Jul 05

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IEW – Teaching the Classics – A Schoolhouse Crew Review

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Last year, I set an educational goal for my ten-year-old to improve his writing skills. Before this point, we had mainly been doing copywork, dictation and poetry with very little original writing. Our local co-op decided to offer a class using Student Writing Intensive Level A by Institute for Excellence in WritingAs a result of taking this class, I fell in love with everything this program offers and I was thrilled to see my son flourish with the simple tips, tricks and methods taught in this program. So when I received a free copy of Teaching the Classics for review purposes, I was thrilled. I was not taught very much literary analysis until college and because of the choice of very modern, questionable literature, I was rather turned off to this art. I was hoping to gain a new perspective of literary analysis after finishing this course. I was not disappointed.
 photo teachingclassics_zps99736e1d.jpgTeaching the Classics is a 4-DVD video course with spiral bound syllabus that is intended to teach parents and teachers how to analyze literature using the Socratic Method. With over 5 and a half hours of instruction, this workshop teaches principles that can be used with children from preschool to adult and the course could also be used by high school students as an adjunct to a literature class. The price is currently $89.00 and you can score free shipping until July 10th with promo code SHIP-FREEDOM13.Adam Andrews
The course begins with a rather long and drawn out introduction on the how and why of literary analysis. However, when you reach the dramatic reading of Paul Revere’s Ride, by H.W. Longfellow narrated by teacher and course author, Adam Andrews (see photo at right) you are drawn into the story and you want to learn more. He begins to teach you the questions you should ask yourself when reading classic literature. An explanation of the Socratic Method is given and I learned that this method basically INVOLVES the child in the learning process. Instead of lecturing and giving only your opinion, you allow room for the student to discuss his ideas and beliefs with you. This allows you to interject your own morals and values and helps you teach the child how to think. An excellent Socratic list is given in the Appendix. This is a twenty-one question list with subquestions covering all the elements you could ever want to analyze in a work of literature. Short stories, poetry and excerpts from classic literature are used as examples during the seminar. After hearing the literature selection, you are given a story chart to use as a tool to help you explore the five elements of fiction:
  • Plot –along with its stages listed below
    • Exposition(introduction where characters and setting are introduced)
    • Rising Action (where the tension begins)
    • Climax (pinnacle of the tension)
    • Denouement (unraveling)
    • Conclusion
  • Conflict
  • Setting
  • Character
  • Theme
  • Climax
  • Denouement
  • Conclusion

I had read about all of these elements in the past, but having this story chart to help me organize this information was invaluable for me. I am a visual learner and seeing the information in a flow chart was very helpful. Adam Andrews is presenting the seminar to a small group and as he teaches, he uses a whiteboard to walk through the story charts on the board, getting input from the audience. Here is an example of one of the story charts he used during the lectures after reading Martin the Cobbler .IEW 2 - Theme

The five circles around the triangle represent the 5 stages of plot and conflict leaving space to explore theme, setting, and characters in the space around the triangle. The above example is incomplete. You will just have to get your own copy to see how it ends! A blank story chart is included at the end of the syllabus for you to use with your students. Discussions of literary style and devices are also included with special instruction on onomatopoeia, alliteration, simile, metaphor, assonance, consonance, imagery, symbolism, foreshadowing, and hyperbole. By learning to recognize these devices, Mr. Andrews believes that you can teach children as young as preschoolers how to begin to analyze literature. One example is of using a child’s picture book and having the child look for onomatopoeia or sound words. By starting with a simple device such as this and building to having your child search for more difficult things such as metaphors and foreshadowing, this will become second nature to your older child when he is asked to do harder things such as look for symbolism, etc.

The syllabus concludes with a scope and sequence chart to help you adapt the material into a class for a high school student, a sample literature lesson plan,and a blank story chart. The appendices include the Socratic List, reading lists, and a definition list of important literary terms.

I began this course with excitement but I found the first hour or so of the lecture tedious and rather boring, The volume in the video is rather low especially when questions are asked of the audience. I had no trouble hearing Mr. Andrews, but some of the responses to his questions by the audience were inaudible. As soon as he began including literature readings in the mix, I was hooked. I immediately saw the value of the material and was encouraged that I CAN LEARN THIS STUFF. I looked over some of the filming flaws and was floored by the great information included in the seminar. My kids are still rather young for advanced literary analysis, so I did not include them in the watching of the videos.  What seemed very intimidating at first now seems approachable after going through this course. My ten-year-old knows how to look for many of the literary devices already and has encouraged me to use the children’s story Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd with my seven and three-year old to teach onomatopoeia. We are going to try that soon. I am also planning to use the Socratic list to compile a few questions to ask my kids after we finish the current read-aloud we are doing, Badge of Honor by Susan K. Marlow. I may even assign my rising 6th grader some of the individual stories and subsequent discussions from the DVD this fall. I plan to incorporate the principles I have learned into my kids’ literature programs this fall. I will be returning to the Socratic list time and again for inspiration and direction in formulating questions to ask my brood as we read great literature together. I checked out the booklist in the appendix and requested some of the titles through inter-library loan from my local library. My overall opinion of the material was that it was very useful and helpful for me and helped me get my feet wet as far as literary analysis goes. I love literature, but my comfort level with analysis was very low. After finishing this course, I feel like I can begin a life-long quest on the journey of analyzing great works of literature with confidence and skill. I highly recommend you check out this resource. Some of my crewmates have also reviewed Teaching Writing with Structure and Style Set (TWSS) and Student Writing Intensive Level A, Student Writing Intensive Level B, and Student Writing Intensive Level C. Click on the graphic below to read about them.

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Permanent link to this article: http://conversaving.com/2013/07/05/iew-teaching-the-classics-a-schoolhouse-crew-review/

1 comment

  1. Kara @ Home With Purpose

    We’re loving it too! I’m going to use it with all of my kids this fall.

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