Saturday, August 2, 2014

Memoria Press Literature Guides {A Review}


memoria press

One of the things I’ve grown to realize over the past year is that I need “guard rails”  to help me stay on track with different components of our homeschooling.  When our Classical Conversations year ended and my youngest two were finishing up math, spelling and reading, I began looking for literature guides that would keep me focused on engaging Luke and Levi in good discussions about good books.

I really wanted to try something new, and after looking around, decided that Memoria Press’ literature guides might be what I needed.

3rd grade

After contacting Memoria Press, I was sent both the Third Grade Literature Set ($69.00) of teacher and student guides and the Fifth Grade Literature Set ($95.00) of the same. For a little more, you can purchase the teacher and student guides with the literature books themselves. I also received PDF downloads of both literature set Individual lesson plans ($8.00).  We had several of the books on hand here, so we used our own copies of the literature books, however you can purchase the guides + books as a set at the Memoria Press Website.  Additionally, each of the student and teacher’s guides can be purchased individually.

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How We Used This: 

The 3rd grade Literature Lesson Plan schedules out reading and literature guide assignments for 33 weeks.  It also includes some additional readings (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and some poetry selections from Poetry for the Grammar School).  The 5th grade Literature Lesson Plan offers 34 weeks of lesson plans.  Quizzes and Tests are included in both grade levels.

3rd Grade Literature

Farmer Boy
The Moffatts
Charlotte’s Web
5th Grade Literature

Adam of the Road
The Door in the Wall
Robin Hood
King Arthur

The Lesson Plan also provides some teaching suggestions.  One thing that I noticed is that the lesson plans are primarily written for classroom teachers.  However, I did not feel that the suggestions were impossible to adapt to our one-room schoolhouse.  The guide even suggests spending a day reading the week’s chapters silently, then re-reading them aloud (presumably with the class) while working through the guide.  We adapted to spend one day reading the chapter, then working through the guide orally and in writing the next day.  I know this definitely slowed down our progress through the book, but it was workable for late in the school year/ early summer.  After our first couple weeks of trying to follow the lesson plan pacing, Levi and I abandoned it; it just didn’t mesh with our style.   He was much more comfortable alternating reading and study guide materials compared with the pacing in the Lesson Plan.  I am glad I have them, as it helped me to understand how the book and guides are designed to work together, however, I can see that they are really not necessary for the future.

The Teacher’s Guide includes instructions on how to help students be smart readers for each of the book – encouraging note taking while reading the books, pre-reading comprehension questions for focused reading, etc.   The guide has answers printed on each of the full-sized reproductions of the student workbooks pages, as well as quizzes, tests, and answers for discussion questions. 

The Student Workbooks all have a similar structure for each chapter and each book.  Each chapter’s study guide has the following sections:

lit guide

  • Reading Notes – This section provides some additional information about characters introduced in the chapter, settings, and other contextual information to increase comprehension. 
  • Vocabulary – Several words are provided in the context of a phrase.  Students are asked to write down brief definitions.  These words are reviewed again in quizzes and on tests.  The boys and I used this as an opportunity to hone dictionary skills (both with a hard copy and e-copy) and thesaurus skills.  I usually asked the boys to try to define the word for me (sometimes I’d search out the word in the text of the book for additional contextual information) and then we’d seek out a concise definition or look up a synonym for the word. 
  • Comprehension Questions – These questions deal with the factual events that occur in the story.  Students are encouraged to write complete sentences.  This section worked much better for Levi (who is more willing to sit and complete a workbook page) than for Luke.  Luke’s pages are mostly empty, because I found that it was better to work on verbal discussion with him compared to physical writing.  However, Levi and I would often discuss the answers to the questions, then I would leave him to write out answers to help with penmanship, sentence formulation, and punctuation/ capitalization.  When we return to the guides in the fall, both boys will be held accountable for more written work than in our pre-summer days.
  • Discussion Questions – These questions begin with a quote from the chapter and then turn to several questions that turn to less concrete discussions of character motive, plot development, etc. Answers and information for each of these questions are in the Teacher’s Guide.
  • Enrichment- A variety of tasks are incorporated into this section.  Copy work, composition, map work, and even some additional research (especially into historically significant details of the stories) are incorporated into this section.  We certainly did not do every activity from this section – again, with Luke, we often just discussed the material. 

Extra practice sections, which come periodically throughout the guide (and vary by book) help students focus on literary elements such as characters, setting, and plot. 

Reviews, quizzes and final book tests are included in each of the teacher’s guides. I haven’t yet focused on these (we’ve done some quizzing orally at this point), but I plan to introduce them more formally to Luke especially as he advances through his 6th grade year.

Memoria Press Lit Guide Review_thumb

The Student Guides often have additional information in the appendices of each book, such as poems, a glossary, recipes or drawings of items important to the book.  If you are a person who likes arts and crafts that go along with literature, these guides do have some material, but you will probably want to search online for additional crafts, games, and recipes to supplement what is included in the guide.

My Thoughts and Recommendations: I think that these can be useful guides and are certainly easily adapted to meet the needs of a variety of students.  Written workbooks do not have to be always filled in completely, and I know it stresses Luke out to see an entire workbook with blank lines in it! Therefore, I’ve had to adapt our use and be a bit non-traditional by working through the guide orally.  I do think it is important for Luke to be able to do written work, and I plan to introduce it gradually to him as our fall begins.

Levi, on the other hand, loves workbook pages;  as a matter of fact he whined when I told him we would do some of the comprehension questions orally. 

For both my learner types (Type A and hands-on, auditory), these books can serve the purpose of helping students with reading comprehension and beginning literature skills.  I’m looking forward to re-starting school and being able to walk through these books with my sons. (I hate to admit that I’ve never read Robin Hood before!) 

I’m not convinced that I would need to purchase the individual lesson plans in the future;  There is enough flexibility in the program that you can easily work with the guides and mold them to fit yours and your child’s reading style.  I personally think they work best by alternating book reading with guide work.  That way, information is fresh for discussion. 

Small Dandelion_thumb[1]FCC Disclaimer:  I received free copies of these guides and lesson plans from the vendor in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.  This disclaimer is written in compliance with FCC regulations.


Laura said...

Did you find the teacher's guides to be essential - or could you use the student guide without it?

Alane @RaH said...

Hi Laura, I don't think the teacher's guides are essential if you are familiar with the stories. Honestly, there are a couple books I haven't read, so I am relying on the guide for the answers.

Jillybean said...

Did you find the books to be on target for grade level?