Welcome to Classics-Based Writing at SchoolhouseTeachers.com!
This writing course will enable students to gain a greater appreciation for classical literature through such works as “Opportunity,” “Easter Wings,” and “Bleak House.” They will be able to recognize excellent writing and understand various literary terms and techniques. An expanded vocabulary with naturally flow from exposure to classical pieces, and students will regularly use reference tools such as the dictionary that will enable them to create and evaluate their own works. The components of this course are as follows:
Each recommended activity will help you develop different skills, and each is important in creating a mental toolbox of knowledge, skills, and techniques that will make you a better thinker and writer.
Deep Reading: If you are working with a poem or other short piece of literature, you’ll want to absorb it by reading deeply. If you are going to spend four weeks thinking and writing about a work, it’s important to fully understand it, and deep reading is the first step in understanding.
My method of deep reading has three steps:
- Read it at a normal pace in order to get acquainted with the piece as a whole.
- Read it again slowly, with a pencil in hand. Underline words you want to look up, and draw a vertical line next to lines that seem to be key turning points or just something you want to remember.
- Read it aloud, using proper diction and inflection that helps to convey the meaning of the piece. If you are working with a scene from a play or a speech, dramatize it. Try to speak it as the character or original speaker might be expected to present it.
Copying: Writing is an art, just like painting or composition. To become an amazing writer, you need to be deeply acquainted with amazing writing. Copying not only acquaints you with master craftsmen, but it also allows you to absorb an excellent work and to closely observe how a great writer has used tools such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, or metaphor, and how word choice and sentence structure work together to create a beautiful or persuasive or powerful piece of writing.
When you are instructed to copy as part of a lesson, never use your computer to copy and paste the document. That completely short-circuits the lesson and bypasses the necessary focus. Studies in biology and psychology have proven that the physical act of putting words on paper helps the brain sort, categorize, and focus on the details of what is written. You simply learn more when you engage both brain and muscles to interact with a text.
The key to using copywork effectively is to copy, then move on into analysis or creative work based on the work you’re studying (creative pieces based upon another work are usually called “derivative works”). For Classics-Based Writing, you will usually go on to analyze the structure and details of the piece, then transform it in some way, and finally create your own derivative work. The skills you’ll learn by going through this process will help you in all the writing you do in the future and will provide you with the tools to move even further into completely original creative work.
Transformation: If you’re going to be writing your way through high school and all that comes after, you don’t want to be limited in the skills, tools, and techniques you can use. The more you use words, structures, literary techniques, and other building blocks of writing, the more fun you’ll have with communication, and the more competent your writing will be.
Transforming a single piece of writing can be fun, and it’s definitely a way to build your word-crafting skills. Like the super-chef who figures out eighteen ways to use the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, you’ll be challenged to find creative ways to make a story fresh and interesting, even when it’s completely familiar. I hope you’ll enjoy the process!
Go to the Course Objectives and download the notebook.
Course Outline (each unit is four weeks long):
Lesson 1 – Opportunity
Lesson 2 – Death Comes for the Archbishop
Lesson 3 – Limerick form with variations
Lesson 4 – To a Locomotive in Winter
Lesson 6 – Condolence Letter to Mrs. Bixby
Lesson 7 – Easter Wings
Lesson 8 – Daffodils
Lesson 9 – Bleak House
Lesson 10 – Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?
Lesson 11 – The Declaration of Independence
For a printable course outline, click here.
Janice Campbell is a writer, conference speaker, and lifelong learner with an abiding love for classic literature. She graduated with honors from Mary Baldwin College (an English major, of course!) and is author of the Excellence in Literature curriculum for grades 8-12, Transcripts Made Easy, Get a Jump Start on College, and other resources. She is also Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.NAIWE.com). In every facet of her business life—writing, speaking, and NAIWE—Janice’s goal is to share knowledge and resources that can help ordinary people do extraordinary things. You can find her online at www.Everyday-Education.com and www.Janice-Campbell.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.