Drawn into the Heart of Reading
is an outstanding guide for studying literature in grades 2-8. Students study nine different genres over the course of nine four-week units: biography, adventure, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, folk tales, nonfiction, humor, and realistic fiction.
What sets this curriculum apart is its flexibility:
- One Teacher's Guide covering all levels of instruction, with tips for multi-level teaching
- Three workbooks, each geared to specific levels of ability (Grades 2-3, 4-5, and 6-8)
- The freedom to choose your own literature; every student's booklist can be individualized to reflect personal taste and ability. This is a special boon if you have a reluctant reader!
- Study units in any order
One of the things I like about this program is that it incorporates Biblical character studies into the literary analysis. As we strive to "grow" a Biblical worldview, it helps to have this concept "built-in" to a curriculum!
Lessons cover three five-day weeks. Another five days are to be devoted to a "culminating project", making each unit twenty "study days" long, or approximately one month per unit.
Every unit begins with an introduction to the genre, comprising a definition, common characteristics found in books belonging to the category, one or more "Story Element Emphasis" definitions (for example, in Biography the story element emphasized is character; in Nonfiction the elements are main idea or theme), and finally a "Godly Character Trait Emphasis" (for example, while studying humor, the students will examine the traits of joy, thankfulness, enthusiasm, and creativity, as well as touching on traits studied in other units, such as responsibility, diligence, and initiative).
Next, each unit provides an "Assigned Reading Calendar" that the teacher uses to plan out the unit ahead of time and the student uses to track pages read. The teacher determines the titles and number of books read, choosing one of three schemes for pacing: three books read through in five days each, one book read through in over five days and one book read through in over ten days, or one book read through in fifteen days. The teacher calculates the number of pages that required per day to meet the goal and fills in the chart; the student checks off each block of reading as progress is made. Three weeks of reading are followed by a one-week project; all the project information is in the Teacher's Guide or in a Project Book, sold separately.
Worksheets follow that explore different characteristics of literature, depending on the genre studied. Each unit has vocabulary-building worksheets and "Godly Character Traits" worksheets, but many of the worksheets are unique, because each unit has a different focus, exploring a different story element (character, conflict, mood, main idea or theme, etc.). Some worksheets look like mind maps, with interconnecting shapes to be filled in as prompted; some have questions to answer (and for the student to generate!) and/or Bible verses to look up; and many are designed for use with a group (i.e., "Write down four questions to ask someone else about their book."). The wording of the questions allows for every student to read a different book and the group discussions still result in thoughtful conversation rather than chaos.
The student may use this particular level independently. One who can follow directions will likely be able to complete the worksheets without help. The direction to "Show the teacher this assignment when you are finished" appears frequently, encouraging accountability. For the days that are intended to be teacher-directed (i.e., "Meet with the teacher to do a pre-reading activity," where the Teacher's Guide gives directions for various activities), "Emergency Options" in the Appendix provides instructions for self-directed learning.
As a note, the Teacher's Guide has a wealth of information, with daily lesson plans, discussion questions, integration of all levels together, and guidance for the "culminating project" to which the fourth week of every unit is devoted. Project information is not included in the Student Book. (In my opinion, you cannot do without the Teacher's Guide for Student Book Level 2-3, but that's a different review.)
The Appendix in the student workbook contains "Emergency Options" that allow the students to work independently when the teacher is unable to direct discussion for that day. Activities are suggested for most of the days when there is no worksheet to fill out.
Tips for reluctant readers: Find a subject matter that your student finds interesting. There is such a wealth of books available today! I remember how one of my brothers hated reading until he was introduced to Jack London's Call of the Wild
. With Drawn into the Heart of Reading
you can assign books that appeal to a reluctant reader, and you can tailor the amount of reading as well. Assignments are relatively short and some involve drawing or talking as well as reading and writing.
Drawn into the Heart of Reading
is an ambitious program, beautifully laid out and flexible enough to use when you are homeschooling several children, all at different levels, all with different interests, all reading different books! It has obviously been crafted with much thought and care, and tackles literary analysis in an engaging manner, at least as far as this family of bookworms is concerned.
Other available resources include a project book ($6.50) and suggested book list ($5.00).