What It Is:
This literature curriculum uses classic books and poems to teach writing skills and literature analysis. For this review I received the eighth grade level. Throughout the school year, your child will read in completion four novels, two non-fiction books, three short stories, and many poems. After reading each selection there are sections to read in the Student Guide, reading comprehension questions, worksheets, and writing assignments. You can see the Table of Contents for the eighth grade level and a Sample Chapter at the website.
Your child will spend the first part of the lesson reading the book or the poem in its entirety. A vocabulary list is provided for those hard to understand words and there are reading comprehension questions for each chapter or section. After the selection is read there are two teaching sections in the Student Guide to read; a literary lesson and a mini-lesson. The author of the curriculum does a great job of connecting the lesson to the book or the story that was read, and uses excerpts from the book as examples.
Here are a few of the things you would read in the eighth grade, and the literary/composition focus:
Reading Assignment: A Crazy Tale by G.K. Chesterton
Literary Lesson: Author's Purpose
Mini-Lesson: Taking Notes
Reading Assignment: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Literary Lesson: Character Developement
Mini-Lesson: The Narrator
Reading Assignment: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Literary Lesson: Writing a Literary Analysis
Mini-Lesson: Writing a Conclusion
The workbook pages for each chapter coincide nicely with the lessons. For each reading selection, there are between 8 to 12 worksheets to choose from. And the writing assignments vary from writing your own story, to a five paragraph essay.
What You Get:
I reviewed the grade eight curriculum; this included the Student Guide, Workbook, and Teacher Guide. Each of these books are sold separately on the website: the Student Guide is $25, the Workbook is $25, and the Teacher Guide is $20. You can also purchase the complete package, all the books to be read, including the Stories and Poems book for $125.95.
The Student Guide is very systematic and organized. Each chapter begins with an introduction to be studied before the reading selection is read. And the books to read are impressive:
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Selections from Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children
A Day of Pleasure by Isaac B. Singer
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The vocabulary section contains hard to understand words for the convenience of the student, and is organized by section, chapter, or poem. The comprehension questions are organized the same way; it is up to the teacher whether these questions are to be asked at the end of a chapter reading or at the end of the book.
After the book or poem is completely read, the student reads the literary lesson and mini-lesson in the Student Guide and then completes the worksheet pages in the Workbook. The workbook contains 7 different types of worksheets.
Since my children had previously read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, we re-read it and did the work in the coinciding chapter. In the Student Guide, the Literary Lesson topic was on conflict, and the Mini-Lesson was about Genre Fiction. So in the workbook we did the following worksheets:
There were five Literary Lesson worksheets, each asking the student to identify different conflicts (character vs. nature, character vs. society, etc.) These were not at all overwhelming and really made my older children think about literary conflict. There was one Grammar worksheet; this was a paragraph about J.R.R. Tolkien which the student needed to correct for capitalization.The Thinking Skill worksheet had a 4 paragraph article to read, with questions to answer regarding fact vs. opinion. The Literary Analysis worksheet had a one page excerpt from Henry Fielding's book Tom Jones to read. The student then answered comprehension and analysis questions. There were two Puzzle pages; one was a crossword puzzle with questions from the Literary Lesson and The Hobbit, and the other was a word search with key words from the book. And there was one Extra-Challenge activity; this was an introductory lesson to the five-paragraph essay. In this chapter there was not a worksheet for the Mini-Lesson; some examples of this type of worksheet would be fixing incomplete sentences, or correcting a bibliography. Of course these correspond with the Mini-Lesson in the Student Guide.
The Teacher Guide is a helpful teacher manual for the text. Included are the answers to the reading comprehension questions and all workbook pages. There are helpful notes and teaching tips to use during the Literary Lesson and Mini-Lessons, and notes about the writing assignments. There is also a section of discussion questions for each chapter; these went further in depth than those in the reading comprehension section. The best part of the Teacher Guide though, is the weekly schedule. This 36 week schedule is extremely helpful when planning out the school year. There is also a section at the beginning of the Guide that explains each section in the Student Guide and Workbook and how it can be used.
How We Used This:
My two older children used this curriculum. I decided that because I was reviewing this in a month's time that choosing a book we had previously read would be beneficial. My children read the two page introduction, then read The Hobbit. They took 3-4 days to do this (reading through a book the second time takes a shorter amount of time); the schedule in the Teacher's Guide gives about a week and a half to read this book. I asked them the reading comprehension questions at the end of each day, based on where their reading ended.
We then read together the Literary Lesson and Mini Lesson; I found that going over it with them was more helpful than just letting them read it themselves. Then by the end of our second week in this curriculum we were ready to start the workbook pages.
We chose to do all 5 Literary Lesson worksheets; each one focused on a different literary conflict, and asked the students to draw examples from other stories they had read or from real life situations. One of my children thought this was a bit much, but I was pleased with the results from this writing exercise. The Grammar worksheet seemed simple, but stumped one of my children....even Middle Earth names get capitalized! The other worksheets were helpful; one of the children struggled with the Literary Analysis and needed some time going over it with me. We chose not to do the Extra-Challenge activity, but I glanced at some of the other ones in the book which included poetry writing, expository essays, and audio sonnets.
What I Thought:
When I first looked over the chapter we were going to study, I thought it might be over my kids' head. They are right on the brink of doing analytical reading and writing and I didn't want to push them too much, but surprisingly they really comprehended the lesson.
The Student Guide was right at their comprehension level, yet it still challenged them to think and analyze what they were reading. The reading questions were very appropriate and a good gauge for me as the teacher to see how well they had read the material.
The consumable Workbook was very helpful; my children especially liked the puzzle worksheets. I was happy to see that each chapter had both the crossword and word search puzzles. My 12 year-old had a harder time grasping the worksheet that analyzed literature; she was being asked to identify the methods that the author used to develop character. I realized this was because we were literally in the middle of the curriculum and did not read the chapter which focused on character development. Obviously we would not have had this problem if we were going through sequential chapters.
The Teacher Guide was well put together, with plenty of information for the instructor. I loved that there was a weekly planning guide; complete with boxes to check off when completed.
I liked this literature/writing curriculum very much, so much that I am planning to begin with chapter one and go through this book with my two older ones starting in September. I loved that they were learning good writing skills, literary techniques, and reading great books at the same time.
Other Hewitt Literature and Composition levels, Unit Studies, and State Notebooks were reviewed by my fellow Crewmates. Check it out!
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, for my honest and humble review. All opinions are mine.