March 30, 2016

Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press {Curriculum Review}

One of the areas of curriculum I feel is very important, is studying literature. There are many companies that offer Literature Units and I have used many of them. One that I have had my eye on for quite awhile is from Memoria Press. When we had the chance to review the Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set, I jumped at the chance and hoped it would work well in our school.
Memoria Press Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set Product Review

Product Information

Memoria Press is an award winning company known for producing some of the top Classical curriculum available for homeschooling. Some of their more popular curriculum are their grade level literature sets. Carrying a full range of literature units from pre-school through high school, it is possible to find a level perfect for your child.

Each literature unit includes the teacher guide and student guide for each of the books included in the unit. It is also possible to purchase the literature units with copies of the novels for an additional fee.

We were given the Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set (retail $95) to review. It includes the printed teacher guide and student guide for each of the following books:
*Cricket in Times Square
*Homer Price
*The Blue Fairy Book
*Dangerous Journey

It is possible to buy each part of the unit individually if you are working through this with more than one child.

How Did We Use This Product?

This is a four book literature set containing the teachers guide and student activity book for the following novels: Homer Price, Cricket in Times Square, Dangerous Journey, and The Blue Fairy Book. Because we had actually JUST finished Cricket in Times Square, I decided that we would start with Homer Price--a book that I was confident my oldest would enjoy. Our library had Homer Price, but neither of the other two books that I needed (which they ordered specially for me), so the book we were going to start with was rather obvious anyway. 

I took some time to glance through the teachers manual to get a feel for how they expected me to do this unit. I noticed the lesson is separated into three sections: pre-reading, after reading, and enrichment. Pre-reading consists of going over a few terms they might be unfamiliar with (cultural or historical usually), reviewing the vocabulary for the day's reading, and reading the comprehension questions. Once this is completed, the student or teacher reads the passage for the day--about 10 pages or so. After the reading, the student can then complete the vocabulary exercise and comprehension questions, as they are taken straight from the day's reading. The next aspect of the lesson is a quote from the book and open ended discussion questions that can be completed orally with the student. Finally, there is the enrichment section, which takes what was discussed further. With every chapter, one of the lessons (there are 2 lessons per chapter) has a copywork passage straight from the book. The rest of the time the enrichment might be sequencing, matching characters with quotations, illustrating passages, or other types of activities like that. I appreciate that all the answers to the questions and vocabulary are printed clearly in the teacher guide for reference.

I already knew that Little Britches was going to balk at all the writing--he's just not a writing kind of person and prefers to answer everything orally. I knew, however, that he NEEDED to practice writing his thoughts and answers down on paper, thus I was going to require him to at least do a portion of the writing in his activity book. 

I also knew he was going to be upset at having to look up definitions of words for the vocabulary portion. He hates using a dictionary (except I just purchased a new one that he does admit he likes) and would prefer just asking SIRI on my phone. LOL. But we talked about the words--using them in the sentences provided--and he successfully was able to come up with the proper definitions for at least half of them without having to look them up. And yes, I "made" him look up most of the other words.

As we have continued through the book, I have him talk through all the vocabulary and see how many he can figure out without looking them up, and then he looks up the handful he doesn't know. Out of the comprehension questions, I allow him to do 1-2 of them orally--usually the ones that are longer, however, the others must be written down. This works well for us and once I did this, he has no problems completing it.

He has already fussed that we stopped in the middle of the story, and I saw him sneak the book and start reading ahead. I got on him laughingly and he sheepishly grinned and put the book away for the next day.
Page from the teacher guide

page from the student guide
We did the curriculum as it was designed, working through each chapter's work. Every chapter had a 4 page spread geared to two sessions of work--with half the chapter being read in each session. I found that we usually did each chapter over the course of a week--because it typically took two days to do each part, but sometimes we knocked out both pages in one day. At the end of each chapter, is a chapter review usually consisting of short answer questions, sequencing, matching quotes to characters, character identification, and other things like that. 
Answering comprehension questions
One of the fun "extras" we did to go with this was to play with yarn (to go with the chapter about collecting string into balls). I timed him to see how big of a yarn ball he could make in 10 minutes, and then I had him unroll it throughout the house (we have a circular hallway) to see how many rounds he could make before he ran out. He enjoyed it very much!

As of this week, we have finished Homer Price (the reading portion), and are just finishing out the student guide as it reviews the book via crosswords, sequencing, characterization, short answer questions, drawings, and such. I will let him choose the next book--either The Blue Fairy Book or Dangerous Journey.

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?

