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Early Stage Planning - British Lit


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I'm starting to plan next year's British Lit to make sure I balance the workload for DS.  My plan is to use LLAtL British Lit and Glencoe study guides with mostly verbal discussions and a few well written papers.  Quality vs. quantity, right?  I'm also going to take advantage of movies and audio books as much as possible to help him out. 

 

Covered in LLATL British Lit

  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  • The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
  • Emma, Jane Austen
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • A British Poetry Anthology

 

Additional works I'd like to cover

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare <-- We plan to see this performed by the Houston Ballet
  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare
  • Beowolf, Seamus Heany
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • A Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Canterbury Tales (selection), Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton

 

I'm not sure about including anything from Jane Austen for a 16yo boy.  I haven't even had enough interest to read Austen beyond the fact that I feel like I should, if only to be able to say I have, and I still haven't.  :leaving:

 

I'm also uncertain about reading Dickens.  I had to read Great Expectations in high school and loathed it.  It completely turned me off reading anything else, although I've heard Two Cities is an easier read.   Is it worth slogging through to say he's read it? Do we start and stop if we hate it?  Is it simply too much on top of everything else?

 

Is 2 Shakespeare plays enough?  We've already covered Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar, but I don't think he's been exposed to anything else from Shakespeare. Not to my knowledge anyway.  I've thought about adding Much Ado about Nothing but I've neither seen nor read it before.  He likes sci-fi/fantasy stuff and we're both very much into all things Scotland, as it's part of our heritage, so I figure at minimum Midsummer and Macbeth should be good choices.

 

So help me out and give me some input here please.  I'd love to not be spinning wheels and changing everything up a zillion times during the school year for a change.

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We watched Great Expectations and The Importance of Being Earnest movies instead of having her read the books. We did author studies first & a short paper on each. She had enough books to read, but I thought those two movies added a nice change to her year. The BBC had them both, I believe.

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I'm starting to plan next year's British Lit … My plan is to use LLAtL British Lit and Glencoe study guides with mostly verbal discussions and a few well written papers...

 

… I'm not sure about including anything from Jane Austen for a 16yo boy...

 

Yes, you'll want some additional guides to go with LLATL, as I found it to be extremely LITE. The info section on poetry section was actually pretty decent; you'll likely want to dig deeper on the discussion questions about the poems, though, as none of the discussion questions in LLATL does more than scratch the surface...

 

Personally, I skipped having us read Jane Austen, due to just having SO many British lit. works that I felt were key to READ. So, we watched some TV/movie versions of Austen's works; many are pretty close to the novels, so that is an author you could save time with if you had to and watch vs. read. DSs actually find those TV/film productions quite amusing. We watched 3 versions of Pride and Prejudice, 2 of Northanger Abbey, and 1 of Sense and Sensibility, which gave us plenty for comparing.

 

If you feel you MUST read one Austen work, skip Emma (the longest) and go for Pride and Prejudice (the shortest) or Northanger Abbey (the funniest). Sense and Sensibility is a good candidate, too, I just haven't read that one yet to give input.

 

 

I'm also uncertain about reading Dickens… Is it worth slogging through to say he's read it? Do we start and stop if we hate it? 

 

Personally, I think Dickens is way too HUGE of a British author, with SO much commentary on his culture in his writing and SO many memorable characters created and alluded to, that he is too big to skip. Besides, he writes such GREAT and amusing characters in so many of his works, that you'll find yourself enjoying Dickens. ;)

 

 

I'm also uncertain about reading Dickens.  I had to read Great Expectations in high school and loathed it.  It completely turned me off reading anything else, although I've heard Two Cities is an easier read.   Is it worth slogging through to say he's read it? Do we start and stop if we hate it?  Is it simply too much on top of everything else?

 

I disliked Great Expectations as well, but have VERY much enjoyed other Dickens:

 

- A Christmas Carol

short, great character development, cheery, theme of redemption, and Christian references

 

- Oliver Twist

medium length; written as a serial for the newspapers, so lots of action and cliff-hangers; not a hard one to read, and some great characters; very autobiographical of Dickens' childhood in the poor house; great exposé of child labor, and ends positively; not as much "under the surface" themes to mine in this one

 

- David Copperfield

long, but wonderful characters; it is sort of the positive or flip side of Great Expectations; some great life lessons in this one

 

- Tale of Two Cities

medium-long; in some ways, very different from typical Dickens (more historically-based); students have to persevere through the first 6-8 chapters to figure out WHAT is going on and to get used to the language/sentence structure -- but really worth it: incredibly powerful themes of self-sacrifice, the consequences of choices and revenge, fabulous characters, and even some small humorous bits; our DSs really liked this one

 

 

Is 2 Shakespeare plays enough?  We've already covered Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar, but I don't think he's been exposed to anything else from Shakespeare..  I've thought about adding Much Ado about Nothing ...

