Monday, October 31, 2011

Excellence in Literature :: English I: Introduction to Literature

Literature...This is not something that we have really done before. At least not in the traditional sense. We have never used a formal Literature program before. My daughter is just entering high school this year, and when I found out that we would be reviewing a Literature program, I figured it must be time to get started on it.

We received an introductory program by Excellence In Literature called English 1: Introduction to Literature.

Introduction to Literature is a college-preparatory literature and composition course. Focus works, including novels, short stories, poems, and drama, have been selected for literary quality, and for their place in the historical development of literature. Context readings provide background information about the author, the historical period, and the literary and artistic context of the focus work. 

By the end of the course, students will:

  • Understand the process of writing, including the use of tools such as a writer’s handbook, dictionary, and thesaurus.
  • Have specific understanding of selected representative texts by major authors of the periods studied.
  • Have a general understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the works.
  • Be able to analyze literary texts and present thoughtfully developed ideas in writing.
  • Demonstrate competence in essay organization, style, and mechanics.  
  • Unit 1: Short Stories by-
    • Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
    • Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you're concerned about that.)
    • Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
    • O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
    • Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
    • James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
     Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
    Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

     Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
    Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

     Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

     Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
    Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

     Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

     Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
    Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

     Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
    Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

     Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
    Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

As you can see, Janice uses a great list of books for this program. You can find out why she chose these particular books for this program here.

As someone who has never used a formal Literature program before, I have to say that this one is well laid out and easy to use. It tells you exactly what to do for each week/weeks, but encourages you to work at your own pace. And let me tell you that our pace was slow.

Since this was our first time using a curriculum like this, we weren't familiar with some of the terms. For example, one of the first things my daughter was asked to do was write an Approach Paper. Now, I have never in my life heard of an approach paper. I actually Googled it and all I could find were business approach papers, so I am not sure if this is something new, or if I have just never heard of it.

Whether it is actually something new or not, I don't know, but I do know that I liked the approach paper format. Your child has to write a quick summary and list the characters and their qualities. They have to come up with their own discussion questions and choose a key passage that they think is the most important passage in the story.

This approach really makes them think about what they are reading. While I don't think it's necessary to go that deep into everything you read, it is a great option for some of your reading.

We started in Unit 1. The first story is A White Heron by Sara Orne Jewitt.

My daughter worked on her approach paper for weeks! Yes, weeks. It is not any fault of the curriculum, it's just that my daughter is not used to having to summarize things down so much. Summarizing is so hard for her. She is a narrator. She takes longer to tell a story than it would take someone to read it. lol
It took her probably a week just to summarize this story. Having to keep the summary to a certain amount of sentences was very difficult for her. It took her another week just do define the qualities of the characters. 

I tried not to get frustrated. I knew this was her first time doing this, so I let her take her time. She moved faster through the rest of her paper, and she was proud of what she had done. (Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the review if you would like to see my daughters approach paper.)

I know it won't take her as long next time...hopefully.

After she moved on to the next section, filling out a Literature Summary: Theme, Characterization, Plot, Setting and Style, she didn't want to move any further. Neither did I, to be honest. We needed a break.

The program recommends a Writing book to be used alongside this program, but does not tell us where to find the information needed in the book. For example, it does not tell us where to find information on Theme in the recommended writers book. We tried looking up these things, but only found a brief definition, no examples. I am sure they have to be in there, but I don't have time to look through every page of the book to find them.

That is my negative to this program. The program does not make it easy to find the info needed, even in the book it recommends. It does include a glossary in the end of the book, but we were needing more information.

With the information we did find, we decided to move on, but it was a little hard for my daughter. She is a very young 9th grader, so I am not pushing her, but we are going to have to take this a little slower for a while until she becomes familiar with this type of work.

I hope by describing our experience you don't get the impression that we didn't like this program, because we both think it is a great program. Really. It was just hard for us to get used to. We are not used to doing such formal English work. But of all the Literature programs I have ever seen, this one looks the best.

My daughter said that she loved all the writing, but that some of it was a little hard to understand. To quote her exactly, "I think it is really fun, but it's also kinda really hard." (I know, we need English, huh?) Hey, were Okies, what can I say? lol
We are going to continue on with this program, at our own pace, and I know we will reap great benefits.

After the first unit, I will probably pick and choose the units we do, as some of the stories are better suited for my daughters age than others. She is really excited about studying Gulliver's Travels.

I think that this is a great Literature program that we will be able to use for years to come. If you are not used to doing a program like this, it might take some getting used to, but I think you will like it.

If you are interested in the Introduction to Literature, you can find it here for $27 for an e-book, or $29 plus $4.95 S & H for the print book.

