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Teaching kids to read is one thing. Teaching them to understand what they read and think critically about the text is another. That’s why I was excited to try the literature guides from Memoria Press. They have sets available for children in grades 1-10, so I thought about which child I wanted to try these with. After careful consideration and looking over all of the options, I selected the Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set to use with my nine-year-old daughter.
During this review, we focused on the Homer Price Literature Guide.
What Did We Receive?
Included in the Fourth Grade Literature Guide set, we received a Student Study Guide and a Teacher Guide for four different novels. All together, we received eight books (four teacher guides and four student guides). I was responsible for locating the accompanying novels.
The novels studied with the guides are:
- Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
- The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
- The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and Garth Williams
- Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
How Do the Student Guides Work?
The Student Guide opens with a condensed section of Teaching Guidelines. These instruct best practices for getting the most out of the material. Then it moves quickly into the material.
Each chapter is broken into multiple parts, which means your child doesn’t need to read an entire chapter in one sitting. There are page numbers listed at the bottom, so if you’re using the recommended version of the text, your student will always know where to stop. Otherwise, you as the parent will need to look over the text and update the numbers to reflect your copy. (That’s what I did!)
For each section of the chapter, there are reading notes. These contain words or phrases that students will come across that may be unfamiliar. They also introduce key characters or places, and provide other information to help students understand the text. These are meant to be read through together before reading.
There are two other pre-reading activities for each section. There’s a list of vocabulary words and a set of comprehension questions. By taking time to read through these before reading, you help your child learn to be an active reader instead of a passive one. If they know they will need to answer a question about a certain event, they will read that section a little more carefully when they realize what they are reading.
During Reading Activities
After discussing these three sections with your student, they go and read the content. You could also read this aloud. I found it helpful to read the first chapter together, just so I could model good reading behavior. I made it a point to stop throughout the text and verbalize my thought process. I said things like, ” Homer has his radio here. One of the questions asked what exciting news he heard. Let’s see if we can find the answer when we read.”
Then I’d read the section and stop and ask, “What exciting news did Homer hear?”
This modeling really helped my daughter learn how to find information in text, and helped her make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
Post Reading Activities
After reading, your child goes back and completes some tasks in the guide. They come up with a synonym for the vocabulary words, and write their own definitions. Then they answer the comprehension questions.
Memoria Press recommends having students in Grades 2-4 discuss these orally. Then, you can work together to form a good sentence. Your child can write this, or you can write it on another sheet of paper and have your child copy it perfectly. That way they don’t have to stop and think about punctuation and capitals while they’re trying to think about the answer at the same time.
The guide also mentions that it’s not necessary to write every answer down. We typically skipped writing several of them, and just discussed them together. This kept the writing from being overwhelming.
There’s also a quotation section that contains important quotes from the novel. These were great for sparking discussion. Sometimes, there are fill in the blank quesitons about the quote, such as who said this?
There are discussion questions to encourage higher levels of thinking and comprehension. Then there are enrichment questions. These are a variety of activities (drawing, answering questions, writing, etc.) that students can do.
Elements Of Literature
In some of the novels, students have a more in-depth look at various elements of literature. These are in between chapters and review the literary elements in the previous sections.
Here is a sample Elements of Literature question from Homer Price. The student was asked to draw their favorite setting from Chapters 1-3. My daughter was fascinated that Homer kept a pet skunk, so she drew Homer in his bedroom with the skunk. The bedroom is the setting, and she thought he had a pretty cool sounding room. But the skunk really got her attention! We have a skunk problem around here, so she just couldn’t understand why he’d willingly let one into his bedroom…
There are quizzes and a final test for each novel. Students get a chance to show what they’ve learned in each of these.
The Teacher’s Guide
The Teacher’s Guide has the same teaching guidelines from the Student Text. Then it has all of the answers. They are shown on a reproduction of the student text, which makes it easy to use:
The Teacher’s Guide appendix also has valuable information, including an author biography, any related short stories that are necessary for the guide, and additional insight. There are reproducible tests in the teacher’s guide.
I appreciated having answers to the Discussion Questions, as those feel like they can be more subjective. It was nice to see what direction they thought of, and to use that as a starting point. There is an entire section dedicated to the answers to these questions, so they were easy to find when I needed them.
How We Used This Product
During the review period, we were able to make it most of the way through the Homer Price guide. I opted to start with this one, as it was one of my favorite books when I was younger and we already had a copy. Since ours is an old one, the page numbers didn’t line up, but that wasn’t a huge deal.
We worked on about two lessons each week, which worked out to a chapter a week. This worked well for my daughter since these chapters were a bit on the longer side. She liked breaking them up.
She’d never read this book before, and is really enjoying it! We will continue working through the other novels during the upcoming school year. She’s selected the Blue Fairy Book next, so it’ll be fun to dive into fairy tales and study some common ones like Little Red Riding Hood.
What We Thought of This Product
I really enjoyed using these literature guides with my daughter. They are well thought out and encourage students to think about what they are reading.
The questions are appropriate and the enrichment projects add some variety.
We didn’t do all of the writing. That’s a skill I push a bit later in school, so we just took their advice to keep it short and not write out each answer. There was a lot of good discussion as a result of this guide, and it even encouraged my son to give the book a try. That’s a definite win!
If you have a fourth grader who is ready to learn more about reading with purpose, I highly recommend this set!