Help! How Do I Teach Writing?
“My daughter hates to write.” “My child is reluctant to even try writing and I don’t know how to motivate him to learn how to write.” “ I don’t know how to teach writing.” “My child never wants to write and doesn’t even know how to start.” “What is the best method to teach writing?”
These are all common statements and questions we hear from families whose students are entering the upper grammar school (3rd-4th), early logic school (5th-6th) and upper logic school (7th-8th). In traditional education, students are often expected to write with no clear model before them. This often leads to frustration and tears on the part of both parent and student as students proclaim, “I just don’t know what to write!” History’s greatest writers learned by imitation, acquiring skills that can be used and transferred to all kinds of writing and speaking. This takes a purposeful and cumulative process.
In our classical composition classes we aim to take students from being novice writers to master writers with a thoughtful, engaging, and deliberate process. A good writing teacher teaches students to communicate through language. They teach the process of not just writing, but thinking about writing. A master writing teacher teaches students to think about writing, to express their thoughts in such a way that others can understand, and to use their writing to move and persuade their readers.
Classical writing curricula is based on the classical progymnasmata. “Progymnasmata” is Greek for “preliminary exercises” and prepares students to enter their final rhetoric training (9-12th grade). Writing is an art that takes years to develop and requires good models and good teachers. In the classical progymnasmata, students study and imitate the work of master communicators as they progress through a series of fourteen exercises, or skills. These skills teach students to use proper grammatical constructions as a basis for their writing, guides them in writing in a logical and clear way, and teaches them to be able to express their ideas in a way that will suit any given audience or occasion.
At The Classical Academy we begin early writing skills in our Kindergarten through 2nd grade classes through narration, dictation, and copywork. In our 3rd through 8th grade classes students begin the classical progymnasmata. Here students progress through specified skills that build upon each other. They begin working with fables and narratives, learning the components of a story and adding new imaginative detail. After working through stories already written by master writers, students then begin to use stories. Students are taught how to take a truth and use a story to explain it. Previous skills continue to be reinforced level by level. Upper logic students finish logic school being able to refute or confirm parts of narratives. They are able to identify parts of stories that need refuting or confirming and form a solid argument that expresses their opinions. Outlining and multiple paragraph essays are used as students progress through this first half of the progymnasmata in grades 3-8.
Writing is an art that gives the student the ability to work with words and words have great power. We aim to graduate students who use their power of words (in spoken and written form) to bring about truth, goodness, and beauty. We take our responsibility as teachers seriously to teach students to love and pursue virtue.
Students enrolled at The Classical Academy in grades 3-8 receive all of their main writing lessons in school under our classical composition teacher. Students then take their assignments from class and work on them at home under the guidance of their parents. Check out our staff page to read about our phenomenal composition and grammar teacher, Annie Atkinson.
To learn more about how The Classical Academy partners with families on their home education journey, please check out the rest of our website. We love to hear from families so please let us know if you have any questions!
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