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Teaching Literature at Ridgeview

Edited By Russell Weaver

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.
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The Origins



When I describe what I do in the classroom, I am frequently asked where I learned to do things this way, and since some aspects of my approach to teaching have been adopted by Ridgeview’s teachers, I thought it would be useful to give a brief account of how I arrived at what I do.

Not to spoil the story, but the short answer is that I did not learn this way of teaching anywhere; it has simply been the result of trial and error. The fact that I was able to arrive at a different way of doing things was forwarded by my being innocent of the traditional way of teaching writing because of my having written only one paper in high school and of my having been an honors English student as an undergraduate who was assumed to know how to write. Accordingly, when I first began teaching as a graduate student, I had no idea what it meant to teach composition in the traditional sense. Thus, when I was faced with two classes of first-year students, I came with no experience of rhetorical modes (compare-and-contrast, process, and so on), no awareness of audience, nor any knowledge, believe it or not, of thesis statements. I had read some books in preparation for my job and had talked to some of my colleagues (one said comfortingly, “Don’t worry if you’re not too slick; they won’t know the difference”). However, reading about...

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