Newsletter – December 13th, 2010

Posted on: 12/13/2010 Back to all blog posts


Michael Clay Thompson has won the  prestigious Richard W. Riley Award for “superior services to the gifted community.” Given by the South Carolina Consortium for Gifted Education at their annual conference, President Marva Tigner, presented the award to Michael for his unique contribution to teaching gifted children, nationally and locally. His grammar, vocabulary, writing, and poetics programs have inspired teachers and students for more than twenty years.

Michael Clay Thompson, with the Richard W Riley Award

The award reflects the unique place Thompson´s language arts curriculum has come to have in gifted education. It is the curriculum that provides the common core for gifted education in much of the United States. While others have attempted to produce curriculum for gifted children, none has had the success or the longevity of Thompson´s curriculum. Its pedagogic effectiveness has been recognized increasingly by educators, and now the curriculum is being eagerly embraced by parents who are teaching their children at home.

Take a look at the Michael Clay Thompson Curriculum.

The work of a lifetime

It started with a vocabulary course that Thompson developed for his high school gifted students; a graduate professor encouraged him to seek publication, and he came to Royal Fireworks Press as the leading publisher in the field. That curriculum became Word within the Word, and a fruitful partnership was born between Michael Clay Thompson and Royal Fireworks Press. The curriculum now encompasses six levels with a grammar, vocabulary, poetics, writing, and practice book at each level. It is used by hundreds of thousands of students throughout the United States each year.

Central to the curriculum is Thompson´s method of teaching grammar that employs his own four-level analysis technique and a Socratic questioning approach. His poetics books take students through an increasingly rigorous study of the techniques that poets use, with a sideways look at Plato at the higher levels. His grammar and his vocabulary approaches bring students to an understanding of the systems that underlie the English language–they are no longer learning long lists of arbitrary rules but coming to an appreciation of the organization that provides the foundation for the language.

For Thompson, the summative capability is the ability to produce a formal academic essay–which students will need in college and throughout the rest of their lives if they are professionals–and he shows them how everything they have learned about grammar, vocabulary, and poetics is necessary to write an excellent essay. In Thompson´s curriculum, there are no tricks or shortcuts; a thorough understanding of the basics is the essential starting point.

Dr T.M. Kemnitz, President of Royal Fireworks Press: “Thompson´s books reflect an original and creative mind and a zealous championing of the classics against the trend to dumb-down literature in the classroom. For Thompson, grammar is not dull and difficult; he brings students to understand that it is beautiful and bewitching, simpler than they ever imagined, and very useful. He uses art and creative design, funny stories and whimsy to convey his huge joy in the language. And the students get it; they learn, are surprised by how much they learn, and then learn still more. Most of them enjoy the process very much.”

The curriculum is the work of a lifetime, and it represents an almost unparalleled achievement in American pedagogy. At time when committees produce instant curricula for textbook adoption boards, Thompson and Royal Fireworks have tenaciously spent more than two decades producing a curriculum for children. And of course, that partnership continues with revisions of the existing curriculum and a planned expansion this spring to add a literature component.

Take a look at the Michael Clay Thompson Curriculum.

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