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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Grade 3 Lightning Literature & Composition, a review

Are you looking for a program that covers literature, composition, grammar, and mechanics for the elementary grades? I recently had the opportunity to try out and review the Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set from Hewitt Homeschooling. Hewitt Homeschooling

Review of Grade 3 Lightning Lit from Hewitt Homeschooling at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

The Lightning Literature & Composition Grade 3 Set includes:

  • 300+ page Teacher’s Guide with reproducible ruled writing paper in various in 1/2” and 5/8” sizes in the back
  • 300+ page consumable full-color 3-hole drilled and micro perforated Student Workbook

To complete this year-long course, your student will also need the following works of literature:

  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan (weeks 1-2)
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins (weeks 3-4)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (weeks 5-9)
  • Random House Book of Poetry for Children by Jack Prelutsky and Arnold Lobel (weeks 10, 15, 22, & 30)
  • Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (weeks 11-14)
  • The Big Wave by Pearl Buck (week 16)
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (weeks 17-21)
  • The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (weeks 23-29)
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (weeks 31-36)

As you can see, there are 36 weeks of lessons ready to fill your year with great literature. Many of these titles I already had on my shelves and the others can be found at my library (though I’d be happy to add them to my home library---who can resist buying good books?).

Lightning Lit Grade 3 is open and go!

Just open up your Teacher’s Guide, open up your Student Workbook, and grab the current book. I remove the current week from the Student Book and place those pages into a file folder. This way my daughter can deal with each day’s one or two pages and easily write on them. The pages are micro-perforated. I’ve had bad luck with workbooks tearing when you try to pull out the sheets, but these pages pull out neatly with no tears. The 3-hole drilling makes it easy to pop them into a binder or portfolio when we are done.

Review of Grade 3 Lightning Lit from Hewitt Homeschooling at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds 2

Each week has four days of lessons with the fifth day of the school week being left open for extension activities or finishing up any unfinished work. This makes Lightning Lit easy to fit in, even if you have a once a week co-op.

There are four main parts to each day’s lesson:

  • daily reading---your child can read the assigned chapters or you can read them aloud to her
  • comprehension questions or book discussion---these are done orally
  • grammar and mechanics---topics such as parts of speech, capitalization, transition words, distinguishing fact from opinion, different types of writing, and more, plus sentence diagramming
  • composition---for each literary unit, your child will write at least one composition. Examples of compositions: description of place, directions for how to do, personal essay, short story, mad lib, paper on a family member, persuasive paper, etc.

There are also some optional parts: reading journal pages, dictionary pages, sentence puzzles and extra diagramming, poet biographies, and extension activities. If your child needs spelling and handwriting instruction, you will need to add those separately.

Now, that all sounds like a lot to do each day, but you are not doing every single little thing each day. Typically you’ll read for a few minutes, discuss, maybe do a few sentence diagrams, and then do the next step on the current composition. The time it takes will vary, but most days we spent about a half hour.

The Grade 3 Set does not assume prior knowledge, so while some of the grammar and mechanics topics are covered in the Grade 2 Set, it is easy to jump into Grade 3 without having used it. My 8-year-old daughter, Emma, had no trouble at all understanding sentence diagramming, for instance, even though I had never covered this with her before.

What do we think of Lightning Lit Grade 3?

I love that it is open and go with very little preparation on my part. We just pick up where we left off the previous day. Each day’s work has a predictable rhythm to it which is good for kids this age. The fact that it is broken down into weekly units also makes it very easy to adjust the pacing to your own needs. Emma enjoys the books. I have been reading them aloud to her, not because she couldn’t read them herself, but because I enjoy reading to her and it’s easier for me to be fully engaged in the discussion having read the book myself.

I like that the diagramming exercises are set up so that the student doesn’t have to fully draw the diagram and write out all the words herself. She can just add the diagramming to the sentence printed in her workbook, crossing out and repositioning words.

Review of Grade 3 Lightning Lit from Hewitt Homeschooling at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds 3

I like that the discussion questions are broken down by chapter. I found that on days when we were to read more than one chapter, it worked much better if I read one chapter, went over those questions, then read the next chapter…young minds get easily distracted.

