Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On the Weekly Presentations

One of the most important portions of our Classical Conversations community day is the opportunity to give weekly presentations.  Practicing the art of speaking clearly and effectively prepares them for the Challenge program, college, and later at home with their families, in ministry, and in any workplace that they may be a part of in the future.  The ability to communicate well is no longer a priority in our culture, we can see it everywhere we look: in song lyrics, books, signs, tweets, magazine articles, Facebook posts.  I suffer from awful communication skills myself.  My ability to write is fair at best. That is not what I want for my kids.  I want them to know how to effectively communicate their thoughts to anyone at any time.

The academic year is set up to be 24 weeks long, so that means each child  in the community has the chance to prepare for and give 24 presentations each year! Throughout the year they work on speech skills and as they get older they go more in-depth into the subject of their choice. 


This year I am tutoring a class of mostly 4-year-olds and a couple 5-year-olds.  We are focusing mainly on sitting quietly, keeping our eyes on the presenter, and asking questions at the end.  At this age it is mainly just show and tell.  The kids all look forward to it! Throughout the morning a couple of them will ask, "Is it time for presentations yet?"  :) 


This is the first year that I have not been in the room with Zoe in her Foundations class so I don't have the chance to watch her do her presentations in the morning, but thankfully there is Essentials in the afternoon, during which time I get to see Zoe present her carefully crafted paper each week for the writing portion of the day!  As we listen to each kid present their paper, we are all listening for specific clauses, dress-ups, and stylistic techniques that they put into their paper.  Zoe loves to include similes, metaphors, and alliteration in her papers.  I love that the kids are paying attention to what details the paper presenters put into their papers! ;)

One thing I have noticed, at least in this particular Essentials class, is that no one is too shy to present their paper.  In fact, it's quite the opposite, most of them are anxiously excited to read their papers aloud to the class!  A couple of the boys are a little indifferent about it, but they always do very well when they present. It's so encouraging to see this!  The whole purpose of learning how to write and present well is to learn how to effectively communicate.  Later when these kids get to the Challenge program they will also be learning how to accurately communicate through the study of Logic.

What I love most about all of this is that it is not only for the student's sake that they are learning this skill. Though their confidence does increase with each presentation, the goal is to equip these young people with the tools they need to share the gospel with all who would believe.  We want these kids to be confident in what they know and in what they believe, and in their ability to speak clearly and effectively about whatever it is they take on in the future.  For my girls, this will be a strong help to them in all the work they do with their own families and any additional work that God provides for them throughout their lifetimes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teaching Like Socrates

A couple weeks ago I attended a seminar on How to Teach Like Socrates.  This was a 1 Day Practicum through Classical Conversations in Sioux Falls, SD.  I had been wanting to learn more about the Socratic method of asking students multiple questions to help them draw out their own conclusions.  This method is an excellent way to learn how to think for yourself.  It also teaches students within a group how to be gracious towards people who have opinions that differ from their own.  This is used often throughout the six years of CC's Challenge program.

I enjoyed the class for the most part.  The first half of the day was fantastic! There is so much to be said about this idea of simply asking questions to learn!  I also learned about how Socratic circles work!  This was totally new to me!  One group sits in the 'inner circle' and participates in a discussion while the rest of the participants sit in the 'outer circle' only to observe.   I happened to be in the outer circle when the discussion of Harry Potter came up.  I wanted to say something so badly but I could not, for I was in the outer circle. ;-) My opinion was quite different from all the rest that were offered so I thought to have a third take on the subject would have been all the more interesting.  Oh well, that'll have to be for another day! 

We took turns going from the inner to the outer circle.  I would recommend a longer time limit than 10 minutes though, especially for a more challenging topic.  I think it's also important to begin with everyone being on the same page, having already defined terms so that everyone is aware of what exactly the topic is.  Also, I would encourage one not to pick a verse or two out of the Bible at random and try to explain them in a group discussion unless everyone had time to thoroughly read the entire passage ahead of time.  The end result was a little nutty.  The speaker even pointed out how off track from scripture we got right away in one of the discussions. 

Since some of the topics we covered in our little circles were a little elusive to begin with, so I had very little to contribute. Half the time I was just confused at what the purpose of the discussion was.  That and I had an awful sore throat the whole time. :(  

I am definitely looking forward to learning more about this method in the coming years. When done well, I can see how helpful this is in encouraging real discussion and hearing everyone's opinions on the topic.  It will be good for my daughters to learn as they get older.   

I learned a wealth of info about this in Leigh Bortins' book The Question.  The whole book is geared toward that dialectic stage of learning where kids really begin seeking answers to their many questions about life.  Learning how to ask questions is one of the most important skills a student can acquire.  Each question is a starter building block for a whole wealth of info to build on, and that goes for any topic!  

As I learn more about the classical methods of learning, my excitement grows!  I want my kids to get the education that I did not get, and this is most certainly what I was looking for.  It is a completely God-centered education that is sharp, rigorous, and fun!

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