Literature Study Guides

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Our family loves reading. Literature is the foundation of our education, so we always appreciate reviewing products that are based around books. There's something very special about opening a story and getting lost in its pages together as a family.

When we want to take our learning deeper than just simply reading the book, we utilize the help of study guides. These aids enrich the experience and help the reader fully grasp the themes within the pages. One of our favorite companies to use for this purpose is Progeny Press. We've used their products multiple times in the past and were excited to work with them again. This time, we were able to use two of their downloadable resources: A New Coat for Anna Study Guide for elementary and My Side of the Mountain Study Guide for middle school.

Progeny Press is a Christian company owned by Michael and Rebecca Gilleland. It is their mission to "teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!" They offer more than 100 study guides for classic, popular, and award-winning books. The guides are designed to help students better understand and enjoy literature by getting them to think through the themes and ideas written in the stories. The study guides are available in three formats: a physical book, a CD with a PDF ebook, and a downloadable PDF file.

The A New Coat for Anna Study Guide is designed for grades K-3. The guide accompanies the book by Harriet Ziefert. A New Coat for Anna is a picture book that is based on a true story. In it, young Anna had outgrown her winter coat. Because of WWII, stores were empty and money was scarce. Anna's mother used her resourcefulness to meet her daughter's needs. Anna learned the art of bartering and the value of hard work as she watched her mother trade her possessions for goods. She learned about sheering sheep, spinning wool to get yarn, using berries to make dye, weaving yarn into cloth, and sewing the bolts into a coat. It is a story of patience, sacrifice, thankfulness, and planning ahead.

The study guide has 30 pages of learning activities. It starts with a synopsis of the book and background information about WWII.  There are a handful of Before-You-Read activities including map work, questions to ask relatives who lived during the war, watching a movie, taking a field trip, and more. The next sections are the As-You-Read activities, Vocabulary, and Looking at the Story exercises. Each portion reviews the story through various means such as short answer, matching, defining, and chart work.

There are Bible verses that complement the lessons in the story in the Dig Deeper sections. The verses are written out in the guide itself, but we chose to pull out our KJV and read directly from the Bible. There are also questions that accompany the verses and reinforce the themes.

The study continues even after the story is finished through the After-You-Read activities. This is our favorite section as it is filled with hands-on learning! There is a recipe for a silver cake (reminds me of my favorite childhood recipe!), a craft idea and template, a writing and art project, and fill-in-the-blank questions which correspond with a word search. The guide ends with suggestions for further reading of other books by the author and those of related interest for the age range. A full answer key is available as a separate download.

My younger boys (ages 5 and 8) completed this study together. We enjoyed reading the story and expounding on the hardships of the war. We took advantage of the editable PDF and filled in the answers together on the computer. The boys learned some new things like how to take clothing measurements, the meaning of various words like garnet and bolt, how to paraphrase, and what the Bible teaches us about patience.

Because we like to learn as a family as much as possible, I chose a second study guide. The My Side of the Mountain Study Guide is for the 5th-8th grade group and has 63 pages. My kids range from preschool-9th grade, but everyone can benefit from spending time together enjoying a good story and hearing rich vocabulary used in context. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George brings to life the dream of many people--running away from the hustle and bustle of city life and responsibility and living secluded off the land. It follows the story of young Sam as he learns to care for himself by finding what he needs to survive on the mountain. Though the story is fictional in nature, it mentions many factual survival skills such as how to find food in the river and on land, using all parts of an animal for various uses, finding necessary nutrients in foraged food, storing and planning ahead for difficult weather, building a fire, finding shelter, and more.  The story will resonate with anyone who loves the wilderness and adventure.

The guide begins with the same type of sections as the other (synopsis, author and background information, and pre-reading activities), but then suggests reading the entire book before delving into the meat of the study. This format worked well for us as the kids got to simply enjoy the story without stopping to work. There were a few times when we had to go back to review parts of the story where they didn't remember exactly, but that's all part of the process.

This guide for middle school includes vocabulary skills and comprehension questions, but they are more difficult than the elementary level. This guide also has an editable PDF so a student can type the answers directly without having to print it out. Because of that option, a separate file with the answer key is given, so a student does not have access to the answers himself. One way that this level is different is that the Bible verses are not written out, encouraging the learner to grab his Bible to look them up himself. There are a lot of "what do you think," "what does this mean,'' "why or why not" questions. The guide is also broken into sections that correspond with chapters of the book.

Other activities include discussing safety protocols and choosing a family safe word; measuring rooms in your house and calculating square footage; determining flashbacks and foreshadowing in stories; creating a shelter in your home using blankets and furniture; creating a journal and learning to record daily entries; making a wooden slide whistle; learning about skunk spray through videos and articles; following recipes for candied nuts, mock frog soup, and more; making snow dough with common household supplies, and more. There are multiple ideas for research topics, field trips, art ideas, and writing assignments. The study could easily take 8-10 weeks to complete by incorporating many of the learning exercises.

As always, my kids enjoyed these studies from Progeny Press. We had many thoughtful conversations about life of the past and how blessed we are now, about utilizing the resources that God has given us, and being content with what we have. The books were a good reminder that we could live a simpler lifestyle with many fewer possessions and that we take too much for granted. We make family read aloud part of our regular schooling, but it's good to take our learning deeper. I appreciate that these guides incorporate Bible lessons to help kids see a deeper meaning behind the stories.Whenever you can apply a lesson, rather than just hear about it, it's much more likely to make a lasting difference.

We reviewed an elementary guide and a middle school guide, but Progeny Press offers many different study guides ranging from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade and cover many popular books. There truly is something for everyone. If you have older students, make sure to check out the upper level guides, as well. Their resources are greatly enjoyed in our home.

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You can read more reviews of these study guides along with additional choices reviewed by my Crewmates on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Study Guides for Literature - A New Coat for Anna, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, My Side of the Mountain, Animal Farm & Little Women {Progeny Press Reviews}