Thursday, June 21, 2007

Random Thoughts on AO, Year 7 and King Arthur

Triss and I are preparing for a year in the Middle Ages, complete with Arthurian legends. I am prereading The Once and Future King. There have been a lot of emails on the Yahoo loop about this book, and I am very curious. Lindafay posted a link on her blog to the Cliffsnotes for the book, and I have been reading that as well.

The Once and Future King is supposed to have leadership themes. I am only on chapter three, but I can see the threads beginning.

I handed Triss Watership Down a few weeks ago, thinking it was an additional reader for Year 7, but as it turns out (oh, my fuzzy brain), Watership Down is a literature selection to be spread out among twelve weeks. She inhaled it, of course, and thought it as wonderful as Redwall. She has begun using all kinds of rabbit-speak terms for our Thumper-bunny's behavior. Watership Down is supposed to be about government, but I don't think she caught that. I told her this morning (after a little probing) that the book contrasts different types of government, and the light went on. She was able to apply that right off and told me exactly what she thought the contrast was, although she didn't realize there was a deeper theme until I mentioned it. Because the book was supposed to have been a contemplative-type school book (my bad), I asked her if she would write me a composition discussing the themes of government in the book. She was (surprisingly) delighted, and said it would be just like writing a paper on Redwall.

This makes me think of Leslie's post, about a seminar at a CM conference (was it the Child Light Conference?), which was on assessment. She talks about "guided instruction" as contrasted with predigesting, spoonfeeding, and expecting exact regurgitation. The contrast really sits well with me. Teacher guidance is not to be shunned. The trick is guiding without getting between the child and the book.

In The Once and Future King, Merlyn is Arthur's tutor. The morning of their first meeting, he asks Merlyn if he can ask him a question.

"It is what I am for," Merlyn replies.

(Has anyone else read A Hole is to Dig? A teacher is for a student to ask questions!)

Once Triss and I got on the subject of deeper themes this morning, we began discussing other Arthur books she has read: Howard Pyle's King Arthur and Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. She wanted to know in what order they were written (which one was first, etc.) and I wanted to know the deeper themes of the two books. When she and I read Howard Pyle's Arthur a year or two ago, I was so immersed in figuring out AO and CM that I didn't do any deeper research into Arthur at all, but just took the stories at face value, happy to make it through the pseudo-old English.

One of the things I enjoy so much about the books in AO/HEO is the way they build on one another. I come to certain books thinking, why in the world did they choose this book? How does this one fit? Or, my favorite, why are we reading another book on this subject/story? And then once the reading commences, I begin to see the pieces fall into place. It is a little like watching an epic unfold.


Tim's Mom said...

" Teacher guidance is not to be shunned. The trick is guiding without getting between the child and the book."

That's a trick, all right! It's easy to think that guided instruction is one and the same as getting between the child and the book. I think it has to do with keeping discussion broad, and keeping questions open-ended.

But it still helps if the parent/teacher knows more about the book than the student.

tootlepip said...

When my son was going to be in year 7, I preread Watership Down and Once and Future King and I didn't catch the deeper themes. After someone mentioned that they were there, I could recollect them - but I am sure my son didn't catch them.

Mother Auma said...

Good things to remember, Tim's Mom. Open-ended questions and broad discussion.

Tootlepip, that's what I appreciate so much about the yahoo groups. I will just be bopping along enjoying a book, and then someone will mention that we are supposed to be getting *something* out of it, and with that small bit of illumination the book becomes even better.

Nothing like in high school and college when I felt every good book was ruined by excessive (and often just plain wrong, in my not-so-humble-high-school opinion) analysis.