Our 7 Sisters study guide for Animal Farm is a user-friendly aide for the book. It has great info and comprehension in a quick and easy format- and NO busywork. We want thinkers, not burnt-out brains!
This 11-page study guide is by Dr. Gerald R. Culley and Sabrina Justison, and comes complete with background information, vocabulary exercises, and answer key, to help your homeschooler get the most from reading Animal Farm by George Orwell. The cost is only $3.99!
Sabrina explains why you need literature study guides:
- It brings a play to life as participants read the script aloud.
- It strengthens read-aloud speech skills in teenagers.
- It helps slow readers add a book to their book list before year end (a play is a book, but you're done in a couple of hours).
- It's social and fun!
Here's what we did:
I found a couple of plays that were available in their entirety on the internet (that way no one had to buy the script ahead of time). Arthur Miller's The Crucible and George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion were our selections. (Just Google the play title and "online text" and you will find sources like gutenberg.org that have free ebooks.)
We invited a bunch of friends and asked each person to bring a snack or drink to share and an internet device (laptop, tablet, etc.) if they had one. (You could also just ask people to pick up a copy of the play you want to read at the used bookstore.)
We sat around my living room and I explained a little bit about the play (we started with The Crucible). Then we let the kids choose the format. They could either assign parts for each Act (e.g. Jonah will read Rev. Parris, Carlie will read Abigail) OR they could just take turns going around the room and reading whatever line came to them regardless of who the character was. They elected the read-around-the-room format because they were nervous about their skills as readers and didn't want to commit to reading one of the main roles. Everyone was allowed to say, "Pass," if the line that came to them was longer than they felt comfortable to read.
I was the facilitator. That meant that I read the stage directions.
In between Acts we took breaks for snacks and bathroom trips.
Here's what DIDN'T work quite the way I'd hoped:
It took a lot longer than I anticipated. I was thinking, "A play takes 2-3 hours, so we can read 2 plays if we give ourselves all day." Not exactly! When students are cold-reading text they read much more slowly than the actors who have memorized and rehearsed the lines will deliver them. So we only got through one play that day.
It took some real effort for everyone to get focused on the material and stop goofing around. After the first Act took over an hour, we had a pow-wow over some food and decided to tighten up the ground rules so we could finish before the end of the century. Ground rules we added - everyone follow along with every line (so you don't lose your place while others are reading); no goofy voices (reading with expression is great, just keep it on task); try to pay attention to how to say the character names (calling them something silly instead of pronouncing their names causes distraction).
The online text thing would have been better if the copy we were using hadn't had so many typos in it. The Crucible did not happen to be available on Project Gutenberg, so I had found a teacher site where someone had posted the text, but it had lots of mistakes in it, and those really threw us from time to time.
Here's what WORKED GREAT (and why we'll be doing it again soon!):
The kids really did start to get into the story, the characters and the ideas, and by the time we were done they all agreed it was a good play and they were glad they'd read it. If a local group produces it, I guarantee we would all want to go see it together.
The difficulties we encountered during the first Act/first hour really challenged THE KIDS to find ways to focus better on the activity. Instead of the moms laying down the law, they themselves decided to make some ground rules to help themselves stay on task.
When we started, all but one kid was quick to say, "I'm not good at reading aloud." When we were finished, I had to say to them in all honesty, "Guys, not ONE of you is bad at reading aloud! You all did really well!" And one of the kids said, "We did okay, didn't we?" They were clearly proud of themselves.
There was a huge sense of accomplishment at the end of the activity. They could go home and add a book to their book list. They had done something that was a challenge for them. They had done it in a safe place, with friends along. And they had really interesting ideas about life to think on and discuss.
Vicki's son asked if we could go ahead and plan a few days like this for next school year. My son agreed - even with the minor bumps in the road, he felt like it had been a great way to spend a day.
Have any of you tried Readers Theater? How did it go for you?
The EBookstore has study guides available to accompany Sophocles' play Antigone and Chekhov's dramatic work Uncle Vanya. These guides are a great resource for you, mom, as you prepare for a Readers Theater Day with your homeschooler -- or for enrichment for your students after the curtain has fallen on your day of reading a play!
For even MORE drama, check out my original scripts The Search for the Solution and A Weekend in Calcutta - just $0.99 for a sample copy!
One of the things that troubled me when my children were elementary-aged was that none of my boys particularly liked to read.
In fact, two of them really hated to read. It's not that they COULDN'T read (there were no vision or processing issues), they just hated it. From those experiences, I've combined their stories into an imaginary child's case study: we will call him Jaconah (and you can try to figure out which two boys were combined here if you'd like!), and here is his story.
Jaconah was in the 5th grade and still simply endured the books I required him to read, never chose to read a book for pleasure, and resented the idea that a student should pay attention and remember something about the book when the last page had been read.
