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Co-op HS British Lit class -- what novels do you see as must-reads?

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I'm in the initial stages of planning a British Lit class for our co-op. This year I did American Lit with an anthology and then added 8 novels and 2 plays. I'd like to do the same for the British Lit class. Any suggestions are welcome, or if you have a list you'd like to share I'd really appreciate that!

Provenance

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"British Lit" is a big topic! 

With high-school-age homeschoolers, I've had great success teaching the following works from the Middle Ages:

  • Beowulf — I used a prose translation, which I felt was more accurate than the verse of, say, Seamus Heaney;
  • selected poems of Marie de France — they're translated from her Anglo-Norman French, but they're wonderful;
  • Chaucer's "A Knight's Tale";
  • the entire Sir Gawain and the Green Knight;
  • selections from Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur.

I've had success teaching the following plays of Shakespeare:

  • Romeo & Juliet;
  • Hamlet;
  • Macbeth.

But you could also teach:

  • Twelfth Night;
  • The Comedy of Errors;
  • Henry IV Parts I & II;
  • Henry V;

—as well as a number of others. I've also had great success teaching the following British novels:

  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818)
  • Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847)
  • Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813)

With such novels, I've found that it helps to read them in a careful sequence, e.g., in order of increasing difficulty, rather than, say, in chronological order. The reason: I find that with students aged 14 - 17, their reading skills are still developing rapidly, so that by the time we reach the works with the most complex content and style, the students are ready for those works. 

Hope this is helpful.

—Roy Speed

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Agree that it is such a huge topic that it is hard to narrow down.

I don't teach a straight British lit class, but some British works that I want my kids to read that are not mentioned above (though I might add some different works from Shakespeare)

  • Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • possibly Rape of the Lock
  • at least 1 work by Dickens
  • Screwtape Letters  (We puffy heart love Lewis and this book is part of a list that all read before graduation. 🙂 )
  • maybe some Wells

Gosh, there are so many that we love but have spread over yrs vs trying to fit into 1. 

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My local co-op teaches the following novels:

-Beowulf
-Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
-selected Canterbury Tales
-The Faerie Queen
-Hamlet
-Paradise Lost
-Sense and Sensibility
-Jane Eyre
-A Tale of Two Cities
-poetry, essay, and satire unit (no idea what these are, this is what is listed on syllabus)
-20th century short stories/essays unit (same)

In addition, Honors students have to read 2-4 from this list:  A Man For All Seasons, Wuthering Heights, Orthodoxy, David Copperfield, Adam Bede, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, A Passage to India, Far From the Maddening Crowd, Perelandra, Conversion,  Frankenstein, Macbeth, Vanity Fair, Absent in the Spring

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I don't really believe in a canon per se, but if I were doing it and had to pick 8 British novels for a high school class, I'd probably do... in no particular order...

Oliver Twist 
Pride and Prejudice
Frankenstein
White Teeth
1984
Lord of the Flies
Cold Comfort Farm
and maybe a Jeeves and Wooster, because what's more British than that? Or an Evelyn Waugh, like Scoop or something.

Some of the things mentioned above, like Beowulf or Faire Queen, I'd be happier reading in excerpt. No one needs to read all of Canterbury Tales. Chaucer didn't even finish it. And these are the sorts of things that would be in a good Norton Anthology. Or in that Prentice Hall lit The British Tradition. There would be poets and short pieces I'd be sure to check off. For drama, obviously a Shakespeare and maybe Importance of Being Earnest, done as a prepared class reading?

For students who were honors, I might make it a bit harder... Tale of Two Cities or David Copperfield instead of Oliver Twist, maybe To the Lighthouse or Jane Eyre instead of Cold Comfort Farm. Maybe replace Lord of the Flies or my comic novel suggestion with something really challenging but too bulky for students who don't read quickly, like Vanity Fair. I would absolutely include at least one more modern novel.

It's not about what are the most important reads in British lit to me. It's more about what are the best books that will challenge students, resonate with students, and also expose them to a wide variety of good books.
 

Edited by Farrar
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We just finished British Literature.  Here’s what we used and why.  I’m going to tell you why because you might have weak readers in your co-op and you might need to know that some literature is very, very difficult for them and frustrating for them to read.

I am a reader.  Always have been.  Read Jane Eyre and Dickens in 8th grade for fun.  Read a bunch of Russian authors in 9th grade.  “I like to read” is a defining aspect to who I am.

My son is nothing like me.  He has ADHD and finds it very difficult to focus on reading.  He somewhat enjoys reading if it’s assigned, but never chooses to read on his own.  It’s a bit of a chore.  Maybe not the worst chore you can have, but still something you have to do and don’t really want to do, but you get through it by counting down the minutes until you’re done.  I have a very difficult time understanding how he doesn’t love reading.  I keep making the mistake of giving him books that are difficult for him to read and then he struggles.  I don’t always know they’re difficult until in the middle of them when I realize he has no clue what’s going on in the plot.

So, I chose the following British books specifically to tailor to this child’s needs so that he had a mix of “hard” and “easy” books this year.  Some were harder than I thought they’d be and were a slog for us to get through. 

1.  Beowulf.  I chose the Heaney translation as it’s written in currently spoken English and is easy to understand.  I wanted my son to understand the story, and not be bogged down with an older style of writing.  He was able to understand that version and read it easily and he very much liked the story.

2.  Pride and Prejudice.  He had a lot of trouble following along with what was going on in the story.  The book is wordy and pithy and I love it, but he just wasn’t getting it.  When I realized he was missing all the good parts because they were being bogged down in all the words, we paused in our reading and watched the movie version with Kiera Knightly (because it was only 2 hours, vs the long PBS one.). Once he saw the movie and understood the general sweep of the story, he was able to read it much easier and understand what was going on in the book.

3.  The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Chosen because it’s skinny and he needed to read something shorter after the longer P&P.  He was able to follow along with the plot on this one easily.  He totally didn’t know the twist in the book, so it was fun to let him discover the twist on his own.

4.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I chose it because I found it on lists of British books that are taught in schools, though that surprised me.  I further chose this because my husband loves to listen to the Hitchhiker’s radio shows with my son and so he’s listened to the story and also seen a tv version and a movie version.  It was time for him to read the book for himself and I knew he’d never read it if it wasn’t assigned for school.  It was a very easy read for him because he could “hear” the story in his head after listening to all the audio/movie versions.

5.  Jane Eyre.  He enjoyed the story, but had a VERY difficult time reading this book.  I ended up reading it out loud to him.  I could have gotten the audio version, but I wanted to be able to pause every now and then and talk about the book.  The sentences in this book are SOOOO LONG.  Don’t forget: I love to read and I read this book in 8th grade and then again in my 20s.  But reading it out loud really drove home to me how long and convoluted the sentences are.  It’s easy to lose track of what the beginning of the sentence was about by the time you get to the end.  He did enjoy the story, but it was almost impossible for him to understand it on his own mostly because of the loooong sentences.  I’m good at reading out loud, so I could clearly emphasize the sentences the right way to carry forward the idea at the beginning of the sentence to the end.

