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Learning Language Arts Through Literature, The Gold Book - American Literature Review by Lori Hooten

(Teacher and Student Book in one)
Common Sense Press
1 (352) 475-5757
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666

Our homeschool thrives on literature, so any chance to work with a literature curriculum is exciting. For me, an important function of a good literature curriculum is one that uses real books and real material and integrates learning language arts from there. Learning Language Arts Through Literature, The Gold Book does just that. It is a study of American literature and authors such as Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson designed for high school students. Learning Language Arts Through Literature is both a student and teacher manual in one. Reading material is not included in this book and will need to be obtained prior to beginning.

The reading material that is covered in The Gold Book includes:
Great American Short Stories – edited by Wallace and Mart Stegner

The Mentor Book of Major American Poets – edited by Oscar Williams and Edwin Honig

The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

The Pearl – John Steinbeck

The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

Set up in units, each lesson is intended to be covered over a five-day period. It includes the assignments for reading, comprehension and analysis questions, vocabulary, and writing. This study will help develop a high school student’s ability to understand, process, and verbalize comprehension of material. It is also designed to help students develop and support a positional response to material. The material presented in The Gold Book is advanced enough that it could be considered college prep material.

While each lesson is very structured, it is not so structured that it cannot be adjusted according to the needs of the student. Questions can be answered written or orally. Reading assignments can be modified in length for any given day. Time given to complete writing assignments can be adjusted. It is structured but flexible, which is a strength of this curriculum.

The units of study in The Gold Book include the short story, the novel, the essay, and poetry. The short story unit will help the student learn about the elements of a short story, evaluate plot, and interpret meaning. The novel unit will ask the student to think more deeply, analyze characters, and define vocabulary words in context, among other objectives. The essay unit delves into the process and use of expository, descriptive, and narrative essays. The poetry unit explores the various poetic styles and analysis of poetry.

There is an assumption that some of these have been studied before and that the student has a working knowledge of some of the basics of poetry and essay writing. For example, it is assumed the student knows the artistic uses of poetry or the structures of sentences in order to write the essay. It is suggested that students keep a notebook in which to file their work for each of the units. The sections of the notebook will include writing assignments, vocabulary, literary terms, and short stories or essays written by the student.

The first half of the book is the student manual. Each lesson is clearly marked. Within a lesson, each day’s material is numbered by the day (1-5). This will allow the student to be somewhat independent in working through the material if need be, though some preparation by the teacher will need to be made.

The second half of the book is the teacher’s manual. Each unit begins with a description of the style being studied and the learning objectives for the unit. It gives terms to identify for the unit, as well. In the novel unit, there is a list of the main characters for the book and a summary of the novel. For assigned essays, there are assessment rubrics for the teacher to use in grading the essays. For all units, the lessons are clearly marked with an answer key corresponding to the student question section.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature, The Gold Book is an interesting, thorough curriculum that would be an asset to any high school student’s course load. On the publisher’s website, you can find a placement test to help determine a placement for your student, as well as sample lessons. At a retail price of $27.00, this book is a valuable resource that I am thrilled to add to our curriculum library.

-Product review by Lori Hooten, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2015