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Suggestions for online discussion info for "classic literature" for teens?


SKL
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Short version: are there easily accessible online resources to help young teens analyze assigned classics for school?

Long version:

My kids have summer homework for Honors 10 English.  Read Ethan Frome and answer numerous questions about it.

We're listening to the audiobook.  We are about halfway through.  I just looked at the discussion questions, and I feel we need some guidance to understand what the teacher is looking for.

First of all, there are 52 open-ended questions (many of which are actually multiple questions), apparently requiring analytical written answers, some requiring the students to fill out tables with multiple "comments."  I don't know how this is actually going to happen, especially since I don't even know who their teacher will be and may not be able to ask for clarification.  (Like, do you actually want 50+ paragraphs??)  I also don't know if they want this in a word processor format or if the teacher is going to post an online framework for the answer submission.

But assuming they want all those written answers, I think this will be hard to do just by reading the story without any guidance.  For example, question 2 is:  "What is the stereotype of an engineer?  How is the narrator/engineer atypical?  Why did Wharton have the narrator say that he "...began to piece together this vision" (rather than "version") of Frome's story?"  I mean, they could come up with answers, but they will have no sense whether their thought process aligns with the author's or teacher's intention.  This times 52 is going to be really stressful!

I thought about ordering a Cliff's Notes to provide direction, but then I thought, maybe there is something online these days, hopefully geared toward their age group (about 15).  Any ideas??

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3 minutes ago, SKL said:

S

First of all, there are 52 open-ended questions (many of which are actually multiple questions), apparently requiring analytical written answers, some requiring the students to fill out tables with multiple "comments."  I don't know how this is actually going to happen, especially since I don't even know who their teacher will be and may not be able to ask for clarification.  (Like, do you actually want 50+ paragraphs??)  I also don't know if they want this in a word processor format or if the teacher is going to post an online framework for the answer submission.

But assuming they want all those written answers, I think this will be hard to do just by reading the story without any guidance.  For example, question 2 is:  "What is the stereotype of an engineer?  How is the narrator/engineer atypical?  Why did Wharton have the narrator say that he "...began to piece together this vision" (rather than "version") of Frome's story?"  I mean, they could come up with answers, but they will have no sense whether their thought process aligns with the author's or teacher's intention.  This times 52 is going to be really stressful!

 

First, this is one reason I absolutely despise summer homework.  When my kids were in ps, they wasted so much time on this cr@p with no guidance from the teacher.  We fought hard against summer homework for many years and got nowhere even though school isn't even in session in the summer and, as you said, there isn't even a teacher to provide guidance.  Why should students be expected to complete these long vague assignments on their "break?"  It's wrong wrong wrong.  

Anyway, have you tried cliffnotes online?  or Shmoop or sparknotes online?  not sure if that's what you're looking for.  

Seriously, what you have described here makes me furious.  Why should you and your child be spending your summer on this?  What benefit will it have?  Grrrr....

 

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I ran a tween/teen classics book club for years and almost all the resources I used were just things I googled and found online.  If you google "Title book club" or "Title discussion questions", etc things along that line you should get a lot of hits.  We never did Ethan Frome though so I don't have specific suggestions for that one! 

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52 is too many.

But given that example, I think the answer is yes - the teacher expects short paragraph answers for all the questions.

It's nearly impossible to know what the teacher will expect. I have found that a lot of teachers don't give good guidance on this sort of thing.

This is a really cruddy summer break assignment. And a rude one.

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I think you are overthinking the assignment. The point is to read a novel and think about it. The question are proof you read the book and can discuss it. I don’t think you need paragraphs for each question, just 1-2 sentences. So for the example -question 2

The stereotype of an engineer is (precise, methodical, observant, etc). The narrator is atypical because  (list why- is the narrator not precise/methodical/etc).

Wharton had the narrator use “vision” instead of “version”…

I haven’t read this book but I would assume it has something to do with noticing if it is first or third person narration, is the narrator reliable, trustworthy, how is the narrator related to other characters, etc. 
 

So that question is 3-5 sentences. If your kids answer 5 questions a day (so 15-25 sentences if all the questions are kind that) they will finish in 10 days. I would not read ahead but make them answer the questions after each chapter. 
 

 

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I would be very tempted to just have them read the book and not do the questions beyond a few notes to the ones that appeal to them the most.  “52?  I assumed these were questions to think about to guide note taking and classroom discussion.  Silly me!”

My son prepared written responses to the summer reading questions for 9th and 10th grade…and most kids hadn’t done that and some hadn’t read the book at all.  It didn’t impact anyone’s grade.  I wouldn’t bet on this mattering one way or the other.    

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The paper says this project is worth 10% of the grade.  Not sure if they mean 1st quarter or semester or annual grade.

The instructions are as follows:  "You will need to read Ethan Frome and complete the assignment.  The assignment is due on the first day of school and will be worth 10% of your grade."

The next thing you see is the heading:  "Ethan Frome Chapter Questions."  And then the 52 numbered "questions" [or groups of questions] are listed by chapter.  There are 5 pages of questions in rather small type.