6.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, because I’m the teacher so I get to pick the books and I love Du Maurier! And she’s a well-regarded British novelist.  This book is weird and moody.  It’s marked as a love story on the cover, but if it hadn’t have said that on the cover, we wouldn’t have thought it was a love story. When I read articles about it, Du Maurier never meant for it to be a love story.  It’s a story about the obsession Mrs. deWinter has for Rebecca.  My son liked the story and was able to read it on his own without trouble.

7. An Agatha Christie novel.  I found an article of the “top 10 best Agatha Christie books” and let him choose one.  He chose The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  I had him watch the newest version of Murder on the Orient Express and then later we went to a live play of Three Blind Mice, so our Agatha Christie education was robust this year.  🙂.  He was able to read the book just fine.  It starts out a bit slow with all the introductions of each character, but soon some action kicks in and he liked it.  He actually guessed that the ending to Roger would be how the ending is to Orient Express. I said “Who do you think did it?” And he said, “....(spoiler)...” and that’s actually who did it in Orient Express.  So, it was fun to watch Orient Express with him, and when it got to the part of who did it, he realized, “Hey!  That’s what I thought happened in Roger!”  

8.  The Screwtape Letters.  This one just about drove me nuts.  I haaated this book by the end of our reading of it.  I had read this book in high school on my own for fun.  It was very difficult for my son to read.  And I found that it was very difficult to explain to him what Lewis was saying.  It was hard to put in words the concepts that Lewis was alluding to.  It was also too wordy.  I found myself almost hating Lewis by the time it was done and thinking, “For goodness sakes man!  Just make your point in clear language!”  I ended up having to read it out loud to my son and explain what was going on every couple of pages.  I was super disappointed in how grueling this book was for us.

9.  Jeeves and the Ties that Bind.  Because Wodehouse.  Gottta end with some British humor.  I read this one out loud to my oldest and also to my youngest just for fun so we could enjoy it together.  

 

P.S.  I was going to read a Dicken’s novel, but replaced it with Hitchhikers.  For this particular kid, it was a good decision, but I do wish he’d read some Dickens.  

P.P.S. I didn’t do any Shakespeare because the plan was to focus on many works of Shakespeare next year.  

Edited by Garga
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I like Garga's list too! I think it really is the case that you have to choose based on the group. If I had a group of weaker readers, I'd never do Hamlet. We'd do Tempest or Macbeth. I'd focus on doing things that are more accessible and shorter.

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6 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Agree that it is such a huge topic that it is hard to narrow down.

I don't teach a straight British lit class, but some British works that I want my kids to read that are not mentioned above (though I might add some different works from Shakespeare)

  • Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • possibly Rape of the Lock
  • at least 1 work by Dickens
  • Screwtape Letters  (We puffy heart love Lewis and this book is part of a list that all read before graduation. 🙂 )
  • maybe some Wells

Gosh, there are so many that we love but have spread over yrs vs trying to fit into 1. 

I may be the only non-Christian in the world that also assigns The Screwtape letters. ETA that I’ve seen Never Let me Go taught in British Lit, I guess for modern? That’s an easy one(to read. Not the subject matter). 

Edited by madteaparty
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1 hour ago, madteaparty said:

I may be the only non-Christian in the world that also assigns The Screwtape letters. ETA that I’ve seen Never Let me Go taught in British Lit, I guess for modern? That’s an easy one(to read. Not the subject matter). 

I almost put Never Let Me Go on my list but I went with the very different White Teeth instead as a modern novel. But I think it's good to do a modern novel.

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There are very few novels that I would consider "must read".  I do, however, require certain authors.

Shakespeare

Dickens

a Bronte (Jane or Charlotte)

Also highly recommended:

Jane Austen

Robert Louis Stevenson

George Orwell

C.S. Lewis

J.R.R. Tolkien (if not read previously)

Arthur Conan Doyle (if not read previously)

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Oo! Oo! I'll play! Agreeing with previous posters -- not a specific set of works/authors that you need to cover, and also, there are SO many authors/works to choose from, that perhaps a "theme" would help you narrow it down:

- British Christian authors (George MacDonald; GK Chesteron; CS Lewis; JRR Tolkien; Charles Williams; Dorothy Sayers)
- 19th century British classics
- female British authors
- classic highlights through history of British Lit.
(pick a novel or play, a short story, and a poet for each of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and fill in with a few choices from the 21st century, and pre-17th century early centuries)
- British Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction
("The Golden Key" (George MacDonald); Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll); Peter Pan (JM Barrie); The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien); Watership Down (Richard Adams); something by HG Wells; Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde); Nineteen-Eighty-Four (George Orwell); Brave New World (Aldus Huxley); Out of the Silent Planet (CS Lewis); Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams; The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman))

British works/authors I've done in various homeschool co-op classes that went over well:
- Beowulf
- Macbeth (Shakespeare)
- The Invisible Man (HG Wells) -- and to a lesser degree, The Time Machine
- Animal Farm (Orwell)
- The Hobbit (Tolkien) -- also his longish short story "Farmer Giles of Ham" (humorous; mock epic); and to a lesser degree, his short story "Smith of Wooten Major
- "The Monkey's Paw" (Jacobs) -- short story

British Lit. done at home over the years that my own DSs enjoyed:
- "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (Coleridge) -- poem
- everything by JRR Tolkien -- The Hobbit; Lord of the Rings trilogy; and his 3 short stories
- Watership Down (Richard Adams)
- Wooster and Jeeves short stories by P.G. Wodehouse -- but also other short story collections by Wodehouse
- Sherlock Holmes short mysteries (Doyle)
- And Then There Were None; Murder on the Orient Express; Hercule Poirot short mysteries (Christie)
- Father Brown short mysteries (Chesterton)
- The Man Who Was Thursday (Chesterton)
- Till We Have Faces; Screwtape Letters (Lewis)
- Lord of the Flies (Golding)
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Adams)
- A Christmas Carol (Dickens) -- they also enjoyed Tale of Two Cities, but were really lost until they got over the hump of the first 10 chapters
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- Tolkien translation
- All Creatures Great and Small (Herriot)
- My Family and Other Animals (Durrell)
- The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson)
- Macbeth; Hamlet (Shakespeare)
- Brave New World (Huxley)
- Animal Farm; Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell)

British Lit. DSs did NOT like:
- Wuthering Heights (Bronte) -- although, I *really* got into it (lol)

British Lit that DSs were so-so about:
- Canterbury Tales (Chaucer)
- Ivanhoe (Scott)
- Peter Pan (Barrie)
- Frankenstein (Shelley) -- they got bogged down with the verrrryyyyy lennngggthyyy character monologues, and travelogue descriptions

Other thoughts...

If you do something by Charles Dickens, here are my suggestions, from shortest to longest:
- A Christmas Carol (28,912 words)
- Tale of Two Cities (137,000 words)
- Oliver Twist  (158,631 words)
- Great Expectations (186,339 words)
- David Copperfield (357,489 words)

Some short stories could be nice:
- The Monkey's Paw (Jacobs)
- The Open Window (Saki)
- A Scandal in Bohemia - Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
- Lamb to Slaughter (Dahl)
- The Golden Key (MacDonald)
- Farmer Giles of Ham (Tolkien)
- The Rocket  -- or other short story (Wilde)

You might also consider including a few short units on UK poetry/poets (these ideas are all pre-20th century):
Shakespeare's sonnets
John Donne
William Blake
William Wordsworth
"Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Coleridge...
Lord Byron
Percy Bysshe Shelley
John Keats
Lord Alfred Tennyson
Christina Rossetti
Elizabeth Barret Browning


While I personally *really* enjoyed Never Let Me Go, I have a hard time picturing most teens getting into this slow moving / not much happens novel (until you figure out the "twist" -- which I don't want to spoil -- but even after that it is still slow and sad because you realize there is no hope of change or a future for the main character and her former classmates). It's a dystopia -- but written like a slow-moving relationship novel, lol.

