Of Mice and Men
George and Lennie are two very different men trying to make a life for themselves. George is a small man with a quick temper, and Lennie is a huge man but with the brain of a small child. The two have been traveling together for quite some time. Lennie often gets the two into trouble, and George is quick to point out that life would be easier if he could travel without Lennie. But he told Lennie's Aunt Clara that he would take care of Lennie, and nearly every single day George tells Lennie the story of how they are going to have their own ranch someday, unlike other guys. Lennie is obsessed with small animals and George always tells him that he can take care of the rabbits, which excites Lennie to no end. But Lennie's strength and lack of intelligence get the two men into trouble time and again, until George can no longer pay the consequences for Lennie.
Imagine a classically-based history course where your child reads great history books and period-related literature, keeps a running timeline of the period studied, writes outlines and summaries of important people and events, completes history-related map work, and does all of this without extensive planning on mom's part. Although it may sound too good to be true, luckily for you it's not! Author Kathleen Desmarais has done an awesome job of combining an excellent variety of resources and activities and presenting it all in a very straight-forward, professional way that takes the stress of lesson planning off of you and puts the accountability and expectations squarely on your history student.
History Odyssey is basically a series of study guides, with one guide covering one era of history (Ancients, Middle Ages, Early Modern, or Modern) in one year. There are three levels to the program, so if you completed the whole series, you would cycle through world history three times - once in elementary, once in middle school, and once in high school education. The first level is intended for grades 1-4, the second level for grades 5-8, and the third level for grades 9-12. There will be twelve guides when the series is complete; currently, there are still several guides in production. The guides are loose-leaf and 3-hole punched, designed to be placed in a binder. You'll probably want a thick one; students will be adding a lot of material!
Although the same eras in history are covered in each level, the expectations on the student become more sophisticated, following the classical education progression. In Level 1 (the grammar stage), students are encouraged to approach history as a great story as they read (or are read to) and complete map work, History Pockets activities, copywork, and coloring pages. This level will require more attention from the parent than the two upper levels. Depending on the reading ability of the child, some reading selections may need to be read aloud or read together. There will also be copies to make and supplies to gather for each lesson. Level 2 (the logic stage) introduces the timeline, outlining as a writing skill, research, and independent writing assignments. Students are expected to read all assignments on their own, and critical thinking and analysis are emphasized through the assignments. Parental involvement should be reduced at this level, as parents should be only checking the quality of each day's work and making sure that it has all been done. By Level 3 (the rhetoric stage), students will be reading much more demanding history selections (including classic literature) and will be writing plenty of expository, descriptive, narrative and persuasive essays. Research, timeline work, and map work are continued from Level 2 but are more in-depth at this level. For each level, history, geography, and writing are strongly represented. Although the writing practice is extensive, you will probably want to be using a separate course in English and writing.
Now that you're familiar with the basics of the course, let's look at the lessons. Lessons are presented to the student in a checklist-type format. All assignments, including reading, timeline, writing, and others are listed for each lesson with a box to check when the task is complete. In Level 1, lessons are structured a bit differently, in that there is some parent preparation (highlighted in gray), a "main lesson" of assignments, and then several "additional activities" listed. Lessons typically include a mix of readings from resource books, map work, timeline work (in the upper two levels), and writing assignments/copywork to be added to the student's master binder. Exceptions may be lessons which ask the student to begin reading a required book. In this case, a recommended time frame is given in which the book should be read, and follow-up writing assignments may be listed. Occasionally websites may be listed to check out more information, but these are not absolutely necessary to the course if you are not able to visit them. Following the lessons, you'll find worksheets referred to in the lessons, outline maps used in map activities, and several appendices. Although the guide is not reproducible, the author does give permission to copy the maps and worksheets for your family's use only.
There are several important aspects of this course. First of all, with the exception of Level 1, there is little parent preparation. A "Letter to Parents" at the beginning of the guide explains the course, while the "How to Use This Guide" lists required resources and other necessary supplies, describes the organization of the student's binder, and briefly discusses several aspects of the program. For the upper two levels, parents will be primarily making sure the necessary books and resources are on hand and ensuring that each lesson's work has been done and is complete. This leads to my next point, which is that at the end of this course, the student will not have "completed a workbook," but will have compiled their own meaty notebook with all their work from the course. Instruction is given at the very beginning of the course on how to organize the student's notebook, and from that point on, the student will be putting all of their work into the binder. The binder will be not only a tremendous keepsake but a collection of all work done in the course. Finally, the timeline is a very important tool used in Levels 2 and 3 of History Odyssey. This can be made by you, or you may choose to purchase Pandia Press's very attractive Classical History Timeline, which is described below. Events and people studied are added to the timeline throughout the course, and when they're finished with the guide, the timeline can be folded up and included in the student's binder.
