Monday, October 31, 2011

Everyday Education - Excellence in Literature: Introduction to Literature

Everyday Education

Everyday Education - Excellence in Literature: Introduction to Literature
  • Literature Study for Upper Grades by Janice Campbell
  • Available as an eBook or Printed Volume
  • Print copy $29 + Shipping, eBook $27 (Delivered Electronically)
  • 132 pages
  • 9 Four Week Units
  • Honors Option Included
  • Literature Based and Text Directed Units
  • Suggested Ages - Grades 8-12
Everyday Education - Excellence in Literature

About a month ago, we received the first of the Excellence in Literature Texts, Introduction to Literature.  Excellence in Literature was developed by Janice Campbell to help students in the upper grades improve their reading and writing through classic literature.  The complete course consists of five texts and they are ideally suited for students in grades 8-12.  The courses are meant to be student directed with minimal instruction from the teacher.

I was interested in how the course would be presented, because I had a feeling that my sons could benefit greatly from it.  Neither one has a love of literature, although they both read voraciously.  Our bookshelves are crammed with reference books, guides, books with interesting facts, but very little fiction.  They show no interest in our bookshelf with well known, timeless works.

Each evening, their father or I will read to them from novels.  They enjoy this time with us but they rarely choose a story when reading freely and for fun.  Would Excellence in Literature open up the door a little bit so they could gain an appreciation for some of the classics?

The student directed learning model also piqued my attention.  Because of their Asperger Syndrome, my boys lack organizational skills, and are easily distracted.  Could this help them?

As I looked over the course material, I considered my boys who are two years younger than the target age range, dislike literature, and lack the skills required to do this work successfully.  I did feel a bit overwhelmed, but I also felt it had a lot to offer us.

Here is what I found. This is definitely above and beyond what my children are capable of, doing independently, despite their amazing brains. However, I was extremely encouraged.  Just because they couldn't do it alone didn't mean we couldn't do it together until they were ready.  We could (very slowly) tackle a few units together and in doing so I would have the opportunity to teach them study skills, research skills,  and how to make (and stick to) a study plan.  As a bonus, they would become familiar with the teaching style and we could eventually use the whole program comfortably.  If I was really lucky, they might even enjoy the stories, too.

Although we are not using this program as intended, I think it is a gem, and any student who uses this program successfully will have no choice but to develop skills that will help them as a student, and beyond their years of academia.  I know several people who teach English at the High School level, and this is a more inclusive and more sophisticated approach than what most students in these grades are receiving.

This text is divided into nine units, and each one is meant to span four weeks of study time.  The thirty-six week model fits most traditional school years.  When Introduction to Literature is completed Literature and Composition, American Literature, British Literature, and World Literature follow.  These can be purchased separately, or as a complete set of all five texts.

Everyday Education - Excellence in Literature

Before the coursework begins, there is a detailed introduction which helps students understand what is expected of them, offers tips on how to study properly, lists some resources and materials that will be required, and finally, how to read properly is discussed.  There are ways to put a written work into context, and how to best enjoy a particular work. This would vary depending on factors like if it is a story, a poem, a play or an essay.

Students are encouraged to set up a schedule that balances the assigned work evenly throughout the four weeks suggested per unit.

To help the students develop their reading skill,they are directed to other resources to help them understand the assigned reading.  Things that will help them to understand the author, the time period the story is set in, and other factors that might have influenced the author.  

At the rate we are progressing, this will probably be a two year course for us.  I will continue to give the boys more and more responsibility.  For now, we are working on the first unit, which uses short stories.  When we have finished we will have set up a schedule, (that part was fairly easy) read the short stories, (this also went well) written an apporach paper, (slightly more challenging) completed a literature summary for each story, (my boys enjoyed this) and completed a compare and contrast essay usingtwo of the stories. (we are currently working on this and while it is challenging, it is not boyond their capabilities.  The essay is where we are slowing down.  Their writing to this point has been rather straightforward, and this is new territory.

There is a well designed rubric for the student to use as they write, and the teacher will use this for grading, too. 

Some other helpful resources include formats and models, sample analysis, examples of properly written essays, a glossary, and a list of resources for further study.  There are also honors assignments for students who are capable of completing them.

After the short story unit, we will study Around the World in Eighty Days, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Jane Eyre, Pygmalion, Treasure Island, Animal Farm, The Tempest, and Gulliver's Travels.  

I am very impressed with the program, and I think it will work well for us.  I am already looking forward to doing the entire series.  It will be a great chance to revisit and share some of my favorite literature with my sons.  The course encourages students not only to read the books, but to immerse themselves in them.  They will take notes, write in margins, learn the history of the time period, and write thoughtful essays to discuss them that require more than just regurgitation of facts. 


I received a digital copy of this curriculum in order to write an honest, objective blogged review.  I was not paid to write this post and my opinions are genuine.