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Paul Dixon

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Paul Dixon last won the day on June 11

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    Fletcher, NC
  • Favorite Authors
    William Faulkner
  • School Name
    Veritas Christian Academy

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. So, believe it or not, summer is just around the corner! I'm interested to hear about the various classical ed conferences that'll be held throughout the country. Which one(s) are you going to? Which speaker(s) are you looking forward to? Educators love to learn and conferences can be a great way to do that. What practical lessons have you picked up from other educators over the years, and did they work for you in your classroom?
  8. Yes, I believe this was the case with me in regards to inspiring wonder in my students. I constantly try to let my students know why a work of literature is wonderful and beautiful, and the novelty of America's revolution. I didn't realize this was a principle of classical pedagogy. It's important to help students to realize the beauty of what is in front of them.
  9. I think classically educated students should and could go anywhere and do anything. I see that as the benefit of classical education. Just as Cheryl and Karen already said, classical education makes a more virtuous, better human being. So, a student should be prepared to go to a secular university, a Christian university, or into the work force to learn a trade. What I don't like to see are students who give up the humanities altogether. Like Cheryl said, too many college programs cut out the humanities after the freshman year, which is tragic to say the least. I like to encourage students to keep taking literature or history courses even if they are going into a more technical field. Most colleges allow students to minor in something unrelated to their majors, so that's a good way to keep reading about being a human.
  10. We started our house system this year, and, from what I can tell, it seems to be going very well. We wanted to create something to improve our school's culture and to give the students something to rally around. We named our houses after the four major epic poets: Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton. We have a "house challenge" every two weeks or so during the lunch hour where the students work on some trivia questions (usually pertaining to something happening in the culture at large, i.e. MLB playoffs, March Madness, the Oscars, etc.) while they eat, then there is some kind of game to go along with it. We also have had some bigger events like a poetry recitation, talent show, and short film competition that we've introduced as competitions between the houses. I'd definitely recommend it to other schools. It's a lot of work and takes a lot of commitment from the teachers (you truly have to own the process), but in our short time with the houses, I think it's brought a lot of our students out of their shells and pushed them to take on leadership roles. I'm looking forward to see how our system progresses.
  11. I think the best answer here is that there is room for both. I've had a lot of success with round table discussions and I've also experienced some failure, and the failure usually comes when the students arrive ill-read or when I haven't prepared quite enough to answer every question thoroughly. Similarly, lectures can be a fantastic means of imparting information and, perhaps more importantly, a way for the teacher to share her passion for the subject. Or, lectures can be incredibly boring and push students away from the discipline. Both methods require the teacher to bring his best every day, and therein lies the struggle for most of us.
  12. Some of Edgar Allan Poe's stories are quick to read and provide some good opportunities for analysis. Anything by Flannery O'Connor would be relatively easy to grasp, and her stories can work on many levels. But, I'd love to hear from middle school teachers who think about these grade levels more often than I do.
  13. This is a great point. I love round-table discussions as much as anyone, but only when the students are well-prepared for them. I've found that these discussions work the best with a well-prepared leader (teacher or student) guiding the discussion without chasing any rabbits. I don't want to waste anyone's time, and, unfortunately, I've observed some round-tables that resulted in a whole lot of nothing being accomplished.
  14. While I don't teach literature for our Logic school, I am helping with an overhaul of our Logic literature curriculum. What books do you teach to your Logic School students? Right now we have staples like Lord of the Flies and Tom Sawyer that work well for this age group. What books have worked for you, and which ones haven't?
  15. Yes, I struggle as well. Our first week back is usually a little slower than normal, but I think it's good to get the students warmed up a bit before diving back in. That's some good advice about taking lots of breaks. I've tried that here and there this week and it seems to help them stay focused.
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