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The titles included cover most reading lists, with works ranging from middle school novels like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Giver to classics like The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Shakespearean plays. There are also some more contemporary works like The Kite Runner and The Da Vinci Code, among poetry and short story selections as well.
The site's discussion guides are decent, though not exhaustive -- teachers could glean ideas for in-class analysis and activities. Teachers may also want to be apprised of the site's analysis for any works they've assigned -- it may help them assess their students' originality and ensure academic honesty.Continue reading Show less
SparkNotes, owned by Barnes & Noble, offers free study guides for hundreds of literary works on its website. The app version is preloaded with 50 works, including poetry, Shakespearean plays, and novels that frequent high school reading lists, like 1984, Brave New World, The Canterbury Tales, and The Odyssey. When connected to Wi-Fi, students can also access the site's entire library titles, easily downloading them to their device for off-line access.
Each title includes a plot overview, background information about the author and the work, a character list, and analysis, including explorations of themes, motifs, and symbols. Students can read a detailed chapter-by-chapter summary, explanations of important quotations, and lists of key facts and study questions.
When it comes to literary study guides, SparkNotes offers some of the most in-depth analysis when compared to other free and low-cost offerings. If teachers can ensure kids fully experience the texts by reading themselves -- perhaps through in-class reading -- then the information available through SparkNotes can really help students make sense of, and think more deeply about, the literature they're reading.
Often, when students have a preliminary understanding of a text's plot and characters, they're more easily able to understand the original text, especially in cases where the language and text complexity prove to be challenging. Students may even find inspiration in some of the ideas they read, bringing their own insights into class discussions and analytical writing.
Key Standards Supported
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).
(Not applicable to literature)
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.