My oldest child is in 8th grade this year and is taking a Literary Analysis class for the first time. The class involves writing many literary analysis essays. Rather than dive right into the Literary Analysis class, I thought it would be prudent and fruitful to first teach her how to write a literary analysis essay. Even though I feel confident in my own writing, I wasn’t sure how to go about teaching her how to write this specific type of essay. Therefore, I was completely delighted when I attended a presentation about Teaching the Essay by Analytical Grammar at last year’s MidWest Homeschool Convention.
After listening to the representative explain the Teaching the Essay unit, I knew that it was exactly what I was looking for to teach my daughter how to write a literary analysis essay. More than anything, the very best way to describe Teaching the Essay is CLEAR. Even if you have absolutely no background in expository writing, Teaching the Essay will teach you, the parent-teacher, how to teach your child to write a 5 paragraph expository essay focusing on literary analysis. Teaching the Essay is designed for the secondary student – junior high age and above.
As Robin Finley, the author of Teaching the Essay, asserts, writing a literary analysis essay involves fluency, mechanics, and structure. Fluency has to do with the “gift of gab” and the ability to put words on paper. Some children are natural writers and will find fluency easier than those who struggle to put words on paper but ALL children become more fluent writers with practice. Mechanics has to do with grammar and is taught separately from this unit by whatever grammar curriculum you choose. Lastly, writing a literary analysis essay involves STRUCTURE and Teaching the Essay focuses on the structure of a 5 paragraph essay. After finishing this teaching unit, your child should have no doubt about what a literary analysis actually is and how one should look.
Teaching the Essay comes with all of the notes and reproducible hand-outs you will need to teach a 4 – 8 week course on writing literary essays. My daughter is a fluent writer and was able to catch on to the concepts fairly easily so we completed the unit in 5 weeks. Depending on your child, you may need more or less time to finish the unit. In addition, a CD is included for the teacher. Listening to the whole CD gives you a big picture overview of the whole teaching unit so that you feel prepared about how to go about teaching the unit. As well, the CD is divided into tracks by teaching days so that you can listen to the specific teaching day that you are on to prepare for that day’s teaching.
How does this teaching unit work?
- In this teaching unit, all students start with reading The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. Then, a thesis statement is given to the child to build a literary analysis essay around. For this first essay, the parent-teacher and student work together every step of the way to complete this first essay.
- For the second essay, the child reads “Wheldon the Weed” first. Then the student is given a choice of three thesis statements to choose from that correspond to the included short story. This essay is completed more independently with the parent-teacher giving help as needed.
- For the third essay, the child reads “Bargain” first. Then the student is given a choice of three thesis statements to choose from that correspond to the included short story. This essay is completed more independently with the parent-teacher giving help as needed.
- Lastly, the student chooses his or her own short story and thesis statement. This last essay is written independently.
After writing four essays in this unit, the student should feel comfortable writing other literary essays. In my own experience, after writing the essays, my daughter was able to easily apply the knowledge and the structure to her writing assignments in her literary analysis course. If the student needs more or less practice, the teaching unit can be easily adjusted to the needs of the student.
In addition to all of the detailed instructions given on the CD, Teaching the Essay also includes the following tools to help teach the unit:
- A very clearly written hand-out titled “What is a Literary Essay?”
- A graphic organizer hand-out to further explain the structure of a literary essay titled “The Keyhole Structure of the Literary Essay”
- A completed literary essay of the Tell-Tale Heart for the teacher
- An outline hand-out of the whole writing process for a literary essay – “How to Write a Perfect Essay: It’s All in the Process!”
- Teaching the Essay teaching notes – A Step by Step Guide for the Teacher
- All the needed texts for the literary essays written in the unit (The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe, Bargain by A. B. Guthrie,Jr., and Wheldon the Weed by Peter Jones)
- Reproducible worksheets to help the student write each part of the essay
- Very detailed grading rubric.
To learn more about Teaching the Essay, you can visit their website and watch an informational video about the teaching unit by Robin Finley. As well, I have found the representatives from Analytical Grammar very easy to talk to and quick to respond to e-mails. I am sure that they would be glad to answer any additional questions you may have about Teaching the Essay. Teaching the Essay is available online for $15.00.
Samantha has been homeschooling for 8 years and currently is homeschooling her 8th grade daughter, 6th grade son, and 4th grade son. Samantha is an eclectic homeschooler using a wide variety of curriculum to best meet the ever-changing needs of her children. Samantha writes about homeschooling and family life at To Be Busy at Home.