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2 hours ago, SKL said:

The paper says this project is worth 10% of the grade.  Not sure if they mean 1st quarter or semester or annual grade.

The instructions are as follows:  "You will need to read Ethan Frome and complete the assignment.  The assignment is due on the first day of school and will be worth 10% of your grade."

 

See, this is what I fought hard against for many years.  How does the school get away with assigning work for a grade over the summer when school isn't even in session?  The semesters have very clear beginning/end dates.  Summer isn't part of the school year.  If they are going to assign summer homework (which is wrong, counterproductive, and provides no benefit in assignments like this unless their goal is to make kids hate school and reading), then they must have a teacher available to answer questions!  

Sometimes my kids would have a test on the summer reading assignment in the first week or two of school.  If they read the book(s) too early, they didn't remember details enough to do well on the test designed just to make sure they read the book.  If they read the book too close to the end of summer so it would be fresh in their minds, it wouldn't give them enough time to complete the long ridiculous assignments.  Why should the school dictate what our kids spend their time on when school isn't in session?  

Sorry for the rants...this just makes me furious.  

 

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Yeah, my kids are pretty mad that I signed them up for this course right now.

I knew there was going to be a reading assignment and probably some writing, but this is not what I envisioned.

I could understand it if they asked the kids to choose one topic and write a brief essay about it, or prepared one chapter's discussion questions, or something in between.  A multiple choice quiz would be sufficient to prove they read the book.

I have emailed the curriculum lady for help getting in contact with the teacher to ask questions, but I don't know if they are even working this month.  If my kids wait until later for guidance, they will be swamped, as they have band camp (full time) and sports every August day until school starts.  😕

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The thing that bugs me most is that with the apparent volume of writing being asked, there's no realistic way for us to use this as a summer teaching tool.  Who has the time and mental energy to discuss and revise all of that ... especially for a book that isn't all that interesting?  Just the thought of it has me wanting to leave town.  😛

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5 hours ago, SKL said:

I have emailed the curriculum lady for help getting in contact with the teacher to ask questions, but I don't know if they are even working this month.

Is this public school? I would contact the head of the English department for clarification on the assignment.  

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8 hours ago, SKL said:

The paper says this project is worth 10% of the grade.  Not sure if they mean 1st quarter or semester or annual grade.

The instructions are as follows:  "You will need to read Ethan Frome and complete the assignment.  The assignment is due on the first day of school and will be worth 10% of your grade."

The next thing you see is the heading:  "Ethan Frome Chapter Questions."  And then the 52 numbered "questions" [or groups of questions] are listed by chapter.  There are 5 pages of questions in rather small type.

I just hate garbage like this.

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That is a horrible assignment, and I love literature and was an English major!

I'm glad you reached out to the school and hope you receive an answer. In case you don't... Maybe it would help to think about it like this. Most of the other students in the class will do the assignment without as much input from parents. I tend to do a lot of parental help with my high school kids, too, but I think we are the aberration, not the rule. On their own, I suspect most kids will just try to answer each question as best as they can, with short answers, and not too many full paragraphs, unless the question is asking for a longer answer. So anything that your kids write will probably be sufficient, even if they don't get all of the answers correct.

I would not be above feeding my kids answers or leading them to an answer, if they just couldn't think of things on their own. In this kind of situation, I consider that the end result is for them to learn something, and, if they are stumped, I consider it okay to help them. I realize that this means that you will need to figure out some of the answers yourself, which is a bummer, since you are not the one taking the class. I hope you find some helpful resources. With these kind of questions, I almost wonder if the teacher pulled questions from some kind of literature guide or even online. If you google the actual question, you may find answers online, though your kids would need to put them in their own words.

I bet a lot of that grade is just for completion of the project, and that the teacher won't put a ton of effort into grading and correcting the specific answers.

So, short answers and use the internet, just to get it done. Even if the teacher is not wholly pleased, even a C grade on an assignment worth 10% would be fine. At our school, grades are done by quarter, so I imagine it is 10% of the first quarter's grade, not the entire year's grade.

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Also about formatting. Is this a digital document or on paper? I would either copy and paste or scan it and make it a Word document. Then the girls can add enough space under each question for each of their answers.

If they have Chromebooks supplied by the school, I would have them do this same thing, but make it a Google doc.

 

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5 hours ago, kristin0713 said:

Is this public school? I would contact the head of the English department for clarification on the assignment.  

We've had to go as high as the superintendent in the past when we didn't get help from the English dept.  

 

 

14 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

Even if the teacher is not wholly pleased, even a C grade on an assignment worth 10% would be fine. At our school, grades are done by quarter, so I imagine it is 10% of the first quarter's grade, not the entire year's grade.

But that would be SO unfair to a student to start the school year off with a C for an assignment that was done before the school year even started with no guidance from a teacher.  

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51 minutes ago, Kassia said:

We've had to go as high as the superintendent in the past when we didn't get help from the English dept.  

 

 

But that would be SO unfair to a student to start the school year off with a C for an assignment that was done before the school year even started with no guidance from a teacher.  

That's why I would bet that the grade will be based on completion, not content. I could be wrong, of course.

Our high school English department decided to forgo the usual summer reading assignments for this summer, so I'm not sure how our school approaches this.

