Exercises in the 24 school books surviving from the 15 and early 16 centuries show that pupils were taught through proverbs, riddles, poems, and songs. The boys had to work hard. One extract from school exercises written in 1500 at Barlinch Priory, Somerset, shows a cross master reprimanding his pupils: "He who wants to be carried won't get anyone to carry him here!"
Lessons were taught in a religious atmosphere. The alphabet was written out in verse form, like a prayer, usually over three lines. Pupils made the sign of the cross before the "alphabet prayer" and said, "Christ's cross speed me." They then recited the letters, by name and sound, like this:
"'A' ('a' by itself) per se 'ah,' 'b' per se 'boh,' 'c' per se 'see.'" At the end of the alphabet they said, "and per se and", which is how the word ampersand - the name for the amp; symbol - originated, followed by "amen."