Portals to Literature
Wow! These incredibly thick and thorough teaching guides are some of the best I've seen (and I've seen lots of them)! These provide both an in-depth study of the novel at hand and many opportunities for improving student reading skills. Several pages of background information at the beginning of each guide put the literary piece in context. My review sample for Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl includes information about Anne Frank's world (meant to be shared with the student as a page of reproducible questions follows) and Background to the War to help the reader understand both characters and setting prior to beginning the novel. Because this novel is actually a diary, the guide is broken into sections (rather than chapters) that correspond to groups of diary entries by date. Each section of the guide contains Teacher Notes, a Check for Understanding exercise, Vocabulary Building, and two Literary Skills activities. The Teacher Notes are essentially lesson plans for that section. They include a helpful section summary for the busy teacher, pre-reading focus activities/discussion questions, a vocabulary preview, an "After Students Read" grouping that references appropriate student pages, and post-reading discussion/writing questions. The Check for Understanding student pages are designed to test comprehension. These vary in format (multiple choice, cause and effect, true/false, matching, etc.) but are intended as a quick check to insure that students have a basic understanding of that section. Answers to these are in the back of the guide. The format of the Vocabulary Building student pages varies also (which is refreshing after having used some guides that utilize the same technique over and over, guide after guide), including analogies, selecting the closest meaning, multiple choice, sentence completion, etc. Again, answers to these exercises are included in the back of the guide. Literary Skills pages abound and are very well done. They, along with the discussion/writing questions contained in the Teacher Notes, contain the higher level thinking skills activities. To give you an idea of the scope, topics included in the guide to Anne Frank are: Genre, Setting & Comparison/Contrast, Idioms, Conflict, Simile & Metaphor, Characterization: Role Reversal, Objective & Subjective, Mood, Character Relationships, Dynamic Characters, Suspense, Inference, Internal & External Conflict, Allusions, Characterization: Opposites and Point of View. Many of these require a significant, organized written response - often a multiple- paragraph essay. Once skills pages are completed for the section, the post-reading Discussion/Writing Questions are provided for synthesizing and evaluating important plot, theme, and character developments in that section. You can either discuss these orally or have your child keep a Response Journal and record his answers there. After reading through the novel, a section of Culminating Literary Skills Activities helps you wrap it all up. In Anne Frank, these consist of three summary literary skills pages plus many options for a final student project. Each guide is between 87-160 pgs. These win hands-down for a thorough, in-depth literature study. Please note that guides are transitioning from print to PDF format on CD.