Thursday, November 16, 2017

Characters in Crisis ~ High School Lit

We have enjoyed Writing with Sharon Watson's approach to writing and literature (see my reviews of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, and The Power In Your Hands), so I appreciated the opportunity to use and review the second volume in her Illuminating Literature series, Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis with my Middlest.

We received the physical components (Textbook, Teacher's Guide, and Quiz and Answer Manual) of this set in the mail.  I love it when companies offer free samples, as those nearly always help me to form a more complete opinion before I purchase a product, so be sure to check the product page to see what's available.

There are also some online components:
  • Novel Notebook: A full color downloadable pdf, intended to be printed and 3-hole punched. This is where the student is prompted to write reflections that correlate to the stories. Sometimes they are asked to write about the story directly, and other times they are asked to tell personal anecdotes that relate to the theme. 
  • Online Quizzes: For those who appreciate a lightening of the teacher's load, graded online quizzes are offered to take the place of the paper Quiz and Answer Manual. These are password protected, with the passwords being found in the text, at the end of each chapter.   
Screenshots of a couple of the full color Novel Notebook pages~ because they are much prettier than our black and white printouts... don't forget, you can download the entire pdf if you want to see what every page looks like. 

So, now a little bit more about the actual curriculum.
Sharon Watson writes engaging curriculum geared towards her audience. This can make all the difference in the world when your high school student is NOT a prolific reader (yes, I have one of those...). I love that she includes as an objective "To avoid sucking the life out of the class due to beating each novel until it begs for mercy."
She also has this to say...

The Textbook is written directly to the student and is a combination of formal and informal direction. The first week of lessons give an introduction to the course and what to expect. Sharon Watson talks about opinions, grading, course philosophy, the value of reading literature, character labels, forces of antagonism (conflict), and a quick exercise involving a book or movie of the student's choice. From here she moves directly into the literature choices for this year's worth of study (more about those a little down the page). Remember those samples I mentioned? This first chapter (0) is included in the free download, as well as the first two lessons from the first literary selection. 

In addition to the Novel Notebook, the Questions in the textbook, and the Quizzes (online or physical book), the are a number of optional activities that expand on the student's understanding of the the story. These are very diverse in order to give all learning styles an opportunity to complete something to suit their personal strengths. They include writing (of course), acting, illustrating, and creating physical objects. While not integral to the course, they can be a highlight when completed. 

Both the Teacher's Guide and the Student Text offer schedules for completing the course, whether done alone or in a co-op or once-a-month book club. The Teacher's Guide also includes grading rubrics specific to the chapter. Headings coordinate with the student text, making it easy to know what is going on in the textbook without having it directly in front of you. As a nod to the ever-increasing online nature of our world, the teacher's guide also includes pre-written Facebook posts that can be used to create/maintain interest if you are teaching to a group. The questions in the textbook are included in the Teacher's Guide, with specific answers or notification if answers may vary. 

*Note: this curriculum is written from a decidedly Christian Worldview. However, that does not mean that the authors chosen promote that world view. There may be language or events included in these stories are offensive to some. But isn't that true of life in general? This is a chance for your student to acknowledge that bad choices and evil exist, and to discuss and learn how to deal with those real-life negatives from a safe distance (this is a level up from the concept presented by G. K. Chesterton commonly paraphrased thus: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” ― G.K. Chesterton )

I will freely admit that sometimes I have been known to err on the side of staying away from the dragons and the poor life choices, but it is definitely worthwhile to open up these discussions, particularly as the darkness of the world seems to encroach closer with each passing day. Another stated objective of the course is "To recognize what the author does to influence their (the reader's) hearts and minds." This allows your young men and women to more readily discern truth and the distortion of truth in their daily lives. 

Back to the Curriculum... ;) 
The titles included are: 
  • "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  • Short stories
    • "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett
    • "The Garden of Forking Paths" by Jorge Luis Borges
    • "Haircut" by Ring Lardner
    • "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton
    • "Of the Passing of the First-Born" by W. E. B. Du Bois
    • "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Biography/Autobiography of the student's choice
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
For the time of this review, once the introductory chapter was finished, we opted to jump ahead and use the chapter containing the Short Stories. This was partially because both time and funds are short at the moment, so it was nice to have the full texts available IN the textbook, instead of having to purchase or borrow one of the full length works right away. I also tend to skip about most full-year Literature Curriculum, choosing the units that I think will be in each of my children's best interest to read, and it was time for Middlest to enjoy some short stories. ;)

A note about the Text~ it is, in and of itself a workbook, if you only have one student using it~ there is plenty of space given to answer questions. However, because I have one more up and coming, I chose to have Middlest write his answers in a notebook, just like public school...

He appreciates the layout of the curriculum~ It starts with the literary terms being introduced, then moves into reading the story so that you can be thinking about the terms while reading. That way, when you reach the end of the lesson, you can easily answer the questions about those terms. He also appreciated the variety of extra activity choices, as creative writing isn't necessarily his gift.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

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