Friday, March 16, 2012

Literary Temptations

My Dear Wormwood,
How do you think you will ever learn anything about British Literature if you don't read any?  And if you are going to read some, how about my letters, appropriately entitled The Screwtape Letters?  And if you are going to bother to read them, why not study them, analyze them for their literary qualities (I assure you there are many), and make sure that you digest every word I have sent you?  You can do all that more easily if you use the Literature Guide provided by Progeny Press!  Now get to work, you scruffy little demon!
Your mildly affectionate uncle,
Okay, so I made that letter up.  But, Screwtape has a great idea there.  If you'd like help in your homeschool with analyzing literature, Progeny Press study guides are an awesome resource!  I was privileged to receive the guide for The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, but there are many other options available, including American, British, Historical, World, and Christian Literature.  A few of the titles covered are:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Call of the Wild
The Scarlet Letter
The Lord of the Rings
A Tale of Two Cities
Romeo & Juliet
The Hiding Place
Number the Stars
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Bronze Bow
and many, many more in their catalog
The study guides are offered in booklet ($21.99), CD ($18.99), or e-mail .pdf formats ($18.99).  They also sell the novels; this one would have cost $13.99.  I received the .pdf version which included a 75 page Student Guide, plus a 10 page Answer Key for the teacher/parent.  This version is interactive on Windows or Mac computers.  I could also read the file on my iPad, but not "interact" with it.  (The guides for 4th to 12th grades are interactive, but the kindergarten through 3rd grade are read-only.)

Progeny Press recommends each of their guides to cover from 8 to 10 weeks of study.  Generally, students should read the entire novel the first week and then use the guide to review, analyze and gain insights into what they read.  

The Screwtape Letters guide began with a brief synopsis of the novel, followed by information about C.S. Lewis, the author, and a few pages of background on the Battle of Britain which plays a role in the story.  These details are followed by a selection of pre-reading activities which can be assigned before reading or during that first week of reading.  Then, you are ready to get down to business.  For each section, in this case, about 4 "letters" (chapters) at a time, students are asked vocabulary questions in multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the blank, synonym/antonym, and word search forms.  These are fun for the kids to fill in on the computer.  

Vocabulary segments are followed by a plethora of thought-provoking questions on all levels.  Some elicit what the student knows about what happened (why did Screwtape write to Wormwood?) and others deal with literary analysis (how is parody used?).  Some can be answered with a word or phrase, others require paragraphs.  Go as deep as you want.

Each section then lists optional activities such as papers, reports, and projects that could be chosen to add to all that learning.  At the end of the guide were also a large number of final essay topics ranging in varying lengths required.  At the very end was a list of additional resources.

Personally, I don't think you could (or should) do every question/project listed -- there is so much -- I prefer to think of it as "so much to choose from!"  I had my kids work through the vocabulary, then asked some questions orally and had them fill in a few "online."  We did not attempt every question by any means!  Although we have not begun it yet, I really liked the final essay idea of writing your own letter (as Screwtape) giving Wormwood advice on how to tempt you!  That would take some real introspection and also biblical insight.

Speaking of the Bible, Progeny Press is a Christian company and their guides present literature from a Christian perspective.  This was easy to see with The Screwtape Letters because it is a Christian work, but this is also true with their other 100+ titles.

Although I have a background in English Education, guides like this one are a great time-saving device for me!  The questions are clear, well-thought out, and make your students think.  Hopefully, that is temptation enough for you to try one (or more) guides out for yourself!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received this guide free in exchange for an honest review.  To see what other TOS reviewers had to say, click here.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great review! Thanks for sharing it. :)