Schoolboys forget their books, lose their pens and laugh at dirty jokes. This was true even in the rigorous atmosphere of the Anglo-Saxon classroom.
As with all things relating to Anglo-Saxon England, evidence of what happened in the classroom is scant, but what does survive paints a familiar picture. Education in that period came in many shapes and forms: some students took apprenticeships and learned practical skills, while others went into monasteries and learned to read and write. King Alfred believed that all the youth in England should be taught to read and write in English and those continuing into the monasteries should learn Latin. The teaching of Latin saw a revival in the 10th century, amid worries that the state of learning in England had declined until it seemed as though not a single priest in England was able to compose in Latin or indeed, read it.
No books survive which are definitively known to have been used in the classroom, but we have some idea of the types of texts used. The curriculum used for teaching Latin had its roots in classical teaching models. It used three main methods: glossaries taught vocabulary, grammars taught syntax and morphology (the structure of language) and colloquies – scripted conversations – gave conversational practice, in which students could put their vocabulary and structural learning to use. This combination is still recognisable to anyone who has taken a modern language course.