Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hewitt Homeschooling: Lightning Literature and Composition Grade 1 {Review}

Hewitt Homeschooling is a provider of fantastic curriculum that teaches literature comprehension using full-length novels and autobiographies, plays, essays, short stories and poems. They also offer many other materials for different subjects, including art, history, math, music and science. Since we will choose enriching literature over a dull textbook any day, this curriculum is ideal for our homeschool. We were very excited to review Hewitt Homeschooling's Lightning Literature and Composition Grade 1 Student Workbook and Lightning Literature and Composition: Grade 1 Teacher's Guide.

Both of these were physical books and the Student Workbook is consumable (meaning you can only use it once with one student). This product is intended for students in first or second grade and costs $49.95 for the Student Workbook and $29.95 for the Teacher's Guide. The teacher's guide provides answers to the questions, ideas for additional lessons and scripted questions. The Teacher's Guide also tells you which story from Aesop's Fables you should read with each lesson. The student workbook includes: Reading Journal Pages, Dictionary Pages, and Alphabet and Sentence Puzzle Pages. 

This literature curriculum focuses on three components: literature, grammar and mechanics, and composition. The author of this curriculum said this curriculum would,“instill a love of great literature in children, expand their ability to read intelligently and deeply, improve their communication abilities, and prepare them for more advanced language arts concepts.” I feel like the curriculum does do that. My children have always enjoyed reading, but now they are able to point out parts of the story and are able to recall stories more easily by pieces the story-line together.

The Teacher's Guide is so helpful in detailing all of the lessons throughout the week. The start of each book begins with an "at a Glance" page, which tells you what lessons will be covered throughout the week, which fable to pair with the story and any additional materials you may want to use. There are literature questions with space provided for the teacher to record answers, there are guidelines to follow that explain the different parts of the story, so you can more easily guide the conversation to include all of these points, and it is encouraged to work with your children throughout the lessons. These are all things that I find helpful, as a still-new homeschooler and mother who enjoys hand-on learning with her children.

The curriculum lasts for 36 weeks, with one book per week. Most of these books are popular and you might even own a copy. Others were completely new to us and we loved reading them and look forward to reading the others. You can tell that they carefully selected books for this curriculum. For this curriculum to work, you will need to sign these books out at a library or purchase them. Since the lessons for each book only last a week, you will have no issue getting those books back in on time.

Hewitt Homeschooling does sell a copy of Aesop's Fables for Children that is read-and-listen book and CD for $12.98, but it was not included in our package to review. You can easily find a free copy of Aesop's Fables for Amazon Kindle or visit your local library. We purchased our copy last year at Kohl's and love the artwork! It definitely pairs well with this literature curriculum, though I suppose you could use it without it. We have read the entire book several times over the past few months, but this is the first time we have used individual fables paired with literature activities. I have set up the Aesop's Fables book next to the student workbook at our work table. In order for the kids to easily find the page they need to work on, I have used post-it tabs to mark the pages (they stick out at the top), but I have also posted a note on their work board that lists the title and author of the current book, which page they are on in the workbook and the title and page number in Aesop's Fables.

Since some of these Lessons feature an Alphabet Page with a theme, we have used that as a starting point for literacy themed activities for playing. We have also been using them as our spelling words of the week. For example: For week 25, the book is called Bill and Pete to the Rescue and the themed words are "Exotic Animals." For that, we will be using several animals from the Safari Ltd. TOOB collection we own to create a small rescue center so my children can act out animal rescues. For Week 34's book, How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head, the themed words are "Mythical Creatures." So we will be using Safari Ltd.'s Mythical Creatures TOOB, along with some dragons we own to create a sensory bin or small world that looks like a fantasy world. I have lots of plans to make the most out of this literature curriculum and will always add an element of play to the activities. This curriculum also encourages you to do your own thing and make up your own activities on Friday's, so that is why we are ending each story with a themed play activity.

We also use a few other materials that we bought or printed off to go with this literature curriculum. For instance, the Madeline week deals with learning to capitalize the first letter of the week and month, so we set up a small calendar next to their table. This way they can look through the calendar and see which words are capitalized and which aren't. Since this is a common activity for many of the other books as well, we have decided to hang the calendar on the wall in front of them so they are able to mark the days. We printed and laminated a sheet to go next to it that lists the names of the week and months, so they will always have it to reference. Please note that my children are in preschool and kindergarten and not at a 1st grade reading and comprehension level. So while you may disagree with me for having the answers so nearby, it is simply there as a reference to check answers.

