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ILLA Blogs - ILLA Blogs

ILLA Blogs

Commentary and reviews by classical Lutheran education commentators.
News regarding education and culture.

"A Mighty Fortress" and Elgar's Enigma Variation IX

"A Mighty Fortress" (Luther's paraphrase of Psalm 46) has been translated into English at least seventy times and also into many other languages. It has also inspired many adaptations by such musicians as Bach, Telemann, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Debussey, and Ralph Vaughn Williams as noted in the Wikipedia article on "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

One of the most unusual, perhaps, is the case made by Robert W. Padgett that the tune of Luther's hymn lies behind one of the variations in Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations. You might observe and listen to it here.

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Forbes: Whatever Happened to Common Core?

Peter Greene offers an interesting perspective in a July 12, 2018 article found in Forbes entitled Whatever Happened to Common Core? While not addressing philosophical issues underlying Common Core's creation, it does demonstrate how quickly something can become passe in the world of education.

Already in 2005, the CSRQ Center Report on Elementary School Comprehensive School Reform Models stated: "In 1998, education researcher Sam Stringfield observed, 'There is no shortage of programs that promise to turn around low-performing schools, but how can you tell which ones will live up to their claims?' Since those words were written, more than 500 distinct comprehensive school reform (CSR) approaches have been adopted in more than 5,000 schools across the country."

Classical Lutheran education is not a reform model. It is a renaissance. Dr. Veith's 1996 article Renaissance, Not Reform is as poignant today as it was 20 years ago . . .

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Recent Comments
Rev. Joel A. Brondos
Veith's article is extremely difficult to find online. Websites which used to carry it no longer have those pages available. I jus... Read More
Friday, 13 July 2018 13:04

Hemingway's Reading List for a Young Writer (1934)

141217 ernest hemingway 11The OpenCulture website includes an interesting story about a young writer's interaction with Ernest Hemingway which includes a reading list which Hemingway wrote down for the writer.

While classical Lutheran educators probably wouldn't use the reading list as it is, it is still quite informative in a number of different ways. If you'd like to read the article, click HERE.

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Student Writing Examples

I've often wanted to show my students the exemplary work of other students their age just to give them some idea of what is possible. Andrew Pudewa's Institute for the Excellence in Writing (IEW) offers samples of such compositions: http://magnumopusmagazine.com/home/

Perhaps classical Lutheran education schools would like to organize a writing contest or engage in online spelling bees, geography bees, and Bible bees?

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Common Core Nose Dive

The Education InvasionJoy Pullman, executive editor of The Federalist, recently blogged about the nose dive in math scores on standardized tests in California. Pullman correlates the data this of this decline to the adoption of Common Core.

Will we see a comparable decline in all states which have adopted Common Core standards?

Amazon.com carries her book, The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids, and Issues, Etc. recently conducted an interview with her.

A Wikipedia entry: Mathematically Correctwas a U.S.-based website created by educators, parents, mathematicians, and scientists who were concerned about the direction of reform mathematics curricula based on NCTM Standards Created in 1997. It was a frequently cited website in the so-called Math wars, and was actively updated until 2003. The website went offline sometime in late 2012 or early 2013 but has been preserved on the Internet Archive.

I wish someone would resurrect this site. It shows that problems with math curricula are not unique to Common Core, especially in California. It has been going on for quite some time.

Lutheran schools get it wrong when they emulate public schools in methods and curricula, attempting to improve enrollment numbers by demonstrating that they are "just as good" as public schools while adding some Bible stories.

Classical Lutheran education represents an entirely different educational philosophy while  featuring a catechetical program which shows the distinctively evangelical character of Lutheran orthodoxy.

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Latin Tutor Resources

Adjective PairsThose teaching Latin might benefit from some of the resources found in the archives of Gray Fox Tutors and the Carmenta Blog.

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Memoria Press: The Classical Teacher

Memoria PressThanks to Pr. Rene Castillero of Martin Luther Grammar School in Sheridan, Wyoming, I was reminded of an online publication produced by Memoria Press called Classical Teaching. Back issues may also be read there. You may sign up to be put on their mailing list here. Discussions on any of these articles or issues may be initiated using our website's EasyDiscuss features. (If there is any difficulty accessing that feature, please let me know so that I may get it working.)

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How Readable Is Your Writing?

Your writing may be without any spelling or grammatical errors, but is it readable?

Simply by cutting and pasting text into the Readability website, you can get an idea on how readable your writing is based on the Flesch-Kincaid method -- and your students will be able to do the same.


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Google Earth, Chromebooks, and Chrome Browser

Google Earth used to be a program one had to download, install, and update - but no longer.

