Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings 2nd Ed.
Combining the literary magnificence of The Lord of the Rings trilogy with an enthusiastic study of the rich, ancient literature that served as its inspiration and packaging it into a well-organized, easy-to-use study, Literary Lessons from LOTR is a beautiful thing! Now in its second edition, this course has much to offer the serious high school student: broad exposure to literary terms, excellent overview of ancient literature - Greek epics, Beowulf and the Arthurian Romances, extensive vocabulary studies, an introduction to poetry, and significant writing opportunities designed to develop creativity as well as actual writing skills. All of this is in addition to an in-depth look into the novels (and their author) widely considered to be one of the most influential literary works of the past century.
The "secret" of this course's success is the skillful weaving of related unit studies with the comprehensive study of the six "books" which make up what is commonly known as The LOTR trilogy. Each book is studied chapter by chapter and students are expected to provide a synopsis of events, complete vocabulary exercises, and sometimes read "additional notes" (literary analysis and interpretation) before answering comprehension and sometimes challenger questions and completing writing assignments. Each book study ends with a vocabulary review, completion of a study guide, and a unit test. There are thirteen "unit studies" interspersed among these six book study units. These studies include: author background, linguistics (etymology and philology), setting, map study, ancient epics, introduction to Old English, Beowulf, monsters and heroes, genre (fantasy as literature), poetry, Arthurian romances, theme and motif. An interesting final unit study is a research project which invites the student to explain "whatever happened to the Hobbits, Men, Elves, and Dwarves?" Definitely a one credit, college-prep high school literature course with an emphasis on character development and truth, it could be counted either as Ancient or British Lit (although as British literature it is missing some typical content - Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, etc.).
The Student Edition is hefty - 477 pgs, spiral-bound - providing textual information and serving as a worktext. Chapter synopses are designed as fill-in-the-blank with page references for gleaning answers. These serve as review as well as providing experience with an excellent technique for literary study. Page number references coordinate with the Lord of the Rings Combined Volume (50th Anniversary Edition). Vocabulary is introduced in context. Comprehension questions can be used either for discussion or for short essay-type answers. Challenger questions (for more advanced students) can be either skipped or completed depending on the student. The student is encouraged to check (and correct) his answers continually so that his efforts will be effective in terms of review and reinforcement. The thirteen Unit Studies are varied in form and substance. Sometimes essays about various elements of literature; sometimes explorations of other literary works; and occasionally related work projects such as the map project, these units will often include writing assignments. As an example, in the introductory Beowulf study (there are two parts to the Beowulf study) textual information includes sections on Tolkien and Beowulf, the history of Beowulf, unfamiliar terms, and features of old English poetry and then provides excerpts from the poem. As with each of the unit studies, a study guide is to be completed at the end. If the student is inclined for further study on any topic, the publisher's website provides links to interactive resources for more information. The Appendix includes two additional unit studies - Movies and the Classics and Exploring Religious Elements in the LOTR - as well as a glossary, a dictionary of literary terms, and a works cited page. These last two unit studies are optional. By the way, religious content in this course is reserved for this last optional unit study. There are only a few references to the Bible as literature or as a source for an idea throughout the rest of the study.
The 341 page Teacher Edition is packaged in a three-ring binder. Introductory information "walks" the teacher through the course, outlining each of the components mentioned previously. Detailed lesson plans for 180 days, a chapter-by-chapter answer key, and grading suggestions are also provided along with "grey boxes" which suggest additional writing assignments, provide notes and tell when to give quizzes and reviews. Eighteen vocabulary quizzes, six unit tests and unit study quizzes, included in the TE, are reproducible for home and family use. All answers for quizzes and tests are included in the TE. Flexibility and ease of use are key characteristics of this course. Students can work independently with the teacher as administrator (grading & record-keeping) - or the teacher can be as involved as she chooses in terms of discussion. In order to facilitate discussion, the teacher is encouraged to purchase "Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien". Writing assignments are plentiful - and interesting - but the author cautions against trying to do ALL of them, suggesting that one per week is about right. Teacher prep is minimal. I think this course would work very well as a co-op literature class. ~ Janice