Master Books Literature Courses
Some things get better and better. Now in its fourth edition with a new copyright, these literature and critical thinking courses by Dr. James Stobaugh remain academically challenging with an underlying biblical/Christian worldview. With the revision, the courses have become geared more toward student independent work. When paired with the author's complementary history courses, they provide integrated and cohesive history/literature/writing credits.
American, British, and World Literature are survey courses characterized by rigorous, college-prep academics with an emphasis on effective composition that are worthy of an Honors designation. The author clearly believes that accomplished rhetorical skills are at the heart of apologetics - a systematic argumentative discourse in defense of Christianity and that high school literature courses are a necessary training ground.
The scope and breadth of the literature selections is . . . . well, not for the faint-hearted. Masterful, comprehensive; and challenging; selections include short stories, historical narratives, epic poetry, essays, poetry, novels, and plays. Many of the smaller works (poetry, essays, historical works and some excerpts) are included in the student texts with the larger works (listed below) usually available at the public library, in audiobook versions, or online. Chapters (one per week; 34 per year/course) typically cover several smaller works (or one larger work) and include five lessons. Only occasionally will a literary work span more than one week. Students should be prepared to read 200 or so pages per week and it's recommended they also get a jump ahead by reading through the whole book's list the preceding summer. Since reading classic and well-written literature is the best means of increasing vocabulary, students are encouraged to create vocabulary cards, with the word on the front and its meaning, part of speech designation, and use in a sentence on the back.
Each course is designed as a two credit course in writing and literature. The courses do not call themselves "honors"; however, these rigorous courses are worthy of the designation. Likewise, while not calling themselves AP lit courses, a student who has competently completed all three of these courses could feel confidant that they have acquired many, if not most, of the skills required for those exams. However, if a less intense course is desired, it would be possible to "tweak" the assignments and still have solid college prep courses, as long as you were careful to preserve the breadth and depth of the reading and writing requirements.
A significant focus of each course is interacting with a biblical and Christian worldview. Students are encouraged to keep a daily prayer journal and are routinely challenged to consider literary components in light of that worldview. Essay questions often ask the student to compare/contrast/relate various aspects of the reading assignment to the Bible, Christianity, or a biblical worldview. The first chapter in American Literature is a short worldview survey and analysis course.
Students are encouraged to work independently. This is a change from earlier editions which were somewhat dependent on teacher-student interaction. Discussion is always a significant aspect of vibrant literary education (in my opinion), but format changes in this edition prompt the student to complete much of the preliminary analysis on his/her own. Each lesson includes a Concept Builder. These utilize a graphic organizer format and include a wide range of literary analysis techniques. For instance, in World Literature, CB 20-B compares the different views of hell held by Dante, Goethe, and Sartre. British Literature's CB 14-E uses an arrow graphic to trace the development of Crusoe's Christian maturity. In American Literature's CB 6-D the student cites passages from a short story to illustrate humorous and serious aspects of the story's tone. Although a student could complete these courses with relatively little interaction with either a teacher or fellow students, I think a discussion group or a weekly "mentor" meeting with a parent/educator would be a wonderful addition.
Chapters and Lessons follow a pattern. As an example, let's look at Chapter 8 from American Literature. (Chapter 8 covers Romanticism through the New England Renaissance:1840-1855.) An introduction to the chapter includes "First Thoughts" - an overview - and "Chapter Learning Objectives" stated in a general form and then in detailed specifics. The student looks over the Weekly Essay Options (found in the Teacher Guide) and is told what reading they should be doing to stay ahead of the Lessons. Daily Lessons focus on either a specific literary selection (i.e., short story, part of a novel, poetry, essay, etc.) or on background or supplemental information. Daily assignments include a Warm-Up (interacting with a reading selection), completing a Concept Builder, reviewing required reading, and working on an assigned essay. It is expected that the teacher will assign (or the student will select) one essay to be completed each week, but the student will likely be asked to outline other essays (from the suggested list) as well. Lessons are varied and may include: background/author or period information; analysis aspects of specific works; or related essays or poetry. Essays are due at the end of each five-lesson chapter, and chapter tests are assigned weekly. Tests include objective questions, discussion questions, and short answer questions. While Dr. Stobaugh suggests the lessons can be completed in 45-60 minutes, I think it will take somewhat longer unless the student has completed most of the reading assignments ahead of time and is a skilled essayist.
These courses do assume both experience in and a certain degree of ease with essay writing - particularly response to literature essays. There is virtually no writing instruction other than some help in and prompting for completing various steps in the process. Essay topics are derived from the lessons and include Critical Thinking (taking the reader from simple recall to digging more deeply into the meaning and interpretation of the novel), Biblical Application (considers the novel, or part of it, in light of Scripture), and Enrichment (usually literary criticism where the student examines particular literary constructs, such as tone, plot, style, characterization, setting, or theme, and sometimes applications to other disciplines or subjects.
The Student Text includes the Lessons/Chapters which are self-contained, often including the Literature selections as well as the Concept Builders and assignments. A Glossary of Literary Terms and a Book List for Supplemental Reading are included in the back of the book. Around 500 pgs pb.
The Teacher Guide includes chapter-by-chapter "helps": chapter introductions, daily lessons, Concept Builder answer keys, essay answer summaries, and chapter test answer keys. Essay options for each chapter and chapter tests (reproducible for families and small classes) are available in the back of the Teacher Guide (and online as downloads). Around 350 pgs, three-hole punched, looseleaf.
Supplies needed by the student include: notepad/computer for writing assignments, pen/pencil for taking notes and for essays, a prayer journal, daily concept builders, weekly essay options, and weekly tests (available either in the Teacher Guide or as free downloads). Literature needed is either included in the Student Book (shorter pieces) or listed below. ~ Janice