When I was in middle school and high school I really enjoyed literature. We would spend about a month on a book and by the time we were finished we learned so many things. We talked about all kinds of literary terms and often would spend an entire class period marking up passages in the books. Since I loved diving into good books I wanted AJ to have the same kind of experience as I did. Unfortunately, I hadn’t found a great literature curriculum that I could afford, so I decided to make up my own literature guides. I enjoy doing it and she loves them, but they take a long time. I knew I need to find a few well written study guides before next year, but I didn’t know where to look.
As I began looking for literature curriculum to use with AJ next year, I came across Memoria Press. We enjoyed a history study from them last year, so I thought that AJ would enjoy their literature. A few weeks later I was blessed with the opportunity to review the Eighth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. AJ is in 7th grade right now, but the books in the 8th grade set looked like ones that she would really enjoy.
I was thrilled when I opened the box from Memoria Press. It included Student Study Guides and Teacher Guides for; The Wind In the Willows, As You Like It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Treasure Island. Each Study Guide was a little bit different.
The Student Study Guide for Treasure Island is 89 pages long. It begins with two pages of directions explaining how to use the literature guide and then a two page introduction about the author, Robert Louis Stevenson. The guide is broken into lessons that cover either one or two chapters. Each lesson follows a similar layout.
- Reading Notes – This section gives information about unknown characters or terms.
- Vocabulary – In this section your child gives definitions for an average of eight to ten words. Then they are asked to do additional dictionary work for two of the words.
- Comprehension Questions – Your students answer five or six questions about the reading in complete sentences.
- Quotations – A quote from the chapter is given and your student writes which character (or if it was the narrator) said the quote.
- Discussion Questions – A few questions are listed for your student to discuss orally. Some of the questions are opinion based where others focus on morals or the reasoning behind a characters action.
- Enrichment – The Enrichment section is not found after every chapter. It includes additional activities to go along with the reading. Some of the activities include; drawing, map work, finding definitions, research, and composition activities.
After about every six chapters there is a Mastery Word Review where your student completes vocabulary activities based on vocabulary that they learned in the previous chapters.
At the end of the book there is an Appendix of Nautical Terms. This section is really neat. It not only has terms, but types of knots, parts of a ship, and sailing directions. I think this section would really come in handy while reading the book.
The Teacher Guide is an exact copy of the student guide with all of the answers filled in. The back of the guide includes answers to some of the discussion questions. There are also six reproducible quizzes, a final exam, and answer keys.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Student Study Guide is 79 pages long. While it is similar to the Treasure Island Guide there are some notable differences. This guide starts with a short one page guide about how to use the book and then it goes into a section about how to mark a book. This section made me smile. It is very basic, but it shows the student how to read closely and mark important things in their book.
After the section about marking the book the student is instructed to read the preface of the book and answer some questions about it in the Study Guide.
There are 36 lessons in this book, one for each chapter in the book. Each lesson follows the same layout.
- Reading Notes
- Vocabulary – They are only asked to define about 5 words, there is not any extra dictionary work.
- Comprehension Questions
- Quotations – This time they are asked who said the quote and who it was spoken to or about.
- Discussion Questions
- Focus Passage – In each Focus Passage the student is asked to find a certain paragraph in the chapter and answer questions about it. The first few have simple comprehension type questions about the paragraph. As they move through the book they are asked to list words that describe mood, or for phrases that show certain things about a character. At times they are asked to paraphrase parts of the paragraph or to describe what was going on.
Like Treasure Island, this Teacher Guide has all of the student pages with the answers filled in. It also has six quizzes and a final exam.
As You Like It
The Student Guide for As You Like It is 42 pages long. Since this is a play by Shakespeare the Student Guide is a little different than the others. It begins with a two page introduction to Shakespeare followed by a two page introduction to the play. Following the introduction is a Character Log with the name of twelve characters from the play. The student has to describe each character and their strengths and weaknesses as they read the play.
The rest of the Student Guide is divided into seven lessons, a question about the Epilogue, and 80 short answer review questions.
Each Lesson has:
- Vocabulary – Ten to fifteen questions where they are only asked for the definitions.
- Journal Prompts – Three to five activities including some fun activities like; making the family tree of a character, comparing and contrasting characters, diary entries from different characters, monologues, pictures, and more.
- Quotes – The student is given three or four quotes. The need to tell who spoke it, who it was spoken to, the situation, the meaning, and the reaction.
- Comprehension Questions – There are about fifteen questions in each lesson. Many of the questions have multiple parts.
