Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Midwest Homeschool Convention - It's Onomatopeia, Mom!

The first seminar I attended was “It’s Onomatopoeia, Mom!” – Using Children’s Stories to Teach Literary Device. The speaker was Adam Andrews from The Center for Literary Education. You may be able to buy a CD of this talk here. (For those of you in SOF, we did buy a CD of this seminar.) What follows is a recap of the seminar taken from my notes. (which are not nearly as clear as they could be, so I apologize for any holes in the information!)

The seminar description in the conference booklet caught my eye:
Juxtaposition, metaphor, symbolism, irony, foreshadowing – HELP!  Parents often avoid the subject of literature because of the intimidating vocabulary of literary analysis.  The truth is, you don’t need a college degree in literature to understand this vocabulary; what you need is a well written children’s story.   Adam takes the audience on a guided tour of literary devices, making discerning literary analysts out of each and every audience member.  Doing the same with your own children couldn’t be easier, but beware: soon, they will be finding onomatopoeia everywhere they look.

Adam Andrews has an energetic cheerful style that immediately engages the audience. He and his wife have six children whom they homeschool while also running The Center for Literary Education. Andrews promised the audience a curriculum secret to connect your pile of books with your pile of kids and indicated that we could add depth, power, and profundity to homeschooling without also adding a lot of work. Since no one wants to throw out what we are doing and start over, he began to descibe a technique that can enliven all that we are already doing in literature.

Literary analysis is, says Andrews, simpler than college texts would have us believe. He boils it down to three components that all works of fiction share: Style, Context, and Structure. Since usually we try to learn literary analysis with long complicated novels, he urges us to try it with children's literature instead since it is short and clear, yet contains all the elements present in longer fiction works. And the time to start is NOW!

1 - Style (stylistic elements) = literary devices such as onomatopeia, symbolism, assonance, alliteration, juxtaposition
2 - Context - when & where it was written (not the setting)
3 - Structure

Andrews then read us the famous Longfellow poem, Paul Revere's Ride. After reading it once, we went back through it as a group and identified many different literary devices and how Longfellow used them to create an ominous mood of oppression in his poem and a call for Americans to "wake up!"

How does one classify a literary device? 1 - Identify, 2 - Categorize, 3 - Distinguish
  • Onomatopeia - a word that sounds like its definition
  • Assonance - internal vowel sounds repeating from word to word
  • Alliteration - words beginning with the same sound throughout a phrase
  • Imagery - paints a picture in the reader's mind
  • Personification - gives human characteristics to something non-human
  • Simile - comparison using like or as
  • Metaphor - comparison that doesn't use like or as
  • Allusion - refers to something meaningful outside the bounds of the story (an "inside joke")
  • Symbolism - thing that stands for an idea (advanced technique to identify)
He then went through the results of a 90 second Google search on Longfellow to help us understand the context. Longfellow lived from 1807 to 1882 in New England. He was an American poet that was "rock star" famous in his day. This poem was published in January 1861 in Atlantic Monthly at the height of the secession crisis before the Civil War. The poem is a propaganda piece for Union enlistment or possibly a call to unity for the nation NOT just a history of the Revolutionary War, as most of us have believed.

Adam Andrews made me realize how easy it can be to teach literary analysis, since he led us through a discussion of it in just under an hour and illustrated every concept with one short work of literature. I decided that I would go to another of his seminars the next day and I will write about that one soon and how easy I learned all of this can be!

1 comment:

Wee Pip said...

Just wanted to let you know I've been reading your blog and enjoying your notes about the convention.