Progymnasmata

This information which I never heard of before was posted by Sonya on the Brillkids forum and wanted to save the instructions in my Writing Blog Category to reference it later on. Are you familiar with the Progymnasmata? It is a series of graded exercises that teach writing based on imitation of the best works available. One can use a curriculum but I don’t think it is necessary. You focus on one or two exercises each year of study. Your child would start out with Fables. You’d study a fable and then the child will rewrite it in his own words. We’ve done some basic exercises with these: 1. Cut the story down to 50 words. 2.Cut the story down to 25 words. 3.Retell in your own words. 4.Use the same plot but pick different characters. 5.Expand the story and give more detail. 6. Change point of view. Sometimes we’ll do all of these, sometimes one or two. The best writing is illustrated and placed into a binder. Here is the wikepedia intro on the progym:

Quote
As Progymnasmata (Greek “fore-exercises”, Latin praeexercitamina) are rhetorical exercises gradually leading the student to familiarity with the elements of rhetoric, in preparation for their own practice speeches (gymnasmata, “exercises”) and ultimately their own orations.Both Hermogenes of Tarsus and Aelius Festus Aphthonius wrote treatises containing progymnasmata (in the second and third century CE, respectively). The traditional course of rhetoric gave the progymnasmata in this order: 1.Fable 2.Narrative 3.Chreia 4.Proverb 5.Refutation 6.Confirmation 7.Commonplace 8.Encomium 9.Vituperation 10.Comparison 11.Impersonation 12.Description 13.Thesis 14.Defend or attack a law Once these exercises were mastered, the student would begin preparation of a gymnasmatum, a full oration on a topic given a specific context. Progymnasmata is now taught in today’s Classical Christian Academies and teaches the student how to write these works so they may go on to Gymnasmatum. your child gets older you’ll be taking apart arguments, studing the rhetorical devices used and imitating them.

We have used the progym for 6 years. I used curriculum at first but it’s not necessary. A little internet research will let you know all you need to know, at least for the first few years. Just pick the very best. I found the book – The Writers Workshop – a helpful book of exercises that uses the same practice of imitation. It was written for college students, but it’s an easy read and very basic.

The point of the Progym is that children really don’t have an idea of what to write yet, so you give them the model of the very best. As they accumulate a storehouse of words, sentences, and stories they will become original writers. The best writers read a lot. The progym is not enough by itself to create a good writer, but combined with a lot of reading (which you already do) it will give a framework to write his own material as he’s broken down and looked at the mechanics of really good stories and really good sentences.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s