Saturday, December 6, 2008

Learning about Literature, US History, and Poetry with Shmoop

This evening I wanted to stop what I was doing and read a book. In fact, I wanted to re-read The Old Man and the Sea. And then I wanted to read about the Great Depression.

What led to those ideas? I was exploring shmoop’s web site.

Shmoop focuses on the relevance of literature and history to today’s students, middle school and above. They say that their mission is to “make learning and writing more fun and relevant for students in the digital age.” In my opinion, students aren’t the only ones who will find this site interesting and fun.

Even their blog is fun to read. Recent entries are titled “Why Should I Care About…” followed by the name of a novel that they relate to people and popular culture that today’s students recognize.

In the literature area, they expand upon 115 novels at this point. You can sort the novels by author or by title and view them as a list or by cover flow. After you choose a novel, you can choose to read and learn beginning with an introduction (“in a nutshell” and “why should I care?”) to the novel, and then a summary, themes, quotations, plot analysis, study questions, characters, literary devices, did you know, and best of the web.

Fifty US history topics are covered. After you choose a topic, you can read an introduction, an in-depth explanation, a timeline, people, did you know, best of the web (books, movies and TV, music, photos, audio and video, historical documents), and citations.

In the poetry section, I looked for Carl Sandburg among the 30 poems, but unfortunately they don’t have any of his poetry yet. I’ve not read much by E.E. Cummings, so I read about one of his poems. After you choose a poem, you can explore an introduction, the poem, summary, technique, themes, quotations, study questions, did you know, best of the web, and how to read a poem.

Once you’re in shmoop, you can put Stickies, Clippings, or Paper Outlines on any page and access them in your Folders. A dictionary is available to define words you select on the web site. You can also enter into a discussion (asynchronous) with others.

The literature section has a guide to help you write a paper. A free cram sheet and aids for review are available in the US history area. In the poetry area you can search for words that are displayed in a word cloud.

Launched on November 11, 2008, shmoop is beta. In fact, they state that they “still have miles to go.” But, it looks like a great start for a web site that both teachers and students can use as they work with literature, US history, and poetry.

It will be interesting to watch what new subjects they add.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Thanks for this post, Jo! This looks like a great site.