Whitefield Academy Blog
Logic School: Classical Education in Middle School
In classical education, students advance through the three Trivium Arts (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric) to pursue wisdom and understanding. Education begins first in the Grammar school, where educators train the young minds to comprehend and to write. Students then progress to the Logic school where they are trained to analyze and to make judgments. Rhetoric school is the final stage where students learn to synthesize and compose texts in order to practice using wisdom in solving problems.
For this particular post, we want to focus in on the middle school years that coincide with the Trivium Art of Logic. These years are notorious for being difficult for students, but by focusing on and training these students in analysis and argument, something they are already naturally wired to do at this stage, we find that they thrive.
The Academic Curriculum Continued with Logic
In the 7th grade students transition to the Art of Logic. Formal logic courses will come in the 8th and 9th grades, while inductive logic and the advanced skills of analysis begin in 7th grade. Students learn inductive logic by reading difficult texts. The texts come from the Great Books of Western civilization, and the Bible remains central. Writing instruction begins to focus on teaching the initial skills of argumentation.
We continue to utilize and teach comprehension skills such as the skills of activating background knowledge, identifying text structure, making predictions, creating questions, forming images, self-monitoring, and summarizing.
For example, when a reading lesson begins students should activate their background knowledge by thinking about what they already know about the text. As they read and encounter a difficult sentence they will apply their grammar knowledge to identify in the sentence the parts of speech and their relationships to one another, such as subject and predicate, modifiers, phrases and clauses.
Identifying text structure allows them to understand the thought of the sentence. Forming images or pictures in their minds helps them to follow the author’s meaning.
Self-monitoring is a critical skill. This skill of self-awareness allows them to realize they have lost comprehension as they are reading. For instance, they will acknowledge a difficult sentence or know when they encounter a word they do not recognize.
When they finish a paragraph they will predict what the author will say next. If they can make a prediction then they have comprehended what they read. Not being able to predict indicates to them that they have not understood the paragraph well. Further they will ask questions of the paragraph, again indicating comprehension, while not being able to form a query indicates a lack of comprehension.
Finally, at the end of each paragraph they must be able to summarize what they have read in order to check their comprehension.
The Great Ideas
In these middle school years we also introduce the discrete skills of analysis called the Great Ideas. Students memorize these ideas and learn how to use them. The Great Ideas comprise 102 concepts or categories. These are big concepts that humanity asks questions about generation after generation. These ideas include ideas such as Beauty, Experience, Government, Love, Mind, and Reason.
The Great Ideas are general topics of thought that serve as focal points for our students’ reasoning. They read particular texts and relate the ideas back to a particular Great Idea. This first step of analysis is being able to relate a particular back to a more general concept. This Great Idea then directs the students’ thoughts back to another particular text or to particular movies, shows, songs or other contemporary expressions. Now they can compare and contrast the ideas—the second step of analysis. This foundation of analysis, with the resulting judgment of truth in texts, lie at the heart of the Art of Logic.
Religious and Moral Instruction
It is important to note that as we teach these academic skills we are also continuously engaged in Religious and Moral instruction. This includes listening to, memorizing, and reading Scripture. We also talk with our students about the Seven Virtues of Faith, Hope, Love, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice and Temperance, as we read our Bibles, literature, history, and science texts. They learn to practice these virtues as they follow instructions and complete their assignments, as well as when they are on the playground or in the classroom. Character formation is a primary goal in classical Christian education at Whitefield.