Thursday, April 8, 2010

English Studies Year 9

Since our school is lighter this week (due to the fact that I made them work a bit during the break last week) I have been using the opportunity to plan for next year. So you will probably get flooded with posts about high school in the next few days. This post is about English Studies.

I'm going to have my high school student write across the curriculum. .... another thing I liked about K12. He had writing assignments in literature, history and science -- short answers or literature responses daily, longer pieces of writing at unit assessments, and formal, focused writing assignments periodically in history and literature. He didn't like them, but he did learn to make writing a bigger part of his life, and sometimes we flexed the assignments to fit in better with his own goals. (And sometimes we did them orally -- hey, oral narration continues to be important in the upper grades and into adult life so it is not cheating)

In his K12 English course, Literary Analysis and Composition were closely interrelated, but Vocabulary and Grammar were completely separate. It would be nice to integrate them a bit but that might be wishful thinking unless my executive function has improved quite a bit in the last year or so.

The two books I hope to use for composition are:

  • Jensen's Format Writing (see here and here)
  • Composition in the Classical Tradition (caveat -- I actually put white-out stickers over a lot of the sample writings in this book, and I'm not particularly squeamish about my childrens' reading -- but this book must be written for law students, there were all kinds of gruesome newspaper articles about child abuse and spousal quarrels - which weren't integral to the course IMO).
Jensen's takes you from the paragraph level up to writing several different varieties of non-fictional papers. It's very methodical.

Composition in the Classical Tradition is based on the progymnasmata (also see here and here) This is similar to the method used by the Jesuits, based on Quintilian. It prepares the student for rhetoric. It is very sequential too, and you can use it for all kinds of writings, including fiction. My oldest used to write progym exercises in Latin and he also used the exercises in the story cycle he was working on at the time.

I keep coming back to the realization that most effective writing programs are essentially implementations of Charlotte Mason's narration ideas (or rather, perhaps, her narration ideas are a simpler, less rigorous kind of progymnasmata). Links to posts from my old blog on exams and narration:

I found this book preview about reading living books and narrating, in PDF form.

I have always like the Online Writing Lab at Purdue, and Daily Grammar, also online. I like the KISS grammar site but haven't ever been able to make systematic use of it (here's a sort of schematic which might help).