Also, I think the following authors would be a bit of a slog or lower on the interest level for a majority of teens: Daniel Dafoe; Thomas Hardy; William Makepeace Thackery; Henry James; E.M. Forster; Virginia Woolf; Evelyn Waugh; DH Lawrence...
 

Edited by Lori D.
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I like your breakdown list @Lori D. MacDonald, Chesterton, Tolkien are all regular authors we read in our home.  Expanding to Scottish and Irish authors, my dd loved Marmion, and we have all thoroughly enjoyed Dracula.

What I love about having kids well-read in foundational works is watching the connections my kids make. For example, my 11th grader and I just finished Dracula.  Both Rime of the Ancient Mariner ("like a painted ship upon a painted ocean") and Marmion (the entire Whitby scenario ties into Marmion) are alluded to in Dracula. When they recognize these allusions, it is exciting for them to make the connections to the author's deeper storyline (and in Dracula's case, the eeriness intensifies 😉 ).  Those conversations are the ones that make me love homeschooling. 

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Thank you all! We're using a good anthology with a lot of poetry, essays, and short stories to draw from. I'll make sure to add a few shorter works that aren't included -- A Modest Proposal, for instance, as well as some G.K. Chesterton and P.G. Wodehouse.  🙂

What I've been struggling with is the list of longer works (sustained reading) for the class. It was SO hard to pare down the reading list from everything I wanted to include. After much thought this is my working list:

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Utopia, by Thomas More
  • Macbeth, by William Shakespeare (included in textbook)
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre, by Emily Bronte
  • Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
  • Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad or Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Wolf

Quick questions:

1. Do you think our co-op class (not honors) would be able to handle Heart of Darkness, or would Lord of the Flies be more accessible for them?

2. I'm still struggling over including a more modern novel at the end of the course. Any other suggestions? Or should I leave for next year, when I'm planning to do a World Literature class?

3. I'm also very aware that this is missing diversity. I'll need to seek these out in the shorter works. But any novels from British authors of color that I could add to this list? 

 

 

Edited by provenance61
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3 hours ago, provenance61 said:

... I'll make sure to add a few shorter works that aren't included -- A Modest Proposal, for instance, as well as some G.K. Chesterton and P.G. Wodehouse.  🙂


Wodehouse for sure! (:D And here are a few short story ideas by British authors:

- The Monkey's Paw (Jacobs)
- The Open Window (Saki)
- a Sherlock Holmes mystery (Doyle)
- The Golden Key (MacDonald)
 

 

  • Sir Gawain
  • Utopia, by Thomas More
  • Macbeth, by William Shakespeare (included in textbook)
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre, by Emily Bronte
  • Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
  • Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad or Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Wolf


First -- that's a LOT of works to cover in a co-op class, esp. if also planning on doing some short stories and poetry. I find that we can only manage to cover a total of 9-10 novels in a 30-32 week co-op class, OR, more like 8 novels + several short stories + poetry. also, works in translation (Beowulf, Sir Gawain), or with heavy Victorian vocabulary/sentence structure (Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Wilde) require a bit more time, as students seem to need shorter "chapter chunks" to handle the harder reading level -- which also tends to mean fewer books due to a slower pace. Just my experience.

Not that you asked, LOL, but I'll volunteer some options on some of those works. Just my unsolicited thoughts, FWIW:

Sir Gawain
I've done both Sir Gawain (Tolkien translation) and Beowulf (Heany translation) with my co-op classes; don't know why, but Beowulf was much more accessible to the students. I had to give them a short 1-2 sentence summary of EACH of the 100 or so stanzas just to figure out what actually was happening in Sir Gawain. (We did have some good discussion on both, but there was a much steeper hill to climb for Sir Gawain to get to that discussion.)

Utopia
NO! At most, only a SHORT excerpt if wanting to give background/contrast to discussing a dystopian work. Also, overall, that looks like a LOT of reading - 11 longer works, short stories, and poetry. I'd say drop this entirely and give yourself breathing room.

Macbeth
A great play, but you have so many dark/heavy/violent works in your list, I'd say lighten up a little by doing a Shakespeare comedy rather than a tragedy. Or, do Macbeth, but lighten up some of the other choices. Just a thought.

Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre
Solid choices.

Great Expectations
Not my personal favorite, but everyone else seems to like this one for high school. And it is definitely one of his shorter novels. If needing to go even shorter, there is always A Christmas Carol -- familiarity with the story can help weaker readers get over the hurdle of the Victorian vocabulary and sentence structure.

Heart of Darkness -- or --Lord of the Flies
JMO, but I think Lord of the Flie (1954) s is going to have more relevant themes to teens than Heart of Darkness (1899). Lord of the Flies is also more modern -- mid-20th century.

Picture of Dorian Gray
Some great themes and images; also it is a "shorter" novel. May be more difficult for weaker readers with Victorian vocabulary and sentence structure. If you have the time, there's a great black & white film version of this novel from the 1940s that's worth doing along with the book for a comparison paper.

Screwtape Letters
Lots of interesting theology in this one, but I think this would be a very hard one to do with class discussion. Up-thread, Garga mentions how hard it was to do this one with her DS, because there is a LOT of having to stop and explain things and give context.  Perhaps substitute Chesteron's The Man Who Was Thursday -- it is more story-like than Screwtape Letters, it does not need nearly the amount of explanation that Screwtape Letters needs, and it is shorter. And you will definitely be able to have some Christian theme discussions.

1984
A rather intense, brutal dystopian work -- how young/old are your students, and how sensitive/not sensitive? For full impact/benefit, this is one I tend to recommend for 11th/12th graders who have previously covered modern history and have a deeper understanding of totalitarian states. Also, since you have a LOT of works you're trying to get through, perhaps consider switching for Animal Farm, also by Orwell. Lots of "meat" for discussion, easy to read and short to read.

A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf is great, but I think her works are subtle and sophisticated, and not as likely to connect with the average student. Because you're trying to cover a lot of works (novels, short stories, poetry), I'd suggest shelving this one -- JMO. Or perhaps substitute Cold Comfort Farm (1932) by Stella Gibbons -- a light/humorous work by a female author that follows a female protagonist.
 

1. Do you think our co-op class (not honors) would be able to handle Heart of Darkness, or would Lord of the Flies be more accessible for them?

2. I'm still struggling over including a more modern novel at the end of the course. Any other suggestions? Or should I leave for next year, when I'm planning to do a World Literature class?


1. See above. But if doing Great Expectations (a downer) AND Macbeth (dark/violent) AND 1984 (brutal despairing dystopia) AND Dorian Gray (dissipated evil) -- AND wanting to add another heavy dark work of either Heart of Darkness or Lord of the Flies, well, that's going to be a long, dark, downer load of lit., LOL!

