Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crew Review: Illuminating Literature from Writing with Sharon Watson

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Writing with Sharon Watson ReviewLast year I started to hear a buzz online. Homeschool friends of mine were talking about Writing with Sharon Watson and her new writing curriculum they were enjoying with their kids. I was impressed and I purchased all 3 of her writing programs to use with my children this school year. I hadn't realized she was also working on a homeschool literature program until Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide came up for review on the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

As members of the Crew, we were sent the entire set of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, along with the first two books used in the program: Pudd-nhead Wilson by Mark Twain and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.

We received the When Worlds Collide student text, the Teacher's Guide, and the Quiz and Answers Manual. We also received a pdf download of the Novel Notebook to print for our students to use. (The Novel Notebook pdf is available free to anyone who purchases the set, and the link is included at the front of the Teacher's Guide.) Each of these items is a softcover book, measuring 8.5 inches by 11 inches, my preferred size since it matches the size of most notebooks on our shelves.

That's my picture of what we received, but it doesn't really do the books justice - my daughter's desk area is dark. The covers are much brighter and more cheerful than this picture shows.

Illuminating Literature can be used at home on an individual basis, or it can be used as part of a monthly or bi-monthly co-op/book club. The Teacher's Guide includes instructions for both methods of teaching the course. Although we had the option to join into a facebook group to use it as a book club study, my daughter preferred to use it on her own. With 70 lessons, When Worlds Collide can be covered at a pace of 2 lessons per week, one book per month, to move through it on your own in a school year. That's two semesters of literature discussion questions, vocabulary, quizzes and writing assignments that all work together to earn a full credit of high school Language Arts.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

One of the things I particularly liked about When Worlds Collide is that it covered books I haven't yet introduced to my high school students. In fact, I'm afraid of one of the books (Dickens) and hadn't heard of three of them. Among the ones I have heard of, I haven't seen literature guides for all of them. The only book I have used in our high school program thus far was Fahrenheit 451.  The books Sharon Watson includes in Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide are:

  • Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
  • Peter Pan by Sir James Barrie
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Another feature that I appreciate about Sharon's work is the very thought-provoking discussion questions she provides. I love reading and I enjoy writing, but I often draw a blank when it comes to engaging my teens in literary analysis and deep discussion. I have relied on literature guides in the past, though they have had to be bought individually to combine for a year of Language Arts credit.  The When Worlds Collide Teacher's Guide and Student Text provide those discussion questions and guidance for leading that discussion for EIGHT books, instead of just one. The Novel Notebook download helps the students watch for and take note of things they'll be discussing later. That's so much better than asking a question once the reading is done and nothing comes to mind for the student. If they know to be watching for it in advance, they are prepared for the discussion questions later.

Although my daughter preferred to just write her answers down or discuss them with me when she wasn't sure what to write, I actually love the idea of using this in a homeschool co-op setting. The Novel Notebook gives the students an idea of how to prepare for the upcoming meeting, and if each student also has a student text, they could answer some of the questions on paper in advance. But when they come together to discuss it, they'll gain much more depth in their understanding of the text and will be able to write more complex essays.

Sharon lays out a grading rubric for the teacher that explains exactly how to compile a month-long grade for each book. Averaging together the 9 chapter/book grades would then give an overall grade. The quizzes can be taken and graded online, or they can be photocopied from the Quiz and Answer Manual and done on paper and graded by the parent/teacher.

Although my daughter is never keen on literary discussion questions, the Novel Notebook was very helpful for her. Most of the time the questions had answers that weren't too vague or difficult to answer. The "why" and "how" questions were more manageable to her than some literary analysis questions she'd experienced before. It also helped that each set of questions began with questions that were easily answered from the text before jumping into more abstract questions.

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide is well-written, versatile, and easy for homeschool parents and students to use. The student can do it all on their own simply writing their answers to the student text questions and taking the quizzes online, or it can be parent-led and include oral discussion and printed quizzes. The other options are for weekly or monthly book club and co-op meetings if you have enough homeschoolers in your area for that.

If you'd like to take a look at Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, you can download free samples of the first two lessons. The Illuminating Literature books are priced as follows:
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide - $39.49
  • When Worlds Collide Teacher's Guide - $16.49
  • When Worlds Collide Quiz and Answer Manual - $8.49
  • Download of When Worlds Collide Novel Notebook - FREE
Sharon strongly recommends using the same version of the 8 books that she used when preparing the curriculum so students can easily turn to the correct page and passage for discussion. The bundle of approved books are available at a discount from her website for a total of $53.26 at the moment. Just scroll down to her Amazon store widget at the bottom of the When Worlds Collide page.

Follow Writing with Sharon Watson on facebook and pinterest. Then join us for a Facebook Release Party on Thursday, August 27 at 9pm ET with more prizes and fun!

Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature Facebook Party

Thanks for reading my review. You can find other reviews form Crew members at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

April E.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Crew Disclaimer

1 comment:

  1. Hi, April! First, let me say "thank you" for using all of our writing curricula with your children!

    Next, thank you for your review of Illuminating Literature. I love it that you mention the book you were afraid of (Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities) because I think so many of us are afraid of a book or two. They can seem so daunting to teach at home!

    Have a wonderful year at home with your precious children!


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