Progeny Press novel study guides are tools for parents who want to use real books rather than literature anthologies with their children or for supplementing study of an anthology. Available for all grade levels, they focus more on critical analysis and reading comprehension than on writing and spelling skills (as in Total Language Plus which is also reviewed in this chapter). Four guides are recommended per year for one full literature credit.
Although written by different authors, all come from a Christian perspective. Thus, we find questions that refer to scripture such as “Read Proverbs 17:17. ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.’ Tall John was Sarah’s friend. At the end of Chapter 7, how did he comfort her?” (from The Courage of Sarah Noble study guide).
The study guides deal with both literature as art and literature as a reflection or source of ideas. At the primary level children study vocabulary and meaning and introduce literary constructions and style. At older levels there are studies of vocabulary, literary terms, plot, and so forth, as well as studies about the characters, events, and ideas presented.
The format varies from one study guide to another but with many common characteristics. A synopsis and some background are presented first. Ideas for pre-reading (and sometimes mid- and post-reading) activities are next. Then studies are divided up to cover groups of chapters at a time. Questions go well beyond the recall level, asking students to infer meanings, identify symbolism, draw analogies, and apply principles to their own lives. Each study section has vocabulary activities along with comprehension, analysis, personal application, and thought questions. At older levels, a lengthier writing assignment completes each section. A variety of vocabulary activities are used within each guide, so the studies maintain a higher level of interest than those that use the same format for every lesson. Particularly at younger levels, guides include extra activity suggestions; for example, The Courage of Sarah Noble study guide includes some art, craft, game, and cooking suggestions.
Students might be able to work through the study guides independently if their reading skills are adequate, although discussion enhances any literature study. Answer keys are found at the back of each book, so each study guide is self-contained aside from the novel itself. For independent study, all answer keys for grades four and up are now removable from the printed workbooks. All study guides are reproducible for your family.
Within the Progeny Press series are a number of study guides geared for the primary grades. They are for books such as The Courage of Sarah Noble; Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie; The Long Way to a New Land; Ox-Cart Man; Sam the Minuteman; and Wagon Wheels.
Study guides geared for the upper elementary grades include such titles as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever; The Cricket in Times Square; The Door in the Wall; Little House in the Big Woods; Sarah, Plain and Tall; and Charlotte’s Web.
Middle school titles stretch sometimes as low as fifth grade and up through eighth grade. Among them are Amos Fortune, Free Man; Bridge to Terabithia; Carry On Mr. Bowditch; The Hiding Place; The Giver; Johnny Tremain; The Magician’s Nephew; Maniac Magee; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
For high school level, there are a number of study guides for both novels and plays such as The Red Badge of Courage, The Yearling, Heart of Darkness, Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Out of the Silent Planet, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Day No Pigs Would Die, The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities, and Perelandra.
Guides for 109 books (with more being added each year) are available as printed books, on CD-ROM, or as downloadable PDF files. The CD-ROM and downloadable versions for grades four through twelve are fully interactive. The interactive versions include weblinks, but even more useful is the fact that students can answer multiple-choice questions and complete their written work entirely on the computer. However, you will probably still want to have students participate in discussions and complete some of the other optional activities that will not be done on the computer. The digital answer keys are in a separate file so you can keep the key on a separate computer if need be. The novels themselves are also available from Progeny Press.