6/3/14

Literature Study Guides from Progeny Press {Crew Review}

A few years ago the Schoolhouse Review Crew introduced me to a company called Progeny PressProgeny Press creates wonderful study guides to accompany a wide range of literature.  There are guides for books from early elementary all the way through high school.  Book titles range from current new fiction to beloved well known classics.  There are even a few titles of gems that I’d never heard of before.

Because I was able to review several study guides before, I knew I wanted to review Progeny Press again.  I have not been disappointed with our choice to review The Hunger Games Study Guide and The Courage of Sarah Noble Study Guide.  I received both of these as downloadable PDF files. Progeny Press Literature Study Guide Review from Circling Through This LIfe

Common to Both Guides:

Although geared for different ages both guides are laid out in a similar fashion.  This is the structure that all of the guides I’ve used have had:

  • Table of Contents
  • Note to the instructor with suggestions on how to use the guide
    • Note:  For the Sarah Noble one, the guide mentioned “middle and high school” and the suggestions were not appropriate for the 1st to 3rd grade guide
  • a synopsis of the story
  • a section about the author
    • The Hunger Games guide also has a section for the Study Guide Author, but the Sarah Noble guide does not.
  • Ideas for Pre-Reading Activities
  • Questions for chapters (Chapters are in groups of 2 –3 or 4 (e.g. chapters 1-3)
    • Vocabulary
    • Exploring a literary element such as setting or character
    • Questions (these are comprehension questions about the story)
    • Thinking about the Story: These questions are more analytical
    • Dig Deeper: I think of these like a mini-bible study. These questions explore themes, concepts or ideas from the story from a biblical perspective.
  • Answer Key
    • Note:  The Answer Key for the high school guides is a separate (but included) file.

Looking at the Differences:

A few differences between the Sarah Noble Guide and the Hunger Games Guides: 

  • Hunger Games Guide includes an Overview Section.  I think of this section as the literary analysis section where you explore the theme, the dramatic structure, the conflict and even the characters.  The other sections, even with the probing questions, are much more like comprehension questions.  It’s more than just understanding the book but not quite the same literary analysis as provided in the Overview section. The other sections of the guide prepare you for the overview.  In the Note to Instructor section, it states that you can use the overview section as final exam.
  • The Courage Of Sarah Noble Study Guide includes an “As You Read Activity” in addition to the suggested before you read activities
  • Hunger Games has a section of essay and writing assignments. These are optional but I think requiring one paper from this list from high school students truly makes this worth 1/4 credit for high school literature.
  • Sarah Noble has an Activities, Arts and Crafts section which even includes a crossword puzzle.
  • Sarah Noble contains suggestions for further reading while Hunger games calls the same section a list of additional resources.

The Courage of Sarah Noble Study Guide

I used this study guide by Rebecca Gilleland.  The novel is a popular novel to include in literature based American History programs for elementary aged children. The study guide provides an excellent opportunity to tie language arts and history together.

Cover image of Progeny Press Guide for Courage of Sarah Noble

This guide is labeled 1st-3rd grade.  Developmentally Supergirl functions around a 1st grade level.  As such this is not a guide she could use independently, though I think many 3rd graders would be able to use independently.

I chose not to print out the guide but rather to put it on my Kindle and use it as discussion questions with Supergirl. At first I read both chapters and then on another day we would discuss the questions. Then I tried it where I read one chapter, then we did all the questions for that chapter.  This meant that we would do the vocabulary for the words covered in the first chapter, then skip ahead and do the other questions.  Then I would read the second chapter in the section and do the same thing.  We were about 3 quarters finished with the book and I gave her a choice. Do the study guide for the chapters we just read (I had gone back to reading both chapters instead of one at a time) or finish the book and do questions for both sections over the next couple of days.  She choose to finish the book.

Supergirl really struggled with some of the vocabulary sections that required her to define the word.  She did much better with the vocabulary sections that involved multiple choice or matching. The questions such as “what did she hold when she went to sleep?” were easy for her but she struggled with questions like “why did Sarah’s father say she was too wise for her years?”

The activities and crafts at the end of the study guide serve as a nice wrap up. Supergirl particularly enjoyed building a log cabin but we had to modify the the project just a bit. Our pretzel sticks would fall over if we put them more than 3 high. So instead we spread frosting on a graham cracker and Supergirl laid out pretzel sticks to form a wall.  We were then able to stand the walls up and add a graham cracker roof.

