ILLA Blogs

Commentary and reviews by classical Lutheran education commentators.

Students (and Disciples) Asking Questions

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One skill I try to engender in every subject is the students' ability to ask questions. It is so much easier to teach a class which is curious about a subject. It is so much more rewarding when a student who does not understand something is able to ask questions of the teacher.

This past week, I asked my students in math class why they didn't ask questions when they got problems wrong or when they didn't understand a concept. For some, homework is a drudgery. They just want to get it done in class so they don't have to do it at home -- and asking questions keeps them from doing their problems. For others, my explanations simply took too much time. For still others, they did not want to appear ignorant in the presence of their peers (in spite of my attempts to make all students feel comfortable about the learning environment). It was worth the time it took to address these issues in class.

In the historic lectionary for Jubilate, the Third Sunday after Easter (John 16:19 which we read today), we read, "Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, "Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said . . .  ?" There are other similar instances recorded in the Gospels. After three years with Jesus, why didn't the disciples just come right out and ask Jesus? Jesus apparently had to teach His disciples how to ask questions as well.

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Playing With Words: Luder and Ludus

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Playing? In school? First, a couple of words about playing in school.

Luder (Luther) “Now since the young must always be hopping and skipping, or at least doing something that they enjoy, and since one cannot very well forbid this — nor would it be wise to forbid them everything — why then should we not set up such schools for them and introduce them to such studies? By the grace of God it is now possible for children to study with pleasure and in play languages, or other arts, or history. Today, schools are not what they once were, a X and purgatory in which we were tormented with casualibus and temporalibus, and yet learned less than nothing despite all the flogging, trembling, anguish, and misery. If we take so much time and trouble to teach children card-playing, singing, and dancing, why do we not take as much time to teach them reading and other disciplines while they are young and have the time, and are apt and eager to learn?(The American Edition of Luther's Works, vol. 45, pp. 369-370)

Ludus in Latin was associated with a number of things, two of which included "play" and "school." One definition given on Wikipedia relates that a ludus was "an elementary or primary school or the school of the “litterator" attended by boys and girls up to the age of 11 was a ludus. Ludi were to be found throughout the city, and were run by a ludi magister (schoolmaster) who was often an educated slave or freedman. School started around six o'clock each morning and finished just after midday. Students were taught math, reading, writing, poetry, geometry and sometimes rhetoric."

Whenever I tell my students that one Latin word for school is a synonym for fun, they find it difficult to believe. (In the spirit of full disclosure: I am vigorously opposed to attempts to make school fun, but I am altogether in favor of making school fascinating. More on that in a later blog.)

That being said, there are a number of ways to play (or should I say, "to fascinate"?) with words  such as Jumble, Boggle (anagrams), Scrabble, WordMorph, Crosswords, Hangman, Palindromes, Rootonym, UnoLingo, and Lexigo.

You might begin pulling this thread at The Puzzle Society, USA Today Puzzles, and even AARP (besides the games you might find on SpellingCity wherein you could add your own spelling/vocabulary list).

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Continuing Education: The Great Courses

The Great CoursesNews Flash: I didn't learn everything I needed to know in grade school, high school, or college. Neither have I achieved my early intentions of becoming a polymath by reading all the Great Books of the Western world and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Thus it is no surprise that as I teach a broad category of subjects, I often find myself lacking the knowledge of details which I would like to share on various subjects with my students.

One pleasant way I have found to fill in the gaps is the wide variety of subjects offered by The Great Courses. At first, I bought their DVDs which are often on sale -- or found them at Half Price books or on eBay. But then I discovered that as an Amazon Prime member I could have access to a growing number of these videos online for a $10 per month subscription - and I don't have to add more shelves in the TV room. Amazon even offers a free 7-day trial of the collection.

I also have tried the writing course on MasterClass.Com in order to gain some perspective apart from just trying to gather lesson plans and methodologies. If the classical Lutheran education thing doesn't work out for me, I may consider taking the Steven Martin course on stand-up comedy.

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The Writer's Handbook

I tend to take an eclectic approach to curriculum development rather than relying on any single series. I have enjoyed and grown in my teaching abilities by purchasing, working through, and adapting materials like Andrew Pudewa's Institute for the Excellence in Writing, Andrew Kern's The Lost Tools of Writing, and Classical Writing by Lene Mahler Jacqua and Tracy Gustillio.

There are also online resources such as The University of Wisconsin - Madison's Writer's Handbook and

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Dr. Richard Paul - How To Teach

I came across Dr. Richard Paul and The Foundation for Critical Thinking so long ago, that I was buying VHS tapes of his lectures. They really helped me develop an understanding of critical thinking which emphasized CONTENT - contrary to the progressive education's approach to teaching critical thinking as a "skill."

Now many of these videos are on YouTube. You may find the time well-spent if you devote some time to watching these:

How To Teach Series - 9 Videos

Critical Thinking for Children - 5-Part Series

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