Tale of Two Cities
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.
Of good literature guides, there appears to be no end. At least one might come to that conclusion when looking through this section of our catalog. However, there are differences between the many guides that we carry - and good reasons why we have added this series. From a secular publisher, this series reflects both the literature choices common to public schools as well as the content issues reflected by state standards. In general, these guides are well organized and easy to adapt to a homeschool or co-op. Although there is a consistent structure across the grade levels, there is also an increasing depth in terms of discussion and heightened expectations in terms of written output. There is also movement from a focus on reading strategies toward vocabulary development and literary analysis, although all three are covered at all levels.
Practically all of the guides include a Resources Overview on the inside front cover, dividing the literature selection (a.k.a. book or novel) into manageable reading assignments. Middle school guides typically have 4-5 assignments/sections while the high school guides have 6-7. Usually you can figure about a week per assignment section. Also included in the Resources Overview is a list of reproducible worksheets to be used with each section. Since each guide includes quite a few of these reproducibles (perforated and hole-punched), preparation is easy and minimal. The Overview also includes a "Connections" section. This refers to supplemental material - often excerpts from other books or magazine/newspaper articles - that is part of an (expensive) Holt library edition of the books which we do not carry. Although this material looks interesting and in some instances could be supplied from other sources, this portion of the guide is small (less than 10%) and will not be missed.
Which brings us to the excellent study material you will not want to miss. After a brief To The Teacher section (you know, objectives, tips, inclusion strategies, etc.), there is background info on the author as well as the historical and literary context for the book. This is followed by critical response information. [I found this fascinating - reading how contemporaries responded to the book. For instance, did you know that Charlotte Bronte was less than impressed with the work of Jane Austen?] Then on to a section called the novel at a glance - structure, major characters, themes, and literary elements. All of this serves to equip the teacher for a thorough and enjoyable study of the book.
The rest of the guide is the individual (weekly) lessons. Each reading assignment/section lesson includes: Making Meaning (first thoughts, reading check, shaping interpretation, connecting with and challenging the text), Reading Strategies (graphic organizers), Novel/Book Notes ("newspaper" with culturally related info), and Choices (project ideas - performance, art, creative writing, group discussion, etc.) all with worksheets. The beginning and ending lesson follow a different pattern. The first introduces the book while the last "Extends and Assesses" - a novel review, literary elements worksheets, vocabulary worksheets, writing projects, cross-curricular projects, and multimedia and internet connections. The remainder of the guides include a three-part test (objective, short answers, and essay questions) and a complete (both test and worksheets) answer key. As mentioned before all worksheets and the test are reproducible.
These guides are referenced to hardback library editions published by HRW. However, since most assignments are divided according to natural divisions in the book (i.e. chapters, acts, etc.) unabridged editions of the book will work. We don't carry a collection of either American or British short stories that match the ones covered in these guides. However, it's relatively easy to obtain copies of these from the internet by searching for the "story
Literature guides abound, and each of them are slightly different from the rest, but if I may assert, these upper-level literature guides take a completely different angle altogether to literature. These guides attempt not only to give the reader a deeper look at the novel, but also to instill in them a deeper understanding of the time that the literary work was written in, and the connection this has to the piece. They do this by including statistics from the time, pictures, and most importantly, primary sources of related writings published at the time. For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, students learn more about the book itself by reading a synopsis, information about the author, critics' comments, quotes from the novel, and a glossary. There is little comprehensive picking-apart of the book; instead, the focus is on connecting the book with the events and attitudes of the time. Students jump into the time period through a timeline, first-hand accounts surrounding events of the time, articles from the era on various topics that relate to items in the novel. In the To Kill a Mockingbird guide, these include letters to President Franklin Roosevelt, excerpts from state codes regarding segregation, equality amendments to the Constitution, writings from Mark Twain and other authors on lynching, Jesse Owen's writings on Nazi racism, and poetry from that period by Billie Holiday and Maya Angelou written on segregation. Questions and activities are suggested for each featured document, and lists of additional suggested readings, fiction and nonfiction, as well as more involved student projects are also included. The questions are primarily for discussion purposes, not comprehension, and answers are not included. Formats will vary, for instance Julius Caesar was written at a much earlier period in history, and there are a few less resources from the time to be used, so some Roman history and culture is included to make sense of both Shakespeare's writings at the time, and his portrayal of the Roman emperor, but the format is very much the same. This is a great way to understand the time frame a novel was written in, especially through the light of actual timely documents and writings - what a great way to connect history and literature! Please note that some guides are transitioning to PDF format on CD-ROM. If