LitWits® has been offering live workshops for children’s literature for many years, as well as do-it-yourself studies. Their video workshops are based on those resources. Video workshops are available for the books A Little Princess, A Wrinkle in Time, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Trumpet of the Swan, All Creatures Great and Small, Stuart Little, The Railway Children, Treasure Island, and The Phantom Tollbooth. Courses should be great for students in grades three through six.
Becky and Jenny, creators and presenters of these workshops, help students learn to analyze literature in enjoyable ways. Along the way, students will pick up other literature-related skills, such as learning about rhyme schemes as they create “Oompa Loompa” songs for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Hands-on activities are a major component of each course and are designed to make the books come alive to students. The website describes them as “[s]traight-from-the-story projects, activities, writing, sounds, tastes, and other experiential ways to learn valuable academic and life lessons from this story.”
Before starting a course, you need to download the Prep Packet with printable pages, and a supply list. Students also need to read the selected book before beginning the videos and projects.
You will need special supplies for each study. For instance, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory requires a pencil, colored markers, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, a paintbrush, 5-6 different candies, a spoon, a tin cup, instant-soup mix, scissors, glue, and a regular-size Hershey bar (that you will wrap with a printable golden ticket within a printable Wonka wrapper). Becky and Jenny suggest creating a decorated box with the book plus the supplies and surprises for each student to gradually open. However, instead of using a box, you can present items yourself at the appropriate times.
Students can watch the video alone or with a parent or teacher. Occasionally, Becky and Jenny will tell those watching the video to stop and discuss a question or topic with others, or they will explain an activity, telling students to stop the video while they complete each project.
The video for each workshop is presented as one long video on the website, although beneath the video the screen shows where different elements of the video begin. (This makes it easy to find your starting place for each session.) For instance, the entire video for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory runs 1 hour and 23 minutes. The video begins with background on the author, then Becky and Jenny introduce the concept of the narrative arc, which provides the format they will use for explaining this book. As Becky and Jenny unfold the story arc of the book, their presentation is broken up by activities. The activities are a book cover design project, “Book Bites’’—an activity related to edible items (painting with cocoa powder in this case), an Invention Project (i.e., create-a-new-candy), and a creative songwriting project. Each project might be a natural stopping point for each video session. You will need at least four sessions for this workshop, although that can change depending on the length of time available for each session.
The video for The Trumpet of the Swan is slightly shorter at an hour and 15 minutes, while the video for A Little Princess runs a little over two hours and includes about 15 minutes of optional bonus clips discussing topics in the book such as “Sara and Self-Image.” The authors note that they are gradually improving the video courses as they create new ones, and that shows in the more detailed breakdown of the video timeline for A Little Princess as well as the inclusion of a two-part project and a bonus project. While I appreciate the extras, the other two courses are great as is.
Creative Teaching Ideas with Printables
I review LitWits' Creative Ideas for Novel Studies and printables (the do-it-yourself option) separately. They cover the books for which there are video workshops and many more--over 40 books. The creative teaching ideas are free and the printables are purchased. The creative teaching ideas include a summary of the story, activity ideas with instructions, key topics to address, curated internet links, ideas for props, and more.
Becky and Jenny obviously love creating the LitWits Video Courses as demonstrated by their excitement and enjoyment as they discuss the books and projects. They make the exploration of each book look like an entertaining adventure that students will be eager to join.