Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide ~ A Crew Review

Illuminating Literature Review, High School Literature One of the fun things about being a home educator is getting to actually talk with the authors who write the books your students use. Emily and I were excited earlier this year to learn that one of Emily’s favorite curriculum writers, Sharon Watson, was producing a new Literature curriculum. Of course we both said “Pick me!” when the opportunity arose to review Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing With Sharon Watson for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This literature curriculum has four pieces, which will be covered individually below. Let me just say right now that Emily is really enjoying it! Sharon Watson is such a fun person to talk with, I just knew that would come across in her writing.

 The course objectives are clearly defined in the Teacher’s Guide but can be summarized in these two points: 1- teach literary terms and story elements, 2- develop a love of fine literature in the student through reading quality books and having memorable, fun, class sessions. The course is designed to be used in a group setting, perhaps a co-op or small group of students that meet in your home or at the local library. It can be used successfully by individual students to learn the literary terms and story elements, but without a vibrant discussion group the student will miss out. If you are wanting to use this with just one or two of your own students, we suggest you find another family that would like to join you for class time.

Let’s start by covering the Teacher’s Guide ($16.49.) This 180 page softcover book contains detailed instructions for teaching a two-semester Literature class that meets once a month for a total of nine sessions. The class sessions are designed to last 2.5 hrs each. The class will read eight books, and for each of the books Sharon Watson includes a grading grid. The grid is comprised of seven different factors which add up to a possible 100 points, making assigning a grade an easy affair. Some of the points come from reading the book and completing the assignments in the Student Text, other sections cover the quality of class participation and discussion.

The Teacher’s Guide includes all the prompts, questions, and background information needed for teaching/ facilitating the group sessions. It also includes the answers for the quizzolas the students will take for each book, as well as some possible answers the student might have recorded in their Novel Notebooks.

A couple of side notes at this point. 

First: There are online “Yes, I read it” quizzes, Literary Terms quizzes, and opinion surveys for the students to take as a part of each month’s lesson. These are free with the keywords provided in the Teacher’s Guide and Student Text. If you prefer your student not spend time online for taking these quizzes, you will want to purchase the Quiz and Answer Manual. That will give you copyright access to reproduce the quizes and opinion surveys for your student to take on paper. I personally would purchase the Quiz and Answer Manual just to have all of the opinion surveys, quizzes, quizzolas answers, and possible answers readily available for me to reference as the teacher. The Quiz and Answer Manual is only $8.49, so it is quite reasonably priced.

Second: If you don’t have the luxury of gathering students to use the course together, the course could be used by the student and parent, as long as you commit to reading all the books and lessons so you have meaningful discussions. Another idea is to form an online group to discuss the books and lessons.

In the Teacher’s Guide, Sharon shares how in the past she has set up a secret Facebook group for the students in her class. She includes questions and prompts for the teacher to post to keep the students encouraged and challenged to think deeply during the in-between weeks.

I appreciate Sharon’s honest, wise words about everyone in the class using the same version of each book. It makes class time so much smoother if you can just say “turn to page 25 in Pudd’nhead Wilson.” To facilitate the use of the same version, Sharon has chosen specific, unabridged, low-cost editions of each of the eight titles. The ISBN’s are listed on her website and will link you to her Amazon store for ease in purchasing.

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide ($39.49,) is a hefty 280 page softcover book that brings the student face-to-face with the authors and their stories. The lessons are easy for students to follow, and the book has plenty of room to write out their answers, plus a decent sized margin to jot notes if they want to ask their teacher something in class about a specific assignment. Just like in her other books, Sharon Watson writes this book to the students, not just for the students. It has a conversational tone, even as it covers a host of Literary terms, ideas, and thoughts. 

I’ve spoken with Sharon Watson in person at a couple different Homeschool Conventions. This past Spring Emily (17)  spent a lot of time at her booth at our State Convention, as well as attending some of her speaking sessions. Sharon has a love of Literature and Writing that she wants to share with students. Her books focus on the basics of good writing and Literature that were taught in schools many decades ago, while using several newer presentation methods that keep today’s student interested in the course. For example, in the book when Sharon teaches the student about the Literary term Pseudonym, she not only helps them understand the concept, she asks the student to ponder and record what they would choose for their own Pseudonym. She also wants to know why they would choose it.

