Thursday, June 9, 2011

Literature Guides

Literature guides are very helpful tools.  I'm finding that out.  As each new child is added in to my student population, I become more aware of how I just don't have time to preview and create my own guides for books.  (Yes, I once was just that ambitious).  

Purchasing literature guides is an option.  There are some very nice ones available.  But, my experience has been that my kids tend to get frustrated with them.  The lit guides we used in the past had some great questions to think on but also had much in the way of busy work - crosswords, word finds, and puzzles that had little to do with examining the book.  Eliminating the busy work was certainly a possiblitly, but then we found we weren't using a great portion of a study guide we paid for.  Wasted.  We have since opted to simply discuss the literature and try to draw out the significance of the writing.  Then, perhaps a book report or an essay to wrap up our study.

But, now that my oldest will be going on to read books mostly on his own while I spend time with the younger kids, what do I ask?  What if I don't know anything about the book?

That's when I'm grateful for websites like Shmoop.  It has a lot to offer - more than I can describe in this article.  Some of the content is by membership and fee only.  But, much of it is free.  I am specifically interested in the Learning Guides which offer
  • Literature
  • Poetry
  • Shakespeare
  • Bestsellers
  • US History
  • Civics
  • Economics
  • Biography
  • Music
  • Pre-Algebra
Under the literature titles you can click on information that will inform you on the literature you are interested in.  Each selection might have information such as
  • Introduction
  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Quotes
  • Characters
  • Analasys
  • Questions
  • Quizzes
  • Best of the Web (links)
  • Write Essay (a guide through writing an essay)
Its also a nice site to visit if you're wondering what your child is reading about in their own time.  I took note of the "Write Essay" tab which guided you through thinking about the literature so you could write an essay (but, it didn't write it for you).  And, some selections have online, quick quizzes to go through.

If you have a child in high school, you may be interested to know that Schmoop, for a fee, offers test preparation for a number of different tests such as the SAT, ACT, PSAT, AP, etc. 

-A

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