Unpacking the Trivium

A large part of the Classical model is its method or the manner of teaching the content.   The classical model employed at Bradford Academy recognizes that the ancient TRIVIUM aligns nicely with a student’s natural cognitive development and learning inclinations.  By intentionally instructing children according to their native tendencies, we have seen tremendous success in the training of our students.  The TRIVIUM is a wonderful structure for learning.

The Trivium was historically the first three subjects in what was known as the seven liberal arts.  By liberal arts, educators meant those skills, or arts, that were necessary for the free man to live and lead in a free society.

We understand that true learning, or MASTERY, occurs at the point where knowledge, understanding, and wisdom intersect.  The ancient scholastics also embraced this reality and formed the three subjects of GRAMMAR (essentially knowledge and facts), DIALECTIC (synthesis of data, understanding, and logic), and RHETORIC (the discovery and proper presentation or use of original thought).  These first three subjects laid the foundation for all learning.  Once GRAMMAR, DIALECTIC (or LOGIC), and RHETORIC are mastered, the student is well prepared to pursue and study anything.


Since young children love concrete “black and white facts”, we have found focusing on the grammar of things to be the best way to instruct in the early grades.  Younger children enjoy singing, chanting, and reciting bare facts and are less interested in the abstract and nuances of information.  As the students grow they become less interested in mere facts but instead become more interested in how it all fits together.  If you know any middle school student you know their tendency to argue.  This is the perfect age to teach them how to do it well with logic and discernment.  Again, the student matures and the inclination changes.  Older students long for independence and self expression.  We believe this is the opportunity to focus on helping children express original thought and creativity.  Now is the time for the students take up Rhetoric and apologetics.  The blossoming scholars are now ready to apply the things they have learned and expand them to become independent learners and academic leaders.

It can be summarized as follows:

Grammar (K-6th) – Emphasis on rote memorization and accumulation of basic facts and skill sets. Students find enjoyment in singing, chanting, and reciting.

Logic (6th-9th) – Emphasis on the understanding of the relationships among facts and information. Students enjoy arguing, so they are taught how to do it correctly. Formal logic is included in this stage of learning. Students are taught to take the knowledge learned in the previous stage, work with it, and deepen their own understanding.

Rhetoric (9th-12th) – Emphasis on creating and expressing one’s self beautifully and persuasively. Students are taught to build upon the knowledge they have acquired, reason through implications, and form and present original thoughts.

While the learning of GRAMMAR, LOGIC, and RHETORIC are included in each subject throughout a child’s education, their emphasis differs at the different stages of development.

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For more on this, read our PHILOSOPHY of EDUCATION or schedule a tour and see this powerful educational model in ACTION!