Latin—The Use of Scott and Jones

Scott and Jones’ First Latin Course is an elementary Latin text that appeared in the PNEU Programmes during Mason’s lifetime. But before you rush to find a copy, you should know that it is not an easy book to implement; it assumes a teacher who is not only knowledgeable but conversant in Latin, which proved challenging even to graduates of Ms. Mason’s teaching college. There are notes in L’umile Pianta from 1908 that discuss various difficulties pertaining to timing of lessons, retention of vocabulary, and completion of exercises. As if in response, Miss Hilda Fountain, in April of the next year (1909), presented a paper at the Fourth Students’ Conference, offering a helpful overview of “Latin—The Use of Scott and Jones.”

Miss Fountain’s paper is interesting on several counts: first, it reveals there were persistent difficulties in adapting Latin instruction for the P.U. Schools. Second, it affirms that teachers were to use the text as intended by its writers—according to its method—and advises them to re-read the Preface and “study it carefully” whenever a difficulty arose. (You can read the Preface and view the book for yourself here.) Third, it describes a sample lesson, sharing step-by-step the practical details of applying the book’s method to the classroom.  

I will elucidate these helpful details for your consideration in a future post.   ~Angela

Latin—The Use of Scott and Jones

by Miss H. Fountain

 L’umile Pianta, April 1909: 22-29

In writing this paper I have tried to set forth the method which, so it seems to me, is intended by the writers of the book. And for this purpose I shall frequently refer to the Preface, which many of you have doubtless read. I advise everyone to re-read this Preface whenever a difficulty arises. It is worth while to study it carefully before beginning to use the book.

First of all it will be well to see what is the scope of this first Latin Course, and we find that it gives us:

  1. Nouns of the First, Second, and Third Declensions, Singular and Plural;
  2. Adjectives of both classes;
  3. Pronouns – Personal, Reflexive, and Interrogative;
  4. Verbs – Present Indicative of the four Conjugations Active and Passive, and Infinitive and Imperative Active only. Also the Present Imperfect and Future of the verb Sum.
  5. Prepositions – In, Ex, Ante, Ab, etc.

Preparatory Schools differ, I believe, in what they require from a boy of nine or ten when he enters the school, and though they may say the Declensions and the Four Conjugations Active Voice, I am sure they would be well satisfied if half only of this book had been carefully worked and thoroughly mastered by a new boy.

Then being quite clear in our own mind as to the scope of the book as a whole, we must next notice the scope of the pages set for the term’s work. Take the first ten pages for instance. We find there are four chapters. (1) The First gives the Nominative Singular of Masculine, Feminine and Neuter nouns from the First and Second Declensions with the adjectives of the first class; (2) the Second Chapter gives the Nominative Plural of the same nouns and adjectives; (3) the Third Chapter gives the Genitive Singular of the same nouns and adjectives; (4) the Fourth Chapter the Genitive Plural of the same. This does not seem much for a term’s work, and if some of us find difficulty in getting through it, it is because we cannot see the wood for the trees. If we consider the various sections as so many aids towards reaching that goal we shall be more likely to attain it.

Caput introduces the grammar lesson (in bold) and Lectio gives the passage for reading

In taking the first lesson I should begin with the Lectio, writing the four words via, scutum, insula, and gladius on the blackboard, and giving the meaning of each before putting the book into the pupil’s hand. Then when he knows the names of the things he is going to read about, let him begin. The teacher should read each sentence first, the pupil repeating and translating with assistance. I would always encourage a pupil to find out the meaning himself, giving him help by suggesting French or English words derived from the Latin. Having been through the first Lectio in this way, I should let the child read it in Latin, and translate, seeing how much he could do without help. Then comes the Proverbium which the teacher is urged in the Preface to make a part of each lesson, the object being to add to the pupil’s vocabulary, and to ensure an approximately correct pronunciation. And another advantage of the proverbs is that they impress (unconsciously perhaps) the grammatical point of each lesson. When you notice that the first few proverbs give examples of the agreement of the adjective with its noun, that the next are chosen to illustrate the Genitive Case, followed by others containing examples of the Accusative Case, you will see the use of committing them to memory.

Proverb (for memorization)

A Colloquium generally follows each Lectio, and prepares the way for Viva Voce. It can be read and translated by teacher and pupil, or by two pupils, and had better be done twice, so that each pupil does the whole.

