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Lightning Lit questions (xposting)

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I originally posted this question in another thread, but am reposting so more can see and answer:


Abbey (and others who criticized the LL high school offerings), I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts on the LL high school materials. I used both the Am. Lit. packages from LL last year for 8th grade for dd. Together, I thought they covered a good amount of material.


Are your criticisms based on using just one per year, or two?


Also, the writing assignments varied widely in depth. Each unit had 4-8 choices, some of which were more scholarly, some of which were fairly frivolous. It seemed that a parent exercising careful oversight could make the program a weightier one simply by choosing the more scholarly assignments. Do you feel the program isn't weighty enough because ALL the writing assignments were weak, or because some of them are??


Finally, what elements do you expect a good literature program to contain?


I have been doing Ancients with dd this year per TWTM but am putting together next year's list for her. I have also purchased LL7 for ds to do next year as a 6th grader. I am interested to hear your perspective on LL as I am ruminating over these things.

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I'm just copying and pasting what I posted in the other thread... :)



The high school levels I did were Early to Mid-19th Century British (in the fall) and American (in the spring). I thought the books selected were good -- that's why I chose to use their materials. I thought the introductory materials and discussions for each work were weak and shallow. Each chapter offered some basic biographical information on the author and a very cursory commentary on some single aspect of the work. There was no ongoing discussion as one read the work. There was no stopping to discuss a brief passage in detail. Read a few pages of background (often no more information than what one would find on Wikipedia or SparkNotes online), read the text, answer some number of very basic comprehension questions (I'll admit a strong bias against comprehension questions at this level -- the only reason I can see using them is to confirm that the student has, in fact, read the assigned material), and "choose from" a selection of very vague writing assignments.


Yes, the *parent* could step in (as I did) and say, "No, you can't count this list of 10 adjectives as fulfilling your writing assignment. Pick between numbers 7 and 9, since those are the only two with any academic value." But the assignments do imply that the student can choose. Really?!?


And at no point is there any discussion of what makes a good literary analysis paper. *Some* of the writing assignments (not a majority) could be used as a starting point for a literary analysis paper, with additional instruction and expectation, but that's never included in the material. One could quite easily work straight through the levels I used and never write a high school level paper. I understand that one could argue that "writing instruction is simply outside the scope of this program", though I don't think that's the impression LL gives.


Basically, I felt that we could do more by simply selecting our own literature (as I said -- I think they used good choices mostly), looking up some background information, and reading and discussing on our own. I'm just as capable of providing my own writing prompts as weeding through their terrible ones in hopes of finding something less pitiful than the others.


Yes, lol, I was severely disappointed.


Then you said...


I see your point. As I read your post I realized that I filled in those things with dd myself without really realizing it. I dislike comprehension questions intensely and usually whipped through those really, really quickly with dd. Then we discussed various parts of the book as I saw fit, just because that's what I, as a former English major, like to do.


As for writing literary analysis, I had already taught that to dd in 7th grade. So, when I had her do that as an 8th grader for LL, the assignment from the curriculum was the starting point. She would write the paper according to what I had already taught her, and I would coach her through it and grade it accordingly. I didn't really even realize I was deviating from the curriculum. lol.


I could see myself continuing to buy LL as I found it to be better than other curricula I evaluated. So much of what is available falls into one of two camps:


1. Excerpts of bits of things with insipid comprehension questions. Student may or may not read one or two full-length books. This is the sort of thing I did a lot of in public school prior to high school. Often I cannot stand the literature selections with these types of curriculum.


2. Books that are read, with the barest minimum of comprehension questions and some vocabulary. No depth and no discussion of literary elements. Ugh. As a side note, a lot of Bible curriculum is like this as well. For example, several "Old Testament Survey" courses I looked at are actually just reading through the OT and answering a few study questions--this is NOTHING like the OT Survey course I had in high school, which included tons of historical, cultural, and linguistic information.


Thanks for expanding on your thoughts--I appreciate it.


And I said...


Yeah, it's certainly possible to fill in! I just found myself doing So Much filling in that I wondered why on earth I'd bothered paying for it, you know?


And while I can certainly understand teaching about how to write a decent literary analysis paper first, I really don't think the writing assignments were written in such a way as to indicate that students were expected to know how to write a paper. Nor is it covered in LL7 or 8 in any way. So if someone were to use just LL from 7-12th grade, they would never be taught and never need to write a literary analysis paper. I think that's inadequate for college prep work.


BTW, I'm loving the step-by-step writing info in Windows to the World. It's only a short stories program, but it's got much richer discussion than LL had and I'm very happy with the writing. Probably not necessary to your daughter, but it's been a good program for my son. I'll definitely use it again with my daughter.


