Monday, July 9, 2012

Lightning Literature

"It was better than I thought it would be."  That is high praise for Lightning Literature & Composition coming from my ninth grader!

Lightning Lit is a series of workbooks seeking to teach "college-level composition skills by responding to great literature."  They offer full-year courses for 7th and 8th grade literature (student guide, teacher guide, workbook - $20/each).  They also offer the following one-semester courses for 9th through 12th grades:

American Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century
American Lit:  Mid to Late 19th Century

10th - 12th
British Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century
British Lit:  Mid to Late 19th Century

11th - 12th
British Lit:  Medieval
American Christian Authors
British Christian Authors
Shakespeare:  Tragedies & Sonnets
Shakespeare:  Comedies & Sonnets
World Lit 1
World Lit 2

Each of these comes with a student guide ($29.95) and a teacher's guide ($2.95).  There is bundle pricing available, including the pack of all the necessary books, and also discounts for orders of five or more of one title.

Hewitt Homeschooling provided me with a student guide and a teacher's guide for American Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century.  As a former English major, I really liked the choices of literature.  These are definitely "living books" (or selections).  Some authors covered are:  Washington Irving, Frederick Douglass, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Since it is summer vacation, I have to say, we are still working through Unit 1 -- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.  In the first chapter of the textbook, the author, Elizabeth Kamath gives a good one-page lead-in intro about Franklin's life and then another page on Pre-19th Century Literature in general.  After reading the selection, which I downloaded as a free e-book, I asked my kids the comprehension questions.  These are broken into sections of 2 to 7 questions each and go along with the section titles of the book.  In retrospect, in future I will give the questions before the reading.  My kids were surprised to be asked the names of Franklin's uncles and the number of his siblings and half-siblings (16).

After the comprehension questions comes the section on writing, directly related to the reading.  Since the work is an autobiography, the 5-page lesson is about autobiographies and what kinds of details youo might include if you write your own.  Following the lesson, there are 8 writing exercises which I thought were quite varied and appealing to students of differing interests and aptitudes.  I will be having my kids write several of them -- the author suggests picking two for each selection.

[As an interesting side-note, as I was pre-reading the selection, I came across the passage from which the IEW-style was inspired:  where Ben Franklin takes an existing writing, takes notes, re-writes, etc.]

In the Introduction to this course, the author discusses how/why to read literature and poetry.  She gives detailed descriptions of figurative language terms (similie, metaphor, personification) and sounds (alliteration, assonance, rhythm, etc.).  She goes on to describe how to write a paper, including topic statements, brainstorming, research and outlines.  These are quick but thorough passages, probably review for most students at this level.  The Appendix offers discussion questions and project suggestions, additional reading and schedules.  The author also has suggestions for vocabulary notebooks, reading journals, and more.

Although much of this book could be self-taught, I always think that literature needs discussion, so don't leave your student entirely on their own.  Discuss what they have read and what they have written.  The Teacher's Guide gives grading tips and checklists for papers, schedules (finish in 1 semester or 1 year), answers to composition questions, and additional writing assignments.

I am excited about adding this literature course into our schedule and will plan to order more in the series!  Be sure to check it out for yourself here.

I was provided a free copy of the student and teacher guide for Lightning Literature & Composition's American Lit:   Early to Mid-19th Century in exchange for an honest review.  You can see more reviews from the TOS Crew Members here.

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