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18 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

That's why I would bet that the grade will be based on completion, not content. I could be wrong, of course.

Our high school English department decided to forgo the usual summer reading assignments for this summer, so I'm not sure how our school approaches this.

One of my kids got a D when he returned to school and was tested on one of the required books for summer reading (along with long written assignments, of course).  I was so angry that he read the book, did the assignments and took them seriously, but still started out the school year with a D based on something he did when school wasn't even in session.  But, yeah, I don't remember the teachers even looking at the summer homework - but you don't always know that until it's already been turned in and that's a big chance to take.

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Yeah, I am going to guess it's probably a grade for completion.  I mean is the teacher really going to seriously read and grade 52 unique answers times the number of kids in the class?  But I don't know for sure.  Maybe he'll spot check or something.

As for helping my kids, I am not going to give them answers, but I think it's fair to help them understand what the teacher might be getting at, if the teacher isn't around to do that.  And also to walk them through ways to get insights into a classic book that many have analyzed before them.  I also offer to review their writing work if they provide it to me in advance of the due date.  It's just another layer of instruction.  The goal is to be able to communicate at the college level when they enter college, so whatever helps with that.  I'm aware that many other 10th graders are more independent, as was I.  Some of them got other things from their parents, from higher IQs to paid tutors.  We all have to raise the kids we have.  🙂

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13 minutes ago, Nart said:

I think this is also a way of discouraging kids from being in Honors English. At some schools, only Honors/AP classes have summer assignments. 

Yes, that is the case here.  I was told that only honors classes even have homework.  Still not sure if it's true, given that most of school was at home this past year.

Again, I don't mind that they have a summer reading assignment.  I just think this one is poorly designed / communicated.

I told my kids to ask their friend, who was in the same honors classes with them last year, how she's tackling this assignment.  They said she isn't taking honors this year, and they have no friends who are.  So I guess if the goal was to discourage kids, it was met.

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On 7/15/2021 at 6:59 PM, Nart said:

I think you are overthinking the assignment. The point is to read a novel and think about it. The question are proof you read the book and can discuss it. I don’t think you need paragraphs for each question, just 1-2 sentences. So for the example -question 2

The stereotype of an engineer is (precise, methodical, observant, etc). The narrator is atypical because  (list why- is the narrator not precise/methodical/etc).

Wharton had the narrator use “vision” instead of “version”…

I haven’t read this book but I would assume it has something to do with noticing if it is first or third person narration, is the narrator reliable, trustworthy, how is the narrator related to other characters, etc. 
 

So that question is 3-5 sentences. If your kids answer 5 questions a day (so 15-25 sentences if all the questions are kind that) they will finish in 10 days. I would not read ahead but make them answer the questions after each chapter. 
 

This. Just read and answer, read and answer. That will be much, much quicker than using lit guides. 

On 7/16/2021 at 12:56 AM, SKL said:

The thing that bugs me most is that with the apparent volume of writing being asked, there's no realistic way for us to use this as a summer teaching tool.  Who has the time and mental energy to discuss and revise all of that ... especially for a book that isn't all that interesting?  Just the thought of it has me wanting to leave town.  😛

It doesn't seem like you are intended to discuss and revise, but rather give a quick answer that shows you've read the text. 

On 7/16/2021 at 12:11 PM, Storygirl said:

That's why I would bet that the grade will be based on completion, not content. I could be wrong, of course.

Most likely, although I would definitely expect the teacher to read some of the answers and then read more if they're abysmal. 

Hopefully you get a response that clarifies things, but I wouldn't worry too much if you don't. Just have them read and asnwer on a schedule like in Nart's post. 

 

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@SKLYes, Shmoop (spelling?) or sparknotes online.  I don't remember if we used any for this particular title and there are probably many more now, but we used to look up whichever lit book she had completed (or if it was a complicated storyline, etc. we'd do it before she read the book so she could have an idea what was happening) on Youtube and there would nearly always be a video to go along with it.  Thugnotes was one that I remember her using, but I can't remember if there was any objectionable language in those.  You maybe able to find a fairly inexpensive unit on the book on Teachers Pay Teachers that would walk them through the book.  

I've used Cliffnotes at times also with my girls. 

My 20 yr old dd groaned when I told her which book your dds had to read.  I made her read this one in 10th grade also and it's still the only literature book that she hated.  😉

I even forget now why I chose that specific Wharton title.  

It is a horribly dull book from a teenager's standpoint, I suppose.  Most of the characters are so unlikeable.  Our sympathies. 😉 

Lord of the Flies (which I personally dislike, or any number of more recent books would be a much better choice for summer reading in my opinion.  

Edited by CindyH in NC
I can not seem to string my thoughts together tonight.
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My teen is also a big fan of TV tropes. It's a wiki that analyzes tropes in media works, not just television, and most school assigned books are on there. Often a lot of what teachers ask is highlighted there, and some of the interpretations will be under YMMV (your mileage may vary) or WMG (wild mass guessing). I enjoy reading it, but would never have thought about using it for a class until my kid used it while reading for a DE lit class that was a "big pile of paper" class. 

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