Lightning Literature & Composition

"Reading should be fun, and writing should be satisfying." The author of this series believes this, and she has produced a course that tries to keep that goal ever present. She wants the students to enjoy themselves! Accordingly, reading assignments are not as strenuous as in some courses - two novels, two non-fiction books, two short stories and several poems for the 7th grade course, for instance. However, the lessons are well-constructed and coverage of vocabulary, comprehension, literary elements, and writing instruction is thorough.

The three components of this program are designed to be complementary for use together. The Student Book is the student's textual companion as they study the literature selections. There are eight chapters in Grade 7 and twelve in Grade 8, one for each of the major pieces of literature that are studied throughout the year, but the chapters do not necessarily correspond to a specific time period. For instance, in the 7th grade course, Chapter 5 is covered in two weeks, Chapter 6 in four weeks, Chapter 7 in two weeks, and Chapter 8 in nine weeks. There is a consistent pattern in the chapter contents, however: Introduction (to the literary work), While You Read (what to look for), Vocabulary List, Comprehension Questions, Literary Lesson, Mini-Lesson (writing lesson), and Writing Exercises.

The consumable Student Workbook is the place for the student to "do" their work. It provides worktext space for all the essential exercises as well as some optional fun/reinforcement exercises. There are 8-12 exercises per chapter, in seven different coded types - L for literary lessons, M relating to mini-lessons, C practicing composition skills, T for thinking skill pages, G exercises that review grammar and mechanics, P for puzzles, and E for extra-challenge (the last two being the optional ones). There's a nice variety in these exercises and a well-thought-out relationship between the literary and composition activities. Frankly, I like the step-by-step skill building that is integral to the worktext.

The Teacher Guide is the "glue" that holds the whole program together providing a philosophical and methodical overview of the program and a weekly planning schedule (lesson plans) as well as chapter-by-chapter answers and teaching helps.

To some, the reading selection choices might seem a little light, and perhaps atypical, but there is good variety in terms of genre, and the lessons are effective vehicles for grade-level skills. To give you an idea, in Chapter 6 of the 7th grade course, Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, is covered. Lessons, in addition to the usual background, vocabulary, and comprehension, include these writing skills: lists about yourself, developing an idea, putting ideas into a paragraph, identifying resources, determining fact or opinion, identifying a biased viewpoint, and identifying sentences plus a crossword puzzle, a word search and an extra challenge exercise on autobiography and culture.

If your goal is to prepare your student for high school literature and composition skills, then Lightning Lit & Comp is a good, solid choice. Although there is a conservative moral "feel" to the series and an occasional mention of God (by authors Stephen Crane and Mark Twain, for instance), there is no obvious Christian content. ~ Janice




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