{Review Crew} Progeny Press – Literature Guide


We love to read at our house and I like being able to discuss our books to see what my kids are retaining.  We were excited to review The Door in the Wall Study Guide from Progeny Press to enhance our literature studies and spark deeper discussions!

Progeny Press Review
What is it?
Progeny Press is a Christian publishers who offers literature guides to accompany a wide variety of books for various levels.  They offer study guides in a downloadable/printable format, an interactive PDF format, and a CD format to allow for printing.

The guides were designed to help students analyze and think critically about literature while enjoying the stories.  Progeny Press provides background information about the authors, illustrators, and time periods of the literature.  The study guides also include comprehension questions, writing prompts, activity ideas, and a discussion of Scriptural themes or truths that can be noticed in the literature. 

Progeny Press has created guides for a wide variety of literature selections and the guides are divided by level of difficulty of the literature that they accompany.  The levels are lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school, and high school.

The Door in the Wall Study Guide is designed to be used alongside the book The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli.  In this book, a young boy is training to be a knight but is injured and will never walk again.  He stays with some monks and learns valuable skills, but the most important lesson he learns is that all people have a place and a purpose in their life.

This guide includes a brief synopsis of the book, information about the author/illustrator, and background details about the historical time period.  The first section of the guide has ideas for pre-reading activities which are writing prompts or ideas for research about the time period of the book.  The program recommends reading the entire book before beginning the guide. 

The majority of the study guide contains questions about the plot and themes of the book as well as a place to record definitions of vocabulary words.  The questions were divided into 3 sections:

  • Questions: These questions are devised more as short answer comprehension questions.  The answers will be listed somewhere within the book.
  • Thinking About the Story: This section asks “why” questions to help the student think critically about cause and effect in the story.
  • Dig Deeper:  In this section the questions help the student evaluate the character and motives of the character as well as discover personal application from within the story.  The Dig Deeper section sometimes contains Scripture references and ways to compare and contrast themes within the story with Scriptural truth.

At the end of the guide there is a conclusion section of questions that help the student understand the main themes of the story and find personal application in these themes.  Additional resources of books by the same author, similar books, or related videos are listed for further study.

The guide also comes with a separate download folder which contains the answer key.  Therefore, even in the parent has not previously read the book (or has not read it along with the student), the answers can still be reviewed and checked for accuracy using the answer key as a guide.

The guide is downloadable and is interactive.  This means that all answers can be typed directly into the PDF format and saved or printed.  

This guide is recommended for upper elementary students in grades 3-5.

Progeny Press Review
How did we use this product?
Ok, I admit – I’m not great at computer stuff or technology.  I love printed materials.  So, while the interactive feature is awesome and if my kids could actually type (note to self: teach them soon), then they would love filling out the questions on the computer.  Therefore, I didn’t actually use the interactive component for my kids – but I played around with it myself and it was really wonderful.

So, I grabbed my printed guide and put it in a binder and sat down with Curly to read the book.  I had her read the chapters to me and I helped her with any difficult words.  Then we completed the guide together, doing much of it orally.  Because Curly is a rising 3rd grader this guide was at the upper end of her ability level but we found it worked well because she has a very high reading level so the book was very interesting to her even if some of the questions about themes required quite a bit of discussion help from me.

We began by reading the background information about the book and the time period.  Since we had just studied this time period (Medieval) in history, Curly knew quite a lot about the way of life in the Medieval days.  We looked over the Pre-reading Activities and decided to do 2 of the 3 ideas.  For the first activity we researched life in a monastery and wrote down the activities of monks and what daily life was like for them.  For the second assignment, we researched more about the Black Death and talked about the effect it had on England and all of Europe at that time.  While these ideas were designed to be research papers completed by the student, Curly is not ready to write a research paper independently so we had an in depth discussion instead.  

The guide covers two “sections” of the book (because this particular book is not divided into actual chapters but has natural stopping points in the story) with each portion of the study guide.  Therefore, we would read the two sections from the book and then work through the activities in the guide together. 

For the vocabulary section we talked about what Curly thought each word meant and then we looked up the word in a dictionary.  I wrote down her thoughts and the dictionary definition for her and we compared them.  Some of these sections in the guide included a matching activity or multiple choice answers.  Those she was able to complete on her own.

Next we talked through the comprehension questions.  She was usually able to recall all the details from the chapters.  Then we moved into the Thinking About the Story questions which were more challenging.  We had great discussions and I encouraged her to think about the characters and ask why they did or didn’t do certain things.  Lastly, we discussed the Dig Deeper questions and Curly talked about how parts of the story applied to her life or lessons she learned from the book.  I also answered the questions alongside her to help encourage our discussion. 

What did we think?
At first I was unsure how I would like a guide that covered more than one chapter or “section” of the book before asking questions in the guide.  I was not sure if it would be too much reading before starting on the questions or that Curly might forget some of the information before starting on the guide.   We found that the pace of the book reading and the questions worked well.  I think we would have been frustrated to stop after every single section and answer questions.  I discovered that I enjoyed that these guides covered more than one section of the book with each set of questions.

Progeny Press recommends reading the entire novel before starting on the guide and I see the value of doing that.  The student would be able to see the story as a whole and see the big picture with the over arching themes.  However, since we have not done extensive literature study the thought of reading the entire novel before starting felt a little overwhelming.  Instead, we worked through the book section by section while answering questions as we went.  This worked well for us.  As Curly gets older and is reading the novels on her own, I would plan to have her read the entire book and then go through the guide while still referring back to the book.

I really liked the vocabulary section and the variety it provided.  Each section was arranged a little differently and included a place to write definitions, match words with their meaning, multiple choice questions, synonyms for the vocabulary words, and a section to use the words as similes or metaphors.  I was so thankful that each section was not “write the definition or each word.”  The variety made this section very fun!

I loved how the questions were divided into 3 sections.  The first section was the typical comprehension sections while the other two sections took the student into deeper thought, asking them to analyze and apply the themes in the book.  Again, the variety in the depth of the questions made the guides very interesting and fun.

One of my favorite parts of the guide is how Scripture is incorporated.  I loved how we were pointed back to themes and truths in Scripture as it applied to the story.  We also enjoyed how we could find life application from the story and from Scripture to make the book’s themes seem relevant to us. 

My wrap up!
This have to be my favorite literature guides of the ones we’ve tried so far.   The activities vary widely, the questions have differing levels of depth and application, and the Scriptural application was enlightening.  I thought the guide was very well done and interesting both to Curly and to me.  As we study other books, I plan to use more Progeny Press guides, especially since they have such a great list of guides that accompany a wonderful selection of literature.

More info…
This guide can be purchased as a download for $17.99

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