How to Read, Write, and Think

The Lost Tools of Writing teaches the Deep Logic of every subject.

You can see this if you watch how it teaches students to reason through an essay.

I have always tried to emphasize how the essay question should come from the student and that it doesn’t really have to be all that brilliant a question. The topics themselves will drive the students into the heart of the text or event, especially when they start making comparisons or looking at circumstances.

So let’s say you are reading Julius Caesar and you need some essay topics. Pick ANY character in the play and ANY action that character did and ask: Should he have done that?

Examples from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (which I refer to because you can get it online for nothing, it’s Shakespeare’s shortest play, and it is sitting beside me):

Act I, Scene 1, line 1: Should Flavius have told the common people to go home?

II, 2, 2: Should Caesar have paid any attention to Calpurnia’s dream?

III, 3, 3: Should Cinna have “wandered forth of doors”?

IV, 3, 4 (no scene 4 in Act 4): Should Lepidus have consented to his brother’s death?

V, 5, 5 Should Clitus have heeded Brutus?

You can see that I have arbitrarily chosen to ask questions about whoever was acting in a given scene. But I guarantee you, if you use the topics of invention to think about each question, you will

  1. Teach your student to read better
  2. Teach your student to write better
  3. Teach your student to think better
  4. Guide your student into the heart of any text you are reading.

LTW liberates teachers from the oppressions of the curriculum. It provides tools that you can learn how to use on your own. But you must not worry about coming up with “good enough” questions.

The depth of insight arises naturally out of a mind that is activated and trained. Be careful not to ask your student to do something he doesn’t have the training or experience to do. Under those circumstances you run the risk of producing a student that simply wants to please the teacher instead of learning how to think independently.

In short, don’t worry too much about the issue question or the “so what.” Those will arise from the thought your student practices using the invention topics.

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