Be sure to read what my Crew Mates thought of this program. I know you will find a lot of great insight from them.


*I have received a download copy of Introduction to Litereature, free, as a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, in return for my honest opinion.
No other compensation has been given to me.*

10 – 6 – 2011 
A White Heron 

A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett is a short, two chapter story about a spirited nine-year-old girl named Sylvia, her kindhearted grandmother Mrs. Tilley, their troublesome cow Misstress Mooly, and a handsome young ornithologist whom Sylvia meets one night while fetching the cow to be milked. Sylvia is a little maid who had lived in a manufacturing town for eight years and was the unlikely choice out of her many siblings to be taken to live with her grandmother on her small farm in the New England wilderness. Little Silvia is terrified when she hears a sharp whistle of a boy one evening in the woods as the sun is setting, but she soon finds herself dreaming of love, and she is willing to do anything to make him happy;even betraying her friend the beautiful white heron. But when the time comes to tell the herons great secret, she is unable to forget the wonderful time she has spent with the beautiful bird, and keeps his secret to herself. In the end she wonders if the life of a bird was worth losing over her friendship with the handsome young stranger she admired so much

. Characters 
  Sylvia: Loyal, Lively, Determined, Sweet, Quiet, Shy Mrs. Tilley: Hospitable, Auspicious, Tidy, Talkative The Ornithologist: Kind, Cheerful, Polite, Tall, Charming  

Discussion Questions  
We are told where this story took place, the New England Wilderness, but we are not told when. Taking everything into consideration, (Like $10.00 being a fortune and the fact that there were obviously no hunting laws because the hunter was hunting on Mrs. Tilley's land) what time period would you say this story is set in? In your opinion, did Sylvia make the right decision in keeping the white herons secret? Why or why not? If it had been you, what would you have done?
We are not told a lot about the hunter. For instance: What was his name? Where did he live? How old was he? Where did he grow up? How do these things make this character different from the others? What were your feelings about the ornithologist? Did you like or dislike this character? Why?

Key Passage, From chapter II 
Sylvia, well satisfied, makes her perilous way down again, not daring to look far below the branch she stands on, ready to cry sometimes because her fingers ache and her lamed feet slip. Wondering over and over again what the stranger would say to her, and what he would think when she told him how to find his way straight to the heron’s nest.
“Sylvy, Sylvy!” called the busy old grandmother again and again, but nobody answered, and the small husk bed was empty and Sylvia had disappeared.
The guest waked from a dream, and remembering his day’s pleasure hurried to dress himself that it might sooner begin. He was sure from the way the shy little girl looked once or twice yesterday that she had at least seen the white heron, and now she must really be made to tell. Here she comes now, paler than ever, and her worn old frock is torn and tattered, and smeared with pine pitch. The grandmother and the sportsman stand in the door together and question her, and the splendid moment has come to speak of the dead hemlock-tree by the green marsh.
But Sylvia does not speak after all, though the old grandmother fretfully rebukes her, and the young man’s kind, appealing eyes are looking straight in her own. He can make them rich with money; he has promised it, and they are poor now. He is so well worth making happy, and he waits to hear the story she can tell.
No, she must keep silence! What is it that suddenly forbids her and makes her dumb? Has she been nine years growing and now, when the great world for the first time puts out a hand to her, must she thrust it aside for a bird’s sake? The murmur of the pine’s green branches is in her ears, she remembers how the white heron came flying through the golden air and how they watched the sea and the morning together, and Sylvia cannot speak; she cannot tell the heron’s secret and give its life away.
Dear loyalty, that suffered a sharp pang as the guest went away disappointed later in the day, that could have served and followed him and loved him as a dog loves! Many a night Sylvia heard the echo of his whistle haunting the pasture path as she came home with the loitering cow. She forgot even her sorrow at the sharp report of his gun and the sight of thrushes and sparrows dropping silent to the ground, their songs hushed and their pretty feathers stained and wet with blood. Were the birds better friends than their hunter might have been, — who can tell? Whatever treasures were lost to her, woodlands and summer-time, remember! Bring your gifts and graces and tell your secrets to this lonely country child!

Key Passage Explanation  
I think this passage is important because we see Sylvia's love and loyalty to her bird friends, but we also see that after the fact she regretted her decision in keeping the herons secret and “ forgot even her sorrow at the sharp report of his gun and the sight of thrushes and sparrows dropping silent to the ground,”. Little Sylvia, who started out as a sad little maid, and then became a happy little woods girl after moving in with her grandmother, is left sad and lonely once again and ends up asking herself “ Were the birds better friends than their hunter might have been...?”.

1 comment:

Family Style School said...

Great review! It was hard for my son to get used to also.

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