2. What about a fantasy -- The Crown of Dalemark (1993) is by British female author Diana Wynne Jones. Well-written, it is the first of what eventually became a quartet, but it is easily a stand-alone work. Or possibly The Dark is Rising (Cooper), 1965 YA novel -- female author, male protagonist -- 1st in a series, but works fine as a stand-alone.

Or if wanting something in the mystery genre -- the 2003 YA novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon -- only adequately written, but set in contemporary times with the diversity of an autistic teen boy protagonist. NOTE: quite a bit of 4-letter words, and a dog is killed. But there is a positive ending. Not as recent as that, but perhaps an Agatha Christie mystery? And Then There Were None (1939), or Murder on the Orient Express (1934).

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Dickens is my favorite author, and I've read most of his books.  I'd definitely read one of his.  My favorites for HS are David Copperfield and Tale of Two Cities.

I personally do not like Great Expectations for HS.  It's actually my least favorite book of his, and I've never understood why it's often the one recommended for high school.

I also like the idea of reading Frankenstein -- read it in October, of course.  🙂 

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2 hours ago, J-rap said:

Dickens is my favorite author, and I've read most of his books.  I'd definitely read one of his.  My favorites for HS are David Copperfield and Tale of Two Cities.

I personally do not like Great Expectations for HS.  It's actually my least favorite book of his, and I've never understood why it's often the one recommended for high school.

I also like the idea of reading Frankenstein -- read it in October, of course.  🙂 

J-Rap,

I also enjoyed Tale of Two Cities and struggle a bit between doing this or Great Expectations. Would welcome others' opinions on this.

Frankenstein would be great, I just cut it from the list due to having so many books already. If you were to include it, what would you recommend? I also think Lori D. made some great points about my dark, heavy list. Didn't intend it that way but there are so many deep themes to explore.

 

 

 

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Lori D.--

Thank you for the short story recommendations! I think you're right about my list being a bit heavy and dark, and perhaps too many longer works for a co-op class. We'll have about 5-6 students. I'm gearing it to 11th grade level but we do have a couple of younger high school students in there as well. Good students but I think some may struggle with the language of older works. I do want to cover the most important works.

 If you're willing to give more input:

Sir Gawain -- We are going to be doing Beowulf (in our anthology). My intent was to include some Arthurian legends in the class. If I cut this one, would you have a substitution?

Utopia -- Good point.

MacBeth -- I'm determined on this one. Plus, our theater group consistently puts on Shakespeare comedies and I want them to have more experience with a more serious work. I may coast through a comedy as well in class just before MacBeth to introduce them to Shakespeare, and act out portions of the comedy for fun. With a short time on how to trade Shakespearean insults. Probably either Tempest or Midsummer Night's Dream. But I want to keep MacBeth as an in-depth discussion.

Jane Eyre -- A personal favorite, but some wobbling about whether I should instead do Wuthering Heights.

Frankenstein -- Suggested by J-Rap and others. I would have liked to include it but realize I have to cut somewhere.

Great Expectations -- Any thoughts on whether Tale of Two Cities might be a better Dickens work for the class? My favorite, and we have a knitter.  :)

Lord of the Flies -- Good point. May choose this one for being more modern and accessible.

Picture of Dorian Gray -- This one stuck with me all 40 years since high school. I like the idea of the 40's film as a counterpart.

Screwtape Letters -- I had been looking at Man Who Was Thursday already, good suggestion to change this one. 

1984 -- Another one I'm committed to keeping. My choice from the dystopian works because of its parallels to today. We did have some good discussions re: dystopian works in American Lit last year.

Wolf -- Will give this one more consideration. I looked at your suggestion of Cold Comfort Farm, and like the idea of lightening up the list a little. 

Fantasy/Mystery -- Will look at your suggestions in these areas. I think it would round out the list a little. And perhaps make it less dark?

Thank you again for the many suggestions. I really appreciate your input and that of everyone who has commented on my list.

 

 

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Lori D.,

It looks like Crown of Dalemark is actually the 4th in the series.

Like the idea of an Agatha Christie.

Another suggestion I hadn't floated would be Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I've seen it on reading lists, but left it off because I've never really been able to get into it. Thoughts?

 

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Seconding Lori's words. My eyebrows especially shot up that you were expecting them to read Utopia in full - in a non-honors class. In general, you said this was not an honors class, but the list looks like an honors list.

I don't think Heart of Darkness is that hard a read and it's short, but it's yet another downer of a book. Plus, I agree with Lori that the themes in Lord of the Flies will resonate more. In general, you need more fun and light things on this list. It should be a mix. I especially like Lori's idea of swapping Woolf for Cold Comfort Farm (that was on my rec's). I think Woolf is much more dense and harder to read. As for your Dickens picks - Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations are two of the more difficult. Oliver Twist is certainly a bit lighter or even Christmas Carol - I mean, you keep saying this is not an honors class. That's the not an honors class Dickens. I'd also keep 1984... I think it'll probably resonate. But all the more reason to break up some of the other tough, dark reads.

There's zero way that I'd swap Jane for Wuthering Heights. It's nowhere near as good a book (though as a Jane Eyre obsessive, I'm obviously biased). Still, why Jane and not an Austen? Did I miss that? I think to be "well read" these days, more people want to read an Austen novel and more students will enjoy it... plus, lighter.

Hitchhiker's is a great, fun read... but it's also a divisive book. You love it or hate it. It's the sort of thing that I'm not sure I'd want to drag an unwilling audience through, that's for sure.

Edited by Farrar
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1 hour ago, provenance61 said:

Great Expectations -- Any thoughts on whether Tale of Two Cities might be a better Dickens work for the class? My favorite, and we have a knitter.  🙂

Lord of the Flies -- Good point. May choose this one for being more modern and accessible.

I assign both Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities in my Lit classes, so clearly I like them both. 😉 They are VERY different examples of Charles Dickens' writing. Great Expectations is immediately accessible to students, while A Tale of Two Cities begins in a very challenging and cryptic fashion for contemporary readers--most of whom will not be familiar with the historical context and all the allusions without help. A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite novels of all time. I highly recommend it--but it will need a lot more teacher guidance for students to understand and appreciate it. I give students background and encourage them to power through the first chapter--assuring them that the novel will be easier to understand on their own after that. Even though A Tale of Two Cities takes much more teacher-prep, it is well worth the effort. In both novels, the serial aspect of the chapters is evident and the "bread crumbs along the way" aspect that is so typical of Dickens are a lot of fun as the mysteries unfold. I don't think you can go wrong with either novel. Great Expectations will be more accessible to younger high schoolers. But A Tale of Two Cities is an amazingly rich novel--and students that make an effort will find themselves rewarded.

I teach Heart of Darkness also, which you said you were considering along with Lord of the Flies  Lord of the Flies will be much more accessible for students. Both novellas are relatively short--which is truly helpful when the year is filled with long tomes. I find that students struggle to understand HOD. That's not a bad thing, but I've learned that they need quite a bit of help to truly understand and appreciate the novella. Many students misunderstand Conrad's objectives and mischaracterize Marlow as racist. They have difficulty reading between the lines to see what Conrad is trying to reveal through Marlow about Colonialism and Imperialism. This is NEVER EVER a favorite book of students, but if they are offered historical background about the "Scramble for Africa" and are given help with the relevance of the historical allusions early in the work, I think you will find it a rich work for discussion. Both HOD and Lord of the Flies would be excellent choices. You can't go wrong with either.

