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jgaines, June 1, 2019 in 7-9 Dialectic Forum
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?
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.
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