As his book-loving homeschool mom, I was mighty worried. A portfolio review session gave me a chance to glean wisdom from a more-experienced homeschooler, and here are some of the things she suggested -
- Pray first. Before deciding how to "fix" the problem, spend some time with the Lord thanking Him for Jaconah, for His unique design in creating this boy, his brain and his personality. Remind yourself that Jaconah is not defective; he is a precious person who does not like to read.
- Then put things in perspective. Objectively take note of Jaconah's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of another child who loves books. No child takes to everything immediately and passionately.
- Think outside the box. Yes, Jaconah will need to read many things throughout his academic career. But for right now while he is still young, are there ways to share the information in books and the example of well-written paragraphs with him without requiring hours of "obligation reading"? You could use audio books, read-aloud, and added the movie versions of stories as appropriate for enrichment. Perhaps he could stick with the book if he had seen the movie first. You can use encyclopedia-style books where the shorter article format is less intimidating.
- Make reading social or tactile. Maybe you could start a book club so Jaconah has incentive to reach a goal in finishing the book with enough understanding to join in the club activities about it. Or since Jaconah likes drawing, you could help maintain his focus while reading by asking him to draw the characters, make maps of their world, and chart their progress through the story on life-path diagrams.
- Choose books wisely. Reluctant readers like Jaconah need exposure to really good books and to not-so-good books. There are lots of books out there that are not bad, but they aren't Newberry Award winners either...and they're okay to read!
- Don't forget that reading is everywhere...not just in story books! Non-fiction like biographies, historical and political books, "self-help" books, and books on a subject like computers, or baseball, or veterinary medicine, even catalogs or instructional manuals may grab Jaconah's attention in a way that a story just doesn't.
Jaconah (and his mom) survived. He responded most to Captain Underpants, drawing pictures to go along with a story, and reading for book club social settings. He found that reading how-to materials grabbed him more than fiction, and has been able to teach his mom how to use new technology and computer software in recent years because of this type of reading strength. As an almost-adult, he still does not often pick up a book to read for pleasure, but when reading a book is necessary to master a new skill, or when a theological concept comes under discussion in his church or his circle of friends, he is quick to open even very difficult books to research the topic. Reading fiction is not what delights him, but his reading skills are fine and dandy.
Three of our kids' favorite elementary books of all time are Anne of Green Gables, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Sarah, Plain and Tall.
Some of our kids read these on their own, and some enjoyed reading them in a co-op together. The7 Sisters study guides to accompany these books include vocabulary, comprehension questions, and are adaptable for different age groups with "Going Deeper" questions for older students or suggested supplemental activities.
Check out the excerpts from each in the EBookstore. Each literature study guide is comfortably priced at just $3.99 each.
They're on my World Literature Pinterest board, along with lots of info about how I taught World Lit. this year to a local homeschool community class. We used these sheets as our year-end review before the cumulative final exam (homeschoolers often need practice taking cumulative tests before college).
High school is an important time for challenging students with literature that raises more questions than it answers.
Teenagers need to be encouraged to think about hard questions. While it is true that "Jesus is the answer," that is not a complete enough application of the truth for young people about to go out and face life on their own. We need to encourage them to examine the ways in which faith in Christ may be applied to a myriad of circumstances involving broken people in a broken world.
Great books touch on the reality of brokenness. Digging into well-written books -- even those which do not present a Christian worldview -- is a powerful way to introduce our teens to challenges with no easy answer, and to encourage them to search for the truth about the ways God uses His children to bring restoration to the broken things around them.
Here are some of the books I've recently read and discussed with homeschooled teens in our local community, and some of the hard questions we've pondered together. (Literature study guides for these titles are available for $3.99 each in our EBookstore.)
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
- What is a family to do when famine ravages a farming society? When a father must send his children to beg in the streets, when his work is never enough to provide even the most basic food for them, what are his options for response?
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
- When a whole country's government adopts laws that are unjust (like the apartheid laws in South Africa between 1948 and 1990), how can an individual bring change? When unspeakable tragedy strikes a family, how can forgiveness be practiced in real-life ways?
Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
- Where can people with privilege find meaning in life if they have always been taught to live selfish and shallow lives? Are we in danger of living more selfishly than we realize because we live in a privileged society?
Antigone by Sophocles
- If what seems to be a personal responsibility to another human being defies the present authorities, what is the individual to do?
Is it hard for you to have discussions with your teens that raise questions to which YOU must admit you have no easy answers?
Check your view of your homeschool. This is an excerpt from the 7Sisters literature study guide to accompany L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables:
Do you have "scope for imagination" when you look at your homeschool?
Ask God to give you eyes to see what He is doing there anew.
Trust Him to enable you to complete what He deems important for this school year if you are weary.