You've got a great list of books. You and your students are going to have a wonderful year!

Edited by Brigid in NC
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On 5/13/2019 at 5:05 PM, provenance61 said:

I'm in the initial stages of planning a British Lit class for our co-op. This year I did American Lit with an anthology and then added 8 novels and 2 plays. I'd like to do the same for the British Lit class. Any suggestions are welcome, or if you have a list you'd like to share I'd really appreciate that!

Provenance

Off the top of my head I  would pick something representative from the following authors.

Shakespeare pick your favorite or one you think they'd enjoy reading aloud. Our family started with Much Ado.

Jane Austen - Probably Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice 

Mary Shelley Frankenstein

Dickens - A Christmas Carol (I like the idea of Dickens better than actually reading Dickens. This is short, give insight to his time and language and has lots of cultural references. )

Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers - Hits the interwar mystery genre. 

Something from an English writing author from a commonwealth country.  I'd probably look at Indian or Nigerian authors first, because there are many good options. Exact choice would depend on how sensitive the coop families are to readings with violence and/or sex.

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Sebastian, would love to include an Indian or Nigerian author -- do you have any suggestions? This is for a Christian co-op and yes, I think the families would be quite sensitive to violence or sex in the works. I'm running into this issue when I've looked into quite a few modern authors. 

 

 

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So it looks like you're planning on these titles for sure:

- anthology -- several weeks (?) worth of  poetry, essays, short stories
- Beowulf (from the anthology)
- Macbeth -- which, BTW I LOVE and love doing in my co-op classes, so if you lighten up elsewhere, this will be great
- Jane Eyre -- I personally really love Wuthering Heights, but I think Jane Eyre is much more class-friendly and connects better with most students
- Frankenstein -- good choice
- Great Expectations
- Lord of the Flies
- Picture of Dorian Gray
- 1984

That's 8 works right there, which averages out to 4 weeks per work if you have a 32-week co-op. Plus several short stories (I can only manage to cover 1 short story per week with my co-op classes) -- that reduces your time for the longer works by 2-3 weeks. And if planning on also spending 1-2 weeks on poetry/essays, that overall reduces your time for longer works to about 26-28 weeks (of a 30-32-week year), which is about 3 - 3.5 weeks for each of your longer works.

Just to give you a sense of what worked for my co-op class (YMMV and yours may be faster), I scheduled 2 weeks for Beowulf, and it was just do-able --I would have loved to spend another week on it, and I certainly could not have jammed it into just 1 week. We spent 2 weeks on Macbeth, and I wish we could have spent 4 weeks on it. Dorian Gray took 2 weeks, as the vocabulary/sentence structure really bogged down some students. Frankenstein is not long, but it is similar with stout language to get through (and oh.my.goodness, the lengthy monologues and travelogue descriptions of the landscape! (:0 ), so you might consider at least 3 weeks for that one if you have weak readers and want to have time to mine the depths of the rich discussion that is possible with that one.

I have not done Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, or Lord of the Flies with a co-op class, but at a quick guess, I would probably want to plan 4 weeks for each of those, in order to have time to talk about some of the great literature topics, themes, and literary elements in each of those.

Your list still looks darker, BUT... I see a common gothic/moral darkness theme  running through most of your works, which might not be a bad thing, as you can explore the variations on those themes and ideas from work to work.

However, if wanting a traditional British Lit. class, that list does leave out some of the "traditional" classic British authors most frequently done in high school (such as Jane Austen, Robert Lewis Stevenson (Treasure Island or Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde), Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), JRR Tolkien (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings). Other classic authors such as Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Evelyn Waugh, etc. are done less frequently in high school. If really wanting a more "traditional authors" for your British Lit., you might try squeezing in some authors through short stories: Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot short mystery), GK Chesterton (short mystery)... etc.

Not trying to make it harder on you to narrow your selections, LOL! I do totally feel your pain, as it took me 2 months to agonizingly narrow down my lit. list for this year's co-op class. Finally, some of my choices were influenced by knowing I was going to have a LOT of young 9th graders, some below-grade level readers, and many students new to literary analysis -- so I went with some of the lighter works rather than more of the older classics with the vocabulary/complex sentence structures, even though I was hoping originally to go with some more traditional "classic works of fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction" (which is what this class will focus on). Plus I was hoping to be able to branch out this year into a bit more diversity and contemporary works, but due to life circumstances, I don't have the time to deep-read and create the lessons for all-new books this year, so I'm having to go with quite a few books that we did the last time I ran this class.
 

On 7/21/2019 at 6:54 AM, provenance61 said:

... Sir Gawain -- We are going to be doing Beowulf (in our anthology). My intent was to include some Arthurian legends in the class. If I cut this one, would you have a substitution?


Sir Gawain took us 2 weeks, and after I gave the students the stanza summaries they fared a bit better, and we did have some discussion, esp. in week 2. Sir Gawain is largely about Sir Gawain, and does include aspects of chivalry that were part of King Arthur's vision for Camelot -- but there is very little about Arthur, or any of the events or elements that we traditionally think of as making up the body of the mythology around Arthur & Camelot. 

Ideas for alternatives:
- Possibly a more accessible/modern language verse translation of Sir Gawain? (possibly the Burton Raffel or Brian Stone version?)
- Or a prose version of Sir Gawain? (possibly Gerald Morris' The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady?)
- Howard Pyle's King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, or Roger Lancelyn Green's King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (+ study guide) -- for familiarity with the most widely-known aspects of the mythology, not so much for literary analysis
- The Sword in the Stone (White) -- the first of his 4 books that are combined to make up The Once and Future King, so just about the boy Arthur up through becoming king
- The Dark is Rising (Cooper) -- first in a YA series, can stand-alone, references Arthurian myth, BUT is about the 1960s setting/modern characters

Alfred Tennyson's poem, Idylls of the King, and Tolkien's unfinished Fall of Arthur, are long poems with steep vocabulary/poetic structure to get through for those unused to reading poetry. Perhaps a few short excerpts of Tennyson's poem when you do poetry???
 

