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  5. A couple of years ago, I moved away from all multiple choice assessments. As has already been stated, I don't believe that multiple choice assessments test anything more than a student's ability to memorize information long enough for the test. My only assessments in literature are "reading quizzes" which are open ended questions testing how well a student is keeping up with the reading and essays. My assessments in history consist of a terms section in which they define terms, a short answer section based on document excerpts provided on the test, and an essay section. They do take a while to grade them well, but I am blessed with small classes, so it isn't too much of a burden. The ClassicalU class on assessments was very helpful for me in redefining how I approach assessments. It's difficult, but it's worth it.
  6. I'm not sure if this counts since James K.A. Smith is so often associated with Classical Christian schools, but Desiring the Kingdom is a helpful book for educators. Karen Swallow Prior is another name often tied to the movement these days, but her book On Reading Well provided some excellent material for lesson plans! Both books are fantastic for how they put words to many of the difficult concepts we classical educators try to carry out on a day to day basis. Orienting the hearts and minds of children is difficult, and these books help.
  7. We have been on a "drop day" schedule where each class meets 4 days/week for 52 minutes. For instance, Monday's schedule consists of periods 2-8, Tuesday 1-8 and drop 2nd, Wednesday 1-8 but drop 3rd, and so on. It can be confusing at times. Next year we're moving to a Copernican block schedule where all academic classes will meet in the morning and electives and study halls after lunch. We'll see how it goes!
  8. All my best to you and your school as you begin to rethink your approach and curriculum. A bit of advice, it's really difficult (and perhaps unwise) to try to change everything in a school all at once, so I'd recommend patience above all else. I use a textbook for my history class because that is what the history department decided on, and while I don't think it is the best way to approach the subject, the textbook can be a useful way for the students to gain a cursory understanding of the events and timeline. The textbook for my class is only used for homework assignments. The students read a section and answer questions. The questions in the book are generally helpful in aiding the students' understanding, and I find that the homework prepares them for lecture/discussion/debate the next day. One of these days I'd like to move beyond the textbook, but I work with what I have for now. I'd hesitate to teach Boethius to 7th graders because it may be too difficult of a text to wade through at that age. The 7th grade at my school reads poetry, Tom Sawyer, and a smattering of other texts. Teachers must constantly make decisions concerning the content of their courses - the only limit to what we introduce and emphasize is time. So, if your school wants to emphasize forgotten missionaries, there certainly is a way to do that. Perhaps their study of history could include a sort of timeline that lists these various missionaries with biographies. I could envision a project in which the students must research a missionary and present their findings to the class. Hopefully some others can chime in and provide their own experiences.
  9. I've seen the same thing happening in our school; we don't have many field trips for upper school, but we are trying to change that. There is a good theater company in our region and they have morning performances for student groups, so I'll be taking our sophomore class to see Macbeth in the fall. There's also a nearby university that has excellent performances that we try to take advantage of. Touring artist's and author's homes is a good field trip for high school if there are any nearby. Thomas Wolfe grew up in our area, and so we try to tour his home every year. Of course, if you're in the eastern part of the country, there are many battlefields to choose from. Unfortunately, we've gotten away from taking trips, but we're trying to make those regular occurrences once again.
  10. That's an excellent article. I've been using a similar approach to my history assessments for the past couple of years, but it hasn't been as well directed as the 5 W's approach. Thank you for posting this; I think I'll be incorporating this approach for next year. I include a "terms" section on my assessments, but I find that it's a bit too vague as to what the expectation is. This approach in the article will help that.
  11. I suppose there are some general principles that could be laid out, but I also imagine that applying them will look different depending on the age of the student and the objective. An example from my own teaching: I have my senior rhetoric students memorize and perform several speeches from Shakespeare. My goal is three-fold: 1) to have etched in their mind well-crafted words, 2) to better understand human nature, which Shakespeare displays so well, and 3) to have better command of their own rhetorical delivery. First, I perform the speech for the students, to show them a model of what they will themselves look like when they've completed the task. From this point forward, we'll practice the speech in class daily as a simple repetitive exercise until the students have the speech memorized. I have a variety of exercises beyond bare repetition to help the students enjoy the activity in different capacities (for example, I'll have one student be an actor and another be a director who must order changes of emotion--angry, sad, happy, contemplative, etc.--just to get the students thinking about what such emotions would look and sound like with the words). Second, we watch other examples of actor portrayals and discuss the different choices that the actors have made. This allows the students to see that the character isn't limited to one way of portrayal, but it also sets up opportunity for debate once we've read the play and have to draw some hard conclusions about the character that will close off some interpretations actors have made. I also use John Barton's Playing Shakespeare video series to help students understand some of the principles that go into performing a character in Shakespeare. Third, we read aloud the play together, pausing to make sure everyone understands the action, and to discuss the character whose speech we are memorizing at various points in the play. At this point the students know the speech pretty well, but having it in context often brings out things they hadn't considered before, and maybe even impact how they've imagined the pace or emotion of the speech that they've been assuming (or adopting from one of the examples). By this time the students have pretty well memorized the speech and made their own choices about performing the character. Fourth, we watch a version the play together to put the whole package together and as a kind of celebration of their work. Even my weakest speaking students perform beyond their average ability, and they all come to some clearer understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare's characters (and I hope, though it is harder to tell, of human characters), though they don't always agree with me :-).
