The Progymnasmata--Preliminary Rhetoric Exercises

The "progymnasmata" (pro-gym-nahs-MAH-tah, according to some) are time-tested ancient rhetoric/writing exercises that my materials apply in both traditional and contemporary contexts. The options for courses and evaluations make this material adaptable to the needs of teachers of students as young as third grade, of students themselves above sixth grade, and of adults - even professional writers. Through imitating, expanding, condensing, and other techniques, these exercises explore the elements of rhetoric in these areas:

Narrative Retell a brief narrative with change of narrator, etc.
Fable Retell a familiar fable for a particular purpose
Proverb Analyze and amplify a proverb with examples, etc.
Description Carefully consider time, place, character to present a scene or action
Anecdote Amplify, as with the proverb, a larger narrative
Refutation/Confirmation Follow a logical format to demonstrate the truth of an assertion
Common Topic Explore the characteristics of a vice shown in particular people
Encomium/Invective Praise or blame a person for his character
Comparison Argue the worth of one person in light of another
Characterization Portray a literary or historical figure at a particular point in time
Thesis Set forth an assertion and prove it
Proposal of Law Create an argument for presentation in a legislative body

For an overview of how these exercises and my consultation have worked in one teacher's classroom, please download below the article "Pro-gym-nas-what?!" from Classis, the magazine of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. I also recommend as teacher resources Frank D'Angelo's Composition in the Classical Tradition and the Silva Rhetoricae website. 

Materials for Clients

  • Quick Order Courses Beginning (Narrative, Fable, Proverb), Intermediate (Description, Anecdote, Refutation/Confirmation), and Advanced (the rest of the categories above) 
  • Customized Courses via Consultation using combinations of the exercises, particularly with additional exercises at each of the Beginning levels
  • Resources via Consultation  for those who want access to all my instructional materials to craft their own courses. Available materials include the following:
    • All the instructional material for Progymnasmata Tutorials Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced
    • Progym: Classical Writing Workouts for Narrative, Fable, and Proverb (3 workbooks). Download Sample Fable Workbook
    • The Progymnasmata: Preliminary Rhetoric Exercises Part One, my original basis for the tutorials, geared toward teachers, covering the Beginning and Intermediate levels. Download Sample with background and full Narrative section

Writing Assessment Services

Cindy Rinaman Marsch

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Slippery Rock, PA  16057


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