Monday, July 1, 2013

TOS Review - Institute For Excellence In Writing - Teaching the Classics

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Just about everyone in the homeschool world knows who Andrew Pudewa is and his company, Institute For Excellence in Writing. His writing products are the cream of the crop. Many folks may not know that his company carries other products as well, like grammar, speech and debate, micro business for teens, and the product our family reviewed Teaching the Classics.I had the pleasure in March of finally getting to attend an Andrew Pudewa seminar and listening to him live. But as great as he is this post and review is not about him or writing. This post is about learning to read literature and analyze it.

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I am reluctant to admit that I remember very little about analyzing literature in high school or college. A handful of literary terms are all that I remember. Now I find myself with a soon to be 9th grader who also only knows a handful of literary terms. After watching/attending via DVD this seminar, that is something that is dramatically about to change. Of course in my excited state, I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.

Six week ago I was asked to watch/use/review Teaching the Classics by Adam and Missy Andrews. This product came to me as a physical spiral-bound softcover book and 4 DVDs. It currently retails for $89.00 through the IEW website. The Andrews are on a mission to teach parents and students the basic techniques to analyze literature. They both profess to be "bookworms" and felt called to serve the homeschooling community. This culminated in the product Teaching the Classics. The author uses the Socratic Method to help teach the interpretation of literature. Some may ask what is the Socratic Method? Basically it is asking questions while in a discussion of said material. Named after the great Greek philosopher, Socrates, it was a technique he used. This method teaches the students how to think. Many families that teach with the classical methods are already doing this. For others this may be a new method of teaching to consider. The running time for this seminar is 5 hours and 37 minutes. I broke it down and used it over a couple of weeks.

Teaching the Classics teaches parents and students how to look at a story and step by step analyze it. The DVDs are sectioned into six sessions:
  • Preparing For Literary Analysis
  • Plot and Conflict
  • Setting
  • Character
  • Theme
  • Practicum, Scope & Sequence
The practical knowledge that is taught in this seminar can be used in books, movies, poems, short stories, history books and so much more. Several different short stories are used to teach literary elements, like: context, style, theme, conflict, character, and setting. My favorite story he used was Casey At Bat. I always loved this poem and as I went step by step with him, I learned more about the author and the poem. Mr. Andrews goes further in depth with discussion of the Socratic Method and Socratic List which was somewhat new to me. The provided story charts were very helpful and there was plenty of room to write answers to questions and notes from the discussion. The book also includes several story charts already filled out to help any parent teach classics like MacBeth, Great Expectations and To Kill a Mockingbird. I will surely use these as Grace gets older and reading some of these selected classics. 

Once the viewer finishes the six sessions of the seminar they will move into how to apply what they have learned in a classroom setting. Also provided are booklists, lesson plans, a blank story chart, and questions from the Socratic List. The last two pages provides over 50 literary terms and definitions. The workbook has 97 pages and is invaluable with the material it provides. Mr. Andrews was very pleasant to listen to and certainly seemed to have a love for literature and history. One aspect that makes this product so appealing is the fact that it can be used to teach literature to just about any age. Elementary up through College. Mr. Andrews recommends starting off with picture books to teach the literary elements. After the concepts are learned then you apply the process to the literature your student is reading. I learned so much from this product and it has given me the confidence I need to progress on many levels. If you haven't noticed already, I really enjoyed this product.

How I Plan to Use This Product

Starting in August every Friday I will use the concepts I learned to teach Grace literary analysis. This will continue throughout the year. We will start with story books/picture books until she feels comfortable with the concepts herself, then we will start applying it to her selected literature books for the year. Of course this process will be ongoing for the next four years of high school and will better prepare her for college literature classes.

This has also given me the confidence I needed to teach a literature class for our cooperative. So also starting in August I will be applying what I learned from Teaching the Classics to elementary students in a class, Fun with Literature. The class will revolve entirely around picture books. I went to the library a few days ago and picked books directly from the list provided. I have started looking through them to see which ones I will use to teach each concept or literary term. I am very excited about utilizing this in a classroom setting.

Be sure to visit Institute For Excellence In Writing and check out all the wonderful products that are available, especially Teaching the Classics by Adam and Missy Andrews.

Also visit the TOS Review Crew to see what other families thought about their review products.

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