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Lora Fanning, June 18, 2018 in
Teaching the Great Books (Josh Gibbs)
I will be teaching a co-op 9th grade class next year that only meets once a week. I wonder if I should then only come up with 10 major questions for my catechism instead of the 50 recommended by Gibbs, since my students have 1/5 of the time to learn it. I've often taught my students passages of Shakespeare by chanting and memorizing, even though we only met once a week, but I had to limit the length. Does this sound right? Or am I limiting myself too much and underestimating my students?
Great question. I am in the same position! I hope this question will be answered by someone who has experience with this? Or if not, we'll have to try it this coming year and report back our results!
So with Classical Conversations they are basically memorizing a catechism once a week. They just add to it each week. That could be an option. In Challenge A they have a science catechism and they are supposed to memorize it at home. That could be orally quizzed by asking a few questions each week from the whole, and/or playing a quick game that uses the material.
Just some ideas.
My 8th/9th grade literature class meets once a week, and I went with a weekly catechism length of 4 typed pages (I used a bigger font, though, so it might be more like 3 pages normally). I haven't timed it, but I think it comes out to something like 8 minutes to say together. I like how it's long enough that, as Gibbs says, they're a little bit tired at the end of it and ready to sit down and listen for a while. Both of my classes that I'm using this in have the answers nearly memorized.
I am really enjoying and appreciating having this tool in my teacher's toolbox this year. As Gibbs says, the text itself is so much more interesting than I ever possibly could be, so a lot of my questions are simply prompts for reciting important sections of the literature we are reading this year.
Memorization builds upon itself--the more one tries to memorize, the more one's capacity to memorize grows (though I'm sure there's a golden mean somewhere in there). I've had students memorize speeches from Shakespeare by reciting them once or twice per class period and most of them can get it down pretty well in a couple of weeks or so. That would mean about 10-15 days, so 10-15 weeks if you met once per week. If you are reciting the catechism daily, I'd say you could do a fair amount and still have it memorized by the end of a semester or year. I think the size matters less than the quality, though. If you have 10 great questions and 40 mediocre ones, better to do just ten. If you have 75 great questions, then you might have to pick and choose.
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