Teaching Literature at Ridgeview

by Russell Weaver (Volume editor)
©2015 Monographs XVI, 152 Pages


This collection of essays demonstrates that using fiction, poetry, and drama in the classroom provides students with the best opportunity to learn about thinking, writing, and life at their deepest levels. Several of the contributors have worked or studied at Ridgeview Classical School in Fort Collins, Colorado. E. D. Hirsch, in The Making of Americans, has said of this school that its success «stands as a sharp rebuke to the anti-intellectual pedagogy of most American schools». Within this volume, readers will also encounter essays by teachers who have not worked at Ridgeview but utilize the same approach to teaching, illustrating that these methods can be used with students at all levels of education, from rural schools to major universities. Included in the appendices are course descriptions, syllabi, and study questions to provide examples of how these teaching concepts can be applied in the classroom. Ultimately, these authors provide readers with new insight, in this era of supposed practicality, by illuminating literature as a down-to-earth vehicle whereby students can learn to read, write, think, and feel in ways that empower them both as learners and as human beings.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Editor’s Preface
  • Introduction
  • What Kind of School is Ridgeview?
  • Teaching Literature and the Common Core
  • Part I: The Ridgeview Way
  • Doing Literature
  • From Student to Teacher
  • 16 Months Later
  • The Text-Centered Classroom
  • R-Evolution of a High School Classics Teacher
  • Developing Study Questions
  • Using Study Questions in Class
  • Refining the Questions
  • Conclusion
  • Participation in the Conversation
  • Part II: The Ashland Connection
  • The Origins
  • Teaching the Text in High School
  • My Educational Background as an Undergraduate Student
  • The College of Education
  • Victorian Literature with Dr. Weaver
  • Teaching at Danville High School
  • Study Questions: An Essential Tool in My Teaching Arsenal
  • Writing Study Questions
  • To the Text Itself: The Scarlet Letter
  • How Students Should Prepare for a Class Discussion
  • How Teachers Can Prepare for a Class Discussion
  • From the Class Discussion to Writing the Paper
  • On Teaching Without Lecturing
  • My English Experience
  • The Weaver Method
  • No Lectures
  • Focusing on Words
  • Characteristics of the Successful Weaverian Teacher
  • My Use of the Weaver Method
  • Appendices
  • Florian Hild
  • Course Syllabus
  • Course syllabus
  • Course Description
  • Course Requirements and Grading
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • Study Questions
  • I.1
  • I.2
  • I.3
  • I.4
  • I.5
  • I.6
  • II.1
  • II.2
  • II.4
  • II.5
  • II.6
  • II.7
  • III.1
  • III.2
  • III.3
  • III.5
  • III.6
  • IV.1
  • IV.2
  • IV.3
  • IV.4
  • IV.5
  • V.1
  • V.4
  • VI.2
  • VI.4
  • VI.5
  • VI.7
  • VI.8
  • Epilogue 1
  • Epilogue 2
  • Crime and Punishment Paper
  • Jennifer Tilson
  • A Typical Day
  • Texts Taught
  • Robin Hood Worksheets and Paper Guidelines (fourth grade)
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #1
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #2
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #3
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #4
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #5
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #6
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #7
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #8
  • Robin Hood Essay Worksheet #9
  • Robin Hood Essay Rough Draft
  • Robin Hood Essay
  • William Binder
  • How Class Works
  • Class Discussions
  • Study Questions
  • Essays
  • Eighth-Grade Syllabus
  • Objective
  • Materials
  • Grading
  • Plagiarism
  • Class Policies
  • Course Schedule
  • Lord of the Flies Study Questions: Week Seven (8A)
  • Essay Topics for Lord of the Flies
  • How to cite your quotes
  • Basic pattern for literature papers For Middle School
  • Timothy Smith
  • Classical Literature Syllabus
  • Course Description
  • Procedures
  • Grading
  • Essays
  • Reading Schedule
  • A Note to Parents
  • Sample Study Questions
  • Book I
  • Book II
  • A Typical Day in Classical Literature
  • Final Iliad Paper
  • Step 1: Develop an abstract idea for your paper topic
  • Step 2: The Presentation
  • Step 3: Final Draft Due: Two days after your presentation
  • Suggested Topics
  • Seth Snow
  • Course Description for English II
  • Study Questions for The Glass Menagerie
  • List of Contributors

| ix →

Editor’s Preface


I thought it would be appropriate for me to say a couple of words about this text by way of preface. One reason for my wanting to do this is that I felt the need to acknowledge that I am the editor of a book that has a number of people saying extremely nice things about me. This, in the ordinary scheme of things, would seem to be an instance of being blatantly self-serving. I, of course, cannot pretend that it is not gratifying that my students have enjoyed and profited from my teaching, especially those who have gone on to become teachers themselves. When I first saw what they had written, I strove to find a way that they could talk about their experiences without speaking of Weaverian teaching and the like, but, alas, I could not. Accordingly, I reconciled myself to having my students say nice things about my teaching because what they had to say was ultimately in the service of enabling other teachers and students to enjoy the study of literature in the same way that my students and I have.

