The One Year Adventure Novel course walks high school students through the entire process of creating their own adventure novel. The course works well for independent study, although it is also great for students to meet with others at least once a week to share their work. Students working independently share their work with a parent or teacher, so either way they get continual feedback.
The course comes with seven DVD discs and an eighth resource disc, The Compass textbook, The Map workbook, a teacher's guide, and the novel, The Prisoner of Zenda. With 78 lessons in all, the course should take about 26 weeks if a student completes three lessons per week.
For each lesson, students begin by watching a presentation on the DVD which might run about 15 to 30 minutes—most are closer to 15 minutes. Schwabauer is a very engaging presenter, including examples from well-known books and movies as he explains concepts. Clips from old movies also illustrate his points from time to time. The excellent pacing of the DVD presentations means that lessons are just the right length to get the point across without becoming boring (although you might want to skip through the introduction to each lesson which repeats each time).
After watching the video, students read the lesson in the The Compass textbook that reinforces and expands upon the video lesson. Sometimes the text includes an excerpt from a classic adventure novel for students to read that illustrates the point of the lesson. Some lessons also direct students to read a chapter from The Prisoner of Zenda. Next, students answer questions in regard to what they have read. The Map workbook is then used for students to actually develop their story. The workbook directs students through incremental steps, often by asking questions such as, “What age will your Hero be?, Boy or girl?”, and “What things do you see your Hero doing?” (p.8).
Weekly quizzes help reinforce what students have learned by asking questions such as “Name the five elements of a story.” The quizzes can be used in a few ways. The quizzes in the teacher’s guide need to be presented orally, but students can respond with either oral or written answers. Alternatively, students can complete self-scoring quizzes on the computer using a program on the resource disc.
The One Year Adventure Novel provides surprisingly comprehensive instruction with loads of examples of excellent storytelling in both written and video formats. While it is written for teens, adults who have always wanted to write their own adventure novel should also find it valuable.
Schwabauer puts some boundaries around the creation of the novel to keep the project manageable and to increase the likelihood of success. For example, the basic assignment is to write a heroic quest. Also, Schwabauer requires students to create a main character who is within a few years of their own age since they can write more realistically about such a person than they could about an adult. He also requires them to write in first person from the point of view of the main character. Schwabauer's presentation of this latter requirement is illustrative of the way he teaches throughout the course. Instead of just telling you that this is the requirement, he spends quite a bit of time explaining why the point of view of the narrator is so important, why it needs to be consistent, and why first person is the best choice. After this lesson, you'll start to notice authors who don't maintain the same point of view throughout other books you are reading, and you will understand why this is confusing.
Stories that students write in this course are likely to be much more sophisticated than one would expect from high schoolers since students learn about advanced techniques such as incorporating double disasters and unexpected graces (as well as unexpected humor or tragedy).
The course is presented in five units: story building (thinking about individual pieces such as the main character, a villain, and the conflict), story skeleton, novel outline, writing, and revision.
Short supplemental video extras available on the resource disc include a ten-minute presentation on “Frequently Made Mistakes” that is very helpful. Don't miss it! Those mistakes are also discussed in the teacher's guide, but it will probably be easier to watch the video. Note that the supplemental video extras can be viewed only on a computer.
The course is relatively easy for parents or teachers to facilitate. The DVDs, textbook, and workbook provide the instruction. The small teacher's guide is helpful, but it doesn't guide you through each lesson. In fact, Schwabauer says parents or teachers should read the first two chapters of the guide by the end of the first month, but you need not read it before students begin the course. The guide explains the curriculum, covers the “frequently made mistakes,” provides weekly quizzes for oral use along with answer keys, shows how to evaluate student work, and provides score sheets to be used for evaluation.
When you purchase the course, you receive a license number that gives your student free access to the One Year Adventure Novel Student Forum online. Here they can help each other with feedback on their writing and participate in forum discussions. They may also enter the annual Student Novel Contest.
If you want to use the course for group class with other students outside your family you will need a classroom license. For additional students in your own family, you must purchase a separate workbook with forum registration.
A second edition of One Year Adventure Novel is now available. The videos have been refilmed with higher quality audio and video. (I thought the first versions were very good already compared to many programs produced for homeschoolers!) Some of the content has also been expanded, most notably, with more discussion of the novel The Prisoner of Zenda. While I recommend the first edition without hesitation, the second edition is even better. You can view free sample lessons from both versions on the publisher's website.
When I first heard about One Year Adventure Novel, I have to admit that I was skeptical about it. However, I have heard from many parents who have used it very successfully and were very pleased with it. After reviewing it for myself, I can see why. If you have younger students, consider using Schwabauer's Cover Story course for middle school students which is somewhat similar in format.