Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to Turn a Beloved Book into a Literature Lesson: The Life of St. Brigid: Abbess of Kildare

Happy Feast of St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland! (January 1)

St. Brigid has been with me through many difficult moments with my children. When I was having trouble with my milk coming in to nurse my daughter, I prayed that she would bless my "pantry" so my milk would overflow. And she did!

We love St. Brigid and hope you get to know and love her too. And if you homeschool, you can use her book as a part of your curriculum.

Below is a link to a chart with examples of literary devices from The Life of St. Brigid: Abbess of Kildare.

With elementary children, work on only one device at a time.

For example, one week, read this sonorous book aloud together. Afterward, turn back to a page with alliteration, re-read the sentence aloud, and explain to your child the concept of alliteration, which is the repetition of the beginning sounds of words. See if your child can find another example as you read the rest of the page.

Through out the week, practice noticing alliteration (a favorite technique in most children’s books) in the various stories you read. Play games like “A my Name is Alice, and I like apples” (B my name is Betty and I like bongos and so forth) or “I’m going on a picnic” (and bringing awesome apples, bright yellow bananas, crunchy crackers, etc.) This is one of the children's favorite pastimes for the hour-long drive to the Grandparents' house.

You could have your child write a summary of her own saint’s life, using alliteration in one sentence. Or write a poem practicing alliteration in each line.

Don't go overboard! Especially with an elementary age child, use your judgement to know when your child has had enough, because we want this learning to be like a game. The main goal of reading stories in this age group should be to feast on the ideas of the stories, meet new friends (like Saint Brigid!) and to learn to love books.

I have played with a few of these ideas with my 5 year old, but I also remember writing papers in the 12th grade for AP English in which we identified and analyzed an author’s use of these very devices. Consequently, the material can be modified for middle and high school students as well.

Final note: the Literary Devices Chart includes hyperlinks to a variety of sights, so you can decide which one is right for your age group and personal preference. The St. Brigid Chart of Examples is not an exhaustive list of literary devices but is a list of some techniques Jane G. Meyer uses in creating her lyrical story.

Link to St. Brigid Chart of Examples

Link to a Literary Devices Chart Template you can use to find more examples in this book or in other books.

And really, you can take this idea and apply it to any good story. You will probably do it even better than I did because you know your own child best.


  1. I just finished reading this book yesterday, then clicked on your blog! Love the plans - thanks for sharing.

  2. THank you for this!I've been thinking along the same lines lately!

  3. That's fantastic...I really love the English "lesson." We're getting ready for another homeschooling year and thinking of what we should do differently this year...