Lightning Literature Elementary

Lightning Literature and Composition at the elementary level brings Five in a Row to mind. Utilizing the same "read-through-books-multiple-times-a-week" methodology in the lowest grades yet with a focus on literature appreciation as well as systematic grammar and writing instruction, the goal is both developing a love of great literature and a loving, gentle introduction to language arts. Snuggle up on the sofa, use this course as a road map, and read good books with your child. You'll accomplish the goals of this program!

My first assumption about this program was that it would provide a light overview of grammar and composition with an emphasis on settling back and enjoying the literature. While there is a decided emphasis on enjoying and understanding the literature, the program is also decidedly comprehensive in its grammar and usage coverage and just plain expectant in its composition assignments. Students are encouraged to write a wide variety of compositions although those expectations are never to get in the way of enjoying the story. You might be wondering about the role of phonics/reading instruction in this program. To put it simply, it's not included. There seems to be an underlying assumption that the student is reading at grade level and that phonics instruction is underway (or completed).

A Teacher's Guide, a Student Worktext, and lots of classic (along with a few contemporary) children's books are the components for the program. The early grades also include weekly extra read-aloud stories/books (i.e. Aesop's Fables in Grade 1; Winnie the Pooh and Just So Stories in Grade 2). There are 36 weekly lessons; each with daily instruction for Monday through Thursday (Friday is a day off). Lessons in Grade 1 are each based on a well-loved children's picture book. In Grade 2, the lessons start with picture books but in the last third of the year move into chapter books which are studied over a multi-week schedule. Upper levels cover chapter books over several weeks (anywhere from 2 to 5). Grade 2 introduces Poetry lessons (four weeks interspersed throughout the year) using the Random House Book of Poetry for Children.

Daily instruction includes three segments: literature, grammar & mechanics, and composition. Picture books are read at least twice with comprehension and literary questions provided. Chapter books are divided into multiple weekly lessons. Grammar lessons are brief and tied to the reading selection and then reviewed in subsequent weeks. Diagramming (a helpful graphic organizer) is introduced in Grade 2. Compositions are assigned weekly with daily guidance towards completion. Handwriting instruction and practice can be incorporated into each lesson as desired/needed.

The Teacher's Guide is the heart of the program and is necessary. It's here that the general flavor of the program is most obvious including its orientation toward teacher-student interaction rather than independent student work. Detailed daily instructions are written in first person to the parent/teacher. The flexibility built into the program is reiterated often with examples of how to adapt the teaching instructions for students who are sluggish or need extra challenge. Weekly schedules have a basic structure, though. Each day includes literature study, grammar/mechanics study, and work on the weekly composition assignment.

To give you some idea of how the TG is set up, let's look at Grade 1, Week 23. The At a Glance page gives an overview of the week, listing the book for the week (Story About Ping), a fable, and optional materials, while stating that the grammar/mechanics lesson is on contractions, and the composition is an instructional article. Daily literature questions include story retelling, examination of the story, character, setting, external details, internal details and conflict, as well as some thought-provoking "consideration" questions. Comprehension questions are designed as a tool to improve comprehension rather than to test for it. Answers are provided where they would be helpful. Grammar and mechanics lessons are typically short and usually involve a workbook page (answers provided). Coverage includes punctuation, capitalization, parts of speech, sentence diagramming (beginning in Grade 2), and occasional literary concepts. Daily composition segments lead the student through the writing process including brainstorming, ordering, rough drafts, and final drafts. The variety of writing assignments includes creative writing, essays of all sorts (description, personal, opinion, etc.), research paper, and poems. There is a constant emphasis on remembering that the goal is to love literature and language arts with suggestions for adapting the lessons to the needs of your student. Each week ends with suggestions for extending the lesson. A teacher's handwriting guide in the back of the teacher books includes instruction, a letter stroke alphabet, and reproducible masters for handwriting pages with various sized lines.

The Student Books include some instructional material but are essentially consumable worktexts. Most of the grammar exercises are included here along with space to write thoughts about the reading selection (i.e. Reading Journal Pages: What this Story is About, What I Think of this Story, and My Favorite Sentence). The books are colorful and appealing. Artwork related to the week's literature selection is included with each lesson. A build-it-yourself dictionary (students write words they've encountered under various letters) is included in the back of each student book.


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