For those who have Chromebooks or the Chrome browser, Google Earth is available online: http://earth.google.com (You must use the Chrome browser to access it.)

This is exciting news for teachers who can now make use of KML and KMZ files to highlight geographical locations found in literature, history, and science. So, for example, one can follow the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys.

I found this "Google Lit Trip" for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which we just completed reading: There are Google Lit Trip KML files for Make Way for Ducklings, Paddle to the Sea, Around the World in 80 Dyas,  the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Life of Luther, and more.

You can search for KMZ and KML files by including "file:kmz" or "file:kml" in your Google search bar -- and by learning more about Google Lit Trips. (I plan on creating some for the missionary journeys of St. Paul, but if someone else beats me to it, let me know!) See How to Create a Google Lit Trip.


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Unearthed in Rome's New Subway

Do civil engineers make good archaeologists? Those currently working on Rome's latest infrastructure, the subway, have been digging up some amazing finds. Check into A Centurion's Digs and Extinct Elephants and Persian Peach Pits.

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VocabularyI occasionally like to invent classroom games which will enhance or spice up the learning quotient among my students. The lastest one is Zingo! (I originally called it "Ding!" but the students decided "Zingo!" would be better.)

The game goes like this: I to slip one of our vocabulary words past them by using it nonchalantly in casual classroom conversation. If they take note of that word, they are to say "Zingo!" and they get a point on a chart I made -- two points if they can define the word.

A second aspect of this game occurs when a student can use the word in classroom discussions -- for which they will get two points.

I've also used other standard word games to help students learn that words can be fascinating. A number of these games can be found online such as classic word jumbles and Boggle. You might have other favorites such as Scrabble or crossword puzzles.  Others are more board-like games such as Balderdash.

Also, check out Wordnik.


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1587 Map of the World

mappityAn extremely rare and massive 16th-century map has been been fully assembled and digitized for the first time ever.  The three-by-three metre map, the largest map of the world made during the Renaissance, brims with mystical beasts and elaborate drawings. It was created in 1587 by little-known Italian geographer Urbano Monte. Check out the details HERE.

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Curriculum Mapping

course mason

"Curriculum mapping is a process for collecting and recording curriculum-related data that identifies core skills and content taught, processes employed, and assessments used for each subject area and grade level."

Would classical Lutheran education find any value in identifying core content and skills (emphasis on the content)? Or is education much more organic than an objective classification of academic instruction?

Course mapping has been very popular in many educational circles which wish to standardize or objectivize education -- which can be a rather sterile approach to learning. However, since the software or cloud-based services are rather expensive, classical Lutheran educators haven't had much opportunity to review it or try it (or devise criteria for what makes education particularly "classical" and "Lutheran").

Course Mason, however, is a free, cloud-based course mapping utility which will allow classical Lutheran educators to check it out . . . and even to peruse and review the Common Core standards contained therein.

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Mind Mapping

WiseMappingOn one hand, mind mapping might just be another distraction created by progressive educators to make students look like they're doing something when in fact they are wasting time when tried-and-true classical methods would do just as well if not better. On the other hand, mind mapping might be a way for disorganized students to learn a step-by-step method in a visual way -- who can then move on to outlining and the proper format of paragraphs.

There are ways to do mind mapping with pencil and paper which may serve either to outline an essay or as a variant form of note-taking. A simple Google search can turn up many resources and YouTube videos such as Ten Mind Mapping Strategies or Using mind mapping as a memorable fact-retention tool.

There are mind mapping programs which can be installed on computers or cloud-based services often cost money which frugal classical Lutheran educators have learned to do without. With WiseMapping.com, however, you (and your children or students) can determine whether cloud-based mind-mapping is a useful tool or just another distraction.

Have  you used mind-mapping successfully and can offer some sample classical lesson plans? Do you have outlining and paragraph-building exercises you'd like to share?

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Printable Paper

PrintablePaperPenmanship paper. Music staves of every variety. Hexagon paper. 3D paper. Perspective paper. Polar co-ordinate paper. Just about every kind grid or column  paper you can imagine is available free for download at Printable Paper . . . or you can save your time and purchase the full library of 800+ styles and templates for $39. These papers privide numerous options for everything from math to science to art.

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Big Words for Little Children

Sanctimonious. Eau de toilette. Commode. Frappe. Hideous. Banshee.

These are not the kind of words we would expect many children to know — or spell. These very words, however, were heard in the first fifteen minutes of The Spooktacular New Adventures of CasperCasper [the Friendly Ghost], a cartoon I sat down to watch with my sons one morning when they were young (late 1990's - a rather different version than what I grew up with in comic books and tv in the 1960's).

The network rated this cartoon with a “Y” which meant that it was suitable for children under 7.

