Review of Teaching the Classics from IEW

There is a little background to this review:
1. I have a Master’s Degree in Reading Education.
2. I love to read and discuss literature.
3. I could be a perpetual student, taking classes forever, if pesky things like money and taking care of a home and kids didn’t get in the way

To say I was excited to review this course- Teaching the Classics from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) may be an understatement.

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I received a DVD and workbook with six sessions of Adam Andrews discussing Teaching the Classics. Typically this set sells for $89. Additional workbooks can be purchased for $29.

 photo teachingclassics_zps99736e1d.jpg There are six separate sessions on the DVD. You could divide it up and watch one a week- especially if you were using it with high school students or with a group. The course is for parents and teachers, but middle school and high school students could benefit from it also. In fact, I found a wonderful set of lesson plans on the the site if you wanted to use the DVD and workbook as a literature class for middle or highschoolers.

For my review, I watched the DVDs myself. I wanted to preview them and see how I could plan for my older students to use them.

I learned quite a bit. I must admit that I was a little skeptical- not expecting much information that I didn’t already know about teaching literature.

But I liked Adam Andrews’s easy style of discussing and explaining. I learned new information with the story chart he used each time to discuss the different elements of the plot of a story. And I had never really considered this, but he points out that all stories- even very simple ones- follow the same plot structure. So in teaching how to think about this structure to our students, why not use simple, short stories to begin with?

And that is exactly what he does throughout this course.

In the introduction, he explains the Socratic Method of teaching which is designed to teach students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

He then begins by introducing the story chart that will be used throughout the course. Then, using various pieces of literature, he guides listeners in filling out the story chart, emphasizing different elements of plot.

The pieces of literature he uses are included in the workbook. There are passages from some well-known novels- Tom Saywer, The Jungle Book. There are some long poems- “Paul Revere’s Ride”, “Casey at the Bat”. There are a few short stories- “Peter Rabbit”, “Where Love Is, God Is”. Using these pieces of literature that will be familiar to many, Andrews looks at each element of plot. With each story, I outlined the story on the story chart, and Andrews led a discussion of the story using Socratic Questions.

Throughout the discussion, he uses these Socratic Questions- questions that are meant to stimulate thinking about the story instead of just leading to basic, comprehension level, yes and no answers.

An appendix provides a whole list of these Socratic Questions to consider for every plot element. The appendix also gives a blank copy of the story chart that can be reproduced for students.

I really liked this course. I learned quite a bit. I plan to use it over the fall semester of school to teach my kids how to think about and discuss literature. I’m not sure the younger crew could understand the DVDs, but they could certainly learn the elements of plot and how to use a story chart.

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You can read what other reviewers thought about the Teaching the Classics course and some other materials from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) by clicking below.


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