June 15, 2016

Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide: A Literature Unit from Progeny Press {Curriculum Review}

I am always on the lookout for literature curriculum, and I especially enjoy literature units designed around a single book. One of the hottest companies for this type of curriculum right now is Progeny Press. We were recently given the Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide to review, and I was very curious to see how this literature guide compared to others I have used.

Product Information

Progeny Press is a family owned and operated company determined to provide biblical based literature units for grades lower elementary through high school. Progeny Press offers a large collection of study guides for classic literature to some study guides of popular YA fiction. 
The study guide will provide vocabulary, comprehension questions, critical thinking questions, scripture copywork, bible study topics, creative writing, and more.
The study guide is available as an E-guide for instant download ($17.99), a printed workbook ($18.99), or a CD ($17.99). The E-guides aren't your traditional printable file. When opened in Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.0+, they become interactive, thus allowing the students to enter their answers into the computer and save their work. The e-guides can also still be printed and used in the traditional manner.
Titles available as E-guides include:
*The Big Wave
*The Bridge
*Charlotte's Web
*The Cricket in Times Square
*The Door in the Wall
*Farmer Boy
*Mr. Popper's Penguins
*Sarah Plain and Tall
*A New Coat for Anna
*The Drinking Gourd
*Miss Rumphius
*Anne of Green Gables
*The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
*The Giver
*Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe
*The Hobbit
*Hunger Games
*And many more!

We were given the Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide to review with Little Britches (age 10).

How Did We Use It?

The study guide was easy to download to my computer (using Chrome) and open as I have Adobe Acrobat. It came in two parts: answer key and study guide. As I opened up the study guide, I was curious to see what the interactive portions looked like. It ended up being simply drop down answer choices, and places where they can type their answers. But I digress. At the beginning there is a note to the parent that explains how to use the study guide and notes that the student will also need a dictionary, thesaurus, Bible and access to a topical bible or encyclopedia to complete the work. This was good to know before beginning. The note also suggests that the book be read in its entirety the first week, as the student completes a pre-reading activity, and then work on one page of the study guide per day working through the chapters. The study guide also contains a final overview which could be used for a final "exam" if needed. The parent is also encouraged to let the child reference the book as they work through the assignments. 
I found this a good guide to see how it could be done, even if it isn't how I was going to decide to complete it. 
The study was set up with a basic design: synopsis, pre-reading activities, chapter review questions, optional section of additional questions, overview, post reading activities, and additional resources. I noticed that the chapters of the book were grouped 4-5 per section, so I printed out a section at a time. 
Why did I print instead of using the interactive version? Because it was my preference. I knew most of our answering was going to be open discussion, and I wanted to be able to include Baby Britches (age 5) into our discussion. Using a printed copy would work best for this. 
Once I had the pre-reading and first section printed, we began. I snagged the book from our library on our next trip. I decided that we were NOT going to read the whole book in advance. I knew my boys would do much better on the questions and activities if we read it aloud and then completed the work for each chapter when it was done. 
I introduced Mr. Popper's Penguins with the pre-reading discussion and reading the background information about the Poles. I found a world map that could be colored and labelled on a different resource site, so we did that as was suggested in the pre-reading activities. We found the north and south pole in our atlas and talked about the kind of things that live there. As you might have guessed, we used our read aloud book, with me reading 1-3 chapters each day. The boys were taken with the story right away.
We followed a pattern of doing 1-3 chapters a day and then doing the questions which matched what we read. Once we did that, we then spent another day finishing up the questions or activities in that section before moving on. We typically did 1 section per week, although we didn't always
Glad to get to use our new atlas!
complete it within a week (since we are on a modified summer schedule). 
We have finished the book and chapter questions. I decided to do the optional sections as they were on very important things (relating to money and debt), and this week we will conclude by making a diorama of sorts of the arctic regions and hopefully watching the latest version of the Mr. Popper's Penguins movie. And eat homemade ice cream! 

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?

I think both boys enjoyed the story very much. They had fun with our initial map activity and learning more about the poles. They weren't in love with the "work" but because I didn't require them to write anything--we didn't have any issues with completing it. I did make Little Britches do the vocab work and exercises which he completed easily.
matching vocabulary to definitions, then using them in a word search
My favorite answer from the open ended questions...LOL
I think it's a very good guide and gives you the basics for completing a literature unit. The comprehension questions are very well done, and the open ended discussion questions encourage critical thinking. I loved the vocabulary sections and how it could be done with multiple choice--but mostly how it was presented differently in each section. 
A surprise benefit was how MUCH scripture and biblical teaching was incorporated in the lessons. We were constantly going to the old and new testament and reading scripture relating to our section. I think it added a nice depth to the unit that some literature units neglect. I especially loved how it pointed out in our story, what the Bible says about being a good steward, and debt and such--and comparing it to our Mr. Popper's Penguins story. It allowed for some really great discussion on money management. Which in turn was the perfect spin off for the optional section of questions included with this study guide--they were all related to that very topic.
Reading verses

lessons on being a good steward
What I would have liked to have seen is a bit more hands-on. For instance, it would be nice if there was a section where the student was encouraged to draw out a scene from the chapter, or keep a log of the characters with illustrations, or something like that. There are similar things included in the post-reading portion, but it would have been nice to have optional activities like that as part of the study guide.
This program is very very very easy to build on with other activities for taking the basic guide and turning it into a unit study. This is what we pretty much ended up doing with it, so I greatly appreciated having the e-guide as a starting point!
Will I continue to use this product?
As I said above, we have a few extra activities to use with it and then we will watch the movie Mr. Popper's Penguins as our finale. I definitely plan on keeping this e-guide to pull out for Baby Britches when he gets older and is ready to do the activities himself.

Would I Recommend This Product?

I would recommend this product if you prefer the more traditional method of working through a book and then completing comprehension questions with a bit of discussion. There isn't a lot of hands on scheduled into this product, however there are ideas for it at the back of the E-guide. If your child prefers a lot of hands-on activities, with minimal writing, this might not be the best idea for you. It is good for those who have multi-ages, for you could work together as a group to complete the assignments. 
Because these study guides are presented with a Christian worldview, there is a lot of scripture and theology woven into it, so if you need a secular curriculum, this wouldn't be a first choice I don't think. 

Want to Know More?

Over the last few weeks, we have been reviewing the lower-elementary unit Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide from Progeny Press. You have seen how we used it and our thoughts on it, but what did the rest of the review crew think? Make sure you head on over to see some of the other guides that were used for other grade levels!
Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}
You can find Progeny Press on Facebook and Twitter if you want to stay up to date on their sales and new releases!
While I definitely liked the detail of the literature guide and the regular connections with biblical studies, I don't think it's quite the right fit for us. I just needed to add MUCH more to it to make it work for our family pulling from other products to give us a full unit that worked for us. If I used it again, it would be as a base product for me to build on. Progeny Press offers excellent materials and I will probably remember them to try again when we are in a higher grade level, and might not need so much hands on aspects.
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