Do you love to have your kids read great books? Do you struggle with figuring out what to do after they read the books? If you are like me, great literature is an important part of your homeschool. While we do a lot of narrating and discussion, my kids are in middle school and high school, so I also like to have them do some form of written work as well. Progeny Press literature guides make this easy. For this review, we got to check out two guides, one for The Hunger Games and the other for The Giver.
My son and I are both huge fans of the Hunger Games book, so this first guide was a natural choice. Aimed at grades 8-12, the interactive e-guide was perfect for my 10th grade son. Now, what I like about the e-guides is their versatility. You can choose to print pages from the guide, or, have your child enter their answers directly into the guide itself, as my son did. The guide starts with a synopsis of the story, and some ideas for pre-reading activities. Even though my son had already read this book, he did some of the activities, including writing a compare and contrast easy about a dystopia and a utopia. The guide divides the book into sections of questions on two to four chapters each.
Each section of the guide began with multiple choice vocabulary activities, followed by a set of recall questions, and then questions that required students to think more about the story. Lessons on appropriate literary devices, like metaphor and simile, were used to help students think about the book. I liked this because I thought it was a good way to teach these concepts in context, which makes them easier to understand. Another positive for me was the fact that many of the questions in the Dig Deeper section were Biblically linked. So, the student was asked to read a passage from the Bible, and then apply it to actions of characters in the story. Especially for my high school age son, I like the idea of using the Bible as a lens to filter literature.
Optional activities in each section included ideas for further research or group and individual projects. I think if you had more than one student reading the same book at the same time, these would be more applicable than they were in my situation. At the end of the Hunger Games guide, there was an overview that included questions on story elements and characters that applied to the story as a whole. I used this as a sort of “quiz” grade for my son. It also included several suggestions for essay and writing assignments.
My impression? This was a top-notch high school level literature guide. My son enjoyed being able to do his work directly on the computer, and I felt like the questions and activities really challenged him to think about the book. As a parent, I liked the set up of the guide, and the answer key!!
The second guide we got to check out was for The Giver. This guide is aimed at grades 5-8, and I used it with my 7th grade son. Another interactive e-guide, this was especially well suited to my middle school boy who deplores hand-writing anything!! Similar in structure to the Hunger Games guide, this one began with a synopsis of the book, background information, and pre-reading activities. Interestingly enough, these activities also focused on the idea of a utopia, which created some interesting discussion for both of my boys. In fact, if you have younger and older children, having them read these books at the same time allows for a lot of parallel discussion.
Sections in this guide are based on 2-3 chapters and also start with a vocabulary activity, however, these activities involve fill-in-the-blank, writing definitions, and multiple choice. There are also fewer questions, which I felt was appropriate for middle school. Several story and literature elements were discussed in this guide, including setting, foreshadowing, and connotative meaning. Some of these concepts can be difficult to master, and again, I felt like by learning them in direct relation to the story, it made them a lot clearer.
The recall and thinking about the story questions provided a good assessment of how much the student read and understood, while the Dig Deeper questions once again provided a Biblical perspective. The optional writing activities encourage students to place themselves in the context of the story. We did not complete every one of these, since essay writing is something we are still working on, but we did a few of them and then used the others for discussion. At the end of the guide, there is an eight question summary section, as well as additional essay ideas.
On the whole, I was very impressed with this guide as well. I felt like it was appropriately designed for the age range, and would prepare them for the more difficult guides in the future. My son enjoyed the guide mainly because they were computer-based, but I really did feel like the questions and ideas caused him to really think about the book.
I feel like these guides would be a great addition to any homeschool. They make teaching literature easy, and encourage deeper examination of each book. The Hunger Games e-guide costs $21.99, while the e-guide for The Giver is $18.99. I think these prices are reasonable, and I would definitely look at getting more Progeny Press guides in the future! We enjoyed these as much as we did the guides we got to try last year.
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