We recently had the opportunity to review a digital study guide for Stone Fox from Progeny Press. My 5th grader loves to read, and I thought this would be a neat alternative to the standard book reports that she is used to doing.
What is Progeny Press? This is a company who creates helps for homeschoolers, to allow children to be enriched through their study of great literature. The founders, Michael and Rebecca Gilleland, write all the study guides themselves. The company's mission statement is "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!" I have to add my own thoughts to this - that when children enjoy what they are studying, they remember it and learn from it so much better! The Progeny Press materials help children to draw out meanings and learn from the books they reading.
What are the Digital Study Guides? Progeny Press has study guides available for all ages - from lower elementary beginning readers all the way through high school level literature. Each guide can be electronically downloaded, and either printed or worked through as an interactive PDF, allowing the student to save their work on the computer as they progress through the guide,
About Stone Fox: This was a book that neither Kelly nor I had ever read before. I was able to borrow it free of charge from our local library. I read it first, and was very drawn in to the story. It is well written, deeply emotional, adventurous, and appealing to young readers. This book tells the story of a brave young boy named Willy and his dog Searchlight. Set in early Wyoming, Willy and his grandfather live alone on a rural farm. When Grandfather becomes ill, Willy is left to be the "man of the house" and save the farm, in a very creative way. Against all odds, he performs the unthinkable. Although he saves the farm, it is not without tragedy.
About the Study Guide: This study guide is recommended for grades 3-6. It is 57 pages long, and is broken down into questions and activities by chapter. There are activities to teach the vocabulary words, comprehension questions, and fun puzzles. There is a map at the beginning to identify the setting, and there are many extra resources at the end, giving websites and ideas to further study any areas of interest from the book. There are also some ideas for projects that parents and students can do together to really make the book and guide into a full unit study.
|Sample Pages from the study guide.|
Printed versus interactive: I chose to print out the entire study guide and place it in 3 ring binder so it could be portable for us to take in the car or work on anywhere. There is also a way to have the student work interactively with the pdf on your computer using Adobe. While they certainly can answer questions by typing, there are some maps or activities that still must be printed to be completed.
|The interactive study guide example - Students type in the blue spaces.|
|A page that would still need to be printed.|
How we used this: After obtaining the book from the library, I gave it to Kelly and showed her the study guide. The intention was to read it chapter by chapter, and fill out the study guide as we went. The company suggests doing one page a day so the student enjoys the reading and does not get overwhelmed. Kelly got so engrossed in the book that she ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. So my intentions did not go as planned, but I certainly was glad she absorbed the story the way she did! She was very emotionally touched by the story. We then went back and Kelly completed the study guide a few pages at a time over the next few weeks.
What we thought: My first thought was that I should have chosen a higher level to challenge Kelly a little more. She is in fifth grade and a very strong reader, and this book and study guide were definitely well below her reading level. I would place this much more at a 3rd grade level, rather than a 3rd-6th grade level. While she enjoyed the story, she was rather bored with the questions and activities in the study guide. She felt that a student who maybe struggled with reading and understanding what was being said might benefit from the help that the study guide would give them to understand the story. She told me she prefers to just read the story then do a book report! (hmmm...good to know!)
I think the study guide was very useful and very thorough in extracting the 'deeper meaning' of the story plot. I also liked the extra vocabulary activities, highlighting unfamiliar words that the student may encounter as they read. The resource section at the end of the study guide had some fascinating and creative ideas for further study. While we only looked at a few of them, I definitely would like to use it to make a complete unit study, possibly over the summer when we would have lots of time to get really creative with it.
Overall I think Progeny Press does a very good job with their study guides and I would like to try a different book at a more challenging level to be able to have Kelly experience it fully.
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