Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Crew Review: Hewitt's Lightning Literature 8th Grade

Having been 'round the homeschooling block now for 8-ish years, I've heard often the mention of  Hewitt Homeschooling -- usually related to their home school friendly standardized test, the PASS Test.  I've also heard of the Lightning Literature middle school literature program on various online forums for years, but not until I signed up for this review did I realize that Hewitt is the publisher for Lightning Literature.

Literature is one subject that I admit to not feeling very skilled to teach.  I was one of those students who didn't really get why we study literature until well into adulthood.  Even in college, I took only the bare minimum of lit classes, despite the fact that I LOVE reading fiction.

I was impressed by the books that arrived from Hewitt for this review of Lightning Literatures's 8th grade Literature and Composition Course.  My packet included these books:

You can purchase Lightning Literature in several ways.

The base program includes a teacher guide ($20), student guide ($25) and a consumable student workbook ($25) can be purchased individually or in a set with the literature books for  $125.95.  If you already have the book  Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children, you can purchase the remaining literature books and the Lightning Lit 3-pack for $108.85.  

I was very impressed by the thoroughness of the teacher's guide (TG).  It includes a comprehensive explanation on how to use the course and it's components, a weekly planning guide, and book-by-book answers and guides.  The schedule shows that there will be some weeks of just reading the novel/ selection and other weeks of combined literature lessons and reading and writing.

Each literary work includes (in the student text with worksheets in the student workbook):
  • Comprehension Questions for each chapter in the novelThese are basic questions to test comprehension of the story.
  • Literary lessons ~ these include the following topics: author's purpose, setting, imagery in poetry, sharing culture, details in writing, character development, figurative language, conflict, symbolism, humor, meter in poetry, and writing a literary analysis.
  • Mini lessons ~ these related to the reading (such as genre fiction) or a composition skill (such as taking notes or citing sources in a paper)
  • Writing lessons  ~ there are choices here.  The author of the guide recommends that a student complete one  for each unit.
  • Workbook lessons ~ these can be related to the literary lessons, the mini-lesson, a thinking-skill page, a grammar/ mechanic review, exercises to help practice literary analysis, puzzles (like a crossword), or extra challenge pages.  The puzzles and extra-challenge are meant to be optional (my son does not care for crossword puzzles, so I would not assign many to him at all).
  • Discussion questions ~ these are meant to be dinner-time discussion questions, not testing questions.  The teacher's manual explains: "these are meant to bring the student beyond just the literary aspects of the work to questions that deal with their lives." (p. 5)
I really appreciated all the work that went into the teacher's guide.  It isn't an open-and-go program, but it is very understandable and easy to get started.

The Student Guide is a non-consumable text for the 8th grader.  Each chapter begins with an introduction to the author of the work to be studied.  A list of vocabulary words is defined for the student with comprehension questions following.

Next, the literary lesson is written for the student to read (as the teacher, you do not have to teach this literary topic -- but I sure would pre-read it and prepared for discussion).  For this review, I made a deal with Ben that he could read The Hobbit (he loves J.R.R Tolkien) -- Chapter 8 in the study -- which taught about conflict.  We had studied conflict this past year, but not with such a clear student-focused description of the types of conflict in literature (such as man vs. nature, man vs. man, etc.).  After reading this, Ben completed an exercise (in the student workbook) to solidify his ability to discern different types of conflict.  I thought this was a great lesson, and I know it really helped him.

The mini-lesson is next.  Again, it is written for the student to read to himself.  Workbook pages help to solidify this lesson.

The final part of each chapter in the student guide is the writing assignments.  This is meant to be completed after the additional workbook pages (for the lesson, mini-lesson, grammar, etc) are completed.  For The Hobbit, Ben had four choices -- each different types of writing:
  1. A short story/ recollection
  2. A re-write of a scene in The Hobbit
  3. A genre fiction short story
  4. A research paper
{Total disclosure -- writing is not close to one of Ben's favorite things to do, so I did not make him complete one of these assignments for this review.  Total rebellion and mutiny would have been real possibilities.}

In other sections of the course, students are asked to write with poetic devises, write opinion papers, write persuasive papers, write a letter... like I said, a wide variety.

My thoughts and our experience:  I think this is a great literature program!  I would highly recommend it for someone looking to incorporate more literary analysis into their program -- especially if you feel your background is not strong.  I think it is well laid out for student and teacher. If your child has not been taught basic composition skills (how to write a paragraph, how to write a three-paragraph essay, etc.) I think would would want to supplement with resources to teach these writing skills.  I wouldn't rely on LL to fill that need.  And I would not consider their grammar to be comprehensive -- it is meant to be a quick review.

Please click on the graphic below to read about other literature courses for middle and high school as well as some of Hewitt's grammar level resources for research/ writing:


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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