Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lightning Lit & Comp {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

Kennady and I took on a little challenge for the summer - seventh grade literature and composition.  We were offered the chance to review Hewitt Homeschooling's Lightning Lit & Comp.  This was my first experience with Hewitt Homeschooling and their products, and I'd already heard some very good things about them, so I was really excited to give this a try!

Hewitt's Lightning Lit guides use full-length novels, autobiographies, plays, essays, short stories, and poems to teach deep reading and composition skills. Unlike some literature programs that take a scatter-shot approach (where none of the literature seems connected) or that try to include too much into one book, Lightning Literature guides focus on a few classics in depth, in a systematic manner.
We received the seventh grade set for literature and composition.  There is a Student's Guide, a Workbook, and a Teacher's Guide.  The Teacher's Guide gave me an overview of what Kennady would be working on, an answer key, helpful advice for guiding her through the assignments, and a suggested assignment schedule.  Each of the eight chapters is designed to take somewhere between two and ten weeks to complete, depending on the length of the literature selection.  The Student's  Guide introduces each literature selection with a brief biography of the author and some background, lists comprehension questions for discussion, and teaches the lessons based on the selection - plot line, poetry and rhyming, dialogue, and character sketch are some of the lessons in the seventh grade set.  The workbook contains exercises and helps in grammar and composition, and fun puzzles.  Both the Student's Guide and the Workbook have writing exercises for the student to complete that encourage the use of the techniques and literary devices taught through the lessons on the selection.

The first unit focuses on Rudyard Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Kennady read the story over a couple of days and then worked on the Student's Guide and Workbook assignments for just over a week.  (Note: the Teacher's Guide suggests spending approximately three weeks on this unit, and approximately four or five weeks on the other one we did.  We took less time because we had almost no other schoolwork that Kennady was working on during this time.)  She learned about plot lines and how to begin a story with an interesting opening that will get a reader's attention.  The Workbook exercises gave her practice in identifying elements of the plot and inventing good openings, along with some work identifying parts of speech and using correct punctuation.  There is a choice of writing assignments for each unit, and the students do not need to do all of them.  One of the writing assignments for this one was to write a short story, and identify each of the plot sections.  Since Kennady has written quite a number of short stories recently, we took one of the ones she'd already created, and worked on identifying and strengthening the plot elements in it.  I think this was really helpful to her in giving her own stories better structure.

Next, we decided to skip several units and do Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Kennady thoroughly enjoyed reading the book!  The reading schedule in the guide suggests taking up to several weeks to get through the book, but since we had very little else on our school schedule, we did it in just a few days.

Again, there were comprehension questions and some vocabulary words for each chapter of the book, along with some background info on Lewis Carroll.  The lesson material focused on creativity in literature.  We learned about tweaking and combining things and words to make new and imaginative elements for a story or poem. We learned how Carroll used nonce words and got some practice in creating our own.  Kennady tried rewriting some poetry and thinking up creative story ideas for the writing assignments in this unit, but found some of these writing exercises difficult.  I believe that was  partly because they were challenging assignments as acknowledged in the teacher's guide, and partly because they really were just a bit beyond Kennady's ability at this point.

Even though this was stretching Kennady academically, she still enjoyed it and learned a lot from it.  As the mom and teacher, I loved being able to use the comprehension questions to discuss literature with her, and prompt her to express her own thoughts about what she'd read.  There is room for a lot of flexibility in planning the lessons and writing exercises, depending on the student's interest and ability, and time available.  Kennady loves to read and reads well and above 'grade level', and she has an interest in creative writing.  But she needs more experience in writing before she'd be able to do well with the more advanced writing exercises in Lightning Lit.  In the two units that we completed, and in the other units as I previewed the book, there were two or three writing exercises to choose from for each, and the suggestions and information in the Teacher's Guide made it easy to gauge which of them would be most appropriate, and how to prompt and help a student that might get "stuck" in working through them.

Overall, we loved our time spent with Lightning Lit and now I must decide whether to keep going during this school year with it, or hold onto it for when Kennady actually reaches Grade 7!  I am also considering spreading it out over the two years, which I think would work out great in our situation as well.

What we liked best:

  • focus on reading and enjoyment of the literature selections
  • flexible lesson material - we could do all of the assignments and exercises, or choose the ones best suited to our needs
  • variety in the reading selections - Seventh Grade selections include full length novels, an autobiography, short stories, and poems.
  • opened the door for discussion of the literature 
  • reading good literature helps students write better - the writing exercises are inspired by (and instructed by) the material the student is reading.
  • challenging, but fun!

Would Lightning Lit & Comp provide a 'flash' of inspiration in your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:

The Lightning Literature & Composition pack for seventh grade can be purchased for $91.73.  This includes the Student's Guide, Workbook, Teacher's Guide, and all five books needed for the course.  (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, All Creatures Great and Small, The Story of My Life (Helen Keller), and Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children.)  Each of the Lightning Lit component books can also be purchased separately if you prefer - see the website for individual pricing.

Lightning Lit & Comp is also available for Eighth Grade, and there are twelve one-semester high school level courses to choose from.  You can view all the Lightning Lit offerings and pricing here.  Hewitt Homeschool has many other products available, including unit study guides, state study notebooks, and My First Report writing guides.  Other Crew members reviewed these products, so be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to get more information.

Hewitt Homeschooling has a sale going on right now that you may want to check out as well!

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.  Crew members reviewed Lightning Lit & Comp for junior high and high school, The Joy of Discovery, State Chronicles, and My First Report products.

Disclaimer: As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received a complimentary Student's Guide, Workbook, and Teacher's Guide in exchange for our honest opinions.


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