Little Britches: 
"I really liked the book. It was funny and I think the pictures were interesting. I really don't like writing out the answers to the questions, or looking up the vocabulary words. And I don't like writing down the quotations. I would like it better if we could just read the book and mommy ask me questions out loud. NO writing."

(bwahahahahaahahaha. My auditory learner and his abhorrence to writing)

Me:
I really think this is a great literature unit. The books that were picked are a great collection. Each of them is a "classic" in regards great children's fiction. Two of them (Dangerous Journey and The Blue Fairy Book) were unfamiliar to me, which makes them even more enjoyable because I get to enjoy them fresh. 

This is a very classic style of literature unit--everything is read and write. There isn't anything "out of the box" in how it's taught, nor is there any hands-on activities included. There are quizzes and reviews throughout the guide that were pretty low key. I did like the addition of pages where Little Britches could draw his favorite scene from the reading, or do crosswords/word searches. 

One of my favorite parts was in a chapter where two stories, Rip Van Winkle and The Pied Piper of Hamlin, were mentioned. The study guide then had the fairy tales included for the student to read. The next activity was to compare and contrast using those stories--with the chapter in Homer Price. This was great practice for Little Britches AND allowed him to learn two additional stories in the process. 

This not a "complete" language arts program, as it is missing the grammar, spelling, and writing. However, these are easy subjects that could be added to this great literature core.

Even though we didn't use the other Literature units yet in this program, I wanted to briefly mention how they are similar and different from Homer Price:

*Dangerous Journey
This one has a similar set up in that it has pre-reading, vocabulary, and comprehension questions. The enrichment portion is a bit different, as it has multiple choice questions, a drawing page, and information concerning maintaining a map of the story throughout the reading. 

*The Cricket in Times Square
The set is similar to Homer Price. The enrichment portion is also almost identical. There does appear to be additional map work and teaching information in the appendix section that goes with the unit. This includes chapter quizzes (1 every 4 chapters) and a final book test.

*The Blue Fairy Book
Very similar in format. The appendix includes the quizzes and a final exam, as well as answers to the discussion questions. There is also lined paper that can be used for copywork.

In principle, I would say that each of the guides mirror the others, thus once you get in the routine of using them, you will be able to pick up the next one, knowing what to expect with little variation. Each book is intended to be a 6-7 week study, thus with 4 books in this unit, you are looking at a minimum of 24 weeks of lessons, although the way we separated our Homer Price, we would be pushing more towards 28 or 30. This makes up almost an entire year of literature. 

Another pro--IF you wanted to turn these into more hands-on units, I think there is a lot you could do with them. Because these are all actually well known stories, there are a lot of online crafts and activities to go with them, which might make them a better fit for a more hands-on learner. These are totally adaptable, in that if your child doesn't like writing, you could have them orally answer and dictate, however, they are perfect for the visual learner too.

If you are a lapbook or Charlotte Mason method, these probably won't be for you, as they are very traditional in their layout and application. 

Any cons?
Actually, the only con I had, was that I would like to see at least some additional resources that connect with each book--for taking it further, exploring rabbit trails, or finding hands on activities to match. I was able to find a few on my own, but I think it would add to the program if there was a page included in the teacher guide that listed additional resources that could be used.

I think that the program was designed to be adapted for each end of the grade level spectrum, as it does suggest that teacher adjust the assignment to fit what the child is capable of. 

Will we continue to use this program?
Absolutely! I think it's very well done and I like having the guides laid out for me. Now that we aren't doing it as a review, I plan on exploring each book a little further and incorporating more of those crafts and activities as they fit the chapters we are learning. 

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes! This is a great program for the Classical/Traditional/Unit Study method of classroom. I added Unit Study, because it would be very very easy to take these units further and incorporate other subjects to them. They are open and go, and a routine can quickly be set which makes it easy to schedule them into the day. The books can be found at the library (for the most part), and if not, can easily be purchased on the company website. The program encourages critical thinking and analysis of the stories. 

If you want a literature unit that is more hands-on with frequent deviation from the actual reading, this is not going to work for you. If you aren't a big fan of review quizzes and exams, probably not going to work for you (Although I don't think they are necessary if they aren't your style). 

Want to Know More?

We reviewed the Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. You have read our thoughts on the program, but why not head over and see what the rest of the crew did with their units?! We had members checking out levels Pre-K through 9th grade, so you can get a peak at what to expect at all the levels.
Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
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I am very happy that this unit was what I was hoping for. I look forward to continuing the rest of the books that we were given, and I will definitely be checking out the upcoming grade levels for future use!


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