Teaching the Classics from Institute for Excellence in Writing: Review

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My favorite subject to teach is literature. In high school I couldn’t wait to go to my senior English class. Mrs. Moore had extremely high expectations, but she inspired me. She clearly loved literature with a passion, taught dynamically, and invested herself wholeheartedly in her students. She was a big part of why I pursued my own degree in education, focusing on teaching English to middle school kids. I am currently blessed beyond measure to teach a small group of middle school homeschoolers one day a week from September to May. I love this and am always looking for new ways to teach literature to my students. Since I am given permission to create my own units and choose which literature we study, I have great freedom to teach what I love.
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I always felt literature had much more to offer students than mere literature studies have to offer. Adam and Missy Andrews agree, and have created a wonderful seminar published by Institute for Excellence in Writing called Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education intended to teach you, the teacher. For $89.00 you receive this seminar taught at your convenience in your own home and includes all 6 sessions on 4 DVDs as well a workbook to use throughout the lessons. It is recorded during an actual seminar setting and you feel as if you are there. Andrew Moore’s dynamic style is engaging to watch and immediately drew me into the presentation.

Using actual literary examples Adam Andrews teaches a new way to look at teaching literature which breaks far away from the typical unit study of literature containing comprehension questions, vocabulary, and hands-on-activity. Adam begins by providing compelling arguments for the need to teach excellent literature in a way which benefits the student and creates a life-long learner. Although he didn’t need to sell me personally on this, I enjoyed his excellent debate for the need to provide young learners with a rich education in literature.

I was pleased to see this seminar shows how to teach the way I have always wanted to and aim to teach my students currently. I also love this is not simply for older students delving into great works of literature, but can be applied to even picture books with simplified questions. The biggest weakness I have when teaching is creating questions which require my students to think, not merely recall facts. I intend to greatly use the Socratic list of questions included in the workbook. While I have attempted to create questions which make my students think, I always felt as if I were falling short. There is value in comprehension questions, but they need to be followed by Socratic questions in order to stretch the student into deeper thinking.

I was also pleased with the description of conflicts. I learned a new conflict which I do not remember being taught in college or in my research as I structured my classes. This is particularly important to me because I discuss types of conflicts extensively with my students as this always promotes deeper thinking and excellent discussion.

I really like each teaching section is followed by a piece of “great literature” is read which gives opportunity for you to practically work through what is taught. This practical application allows the opportunity for you, the student, to see how this works in real-life. Literature by authors such as Beatrix Potter, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, and Harper Lee are used for practice.

The basic elements of literature are discussed in order to teach the best way to teach great literature. The explanation of authorship, style, plot, conflict, setting, character, and theme were incredibly thorough and useful. I have gained some new insights in how to express them to my students as I introduce them as I teach.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the seminar…

We need to “…understand the world from which the story came.”

On the application of using the Socratic List…”Now we have students who are thinkers”

About the Socratic List “Familiarity of these questions gained by long, continuous use, will make the understanding of difficult works easy.”

“The characters are the main link between the imaginary world and the author. The strength of the characters in the story and the author’s description of them…are the best way for the reader to enter the author’s world”

This is an excellent course no matter what level you are teaching. It will adequately equip you to create life-long readers who know how to think through literature beyond rote comprehension questions. Just based on this one course I have decided to further explore the writing curriculum at IEW for my girls.

Check out more reviews of this product and more from Institute for Excellence in Writing from my Crewmates!

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