And as for Bible... It's not quite the same thing, but have you looked at The Bible and Its Influence? We'll be using it next year and I'm already pretty excited about it. :)

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I have also purchased LL7 for ds to do next year as a 6th grader. I am interested to hear your perspective on LL as I am ruminating over these things.



We found LL7 to be a perfect, gentle intro into Literature and literary analysis, and it did for us exactly what I had hoped. While some people have felt that LL7 is too "lite" and that the work pages are "busy work", I think that is only true for those who have already had exposure to Literature and literary analysis and are ready for something beyond a "beginner" program.


We personally found LL7 to be ideal for beginning to do classic Literature; and the only work pages we found to be "busy work" were the 2 optional word search and crossword in each guide -- the remaining work pages were quite helpful to our DSs in putting the literary element into practice; and as you get further into the units, the work pages have additional excerpts or full short stories to begin practicing very guided analysis.


We did the readings for LL7 aloud, together, which allowed us to learn/discuss vocabulary in context; to get used to doing Classic Literature ("Big Kid" Lit. :tongue_smilie:); and to discuss the work as we went. It also gave us the opportunity to put into practice the literary lesson for that unit, as well as look for literary elements we were learning from Figuratively Speaking.


Below is a description of the LL7 program. Hope that is of help! Enjoy your adventures together with The Great Books! Warmest regards, Lori D.



LL7 comes as a Teacher Book (with answers, a schedule, some teaching tips, and some discussion questions) and a Student Book, which has two parts (the "Guide" and the "Work Pages") and is where the "meat" of the program is:


1. Student Guide

- has 8 units; each unit contains:

- a page intro about each author, and tips on what to look for as you read.

- vocabulary list with definitions to make reading the book easier.

- comprehension questions to help student focus on key details.

- 6-10 teaching text pages (written to the student) about a literary element and examples of how that literary element is used in the work being read to go with that unit.

- a 2-3 page "mini-writing lesson" with information/tips on various aspects of writing (examples: how to cite sources; how to take notes; etc.)

- choice from 4-8 longer writing assignment ideas for finishing up each unit


2. Work Pages Section:

- 8-10 worksheets per unit to help student practice the literary element, occasional grammar aspect (punctuation, capitalization, etc.), or beginning analysis of an excerpt from literature.

- Sometimes a short story or a segment of a longer work is reproduced for the student to read/analyze.



1 = "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" (short story)

literary lesson: plot line

mini writing lesson: openings


2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (realistic novel)

literary lesson: plot line in a novel

mini writing lesson: outlines


3. poetry unit -- 7 poems

literary lesson: rhyme

mini writing lesson: limerick and haiku


4. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (fantasy novel)

literary lesson: creativitiy

mini writing lesson: nonce words


5. "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" (short story)

literary lesson: saying it with style

mini writing lesson: writing about yourself


6. The Story of My Life (autobiography)

literary lesson: autobiography

mini writing lesson: brainstorming


7. poetry unit -- 6 poems

literary lesson: sound

mini writing lesson: cinquain and the list poem


8. All Creatures Great and Small (realistic/humorous novel)

literary lesson: character sketch

mini writing lesson: choosing a topic

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:bigear: I'm considering LL next year for dd and have no experience with it. We'll be looking at using the British Medieval Pack, but I'm not sure about using two packs in one year because the Medieval pack says that it is very challenging.


Dd used Brit Medieval this year for first semester and is now doing Shakespeare: Comedies and Sonnets. Not a problem in the least. But different students are different - just for reference, she's pretty self-disciplined. OTOH, she spends most of her school day focused on physics and pre-calc, so she didn't have wafts of time to work through LL. If I have another child do the same, I won't hesitate to assign Brit Medieval to one semester.

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I'm using LL7 with a 5th & & 7th grader this year. We probably won't finish all the units as I teeter back and forth between formal grammar study, LL7 and week long writing assignments, etc. etc. It is just impossible for me keep the same schedule from week to week with every single subject. So our LL7 lessons are a welcome break from grammar work and my kids absolutely love crossword puzzles and word searches. Off topic.....


My kids did 9 or so pages on Louis Pasteur I found somewhere online. It was filled with word puzzles, crosswords, and the like. They retained so much information by doing this but I wouldn't use this method for everything. It's all about variety.

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Dd used Brit Medieval this year for first semester and is now doing Shakespeare: Comedies and Sonnets. Not a problem in the least. But different students are different - just for reference, she's pretty self-disciplined. OTOH, she spends most of her school day focused on physics and pre-calc, so she didn't have wafts of time to work through LL. If I have another child do the same, I won't hesitate to assign Brit Medieval to one semester.



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