Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lost Tools of Writing Lesson 2 -- Arrangement, Part 1

I was happy to see that the students were successful in completing their Invention homework from the week before. Each arrived with 30 items in their ANI columns, and a much better understanding of how the topic questions help to feed the ANI chart.

I began the class by talking to the students briefly about the Art of Rhetoric, and that the writing tools they were learning about come from the discipline of Rhetoric. I informed them that Rhetoric also includes speaking -- not just writing -- and introduced the other two canons that apply to speaking: Memory and Delivery.

With that introduction, I asked them to apply these ideas to their delivery of the Opening Verse that we have been saying each week.

I then read them a poem by James Kavanaugh entitled Will You Be My Friend? I chose this poem because it seems to reveal much of what young people go through at this age. . . and in the many years of their youth.

Our new task was to sort all of the items in the ANI chart. This task is similar to sorting anything they might collect such as legos, socks or silverware. Although it is a fairly simple concept, it did take us nearly the entire class period. In addition to the methods outlined in the text (placing the same symbol next to "like" items, such as a *, ! or &), I suggested that using colored pencils may be helpful. Color is simply easier to see when you have a mixed group.

After the main lesson portion of our time together, I informed the students that we would be preparing a *surprise* for our homeschool group annual Christmas Party. But I didn't tell them what the surprise would be! And that they had to practice keeping quiet about it.

We finished the class with a brief game of charades. . . unbeknownst to them, it was an introduction to the surprise!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lost Tools of Writing, Lesson 2 -- Invention

The second module on Invention brought both the students and I to a little bump in the road! About 3/4 of the way through the class time, I was noticing sort of a glazed / dazed look in their eyes . . . and KNEW they were not quite getting it. It was time to change gears and take a slightly different approach.

I did so, and yes, it helped. But we still needed to spend more time on this lesson. So as the author of the program recommends, I did not rush it. We are taking our time to make sure that this new material really sinks in.

The lesson was really about the "Topics." However, this word "topics" is not used in the same manner that we tend to think of the word in modern times. Essentially, the topics are a place the mind goes to for information. In many classes, these are listed and given as a part of the study of rhetoric. However, they are most useful when converted to the form of a question. The author of the LToW reminds us that we have been questioning to learn about the world since we were toddlers, or even infants. For instance, a 2-year-old goes around trying to define all that he sees in an effort to understand his world. Early on he may generalize and call all 4-footed mammals "dog." But soon learns that the one with whiskers and sharp claws that meows is actually called "cat." This is the earliest form of the topic known as "definition": what IS the term we are talking about?

This is a wonderful thinking tool for the students and has numerous applications -- not just in writing and language arts, but also in sciences. For the purposes of writing, asking the questions of the topics gives the students lots of material to "discover" or "invent" -- the first step in the writing process.

Our bump in road came when I focused on the topic questions themselves . . . without clear instruction on how they apply to the ANI chart. Once I saw this error, I quickly shifted the direction of the class and as mentioned, it did help.

So before the following class, I asked the students to read "Rikki Tikki Tavi," and we used material from the story to use with the questions. They all seemed to understand the idea much better this time around, and I am confident that they will successfully complete their homework.

Next lesson: Lesson 2, Arrangement Module. We will cover "sorting": how to place the information they have generated from the Invention process (using the topic questions) into an outline. This outline will have a few more details than the one they learned to create in Lesson 1.