Talking points (Q&A) for discussion of the passage

Perhaps you have heard it said that there are no Declensions in Scott and Jones, or there is no Grammar. But wait. We are coming to the Viva Voce now, which may be the most important part, for it is sure to give rise to a need for some grammatical explanation. We may find that this goes very well at first, the pupil giving answers in which the adjective agrees with the noun in a perfectly satisfactory and surprising way, but a sudden mistake makes us aware that the pupil’s fluency was parrot-like, being quite unintentional. There is no foundation as yet. And now comes the opportunity to explain the why and the wherefore. This is what we read in the Preface:

The grammar, while advancing pari passu with the reading, should be absolutely systematic; that the grammar should be learnt by living practice, not by rote, and that every effort should be made to discourage the learning of grammatical forms divorced from their proper context.

Here we recognize one of the principles of the Gouin method.

Oral exercises

We must use the names of genders, cases and tenses even if the children have not learned any English Grammar.

The Examination Questions give us a clue as to the use of this part of the teaching. The children should be encouraged to make up sentences on a given subject, e.g., quite lately they have been asked to write a conversation between a general and a soldier, and sentences about Crassus.

If the Viva Voce takes the form of a conversation, the teacher must insist on the answers to questions being in the form of a complete sentence.

The Viva Voce is very fully suggested in the early chapters, and if we, or rather the pupils, find it tedious, we have the writer’s permission to use our own discretion.

In using this book with small boys or girls in Class II., it is not advisable that the English-Latin exercises should be written; but with beginners in Class III. I think it is well to do as there is time enough for it. They should be written straight off without reference to the vocabulary. Unless the children show a wish to learn the vocabulary, I should tell them the English of the new words in the Latin-English exercises, and afterwards test their knowledge of them by writing them on the blackboard, and having them learnt before the exercise is written. When the children do not write the exercise it should be done orally.

Those of us who have taught Latin from the ordinary Grammars must appreciate the freshness and interest of this book. A little girl of eleven who had been learning Latin about two months, when walking in Chester, and looking at the walls exclaimed: “Quam multae portae sunt, portae sunt quinque.[“How many gates there are—there are five gates.”] That she should express herself in Latin when seeing the old Roman city with its relics of the past showed the reality of the speech and its appropriateness in her mind, and I was as pleased at that as I should have been if she had begun to talk French on landing at Calais.

Discussion on the Preceding Paper

This paper gave rise to very little discussion. Miss Whittall asked at what age it was thought advisable to begin teaching Latin to boys, and the general opinion seemed to be that eight was not usually too young.

Miss Loveday asked what pronunciation should be used, and whether it was not better to let boys write the “English into Latin“ exercises and occasionally a declension, when they had really mastered the use of the cases. She had found it useful to let the boys write the different case endings in various coloured chalks. Miss Fountain said it was always well, if possible, to find out beforehand the method and pronunciation used at the particular school to which a boy is going, also the standard to which he expected to have attained. For girls she advocated the use of Italian pronunciation. There seem to be several “modern” modes of pronunciation, but Miss Goode said that the “Italian” was recognized by the Board of Education, and Miss Wix stated that she believed it was also in use at the London University.



  • Rachel Whiteley

    I had recently read this article myself in the archives when I stumbled across your blog. Google brought me to you thanks to my search for that lovely little book in your post image. 😉 I’m glad to know someone else is digging deeper as well to see how Mason taught Latin. Your blog posts on Latin have been great to read. My training is in Spanish and French but I know little of Latin even though it’s the root of those languages. I’m eager to learn along with my son this year and I want to do it well.

    • Angela

      Hi Rachel! I am so glad to hear that Google brought you to my site! Oh, the mystery of algorithm ! I hope to compile some of my more recent work here soon, bc there are great resources out there that can support parents in a living approach to Latin. I would say that your background in modern language will be a tremendous asset to you in this, because Miss Mason approached Latin with an emphasis on oral/aural methods that are just beginning to come back into vogue again. It’s an exciting trend! In the meantime, have you found @thecmlatinproject on IG? I have a lot of my narrated research there, and it might be interesting to you as you begin to plan for your year. And we could chat more Thank you so much for your considerate feedback—I appreciate knowing who my readers are!

  • Alma

    Hello, I’m not on IG or social media. Could you add some of your research here on the teaching of Latin in a more CM way? I’m interested in your curriculum recommendations from young (8) to high school.

    • Angela

      Hi Alma. Thank you for your interest in my research. I have invested much time in the process of learning about Charlotte Mason’s approach to Latin study and am currently implementing her methods in my own Latin classes. There are some snippets of my research on my Instagram page, but for now I share most of my findings at in-person workshops and talks. In the meantime, you can glean much from the various interviews I’ve done and articles I’ve written, which you can access here:

What are your thoughts?