Literature Study Guides

G.K. Chesterton's The Blue Cross, Study Edition

Book cover: 'G.K. Chesterton's The Blue Cross, Study Edition'
Author(s):
Nancy Carpentier Brown
Copyright:
2006
Publisher:
Hillside Education
Binding:
Spiralbound
Number of pages:
95 pages
Subject(s):
Authors
Literature Study Guides
Grade / Age level:
High School
Review:

First, let me say that I'm a "study guide, unit study" kind of homeschooling mom. I love it when someone else has found all the links and critical vocabulary words within a book or subject to be studied. I do however almost always "tweak" the study guide to ensure that my kids are getting everything they can from the resource.

With this study guide I don't have to tweak much. Mrs. Brown has given her reader everything they need for a study of the short story "The Blue Cross" - even the story - in this 90-page study guide.

The study guide includes biographical information about Chesterton - a British Catholic convert well-known for his wit and deep, symbolic writings. Mrs. Brown is somewhat of a Chesterton scholar, so her write-up is not only accurate, it's extensive. She includes references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to ensure the student understands the Church's teachings on reason; teachings that always play a big part in Chesterton's writings.

Mrs. Brown includes a suggested schedule which takes about 10 days to complete - you of course could make the study of this exceptional short story either longer or shorter. There are essay topics and short-answer questions to help the student delve into the meaning of the story. There are vocabulary words, literary terms (for example, alliterations and similes), understanding through contextual reading, and other activities to enliven the reader's experience of this first of the Father Brown stories. An answer key is included at the end of the study guide.

The study guide itself is a useful size - a 6"x 8" spiral bound volume with a great silhouetted graphic on the laminated cover. This study guide just begs to be opened and used -- always a bonus when spending money from usually quite limited homeschool budgets.

Perspective:
Catholic
Additional notes:
Binding details: softcover (spiralbound)
Reviewed By:
Mary C. Gildersleeve
Review Date:
1-20-06
Available From:
Hillside Education

Greek Classics: Questions for the Thinker

Author(s):
Fran Rutherford
Illustrator(s):
James Rutherford
Copyright:
2005
Publisher:
Mother's House Publishing
Binding:
Spiralbound
Number of pages:
213 pages
Subject(s):
History
Literature Study Guides
Grade / Age level:
High School
Setting:
Ancient Greece
Review:

This one volume, written especially for homeschooled high schoolers, provides study questions to reflect on while reading the Greek classics. The study questions are simple and aid in comprehension. If you read the questions before reading the related passage, they give you a sense of what to look for, thus helping you stay focused on challenging subject matter. They're also helpful in discussions with an adult afterwards to help make sure that the student has comprehended the book and as starting points for further discussion on important ideas contained in the book.

I was grateful to discover that the author has skillfully avoided the all-too-common problem of questions that pre-digest the story for the student or take on a condescending tone.

Study materials are included for:

  • Homer's Iliad
  • Homer's Odyssey
  • selections from the Histories of Herodotus
  • History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
  • Anabasis: A History of My Times by Xenophon
  • The Oresteian Trilogy by Aeschylus
  • Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
  • The Clouds by Aristophanes
  • Plato's Republic

Detailed study questions are included for each segment of each work, and include line numbers to relate easily back and forth between the book and the study guide. There are "Questions for Further Thought" that emphasize certain parts of each book or summarize at the end. These could be starting points for writing assignments as well as fodder for discussion. Answers are included, as are timelines and a pronunciation guide.

This resource was written by a very experienced Catholic homeschool mom who has designed the program for ease of use by parents, even those with little knowledge of the classics. The questions reflect an understanding of the concepts and values that make these works worthwhile to Catholic homeschool students of the 21st century.

Perspective:
Catholic
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
3-3-2007
Available From:
Aquinas and More

Novel Inquiries, Volume 1: Ancient Civilizations, Grades 5-6

Book cover: 'Novel Inquiries, Volume 1: Ancient Civilizations, Grades 5-6'
Copyright:
2001
Publisher:
Hillside Curriculum
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
133 pages
Subject(s):
Literature Study Guides
Grade / Age level:
Fifth Grade
sixth grade
Review:

A Set of Guides for Four Novels Integrating Composition and Higher Level Thinking

This set of study guides for grades 5-6, written by a Catholic homeschool mother of five, provides a literary guide with in-depth study questions, writing assignments and analyses for four historical novels on Ancient Civilizations: The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Tirzah by Lucille Travis, Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson and The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum.

This guide and future editions that are in the works are designed to provide a literary and writing component to the upcoming Catholic History program Connecting with History: a Guide to Salvation History, Bible History and Ancient Cultures by Sonya Romens and Andrea Chen (see http://www.rchistory.com for details). Novel Inquiries, however, does not rely upon Connecting with History and could certainly be used independently as well.

