These are just notes intended for my students in the English 3 composition class I am teaching for the Lancaster Learning Link coop.

Hey all, here is what we started with in today’s class:

From here, we discussed some of the following ideas:

  • Writing is an important skill for any number of practical day-to-day things: If you can write well, you can get hired for a number of different jobs. It can also help make your work in other arenas much stronger. If you are in sales, for example, and are a competent, confident writer that will be a very valuable thing when you’re emailing with a prospect or even just working with your co-workers. So there is a practicality to writing well and what you learn this year will doubtlessly help you here.
  • That being said, the bigger thing I want us to grow in this year is how we use words and particularly how we use the written word.
  • In class, we talked about how God is a God who uses language not only to communicate, but also to make new things. While we don’t have the ability to create ex nihilo (“from nothing”), we do still have the ability to create using words.
  • Therefore, before we talk about the practical matter of using one’s writing ability to do well academically or find future employment, the first thing we need to attend to is how to use one’s writing ability as an act of worship to and for God.
  • Considering the issue of language, in particular, we also want to think about where we aspire to be by year’s end. A classical education, which is (amongst other things) an education deeply concerned with language, broke a child’s education down into three phases:
    • Grammar – Mastering basics, acquiring basic skills and knowledge
    • Logic – Learning how to build arguments, reason, and persuade
    • Rhetoric – Drawing everything together so that you can instruct and persuade others
  • By year’s end, I want all of my students in a high-school level course to be in the rhetoric phase as far as their language skills are concerned. Some of you likely already are there while others are not. Wherever you are today is completely fine. Part of the beauty of our small classes is that I am free as the instructor to give you more attention than I could in a large class setting. So don’t be embarrassed by what you do or do not know and do not be afraid of asking questions, even if you think it seems like something you should know or that is too easy or basic. Just ask. We’re going somewhere as a group, but we’ll never get there if we can’t recognize where we are starting from.

For next week, we are reading an excerpt about stories from ND Wilson’s Death by Living. If you misplaced your copy I gave you in class, I have uploaded a PDF of the reading. Your assignment, to be submitted to me by noon Friday via email, is to write 500 words responding to one of the following questions:

  • When does Wilson use short, simple sentences and when does he choose to use longer sentences? Why do you think he made the choices he did?
  • What does Wilson mean when he likens stories to food?