In alternating chapters, this book tells the story of twelve-year-old Morning Girl and her younger brother, Star Boy. Their vivid narratives describe life on a Bahamian island in 1492 - right before the first European settlers began to arrive. By Michael Dorris. 74 pgs, pb. ~ Lisa
Language arts programs listed in this section cover most areas of language arts (reading/literature, writing, grammar, spelling and handwriting) in one curriculum, although some skill areas may be covered with less intensity than a focused, stand-alone course.
Please note that a brief synopsis of many of the books included here are provided in our Library Builders section. Study guides for the same book are often available from several publishers, so we found it more efficient to give a description of the book only once.
The set of all 12 literature units at each level are intended as a complete language arts curriculum teaching vocabulary, grammar, writing, spelling, story elements, and figurative language in the context of popular children's books. However, they are more than this, bordering on unit studies because of their strong social studies, science, critical thinking, and art/design components. Available at seven levels (ages 7-9, 8-10, 9-11, 10-12, 11-13, 12-14, and high school), they correspond to concept units in the Moving Beyond the Page curriculum.
These use literature as a springboard for investigation, exploration, research, creativity and expression; the focus moves outward from the book. This is unlike most purely literary study guides which bring everything in toward a focus on the novel itself. Another unique attribute is the amount of creative expression involved, from identification with particular characters in the book to developing plotlines or stories having some common theme - there is much more running with a train of thought stimulated by the book than responding directly to the book.
Motivated, artistic, imaginative, creative children will love all of the extension activities here! They will have many opportunities for creative expression as they write stories, draw and design things, use critical thinking skills, journal, reenact scenes, and mentally put themselves in the characters' shoes. Also striking is the rigorous nature of some of the assignments, especially at the lower levels. I can see why these are recommended for gifted students. Since these guides were originally created to enhance a science and social studies driven curriculum, there are many activities that get fairly deeply into these subject areas. This is especially the case in pre-reading activities as you set the stage for the time and location of the novel. The author utilizes these research opportunities to maximum advantage - and it does help to put the book in context. Often, this facet of literary analysis is skipped or passed over too lightly when we read a book, making it difficult to really understand some of the conflict, circumstance and social culture/customs that are critical to comprehension.
While it's difficult to get a bead on the comprehensiveness of the guides for spelling, vocabulary, and grammar with only a small sampling, I can say with certainty that there's plenty of composition integrated into the units. Besides a large number of writing activities, the student keeps a journal which is used for some of the discussion question responses each day. In some guides, the journal is also used for other creative responses (such as retelling part of the story as diary entries through the eyes of Anna each day in Sarah, Plain and Tall).
Other language arts areas seem to be covered in a solid, serious, and thorough manner, based on the samples I've reviewed. Vocabulary work is significant with children looking up words and writing definitions and using target words in compositions. Students learn how to use a dictionary and thesaurus to their advantage. Many activity pages are devoted to grammar, mechanics, and punctuation. Spelling lists, including common and challenge words, appear at the end of each guide.
Each Literature Unit is in a standard format. Lessons are structured and easy to use. There's no guesswork involved. Each one includes most of the following elements:
- Questions to Explore - the Big Picture ideas and concepts for the lesson
- Facts and Definitions - any knowledge or vocabulary learned during the lesson
- Skills - objectives, identified by subject area
- Materials - everything needed for the lesson, even included activity pages
- Introduction - exactly how to introduce the lesson to your child (almost scripted)
- Activities - generally from 1-4 of these which vary widely by lesson
- Conclusion - summing up the ideas from the lesson along with response from your child
- Real-Life Application - an extension activity which takes a concept from the story and applies it to a real person or situation
While the format is standard, the lessons themselves are extremely varied. In one lesson, the concentration may be on a grammatical or literary aspect. The next, you may have a lot of social studies related activity. One lesson will have your child writing a persuasive paper; the next a poem. She may study prefixes and suffixes today and be baking cookies tomorrow! Today a science experiment; tomorrow planning a party! You get the idea. Moreover, there are often several options for an assignment, so you can choose the most appealing or beneficial one. If you are using these guides as the basis for a language arts program, you will probably want to leave most of those activities intact, but you may still want to moderate some of the writing assignments. And while the lessons are easy to use and complete, there is still a lot of parental involvement required. Some activities are challenging, others need adult help and guidance - which is not unusual at these grade levels. Lessons that include reading in the novel have a series of questions about the chapter(s). These are not all recall questions, but include more in-depth and subjective discussion questions. You should read the book in tandem with your child in order to assess her responses.
The number of lessons varies by guide. Some of the units include other books and resources (see below). Typically, a unit will last from 2-3 weeks, though you may take longer with some lessons, especially with some of the more involved activities. Every unit ends with a final project, some of which may take a few days to complete. There are three literature units for every concept per level. Using all three would allow your child to compare and contrast themes and characters across novels within a thematic framework. Literature units and novels also become more advanced through each level. Please note that this is not a religious curriculum. It does, however, encourage character development.
Concepts and units by age are listed below. Each literature package contains the literature unit guide AND the corresponding novel. Where other components are included, they appear below the package in italics. NOTE: Student Activity Page sets are NOT INCLUDED in the packages. A single copy of each is in the study guide. Although you are not allowed to reproduce these pages from the guides, they are all single-sided and usable, so you do not have to purchase a set of student pages unless you want to leave your guide intact.
