Thursday, April 19, 2012


Today, our Associate Director, Troy Wathen has something inspiring to share!

The beauty of a layered approach to teaching history and literature is that the students can always be counted on to surprise the teacher with what they learned in years prior. 

Last week we began our study of William Shakespeare so I broke out my trusty Lambs Book of Shakespeare Stories to read the tale of Hamlet to my students. As I was reading, my students periodically interjected with some bit of detail regarding the play. One student said, “Everyone is going to die.” Another followed up with, “That’s because this is a tragedy.” Little comments like these continued throughout the reading, but what was most encouraging to me was when the Lambs (authors of this abridged story) told of Hamlet’s struggle with existence and quoted, “To be or not to be,” I heard my students mumbling, “that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?...” You get the picture. The students who had been at SLO Classical Academy the previous year had memorized a long portion of Hamlet’s speech—much longer than the short phrase we all know. 

This reminded me of how important memorization and recitation are in the grammar stage of learning. This speech stuck with my students for a year and will likely stay with them a lifetime because it was memorized in the years before memorization ceases to be cool and way before the calcification of the brain that we adults experience. Because these students have stored this moving speech, and similar speeches and poems away in their minds, they will be able to pull ideas and use them in compositions and speeches in the future. The grammar of good rhetoric is the storing away of meaningful quotes and phrases to later be used in the midst of a well-crafted essay or college application letter. SLO Classical Academy students are being prepared for the “real” world by being equipped with excellent rhetorical skills starting with kindergarten recitations.

Speaking of kindergarten recitations...Recitation Night is coming! Students in our Kindergarten and Primary classes will be reciting poems of their choosing in front of an audience of friends and families.  For many, public speaking is the least desirable activity so it is a rich evening watching students conquer their nervousness and publicly recite poetry. What's more, as evidenced by Troy's experience, the poetry they memorize now will become woven into the fabric of their souls, to be drawn upon later.  Aren't we so fortunate to be intimately involved in that process?  Instead of viewing recitation as another "have-to," let's pass on to our children the beauty of the written and spoken word.  Embrace it,  have fun with it, maybe pick a poem yourself to memorize.  

Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.  ~Carl Sandburg

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