 

We read 2 Shakespeare plays, one in each of two years, Since you are so short on time and have SO much "must read" British Lit., I recommend reading one and watching any others (with a little discussion before/after watching). Maybe try for watching one Shakespeare play per quarter as a family movie night! ;)

 

As for which one to read… we read Macbeth and Hamlet and loved both. During the high school years, I also had DSs watch Throne of Blood (a wonderful samurai version of Macbeth by Japanese director Kurasawa), the Kenneth Branaugh movie version of Much Ado About Nothing and a TV version of Taming of the Shrew, and a live high school production of Midsummer Night's Dream. (Update: and, we LOVE Joss Whedon's beautiful black & white version of Much Ado About Nothing (set in modern times), which came out last year; it is just amazing how very *modern* Shakespeare's writing and humor feels!)

 

Macbeth is a fantastic "starter" play, IMO. If you can all afford it as additional guide materials to enhance your Shakespeare studies, we LOVED the Parallel Shakespeare materials, and Brightest Heaven of Invention: A Christian Guide to Six Shakespeare Plays (Leithart).

 

Since sci-fi/fantasy is a huge interest, once you read Macbeth, enjoy this PBS Great Performances: Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard of Star Trek: Next Generation). Patrick Stewart is also in a fabulous PBS Arts version of Hamlet with David Tennant (the 11th doctor, Doctor Who). Also, since you've already read Romeo and Juliet, try and schedule watching West Side Story, the 1960s musical based on the play, about NY gangs -- great music and choreography! And it is so interesting to compare different versions of Shakespeare's works.

 

I've been working my way through the PBS Shakespeare Uncovered (6-part series, each 1 hour long), which is really making me want to watch or read more Shakespeare! :)

 

 

I'm starting to plan next year's British Lit to make sure I balance the workload for DS...

 

  • Beowolf, Seamus Heany
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • The Canterbury Tales (selection), Geoffrey Chaucer <-- selections
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare <-- see this performed
  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley <-- LLATL: British Lit.
  • Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A British Poetry  <-- LLATL: British Lit.
  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens  <-- LLATL: British Lit.
  • The Time Machine, H.G. Wells  <-- LLATL: British Lit.

 

Those are all solid choices, a variety of genres and time periods, a variety of types of works (novel, novella, poetry, play), and it allows you to cover 1200 years of literature -- 700s (Beowulf) to the very end of the 1800s (Time Machine). If you at ALL have time, you might, just for fun squeeze in a few classic short stories by British authors in that time frame "The Golden Key" and "The Light Princess" by George MacDonald.

 

If the list in your post is your final version, I'd say you should be able to just manage that in one school year, assuming you'll just watch one of the Shakespeare plays rather than read it. To help you plan how much time you'll need for your selections, based on our family's slower read-aloud / discuss together rate:

 

short works (2-4 weeks): Beowulf, Sir Gawain, British poetry, Time Machine, Doctor Jekyll

medium works (4-5 weeks): Canterbury Tales (depending how many you do), Shakespeare play

long works (5-8 weeks): Paradise Lost, Frankenstein, Tale of Two Cities

 

For ideas of which Canterbury Tales, check out these past threads:

Canterbury Tales in a Christian co-op

Canterbury Tales selection and Shakespeare selection help

Is Canterbury Tales worth teaching?

Which Canterbury Tales to read?

Canterbury Tales

Teaching the Canterbury Tales

 

Enjoy your British Lit. adventures! Warmest regards, Lori D.

 

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Fwiw...I have three teenaged boys and one teen girl in a lit class I teach and we are currently finishing up Sense & Sensibility. I had wondered how the boys would deal with it, but they have enjoyed it. Granted, they have lots to say about how they want to yell at the characters...but they are fully engaged! Most of the boys have seen a couple film adaptations of Austen works and one declared that the movies don't do Austen justice since the book is so much better. I've been totally surprised by the quality and quantity of discussion we've been having. These are the same boys who loved Beowulf because of all the action, fighting, and gore. Go figure.