And read a wonderful book with your kids, like Anne of Green Gables -- let a red-headed orphan inspire you before the homeschool year is over!
Perspective means the way you see life, your outlook, your mental view of things.
Elementary students should begin learning about perspective, understanding point of view as they read books. Homeschool moms need to continually learn more about perspective, understanding how God looks at things, and bringing our point of view into alignment with His.
Am I setting my heart on things above, celebrating my new life in Christ throughout my daily activities?
Am I setting my mind on things above -- praising Him for His goodness, trusting Him for His limitless provision -- or am I focused on the challenges in front of me?
It helps my own life perspective when I teach the idea of perspective in literature to young readers. Newberry Award winning book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien is a terrific choice for introducing perspective. Here's an excerpt from the 7Sisters study guide that was published to enrich the reading of this book:
With a progression of "Going Deeper" questions, young readers begin to grasp the concepts of visual perspective and mental perspective. Being careful not to kill the story with busywork questions, this study guide enriches the reading of the book and the thinking process that results from it.
Has talking about perspective in books you've read in your homeschool helped you remember to keep your own mind set on things above?
A literature study guide I created this year gives your homeschool a wealth of resources to use with a much-loved book full of vibrant characters.
Have you met the loquacious red-headed orphan who finds enormous scope for imagination when she comes to live at Green Gables?
When my children were young we met Anne Shirley together in Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery in our homeschool, and we loved every moment we spent with her. Most folks think of this as a great read-aloud for little children and a read-on-my-own book for late-elementary and middle school kids, but they put the book on the shelf when their kids are in high school. I just kept thinking, "There's so much MORE here that the younger kids won't be able to appreciate yet!" So I created a guide that can work for all the students in your homeschool -- grades K-12 can all find enrichment for their reading of this classic.
Here's what's unique about this guide among the "Anne stuff" available in homeschool curriculum:
* Background information is included, and it provides a springboard for older students to do research later on Prince Edward Island, the school system of the time, and the impact that fictional Anne Shirley has had on Canada over the years.
* Vocabulary is listed (with chapter numbers), and easy-to-follow suggestions are included for adapting the list for use by students at varying grade levels.
* A character list is included to help little ones keep the characters straight as the story unfolds and to help older students make note of elements of each person's story that will help them write character analysis pieces when they have finished reading.
* Comprehension questions (which you may just want to omit entirely for your older students) help elementary readers pick up on the key elements of each chapter and observe the developing characters and relationships without killing the flow of the story with busy-work. (Each chapter typically has just one or two comprehension questions.)
* Going Deeper questions help older students with character analysis.
* Suggested Writing prompts provide rich topics for essay-writing for high schoolers and advanced confident middle school writers.
* Literary Elements of Personification and Motif are explained, and activities for exploring these elements are suggested.
* A list of Supplemental Activities and further writing ideas are included.
* An answer key helps the parent feel confident in grading the students' work.
Click here to view excerpts from the study guide and download a copy today.
Whether you use it with one child at one level, or with all of your children at once on multiple levels, you will be delighted with the story AND how much your students are learning from it!
Homeschoolers need to read good books because it increases their understanding of the world, their vocabulary, their ability to communicate with others, and so much more.
They also need to read good books to build their own character.
Reading with their spirits turned on as well as their brains makes the literature component of their high school education meaningful for eternity as well as for academic success.
Are you helping your students move beyond basic comprehension of the story and into a careful consideration of the truth or error in the ideas the author has put forth?
Here are a few ideas for helping you and your student take that deeper step into literature:
Context. Learn a bit about the context in which the book was written.
Author. Learn a bit about the person who wrote the book. What was important to him/her?
Discuss. Talk with others about the book (a book club or co-op is a great place to get input from several people at once) to help open it up.
Study. Use a good study guide (our EBookstore has lots of titles) to analyze characters and relationships, themes, symbols, etc.
Connect. Look for similar ideas in other areas of your life. Drawing connections between diverse sources deepens understanding of what we've read.
With a little coaching your student will be able to take life lessons out of the books on his literature list, articulate them to others, and impact the world around him with what he's read.
Our Literature Study Guide collections (each contains individual titles comfortably priced at $3.99) include:
Are you making use of YouTube in teaching literature in your homeschool? Especially for high schoolers, YouTube is a great resource for understanding the context of works of great literature.
Are you reading Born Again by Charles Colson? Watch video clips of Watergate news coverage. See Colson himself share his testimony of coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
How about Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country? This powerful book about apartheid is greatly enriched when your student has seen Nelson Mandela's release from prison after 27 years.
If you read Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, YouTube has clips from movie versions available right at your fingertips. The manners of the era come to life when your student watches them.
These and other titles in our
collections of Lit. Study Guides in the EBookstore can all be supplemented using the vast free library available on YouTube.
How have you used YouTube to enrich your literature study?