There’s nothing better for me than snuggling on the couch with my children and reading. I dread the day when that will end. So until then, we do a lot of reading on the couch. Thankfully, my children love it and ask for read-alouds frequently. Hewitt Homeschooling’s Lightning Literature is a curriculum that covers literature, grammar and mechanics, and composition. This is done via reading a great picture book with your child each week. The child narrates the story, answers literary questions, and also learns grammar and mechanics using sentences from (or about) the story. The child also writes a composition each week about a theme that pairs well with the book of the week.
We received both the Lightning Literature and Composition: Grade 1 Student Workbook ($49.95) and the Lightning Literature and Composition: Grade 1 Teacher’s Guide ($29.95) to review. The Student Workbook is consumable so can only be used once. It includes reading journal pages, dictionary pages, and alphabet and sentence puzzle pages. The Teacher Guide provides questions and discussion tips for each book and helps you guide your child through a writing composition each week. Both are physical products and are geared for 1st grade, although an advanced Kindergarten child or a second grader with no previous grammar exposure would enjoy this as well.
There are 36 weeks planned out, with one book per week. Most of these books are popular and you might even own a copy. A handful were completely new to us. All but two were easily found at our library, and we actually owned about 1/3 of the titles. The books are meant to be done in order, but we found it still worked to skip around a bit. (We had to out of necessity when I thought we owned The Snowy Day, but it turned out we didn’t. We then had to wait on our hold at the library and moved on to Caps For Sale while we waited.)
Books Needed For Lightning Literature 1st Grade:
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Hellerv
Umbrella by Taro Yashimav
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Tabackv
The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Mother Goose Rhymes by Mother Goose
Mabela the Clever by Margaret Read MacDonald
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel
Bill and Pete to the Rescue by Tomie dePaola
Best Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban
Always Room for One More by Sorche Nic Leodhas
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág
Curious George Flies a Kite by Margret Reyv
Babar the King by Jean de Brunhoff
This Is London by M. Sasek
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head by Bill Peet
The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein
The only other thing you might want is Aesop’s Fables. One fable is read each week. There are free versions online, though. We happened to own a copy.
The Teacher’s Guide
There is a “How to Use This Teacher’s Guide” section at the beginning of the Teacher Guide. The advice is useful and comforting: “…use comprehension questions as a tool to improve reading comprehension rather than a test of it. Children are still learning to attend fully to books…” and general encouragement to feel free to tailor any parts to your child’s level. There were also pertinent information about each of the different sections (Literature, Grammar and Mechanics, and Composition).
The Teacher Manual begins each week with an “At A Glance” page. This page shows you the lessons for the week, which fable to read, and any materials you may want to add (totally optional). This is the page that lists other books that go along with the book of the week. We discovered a great new-to-us book from the second week’s list. Adele and Simon, a sweet go-along for Madeline.
Each week follows a rhythm:
Monday: Read the book and answer comprehension questions. Do Monday’s page in the Student Workbook. Start composition.
Tuesday: Read the book and discuss literary components. Do Tuesday’s page in the Student Workbook. Continue composition.
Wednesday: Read the book and discuss story with a different set of guiding questions. Do Wednesday’s page in the Student Workbook. Continue composition.
Thursday: Read the Aesop Fable. Do Thursday’s page. Write a good copy of the composition.
Friday: Free Day in which to do extension activities to go with the book (if you want). Examples of possibilities are included (like making a color wheel the week of Harold and the Purple Crayon) and this would be the day to read the go-along books (though this is not how we did it). This would be a good day to play with a themed sensory box or to bring out a literature box.
How We Used It:
I am using Lightning Literature Grade 1 with J-jo , my 4 (very nearly 5) year old. We were able to complete four weeks of the program and have now skipped a week to read Umbrella since it is due back at the library soon. We follow the Teacher’s Guide and read the story each day, but I also read it to J-jo Day 4 and Day 5. We have not added anything extra other than reading go-along books or more books by the same author.
I thought the grammar and mechanics would be too hard for J-jo, but he has handled it fine. Sometimes I need to tell him how many capital letters are missing and then he can easily find them all.
The independent writing sections I did with him. J-jo is still 4 (though he turns 5 on Saturday) and he is a typical boy who does not prefer to write. He loves to compose stories and such but desires a scribe and that is exactly what we did with this curriculum. The composition writing is meant to happen over the week, but he always just wanted to do it all on one day. He also had me scribe the Reading Journal sections, but I made him do the copywork. The copywork involves choosing your favorite sentence from the book. I encouraged him to choose the shortest one.
We were required to consume the workbook and write in it and for the most part we did. The only thing I had him do on separate paper was the copywork because a) the paper is the atrocious shiny kind that is horrible to write on in pencil and b) the binding prevents the child (well mine anyway ) to truly reach all sections of the pages. It was frustrating to him and to me.
He enjoyed the narrations (retelling the story) but he soon learned to be more succinct for they didn’t leave us much room to squeeze it all in!
There is a dictionary at the end in which you can write words from the stories you have read. We didn’t use it. It is an optional part.
What We Thought:
We really enjoyed Lightning Literature and Composition. J-jo would always ask for us to start with Lightning Lit and his enthusiasm for it hasn’t diminished.
What I liked:
1. The Teacher Guide set-up; it was easy to follow.
2. That no extra materials were needed besides books.
3. The quality of the books selected. It’s a great list.
4. The list of go-along books.
5. The grammar and mechanics lessons are taught using sentences from or about the stories.
6. The teacher guide provides questions that allow students to learn elements of literature. These questions enable them to point out elements in other books we read. Other questions allow for greater thinking about the book. I like that I don’t have to come up with questions.
7. Children are taught diagramming in the second half of the book. The grammar starts off easy, but progresses at a good clip.
What I really didn’t like:
1. The paper is the shiny kind that is horrible to write on in pencil. I hope they think about using the same kind of paper as the Teacher Guide for the Student Workbook in their next grade levels and in subsequent printings of the first grade one.
2. The binding prevents the child (well mine anyway ) to truly reach all sections of the pages. Coil binding is my preference for workbooks and I wish publishing companies in general would be cognizant of this, as I know I am not the only one with a coil binding preference.
3. The price. Without even considering the books needed (if you don’t use the library), the Teacher’s Guide and Student Workbook add up to almost $80. While I do think this program is worth that amount, for it’s thoroughness and the fact that it covers literature, grammar and mechanics, and composition, I know that many families can not afford that.
What J-jo did not like:
I am not including his general aversion to writing, but he did want me to mention he does not like the themed alphabet pages in which he has to come up with a different word for each letter of the alphabet for the theme. (It was colors for Harold and the Purple Crayon, and weather for The Snowy Day.) “It’s too hard!” he says.
Hewitt Homeschooling has many literature curriculum courses for middle school and high school, and are working on completing their literature curriculum for 2nd through 6th grade. So the 1st grade curriculum is brand new and each year they plan to add a new grade.