I watched this cartoon from a rather different perspective than my sons. Not only did I wonder about the propriety of them watching ghosts being frappeed in a commode, but I also wondered what was going on in their minds since they hadn’t the slightest idea what such words meant. Did they come to associate these words with what they saw — or did they pass through one ear and out the other, making no concrete connection with the glassy-eyed, mezmerized gaze into a large-screen LCD?

Schools in general have been dumbing down the curriculum for the children. The latest thinking in the elementary education field is that children should be given only five vocabulary words since studies have shown that most children can’t remember more than that. And there are scores of Christian education pundits who would dumb down the liturgy and hymnody of our church, espousing children’s sermons and musical ditties with the belief that such childishness is appropriate for children. It is not. And while I could agree that the words in the aforementioned episode of Casper seem a bit much for small children, I doubt that the network got angry letters from parents complaining that the script writers needed to get realistic.

Our children may run into some big words in our hymns and liturgy which they don’t understand. We need not feel compelled to present an etymological lecture about every word encountered. A passing attempt will suffice while our children are growing into their vocabulary. In time, they will be taught what such “difficult” words mean instead of being programmed to avoid the big words, letting them fall into the oblivion of disuse.
Words can be received and stored up before the meaning of them becomes known.

The subsequent knowing, especially regarding the words of faith, will not be achieved solely by experience, intuition, or rationalization. If they were, there would be little left for the Holy Spirit to do. We might well prefer that our children not learn words by associating them with the antics of animated characters, but by having them associated with the living Word of God. Thus they will come to know and love “big” words — words judged to be big not because of the number of syllables, but because of the wealth of meaning and life conveyed therein. Justification. Expiation. Incarnate. Propitiation. Christocentric. Forensic. Sanctification.

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Class Management Templates

Classroom management and organization are vital so that classical content does not get lost in a tangle of day-to-day mismanaged disorganitzation.

Excel templates are readily available to teachers and headmasters, saving money on gradebooks, copier paper, toner, and the like. Such things as planbooks can also help a headmaster make certain that classrooms are staying on task efficiently.

Many free templates are available across the web, but as an example, check out Vertex42's Excel templates for gradebooks, planners and calendars.

For a small annual fee (less than the price of a wire-bound hardcopy gradebook), administrators, teachers, parents, and students can have access to weekly lesson plans and assignments through PlanBookEDU's full-featured online planning book.

Chromebook and G-Suite users should also be able to find numerous solutions in various apps.

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Virtual Dissections

Small classical Lutheran schools may not have the resources to purchase specimens and dissecting equipment, but there are free websites which can provide the next best thing: virtual dissections (although there are also those which require a fee for use). Check out the resources listed on the ScienceBank website.


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Eratosthenes' Calculation of the Earth's Circumference

Today marks the autumnal equinox (also see the equinox pages at Earth and Sky) -- which is also known as the beginning of astronomical autumn (in distinction from the meteorlogical autumn).

There is a myth that the autumnal and vernal equinoxes have a special property which enables eggs and brooms to balance in a unique way. Today might be an opportunity to demonstrate how to debunk a myth. Students might also like to consider measuring a shadow (perpendicular to the ground), erecting a sun dial, or marking the point on the horizon where the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening - something which can also be done using an app like "The Photographer's Ephemeris," or viewing a simulation on a website.

However, it was on a summer soltice that Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth using some "simple" geometry (n.b. geo = earth and metry = measure). Thinking ahead a few months . . .  I wonder if some classical Lutheran schools around the country (or the world?) might re-enact Eratosthenes' experiment on the next December solstice -- or perhaps the following June -- and communicate their findings via Skype . . .

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When Lutheran Schools Close

The statistics are alarming. Enrollment in Lutheran schools is declining sharply and Lutheran schools are closing in greater numbers over the past 25 years.

In his 2014 work entitled, When Lutheran Schools Close: A Study of Ministries Under Stress, Rev. Dr. Richard Zeile examines the decline of Lutheran Schools in Detroit, Michigan, during the 1990's. Ten Detroit Lutheran schools that closed during the decade 1990 to 1999 (The remaining ten closed by 2010) were examined by comparing statistical data, leader surveys, and the author's participant journal to compare the interplay of theory, fact, and assumption. The failure to acknowledge demographic trends, with an inadequate theology of church growth, led to dysfunctional responses on the part of congregations, staff, and district officials. Theoretical questions, so often neglected by participants in ministry, go to the heart of institutional integrity which requires shared vision and values, as well as a sober cognizance of circumstances. A theology of the cross, which recognizes that God is with His servants even (or especially) in failure, and thus prizes faithfulness rather than institutional success, is needed to provide an authentic basis for the ministry of Christian schools in times of stress.

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