On 7/21/2019 at 7:02 AM, provenance61 said:

...It looks like Crown of Dalemark is actually the 4th in the series.
Like the idea of an Agatha Christie.
Another suggestion I hadn't floated would be Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I've seen it on reading lists, but left it off because I've never really been able to get into it. Thoughts?


sigh. SO sorry. I MEANT to put down book 1: Cart and Cwidder. The whole quartet is quite well-written; it's just that book 1 is heavily male protagonist focused, while book 4 has a female protagonist. Other classic British fantasy works/authors you might consider:

1860s = George MacDonald -- short stories: The Light Princess; The Wise Woman; The Golden Key
1930s = JRR Tolkien -- The Hobbit (novel); Farmer Giles of Ham (humorous mock epic, longish-story story); or a short story: Smith of Wootton Major or Leaf By Niggle
1940s-1950s = CS Lewis -- Till We Have Faces (retelling of Cupid & Psyche myth), or, Out of the Silent Planet -- book 1 of his space trilogy (works as a stand-alone)
1970s = Richard Adam's Watership Down** (long novel, but easy read) -- rabbits are the main characters in a realistic epic/quest adventure

** = Some people dislike Watership Down because all of the main characters are male, and the only females are in essence "chattel" needed for creating new generations to keep the rabbit warren going ... BUT, I would argue that while that is true (no female main characters), the main characters are *rabbits*, not humans, so that it reflects *rabbit* society/hierarchy and is not intended to be a direct parallel to *human* society. Also, the rabbits have a wide variation in character traits -- some with more traditionally masculine qualities, and some with more traditionally feminine traits, so in that way both men and women are "represented" in the story. Several of the main characters have traits that are equally traditionally "male" or "female" -- and  in fact, the 2 major protagonists -- the leader rabbit and his intuitive brother -- are much more gentle, nurturing of relationships, and see "outside the box" solutions (traditionally feminine traits) rather than go for the straight fighting/aggressive solution (traditionally masculine traits). And finally, a classic IS a classic because *everyone* can identify with the epic hero/ine protagonist, whatever the sex. (:D

I personally find Watership Down to be a worthwhile read, as it is well-written, and it alludes to a number of classic epics and types of government (so it makes a good 20th century read), and each chapter opens with an epigram quotation, which makes for great discussion starters.  And... perhaps I'm just arguing in advance some of the points I plan to bring up with my co-op class, as we will be doing this book this year in my classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy Lit. & Comp. class. 😉
 

On 7/21/2019 at 7:02 AM, provenance61 said:

..Like the idea of an Agatha Christie...


We enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express, as well as And Then There Were None (short).

Perhaps pair 2 or 3 British short story mystery authors and compare/contrast in class?
- a Sherlock Holmes mystery (Doyle)
- a Father Brown mystery (Chesterton)
- OR, the first story out of The Club of Queer Trades (Chesterton) -- in which he pokes gentle fun at Sherlock Holmes
- a Hercule Poirot mystery (Christie) -- where he mentions the working of "the little grey cells" (his brain power in observing and deducing -- and compare to Sherlock Holmes' methods
 

On 7/21/2019 at 7:02 AM, provenance61 said:

Another suggestion I hadn't floated would be Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I've seen it on reading lists, but left it off because I've never really been able to get into it. Thoughts?


Hitchhiker's Guide is very fun, light, and fast-reading. One thought is to just spend the last week of class on it as a fun finale, as there is not tons to analyze in it, and it would be a light and humorous way to end the year. Note: there are several very brief crudities and s*xual references ("Erotica Gallumbits, the triple bre*sted wh*re"), in case you are working with very conservative families, but those are the rare exceptions in the book's tone and focus. When I did this one with my DSs, we discussed Absurdism, secular science and secular views of God, and what elements in the writing make for humor. 


I know, I just gave you a ton more to think about, LOL!

One last thing to take into consideration -- how long does each class run, AND, do you also have to teach Writing during the class time? I find I need 50-60 minutes for the Lit. portion -- about 10-15 min. to provide some background and explain a literary element or a literature topic, another 5-10 minutes for a class activity to put that into practice, and then 30-40 minutes for class discussion about the chapters read. And then I need an additional 20-30 minutes to teach an aspect of Writing, and explain the week's writing assignment which links up with the Lit. being read. Just throwing that out there in case it is of any help for you as you plan for each class. 😉

BEST of luck in coming up with the book list that best fits your students, as well as YOUR goals for this class! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.

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2 hours ago, provenance61 said:

Sebastian, would love to include an Indian or Nigerian author -- do you have any suggestions? This is for a Christian co-op and yes, I think the families would be quite sensitive to violence or sex in the works. I'm running into this issue when I've looked into quite a few modern authors. 

 

 

I personally do not think that I'd try to tackle Nigerian or Indian or Canadian or whatever literature in a Brit lit class personally. It's its own thing. That said, there are plenty of options. The most obvious would be Things Fall Apart, which is Nigerian. But there are other Nigerian options. You could read Death and the King's Horsemen by Soyinka, which is another classic - a play. From India... I mean, if you're trying to read an Anglo-Indian novelist... Rushdie is the obvious choice. And Haroun and the Sea of Stories is his most accessible. Part children's book, part exploration of the nature of stories and storytellers. Though, obviously, Midnight's Children is his greatest work. But there are, again, tons of other options.

But I'd instead go back to my suggestion to do White Teeth, which is an amazingly good book. Excellent. Often considered one of the best - if not the best - British novel of the last 20 years.

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I feel like pointing out that non-Christians only vaguely know and read Chesterton these days. This is for a Christian co-op so maybe that doesn't matter. But I don't think he's much read in UK anymore either.

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2 hours ago, Farrar said:

I feel like pointing out that non-Christians only vaguely know and read Chesterton these days. This is for a Christian co-op so maybe that doesn't matter. But I don't think he's much read in UK anymore either.


huh... Even his Father Brown mysteries?? Esp. with the recent British TV series of those stories, I would find it surprising that Chesterton is no longer known outside of Christian circles... 😉

Edited by Lori D.

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1 hour ago, Lori D. said:


huh... Even his Father Brown mysteries?? Esp. with the recent British TV series of those stories, I would find it surprising that Chesterton is no longer known outside of Christian circles... 😉

I think Father Brown is read for pleasure in the U.K. both by tweens and adults.  Not sure if it’s seen much differently by teens than the Sidney Chambers books as both are popular tv series.......I have noticed both being read by the YA audience in general when I worked at the library.

That said here is a link to the gcse exam board curriculumhttps://www.educationumbrella.com/curriculum-vital/gcse-english-literature-set-texts-for-teaching-from-2015#AQA.  A school only tests one maybe two boards normally....one of these is probably scaled to be easier but I no longer know which. 

Quick thought on Hitchiker’s,  for my Ds it was honestly the only book being talked about that he LOVED.  The inappropriate comments are few and unless really conservative.........Dr. Who seems so universally super popular these days and Adams wrote for that show.  I would be tempted to include it just to reach that one kid like mine......

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Having taught British Lit surveys at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, I can't help but think that most of these lists are WAY too long. If you just want students to gain a passing familiarity with works, it will be fine. However, If you want them to see the humor in Beowulf, to marvel at the extensive discussions of embroidery in Sir Gawain, or to understand how each one reflects its historical context and fits into the larger landscape of British literature, you will need more time to discuss these things. My own bias is for depth over breadth and to be very judicious in the works I select. There are many different ways you can do it, but I would focus on poetry, prose, short stories and a very small number of longer works (at most 2-3 per semester). Shorter texts are easier to cover in their entirety and with some depth.

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I like the idea of a mystery too, and I'd probably choose Agatha Christie over Doyle for your class.  But if you'd like to experience some Doyle, you could read a less-known book (in America, anyway) called The White Company (not a mystery!).   My kids enjoyed it even more than the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and you'd already have Agatha Christie for a mystery anyway.  I've read that The White Company was more popular than the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in England, back in the day.

(I'm a Christian who'd never heard of the Father Brown mysteries before homeschooling...   I like the TV series!  :)) 

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On 7/22/2019 at 7:14 AM, Florimell said:

My own bias is for depth over breadth and to be very judicious in the works I select.

