Tuesday, June 14, 2016

{Review} The Scarlet Pimpernel - Progeny Press Literature Guide

Literature is one of our very favorite school subjects because it combines the best of every other beloved topic. Literature takes us away in time and location while teaching us more about ourselves and our world.  However, it can be difficult to find all that a particular piece of work has to offer when reading it casually for ourselves. Literature guides, like The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide from Progeny Press, provide the extra structure we need to see all the author intended.

In the early portion of eighth grade we reviewed Introduction to Poetry: Forms and Elements from Progeny Press, which Amber greatly enjoyed and so was delighted to use another of their E-Guides for a Summer study of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Although Amber has her own distinct preference for free-reading books, she happily will read just about any type of literature.

Progeny Press E-Guide of The Scarlet Pimpernel

For this review we received a download of the PDF version of The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide, which is a high school level student study guide for the book, and a separate PDF of the answer key. I greatly appreciate it when publishers, especially those of electronic products, provide the answer key as a separate file so there is no temptation to sneak a peak at the answers in the back.

The answer key for The Scarlet Pimpernel is exactly that: a simple listing of the answers to all of the study guide questions. For the items which may not have straightforward answers, the key does provide suggested answers that at least give you the direction they expected the student to take with their response.  It is a very no-nonsense answer key, and works perfectly with the study guide.

The study guide is actually an interactive PDF document that allows all questions to be answered directly in the electronic document, as long as you are viewing through a compatible software. The guide begins with notes to the instructor that make suggestions on possible use schedules as well as credit recommendations.  A quick synopsis of the book, notes about the author, and background information on The French Revolution and the Reign of Terror are given for those who may not have covered this in history.

Progeny Press E-Guide of The Scarlet Pimpernel
Working through the study guide on her iPad

The study guide then breaks down the book into seven chapter groupings for the purpose of analysis.  Each chapter grouping includes:
  • A vocabulary section where the student may be requested to provide both a synonym and antonym for the listed word, or match the definition with the word and use it in a sentence, or even give their own definition prior to looking the word up in the dictionary. The vocabulary work varies by section and keeps the student thinking.
  • Story questions that simply help the student remember the details of the current chapters.
  • Analysis questions which encourage the student think about literary devices used.
  • Dig Deeper questions, which to me are the meat of the study guide, and assist the student in seeing the deeper meaning in each section of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Some of the chapter grouping also include optional activity ideas which require a bit more time and research to complete.

The study guide finishes with an Overview section which lets the student put all of the thoughts and ideas studied over the course of the book into a solidified idea.  The guide also provides a final list of essay and project ideas to encourage further understanding of the time period and the ideas presented in the novel.

We used The Scarlet Pimpernel as a way to wrap up our studies of the time period in history and to give Amber a unique Summer literature study. While we definitely could have opted to print the study guide or have Amber work through it on her computer, although these were not her preferred options. She wanted to keep the ability to type her answers in the study guide, as opposed to handwriting, but still not be tied to her computer.

However, we found that Adobe Acrobat Reader on Amber's iPad did not support the interactive nature of the PDF study guide. This was easily solved though with another app that allows for PDF annotations. So, armed with her trusty iPad, bluetooth keyboard, and book, Amber was ready to begin.

Progeny Press E-Guide of The Scarlet Pimpernel
She particularly liked being able to type directly into the PDF document.

Although the instructor notes suggest reading the entire novel through before working on any questions might be the more successful path, Amber is not fond of this method with any assigned literature book. After reading the introductory matter in the study guide, she opted to read only the first five chapters and then move on to the study guide for that portion. Amber does have memory retention problems though, so reading the novel through once and then being asked to work through the study guide would essentially require her to read the book twice through by the end.

Amber actually is rather enjoying this study guide and appreciates the varied types of vocabulary activities along with the limited number of detail related questions. She honestly is very intrigued by the story in The Scarlet Pimpernel and finds the Dig Deeper questions are giving her a good deal more insight into the novel than she expected.

We have completed about half of the novel and study guide at this point, but are moving slower than anticipated due to Amber's ongoing comprehension issues with electronic products. I probably should have printed the study guide and allowed Amber to physically write when she felt able. However, we do love the portability that the E-Guide provides and that both of us can have copies on our devices while discussing her answers.

Overall, this is another spectacular literature E-Guide from Progeny Press and we both have enjoyed the perspective it provides to a classic piece of literature.


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