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Oh, Jane Austen is just the loveliest - but I agree that Emma isn't the most fun of hers. For one thi g, Emma is a little hard to empathize with as a character, and for another, the age gap in the love story makes it a hard sell for some modern kids. On the plus side with Emma, you can follow it up by watching Clueless. Obviously, you've got a guide you'd like to use with Emma, but Pride and Prejudice is the most famous for a reason. Highly recommended for anyone with a well-developed sense of humor. It's her wittiest book, I think.

 

But if you're not feeling it with Jane Austen, one of the Bronte books would be a good replacement. That's all that I see lacking in this list.

 

A Tale of Two Cities is the perfect beginner's Dickens! Far more fun than Great Expectations. The themes in it make for discussions on sacrifice, right and wrong, government and redemption. You'll love it.

 

For Shakespeare, I think you're on the right track with a comedy and a tragedy. Much Ado is tempting, because I do like it best, but being able to see a version of Midsummer live makes it take precedence. And Macbeth and Hamlet are equally awesome. Even my little tykes get into the witches in Macbeth.

 

So fun! British lit in my favorite :)

 

Michael Clay Thompson includes Time Machine in one of his literature trilogies. I was just perusing his teacher manual for Alice in Wonderland today, and I'm very impressed. I think his thoughtful questions and writing topics would be quite useful for even non-MCT lovers.

 

ETA: I heartily second both the Branagh and Whedon versions of Much Ado. Whedon's just showed up on Amazon prime recently. Adorable, and if you're science fiction fans, it's full of your favorite Joss Whedon stars.

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Fwiw...I have three teenaged boys and one teen girl in a lit class I teach and we are currently finishing up Sense & Sensibility. I had wondered how the boys would deal with it, but they have enjoyed it. Granted, they have lots to say about how they want to yell at the characters...but they are fully engaged! Most of the boys have seen a couple film adaptations of Austen works and one declared that the movies don't do Austen justice since the book is so much better. I've been totally surprised by the quality and quantity of discussion we've been having. These are the same boys who loved Beowulf because of all the action, fighting, and gore. Go figure.

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I read through everyone's responses when they were posted, then never had enough computer time to sit down and put thoughts into words.  Gotta love life sometimes.   :glare:

 

Tackling Shakespeare first...

 

 

We read 2 Shakespeare plays, one in each of two years, Since you are so short on time and have SO much "must read" British Lit., I recommend reading one and watching any others (with a little discussion before/after watching). Maybe try for watching one Shakespeare play per quarter as a family movie night! ;)

 

As for which one to read… we read Macbeth and Hamlet and loved both. During the high school years, I also had DSs watch Throne of Blood (a wonderful samurai version of Macbeth by Japanese director Kurasawa), the Kenneth Branaugh movie version of Much Ado About Nothing and a TV version of Taming of the Shrew, and a live high school production of Midsummer Night's Dream. (Update: and, we LOVE Joss Whedon's beautiful black & white version of Much Ado About Nothing (set in modern times), which came out last year; it is just amazing how very *modern* Shakespeare's writing and humor feels!)

 

Macbeth is a fantastic "starter" play, IMO. If you can all afford it as additional guide materials to enhance your Shakespeare studies, we LOVED the Parallel Shakespeare materials, and Brightest Heaven of Invention: A Christian Guide to Six Shakespeare Plays (Leithart).

 

Since sci-fi/fantasy is a huge interest, once you read Macbeth, enjoy this PBS Great Performances: Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard of Star Trek: Next Generation). Patrick Stewart is also in a fabulous PBS Arts version of Hamlet with David Tennant (the 11th doctor, Doctor Who). Also, since you've already read Romeo and Juliet, try and schedule watching West Side Story, the 1960s musical based on the play, about NY gangs -- great music and choreography! And it is so interesting to compare different versions of Shakespeare's works.

 

I've been working my way through the PBS Shakespeare Uncovered (6-part series, each 1 hour long), which is really making me want to watch or read more Shakespeare! :)

 

He read R&J in 8th grade, and Taming of the Shrew and Julius Caesar last year, and he's seen video versions of all three.  We'll be West Side Story in a few weeks once we reach that time period of history.

 

The PBS Shakespeare Uncovered site is awesome.  I think that will be very helpful and give us time to delve a little deeper into the plays.

 

How's this for a plan, covering 6-8 weeks total. My main purpose is to get him more familiar with how commonly Shakespeare is still referenced.

 

Macbeth - portions of the PBS lesson plans, watch the video

Hamlet - portions of the PBS lesson plans, watch the video 

Much Ado about Nothing - Joss Whedon version 

Midsummer Night's Dream - Houston Ballet performance; student guide to discuss if available

 

Is it worth watching both the Whedon and Kenneth Branaugh versions to do a comparison, or are they fairly similiar?

