Friday, April 19, 2013

The Hobbit Study Guide - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

In March I learned that I would be receiving The Hobbit Study Guide by Progeny Press to review as a part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. This was very exciting to me. I am (loosely) following Ambleside Online, and The Hobbit was on my reading list for this term. What a great fit!

The picture shows a CD, but I received the product in the form of an electronic download. The contents that I received included a file labeled "ReadMe", which is where you start; the "Hobbit Guide Interactive" and the "Answer Key".  The Interactive Guide can be copied, so that you can make a copy for each student. 

I was delighted to have the option to use the Interactive Guide with my son instead of printing out. I know that many folks will appreciate the option of printing out their Study Guide, and that's good too, but in my situation I did not need to do that.

I want to preface this review by reminding (or informing) my readers that my son can be a difficult student. He tries to keep his heart in the right place, but he hates change. He hates starting new material, and he hates starting new books.

So I was pleasantly surprised that he is absolutely loving The Hobbit. Each morning, as we start our day, he asks, "Can we start with The Hobbit?" That was a very pleasant surprise for me. That being said, he doesn't enjoy having to do the Study Guide material. "Can't we just do the book? Please?" He doesn't understand the value of digging deeper, and in his 13-year-old heart, right now he just doesn't care. He doesn't want me to ask him if he knows what a rune is (he did), or what part of speech "vexed" is (he didn't even try).

I myself even found the "Parts of Speech" questions challenging. I kept trying to over-analyze. I was guessing "direct object" for questions where they only wanted "noun" for an answer. I have gotten the hang of the type of answers they are looking for.

The Study Guide is divided into the following sections:
  • Note to Instructor;
  • Synopsis;
  • About the Author;
  • Ideas for Pre-reading Activities;
  • Chapters 1-3;
  • Chapters 4-6;
  • Chapters 9&10;
  • Chapters 11-13;
  • Chapters 14-16;
  • Overview;
  • Additional Resources
As I mentioned before, the Answer Key is contained in an additional file.

We are given a relatively short time to review materials, ...not as much time as you would normally take to use it in your home. So I skipped the preliminary sections (first four bullets above) and jumped right into the reading. 

The materials in the Chapters 1-3 section begins with a "Vocabulary" section with questions that ask, first, what part of speech a certain word is and second, what the word means (multiple choice). These exercises are very helpful. My son isn't very good at pausing, when he comes to a word he doesn't know, and asking what it means or writing it down to look up later. And I usually don't know for sure which words he knows or doesn't know. I'll ask, "What does .... mean?" --and he will know the definition, but I'm sure there are ones I don't ask him about that he doesn't know. 

The "Vocabulary" section is followed by a section called "Characterization". The first "Characterization" section asked how the reader sees the character of Bilbo Baggins already beginning to change in the first three chapters.  

The section then has a section of questions that are to be answered with complete sentences, followed by a section called, "Dig Deeper", which helps the student make connections between the book's material and Biblical themes. 

The Chapter 4-6 section starts with a Vocabulary "Word Box", which the student selects words from to fill in the blanks below. This is followed by a section about "Riddles and Proverbs" which begins with the Riddle Game that Bilbo plays with Gollum, but also gives reminders/instructions on literary techniques (metaphors, similes, epithets, etc.). The "Proverbs" section focuses on both worldly and Biblical proverbs (Out of the frying pan and into the fire!...), followed by proverb exercises for the student. This is followed by a question section (answer in complete sentences), and then a "Dig Deeper" section.

I could go on describing this section by section, but I'm afraid I may bore you. Suffice it to say that each section covers vocabulary, content questions, and deeper sections that vary from chapter to chapter, keeping it fresh throughout the guide. I love the variety, breadth and depth of the content. We are not all the way through the book yet, and I am probably going to print some of the sections out for my son to do on paper. I am still glad, though, to have the option to choose to print or not to print. The Interactive Guide saves my son's answers, making it available for my reviewer to see, if she requests.

The Hobbit Study Guide by Progeny Press is recommended for students in Grades 8 - 12. I chose to do this material with a 7th grader because it was on our reading list. For the most part my son and I do all of his schoolwork together. So our method with this Study Guide was that I read The Hobbit out loud to him, and then I worked through sections of the Study Guide with him out loud. I asked the questions, he answered them, I entered his answers into the Study Guide.  

It was clear to me fairly quickly that there were sections in the material that my son was not ready for. I guess that is one of the beauties of home schooling -- we can choose what material we require of our students. I do know that there is other material in this study that is challenging for my son, but not beyond his grasp, and that material may make him groan a little bit, but will be beneficial to him in the long run. The tricky thing is always figuring out which exercises to insist on, and which to pass on. But that's our job, right? We work it out. I do know that he is often capable of more than he does willingly, and that I need to be gentle but firm when I set out his assignments and when I decide what I will require of him. This Study Guide has stretched me, and as we dig in deeper in the coming weeks I plan to make sure it also stretches him.

The Hobbit Study Guide is available from Progeny Press as an instant download or CD for $18.99, or for $21.99 in printed form. Progeny Press carries an amazing variety of study guides for other titles as well for all different grade levels. I have loved using this study guide and hope to use Progeny Press study guides for future works of literature that I have planned.  Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have reviewed not only the study guide for The Hobbit, but also study guides for Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard; Golden Goblet; Treasure Island; Eagle of the Ninth; Beowulf; and Things Fall Apart. To see other reviews follow the link embedded in the graphic below the following "Disclaimer".


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