The first literary work the student will read in this course is Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain. There are four weeks’ worth of lessons for the student to complete before the next class setting. There is a suggested reading and homework plan included. The first week is learning about Literary terms and setting up further background on the story. Weeks two and three are for reading the book. During the fourth week the student chooses an activity to complete and takes those surveys and quizzes. Also found in Illuminating Literature are suggestions for further reading in the same genre as the book the student has just finished. 

There is one more, awesome, free resource you’ll want for this course! Sharon Watson has developed a downloadable PDF Novel Notebook for the student to use while reading the books in this course. It looks like stylized notebook paper, with places to write the student’s thought and answers about the books they read. It has just the right amount of variation in fonts, sizes, and page layouts to keep it fun for teens to use. It is printer friendly in that it looks great without using a lot of ink. I suggest you print it in color.

In the Novel Notebook the student are encouraged to write memorable things from the stories. For Pudd’nhead Wilson they write out some of his witty sayings, or make up their own. Here is one I found in Emily’s Novel Notebook: few things are harder to put up with than a good example. Also included are pages to write down things the student really loved about the book, as well as what they thought could have been better.

Homeschool Literature Class

We have had the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide curriculum for just over five weeks. Emily is finishing up her second book, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. It has been easy to get her to work on her lessons, even thought we’ve not yet officially started school again this year because she enjoys seeing what she will learn next. We have been discussing it some between ourselves, but mostly, Emily has used her friends as sounding boards for discussing the concepts covered, and group discussions to help her work on her activities.  As much as she is enjoying it, I can see it would be even better in a group setting.

For her activity for Pudd’nhead Wilson, Emily chose to make a calendar of quips and sayings in the same style as Benjamin Franklin included in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. She chose to make it for the month of June, and put it on a ring so it could be flipped through again and again. We tried to take pictures of it, but it was written in pencil and just didn’t photograph well. Emily graciously re-wrote some of them in pen for me to share with you.

June 12 ~ The difference between plagiarism and a good bibliography is the number of source materials. 

June 15 ~ What sets apart a snake from a lawyer is that the snake will look at you when he bites.

June 16 ~ The theater is a noble profession. It gives those who can convincingly be someone else something other to do than crime.

Emily is hard at work rebuilding her world for the activity for her current book. Here is a short snippet she stopped to write: 

I like Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide because of the wide range of style, period, topic, and character growth in the different stories. I like that we get to read about the authors’ life and times as well as rating the book when we’re done. It’s cool to see the many POV in a story and learn not only how to identify the writing styles but also how to use them. Applying topics to the real world is nice, along with the many assignments to choose from. My favorite so far was the chance to make my own Pudd’inhead Wilson calendar, and my friends and I had fun with our ‘rebuilding the world’ assignment from War of the Worlds.

I do not like thee Mr. Wells 
It would take me too long to tell
But I do not like thee Mr. Wells.

We give a hearty two thumbs up to this latest work from Sharon Watson! On her website you can view sample pages from each of the four parts of the  Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide curriculum. Check it out, you’ll be glad you did! If you will be using the course with eight or more students, contact Sharon for group discount on the student books.

Literature class is no longer boring. Now it is fun and engages the students on many levels to develop a love of quality books!

Connect with Sharon Watson on Facebook or Pinterest

To read our past review of Sharon Watson's Writing Fiction In High School, click here.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Crew Disclaimer


  1. Carol, I was so much looking forward to reading Emily's Twain-isms, and she did not disappoint! I love them and enjoy her sense of humor! Thanks for including her short review of Illuminating Literature as well. I'd love to know why she did not like Mr. Wells (from her poem). She has piqued my curiosity.

    Thank you for your complete and very amazing review! I hope to see you and Emily at a convention next year!

    1. Emily says she will email you her dislike list!