The other issue that merits a few prefatory comments is the nature of this book itself. The essays that follow are personal rather than formal, academic essays. We did not want to put ourselves in the position of appearing to teach our colleagues. We simply wanted to share with others of our profession around the country, who may have been looking for another way of going about the teaching of literature, what we do. Each of these essays shows both how the teachers arrived at where they are and something of what they do in the classroom. It should be noted that all of them came from perfectly ordinary educational backgrounds—which is to say that an Ivy League education is not required to do what we do. All that is required is to have a passion both for teaching and for literature as a transformative experience, spiritually as well as intellectually. In addition, given the somewhat unusual nature of our approach to texts, conducting class, and writing, a further requirement is to be willing to try something different from the way in which you were taught. ← ix | x →

Because all of these teachers share a general approach to teaching, there is a certain degree of overlap among their essays. If this were a textbook, having three chapters on A Tale of Two Cities or on the Civil War would be crazy. However, as this is not a textbook, we have let the teachers tell their stories, including in their essays what is important from their point of view about what they do.

The preponderance of the contributors are teachers or students from Ridgeview Classical School. Besides myself there are two other teachers who have not taught at Ridgeview. Their essays have been included to indicate something of the breadth of applicability of this way of teaching, from a small rural school in Ohio to a first-rank university.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my editor, Michelle Salyga, for her guidance in a number of matters at the beginning of the publication process. I would also like to express my appreciation to Steven Mazur and Jackie Pavlovic, the editorial assistant and production supervisor, for their help in getting Teaching Literature at Ridgeview through the hurdles of production. Finally, I want to thank Lisa Ormiston for preparing the manuscript for publication. Her expert help in these matters is always invaluable.

| xi →



Teacher and Principal, Ridgeview Classical School

I hope it will be informative to begin my account of teaching literature at Ridgeview with a short description of my classes with Russell Weaver at Ashland University. I had come to AU with the intention of studying philosophy, which I did, and with the desire to compete as a student-athlete, which I also did. However, I had not been prepared for my first class with Dr. Weaver. It was, as Hannah Arendt had said about Heidegger, as if “thinking had become alive again … There is a teacher; maybe one can learn to think again.” As a freshman, I took a class with Dr. Weaver and I continued to take one for each of the following seven semesters. I had seen thinking come alive in the classroom and I knew that I had to apprentice myself to this teacher if I wanted to learn to think.

This learning to think was accomplished by reading great texts together—from the Iliad and Greek Tragedy to Shakespeare and Dickens; from Keats and Austen to Nietzsche and Dostoevsky—and by sitting together to discuss the words of the text and the worlds they create. During seven seminars, I do not remember a moment when we weren’t looking into our books to find out what these words meant. Dr. Weaver’s classes distinguish themselves from all the others I have taken by their exclusive focus on our material: not he, not I, nothing but the words on page is at the center of the discussions. And yet our classes were deeply personal experiences for me—spiritual is the word that Dr. Weaver likes to use. Meditating on Father Zosima’s epiphany that “everyone is responsible for and to everyone and everything else” required me to understand this responsibility in the world of The Brothers Karamazov, whether the text considered Zosima’s insight as good or bad, and whether adopting or rejecting it had implications for the happiness of Dostoevsky’s characters. But my deliberations didn’t stay there, of course. ← xi | xii → This meditation extended into my own life. I like to think that it changed me for the better.


XVI, 152
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (March)
Text-Centered Classroom, Poetry Ashland, K-12, Empowerment
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XVI, 152 pp.

Biographical notes

Russell Weaver (Volume editor)

Russell Weaver received a BA in English from Tulane University and a PhD in English from the University of Chicago. He has taught English for thirty-two years, the last twenty-nine at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. His publications include two books: Questioning Keats: An Introduction to Applied Hermeneutics (Peter Lang, 2006) and The Moral World of Billy Budd (Peter Lang, 2015), the interpretive procedure of each growing out of his teaching experience.


Title: Teaching Literature at Ridgeview
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
170 pages