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ILLA Blogs

Commentary and reviews by classical Lutheran education commentators.

Word Play

Vocabulary ought not merely be associated with tedious assignments; Words are fascinating! I have grown in my vocabulary primarily by reading literature and listening to lectures, but I have also learned by playing with words: Scrabble, Crosswords, Jumble, Balderdash, and more. 

When students complete their assigned work early (and well), I encourage them to put their minds to work on something constructive. One way to do this is to make use of some online word activities. Here are a few to get you started:

Word Ladder

Word Winder

Daily Cryptogram

Mad Takes (like Mad Libs)

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Rate Speeches - Rubrics and Tools

Rate Speeches is a wonderfully practical website to use in a curriculum where students are learning to give speeches. It provides a speech timer, rubric generator, a speech evaluation form generator -- and examples of speeches from contemporary sources for the class to practice evaluating and discussing.

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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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Writing Exercises - Richard F. Nordquist

In order to play baseball, one needs to know the rules of baseball. Mastering the rules, however, doesn't enable one to play baseball well, to pitch, catch, throw, hit, and run.

Learning grammatical rules is certainly important for writing well, but a mere knowledge of the rules doesn't help one to compose well. Grammar is an essential part, but style and rhetoric are not to be neglected. So, what resources are there for teaching rhetoric and style to students who must compose essays, reports, and research papers?

One resource I found recently seems to help a great deal: Richard F. Nordquist's Writing Exercises: Building, Combining, and Revising. It needs a little adaptation to fit into the coursework of my middle school students, but I find that the exercises are quite practical and attainable.

Richard also has a very helpful grammar blog which I have enjoyed over the years located here: http://grammar.about.com/

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Political Campaigns as Pseudo Events

Are the current political candidates heroes . . . or celebrities?

In 1961, Daniel J. Boorstin published The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, contrasting heroes and celebrities in chapter 2:

"The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name. Formerly, a public man needed a private secretary for a barrier between himself and the public. Nowadays, he has a press secretary, to keep him properly in the public eye. . . . The man of truly heroic statue was once supposed to be marked by a scorn for publicity. He quietly relied on the tower of his character or his achievement.

". . . The hero was born of time: his gestation requuired at least a generation. As the saying went, he had 'stood the test of time.' A maker of tradition,he was himself made by tradition. He grew over the generations as people found new virtues in him and attributed to him new exploits. Receding into the misty past, he became more, not less, heroic. It was not necessary that his face or figure have a sharp, well-delineated outline, not that his life be footnoted. Of course there could not have been any photographs of him, and often there was not even a likelness. Men of the last century were more heroic than those of today; men of antiquity were still more heroic.

". . . The celebrity, on the contrary, is always a contemporary. The hero is made by folklore, sacred texts, and history books, but the celebrity is the creature of gossip, of public opinion, of magazines, newspaers, and the ephemeral images of movie and television screen. The passage of time which creates and establishes the hero, destroys the celebrity. One is made, the other unmade, by repetition. The celebrity is born in the daily papers and never loses the mark of his fleeting origin. The very agency which first makes the celebrity in the long run inevitaably destroys him. He will be destroyed, as he was made, by publicity. The newspapers make him, and they unmake him -- not by murder but by suffocation or starvation. No one is more forgotten than the last generation's celebrity." (pp. 61-63)

Thus Boorstin opined: "Celebrity worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real mdels. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but who are famous because they are great. We come close and closer to degrading all fame into notoreity." (p. 48)

Someone (not I) posted a PDF scanned copy of that chapter here: From Hero to Celebrity.

In the same vein, readers may also want to peruse Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and How to Watch the TV News.



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