Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide by Progeny Press #hsreviews

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.  ~C. S. Lewis

I've been wanting to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird ever since the new Harper Lee book was released this summer.  I even downloaded it to our Kindles, but just never stopped to actually read it with all the craziness of the past few months.  We've seen the play (and it remains one of our favorite productions) so I knew I'd enjoy reading the book with the Boy Scout and the Princess and directing them through the activities of the Progeny Press Study Guide when the opportunity to review it arose.   Progeny Press has a special way of turning the reading of a book from a "boring" assignment into a fascinating literary unit of exploration for my kids.  We've used quite a few Progeny Press Study Guides through the years (remember Anne of Green GablesTreasure IslandThe Cay, and Julius Caesar?) and they always make our school year much more interesting, so it was perfect timing when this review hit.  I'm a huge proponent of reading the actual books for plays and movies that we see -- and I love the discussions that ensue when we begin comparing the differences between literature and artistic license.  Progeny Press made it easy for us to FINALLY sit down and read a book that's been on my list AND gave us ample fodder for family discussion.

Progeny Press Review Available as either a hard copy Study Guide or a downloadable e-guide, the To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide is fabulous.  We were provided with the interactive e-guide for purposes of this review.  It is worth noting that while this book and Study Guide are perfectly suited for high school students (9th - 12th graders), you may also find it a good read for your middle school students as well.

Obviously, parents will want to research the themes presented for themselves and make that determination based on the maturity level of their individual children.  That IS why we homeschool, right?  My 9th and 11th graders saw the play based on the book as middle schoolers and I would most definitely have let them read and work through the Study Guide at that time.  Because the subject matter is presented from a Christian perspective, there is absolutely nothing in the literature curriculum that I feel the need to monitor.

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How did we make the best use of the To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide?

One of the things that I like most about the Progeny Press guides is that they are self-explanatory and easy-to-use.  Each interactive Study Guide comes in two separate parts.  The first part of the Study Guide (59-pages) begins with a Note to the Instructor that offers details on how to help your students succeed.  The second part of the Study Guide is a Teacher's Guide (9-pages) which consists of all of the answers for every question (just in case you aren't reading along with your students and happen to need a refresher.  I put this part of the guide away for my eyes only.)  

We began our study of To Kill a Mockingbird by reading the Synopsis, About the Author, and Background Information sections of the interactive Study Guide together.  I have found that reading these together is a great way for us to ease into the book study itself.  After we read these, it was time to dive into the actual reading of the book.  (Yay!)  It absolutely does not matter which publication of the book you read.  We each have a copy on our Kindles and we have a paperback copy from when I was in school.  All of these are fine.  It is recommended that students (and parents that are reading along) read the book from cover-to-cover before they begin the study.  There are pre-reading suggestions for students to choose from as they are reading through the books for the first time.  As I mentioned, we had seen the play AND watched the movie (1962 version starring Gregory Peck) before reading the book so my kids were definitely familiar with it.  They empathize with Scout and cheer on Atticus Finch as he seeks to do what is good and right and just.  For their pre-reading activity, we chose to listen to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech and research where it was given and under what circumstances Mr. King was speaking.   There were four choices of activities and this was perfect for us.

The Note to the Instructor portion of the Study Guide says that this study should take between 8 - 10 weeks to complete.  You can finish the study in a shorter time period or work through it over a longer time frame depending on which of the suggested activities you choose to assign to your students.  I needed that reminder to slow down and enjoy it WITH my children because I tend to try to rush the learning process.  We've spent weeks reading and discussing and working through activities because I want to make sure that my children really understand the time period encompassed and the tensions and the thought processes of the characters as they walk through their day-to-day lives.  We live in the deep South and still deal with the repercussions of poor choices and strained relationships today.  To Kill a Mockingbird helps us to remember the good in people as we work to make our community a better place through real communication and mutual respect.

Once students have finished their initial reading of the book, you are ready to get into the nuts and bolts of the literature curriculum.  Here's where the fun really begins for us.  The interactive Study Guide breaks the novel down into chapter divisions.  Students re-read 2 - 5 chapters at a time and answer vocabulary and comprehension questions based on those chapters.  While the vocabulary studies are phenomenal and help my children understand the words in context as they write their definition and compare it to the definitions found in the dictionary, the literary studies may be my absolute favorite part of the Study Guides.

Since they are interactive, there is no need to print anything.  My children can sit at the computer and type their answers directly into the Guide -- eliminating the search for pen and paper and all the other things that tend to slow them down.  Referencing the novel as needed, they have been able to delve into characterizations and settings, all the while studying GOD's Word to see how JESUS calls us to respond to situations and circumstances that come our way.  Not only are they reading the book, but they are truly understanding what makes the individual characters tick.  Discussions on how we live our lives in the public eye and how we act behind closed doors are good ones to have.  I like that my children can read classic literature introspectively and receive life lessons at the same time.  They are mastering literary terms and appreciating spiritual convictions together which makes this momma proud.

As we reach the end of our in-depth study, there are essays to be written (10 different topics are given from which students can choose), a summary of questions to be answered (this can be used as the Final Exam, if you so desire), and post-reading activities to further complement the reading and writing skills studied.  The Additional Resources section suggests 10 books that would make great follow-up companions to your study of To Kill a Mockingbird.  (Of those suggested books, we've already read 4 --  so I've asked both the Princess and the Boy Scout to each choose one of the books we haven't read and read it on their own.)  Finally, it is suggested that you watch the 1962 film version of the book.  Our family found it to be well worth viewing.  Since we had watched it prior to beginning the Progeny Press Study Guide, we have decided to substitute the movie Gone With the Wind for viewing since that book is also on the list of books suggested for follow-up.

Once all of these components have been successfully completed, Progeny Press recommends that each Study Guide is the equivalent to 1/4 of a high school literature credit for students.  How wonderful that we can use study guides for literature presented from a Christian perspective to earn credit on the high school transcript.

There really is something available for students at all grade levels at Progeny Press.  I love that they turn reading into more than a chore for my kids.  For more information about all of the wonderful Progeny Press resources, check out the following Social Media sites:

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I was given the opportunity to review Progeny Press as a member of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew thought of this and other products as well (or just click on the banner below.)

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