This past fall I began tutoring a Foundations class for Classical Conversations. This national homeschool co-op is based on the classical method of education, so the classes are divided by the trivium paradigm. Ages 4-12 are in the Foundations class, the grammar stage. Then they move to Essentials, the dialectic stage, and then Challenge, the rhetoric stage. I tutor a Masters class, the oldest age group in Foundations. These kids are transitioning from grammar to dialectic, and for most of them this is their last year of being in Foundations. My class is really fantastic and I absolutely love spending time with these amazing kids. I’ve discovered that I have a class full of geeks and sci-fi/fantasy fans, so early last semester I introduced my students to Doctor Who with the use of a sonic screwdriver in class. This is my “quiet” technique–everyone knows to stop talking and pay attention when they hear the screwdriver. Or if that doesn’t work I’ll just say, “Silence will fall.” Suffice to say there’s plenty of Whovian geeky fun in our class! : )
I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’ve found to work really well in my class…
With our new grammar, I use the clock on my iPad to time ourselves for each subject. I’ve written each subject, our time limit, and the recitation goal (for example, repeat 6 times) on index cards which are on the whiteboard. If we meet the time and recitation goals, we get a specified number of points. Then when we reach a point goal, I bring some kind of treat into class…this definitely helps with motivation! : ) Also, my iPad timer sound is the sci-fi ring tone, which goes well with the sound of my sonic screwdriver.
Timeline: For this one we started the tradition last semester of sitting on the floor for timeline. I had been lining up the cards on the floor as we recited each one, but this week I switched it up and began handing out a timeline card to each student as I introduced it. Then they would hold up their card when we got to that fact.
History Sentence: To keep the new grammar time simple, I have discouraged the students from singing the history sentence song. I’m not familiar with the songs, and not all the students know or like singing it, so I’ve found it easier to ask that we say, not sing, it. To keep them from breaking into song, I will divide the sentence into 7 sections and have each student say a section. We’ll change the order around so everyone gets a turn saying a different section. Then we’ll practice saying it in unison a couple more times.
This semester I’m going to try to emphasize memorization techniques and sharing some quick ideas for how to remember the sentence. For example, this last week we had a sentence on leaders during World War I, so I talked about how each leader’s name was easily connected with their country…Clemenceau sounds very French, Wilhelm II sounds very German, and so forth. I’m a very visual learner, so I did a quick diagram on the whiteboard of how I would mentally structure the information in the sentence.
Geography, English, Latin, and Science: I don’t do a lot of extra work with these subjects. I typically show the kids the geography locations on a map, then during review I try to make sure they find the locations on a map themselves.
We briefly talk about the English material, I try to quickly explain the concept presented. For instance, with indefinite pronouns I explained what it means to be indefinite, and then asked the kids for a couple examples of definite and indefinite pronouns used in a sentence. Then we’ll just go through and recite the material a few times.
I’ve done some writing sheets for English, like fill-in-the-blanks, but that was mostly at the beginning of the first semester. I have found that stopping to fill out worksheets breaks our rhythm during the new grammar time, and makes it harder to keep focused. So if I have worksheets, we will usually do those during grammar review instead.
With Latin we basically just recite the material the specified number of times, I don’t do anything else. We will recite it quietly, loudly, maybe sit on the floor and whisper it to each other, or otherwise try to vary it, but we are essentially just reciting it six or seven times.
I have to avoid being long-winded with science because there are some weeks with really interesting topics and I want to talk about it forever : P So if applicable, I’ll maybe draw a picture or diagram on the board ahead of time to help introduce the material, or very briefly explain the terms. If I know the students are familiar with it, I might ask them to define the concept or words for me.
Last semester was times tables for math, so I’d write out the multiplication on the whiteboard, we’d recite it a couple times, and then I’d erase it. About halfway through the semester I discovered that reciting the times table backwards was a really good challenge and made the kids think harder about each fact. Now that we’re doing equivalents, I’ll write the facts out on the board, and then give them four or five examples to solve using those conversion tables. This week, with linear equivalents, I had some rather difficult problems, and encouraged the math-inclined students to come up to the whiteboard to solve them. This seemed to encourage a lot of collaboration as the students worked together to solve the problems.
Next post: Science experiments, presentations, and grammar review