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Paul Dixon

Literature Catechism

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This is my first year to use a catechism in my classes, and I've written one for 10th grade Western Literature and 11th grade American Literature. I have my students read the full catechism aloud and together three days a week, and they are not required to memorize it, nor will they be tested on it. Now that we're through the first half of the year, I can honestly say this is the best decision I've made as a teacher. I first learned of using a catechism from Joshua Gibbs's Great Books course on Classical U, and at first I was skeptical. But, it's rewarding to begin a unit on Transcendentalism and when I ask the class to define the literary movement, they can recite a brief definition listing the main characteristics of Transcendentalism without skipping a beat. I must say, I'm a believer in this pedagogical tool.

To those of you who use catechisms, how successful are they for you and your classes?

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I can't speak for myself, as I haven't used a catechism (though I've tried putting one together), but one of my colleagues is in his second year of using one and he swears by it. His students say it every day and it takes about 15 minutes until they memorize it (which takes less time than you'd think), and then it takes around 10 minutes. He can then have the students use the material from the catechism in class discussions and assessments, which has worked really well.

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