Mrs. Davidson, an experienced literature teacher and an alumna of Thomas Aquinas College, provides individual guides for teachers and for students in one volume.

First, the introduction offers helpful and practical advice on ways to use a novel in education, helping students learn to extract themes and meanings from the story, handling the study of vocabulary and "getting through the novel". The teacher section itself offers an in-depth story synopsis which highlights important themes from each novel. A "Directing Student Activities" segment offers tips on helping the student get the most out of the novel, explanations of how the novel fits into the Connecting with History program, basic instructions for getting through the various student components of the guides and ideas for post-reading research and activities. A final page offers ways to reflect on all of the books together after having completed the entire study (which is intended as a year-long undertaking). Having read two of the titles (The Golden Goblet and Hittite Warrior) before reading through these study guides, I'd like to say that I'm impressed with the depth and scope of what Mrs. Davidson is able to draw out of each of these stories. Her synopsis and comments brought out excellent points and themes that I had not recognized when I read the novels myself.

The student portion (all but 28 pages of the book) offers guides that vary slightly in focus from story to story both to suit the nature and difficulty of each book and to offer some variety to the course.

The Golden Goblet study guide begins with some short but helpful assignments to complete before starting to read the story (in recognition of the Ignatian/Classical method of prelection - a sort of previewing of the material before beginning). Some tips for "while reading the story" offer ideas for things to think about while reading the story and suggestions of things to jot down in a reading log as the story progresses. The vocabulary section for this novel is rather extensive (four to eight words for each of the sixteen chapters) and covers words such as "ingratiatingly", "menial", and "citadel". Several thoughtful "questions for reflection" for each chapter invite students to think carefully about and draw conclusions relating to the story and predict what will happen next as well as simply relating portions of the storyline. Five "questions for the end of the story" invite students to reconsider some of their conclusions drawn while reading the story and reflect on overall points and themes of the story. The final section offers three in-depth writing assignments complete with pre-writing assignments and tips for revising and editing each segment. These assignments are both interesting and creative and help students to develop good writing techniques and study habits as well as get more out of the story.

The study guide for Tirzah is a little simpler because the writing style is easier (there are no vocabulary lists for this book). The guide provides "Before reading" and more in-depth Reading Log Instructions that cover larger segments of the book (up to six chapters at a time). These assignments give the students related Bible passages to read and provide other ways of reflecting upon and getting more out of the story. Seven questions for the end of the story help students consider general themes from the story (relating to forgiveness, obedience, prejudice, faithfulness, etc.). The four writing assignments (similar in nature to those assigned for the Golden Goblet), allow students to practice literary techniques, explore the main ideas of the story, consider the virtues possessed by important characters in the story and creative writing ideas.

The Hittite Warrior study guide is similar in nature to the one for the Golden Goblet, providing assignments for before and during reading, vocabulary lists, reflection and discussion questions for nearly every chapter, questions for the end of the chapter and five in-depth writing assignments relating to the story (this guide also offers an "exploring history" report-writing assignment).

The guide for The Children's Homer offers assignments for before and during reading, vocabulary lists, questions for reflection for the end of each section and questions for the end of the story. The writing segment covers the literary device of "flashback", explores characters and themes from the book and provides some creative and artistic extra activities relating to the story

The appendices offers several types of writing samples, charts for mapping theme essays, charts for character analysis and rather detailed teacher/parent guidance for evaluating student writing.

This very impressive guide provides a helpful way of incorporating history, literature, vocabulary and writing. It should also prove to be a wonderful resource for parents who are nervous about guiding their children through the complexities of good writing. Future titles in the works will offer ancient culture volumes for Grades 7-9 (covering the novels Mara Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Warrior Scarlet by Rosemary Sutcliff, Phaedo by Plato, and Caesar's Gallic Wars by Olivia Coolidge) and Grades 10-12 (Epic of Gilgamesh edited by John Gardner, Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare).

Perspective:
Catholic
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
12-3-01
Available From:
RC History

Novel Inquiries, Volume 2: Ancient Civilizations for Grades 7 - 9

Author(s):
Margot Davidson
Copyright:
2002
Publisher:
Hillside Education
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
179 pages
Subject(s):
Literature Study Guides
Grade / Age level:
seventh grade
eighth grade
9th grade
Review:

A Set of Guides for Four Novels Integrating Composition and Higher Level Thinking

Volume 2 carries on the tradition of excellence described in the review of Volume 1, with many additional features for the middle grade student. The 43-page Teacher's Guide is separate from the 136-page Student Book at this level. This volume includes literature guides for Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Warrior Scarlet by Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green, and Caesar's Gallic Wars by Olivia Coolidge.

