Classical Method

The classical method recognizes three learning stages. These correspond to the natural development of the student’s mind as he or she gains knowledge, understanding, and wisdom:

  • Grammar deals with the foundational rules and facts of any given subject. It is the focus of Kindergarten through 6th grades.
  • Logic is emphasized during the middle years. It is concerned with the reasoning which ties all the various particulars together.
  • Rhetoric is taught during the high school years, when students learn how to express their thoughts clearly and persuasively.

With a classical education, a student acquires what Dorothy Sayers called “the tools of learning,” which enable each one to continue as a lifelong student in his or her calling. Dorothy Sayers’ speech, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” gives a more detailed explanation of the classical education model.

School of Grammar

Definition of Grammar

  1. The first stage of the Trivium that precedes Logic and Rhetoric
  2. The Poll-Parrot Stage, corresponding to 3rd to 6th grades, is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable.
  3. The foundation of education:
    1. Pre-grammar (K-2nd): master the skills of spelling, reading, writing, reciting, ciphering
    2. Grammar (3rd-6th): study Latin and commit history facts, Bible, geography, science, and poetry to memory. First learn a language, not just how to order a meal in a foreign language, but the structure of a language, and hence the language itself – what it was, how it was put together, how it worked.


  1. Instruction: lecture, discussion, reading, researching, discovery (all teacher led)
  2. Activities: arts, drama, science experiments, games, guest speaker, field trips
  3. Oral drill: singing, recitation, sound-offs, around the world, disputatio, spelling bees
  4. Written practice: copying, writing assignments, fact sheets, literature questions
  5. Assessment: questions, oral check, quiz, written tests

School of Logic

“Logic provides the beginning thinker with a set of rules that will help her to decide whether or not she can trust the information she’s receiving. This logic will help her ask appropriate questions:

  • Does that conclusion follow the facts as I know them?
  • What does this word really mean?
  • Am I using it accurately?
  • Is this speaker sticking to the point, or is he trying to distract me with irrelevant remarks?
  • What other points of view on this subject exist?” (Susan Wise Bauer, The Well Trained Mind)

Definition of Logic

  1. The second stage of the classical Trivium, corresponding to 7th-8th grades.
  2. In the logic stage, students organize those facts absorbed in grammar and begin making connections between them.
  3. Both a stage of development – “Dialectic” or “Logic” – and an academic subject – “Formal Logic”.
    1. Dialectic (question and answer stage): In the logic stage, the student begins to ask his own questions, as well as responding to the teacher’s questions. The teacher trains students how to ask questions. (see Bauer list below)
    2. Formal Logic: trains the student to learn to reason in all areas of study


  1. Independent study with teacher guidance
  2. Dialogue with teacher rather than solely lecture style of instruction
    • student reads, researches, reasons, responds to the material
    • increasing focus on primary sources, less on use of textbooks
  3. Organized class discussions and formal debates facilitated by the teacher
  4. Application of language of logic by students and teacher in every subject
  5. Reasoning skills in reading, writing, and speaking practiced on known material
  6. Assessment of reasoning skills and factual knowledge in tests, writing assignments, quizzes, dialogues, discussions, and debates
  7. Grammar tools used less often
  8. Review factual information as part of independent study/teacher assignments
  9. Review reasoning/logic skills daily in class as pertains to subject

School of Rhetoric

“If grammar-stage learning is fact-centered, and logic-stage learning is skilled-centered, then rhetoric-stage learning is idea-centered.” (Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind)

“(During the Poetic Stage), the imagination – usually dormant during the Pert Age – will reawaken, and prompt (the students) to suspect the limitations of logic and reason. This means that (the students) are passing into the Poetic Age and are ready to embark on the study of rhetoric. The doors of the storehouse of knowledge should now be thrown open for them to browse about as they will. The things once learned by rote will now be brought together to form a new synthesis; here and there a sudden insight will bring about the most exciting of all discoveries: the realization that a truism is true.” (Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning”)

“Rhetoric is dependent upon the first two stages of the Trivium. The Grammar stage laid a foundation of knowledge; without knowledge, the rhetorician has nothing of substance to say. The Logic stage taught the student to think through the validity of arguments, to weigh the value of evidence. In the Rhetoric stage, the student uses knowledge and the skill of logical argument to write and speak about all the subjects in the curriculum.” (Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind)

Definition of Rhetoric

  1. The third stage of the classical Trivium, corresponding to 9th-12th grades.
  2. “Rhetoric is the art of expression. During the Rhetoric stage, the student learns to express herself with fluency, grace, elegance, and persuasiveness.” (Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind)
  3. Both a stage of development (Poetic) and an academic subject (the formal study of rhetoric)
    1. In the Poetic stage, the student synthesizes knowledge, makes it his own, and communicates it to others in a creative manner. The student desires to express himself.
    2. Formal Rhetoric: invention, disposition, elocutio, memoria, and pronuntiatio
      1. Inventio: invention; process of formulating an argument, gathering supporting evidence, requiring both logic and knowledge. Research and thesis.
      2. Dispusitio: skill of putting information into persuasive order; the arrangement of evidence in a convincing way; taking into account the audience, setting, and emotional effect.
      3. Elucutio: evaluation of words to most clearly reveal the truth; metaphors, parallelisms, figures of speech.
      4. Memoria: memorization of important points for debates or entire speeches.
      5. Pronuntiatio: the art and practice of giving speeches.


  1. Rhetoric builds upon the foundations of Grammar (facts) and Logic (reasoning)
  2. Subjects: the Great Books or classic literature, poetry, art, music, history, math, science, theology, worldview, etc.; the material inspiring the “Great Conversation”
  3. Tools: analytical, creative, and persuasive writing, formal and informal debate, discussion, speech, drama, mock trial, music performance, science research project, and presentations
  4. Questions: In the Grammar stage, students study the answers to the “Who, What, Where, and When” questions. In the Logic stage, students seek to answer the “Why”, “What does that mean?”, and “Does this make sense?” Rhetoric students now begin to add questions such as:
    1. Do I Agree?
    2. I this true?
    3. What is the writer or speaker’s viewpoint?
    4. What does this say about the human condition?
    5. Is there a tension between the earthly and spiritual?
    6. How does this compare with God’s Word?