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Monday, July 8, 2013

Teaching the Classics Schoolhouse Review #hsreviews

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When Michael was only a couple of months old I started reading books to him. He loved it & I knew it was good for him. I have carried on the tradition of reading to my kids before bed every night for 23 years and I will continue until my kids are all grown & then I think my husband will want me to read to him. All five of my kids love to read & I think being read to and having access to good books since they were little has helped instill that love. I just finished the seminar Teaching the Classics and I wish I could have watched this years ago to make the most out of our family reading time & to make literary analysis easier for my kids.
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Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education is a literature seminar for adults and teachers. This seminar was written by Adam & Missy Andrews. It comes with 4 DVDs and a spiral bound syllabus and is available from Institute for Excellence in Writing for $89.00.

Adams Andrews presents the basics of literary analysis in a step-by-step progression using short stories and discussions. There are six sessions covering the areas of literary analysis.

  • Session 1 ~ Preparing for Literary Analysis 
  • Session 2 ~ Plot and Conflict
  • Session 3 ~ Setting
  • Session 4 ~ Character
  • Session 5 ~ Theme
  • Session 6 ~ Practicum, Scope & Sequence

Each session lasts from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. The 99 page spiral bound syllabus goes right along with each session. Adam uses Paul Revere's Ride, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, an excerpt from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Martin the Cobbler to show the five elements of fiction. A story chart is used with each literary selection and since all stories contain a Conflict, Plot, Setting, Characters, and Theme it makes it easier to use short stories to begin with.

In each lesson Adam gives the information on the DVD session with his lecture following the syllabus. The short stories are included in the book, so you can follow along while Adam reads them. After the story is read, the Story Chart is filled in with a discussion from the seminar audience. In the syllabus workbook a blank story chart and discussion note questions are included to fill in as they are being discussed in the seminar. In session 5 Casey at Bat is the short story that is read and we are instructed to pause the session to choose our discussion questions from the Socratic List and fill in the Story Chart before listening to the group discussion. The final segment Adam explains how to apply the techniques with your students.

Teaching the Classics uses the Socratic Method. Once this is learned it can be used with any work of fiction. The Socratic Method is basically a list of 21 questions with several detailed questions for each one. The sub questions get harder so that every child can partake in a discussion no matter how old they are. All the questions will not be used for every piece of literature, you will choose the ones that best fit the story assignment. Example of the Socratic List:

  1. Where does this story happen? 

    • a. In what country or region does the story happen?
    • b. Does the story happen in the country or city?
    •   .... 
    • i. Is there anything symbolic or allegorical about the place where the story happens?
    • j. Is the setting of the story important because of historical events which may have taken place there? How does this link help you understand the themes of the story?

This seminar is recommended for parents and teachers. I went through the course myself and I think an older child could learn a lot by watching the program and every child can benefit when the parent implements it. Adam Andrews is a very engaging instructor, he does a great job at explaining each concept and getting his audience to think about and discuss the elements of the Story Chart. I love that Adam suggests not trying to do this with every book that my kids read, because I could never keep up with the piles of books they go through. Instead he suggests starting with one that I have read or can read before we discuss it.

I have already started implementing some of the program with the books I read out loud at night. Adam suggests starting with picture books & short stories below the child's reading level and to not move on until they understand each element. We started with discussing the plot and conflict in our stories. Amber (age 12), Delaney (age 11) have used a story chart before, so they can pick them out more easily than Alaina (age 8). I am currently reading A Tunnel of Gold out loud to my girls and we have been discussing some of the elements along the way and we are looking forward to completing the Story Chart and choosing some questions from the Socratic List for our discussion afterwards.

This is a recorded seminar. There is some back ground noise that is a little irritating, and the decibel level changes in a few places. These issues are very minor and do not effect the overall seminar.

I think every age child can benefit from this program once the parent goes through the seminar and starts to implement it. Using this method makes literary analysis fun and understandable I just wish I would have known how easy it was to implement years ago.

Andrew Pedewa's Student Writing Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing is another curriculum that Crew members received to review. It goes very well with Teaching the Classics, and you can read those reviews on the Crew Blog.

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