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It can be difficult to know how to teach literature. A lot of parents avoid the subject altogether, focusing instead on math, science and sports. While those are important things to study, literature study is also essential for a well-rounded education, and Memoria Press Literature Guides are now available to help you and your students through the process.
How Do These Work?
There are currently guides for grades 1-9, as well as a few titles for older students. Exercises focus on comprehension and vocabulary, though students are introduced by stages to the elements of literary analysis like character study, plot analysis, etc. Students read the appropriate section of the book being studied, then complete the exercises; teachers will certainly need to grade written work, though beyond that involvement is entirely discretionary—you could have them complete each guide on their own.
For each grade, students read age-appropriate books and simultaneously complete exercises in the student workbook. Each student study guide is accompanied by a teacher guide, except at the 2nd grade level where a single teacher guide covers all four available student books. The basic lesson (lessons can be completed at any pace) begins with vocabulary words from the reading, goes on to comprehension, discussion and short answer questions, and ends with an "enrichment" exercise, which usually involves the student copying a portion of the reading without mistakes.
StoryTime Treasures and More StoryTime Treasures are intended for 1st graders, and cover five and seven stories respectively (all classic tales like Billy & Blaze, Little Bear, Caps for Sale, etc.). At this stage students occasionally draw or color pictures, but the focus is on actually learning how to read a book. At the beginning of both guides, teachers are instructed to tell students the purpose of a book's cover (to protect the pages inside), how to find the title page and what it tells us, why authors dedicate books, and more.
At this stage, kids are mostly responsible for remembering the elements of the story, expanding their vocabularies, and learning basic elements of association and critical thinking. The authors of these two guides are particularly brilliant, as they manage to ask questions (which kids answer in writing, thus practicing their penmanship skills) that are implied rather than explicitly stated in the original text, thus introducing kids to the idea of thinking beyond the surface-level. A teacher key includes answers to all exercises in both volumes.
After grade 2, important or famous quotations from the text are included in each lesson; students can discuss, ponder or memorize these. Throughout each guide supplementary exercises help kids understand the important principles of literary analysis and go deeper than the surface-level comprehension questions. Appendices in the back of all the guides except those for grade 4 include information about the authors, timelines, images, maps and suggested further reading lists to help students really get a feel for the books they're reading.
Each teacher guide after grade 2 includes reproducible student tests and quizzes to be administered periodically between lessons. Answers to all objective exercises in the student texts are also included. There isn't a lot of support material for teachers, no scripted lessons or material for them to present to students, but the study guides are self-explanatory and you shouldn't need anything else. Suggested answers to discussion questions are included to help you get things going.
The guides for high school follow the same basic format as the elementary and middle school texts. All the guides cover books slightly above the average student's reading level, but this will be especially true for the high school selections—Olivia Coolidge's The Trojan War, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. While the quality of the high school guides is as high as that of the younger levels, you very well may want to have them do more in-depth literature study.
Memoria Press recommends their guides be used for the grades as follows:
2nd grade: Prairie School, Animal Folk Tales of America, Courage of Sarah Noble, Little House in the Big Woods, Beatrix Potter books
3rd grade: Farmer Boy, Charlotte's Web, A Bear Called Paddington, Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Moffats
4th grade: Cricket in Times Square, Homer Price, Blue Fairy Book, Dangerous Journey
5th grade: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Heidi; Lassie Come-Home, Twenty-One Balloons
6th grade: Door in the Wall, Adam of the Road, Robin Hood, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
7th grade: Anne of Green Gables, Trojan War, Bronze Bow, The Hobbit
8th grade: Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, As You Like It
9th grade: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf the Warrior, Canterbury Tales (not all of it), Henry V, Poetry Book I
Upper-School: Midsummer Night's Dream, Robinson Crusoe, Merchant of Venice, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter
See the Memoria Press Classical Studies for guides on the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Three Theban Plays, Oresteian Trilogy, and more.
Our Honest Opinion:
These are among the best literature guides we've seen. For those who want their kids to have a really thorough literary analysis education, these could serve as a good prep before implementing the Andrews' Teaching the Classics. If you're content having them learn only the basics, these are more analysis-focused than the Progeny Press guides, while less hands-on and more writing/composition focused than the Veritas Press guides. While you don't have to, it's a good idea to help (especially younger) children work through these, and while none of the texts in this series will make them literary genuises, they'll be well on their way to making sense of some of the great world classics.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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