The Teacher Guide is similar to the others. It has the Student Guide with all of the answers filled in. Well, almost all of the answers were filled in. The Character Log was left blank. I wish that it would have been filled in because Shakespeare is a hard topic to teach. Having those filled in would have helped me explain things to AJ a little easier. At the back of the guide there are answers to the Review Questions along with a Midterm Exam and a Final Exam. The exams both include required essay questions.
I think that this guide will make teaching Shakespeare a lot easier for me. I have not read this play yet so I think it will be helpful to have the basic answers at my finger tips.
The Wind in the Willows
The Student Guide for The Wind in the Willows is 53 pages long. It has twelve lessons, one for each chapter in the book. This guide didn’t have any directions or introduction. It just starts. Out of all of the guides, this one seems a little all over the place. But it provides quite a bit of variety.
Each lesson is a little different and may have:
- Reading Notes – These are not already filled in like in Treasure Island or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Instead the name of a character, a place, or an unknown term is listed. During the reading the student is to fill in information that they find. Often the information was not found in the book and we needed to look it up.
- Vocabulary – The student only writes a short definition.
- Comprehension Questions – Some lessons only have a few while others have twelve or more.
- Quotations – The student lists who said it, when they said it, and who they said it about,
- Discussion Questions
- Activities– These range from drawings to reports. There is room right in the guide for most of these activities.
- Focus Passages
The Teacher Guide is similar to the others and has answers to almost every question. It also includes five quizzes and a final exam.
How We Used It
Since there was no way AJ could finish more than one of these during the review period, we had to pick one to start with. AJ decided to start with The Wind in the Willows, after I told her that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney Land was based on a character in the book. I ordered two copies of the book from the library and after receiving abridged and junior additions, we were finally on the way home with two copies of the the original version.
When the box arrived AJ was anxious to see what was in it. At that time I didn’t look at the other guides. We opened the guides for The Wind in the Willows and looked over them.
I was disappointed that there wasn’t a schedule or pacing guide at all. There wasn’t even any instructions. When I tried to find out how long the study would take I couldn’t find information for this guide, only for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. After looking at that I decided that we would take the study slow. AJ has improved a lot in her reading and writing, but I knew it would be too much for her to read the entire chapter and answer all of the questions at one time.
I decided to have AJ look up the vocabulary words and then we would take turns reading for about thirty minutes. After the reading she did any written work (except for the activities) that she was able to based on her reading. Following that schedule she was able to complete about two lessons and the quiz each week. On the day that she took the quiz I would also have her do a few of the activities from the chapters. At first I was a little uncomfortable taking that long on a book, but AJ was learning a great deal. I felt that the questions were well written and on an eight grade level. One thing that I really appreciated is that the Study Guide gave plenty of room for AJ to write.
What We Thought
The one thing that really frustrated me was that the quizzes and tests are all in the Teacher Guides? The only guide that states that the quizzes and tests are reproducible is the guide for Treasure Island. After reading the copyright on the front of the other guides I assumed that they were not reproducible. Since I didn’t want AJ to have the Teacher Guide I ended up giving her the quizzes orally and that was very time consuming. When I read that the quizzes and tests in Treasure Island were reproducible I assumed that the other ones were probably too. Knowing that would have made the quizzes easier for AJ.
At first I thought that reading four novels in a school year was just not enough. This year I planned to have AJ read eight. I quickly realized that these four Study Guides made for a very complete curriculum. The vocabulary in each one is challenging but doable and I think it will stretch AJ’s abilities. For each book the student focuses on a different element. This makes each guide unique and will keep the work interesting.
AJ’s favorite part was the Quotations section. She enjoyed hunting through the chapter to see who said each quote. I found that having her look for the quotes made her read closer. There were even a few times that she asked to do the work by herself. Normally she doesn’t enjoy study guides unless I create them, but she enjoyed working on The Wind in the Willows.
I love that this set has her starting to read closely and having her mark up the books. I think it is a great skill to learn.
While we read through this book together I think that she should be able to complete the guides for Treasure Island and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with very little help from me. I was very reluctant to teach her Shakespeare already, but the way the guide is written makes me confident that we will be able to read and understand it.
These guides look like they will make a great literature curriculum. We are going to set the other three novels aside for now and use them next year. I am sure that with just one or two more books added AJ will have a very full year of learning.
If you are looking for a solid curriculum, that is easy for the parent, and has plenty of variety, then I think Memoria Press is something you should check out.
Other Members of the Crew reviewed different levels of the Literature Guides. Find out what they had to say by clicking on the graphic below.