Beginning with ages 9-11, the guides are Student Directed Literature Units. All instruction is written directly to the student in a conversational tone and the guides are a worktext with no separate student activity pages. Each package contains the SDLU, the corresponding novel, and sometimes other books (listed below the package in italics). Occasional tests are provided with an answer key at the back of the unit. Also in the back are several references/helps: spelling lists, handy guides to writing and grammar, and a writing rubric.
The guides for ages 12-14 and for high school are structured around two semesters, with five literature guides per semester. Publisher recommends the literature guides be completed in order. Each literature guide provides 12 lessons and a final project. In-depth analysis of story elements and figurative language, challenging essays and comprehensive grammar assignments will enable students to appreciate and emulate the craft of great writers. Thematically, guides will aid students in gaining a deeper understanding of everyday life in the past through the selected literature and reading assignments.
A set of Literature Units (LU) is a complete language arts curriculum teaching vocabulary, grammar, composition, spelling, story elements, and figurative language in the context of popular children's books. LUs each explore one facet of a concept that ties three units together. Each unit has a primary book that is studied for 2-3 weeks and may include additional titles. these concept-based studies allow your child to compare/contrast themes and characters across novels.
Lessons are structured and easy to use but extremely varied, often with several options for an assignment. In lower grades each Literature Package contains the LU and the corresponding novel and possibly other components. Student Activity Page Sets are not included in the packages. The LU includes these pages (single-sided and usable but not reproducible).
While there is a decided emphasis in Lightning Literature 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. A Teacher Guide, a Student Workbook, and lots of classic (along with some contemporary) children's literature are the components for the program.
Literature selections for Grade 4 include: Tuck Everlasting,Borrowers, Family Under the Bridge, Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Dreamer, Morning Girl, Love That Dog, One and Only Ivan, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Earth Dragon Awakes, Gone Fishing: Novel in Verse, and Nim's Island.
The Teacher 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. Each day includes literature study, grammar/mechanics study, and work on the weekly composition assignment. All workbook answers are provided in the Teacher Guide
The Student Workbooks 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. Literature Only Packages include all the literature selections needed for the course. The Grade 4 Full Year Package includes all the literature plus the Teacher Guide and Student Workbook.
Lightning Literature & Composition utilizes a “read-through-books-multiple-times-a-week” methodology in the lowest grades. It continues through the grade levels with a focus on literature appreciation as well as a loving, gentle introduction to language arts. The goal throughout the series is developing a love of great literature. Maturing to solid, literature-based grammar and writing lessons, this series is excellent on all fronts.
Literature selections are varied and inspired, including classic, contemporary, and award-winning options. Grammar instruction presents, reviews, and builds through the grade levels, incorporating diagramming after 1st grade. Students are encouraged to write a wide variety of compositions with instruction in the writing process and forms of writing always weaving in the grammar applications. But, this never gets in the way of enjoying the story. There is, in fact, an amazing amount of seamless interweaving of the literature, grammar, and composition threads.
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).
The basic components of the program are a user-friendly Teacher Guide, a colorful and appealing Student Workbook and lots of well-loved literature. The early grades include extra read-aloud stories/books. (i.e. Aesop's Fables in Grade 1; Winnie the Pooh and Just So Stories in Grade 2). Poetry is included (after 1st grade) drawn from the Random House Book of Poetry for Children in grades 2-3 and included in the Student Workbook in grades 4-6.
The Teacher Guide is the heart of the program even though much of the instruction comes through the Student Workbook. While there is little teacher prep that is necessary, the courses are based on teacher-student interaction and the Teacher Guide is absolutely necessary. It provides weekly overviews, daily lesson plans, and answers to workbook pages.
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 6).
Daily instruction includes three segments: literature, grammar & mechanics, and composition. Compositions are assigned weekly with daily guidance towards completion. 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. Handwriting instruction and practice can be incorporated into each lesson as desired/needed.
The Student Workbooks include instruction and serve as a consumable worktext. Artwork, illustrations, and graphics are all related to the week’s literature assignments. Appendices vary with the grade level books but tend to include helpful reference and resource information.
"Reading should be fun, and writing should be satisfying." The author of this series believes this, and she has produced courses that try to keep that goal ever present. She WANTS students to enjoy themselves! Accordingly, reading assignments are comfortable - two novels, two non-fiction books, two short stories and several poems for the 7th grade course, for instance. Lessons are well-constructed and the excellent and thorough coverage includes vocabulary, comprehension, literary elements, composition, grammar, and mechanics.
The three components of this program are designed to be complementary and to be used together. The Student Workbook is the student's textual companion as they study the literature selections. This consumable book 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.
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.
The last component is the excellent Literature Selections that are the heart of the program. Classics, familiar, non-familiar, poetry, and, occasionally, surprising choices all find their way onto the book lists for each grade level. While you may be able to locate some or all of the books at a library, we also offer Literature Packages for each guide that include the necessary books. You and your student are encouraged to read, enjoy, and profit from the year's literature studies. ~ Janice