Mosdos Press bills its literature courses as intellectually challenging with positive moral values. We used the Gold book for Mark's literature course for one year, and we would agree with their assessment.
So that students will see the full range of literary works, each level in the program is comprised of several types of literature: short stories, poetry, nonfiction essays, plays, songs, drama selections, and even a complete novel. Selections are from top-notch authors. A review of the table of contents in Pearl reveals selections from such well-known authors as Irene Hunt, Langston Hughes, Alex Haley, T. S. Eliot, Jack London, Leo Tolstoy, James Thurber, Robert Frost, James Herriot, Carl Sandburg, and Aesop.
Each level consists of three components: a hardcover student book, a softcover spiral-bound teacher edition, and a softcover workbook. The Student Book is quite visually appealing, with a mixture of color photographs, color drawings, b&w line drawings, and watermark backgrounds and borders. The desire for visual appeal is even more obvious in Pearl (6th grade, copyright 2003) than in Gold (8th grade, copyright 2001), showing that visual quality is quite important to the publisher.
But quality is much more than skin-deep. In addition to the literary work itself, each piece is proceeded by a Blueprint for Reading. This includes a brief bio of the author, an introduction to the story, and an explanation of some facet of literature. A Word Bank lists vocabulary words to know; however, pronunciations and definitions of the more challenging words are given at the bottom of the page where each first appears in the story. Selections end with Quick Review, In-depth Thinking, and Drawing Conclusions questions. A Focusing On section asks the student to examine some literary aspect of the selection. Creating and Writing lists a few possibilities for some type of writing related to the story.
While the Teacher Edition lacks the color of the student book, it contains a wealth of information to aid the instructor. For starters, it contains a reduced-size version of the student text, sans color. It also contains additional background information about the selection and general literary information as well, such as comments about setting and plot. Discussion questions (with answers), which are different from and more detailed than the end-of-selection questions, are given along the way. Answers to the end-of-selection questions and workbook questions are also provided, as are pointers to aid with the Creating and Writing assignments.
The Workbook format differs slightly from grade to grade. The 6th grade workbook contains vocabulary activities, graphic organizers, and space to write answers to the In-depth Comprehension Questions and the Creative Writing exercises, plus 25 additional Creative Writing tasks which incorporate language arts components and facets of each type of literary genre. It also contains 25 prose pieces with comprehension questions to help prepare students for standardized tests. The 8th grade workbook contains vocabulary exercises, graphic organizers, and a research or creative writing activity. Answers to the questions are included in the back of the Teacher's Editions.
A Test Master CD-ROM for each level is available which contains all the test masters for prose selection, unit tests, vocabulary tests and essay questions. Use them as tests or as extra assignments.
As an instructor, I really liked this program. I (Bob) was doing a fair amount of Mark's instruction at this point, and I don't always get a chance to preview the material before discussing it with Mark. The teacher's manual really fills in the gaps in this situation, although it would still be better for me to read the selections prior to discussion. Mark is not a big fan of canned literature programs (although he reads a great deal), but in general he liked the stories included in the program.
One final note. The program is written so that it can be used in a secular setting, so you won't see many references to God or the Bible. However, the selections do maintain a high moral tone that should be pleasing to a broad spectrum of users. All things considered, we believe that this program compares favorably to program like the Bob Jones literature program, which we have also used at various levels.
Components are available individually or in a convenient bundle. Bundles include all the textual resources necessary for the course: Student Book(s), Teacher Edition(s) and the softcover workbook. Not included but available separately is the Test Master CD-Rom.
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