  12. I agree. If we forget, or do not realize the fact that time must be invested, we will frustrate ourselves and our children/students. Do you have ideas of what this could look like?
  13. David Smith gave a talk at the Alcuin Retreat in 2014 (I think), which used to be available, but has since disappeared. He taught an upper level German language course to college students in a unique way that perfectly illustrates what "attention getting and keeping" can look like. Instead of giving a spoken lecture on German culture, he decided to open a window into a very tiny slice of Germany during a time when non-Germans would consider most Germans to be monsters: WWII. His goal was to have his students see Germans as human beings with whom they could relate--to make the foreigner into a neighbor. He did this by having a sign at the classroom door indicating that the students should enter silently. The room was darkened and a single black and white photograph was projected onto the front wall or board in the room. After giving the students a few minutes to just look at the photograph he began asking them questions, beginning with very basic things like "how many people are in the picture." When the students seemed to be getting hasty or too rhythmic in their responses, he would interject another question that would challenge an observation or get the students to think again, more carefully. What this did was cause the natural curiosity of the students to engage in the story behind the photograph--Who were these people? What were they doing? Where were they doing it? Why were they doing it? The picture happened to be one of Sophie Scholl and her brother, two university students who secretly protested the Nazi government during WWII (along with several other students), and who the Nazi eventually caught and executed. The students not only were engaged in the photograph and its story, but were introduced to Germans, real Germans who did real things with which the students themselves would be sympathetic to and identify with as university students and haters of Naziism themselves. I think Smith's illustration shows the potential of getting attention, but also shows how much thought and planning it can take to ensure that attention is directed toward some desired end. Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are abstract values, which must be attended to in the concrete particulars where they are manifest. The job of the teacher or the parent is to train a child's attention on the concrete in such a way that the abstract values become apparent--if not to the mind and affections both, then at least to the affections.
  14. “Attention is the beginning of devotion” - What a beautiful thought! I want my children to be attentive, and I want them to be devoted to the good, the true, and the beautiful. What we give our attention to we are devoted to. This article points out how poetry can give us opportunities for attending so that our emotions are not so easily captured by the inhumane, brusque, and ugly. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/05/mary-olivers-poetry-captures-our-relationship-technology/589039/ I think nature study and picture study could do this too. What are your thoughts or ideas?
  15. Some aspects of teaching style vary depending upon the age of the student, but one constant is imitation. Whether in writing or in speaking, the most palpable and long-lasting agent for student development comes through the imitation of good examples and the recognition of error through observing and analyzing bad examples. Above any other methods, I'd say imitation is the only failsafe. I like to use Corbett's method of writing imitation, which he lays out in Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. I've also taken the Four Categories of Change and collected the figures of speech associated with them and had students insert figures of speech into samples of prose, or write their own prose using the figures. It makes for some clunky and bad style in many cases, but it does force them to think about what the figures look like, mean, and how they get used. I've also had student find certain figures of speech in Shakespeare plays (usually Julius Caesar, but I've also used Merchant of Venice). Familiarity with the figures doesn't necessarily improve style, but does help them recognize it a bit. As resources on the figures, I've also found Ward Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric and Classical English Metaphor indispensable aides.
  16. Thanks for posting this, Patrick! I recall listening to that podcast episode. One of my side projects is to read through several translations of The Iliad (and also the Odyssey) and get familiar enough to use it to supplement rhetorical instruction (if not eventually replace it!)
  17. If one takes the term "religious" broadly, then I don't think it is possible to have a classical education without religious foundation. It has never been done before in the history of man, and modern education that has sought to eliminate religious authority has jettisoned classical as well--precisely because the two cannot be separated, I'd argue.