Emma really enjoyed the process of doing the first composition: writing a description of a place.

We were instructed to choose a location nearby and easy to get to. The first day we had to go there so she could write down nouns describing the place and then the next day she visited again to write down adjectives describing the place. Emma chose the park near our home and narrowed her focus to the playground. This is her final composition:

The swings are very fun. The seats are rough and black and I hold onto the chains. I can swing very high. It seems like I can touch the clouds. The rough, gray climbing wall sometimes feels like a cliff, but I always remember that it is plastic and sometimes I pretend it is a spaceship. the bells ding when I hit them with metal. Each of the bells makes its own unique sound and they are metal, too. And maybe sometimes I pretend they are flying saucers. The slides are slippery to slide down and to climb up. There are also little surprises under the slides like spiders and lizards. The ladders are pretty fun and one of them in particular, which goes sideways is sometimes scary when I go up and down it. I can crawl through the plastic, green tunnel, look through the tall, thin windows, and look at the old graffiti. Only the smallest people can walk through the tunnel.  

I liked the way the tasks for this first composition were broken down into chunks over two weeks. This seemed like a good pace. I found that I had to scribe for my daughter, who doesn’t have a lot of physical writing stamina, yet. While the Teacher’s Guide does encourage you to scaffold your child as much as needed, I did feel like the writing demands for this course were a bit on the high side for a beginning 3rd grader.

And after the first unit, Emma started complaining.

She went from being my happy, “ooh, let’s do English” girl to my “oh, do we have to do English, again” girl. Which made me sad. This is a child who likes to do school. She likes to learn. She likes to read stories and she likes to make up stories. What happened?

Part of it was that the 2nd composition wasn’t fun for her: explain how to do something you know well. So, a child might describe how to make a sandwich. Or how to play a game. Emma decided to describe how to operate our TV and set up the Wii on it. Which was ok, but pretty boring. I tried to talk her into something else, but she stuck to that topic.

The composition assignments were a little odd. First she was supposed to list the verbs she would use to explain, which her case was mainly pressing buttons. Then she was supposed to add adverbs. How many ways can you press a button (I know---lots of, but how many that make sense when you are giving instructions?). And then she needed to add transitions (which haven’t been explained in the curriculum, yet---they come around week 15).  So I got a big “Huh?” Etc. It got so that she wanted nothing to do with this composition.  I ended up just saying, “Hey, Emma, tell me how to operate the TV and Wii!” And I typed up her instructions and declared it done.

She was also objecting to some of the writing in the workbook. It was too much, she said. It wasn’t, really, a lot of writing, but it was hard writing. Some of the words that she needed to cross out and rewrite in the diagrams were difficult to spell and she painstakingly copied them letter-by-letter, which takes a lot of mental energy. The reason for this is that the sentences used for diagramming come from the literature, which my daughter can read, but she cannot spell (yet). And it is common in early elementary for kids’ reading levels to be higher than their spelling abilities. For most of the other exercises that required actual writing, I scribed for her.

We also found that some of the other exercises went completely over her head. At the end of Rickshaw Girl, for example, there is an exercise where the child is supposed to differentiate between statements that describe and statements that explain. The statements given are taken directly from the author’s note at the end of the book, which is all about the positive impact that microfinance has made on women in Bangladesh, so while it is interesting (to me, as an adult), it is clearly not aimed at a very young audience. While my daughter could clearly differentiate between which statements were descriptive and which were explanatory, she couldn’t really understand what it was that the author as talking about---this frustrated her and it seemed like an empty exercise.

As I look forward and see things like writing a persuasive paper, I feel that the writing parts of this program are not good fit for my child at this time, so we won’t be continuing with the writing portions. We may or many not continue the literature and grammar portions.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set.

While the whole package is not a good fit for my daughter, it may be a good fit for a more advanced student or for someone who has greater writing stamina. I recommend checking out the samples to see if it’s a good fit for your child.

Hewitt Homeschooling

For reviews of other products from Hewitt Homeschooling, including their high school level literature and composition programs, please visit:

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
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