I've seen it now. And it has changed our literature studies.
Lightning Literature is available for junior and senior high (with programs for elementary grades coming soon!) and the Crew had the chance to work with almost all of these products. Lightning Lit uses a combination of novels, plays, and autobiographies (full-length texts), and also essays, short stories and poetry, to teach composition, literature, and other language arts skills.
I've looked at their website over the past four or five years, and my reasons for not trying this mostly boiled down to my concern that this just wasn't enough. Whether it is simply a matter of getting the product in my hands, or the fact that I'm looking at things for son number two, or just that I'm getting a bit older and wiser (frankly, I think it is all three. Well, maybe not the wiser part!) this program totally clicked for us.
junior high levels (we used Grade 7) are full year courses, and include a student guide, workbook, and a teacher guide. I intended to use this with William (who just finished 7th grade, but with his dyslexia, he struggles with most language arts products) but I ended up having both him and Thomas (a rising 6th grader) use it. That meant ordering an additional workbook (the only consumable portion). This probably would be too much for Thomas on his own, but combined with William, it really works out.
The program is set up so that you alternate between major works (novels like Tom Sawyer, or a biography of Helen Keller) and minor ones (Rikki Tikki Tavi is the first selection).
With each work (or works, in the case of poetry), the student goes through a similar process:
- Read a short introduction in the student guide. This includes biographical information, and things to be watching for in the reading.
- Read the work/s and answer comprehension questions. There are also vocabulary lists available by chapter. For the longer works, this stage can last a few weeks.
- Read the lesson and mini-lesson in the student guide. For Tom Sawyer, the lesson is on sub-plots or multiple plot lines. The Mini-lesson is on outlines, specifically on outlining the stages of the plot.
- There are workbook pages to complete. These worksheets include ones that reinforce the literary lessons or the mini-lessons. There are composition skills worksheets. Some pages address thinking skills. There are worksheets covering grammar. Each chapter includes a couple of puzzles. There are 'extra challenge pages' which I am discussing with my 8th grader, but not with the 6th grader.
- Finally, the student chooses a writing assignment. One thing I love is that the writing assignments are of varying difficulty, and the teacher's guide helps to explain these assignments so that you can help the student choose an appropriate one. For more prolific writers, the schedule suggests doing an additional writing assignment. That won't be happening here.
I love the progression. The Teacher's Guide will comment in various places about how a certain literary topic is being quickly introduced now, but will be explored in depth in the 8th grade program. That keeps me from thinking I need to go adding extra explanation. And it really makes me look forward to using the next level.
High school Lightning Lit programs are intended to be semester programs (though there are schedules available for using each over a full year) and there are a dozen options. Connor is working with Early to Mid 19th Century American Literature, which is intended for grades 9-12. All of the high school levels consist of a Student Guide and a Teacher's Guide.
Like the Junior High programs, this uses a combination of longer and shorter works. There are no worksheets, which also means the entire program is non-consumable. The basic lesson set-up is similar to the Junior High levels as well:
- Read introductory material in the student guide. This includes biographical information, discussion about the work in that lesson, historical background, etc.
- Read the work and answer comprehension questions. Most of the major works are scheduled over two or three weeks. Moby Dick pretty much goes on forever (you start reading in week 12 and finally finish in week 16). (I confess, I am not looking forward to Moby Dick. I need to find an abridged audiobook. For me.)
- Read the Literary Lesson in the student guide.
- Choose a writing assignment. There are quite a few options available. The writing assignments tend to be essay-length, but some are shorter, and there are some research-style options in there as well.
- For a book-length work, choose a second writing assignment.
For The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (the first lesson in the first unit), Connor chose to write a short research paper on Franklin the Inventor, and for his second writing assignment, he opted to write a letter introducing himself to a new penpal. We're going to use this to send to our new Compassion child, actually.
The high school levels can be completed at a slower pace (one guide over a year) with a schedule provided. They can be completed at the college-prep pacing of one guide per semester. Also, there are additional reading suggestions, and Hewitt considers this an honors course by adding some of those.
My bottom line: I love this. My perusing-the-website-and-samples impression of Lightning Literature was that the pace was too slow and we wouldn't be reading enough. My 'older and wiser' thoughts are different. While I definitely want my children reading more books during a schoolyear, they certainly do not need to be doing in-depth analysis of a new book every week. Lightning Literature gives us room to add books that relate to the history or science we are studying, or just add some because we want to.
As for papers, we probably will cut back some from the suggested schedule. Unlike my high school experience where paper writing happened only in English, Connor is writing essays for his history course, his humanities class, and in science too. I suspect we'll drop at least one paper per quarter from this schedule.
The price is good too. The Junior High (7th or 8th grade) level costs $60 for all three workbooks, and $20 for each additional student (for the workbook). The high school levels cost $32.90 for the two guides, which I can use for each of my children.
William and Thomas want to continue to use Lightning Literature.
I'm planning to use their new First Grade materials with Trina. Richard, I'm afraid, is going to be the only one not using Lightning Literature at the moment. His turn will come.
To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about the different Lightning Literature courses and some of Hewitt's elementary products, click the banner here: