Recommended Website: Shmoop.comhttp://www.shmoop.com/literature/
Age Range: 12-18+ (While seemingly geared for use in high school and beyond, younger students may enjoy aspects of this site with parental guidance.)
Shmoop.com requested that ClickSchooling review their
relatively new website (still in Beta testing mode). I'm glad
they contacted me because it may be the best, FREE, web-based
reference archive for studying literature, poetry, and U.S.
history that I've seen. Shmoops' mission is: "To make learning
and writing more fun and relevant for students in the digital age."
Although the "About" section of this site doesn't provide much
info in terms of who is behind this magnanimous effort, the
content is written primarily by Ph.D. and Masters students
from top universities, like Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, and Yale.
Now, I know that a reference archive may sound boring - but I
promise you, Shmoop's laid back and often humorous approach to
the material is really engaging. It's a fun read in and of itself.
When you click on the above link, you'll land on the
literature page where you'll see a menu of literary works by
authors such as Jane Austen, Albert Camus, Ernest Hemmingway,
Jack London, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams and more.
Click on any one and a new page opens with a menu that includes:
*Intro - Includes, "In A Nutshell" - a short description of
the work, and "Why Should I Care?" - explains why the work is relevant.
*Summary - A brief overview of the work and a chapter-by-chapter summary.
*Characters - A description of the characters and their roles in the work.
*Plot Analysis - Includes situation, conflict, complication,
climax, suspense, denouement, conclusion, etc.
*Literary Devices - Like a virtual "Cliff's Notes," this
section provides information on symbols, imagery, allegory,
setting, tone, writing style, and my personal favorite,
"What's Up with the Ending?"
*Did You Know? - Learn tidbits and trivia related to the work,
find out the "Sex Rating" (great for parents who want to know
if a work is too steamy), and "Shout Outs" - a list of other
great works, people, and events that the AUTHOR refers to in
the book with links to the source material - way cool!
*Best of the Web - Be still my ClickSchooling heart! This
section links directly to Photos, Pictures, Books, Movies, TV,
Documents, Video and Audio on other websites that relate to
the literary work! They've done the research for you - and
the links include a one-line description that will help you
determine if you want to click on it or not. What a time saver!
You'll also find "Themes and Quotes," "Study Questions," and
more content that you can access for free, without obligation.
However, if you want to use their tools such as the "Write a
Paper" guide you must create an account and log in (it's free).
NOTE: I only reviewed the literature section of this site.
Use the menu to explore the "Poetry" and "U.S. History"
sections on your own. For that reason, and because this site
links to exterior websites that I have not reviewed PARENTS,
AS ALWAYS, SHOULD PREVIEW CONTENT TO DETERMINE SUITABILITY.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate that one of the best aspects of
this site is the way humor is used to engage students. One
example is the description of the site's purpose, which I
submit for your amusement:
A. Help me figure out what the h@$% to write on my paper
B. Make studying less of a snooze-fest
C. Give me ammo to speak intelligently in class
D. Blow my teacher's mind with video, audio, photos, and web links on the topics we're studying
E. Help me impress dates with my big, juicy brain
It's this kind of captivating banter that students will find
irresistible. Just browsing the site can ignite interest in
literature - and that's one reason this site is a CSAW (ClickSchooling Award Winner)!
Diane Flynn Keith
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