Good books don't do us much good if we never learn to understand and evaluate them. Adam Andrews recognizes this, and is doing his best to equip as many families as possible with the tools for literary analysis and appreciation, primarily through his Teaching the Classics course which instructs parents on the use of Socratic methods to discuss books and ideas with their kids.
In The Classics Club DVDs, he implements those methods in a real classroom situation, guiding students through The Wind in the Willows, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Yearling, and Hamlet. Each disc can be used with a variety of ages (from elementary to high school students), though bear in mind the last three books mentioned contain content probably not suitable for pre-teens.
Run time is between 1 1/2 and 2 hours per disc, during which Andrews leads a conversation on the book in question. He's a great teacher—questions and lecture-style discourse are deftly balanced to provide an environment in which critical thinking, curiosity, and attentive listening are all encouraged, and which parents are supposed to model during in-home discussions.
A downloadable PDF study guide/syllabus is available for each disc from Andrews' website. These present a short author bio (of Kenneth Grahame, Mark Twain, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and William Shakespeare), as well as suggested discussion questions that also include space to write answers. One idea is to have your kids write their answers, and then discuss them.
Unlike the other Center for Literary Education options, The Classics Club DVDs can be used by parents before teaching or can be viewed firsthand by students. Even if your kids watch these alone, however, we encourage you to discuss the lecture content with them afterward. The whole point of the Socratic teaching method is to encourage dialogue, not to have kids memorize information and regurgitate it later on.
We also encourage you (the parent) to complete the Teaching the Classics course before using The Classics Club. These DVDs relating to specific works are simply demonstrations of the Teaching the Classics approach at work, and make a lot more sense if you're already familiar with Andrews' methodology. You can use these by themselves, but you'll get more out of them in conjunction with the main program.
One of the advantages of showing these to your kids directly is Andrews' infectious enthusiasm. If your kids are even a little bit reluctant to study literature, his knowledge and passion will likely be the force necessary to impel them into serious study. Not only does he know a lot about literature and now to study it, he simply loves the books he discusses, and reveals how others can, too.
The Classics Club is probably best-suited to those parents who've completed Teaching the Classics, but lack the confidence or understanding to just jump right in to teaching. These lectures will show you what a lesson looks like, how to guide discussion, and what to expect from students. These might not end up on your family's list of favorite Friday night movies, but literature will probably become one of their favorite subjects.
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