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Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education

Publisher: The Center for Literary Education
Author: Adam and Missy Andrews
Review last updated:July 2012

This is one of my 101 Top Picks!

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Teaching the Classics:
A Socratic Method for Literary Education

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[Note: The complete review appears in 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.]

Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education teaches parents and teachers how to understand and analyze literature using Socratic questioning and discussion. This seminar consists of a book and a set of four DVD's.

I began my review by reading through the book. Halfway through the book, I began wondering why I would need the DVD's. The book was so well-explained and provided concrete models to work with. I expected the DVD's to be redundant. To my surprise, they were not. On the DVD's, Adam Andrews presents a live seminar, covering the material in the book and much more. His goal in the seminar presentation is to ensure that parents and teachers leave feeling competent to apply the methodology themselves. I think he accomplishes this very well while also providing the sort of inspiration that makes you feel like you just can't wait to try this out.

The DVD's run about 5.5 hours. I expect you might watch through the entire course, then come back and rewatch sections as you begin to work with the different teaching strategies with your students.

In the first half hour or so of the seminar, Adam Andrews lays the foundation. This part could possibly be a little redundant for those already very familiar with classical education, Socratic questions, and their use in conjunction with literature. But, it is absolutely essential for those unfamiliar with these things. Once past the introduction, Andrews introduces a method of tackling literature that applies to adult level fiction all the way down to children's story books. In fact, children's stories are generally easier to work with, so he recommends beginning (even with high school students) by analyzing a story written for children.

Three very useful appendices at the back of the book are referenced during the seminar. The first appendix contains "The Socratic List," an extensive, ten-page list of questions to use for discussions, arranged under broader categories of key questions. Questions are arranged from easier to more challenging levels of difficulty in each category. (The teacher should select just a few of these questions to use for each discussion.) Appendix B is an annotated, recommended reading list catalogued under three levels for young children through high school. Appendix C lists and defines literary devices students will learn to identify such as metaphors, alliterations, and onomatopoeias.

To help you get started, Andrews uses a number of literary works to demonstrate how to work through different aspects of analysis and discussion. Among this eclectic selection are "Paul Revere's Ride," The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Macbeth, To Kill a Mockingbird, and "Casey at the Bat."

You can teach all types of literature once you've gone through this seminar. You will not need to purchase any student books other than the literature itself....

Once a parent or teacher becomes familiar with the techniques taught by Teaching the Classics, those techniques are likely to become "second nature"—teaching this way will become easier and easier. And you're likely to enjoy it so much that you won't mind the extra time it might take.


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  • Teaching the Classics DVD Seminar and Workbook

    Teaching the Classics DVD Seminar and Workbook

    Adam and Missy Andrews

    Teaching the Classics - World View Supplement (Workbook with DVD)

    Teaching the Classics - World View Supplement (Workbook with DVD)

    Reading Road Maps: Literary Scope and Sequence for K-12

    Reading Road Maps: Literary Scope and Sequence for K-12

    Teaching the Classics (Seminar Workbook Only)

    Teaching the Classics (Seminar Workbook Only)

    Adam and Missy Andrews

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    • Suitable for:  group or one-on-one
      parents teaching children of all ages
      Need for parent/teacher instruction: 
      Prep time needed:
      moderate to high depending upon the literary work
      Need for Teacher's Manual:  essential
      Religious perspective:
      secular but "Christian friendly"

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