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Learning Language Arts Through Literature, The Gold Book – British Literature Review by Tess Hamre

Greg Strayer, Ph.D and Timothy Nichols, Ph.D.
Common Sense Press
(352) 475-5757
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666

This full year high school level curriculum was written as a college prep course and can be used at any high school level. This one book includes both the student guide and a teacher section. It is softcover, includes thirty-six weeks of instruction, and is written directly to the student.

This survey of British literature includes both poetry and novel studies. Poetry units alternate with novel studies. The five novel studies include: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelly; Emma by Jane Austen; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; The Time Machine by H.G. Wells; and Animal Farm by George Orwell.

The poetry units are organized by time period. Students study the Romantic Poets, the Victorian Poets, and the Modern Poets. The student will study poetry from Wordsworth, Shelly, Browning, Arnold, Elliot, and more!

My daughter and I like the structure of the lessons. The thirty-six lessons are divided into 5 numbered sections. Each numbered section contains a lettered list. A student can complete one lesson per week by completing one numbered section each day. I simply note in my home school planner Lesson 30 Day 1, and my daughter knows she is expected to complete the lettered items listed under number one for lesson 30.

Lettered tasks may be as simple as giving the student background information on a poet, or explaining a literary term, or it may be a comprehension question, or asking a student to do an analysis. One feature that I really like is the shorter paragraph papers that are often assigned on Day 5. I like that these are shorter essay type questions that get the student thinking and reacting to the poem or novel. I also appreciate that it doesn’t just say “Write one or two paragraphs explaining why you think Victor feels the way he does about the creature.” Instead, the text goes on to ask probing questions to help the student organize her thoughts.

The curriculum also includes several longer essay assignments. These longer essay assignments are the last lesson of many of the units. Unlike the regular lessons the page says 1-5 and the lettered tasks break the assignment down into manageable pieces. For these assignments I assign a due date, usually Friday, and my student must decide for herself how to divide the work between the five days.

The Teacher Section begins on page 125. It includes answers to questions as well as checklists to help teachers assess the Essay Papers. The Teacher Section does not include the questions, or the information such as author background or defining literary terms. This means that the teacher must flip back and forth between the student section and the answers. I do appreciate having the checklists and the answers but I think I would prefer a separate stand alone Teacher Guide.

I like the mix of questions. The student must answer questions that address comprehension of the material read as well as questions that engage the student in critical thinking about the passage. I also like that it includes essay writing but does not overwhelm the student with long writing assignments. I feel it is a balanced approach to literary study.

Although this curriculum works for a single student, I think it would be even better if two or more students work though it together such as two siblings in one home school, or two students in a co-op setting. This would give the students a chance to discuss the literature and poetry with someone other than the parent/teacher.

-Product review by Tess Hamre, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2016