Tuesday, July 9, 2019

What Assignments Do You Give for Literature?

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No matter how long we've been homeschooling, we are curious about how other homeschoolers do things. And homeschoolers who are newer to the game obviously have lots of questions! This series will try to answers some of the questions homeschoolers ask each other. Questions about how we handle some of the little details and about our opinions on different aspects of homeschooling. Questions that we all might answer differently because what works great in one family might not work at all in another. 

What assignments do you give for literature? Book reports? Literary analysis?

There are some fantastic curriculum packages for studying literature, especially for middle and high school grades. Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing With Sharon Watson, literature units from Progeny PressLightning Literature series from Hewitt Homeschooling, and Moving Beyond the Page are just a few that come to mind. But what if you don't want to do a whole course for literature? Can literature study be included as part of a general English course or as an accompaniment to a History course? Can you just choose some great books for your student to read and call that Literature, and if so, what kind of assignments or documentation would you use?

So many questions about literature! And I've found that for every homeschooled student that is an avid reader of classic literature, there are at least two that are not. Homeschool moms that love to read and those that don't generally agree that a working knowledge of good literature is important, and usually some study of literature is required for high school graduation.

It is possible to do literature study without buying a full year's worth of literature curriculum, and there are a number of ways to do that. As with most subjects, you can customize your study to your student's needs, interests, and ability. For students that don't like to read, or don't read well, or have little interest in literature, it's probably better to take a low-key approach to covering it. For example, choose a few important novels and a selection of poetry and essays that are relatively straightforward and relate to history or to something else the student is more interested in. We've used Exploring World History and Exploring America (both from Notgrass) because these courses combine History, Bible, and Literature. The literature portion as given is worth a full credit, but if time or interest is limited, you can do what we did - reduced the number of novels and awarded a half credit. The number of literature-related assignments can also be adjusted. I particularly like the Notgrass approach of reading the novel primarily for the value of the story rather than analyzing in detail.

So what kind of assignments? Students should understand some basics about character development, conflict, and themes in literature. So even though a full and detailed literature course isn't necessary, it's worth taking a look at an introductory course or a unit study that helps teach these literature basics. Browse the Language Arts section of SchoolhouseTeachers.com for lots of options! Exploring Literature (for 8th-10th grade) is just one of the many literature courses for all grade levels offered.

In elementary and middle grades, students can be doing book reports to summarize stories they've read. At some point during high school, they should be learning how to write a literary analysis, which is basically an essay exploring the themes or characters in a novel. Here's where a literature course will really come in handy! Just knowing what to write about, and how to organize this kind of essay will be a huge help. Most colleges will expect students to be able to write about literature and offer this type of basic course during the first year. 

So to answer the questions posed at the beginning: Assign book reports to younger students, and at least a couple of literary analysis essays to high school students. Discussion, comprehension questions, or simple essays about specifics in literature are also good assignments. You don't necessarily need a full and detailed literature curriculum each year of high school, but college bound students should be familiar with some classics and some basic literary terminology. 

See my related post:

Lots of Literature (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

Lots of Literature (Blogging Through the Alphabet) on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

And our reviews of some of the Literature curriculum mentioned in this post:

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (high school) 
Lightning Lit American Mid-Late 19th Century (high school)
Lightning Lit Shakespeare Comedies and Sonnets (high school)
Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel (high school)

Moving Beyond the Page (middle school)
Progeny Press - The Cay (middle school)
Progeny Press - Treasure Island (middle school)

How do you cover literature in your homeschool? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you - or leave a homeschool question you're curious about.

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Lori said...

Thank you for writing this up. I am working on creating the assignments for writing to go along with the book series my oldest has chosen for her 2nd year of high school. You gave me some excellent food for thought. Thanks!

Kym said...

Lori - I'm glad it was helpful! I've been working on lesson plans for the lit class I'll teach at co-op, and looking a little at what will be expected in my daughter's first year English class at college, so it was timely for me!

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