Friday, October 9, 2015

{Review} Intro to Poetry from Progeny Press

Amber loves poetry. She has for as long as I can remember. Her biggest request for school this eighth grade year was to find a poetry curriculum which was a better fit for us than the attempts of the last couple of years. It was a simple, heart-felt request, yet one to which I wasn't sure I could deliver a suitable solution. Thankfully, we were offered the opportunity to review the high school level Introduction to Poetry: Forms and Elements from Progeny Press.

For the purpose of the review, we received a download of the e-book version of Intro to Poetry. This is an interactive study guide in PDF format. What that means is the student does not need to have a physical copy of the book! They may access the PDF file from any device capable of opening PDF files. Additionally, devices using Adobe Acrobat Reader 9+ will allow the students to enter their answers directly into the document and save it as they work through the lessons.

Unexpected Homeschool: Introduction to Poetry from Progeny Press. High school poetry made easy and interesting!

The book not only contains all the lesson information, but a complete answer key which we received as a separate file from the student e-book. This means I have an electronic copy of Amber's study guide for myself along with the answer key, yet I need only give her the study guide portion.

The study guide includes an extremely useful historical timeline of poetry eras with descriptions of the period along with major poets from the time. We referenced this timeline frequently during our poetry discussions. Knowing when a poet was writing and the events in their world greatly enhances the meaning and assists in understanding the underlying motives of their works.

In order to cover the forms and elements of poetry, the study guide is broken into three main parts:
  • Types of Poetry
  • Elements of Poetry
  • Forms of Poetry
Each part is then divided into exercises which create manageable size lessons from what could otherwise be daunting topics. We very much appreciated how the exercises are divided.

Unexpected Homeschool: Introduction to Poetry from Progeny Press. High school poetry made easy and interesting!
Independent work and discussion time.
The exercises are written to the student and contain instructional information along with many examples to assist in understanding the topic of the lesson. The majority of the lessons have assigned poetry reading which allows the student to see first hand the poetic element or form discussed in the lesson. Following the reading selections are questions and writing activities that force the student to apply what they have learned and to think about more than the immediate meaning of the words in the poems.

While this study guide is a complete contained poetry course, it does utilize three poetry collections not included with the guide, but easily obtained at a low cost, as the source texts: 100 Best-Loved Poems, edit by Philip Smith, 101 Great American Poems, edited by The American Poetry and Literacy Project, and Great Short Poems, edited by Paul Negri. Although the poems used could be found elsewhere, the guide does reference the collections by name and page number making it extremely convenient to use the recommended collections.

It should be noted that Intro to Poetry is a distinctly Christian poetry curriculum. Many of the exercises include questions which ask the student to relate the poems to a biblical view. Often Bible passages are referenced in these questions and the student is then asked to compare those passages to the theme of the poems studied. These questions can be skipped if desired while not taking away from the curriculum.

Unexpected Homeschool: Introduction to Poetry from Progeny Press. High school poetry made easy and interesting!
We printed the guide to create our own bound book.
To be honest, this curriculum from Progeny Press was not even on my radar as a possible poetry option for Amber. It should have been and I'm ever so grateful we were selected to review it, as it is exactly what Amber has been dreaming of for her poetry lessons.

The first thing I did when we received our download was to print off both the study guide portion and the answer key. Lately, Amber has been more and more into physical books than her e-books on iPad. She has used interactive PDFs previously, but wanted the tactile experience of writing on the paper for this course. I laminated the covers and spiral bound the entire study guide, which Amber greatly appreciated. She also requested I purchase the three poetry compilations as physical books so she might have the chance to make notes on the poems directly in the book. However, all three collections were available as e-books too.

We immediately picked up a good rhythm with this curriculum that we are still using: Amber reads the lesson portion and any assigned poetry, then completes the questions. Finally, she comes to me and using my answer key we discuss her responses to the questions. Sometimes there is no specific correct answer to the question posed, as long as the student can back up their reply, while other questions deal with specific elements of poetry and have distinct answers. We also spend a good deal of time re-reading the poetry aloud, although the exercises did not call for that specifically.

Unexpected Homeschool: Introduction to Poetry from Progeny Press. High school poetry made easy and interesting!
More discussion after working the lesson herself. Often times she made additional notes during our discussions.
There were a few instances where we found Amber did not quite understand the lesson portion as well as needed to complete the exercise. We then went over the instructional section again together. The study guide is very clear and easy to use, even for those of us who are not quite so adept with poetry and haven't studied it since high school.

Amber did complete the Bible based questions for the exercises, but many of her answers were fairly different than the suggested responses in the answer key. This provided a great talking point for us, because Amber answered as she has been taught in her Lutheran confirmation classes. She was able to see how our beliefs subtly differ from other Christian denominations, rather than being simply told of the differences. Still, those Bible based questions allowed Amber to apply her faith to real life learning in a more natural manner.

Overall, Intro to Poetry from Progeny Press has been the perfect answer to Amber's request for poetry instruction. It teaches the elements and forms of poetry by using classic poetry, all while encouraging the student to tease each nuance and meaning from the poems. We highly recommend it for the poetry enthusiast and novice alike.

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