Poetry & Short Stories ~ Review

Over the years we have had the chance to try out quite a few products from Memoria Press. They specialize in materials for classical homeschoolers, but we are far from classical. We follow an eclectic approach and use a variety of curriculum types to fit our needs. Almost every product we have tried from Memoria Press has been a good fit for AJ, especially their literature. We have tried numerous book studies so we were happy to try out one of their Poetry and Short Stories selections.

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They have a few different options, but we decided to try out theĀ Poetry & Short Stories: American Literature Set It covers American Literature 19th-20th Centuries. The set comes with a book, a student guide and a teacher guide. It doesn’t include a schedule that tells you how to use the program, so it is very flexible.

American Literature

The American Literature set focuses on stories and poetry that was created after the war of 1812. Your student will read stories from authors like; Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, and O. Henry. They will discover poetry from poets like Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. While they read through the short stories and poems they will be asked to find the central idea for each piece. They will learn about close reading and form opinions about each piece.

The Book

The book of poetry and short stories is smaller than the student guide. It is a 92 page soft covered book. It is fairly plain inside, but it does contain a few black and white pictures. Each paragraph is numbered in the short stories and the stanzas are numbered in each poem. The text in the book is about the size found in most text books, but AJ found it a little small. She said that the pages with only text were a little hard to read because the stories are single spaced. She just started using reading glasses though, so I think it may be a personal problem. I didn’t have any problem with the size of the text.

The Student Guide

The student guide is 230 pages long. It begins with a step by step guide on how to use the study guide.This was helpful! The first assignments in the book have the student learning about the Central One Idea and how to mark a book. Then they practice what they learned and answer some questions about the introduction.

Each poem or short story has nine steps to complete in the student guide. Some take just a few minutes, while others may take more than a day.

  1. The student answers a couple of questions to get them ready for the reading. These are just short questions requiring a few sentences to answer them. One question for the story Rip Van Winkle was, “Tell of a time when you slept longer than you ever thought possible.” Most of these are easy to answer.
  2. Then the student reads through the Reading Notes. These include any different vocabulary or important information about the time period. Again, this step is rather quick.
  3. Try to define some of the vocabulary words. The idea is to define as many as you can without using a dictionary. There are 20 words used in sentences, and a definition bank. The student just has to put the definition under the correct sentence. This section took AJ a little longer. Some words used in the stories are words we don’t often use anymore.
  4. Read the story or poem. During this time the student should be marking the book and taking notes as needed.
  5. Finish the vocabulary. At this point they can look up words they are unsure of. This is when I would have AJ check her work. Some of the words have very similar definitions and she would mix them up. We would discuss why her answer was incorrect and she would fix any mistakes.
  6. Comprehension Questions. These are both multiple choice and short answer questions. The student is asked basic information about the story. They may be asked to describe a character, the setting, the climax in the story, or details about an event in the story. AJ usually answered these the day after she read the story, because the stories took her a while to read. It took her about an hour to answer the comprehension questions.
  7. Socratic Discussion Questions. These questions require the student to dig deeper. They are asked to look at the character’s motives, symbols in the story, and how the character grows overtime. An example from Rip Van Winkle was, “How does Rip come of age in the story? Or does he?” AJ spent two days on this section. She struggled with this section the most. Often we would compare her answers to the answer key and discuss.
  8. Rhetoric Expression. This is the part where the student decides what the central one idea of the story is. Then they explain why they feel the central one idea fits the story. They end this section by writing down what the teacher expressed central one idea is. For Rip Van Winkle it is, “the desire to escape from adult responsibilities.”
  9. Essay. The student is given a prompt to write an essay. They have a few different options.

There is plenty of writing space in the student guide.

Teacher Guide

The teacher guide is almost an exact copy of the student guide. It just has all of the answers filled in. My only complaint is that there are no example essays. Instead there are just the same pages that appear in the student book. I think that is a waste of paper. They could cut out over 30 pages if those pages were removed. Other than that I feel the teacher guide was perfect. I liked being able to see the questions she was being asked and the answers all in one place.

What We Thought

AJ felt that some of the stories were a bit boring. She also thought that the writing in the book was too small and that there was a lot of writing to do for each story. We ended up spending about two weeks worth of school on each story. Doing a little bit each day helped a lot. We also found that she needed to read through the story a few times to complete all of the work. In the future, I may let her skip a few questions or have her answer them orally.

I think that this is a very solid program. It was a nice change from reading only novels all of the time. While it requires a deep level of thought to answer the questions and figure out the central one idea, I think that the way the questions are set up lets you slowly gain confidence.

AJ learned a lot in the few stories she read. After the first story it was easier for her to figure out the central one idea on the second story. It is a program we plan to continue with when we study American History next year. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to help their child dig deeper into literature.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought. They tried out different reading products and even Latin!

Phonics, Poetry & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}
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