Exactly. 

This is why I teach close reading. I think students acquire important skills from reading closely that they never acquire in the survey approach — i.e., reading that's a mile wide and an inch deep. 

It's also why I teach Shakespeare — he's the greatest writer in English, and in that contest, second place is not even close. By reading Shakespeare closely, students wrestle with human psychology, ethics, relationships, and the human condition. They learn about language, poetry, imagery, rhetoric. 

Reading Shakespeare, it's easy for students to see why we must all study great literature. 

—Roy Speed

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On ‎7‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 6:14 AM, Florimell said:

Having taught British Lit surveys at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, I can't help but think that most of these lists are WAY too long. If you just want students to gain a passing familiarity with works, it will be fine. However, If you want them to see the humor in Beowulf, to marvel at the extensive discussions of embroidery in Sir Gawain, or to understand how each one reflects its historical context and fits into the larger landscape of British literature, you will need more time to discuss these things. My own bias is for depth over breadth and to be very judicious in the works I select. There are many different ways you can do it, but I would focus on poetry, prose, short stories and a very small number of longer works (at most 2-3 per semester). Shorter texts are easier to cover in their entirety and with some depth.

Oh thank you. I am happy to see someone say this. I was starting to feel really inferior looking at the number of novels/plays we are covering in a year over here as I am working on our end of year lists for my kids and getting ready for next year compared to the above lists. I have never been able to keep up with the WTM's suggested 8-12 a year in our homeschool. I think we just must spend way more time on them than others. 

Edited by 2_girls_mommy
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42 minutes ago, 2_girls_mommy said:

Oh thank you. I am happy to see someone say this. I was starting to feel really inferior looking at the number of novels/plays we are covering in a year over here as I am working on our end of year lists for my kids and getting ready for next year compared to the above lists. I have never been able to keep up with the WTM's suggested 8-12 a year in our homeschool. I think we just must spend way more time on them than others. 


When I mentioned up-thread that I do 8-9 books with my co-op class, that's because 3-4 of the books are either shorter/faster reading high-discussion YA books, or are short novellas (example: we'll be doing Animal Farm this year -- 50 pages long, and scheduling 2 weeks for it to be able to really dig into it). And we do not have time for a poetry unit or more than maybe 1-2 short stories. Yes, absolutely nothing wrong with going deep with  5-6 strong classics, which also gives you time to go into poetry and short stories. (:D

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Here is the list of what my kids used for Brit Lit (there was also poetry mixed in but we pieced that together rather than using a set anthology). I should also add that this is for two kids, there was some overlap between them but also adjustments based on what they had each previously read. I'm not suggesting that reading the entire list is appropriate for every student. FWIW-they both enjoy Shakespeare, my daughter love Once and Future King, my son quite enjoyed Heart of Darkness and Shelly's Frankenstein. (He had read Frankenstein for a class earlier in high school but it could easily be read here as well.) Another selection would be some Conan Doyle stories, both had read those earlier as well.  I should add that I did feel strongly that poetry study should be included as well as reading at least one Shakespeare and one more modern drama.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales.

Eliot, T.S. Murder in the Cathedral.

Heaney, Seamus (Trans.).Beowulf.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.

Shakespeare, William. Richard III. 

Shakespeare, William. King Lear.

Tolkien, J.R.R. (Trans.). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

White, T.H. The Once and Future King.

Austen, Jane.  Pride and Prejudice.

Conrad, Joseph.  Heart of Darkness.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day.

Orwell, George. 1984.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm.

Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night.

Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest.

Tey, Josephine. The Daughter of Time.

Edited by JumpedIntoTheDeepEndFirst

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For anyone worrying about including Dickens... ...he wrote some short stories as well as the novel-length works and the A Christmas Carol novelette. See if your anthology includes something like The Signalman - it is a ghost story that is short and highly readable for a Dickens work. If not, or if ghost stories won't work for the co-op, I found a site with a couple of dozen other of his short works, in a variety of genres. The sentences tend to still be very long, but there's a lot fewer of them.

The six GCSE boards (AQA, CCEA, EDUQAS, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC) are supposed to all be the same difficulty, however there are different ways of measuring difficulty, it varies across years (some changed their lists this year to provide more options) and schools have also been known to pick depending on which reading list is felt to be the best consistent fit for their students (across a period of several years, since boards aren't often switched once selected for a given subject). Note that not all the books on the list are British authors, and many worthwhile British novels aren't on the syllabus. One thing the exam boards do all have in common is how few books are required - typically 4-6 (with one of those being a poetry anthology and another a Shakespeare play) across a two-year period.  Clearly there is an assumption that other books will be read, but it underlines that there are a variety of possible approaches to the topic of how much to put into a year. (Having more books in a "potential books" list than a class would be expected to do in a year makes some sense, though, in case one of them turns out to be a total bust for some reason, or progress is faster than expected, or you find yourself with a super-keen student who gets fired up by the subject and would like ideas for more books to read in their own time).

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On 7/21/2019 at 3:24 PM, provenance61 said:

Sebastian, would love to include an Indian or Nigerian author -- do you have any suggestions? This is for a Christian co-op and yes, I think the families would be quite sensitive to violence or sex in the works. I'm running into this issue when I've looked into quite a few modern authors. 

 

 

Maybe the short story The Interpreter of Maladies. It's been quite  a while since I read that, so I can't attest to the contents. 

Others comment on the length of your list. Is this a group you've taught before? When I taught lit in coop a few years ago, my group would not have been able to read works like Sir Gawain or Beowulf with much discernment. 

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Okay, this is the original poster here.  🙂

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.  You shared so many great ideas! Right now I want to respond to some of the comments, and also ask for a last look at my reading list. I've shortened it and introduced two lighter reads. My comments:

  • I have nothing against close reading, far from it! However, my preference here is to teach a survey course. We'll move chronologically through the literature examining historical context and worldviews and including authors from each time period. I think there is immense value in introducing students first to the scope of the literature and historical periods. This worked really well for our American Lit class last year. We hit a number of gaps where students really didn't understand historical periods so we were able to address these as we went through the literature. I absolutely think students should follow with more close reading of selected works.
  • Many of the comments above contained great suggestions for short stories to substitute for longer works in this class, thank you!

So we have 30 weeks in our co-op year, each class is 90 minutes and meets once a week. Class size will probably be 5-8 students. The bulk of the readings are short works in our anthology (Prentice-Hall The British Tradition). It includes excerpts from Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and even Utopia--I think even more hesitant students can handle reading shorter selections more closely. I'll be selective but want to include authors from each time period. So here is my slightly amended and shortened list of longer readings (which is the "additional book list" the students will borrow/purchase):

  1. MacBeth (but this is in anthology)
  2. Pride & Prejudice
  3. Jane Eyre
  4. Tale of Two Cities
  5. Lord of the Flies
  6. Picture of Dorian Gray (note; this is a shorter length work)
  7. 1984
  8. Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
  9. Anita & Me, by Myra Syal (currently reviewing for content -- this was a suggestion from mumto2, who directed me to the gcse board lists. It looks like a great modern novel detailing the immigrant experience in Britain)

So, doable? Last comments? I promise some of the shorter selections will be lighter!