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I'd do Branagh and Whedon. It only takes a couple of hours to watch the extra movie, after all! And there are some adaptations in the Whedon version that bear comparison with another production. Both have amazing Benedick and Beatrice interaction, which is what makes or breaks this play. 

 

Watch Branagh first, as it is the more traditional take and is historically set, then Whedon, with its modern setting and whimsy. Lots to discuss comparing the two, I think. 

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Is it worth watching both the Whedon and Kenneth Branaugh versions to do a comparison, or are they fairly similiar?

 

If possible, it's really good to watch two very different productions of the same play for at least ONE play. It actually helps you better understand the work, as different productions will bring out different themes and important ideas, and present different characterizations -- sometimes even different connotations by setting the play in specific historical time periods that resonate with the events/themes of the original play. :)

 

To me, matching the traditional, more staged looking Branaugh version of Much Ado with the modern Whedon version really highlights just how VERY modern the story, jokes, and characters are.

 

Matching Throne of Blood, the Japanese samurai version of the story of Macbeth (does not retain the dialog), with a staged version, shows how very universal the temptation to "will to power" is even between very different cultures.

 

Matching the David Tennant Hamlet with one of the other past film options will really highlight how a very different staging brings forth very different qualities in the character of Hamlet (and Claudius).

 

Anyways, NO... it's not a "must" -- but the story and dialogue of Much Ado is just SO very fun and you get SO much more out of it with a second viewing, I'd encourage doing both versions. And, as basketcase suggested, do the Branaugh version first as it is both more traditional in staging and presentation with an older setting. And if you have a bit more time, watch the YouTube clips from the David Tennant / Catherine Tate (11th Doctor and Donna!!) version of Much Ado for an even more modern (beyond post-modern) interpretation! :)

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Yes, you'll want some additional guides to go with LLATL, as I found it to be extremely LITE. The info section on poetry section was actually pretty decent; you'll likely want to dig deeper on the discussion questions about the poems, though, as none of the discussion questions in LLATL does more than scratch the surface...

 

Lite might work in our favor this year, in order to give deeper focus on analyzing and writing.   Poetry isn't a concern since we're going to cover Progeny Press' Intro to Poetry this summer.

 

Personally, I skipped having us read Jane Austen, due to just having SO many British lit. works that I felt were key to READ. So, we watched some TV/movie versions of Austen's works; many are pretty close to the novels, so that is an author you could save time with if you had to and watch vs. read. DSs actually find those TV/film productions quite amusing. We watched 3 versions of Pride and Prejudice, 2 of Northanger Abbey, and 1 of Sense and Sensibility, which gave us plenty for comparing.

 

If you feel you MUST read one Austen work, skip Emma (the longest) and go for Pride and Prejudice (the shortest) or Northanger Abbey (the funniest). Sense and Sensibility is a good candidate, too, I just haven't read that one yet to give input.

 

I haven't made up my mind about Austen.  I did find a revised/modernized version of Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid that looks interesting. She updated the original story and made it more of a YA thriller.  I requested it from our library to read and then I'll decide whether I'll have him read it or not.    I'm just not sure that it's all that important in the scheme of things to expect men to be familiar with Austen's works.

 

 

Personally, I think Dickens is way too HUGE of a British author, with SO much commentary on his culture in his writing and SO many memorable characters created and alluded to, that he is too big to skip. Besides, he writes such GREAT and amusing characters in so many of his works, that you'll find yourself enjoying Dickens. ;)

 

I do like the serialized format of Oliver Twist though, and found a study guide for the 1999 movie that we can use.  Do the guide activities, watch the movie, then read the book.    The only reason I opted to read Tale of Two Cities is because it's covered in LLATL but the 1980 version looks like something DS might actually want to watch. I also found this lesson plan that has some good discussion questions for after the movie.

 

 

Lori D - thanks so much for all your advice!  It's always so helpful!!

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I've no first hand experience with it, but you might be interested to know that Beowulf (Burton Raffel, Translator) and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are both covered in Hewitt's Lightning Lit: British Medieval Guide.

