Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lightning Literature and Composition {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Although Hewitt Homeschooling offers homeschool materials for many subject areas, they are perhaps best known for their Lightning Literature and Composition products.

For the past few weeks, Brennan has been using Lightning Lit & Comp: Seventh Grade which consists of a Student's Guide, a Workbook, and a Teacher's Guide.

In this level of Lightning Lit & Comp, students read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Helen Keller, All Creatures Great and Small, and various short stories and poems. The comprehensive program then introduces literary analysis concepts, such as plot line, subplots, character sketches, or dialogue, in light of those works. Each lesson also teaches composition skills such as writing a good opening, outlining, forms of poetry, and more.

I really love the way this program integrates multiple language arts skills into one package. The first chapter was scheduled to take two weeks. During that time, Brennan read "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," a short story in Stories and Poems for Exceptionally Intelligent Children of All Ages. The primary literary analysis topic was parts of a plot line (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution). The Student's Guide contains three pages of lesson materials explaining the concept and applying it to "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." Later, in the Workbook, the student identifies the parts of a plot using a short version of "Little Red Riding Hood." A secondary lesson in this chapter deals with creating interesting opening sentences for writing assignments. The student picks the best opening sentence for one activity and writes good opening sentences for a second activity. The workbook also includes practice pages about rewriting information in your own words, writing from note cards, using capital letters and apostrophes correctly, and identifying nouns and adjectives. I like that I can use one program with Brennan and cover so many key language arts areas.

I also like the way that Lightning Lit & Comp emphasizes writing. The seventh grade level is subtitled: "Preparing for High School Composition Skills by Responding to Great Literature." In addition to the shorter writing assignments in the workbook, each chapter has longer written exercises that are several paragraphs long.

Unfortunately, I find it confusing to flip amongst the the Student Guide, the Workbook, and the Teacher's Guide. The Teacher's Guide contains a week-by-week schedule of assignments, and I wish it was also included in the student books so that Brennan could follow it independently. I also think it would work better for him if the Student's Guide and the Workbook were combined so that he didn't have to read the lesson materials in one book and complete the workbook pages separately. (I realize that it would be more economical to purchase only a workbook for other students using the program, but convenience might outweigh cost for me.)

I'm also not sure that the pacing of the some of the later chapters will work for us. For the first two weeks, there was a nice balance between reading the story and completing the written assignments. Brennan has since moved on to reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The reading assignments last for seven weeks before he will move on to the next section of written work. There are comprehension questions for each chapter of the book, but those are primarily fact-based questions to make sure he read the assignment, not questions designed to bring about literary discussions. I'm not sure that Brennan is going to cope well with two intense weeks of thinking and writing after spending seven weeks simply reading. I also fear that we are missing a lot of good opportunities to discuss the book because all the literary analysis is saved until he finishes the entire book. A similar situation exists in the second semester of the materials when the student spends eight weeks reading All Creatures Great and Small.

Hewitt Homeschooling offers Lightning Literature & Composition materials for first, seventh, and eighth graders (more elementary titles will be released in future years).  They also offer twelve different high school options, including American Literature, British Literature, Shakespeare, World War I, and World War II). We used the Seventh Grade materials which are obviously suitable for seventh grade students, and in my opinion, can be used for any junior high student. In fact, I chose this level because I thought he'd enjoy reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Lightning Literature & Composition pack for seventh grade (Student's Guide, Workbook, Teacher's Guide, and five books) costs $92.63. If purchased separately, the Student's Guide costs $20, the Workbook costs $20, and the Teacher's Guide costs $20. All of the required literature books were available from my public library.

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