriculum was focused on the language, some form of Roman culture (which was not assessed), and derivations were mentioned, but unlike with the language, there was no sense of progression and of skills with either. This was especially worrying because, along with the analytical skills it develops this sense of a linguistic and cultural foundation is something we really push with students and parents as a reason for studying Latin, for those asking the question ‘what’s the point?’ Over the next two weekends I will write two posts:

  • on how we are developing our teaching of both ancient Roman culture;
  • and how Latin helps us to decode derivative words and deepen our understanding of English language.

Each will articulate what students will learn; the skills they will develop and how these progress across the curriculum, what this looks like in the classroom and how it will be assessed. Until then, valete!






Woke* Grumio

*Woke is a political term of African American origin that refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. Its widespread use since 2014 is a result of the Black Lives Matter movement.

After joining Twitter earlier this year, I have enjoyed reading the blogs and felt the benefits of the writings of so many teachers, heads, and people working in education, so much so that it easily ranks as the best CPD I have experienced (emphasis on the continuing, I need more self-control with Twitter…).

A blog seemed like a brilliant way to order one’s thoughts on the what and how of teaching, both at subject level and pedagogy generally. It also seemed like a luxury (time) and rather arrogant (nobody wants to read it!). So what has changed? The realisation, gleaned from my Twitter elders, more experienced and better informed than me, that the clearer the bigger picture (long term plan and aims of the curriculum) the less time you spend on the small stuff. The realisation that if nobody reads it then that is fine (I would punctuate here with ‘shout out to my mum’- but she wouldn’t indulge me by reading this.). Selfishly, I wanted someone else to write about teaching Classics and Latin in the UK, so I could be nosy about what was going on in other schools, read about it and comment. I haven’t found that person, so I will have to be her. And I am starting with the much-loved Latin textbook, Cambridge Latin Course.


If a child at secondary school learns Latin in Key Stage 3 at a U.K. secondary school, it is likely that they do so from this textbook. Others are available: The Oxford Latin Course; newer courses such as Imperium; Wheelock’s Reading Latin (old school); Ecce Romani (the Enid Blyton of the Latin textbook world). If your students are launching straight into GCSE you will probably start with John Taylor’s Latin to GCSE.

There are many reasons to love the CLC. The Cambridge Latin Course is the most highly resourced of the courses, with an e-learning resource, graded affiliated tests, worksheets, and a vocabulary very closely aligned to the GCSE specification. It has unintentionally hilarious videos of many of its stories on the e-learning resource. It covers a variety of geographical areas in Book I and II: Pompeii, Roman Britain and Roman Egypt. It shows perspectives of different people in Roman society: slaves (domestic and agricultural); provincials; the ‘business’ and political class; liberti, although it perhaps focuses too much on the extremes- we don’t see much of the average insulae-dwelling plebeian, or free native Briton/ Egyptian. It builds up the complexity of language in its stories in a way that I am only just beginning to appreciate in my five years of teaching it, and links the narrative and Roman social cultural aspects to the language in a considered and clear way, making the message clear that the language is a means of gaining access to the culture and literature, and not an end in itself. The collection of books represents a great deal of thought and work, and has been instrumental in the continuation of Latin in (state) schools.

Do you sense that this is where I present the issue with this course? Well, like a favourite elderly aunt, the CLC can at times come across as rather politically incorrect. I hear you, of course the ancient world is not PC! Slavery, imperialism, gladiators, the amphitheatre, the bottom half of Caecilius’ herm: learning about these challenging topics (not the herm,

Caecilius’ herm. A surprising addition down below, not included in the textbook

never the herm: (see picture right and this link : for more)  in the context of the ancient world, with the distance it provides to critically examine this society and use this to inform views of our own society, is one of the joys of teaching Latin. I am not talking about the political incorrectness of the ancient world per se, but the political incorrectness of the way certain topics are presented, and missed opportunities for useful discussion which may result from this. There are some aspects of the stories and cultural/ social material which always leave me disappointed in myself in how I have taught them. Expecting a rewrite of the textbook is not an option- I would be the first in line to complain that my school can’t afford to buy a new set! So some of my blog posts, including this one, will focus on how I can ensure that my teaching of the Cambridge Latin Course encourages my students to look critically at Roman society, and then, compare it with their own.


Let’s take the character Grumio. Grumio is the household cook and all-round joker. He is a slave, but this is not alluded to (Grumio est coquus). He sleeps in the culina, the canis steals his food, he gets attacked by a different canis, and he perves over all the ancillae and manages to slip out and visit an ancilla from a different villa when the familia are all in theatro. In the tradition of Roman Comedy, he is the slave who provides us with comic relief. What can we hypothesise of his life apart from this? There is nothing online that I can find on the name Grumio pre-Shakespeare (not past all the Plebs references and CLC fan pages anyway), so it is not immediately clear if he is meant to be a foreign-born or native slave. As a skilled and domestic slave, he certainly enjoys a better quality of life than agricultural slaves owned by the state, and can expect to live longer. He seems to get on well with the rest of the household. But it is undeniable that Grumio is a man who is the property of another man (Caecilius) and must do as he is told. Perhaps he grew up in Caecilius’ household, his parents may have been slaves too, of Caecilius’ or Metella’s parents. He has no family of which we are aware. Perhaps he was captured in war, possibly in Judea (66-73 AD). It is likely that he sleeps on the floor in the kitchen (It is unlikely that Pompeian houses had upper stories and there is no evidence of slave quarters). He might be optimistic about his future (Felix was a slave freed by Caecilius- but only because he saved Caecilius’ son Quintus’ life, in exceptional circumstances). Does he live in hope that he has the chance to save a citizen’s life, much like a migrant from a developing country living in Europe might do?  Or does he worry that when he is no longer useful, he will be given his freedom (much like I might give a knackered kettle its freedom from the kitchen by chucking it in the bin) because he is no longer worth the upkeep?

Typical meme from fans of the much-loved Grumio

So I have taken all of the fun out of the character Grumio: but what does this look like in the classroom? Well, when I teach Stage 1 of the course to Year 7 next year, instead of waiting until Stage 6 to ‘do’ slavery (each Stage has its own cultural/ social topic), I will make space for discussion on slavery at the start of the course: what it looked like in the ancient world; ancient theories of slavery; and discussion on how this compares with other periods of slavery (dependent on student knowledge e.g. of transatlantic slave-trade) and modern slavery. This will be in the form of some class discussion and some reading and questions to do at home. When discussing the characters throughout the year, reference can be made to this. That way, when we arrive at the apotheosis of CLC’s ambivalent attitude towards slavery (Stage 6, model sentence 11, servi erant laeti: the slaves were happy), we will have built up towards a meaningful discussion: can the servi be laeti? Perhaps they could be, but this time the students will not take this for granted. Instead of being encouraged to see slavery as a normalised institution, they will have learned about its legal and social context, and empathised with these characters, considered to what extent our attitudes towards slavery have changed (it isn’t socially acceptable but it is still there, and closer to home than we like to think ).