  18. That is a great equivocation. I hadn’t thought about faith being like optimism, but it really is.
  19. Following this summer, I will be taking the giant leap from teaching a classical Christian first grade classroom to a classical Christian seventh grade class at the same school. I'm both exhilarated and nerve racked by the upcoming transition. I teach at a small school born mostly from a Christian worldview eager to develop outstanding citizens who could and would carry the gospel into the whole world and do so unabashedly and winsomely. That being said, we are very strong in terms of Christian worldview, but we are in need of strengthening our classical understanding and delivery. I'm very passionate about this, but I am also inexperienced especially as applied to a seventh grade classroom. I've somewhat desperately searched for a forum such as this, so I hope you will indulge my lack of know how and please divulge any and all helpful tips. Currently the seventh grade curriculum mirrors a sort of omnibus style with Bible/History/English with Earth Science, Two math tracks, Latin, Art, and Music. The history (geography) and earth science are taught from text books. I'm curious what classical techniques other teachers might use to employ a text book. I'm fond of round table discussion and socratic conversations like can be found in the great books programs. What other methods have you found work well for integration, thinking/comprehension, living learning? On the subject of Great Books, the current English curriculum was hand-crafted by a significant member of our faculty who labored dearly over a compilation of missionary biographies to accompany the geographical locations to be studied in an effort to develop a heart for the persecuted church. My missions heart goes wild for this idea, but we are also in the midst of some curricular changes directing us toward more classical content which I think is a wise move. As the incoming teacher, I have to weigh these considerations. Currently I'm wondering if a few book selections like C.S. Lewis or even Consolation of Philosophy might be good choices OR if I should use the Great Books materials available for 6-8 grades that cover a wide range of excerpts, poems, etc. that they will encounter in later omnibus classes and that provide a forum for building question asking skills and discussion etiquette. Ideally, I'd love to find a way to include classical content AND bring light to long forgotten missionaries that correlate to world studies. What are your thoughts, ideas, tips as experienced 7-9th grade teachers?
  20. It has been said that "Teaching is the greatest act of optimism." It is also, as you point out, an act of great faith.
  21. The third canon of rhetoric is style, and in my opinion this is the most difficult to teach. That is partly because it is something that, as I see it, must be done as a K-12 effort, not merely a topic to cover in a class or two. It's partly a set of rules to follow, but also much more. How do you teach style at your school?
  22. Assessing students' skills and knowledge in a history class can be challenging, especially because it's so easy to make the mistakes of 1) overly emphasizing memorization of facts, or 2) asking creative but insubstantial questions that students can bluff their way through even if they didn't pay attention in class. I wanted to share a helpful article I read a few days ago on "Identification Questions," those vague but important portions of assessments in which students are simply asked to identify "Julius Caesar" or "The Battle of Waterloo" or "The Westminster Assembly." There are good and bad ways to train students to answer these, and this article has some practical suggestions on better ways to do them: "IDs: Memory or Meaning? A Guide For Answering Identification Questions that Encourages Thinking Historically"
  23. I recently listened to a Circe podcast that considered this question:
  24. Lately I've seen a number of articles in the news about charter schools around the country moving to a "Classical" model. This raises some interesting questions revolving around the relationship between "Classical" and "Christian," and whether a school can succeed at educating children classically without a religious foundation. What do you think? (Here's an interesting read that can provide fodder for discussion: https://catholiccitizens.org/views/87101/why-classical-charter-schools-cant-replace-catholic-education/)
  25. Aaron Ames, "Why Christian Children Don't Belong in Public Schools" (The Federalist | May 2, 2019) https://thefederalist.com/2019/05/02/christian-children-dont-belong-public-schools/.
  26. So I emailed a personal contact and then two employees at the Memphis Symphony and Brooks Museum. John Hodges is my personal contact. My son participated in his Gap Year Program in Memphis. I asked if he would be open to speaking to my students about Western Civ and Stravinsky specifically because the Symphony will be playing his piece in February, the week we have a break. He also hosts a "Sunday Night Dinner" where he invites all his friends, former and current students, and colleagues to come eat and discuss current events, history, philosophy, theology, and everything in between! This will be fabulous for my students who will be writing and debating about western culture and the ideas that have and do influence it, including the fine arts. So we will attend the Symphony, a guided tour of some specific pieces from artists we will have covered, and have dinner at John's house. This is shaping up to be a fantastic field trip! Memphis is 5 hours from us, so there will be a drive and room and board to work out. But it seems like we are headed in the right direction! I will only have 6-10 students and 3 or 4 parents. But, maybe they will all be so interested I'll have 12-15 students and 5-7 parents! Starry Night Over The Rhone.webarchive
  27. We are surrounded by easy distractions. It takes no effort to give over to them. Poverty has its own temptations, but they seem far less numerous than those of luxury. God help us!
  28. This is a good point. I just went through that today at the dentists office. I handed the 13yo an extra copy of Beowulf, but the 11yo, I didn't think would be happy with a pad of paper and a pen or two because he is never given much chance to just draw. So he sat watching a zoo show on the provided TV. BLEHK. I did think to myself: I would have wanted to draw stuff on the scrap paper, but he probably won't - didn't even offer!???
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