The Teacher's Guide addresses the goals of literature study in general as well as specific goals and needs for this age group. In addition, the author has written a story synopsis and theme as well as detailed assignment instructions for the teacher for each of the novels. The numerous suggested assignments range from journaling and outlining activities to graphic organizers to compositions to discussion exercises to art projects. However, my favorite part by far is the appendix! The description of the writing process and instructions for evaluating various types of student writing are invaluable when used with the student writing samples. It is one thing to read a list of details that should be a part of a student's writing, but it is much more helpful to actually read the student's work alongside the lists.

The Student Book is a comprehensive literature study guide tailored to the developmental needs of the 7th to 9th grade student for each of the four novels as well as a section to complete at the end of the study of all four novels. Each novel's guide includes a "Before Reading" set of activities, "While Reading" set of activities, "Questions for Discussion at the End of the Story", and "Writing Prompts for the End of the Story". Especially appropriate to the target age group are the numerous graphs employed to help the student organize a pertinent information. The student is taught to use "Mind Maps", graphic-based webs for character analysis, and charts and Venn diagrams. My 8th-grade student found the chart formats to be very helpful and enjoyable to use. Writing activities taught include character essays, theme essays, speeches and scripts, autobiographical and biographical narratives, poetry, and opinion papers. The student's appendix also contains many examples of student assignments to help guide a more inexperienced student to a successful writing project.

This series is a terrific contribution to the curriculum now available for Catholic homeschoolers and fulfills a genuine need for literary analysis guides. It is so refreshing to be able to simply pick up the book and get to the work of educating my children without worrying about hidden bias and doctrinal errors. Congratulations to the author!

Perspective:
Catholic
Reviewed By:
Susan Kalis
Review Date:
1999
Available From:
Hillside Education
Available From:
RC History

Mother of Divine Grace School British Literature Syllabus

Author(s):
Margaret A. Hayden
Copyright:
2003
Publisher:
Mother of Divine Grace School
Series:
MODG Lesson Plan
Volume # or Level:
High School
Number of pages:
41 pages
Subject(s):
Literature
Lesson Plans
Literature Study Guides
Grade / Age level:
High School
Review:

NOTE: A more recent edition of this syllabus was published in 2007 - this review is based on the 2003 edition.

This syllabus outlines a complete year of study in British Literature intended for 12th graders.

Books used in this course:

Required:
The Harp and Laurel Wreath by Laura Berquist
Beowulf
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Primary Works of Literature:

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Henry V by William Shakespeare
Midsummer-Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Emma by Jane Austen
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

Alternate Works of Literature (for substitution of any titles in the above list that the student has already read):

Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Othello by William Shakespeare
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

This is the author's explanation for the goals of this study:

The goal for this year is for the student to exhibit more subtlety in understanding, more discrimination in interpretation of text, and more attention to language in his papers. The syllabus is designed to help the student in these areas. British Poetry will be studied throughout the year, and great works of literature will also be read and discussed. There will also be 4 required papers.

There are paper topics included at the end of this syllabus. However, students are encouraged to create their own topics for their papers, using the 'General Questions for Works of Literature'. The reason students should be encouraged to create their own paper topics is that the thought that will go into creating a paper topic will help the student organize his thoughts about the work of literature which he has just read. A student in the rhetorical stage should be able to assemble and organize his thoughts, and then should be able to present those thoughts in a well written, well organized paper.

She goes on to explain the "how" and "why" of discussing works of literature with your children

The syllabus contains eight pages of detailed instruction for parents on learning objectives, pointers for improving and grading student papers, and a basic style sheet for student writing.

A detailed lesson plan (11 pages long) provides a year-long schedule of readings, including time allocated for discussions, writing papers and studying works of poetry.

Detailed discussion questions (and answers) are included for Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the "Prologue" to the Canterbury Tales (the text of this Prologue is also included in this syllabus). A detailed "General Questions for Works of Literature" is provided as a help in discussing the other works studied.

Finally, a paper topic is provided for each of the primary and alternate works of literature covered in the syllabus. Some are fairly detailed such as this one for Henry V: "Henry V undergoes a great change in his life. This change is referred to in the opening scene by the Archbishop. Do you think such a change is realistic, and do you think that Henry V is really a good man?" Others are quite simple, such as this one for The Everlasting Man: "Summarize and explain what the author is teaching us through this book."

I've personally read about half the books recommended in this syllabus and they seem quite well-suited to the reading level and area of study. The one thing that surprised me was having G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man recommended as an alternate to a portion of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, to be read over the course of three weeks. It's a fantastic book (one of my very favorites!) - but really more of a non-fiction selection (and overview of history), rich in language and symbolism, that I believe would frustrate many students if read through too quickly. G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday might be a better option and would certainly provide wonderful material for writing and discussion.

Perspective:
Catholic
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
4-11-2007
Available From:
Adoremus Books
Available From:
Emmanuel Books
Available From:
Our Father's House
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