Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press ~ A Crew Review

High School level Literature should challenge our students. To do this, one of two paths presents itself: longer works to read, or deeper works to delve into. Since Arlene has already proven that she is competent to read longer works of Literature, we were excited for her to be able to review the Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. Since Memoria Press specializes in Classical Education, I knew it would still be plenty challenging enough, even though she is currently in 10th grade.

Memoria Press, Classical Education

The Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set contains four sets of Student and Teacher books: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Henry V. The Ninth Grade set does not include the actual Literature books, yet they are available to purchase from Memoria Press either alongside the Set, or individually. The only title Arlene had previously read was Henry V, so I let her choose where to begin. She chose Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. She has been working on this for about 6 weeks, and is nearing the end of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. She prefers to work on it in long chunks, so as to stay focused on the story, the vocabulary words, and the comprehension and discussion questions, a section of work each day. That has equated to about 2-3 hours a day, three days a week so far.

All of the levels of Literature Guides from Memoria Press encourage the student to be an active participant while reading, but beginning in the Eighth grade, they encourage the student to find and learn about the Central One Idea of each work through a  four-part Trivium-led cycle. I have worked with Arlene on enough Classical Education based curriculum over the past four years to know that Trivium inspired learning works well for her, especially on more difficult concepts. By learning through the stages of Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, she learns the presentation, logic, and expression of ideas. 

We have found the guides from Memoria Press help the student walk through the stages without being rushed. These Ninth Grade Literature Set Student Study Guides have given Arlene enough information to help her dig deeply into the story, and enough room to record her thoughts, without being tiresome. Arlene wants me to highlight the importance of reading through the beginning sections in both  the Student Study Guide, and the Teacher Guide before you have your student begin. There is a wealth of valuable information on how to best use the Student Study Guide, as well as a lesson on how to properly mark the margins of your text to make it easier to evaluate the most important passages, and thus work your way to uncovering the Central One Idea. 

For those not familiar with the Central One Idea terminology, it is an improvement upon the “find the main theme” course of study I was taught in High School, as it helps the student connect that Idea to other parts of their thinking, and evaluate whether the Idea is one to be held onto or rejected as not in line with their own beliefs or value system. I find this in line with Memoria Press’s tagline on the bottom of the covers: Docere, Delectare, Movere, which, with my limited Latin abilities roughly translates to: teach, delight, move. I want the Literature Arlene reads to teach her, for her to learn about what is good and true, I also want her to delight in a quality work of Literature. Truly, I want her to be moved by good Literature, and yet, that cannot happen if she cannot read and discern on her own if a book truly IS quality Literature. Memoria Press is doing a solid job of helping her acquire these skills.

Memoria Press, Classical Education

As with many other Memoria Press items we have used, there are varying levels of parental involvement available for the Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set. If your student has never studied in the Classical Education style before, you should expect to be heavily involved in their daily lesson time at least through the first guide. If your student is familiar with studying through the Trivium steps of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, you may only need to oversee them as they work through each section of the guides, and be available for questions. My guess is that most Ninth and Tenth grade students will fall somewhere in the middle. They are going to need you to be available either during, or soon after they work on each section, several times a month. There will be some sections of these stories that stump them as they look for the Central One Idea. On others, they can understand the Idea, but may  need some help in how to express that idea concisely in words. For those of us parents who were not brought up in the Classical manner, you will really appreciate the Teacher Guide where one or more correct answers is given for each student section.

This Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set covers four distinctly different works of Literature, yet, they can be compared and contrasted as the student works though each one. Expect that your student will require the whole school year to effectively work through the four works using the Student Guides. Your goal in High School should be mastery, not just volume of works covered. Better to learn four works well, and retain what they have learned, than to say they’ve read 12 novels and yet cannot discuss any of them at length.

In depth analysis of the Central One Idea is why The Canterbury Tales guide only attempts to cover the Prologue and three of Chaucer’s tales. Each guide specifies the version of the book recommended for use with the guides, even going so far as to provide the ISBN number for easier reference. When your student begins The Canterbury Tales, you will want to make sure they spend enough time reading through the Basic Features and Background section of their guide. It will help them better understand the way the Tales are written, plus remind them of key terms like: satire, irony, and imagery...all important features of the Tales. Also, have them pay attention to the Reading notes. There are a lot of them! (95 for The Pardoner's Tale, and 109 of them for The Franklin's Tale.) Use these helps to make understanding these old tales easier.

The Student Guide for Henry V is set up similarly to the one for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is divided into sections based upon the five acts in the play. There are quite a few words for the student to look up and match to definitions, and yet, because so many terms have changed their connotations since Shakespeare's time, there are still copious amounts of reading notes, similar to The Canterbury Tales guide.

The guide for Beowulf is the shortest, yet it still gives the student direction towards an in-depth study of the three parts of Beowulf the Warrior. When you read through the Notes and Instructions to Teachers section, you are reminded once again that the student guides can be adapted to your particular context. If you are using this for a co-op setting,you may wish to divide up how much of each section is assigned per week, or, if you're doing it at home with only two students, consider whether they might only do a portion of each section's assignments. 

Each major section of each Student Guide has an Essay Option section, thus Beowulf has three of them. This is an opportunity for the student to synthesize what they have learned from their study so far and write a compelling essay, either based upon one of the several prompts provided, or based upon guidelines that you, the teacher, assign. If your student struggles with essay writing, or is already busy writing a lot for another subject, you may wish to have them give their essay as an oral report instead.

Once again I was impressed with not only the ease of understanding how to use the Student Guides, but the amount of quality thinking that has gone onto this offering from Memoria Press. I find this an excellent choice for students (and parents) to employ to learn how to flesh out the Central One Idea of each story. This is quality Classical Education ~ solid, and not boring! I encourage you to view the sample pages on Memoria Press’s website, and think along these terms of: teach, delight, and move for your student’s High School Literature courses.

If you’re wanting to see how the Classical Education style can be used for other subjects, check out these other reviews we’ve done for Memoria Press: The Book of the Ancient Romans, and Geography 1. Many parents think that Classical Education is too time consuming for them to attempt. We have found value in adding elements of Classical Education to each year of Middle School and High School. If you want to try this in your home, I highly recommend getting some resources from Memoria Press as they have done the bulk of the Teacher Prep for you. I have found great value in their resources, at reasonable prices, even for a frugal Mom!

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The Crew has been reviewing several different levels of Literature Guides from Memoria Press, click the banner below to read all the reviews.

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