Monday, September 3, 2012

Creating High School Literature Units

I love literature--I always have. So when my oldest reached 7th grade, I decided to forgo the literature book and start creating my own literature units. Now I did teach 8th grade English in a Christian school before I started homeschooling.  In my teaching experience, we used whole book studies more than literature book studies. That made it much easier taking what I had done before and putting together a book study in our homeschool.

You can go about studying literature in two different ways. You can buy or find free online a prepared study guide for the book you intend to study or you can create a study from scratch all on your own. (Go to Glencoe Literature for free study guides.) In my case, I might do one or the other depending on the book. But many times I do a little of both. I'll give you some tips here on how to go about doing this.

Picking Books for Study
For a high school study, choose a theme--something you could put on their transcript such as Ancient Literature, American Literature, British Literature, World Literature, etc. This year, we are studying American Government & Economics. When I went about putting his literature study together, I picked books that went with a study of government. For example, this year in addition to reading Fellowship of the Ring, we are reading The Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus Rex, Julius Caesar, Animal Farm and Pride and Prejudice. He is also learning literary analysis.

Setting up the Study
Once you have chosen the books to study, you have to figure out what to do in your study. Go to one of the online book study sites such as Sparks Notes online. Copy or download the background information they have listed for your book. For example: Context, plot overview, Character List, Analysis of Major Characters, Themes-Motifs-Symbols. Go over these with your student as you introduce the book. Then from Sparks Notes, copy/download the chapter by chapter summaries and analyses.

After your student reads through a chapter of the novel, you can go over the summary and the analysis together. As an assignment, you could have your student write a short paragraph or two summary (or written narration) of the chapter before going over the summary/analysis. Enjoy these sessions with your student and try to bring out some great discussion between you and your teen. You could have them complete a quick reading quiz after each chapter  or a couple quizzes throughout the novel. I do not believe the quizzes are all that necessary but if you want your student to be used to taking quizzes especially pop quizzes go ahead and throw a few into the study.

Advice on Shakespeare

I do advise when studying Shakespeare to go ahead and purchase the Cliff's Complete version of the play you are studying. Go through the text with your student. The Cliff's Complete will explain historical references, Latin phrases, puns, Elizabethan phraseology, etc. as you read the text of the play. It makes deciphering Shakespeare so much easier. I would also advise if your student has had no background in Shakespeare to first read The Tales of Shakespeare by the Lambs. This will give them an understanding of the plot before they read it in the original format. And most importantly, watch the play being performed either live, movie or a recorded play. Shakespeare was meant to be watched not read.

Final Assignment
Continue going through the novel as described above. At the end, prepare a final assignment. Be creative and choose something to test your students knowledge of the material but take into account your student's strengths. For example, after reading Oedipus Rex, they could write a comparison paper between Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and Oedipus Rex. After reading, The Hobbit, they could write a paper showing Bilblo going through the Hero's Journey. If your student, isn't a writer give them a different type of final assignment. A project maybe or something more hands-on.

In the end, make the study meaningful and memorable. Enjoy this time with your teen. You are doing more than studying a book; you are making memories.