Adam Andrews

Welcome to the Literature Class

July: Letting Swift River Go By Jane Yolen

lit_julIn this space, I am sharing some powerful techniques for reading comprehension and literary analysis that you can use with students of all ages, from kindergarten through high school. From month to month we are looking at a variety of great books—some written for adults, some for the smallest children—and showing how the same key questions can be asked of each one. Using these questions, you can lead a powerful discussion in your home or classroom almost automatically. You’ll be amazed at the results!

The lessons posted here are not designed to be used by the student as daily worksheets; rather, they are created to facilitate periodic (weekly or even daily) discussions between teacher and student. It’s this simple:

  • First, the student reads the assigned title (listed below) over the course of several days or weeks.
  • Then, teacher and student meet together to discuss the story, using the questions provided in this month’s lesson as a guide.

Our July 2014 lesson takes readers through Jane Yolen’s Letting Swift River Go. Pick up a copy at your local library, bookstore, or order one from many online retailers. Read the story with your child(ren). Then answer questions for Socratic Discussion based on plot, setting, characters, conflict, themes, literary devices, and more. Enjoy the discussion!

The story tells of a young girl who revisits the place of her lost childhood—the Quabbin Reservoir, which sits over where her hometown and childhood home once sat, in the Boston, Mass. area. She must learn to accept what has happened and deal with conflict of Man vs. Society, Man vs. Nature, and even Man vs. Self.

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Our June 2014 lesson takes readers into Mem Fox’s Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. The story tells of a young boy who befriends several people at the next-door nursing home. However, one woman, 96-year-old Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, becomes his special friend, initially based on their shared long name! A close bond forms, however, when young Wilfrid sets out to help Miss Nancy find her lost memories.

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Our May 2014 lesson takes readers through Sharon Creech’s Fishing in the Air. This story tells of a father-and-son fishing trip and connects generations through memory and melancholy. This lesson is among our many archived literature lessons from Adam at this site, and remains available at any time.

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If you’re looking for worksheets, beware: fill-in-the-blank exercises may actually hinder a student from understanding literature! The goal of literary analysis is to interact with a story as a complete work of art, to understand its themes and carry on a “conversation” with its author. At The Center for Literature, we have found that worksheets rarely contribute to such understanding. On the contrary, they often bore and frustrate even the most willing students.

After you and your students have read the book, click to go inside for this month’s lessons in weekly sections.

Happy Reading! Mr. A

Go to this month’s lesson on Letting Swift River Go

Visit the Literature Lesson Archives

Adam Andrews is the Director of the Center for Literary Education, He received his BA in Political Economy and Christian Studies from Hillsdale College in 1991. He earned his MA in History from the University of Washington in 1994, and is currently a candidate for the PhD in History. He is writing his doctoral dissertation on the history of American higher education. Adam is a Henry Salvatori Fellow of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and was a founding board member of Westover Academy, a Classical Christian school in Colville, Washington until 2007. He is the assistant director of the American Council for Accredited Certification, a non-profit professional certifying body.