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Comparing Lightning Lit 7 to other ELA programs


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I am seeking ELA curriculum that is based in strong, classic literature for a 7th grader.  Bonus if it has writing instruction, not just assignments. We are looking at Lightning Lit 7.

As posted by @blue plaid in an older comment, some have been disappointed with Lightning Lit 7 for various reasons & have swapped to a stronger curriculum. We are new to homeschooling but plan to continue as we have  loved it!  Due to coming from public school,  there were some areas that needed more work, specifically in writing instruction & grammar. That being said, we need some helpful feedback on curriculum choices. (We did try CLE & it wasn't for us. We are currently doing Eaay Grammar 6, Daily Grams 6, Weiteshop E and Novel-Ties).

Can you please offer some guidance by comparing Lightning Lit to other curriculums? Strengths / Weaknesses? Preferences & why?

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Welcome! I see by your post count that you are new. 😄 

LL7 is an *extremely* gentle intro to formal literature studies, and is an overview of "beginning to learn about literature".

LL7 and LL8 worked very well for us. DSs were grades 7 and 8, and we had only done informal discussion with our literature up to that point. LL was a very gentle way to ease them into more formal studies. However, most people who come from having done CLE, or have done some formal literature studies before, find LL7 and LL8 to be too light.

LL7 has 8 units (4 novels, 2 short stories, 2 poetry units).
(LL8 has 12 units -- 6 novels, 3 short stories, 3 poetry units.)

Each unit includes:

- a bit of background about the author/times to give context to the work of literature
- a little vocabulary and "what to look for as you read"
- some comprehension questions to make sure you're understanding the classic lit. being read
- a few discussion questions in the teacher guide
- a 6-10 page literature lesson which relates very directly to the book read, sometimes about a literary element and sometimes a topic of literature (examples: genre of literature, common theme in literature, use of words and language in literature, a literary element, etc.)
- 8-10 student work pages, which work with the literature lesson topic, and to help guide the student toward more formal literary analysis (that happens especially in the second half of LL8)--when that happens, there is a short excerpt from a work of literature with guided help for analyzing it; occasionally (in LL7) a worksheet is on a grammar topic; 2 of the pages in every unit are "filler" (a crossword and a word search)

At the end of each unit in LL a "mini-writing lesson" (2 pages) on a topic having to do with writing about literature. Plus a choice from 4-6 writing assignment ideas. The "mini writing lesson" is about elements of writing an essay about literature, that slowly build up so that by the end of LL8, you have most of the "pieces" needed for writing a literary analysis essay (if you've managed to remember all of the pieces over 2 years/2 programs, LOL).

When we did LL7 and LL8, we would go over that mini-lesson as review or reinforcement. But it is NOT a complete writing program. We used other programs to cover actual writing instruction. We skipped a lot of the LL7 and LL8 writing assignments, but sometimes we would use one of them, and the week(s) we were working on the LL7 or LL8 assignment, we set aside the other writing program.

Here's a summary of what's in LL7:

1 = "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" (short story)
literary lesson: plot line
mini writing lesson: openings

unit 2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (realistic novel)
literary lesson: plot line in a novel
mini writing lesson: outlines

3. poetry unit -- 7 poems
literary lesson: rhyme
mini writing lesson: limerick and haiku

4. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (fantasy novel)
literary lesson: creativitiy
mini writing lesson: nonce words

5. "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" (short story)
literary lesson: saying it with style
mini writing lesson: writing about yourself

6. The Story of My Life (Helen Keller autobiography)
literary lesson: autobiography
mini writing lesson: brainstorming

7. poetry unit -- 6 poems
literary lesson: sound
mini writing lesson: cinquain and the list poem

8. All Creatures Great and Small (realistic/humorous novel)
literary lesson: character sketch
mini writing lesson: choosing a topic


The same year they did LL7 and LL8, we also did Figuratively Speaking, which covers 40 literary devices, and as we covered those literary elements, we would then start looking for them in the literature in LL7 and LL8.

