Preface: In our schools, as in many others, the use of Cliffs Notes is forbidden. The bright yellow and back pamphlets are confiscated when found in student possession. For my Seniors an exploration of the services provided by literary supplements and the chance to investigate the variety available is like offering "forbidden fruit."
Day One: Provide small working groups (5-7) students with a variety of literary supplements to analyze. Using a prepared checklist have the groups indicate what each type provides. Include the less academic - more affective- aspects such as size, readability, appearance. Each group presents their findings to the others and a recommendation of the best type(s).
Day Two: Provide small working groups with the same novels. Tell them that with two weeks they will read the novels and prepare their own version of a literary supplement ( Cliff Notes) for that novel. Often the teams divide the reading of chapters and "jigsaw" the novel.
Day Three - Five: In class reading and discussion time; again all done in the small working group. Decisions about characters, plot, theme, author information, background, literary type, etc. are made.
Day Six: Students go to library to research needed information on literary types, author's background, read other critical analysis of the author and his work, look for modern equivalents (Electronic Library is especially good for this)
Day Seven: Working in the computer lab, the students piece together the elements they've chosen as pertinent for their literary supplement.
Day Eight: Continue working in lab. Publication is Day Ten
Day Nine: Continue working/Publish
Day Ten: Share literary supplements with classmates. Discuss what they've learned about the shortcomings as well as the assistance provided by literary supplements.
We have a Night of the Arts where projects such as these can be displayed. It's great for the kids to know their work will be seen.