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, provenance61 said:

Okay, this is the original poster here.  🙂

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.  You shared so many great ideas! Right now I want to respond to some of the comments, and also ask for a last look at my reading list. I've shortened it and introduced two lighter reads. My comments:

  • I have nothing against close reading, far from it! However, my preference here is to teach a survey course. We'll move chronologically through the literature examining historical context and worldviews and including authors from each time period. I think there is immense value in introducing students first to the scope of the literature and historical periods. This worked really well for our American Lit class last year. We hit a number of gaps where students really didn't understand historical periods so we were able to address these as we went through the literature. I absolutely think students should follow with more close reading of selected works.
  • Many of the comments above contained great suggestions for short stories to substitute for longer works in this class, thank you!

So we have 30 weeks in our co-op year, each class is 90 minutes and meets once a week. Class size will probably be 5-8 students. The bulk of the readings are short works in our anthology (Prentice-Hall The British Tradition). It includes excerpts from Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and even Utopia--I think even more hesitant students can handle reading shorter selections more closely. I'll be selective but want to include authors from each time period. So here is my slightly amended and shortened list of longer readings (which is the "additional book list" the students will borrow/purchase):

  1. MacBeth (but this is in anthology)
  2. Pride & Prejudice
  3. Jane Eyre
  4. Tale of Two Cities
  5. Lord of the Flies
  6. Picture of Dorian Gray (note; this is a shorter length work)
  7. 1984
  8. Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
  9. Anita & Me, by Myra Syal (currently reviewing for content -- this was a suggestion from mumto2, who directed me to the gcse board lists. It looks like a great modern novel detailing the immigrant experience in Britain)

So, doable? Last comments? I promise some of the shorter selections will be lighter!

 

 

 

I haven't read #9 but the rest of the list looks great to me.  Some of these were my favorites when I was in high school.  And I agree about the survey course being so nice for filling in gaps and helping them understand historical periods and what the views and thoughts of the day were, and how that came through in the writing.  We did the same last year (also American Lit., like you) and it really helped my kids understand and make connections.  We like digging deeper as well, but really appreciated the foundation last year set for us. Best of luck with your class!  

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13 hours ago, provenance61 said:

Okay, this is the original poster here.  🙂

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.  You shared so many great ideas! Right now I want to respond to some of the comments, and also ask for a last look at my reading list. I've shortened it and introduced two lighter reads. My comments:

  • I have nothing against close reading, far from it! However, my preference here is to teach a survey course. We'll move chronologically through the literature examining historical context and worldviews and including authors from each time period. I think there is immense value in introducing students first to the scope of the literature and historical periods. This worked really well for our American Lit class last year. We hit a number of gaps where students really didn't understand historical periods so we were able to address these as we went through the literature. I absolutely think students should follow with more close reading of selected works.
  • Many of the comments above contained great suggestions for short stories to substitute for longer works in this class, thank you!

So we have 30 weeks in our co-op year, each class is 90 minutes and meets once a week. Class size will probably be 5-8 students. The bulk of the readings are short works in our anthology (Prentice-Hall The British Tradition). It includes excerpts from Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and even Utopia--I think even more hesitant students can handle reading shorter selections more closely. I'll be selective but want to include authors from each time period. So here is my slightly amended and shortened list of longer readings (which is the "additional book list" the students will borrow/purchase):

  1. MacBeth (but this is in anthology)
  2. Pride & Prejudice
  3. Jane Eyre
  4. Tale of Two Cities
  5. Lord of the Flies
  6. Picture of Dorian Gray (note; this is a shorter length work)
  7. 1984
  8. Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
  9. Anita & Me, by Myra Syal (currently reviewing for content -- this was a suggestion from mumto2, who directed me to the gcse board lists. It looks like a great modern novel detailing the immigrant experience in Britain)

So, doable? Last comments? I promise some of the shorter selections will be lighter!


Very nice variety of authors, genres, and time periods, so it works well for your overall "theme" of a survey course.

I think it is still a LOT, since the bulk of your readings will be out of the anthology -- a lot of poetry plus excerpts from Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Sir Gawain. And then planning on these longer works on TOP of that...

But, #2, 6, and #8 are short or are faster reads.

Also, it sounds like most of your discussion will center on the anthology readings, and these longer works are more for "just reading for exposure"??  if that is the case then this will be tight, but possibly do-able.

If you find this is too much, you might drop Dorian Gray. And/or substitute A Christmas Carol for A Tale of Two Cities (which, BTW, ATo2C is the shortest of the Dickens novels most frequently done in high school -- coming in at 137,000 words, vs. Oliver Twist at 158,631 words, or Great Expectations at 186,339 words 😉 ).

It's a shame about not having room for Frankenstein, but I think you have a more varied booklist this way. Perhaps you can do a classic Fantasy & Sci-Fi course another year, which would allow you to not only do Frankenstein, but a few other classic British works in those genres, such Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Stevenson), an HG wells work, and fantasy by George MacDonald, JRR Tolkien, etc. (:D

Have a great year! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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On 7/28/2019 at 3:40 AM, provenance61 said:

Okay, this is the original poster here.  🙂

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.  You shared so many great ideas! Right now I want to respond to some of the comments, and also ask for a last look at my reading list. I've shortened it and introduced two lighter reads. My comments:

  • I have nothing against close reading, far from it! However, my preference here is to teach a survey course. We'll move chronologically through the literature examining historical context and worldviews and including authors from each time period. I think there is immense value in introducing students first to the scope of the literature and historical periods. This worked really well for our American Lit class last year. We hit a number of gaps where students really didn't understand historical periods so we were able to address these as we went through the literature. I absolutely think students should follow with more close reading of selected works.
  • Many of the comments above contained great suggestions for short stories to substitute for longer works in this class, thank you!

So we have 30 weeks in our co-op year, each class is 90 minutes and meets once a week. Class size will probably be 5-8 students. The bulk of the readings are short works in our anthology (Prentice-Hall The British Tradition). It includes excerpts from Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and even Utopia--I think even more hesitant students can handle reading shorter selections more closely. I'll be selective but want to include authors from each time period. So here is my slightly amended and shortened list of longer readings (which is the "additional book list" the students will borrow/purchase):

  1. MacBeth (but this is in anthology)
  2. Pride & Prejudice
  3. Jane Eyre
  4. Tale of Two Cities
  5. Lord of the Flies
  6. Picture of Dorian Gray (note; this is a shorter length work)
  7. 1984
  8. Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
  9. Anita & Me, by Myra Syal (currently reviewing for content -- this was a suggestion from mumto2, who directed me to the gcse board lists. It looks like a great modern novel detailing the immigrant experience in Britain)

So, doable? Last comments? I promise some of the shorter selections will be lighter!

 

 

 

Now I have to read Anita & Me!  This might be my most accidental book recommendation on this board by me ever......I had never even heard of it.  😂That said it sounds great........not sure if it will get into citizenship issues in that time period or not.  Looking forward to it. I just went and read the blurbs on Goodreads and had to laugh at the Midlands verses Northern England descriptions.  If you live in the South(London) the rest is the North for many but this book’s setting is definitely West Midlands being said by someone who sort of lives in the North!  😉 Please post when you finish prereading as I am curious to hear  what you think of it......it will be at least a month before I am able to read it.

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