I high recommend going through Figuratively Speaking as well. Check out the great list of poems and short stories you could do along with Figuratively Speaking in this past thread:

"Figuratively Speaking paired with short stories"


Other possible literature program options:

Mosdos -- Jade (7th grade) or Gold (8th grade)
- literature only (no writing instruction)
- 7th grade = 2 plays, 39 poems, 24 short stories -- no novels, novellas, or nonfiction
- student book, workbook, and answers in theteacher book

Memoria Press 7th grade or 8th grade
- literature only (no writing instruction)
- student guide (with workbook pages) + teacher edition
- 4 books
   7th grade
   - The Bronze Bow (George)
   - The Hobbit (Tolkien)
   - Anne of Green Gables (Montgomery)
   - The Trojan War (Coolidge) -- abridged retelling of the Illiad
   8th grade
   - Treasure Island (Stevenson)
   - Wind in the Willows (Grahame)
   - Tom Sawyer (Twain)
   - As You Like It (Shakespeare)

Essentials in Literature, 7th grade
- literature only (no writing instruction, BUT, it can be paired with Essentials in Writing 7th grade program)
- DVD-based lessons
- 12 poems; 8 short stories; 6 short nonfiction; 1 novel (Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry)

Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings
(gr. 7-10) A year-long study on the trilogy by JRR Tolkien; very gentle introduction to literature
- fill-in-the-blank comprehension questions
- fill-in-the-blank vocabulary + vocabulary quizzes
- 1-2 pages of "chapter notes" with teaching material (these & the units are the "meat" of the program)
- 2-5 discussion questions after the chapter notes
- 12 units (each about 8-10 pages long) on a literature topic; units cover:
1. about the author
2. exploring linguistics
3. exploring setting/setting of Middle-earth
4. interactive Middle-earth map activity
5. epics and the conventions of an epic
6. guide, part 1 - excerpts from Beowulf 
7. guide, part 2 - excerpts from Beowulf 
8. fantasy genre
9. poetry basics
10. King Arthur myth
11. guide - excerpts from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
12. Lord of the Rings appendices -- what happens to the characters after the story
13. bonus unit: unifying elements / themes in the trilogy
appendix B: bonus unit: film and book version comparison


Or, go "DIY" with individual literature guides and choice of books of high interest.
The guides below are more "meaty" and help in working with the piece of literature.

Glencoe Lit. Library
- free online
- background info on author/times
- graphic organizers for working with the literature
- some discussion questions
- no writing instruction

Garlic Press Discovering Literature series, especially "Challenger" level
- background info
- what to look for while reading
- discussion questions for every chapter
- teaching info on various literature topics
- additional resources and project ideas
- answers in the back
- no writing instruction, but writing assignment suggestions

Blackbird and Company - integrated Lit. & Writing
- no writing instruction, but writing assignment ideas
- assignment checklist
- covers character, setting, plot
- vocabulary
- "observation" questions
- discussion questions
- reflective/responsive writing assignments
- culminating project

Edited by Lori D.
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Hi -- I can comment on literature programs, but I believe none of these include explicit writing instruction or grammar.  I know some people really like Lightning Lit 7 -- since you referenced a previous comment by me above, I'll add that for us it wasn't a great fit. It has been a few years since we used it, so my memory is not perfect, but I was hoping it would provide thoughtful discussion questions that could lead to good conversations, and if I recall correctly the questions for the works of lit were almost all simple fact recall about details of the readings.  We didn't find the literary elements particularly interesting or enlightening but YMMV.  (My kids did some CLE Reading for mid-elementary so already had exposure to some literary elements.) After doing Lightning Lit 7, we moved to Mosdos Gold. I really like this, and recommend it (I have a younger child who has done Coral and Pearl and those are great as well.) Mosdos in my view has really quality literature selections, good questions, and does a good job with literary elements.  You can go to their website for samples, but pulling out my Gold book, each lit selection starts with a Blueprint for Reading that includes a little bit about the author and background info.  Then a short lit element intro, the story itself with some vocab in footnotes, then questions which are categorized as Quick Review, In-Depth Thinking, and Drawing Conclusions.  Then there is a short throwback to the lit element, and a Creating and Writing section with additional writing exercises if desired.  So it is a really nice program, but of course does not cover whole books which are important too 🙂.   After Mosdos Gold, one of my kids moved on to Illluminating Literature which has a lot of nice, whole book selections.  I was pleased with this program, though frankly I was pretty hands-off with it.  It has some literary elements, discussion questions, writing assignments/projects etc.  My child who is a good reader used it as an 8th grader and enjoyed it (or at least didn't complain about it), but it is intended for high school.

Best wishes and hope this helps!

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