Literature Adventure - Island of the Blue Dolphins

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Enthusiastic presentation, engaging format, encompassing study, entertaining video instruction, and a dead-pan basset hound. All of these are the elements that characterize the Here to Help Learning Writing videos. We're thrilled they've decided to provide literature studies. Filmed on location, their first study, Island of the Blue Dolphins, comes alive and it's easy to throw yourself into the study of this book that has captured the hearts of young people for years.

Energetic and engaging video is the heart of the study. There are five lessons, each with video instruction interspersed with "Flying Solo" assignments. The reading plan emerges with the help of the iconic basset hound (Captain Knucklehead), an enthusiastic teacher (Mrs. Mora) and a well-organized literature strategy. Lessons start with background information that, in the case of the Island of the Blue Dolphins, includes an in-depth look at the geography of the setting as well as the customs and beliefs of the Native American peoples. With the thoroughness that is typical of Here to Help Learning, books are approached from the perspective of worldview (What does the Bible say about the subject? How can we administer grace to all people of the earth? Your attitude affects learning? What kind of fruit (effect) is being produced? What have you learned--apply it to your life.) while looking at the story structure (main idea, protagonist/antagonist, setting, story time line, problems that are faced and overcome) and writing style (new words/word choice, literary techniques, point of view, and guessing where the author is leading you). In keeping with the Here to Help Learning flight themes, these are presented as "gauges" - as in airplane dash gauges. One of the central "tools" for encouraging active reading is the ENGAGE acronym which stands for Execute your reading plan; Navigate the new vocabulary; Go for the reading; Ask great questions, Go for details, and Evaluate your work.

The video format lends itself to a broadened study and Mrs. Mora takes full advantage of that. The instruction might start with a book but ends up as a cross-curricular study that in the case of Island includes Chumash culture, dolphins and sea creatures, island restoration (in the Channel Islands), career investigation (park ranger), habitat exploration (marine shelf), and history (the real story). By the way, the video is excellent and professionally done. Many entertaining and engaging aspects are built in - such as chat/texting sequences that help you "see" the information from the perspective of various people and sometimes animals.

The Teacher's Kit includes the Teacher's Guide, the DVD and the Student Notebook. The DVD provides the filmed instruction. There are five lessons each with five sections: Pre-Flight Checklist, Flight Check-in, Take Off, Full Throttle, and Flying Solo. Pre-Flight Checklist and Flight Check-in are general information and repeated from lesson to lesson. After the first time, you might choose to skip these and go straight to the lesson's new material. As the lesson progresses through Take Off, Full Throttle, and Flying Solo, the student is encouraged to pause the video and complete a section in the Student Workbook before diving into the reading assignment. These sections include vocabulary, chapter-by-chapter worksheets, specific worksheets on various aspects of the story (i.e. setting, characters, plot, themes, author info, etc.), and step-by-step instructions and encouragement for preparing a fabulous report which, by the way, is actually a multi-faceted oral presentation.

The consumable Student Workbook provides instruction, illustrations, and assignments plus the space for the student to complete assignments. The Teacher's Guide is a replica of the Student Workbook but with the answers filled in. The TG also includes an overview of the lessons and supplies needed as well as an overview of the lesson elements. Both Workbook and Guide are spiral bound and about 70 pgs.

Registering at the Here to Help Learning website has some benefits for users of their courses. There are internet resources, printable resources, access to a Members Forum plus a newsletter with teaching tips and special offers.

There are many hints in this material that this is the first of a new series by the Here to Help people. The Island course is labeled "Westward Movement" implying there will be more books and more historic time periods. Also, the literature study "tools" will be easily adaptable for other studies. I, for one, am eager to see where the Here to Help traveling video production team will take us next. ~ Janice

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Island of the Blue Dolphins Teachers Kit Item #: 065674
Grades: 3-8
Retail: $27.99
Rainbow Price: $25.95

Island of the Blue Dolphins Student Notebook Item #: 065673
Grades: 3-8
Retail: $18.99
Rainbow Price: $18.50

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