Sunday, April 29, 2012

Midwest Homeschool Convention - Teaching Classics from Seuss to Socrates

After enjoying the first seminar from Adam Andrews so much, I raved about it to my friends and one of them came along with me to hear a second seminar by him entitled Teaching Classics from Seuss to Socrates. Even though literature DOESN'T seem like a mystery to me, I was intrigued by the premise of using children's books to discuss literary themes, especially in five simple steps. (Apparently I am a sucker for any number of easy-to-follow steps.

Teaching the Classics from Seuss to Socrates – Literary Analysis for Everyone
Does the subject of literature seem like a mystery?  Are you a loss about how to understand it yourself, much less teach it to your kids?  This inspiring lecture demonstrates that everything you need to know about understanding and teaching literature is present in your second grader’s bedtime story.  Adam reads a classics children’s story out loud and then leads the audience into a discussion of eternal literary themes.  Along the way, he shows how you can do the same at home by following five simple steps.  Your literature curriculum – to say nothing of family story time – will come alive automatically.  You’ll never put the kids to bed the same way again!    

Adam Andrews began the session again with a cheerful energetic manner that makes him fun to hear. His opening point was that studying literature should be more than a vocabulary list, comprehension questions and an optional project at the end (like a diorama). He reiterated some of the points from the earlier seminar, such as 'all books share common elements: style, context, structure.' But no worries, this seminar has a common starting place, but goes a completely different direction.

The five aspects of literature he discussed using a chart easily found in his company's brochure (I didn't find it online) were:
  1. Conflict
  2. Plot
  3. Setting 
  4. Theme
  5. Characters
 Conflict = Problem; all stories have (or should have) conflict because life does. Plus then it's interesting. lol
There are only five conflicts in all literature and one thing to do with students is to categorize the plot into one of these five.
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Himself
  • Man vs. God (or fate)
  • Man vs. Society
Plot = what happens (list of events) Andrews explained the plot outline as follows:
1 - Exposition (beginning)
2 - Rising Action (conflict, the tension grows)
3 - Climax (resolution of the conflict)
4 - Denouement (falling action) pronounce it "day-new-mah"
5 - Conclusion (end); usually the author gives some sort of reason for writing

Then Andrews read us a children's book, one of my favorites actually - A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban. The pages were projected on two large screens and he read with emotion. After reading, he asked us some questions from his list of 173 Socratic questions (found in the book Reading Roadmaps (which my friend and I later purchased together).
Which conflict characterizes this story? (Man vs. Man - will Frances get the tea set from Thelma) Someone pointed out it could also be Man vs. Self - will Frances learn to stand up for herself? Someone else said, "Can Frances and Thelma learn to be friends?" We had a lively literary discussion on the motivations of these characters and the implications this story had on their lives.

If children can learn to discuss literary themes at a younger age, then literary analysis at the high school and college level will be easier. People who look deeply into literature will read more on their own as well. And it can be useful to read children's books with teens and teach them how. Which would be easier to analyze - A Bargain for Frances or Hamlet? But the steps are the same.

You can buy a lecture with a different name which appears to have the same content on Adam Andrew's website for $3. "Education, Freedom ... and Literary Analysis"

1 comment:

Niffercoo said...

I have his "Teaching the Classics" curriculum that I purchased from IEW. I bought the DVDs, too, but I have managed to lose them. Ugh. From what I've read/watched of his stuff, it is REALLY great! And some of it we talked about during our Nanowrimo prep work each year! :)