The Trivium at Nova


Classical education rests on the concept of the Trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric—not as subjects, although these subjects are studied, but as the structure of every subject and discipline.

Every subject we attempt to learn, at any time in our lives, has its grammar, logic, and rhetoric, from reading and math, to gardening and law, to music and auto mechanics.


Grammar is the foundation of a subject. It is the collection of its parts and the mechanics of how they work. Without an understanding of the facts, no one can move forward. In the Grammar stage (K–5), students are exposed to a barrage of data in all subjects. This is the time in their lives when students readily absorb data and are able to repeat it. Sayers calls this stage the Poll-Parrot stage, where children can repeat back what the hear. The focus during the Grammar stage is for students to learn a great deal of information, but not necessarily to understand its meaning or importance. (click for detail)


Logic is the organization of parts into a whole and an understanding of the relationships among the parts. Students in the Logic stage re-visit the data they have learned and begin to develop their analytical skills by connecting together themes, ideas, and causes. For example, while students in fourth grade may learn of the United States Civil War, students in eighth grade learn about the precipitating causes, and can connect these themes to other conflicts like the Restoration, the French Revolution, and the Spanish Civil War. Sayers calls this stage the Pert stage because students are less accepting of authority and seek to define their own understandings. In the Logic stage, we encourage this critical bent by honing analytical skills. (click for detail)


Rhetoric is the ability to apply the foundational knowledge and logical understanding of a subject purposefully and creatively to solve a problem, express an opinion with clarity, or create something new. In the Rhetoric stage, students build upon what they have learned before: they have a solid foundation of facts (grammar), an understanding of how they all fit together, and why (logic). Now it is time for a student (young scholar) to make an argument. Everyone must put forth his/her answers to the great questions of time to take part in what Mortimer Adler called “The Great Conversation.” Sayers calls this stage the Poetic stage, referring to the Greek work poeia, meaning to make or to create. Students must create their own ideas and place them intellectually and morally within the context of the ideas which have preceded them. (click for detail)