 

Regards,

Kareni

 

 

 

I like that Hewitt's Lightning Lit: British Medieval Guide also includes selections from Canterbury Tales.  I found the TOC which shows that it includes:

 

“The General Prologue†

“The Knight’s Tale,â€

“The Shipman-Prioress Link,â€

“The Prioress’ Prologue,â€

“The Prioress’ Tale,â€
“The Prologue to Sir Thopas,â€
“The Tale of Sir Thopas,â€
“The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue,â€
“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,â€
“The Wife of Bath’s Prologue,â€
“The Wife of Bath’s Tale,â€
“The Merchant’s Prologue,â€
“The Merchant’s Tale,†
“The Franklin’s Prologue,â€
“The Franklin’s Tale,â€
“The Host Addresses the Pardoner,â€
“The Pardoner’s Prologue,â€
“The Pardoner’s Tale†
 
That's 10 sections over 4 weeks including comprehension questions.  Too much for an average student or doable?
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I like that Hewitt's Lightning Lit: British Medieval Guide also includes selections from Canterbury Tales.  I found the TOC which shows that it includes:

 

“The General Prologue†

“The Knight’s Tale,â€

“The Shipman-Prioress Link,â€

“The Prioress’ Prologue,â€

“The Prioress’ Tale,â€
“The Prologue to Sir Thopas,â€
“The Tale of Sir Thopas,â€
“The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue,â€
“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,â€
“The Wife of Bath’s Prologue,â€
“The Wife of Bath’s Tale,â€
“The Merchant’s Prologue,â€
“The Merchant’s Tale,†
“The Franklin’s Prologue,â€
“The Franklin’s Tale,â€
“The Host Addresses the Pardoner,â€
“The Pardoner’s Prologue,â€
“The Pardoner’s Tale†
 
That's 10 sections over 4 weeks including comprehension questions.  Too much for an average student or doable?

 

 

What version of Canterbury Tales will you be reading from? That will make a difference; a translation closer to the original will be slower reading to be able to absorb it and look up vocabulary and read any annotations.

 

I think we spent about 3 weeks on the General Prologue, four tales (and with their prologues and epilogues), and the ending Chaucer's Retraction. The Knight's Tale is long, as I recall. The Nun's Priest's Tale is medium length, and the Pardoner's Tale is short.

 

Maybe do a quick skim preview this summer, and decide which would be the "must do" and which would be okay to skip, in case you start running short of time. :)

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What version of Canterbury Tales will you be reading from? That will make a difference; a translation closer to the original will be slower reading to be able to absorb it and look up vocabulary and read any annotations.

 

I think we spent about 3 weeks on the General Prologue, four tales (and with their prologues and epilogues), and the ending Chaucer's Retraction. The Knight's Tale is long, as I recall. The Nun's Priest's Tale is medium length, and the Pardoner's Tale is short.

 

Maybe do a quick skim preview this summer, and decide which would be the "must do" and which would be okay to skip, in case you start running short of time. :)

 

I have no idea what version.  A modern one, hopefully; maybe the No Fear version?

 

I'm going to go ahead and hit up the curriculum fair next weekend in hopes of finding the LL book.  I can read the book, but I think until I see what LL has listed specifically I can't really make a firm decision. 

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Okay, so I'm making headway in my planning. How does the timing look?

 

Lightning Lit (9 weeks total)

- Beowulf - questions + paper

- Anglo/Saxon riddles - questions

- Sir Gawain - questions

- Robin Hood - questions

- Canterbury Tales // Prologue + 5 tales + Retraction - questions + paper?

- reading all 8 literary lessons

 

Shakespeare (3 weeks)

- Hamlet - movie + discussion + activity pages (loss/grief & soliloquies)

- Much Ado About Mothing - 2-3 movies + comparison chart

- Macbeth - movie + discussion + activity pages (staging/spoken lines/communication & witches)

- Midsummer Night's Dream - live performance + discussion

 

ETA: we're not reading the full plays unless requested

 

LLATL-Gold // Can't find a schedule online so I'm guessing at time frames and don't have a clue for assignments

 

- The Time Machine (1 week) - questions?

- Frankenstein (2-3 weeks) - ideally a paper

- Tale of Two Cities (1 day) - movie + discussion

- poetry (2 weeks?)

 

Freelancing the rest

- Oliver Twist (2 weeks) - activity + movie + paper

- Paradise List (3-4 weeks?) - discussion + paper?

- Dr. Jeckyll (1 week?) discussion + paper?

 

I have 36 weeks to plan for. I don't want to overload DS on papers as we're focusing on having strong writing skills so it's quality vs quantity. I'd like to pair the papers with the best writing options.

 

I also don't want to underestimate how long it'll take to actually cover these works. That's killed us this year.

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