One bonus to the course is that they use well-known resources and literature that you may already own! Level 1 heavily uses Story of the World books, A Child's History of the World and History Pockets. My sample of Middle Ages Level 2 lists the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, The Story of Mankind, Usborne Internet-Linked Viking World, The Door in the Wall, Tales from Shakespeare, Beowulf: A New Telling, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Castle (by David Macaulay), The Canterbury Tales, and many more. Check out the lists of resources beneath each History Odyssey Guide below - I'm sure you'll see many familiar
If you're looking for a study guide for a specific book, Novel Units probably has it covered! They produce hundreds of literature guides - only a sampling of them are listed here. Teacher Guides are 30-40 pages - not voluminous, but enough for good coverage of the book. Format of the guides vary somewhat by grade level, but have some common elements. They begin with a synopsis of the book and its author and some pre-reading activities that serve both to provide background for the novel study and initiate student involvement and thinking about the story. Chapter by chapter (in some guides, multiple chapters) lesson plans contain vocabulary words, discussion questions (with answers), and suggested activities. Some guides also include writing ideas. Literature concepts/skills appear here and there. Some guides contain reproducible graphic organizers to aid student analysis. All include some culminating questions and activities. Again, these vary in scope and type by guide. There are no objective or essay tests, but each guide ends with a student assessment page that provides a list of projects or exercises to be completed to help evaluate student understanding. Student Packets (where available) are reproducible and, again, vary somewhat by grade level and book. In my sample packet, masters are provided for an initiating activity, a chapter-by-chapter study guide with questions and lines for answers, vocabulary activities, journal ideas, literary analysis, cross-curricular activities (art, drama, math), several graphic organizer / analysis pages, varied activity pages, comprehension quizzes, and a final test. Answers to all questions, worksheets, and test are included in the back, along with an essay evaluation form. Really, each of these components can function as a stand-alone product and can be used without the other, but for a more comprehensive study, they are best used in concert. There is very little overlap between the two, even in the chapter-by-chapter questions - but completing the questions in the Student Packet will help prepare your child for the more in-depth questions found in the Teacher Guide. If your child is working independently on a novel, the Student Packet can be used alone (if available). If you want to do little written work and put more emphasis on discussion, the Teacher Guide can be used by itself. As stated before, we have selected a sampling of guides at each grade level. If you like them, we'll add more!
Please note that some guides have been written to correlate with a specific edition of a book. Some of these editions are now out of print, and we do not carry all versions mentioned. Where multiple editions are available, such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the page numbers given in the guide may not correlate exactly.
Wow! These incredibly thick and thorough teaching guides are some of the best I've seen (and I've seen lots of them)! These provide both an in-depth study of the novel at hand and many opportunities for improving student reading skills. Several pages of background information at the beginning of each guide put the literary piece in context. My review sample for Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl includes information about Anne Frank's world (meant to be shared with the student as a page of reproducible questions follows) and Background to the War to help the reader understand both characters and setting prior to beginning the novel. Because this novel is actually a diary, the guide is broken into sections (rather than chapters) that correspond to groups of diary entries by date. Each section of the guide contains Teacher Notes, a Check for Understanding exercise, Vocabulary Building, and two Literary Skills activities. The Teacher Notes are essentially lesson plans for that section. They include a helpful section summary for the busy teacher, pre-reading focus activities/discussion questions, a vocabulary preview, an "After Students Read" grouping that references appropriate student pages, and post-reading discussion/writing questions. The Check for Understanding student pages are designed to test comprehension. These vary in format (multiple choice, cause and effect, true/false, matching, etc.) but are intended as a quick check to insure that students have a basic understanding of that section. Answers to these are in the back of the guide. The format of the Vocabulary Building student pages varies also (which is refreshing after having used some guides that utilize the same technique over and over, guide after guide), including analogies, selecting the closest meaning, multiple choice, sentence completion, etc. Again, answers to these exercises are included in the back of the guide. Literary Skills pages abound and are very well done. They, along with the discussion/writing questions contained in the Teacher Notes, contain the higher level thinking skills activities. To give you an idea of the scope, topics included in the guide to Anne Frank are: Genre, Setting & Comparison/Contrast, Idioms, Conflict, Simile & Metaphor, Characterization: Role Reversal, Objective & Subjective, Mood, Character Relationships, Dynamic Characters, Suspense, Inference, Internal & External Conflict, Allusions, Characterization: Opposites and Point of View. Many of these require a significant, organized written response - often a multiple- paragraph essay. Once skills pages are completed for the section, the post-reading Discussion/Writing Questions are provided for synthesizing and evaluating important plot, theme, and character developments in that section. You can either discuss these orally or have your child keep a Response Journal and record his answers there. After reading through the novel, a section of Culminating Literary Skills Activities helps you wrap it all up. In Anne Frank, these consist of three summary literary skills pages plus many options for a final student project. Each guide is between 87-160 pgs. These win hands-down for a thorough, in-depth literature study. Please note that guides are transitioning from print to PDF format on CD.