Along with the calendar, we have also provided maps. For instance, Grandfather's Journey talks about Japan, the Atlantic Ocean and California, along with other places, so we pinned up maps to look at and read about those locations. Other stories talk about animals, people, and vehicles and for those, I usually set out a small tray with figures for small world play. For others, they talk about puzzles or mazes, and I will give them some to complete while I read to them.

We did not use this literature curriculum in order. While it is recommended to use the book in order, we decided to start with the books we already had on hand or already planned to pick up at the library. We did take a one-week break from this curriculum, since we were on vacation, though we took along the book we were going to be working on when we got home to read at night. Typically we read these books right before we sit down to do the activities and sometimes we read it again at bedtime. My kids never bore of reading the same book multiple times and it also helps them to remember more details and are even able to tell me about the story or recreate it with their toys. For a handful of these books, we have been able to find coloring pages online that you can print off. I let them color while I read to them the story, and this helps them remember what the characters look like and can describe them with more detail.

One part of this curriculum that my children have not used yet are the sections for independent writing. My 4 1/2 year old loves writing letters and short words, but is not at the point of writing complete sentences. So for those activities, I simply asked her the question and I wrote down her answer. For instance, if the question was, "What was this story about?", she would tell me in her own words how she interpreted the story and I would write it down in the space. Sometimes her stories would be much longer than the space provided, so I quickly learned to keep a few spare sheets of paper tucked inside the workbook so I could write down her entire story. She also loves when I read the stories back to her and ask her if there was any more I should add. Storytelling has become a huge part of her lessons and she never turns down an invitation to tell one.

My daughter really likes that the student workbook comes with a dictionary at the end and you are able to write in words from the story as you learn them. She now keeps her own little dictionary in a note book, for when we are not working in this workbook, and will have me spell out words for her so she can write them down. Any time she hears a new word, she asks me to spell it for her and to sound out the syllables. She is mostly an auditory learner, so hearing me spell and sound out the word while she writes it down helps her to remember it better.

One feature we really like about this curriculum is that each book lesson only lasts a week and each day has specific activity pages. There is no need for the parent/s or school teacher to gather any other supplies, other than the story book and student workbook. It's a compact curriculum that makes literature lessons super easy to set up! We also order the books at the library ahead of time, so they are sure to be there when we go there. Our librarians are also super helpful and are able to suggest similar themed books to supplement their lessons. The Teacher's Guide also provides suggestions for similar books by the same author or by different authors. We usually pick up these books in addition to the main book, to further explore the subject.

Below is the list of books that are needed for this curriculum. You can obviously skip any of them, however they do work together. You can work on them in order, or out of order, based on your preferences or the needs of your child. Or perhaps you pick up all your books at the library and it's not there the week you need it, you can always move on to the next book and go back when the library has the last book in stock again.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Hellerv
Umbrella by Taro Yashimav
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Tabackv
The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Mother Goose Rhymes by Mother Goose
Mabela the Clever by Margaret Read MacDonald
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel
Bill and Pete to the Rescue by Tomie dePaola
Best Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban
Always Room for One More by Sorche Nic Leodhas
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág
Curious George Flies a Kite by Margret Reyv
Babar the King by Jean de Brunhoff
This Is London by M. Sasek
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head by Bill Peet
The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

My overall opinion is that we really enjoyed this curriculum. We read the reviews and they were all positive and so we were really excited to try out this product. Once we got into it, I knew Lightning Literature was going to be a great curriculum to use over the next few years. However, while Hewitt Homeschooling has many literature curriculum courses for middle school and high school, they do not have many choices for elementary school. They are working on it, though! The 1st grade curriculum is brand new and each year they plan to add a new grade. Since we do not need the second grade curriculum right away, I'm not worried about the wait. Especially not since I checked out their preview of the 3rd grade reading list and it's filled with books that we love! It makes me even more excited to see what we can expect and we look forward to purchasing the second grade literature pack when it becomes available.

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