Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education and Ready Readers
Publisher: The Center for Literary Education
This is one of my 101 Top Picks!
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Teaching the Classics:
A Socratic Method for Literary Education
[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....
However, many parents have requested more help in selecting literature and identifying themes. So Adam and Missy Andrews have also published Reading Roadmaps: A Literary Scope & Sequence for K-12. In this book, they layout a number of options that range from daily or weekly literature lessons to "seasonal" lessons that are taught about four times a year. They identify their top recommendations for literature to be used and chart out plot, conflict, theme, aids/devices (e.g. allusion, parody, epic) for each literary work, arranging them by grade level. They also offer an alternative literary selection for each of the recommended works. Additional helps at the back of the book address writing from literature, learning objectives for each grade level, grading, and the major historical periods for literature with lists of exemplary works and the authors. Reading Roadmaps simplifies the process of using Teaching the Classics by doing some of the work for you.
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 the Teaching the Classics approach so much that you won't mind the extra time it might take to teach this way.
Ready Readers: Teacher Guides to Socratic Discussion
While you can teach just about any literary works you want using the format taught in Teaching the Classics, and Reading Roadmaps helps you select titles, and know the key elements to address, some parents prefer more guidance, especially if they tackle literature with which they are not very familiar. Ready Readers are teacher guides for specific collections of books that provide solid guidance for teachers who want to teach literary skills with great literature.
Thus far there are four guides. Ready Readers 1, Ready Readers 2, and Ready Readers 3 each cover from five to ten children's book. Ready Readers: The Chronicles of Narnia covers the seven books in that series.
While any of the Ready Readers might be used with students even up through high school, they each present literature that is suitable for children who have achieved a minimum reading level. Reader Readers 1 might be used as young as kindergarten, since it uses ten children's books, most of which might be read in one sitting. For Ready Readers 2, children in at least third grade will be reading up to five books, including The Trumpet of the Swan and Misty of Chincoteague. For Ready Readers 3, they should be at least sixth grade since they will be reading up to five novels, including Treasure Island and The Hobbit. For Ready Readers: The Chronicles of Narnia, students should be in at least fifth grade. You need not read all of the books covered in a guide in one year. You can use whichever titles you like. The only guide where the order in which books are read will matter is Ready Readers: The Chronicles of Narnia. Note that most of the books featured in Ready Readers appear on the lists in Reading Roadmaps.
Parents and teachers should first become familiar with Teaching the Classics methodology before using the Ready Readers. Guides all follow the Teaching the Classics approach to literary analysis and interpretation. Children identify the context, structure, and style of each work and complete a "Story Chart" graphic organizer for each book. A series of Socratic questions keyed to "The Socratic List" in Teaching the Classics is used to help students move from comprehension level to deeper thinking and analysis of the literary works.
The teacher's guides include overview summaries of plot, the conflict, setting, characters, and the theme for the benefit of the parent or teacher. Then they present the questions that help children to identify all of these things and more at a deeper level. For example, in the study of Prince Caspian in the fourth of the Ready Readers, the parent or teacher will ask, "What does the protagonist think is the most important thing in life?" The teacher's guide then provides you with a detailed answer so you will know what sort of response to expect from your child. Completed story charts are also included.
I love the approach of Teaching the Classics, and I'm very pleased that the Center for Literary Education has taken extra steps to make the methodology that much easier to use.
List price for Ready Readers: $29 each
Teaching the Classics DVD Seminar and Workbook
Adam and Missy Andrews
Teaching the Classics - World View Supplement (Workbook with DVD)
- Suitable for: group or one-on-one
Audience: parents teaching children of all ages
Need for parent/teacher instruction: high
Prep time needed: moderate to high depending upon the literary work
Need for Teacher's Manual: essential
Religious perspective: secular but "Christian friendly"
The Center for Literary Education
3350 Beck Road
Rice, WA 99167
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