Wednesday, March 30, 2016

{Review} Memoria Press - 9th Grade Literature

Do you know what makes a Classical Homeschooling parent giddy? Receiving a complete year set of Memoria Press literature guides in the mail. No joke. I did a little happy dance when we were selected to review the entire Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set, and might have been seen giggling when it actually arrived at our house.

Memoria Press Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set - A Classical way to study literature.

This set was already part of our high school curriculum plan for Amber, who had been begging me to at least purchase the Shakespeare guides soon. Memoria Press is one of our favorite publishers, especially for Classical curriculum. So, although I was given the opportunity to review these guides, they are what I would have actually purchased.

The Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set includes both student and teacher guides for the following books:
  • Henry V by William Shakespeare
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
    Selected Tales:
    • The General Prologue
    • The Pardoner's Tale
    • The Nun's Priest's Tale
    • The Franklin's Tale
  • Beowulf The Warrior, retold by Ian Serraillier
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Although this set is listed as ninth grade, all guides are designed to be used with students ranging between 8th and 12th grades, depending heavily on your student's ability.

The student guides are intended to be consumed since space is provided for answering all questions and essays. However the student and teacher guides are nearly identical in content, excepting that the teacher guides have answers completed for all questions that are not opinion based, as well as both blank and answered quizzes and tests in the back. What I particularly like is that the teacher and student guides use the same page numbering, which makes it infinitely easier to find our places for discussions and grading.

Memoria Press Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set - A Classical way to study literature.

Memoria Press specializes in Classical Christian education, and therefore these study guides follow a Classical method of studying literature. Each guide, in ways appropriate to the work studied, moves through a four stage sequence based on the classical trivium:
  • Pre-Grammar (preparation): The student prepares to understand the Central One Idea of the chapter, act, or part. 
  • Grammar (presentation): Reading notes are given for possibly unfamiliar words along with character summaries. The student uses context clues from the reading to complete word definitions, and reviews to thoughtfully complete the comprehension questions .
  • Logic (dialectic): Here the student answers a set of Socratic discussion questions that help lead to the Central One Idea.
  • Rhetoric (expression): The culmination of the section (chapter, act, or part) where the student describes their interpretation of the Central One Idea while providing support details. Essay topics are also included in the Rhetoric sections.

Additionally, the beginning of each guide includes a step-by-step plan of how to use the study guide, a section of Notes & Instructions for the teacher, a two page section called Taking With Us What Matters on the use of a Central One Idea, another two page section on the four stages addressed above, and a single page on How to Mark a Book, which encourages students to underline and note during their reading.

As each recommended edition of the works to be studied comes with invaluable introductory information, the guides for all four books begin with a lesson over the Introduction. Some of these lessons are quite lengthy due to the quality and amount of necessary preparatory study as the guides do not assume the student is currently studying early English history. One could even use this entire literature set as a complement to a medieval English study.

Memoria Press Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set - A Classical way to study literature.

Our Experience:

There was no possible way we would be able to work through this entire year of curriculum during our review period, so I made it Amber's choice as to which book she wanted to use initially. Of course, she chose Henry V. Immediately upon being selected for the review we ordered the edition of Henry V currently sold at Memoria Press, assuming this would be the version referenced by the curriculum. Unfortunately once the literature set arrived, we found that the intended edition of Henry V is out of print and only available used from a few outlets online.

While having a different version of the play did not detract from the majority of the lessons, it was nearly impossible to use the Introduction lesson of the curriculum as it is written because it is geared to a specific edition of Henry V.  Instead I did have Amber read all of the initial historical materials in our copy of the play, then we went through most of the Introduction lesson as a discussion with me providing the answers to the specific questions from my teacher's guide.

I had also asked Amber to start her study by closely reading the student guide instructions, the section on One Central Idea, and the How to Mark a Book section. While she will not need to read those for every book in this literature year set, I do not see how she could effectively use the guides without understanding the concepts set forth in those beginning pages.

Memoria Press Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set - A Classical way to study literature.

Overall the Henry V study has gone splendidly, even though the pace has been slower than planned. Amber has a great desire to learn Shakespeare, yet finds the language hard to process. We have purposefully allowed additional time through the reading and comprehension sections (Grammar) of each Act to facilitate understanding. This change made it possible for her to work more independently in the Logic and Rhetoric stages, where she focused on the Central One Idea instead of language comprehension.

Amber's least favorite part has been the essay in the Rhetoric stage, and I must admit I've let her skip a couple of the essays to prevent us from being bogged down under the weight of the assignment. Instead, we've used some of the essay options as discussion starters where Amber was able to articulate her ideas without the stress of an essay that day. Truly, our favorite way to grade all of these literature lessons are in discussion where Amber reads her answers and defends them if my teacher guide does not entirely agree with Amber's interpretation. Even if she ultimately determines her answer is not the best, she comes to that realization on her own and not through my marking on her pages.

We are just now finishing the fourth of five acts in Henry V, and Amber has completely enjoyed her first full Shakespeare study. The format of the Memoria Press literature guides suits Amber's learning style, while being easy to implement for me. If you are interested in Classical education, or just a well written literature program, then I encourage you to give Memoria Press a try.

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  1. Thank you for this peek into the 9th grade unit. What a bummer that the books didn't match, we were fortunate that the library could order what we needed for our 4th grade unit.

  2. there are 4 books in the curriculum set and i'm struggling with how to break them down to fit ion a 36 week school year. It is one thing to read a book but its a whole nother situation to read a book with a Mermria Press workbook. Do you have any suggestions? I have the teachers guide but i do not have the instructors kit from memoria press with their written schedule and teacher helps.