Supergirl pic for Progeny Press review Log Cabin Sarah Noble Review

Overall I think she enjoyed the study, but I’m not sure she really got as much out of it as she would have if she were “older.”  I think a 1st grader would get more out of this if they were working through the study with an older sibling and I do think this is a great study 3rd graders. I do want to try some of the other lower-elementary titles available with Supergirl.

The Hunger Games Study Guide

Rebecca Gilleland also wrote this study guide to go along with the Hunger Games novel by Suzanne Collins. Turtlegirl and Tailorbear had both read the novel. Both have used and loved Progeny Press guides in the past so both were excited, almost eager, to get a chance to study this rich novel in depth.

I had not read the novel before and decided I wanted to read the book myself so that I could participate more fully in our discussions.  I love that the study guide includes an answer guide. In the past I relied heavily on them because I had not read the book. I used it this time for easy checking of vocabulary sentences and as a comparison for our own answers to the questions.

In the note to instructor section, it is suggested that you might complete a section a week.  A section would cover 3 to 4 chapters of the book plus the vocabulary and questions. Progeny Press recommends the student complete one page per day in the study guide. At the high school level, this means the guide will cover about one quarter (8-9 weeks). Cover image for Progeny Press Study Guide for The Hunger Games

One suggestion includes reading the entire book and doing pre-activities the first week. The girls had already read the book but it had been awhile so they started re-reading the book and they wrote essays about dystopian societies.

We have found that we prefer to read the books as we go through the study.  It had been long enough since Tailorbear had read the book that she really did need to re-read it and it worked better for her to read slightly ahead of where she was working in the guide. This kept the book fresher in her mind.  The guide does say that students should be allowed to refer back to the novel when completing the study guides.

I had the girls work through each section independently and then we went over their answers in a group discussion. Sometimes even mom answered the question before we would check to see what the answer key said.  The discussion with my daughters are my favorite parts of these study guides. 

The Hunger Games Study Guide is interactive which means the girls could type their answers directly into the PDF document.  So we would sit around the family room with the girls and their laptops and me with my Kindle Fire that had the Answer Key PDF. 

During the review period Tailorbear and Turtlegirl attended a birthday party.  This was a special Foam Sword Party and one of the “battle” reenactments was called Hunger Games. The girls came home excited to talk about how the Form Sword Battle set up a situation like the beginning of the Hunger Games and the dash for weapons at the Cornucopia  Tailorbear also got to be an archer for the battles.  Both girls have gained a deeper interest in archery because of The Hunger Games and one of the pre-activities to learn about archery.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 15):

The Hunger Games Study Guide can really get my mind going. If if I’m in the right mood or frame of mind, it can get me thinking deeper and more seriously about the story. I appreciate the depth of some of the questions. The only issue I really have is with some of the more 'bible study' questions. I like that we are reading a bible passage and being asked questions like number 15 in the Chapters 8-10 section. We read about David and Hanun and we’re asked  to describe how that might be similar to how Katniss treats Peeta.  Then in question 16 we’re asked to read a NT passage and explain how Katniss might have behaved differently if she followed Christ’s words. I really like that part because it’s taking a Christian perspective and asking us to apply it to the Hunger Games.  I do have an issue with asking questions that have NO real connection to the story and only have something to do with the Bible such as how would Hanun’s behavior be different.  Otherwise the study guide was amazing and it helped me to understand the Hunger Games on a deeper level.

My Orthodox Christian Perspective

Overall I continue to be very pleased with Progeny Press Literature Study Guides. I have used 5 of them and only once did I have an issue that made go “hmm.”  In the Sarah Noble guide there is a statement about how Sarah did not use a memorized prayer but rather made her petitions known to God. It read like memorized prayers were a bad thing and I disagree with that. We certainly do add our personal petitions to our memorized prayers but memorized prayers can be beautiful and heartfelt.

I do like that these study guides are from a Christian Perspective. We just make sure that we use an Orthodox Study Bible for reading the suggested passages and we skip some of the questions that are more “Bible study” related instead of “literature study” related.  I do recommend these study guides and Tailorbear has requested to use more of them.

Progeny Press Literature Guides Circling Through This Life Review

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