“DON’T FORGET WHAT I TOLD YOU!”: ARISTOTELIAN RHETORIC LESSON 101

“The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.” –Aristotle

“Today, class, we are going to answer, What are the three types of Greek columns?”

“Somewhere over the rainbow is, well, not really OVER it but is it, R-O-Y-G-B-I-V–…”

“You must know these three fundamentals before you can pass: love, sex, family; romantic, erotic, familial…”

* * *

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, Aristotle taught his students a handy method for making presentations to their students, for organizing lessons.  His method was like a show and tell, a method that has been passed down from generations of teachers to generations of teachers: pre-school to Cambridge University History Professors, to executives, to coaches. 

Aristotle said, in his favorite Athenian Greek voice, “My students, three things you need to do when presenting a new topic or lesson or subject:

TELL THEM WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO TELL THEM

TELL THEM

THEN TELL THEM WHAT YOU TOLD THEM.


1–Tell them what you will tell them. What is it nice for them to know, but most importantly What do they NEED to know? What do they NEED to hear?  This is the essence of the lesson.  [“Today we are going to see what makes the prism do what it does.”]

2–Tell them. Aristotle no doubt shouts out in the Lyceum, “THIS IS THE STUFF!”  Here is the raison d’être of the whole operation, our reason for being here, the whole enchilada.  He exhorts, “Here is what my Nicomachean Ethics is all about.”  And he lays it out–of sorts….  [“And so, from this, you can understand what Oliver Cromwell did, some historians aver, was far, far more genocidal than any act done by any Confederate general in the American Civil War.”]

3–Tell them what you just told them. “Thus, as we can see, the fifth element is Aether, that divine substance making up the heavenly spheres and heavenly bodies (stars and planets).” Here is the opportunity for the late-arrivals to catch up on their notes, whispering “WhatdidImiss?” Reiteration.  Re-iter-a-tion: journey again.  Going over it again.  “Are there any questions?”     

Such symmetry in threes…

interrobang

Are there any questions?…

 

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8 comments
  1. Virgil Likness said:

    Keep writing. How did you and your family survive the weather in Florida? Virgil

  2. judithc said:

    If only… you had been my teacher! Thank you.

  3. The beauty of this post is the way it resonates in all aspects of our lives where we are called communicate. As an educator, I feel like I need to tatoo those three steps in teaching to my forehead and point to it as my students ask a question about the very phrase that just came out of my mouth.

      • I really wish there was a “LOVE” button for your comment.

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