Middle school is a great time to start discussing literature. Of course, you can do some simple literature discussion with younger students, but beginning in middle school, you can start digging a little bit deeper. We like to spend a lot of time diving into the world the author has created with a themed literature unit centered around the book we're reading.
How to create a themed literature unit
Creating a themed literature unit doesn't have to be complicated. I like to keep things as simple as possible because that allows for lots of time on special interests and rabbit trails. Sometimes you don't really know what aspect of a story will interest your child the most until you dive into the story so keeping things simple allows them to explore those interests.
There are some basic things you'll want to do - and these tips will work with any novel that you and your child want to read. Some of the tips you may want to skip and just spend time focusing on the book. That's completely fine. Do what works for you and your child. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
No matter what kind of unit you create, you'll still want to be prepared for the discussion, so it's important to read the book yourself (or at least skim it so you have a good idea of the major points of the story).
On to the tips!
Read the book
Before starting a unit, read the book yourself and take notes as you read. Jot down ideas for discussion questions, interesting topics your child may want to study, or writing assignment ideas. To make your job a little bit easier, try to get an annotated edition and use it as your teacher's guide. The extra notes and information will be very useful.
Find out more about the author
Often, doing a quick internet search about the author will provide even more ideas for your study. Try to discover what authors inspired him to write and jot down those books and authors as well. You may find that you want to include some of those books in your literature study.
Make a list of discussion questions
While you're reading through your annotated edition of the book you've chosen to study, make a list of questions to discuss as you read through the book. Also, consider purchasing a study guide as an extra resource. I really like Teaching the Classics as a general tool for literature discussion - it's easy to adapt to any book.
Now it's time to assign the book
Once you've read the book yourself and created a list of discussion questions, it's time to have your student read the book. Decide how many pages or chapters you want to cover each week and schedule in plenty of time to discuss the book as they read. Use your annotated edition and list of discussion questions as a guide.
Include some writing assignments
Depending on the age and writing ability of your student, you could have them do some copywork, dictation, a short summary of a chapter, or use any of your discussion questions as essay assignments. Get your child involved in the process - give them a few options and let them decide what they'd like to write about.
Read works that inspired the author
If you're planning to dive deep into the book, have your student spend some time reading the works that inspired the author. Take time to discuss these books and how they influenced the author you're reading.
Include a few extra activities
The sky is really the limit when it comes to activity ideas. You could include vocabulary assignments, have your child create a diorama or display, or do a geography study. Brainstorm ideas with your child - they probably have plenty of ideas.
If you want to turn it into a deep themed literature unit study, consider studying more topics from the book - real life events, topics, or discoveries that are mentioned in the book. Or spend more time learning about the author and read more of his works. Include more books and resources about the author or various topics. You'll find plenty of resources and ideas to create a full literature unit.
Do you include literature discussion and study in your homeschool? I'd love to know how you do it.