The Online Book Clubs from Literary Adventures for Kids are presented online but do not require students to meet up with others online or work with other students. These are novel studies with plenty of activities for parents and students to use within their own families. Of course, families can also work together with others studying the same book at the same time in a book club fashion, something I highly recommend.
Each study should take a month to complete, although I can envision adding an extra week just to plan and execute the party at the end of each study. If you work with other families, you might meet either weekly or monthly for each study.
Most of these Online Book Club studies are designed for students in middle school through high school. The Scarlet Letter Online Book Club is the first of a forthcoming series written only for high school level. I will add a few notes regarding that study toward the end of my review.
Online Book Club studies available at this time are for the books:
- A Wrinkle in Time
- The House with a Clock in its Walls
- The Birchbark House
- Where the Red Fern Grows
- Bud, Not Buddy
- Number the Stars
- The Scarlet Letter
You can purchase Online Book Clubs individually, but you save by ordering a bundle with multiple studies. You need to obtain the novel for each study on your own. All of these studies are written from a secular perspective.
Online lesson plans guide you through each study. On your dashboard for each study, lesson plans are visible at all times on a left-hand navigation bar with the selected part of the plan displayed on the right.
Each study begins with a book list. Generally, the novel is the only required book, but sometimes, an extra book or printable resource page is required as well. For example, along with The Scarlet Letter, students will also need the book Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays, an inspiring and entertaining help for essay writing.
A project resources list is next, showing what you will need for each individual project in the course. After this, the menu shows lessons laid out for four or more weeks plus a culminating party.
Each book is broken down into a manageable number of chapters to read for each section so as to complete it within a month. Some studies are clearly laid out for four weeks. Others such as the Number the Stars Book Club present lessons in parts rather than weeks. In this case, there are eight parts. You might complete two per week, although you could stretch the study out over eight weeks.
Students first read the assigned number of chapters. As they read, they are supposed to write down any sentences they particularly like or that have special meaning to them in a journal. They should also write down unfamiliar vocabulary words and look up their meanings. Students will copy a passage from the novel, paying attention to spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.
Each group of chapters studied also includes “rabbit trails” and/or “magic dust.” Rabbit trails are topics to explore that are tangential to the story. Number the Stars has many rabbit trails with as many as six in just one part of the study. For example, for the first week of that study, five rabbit trails cover the topics of Copenhagen, Hans Christian Andersen, King Christian and the Monarchy, the Nazis and Hitler, and Surrender of Denmark to Germany. Online resources provide information on these rabbit trail topics. Students can then type in their own comments on the web page to share with others. Magic dust activities are hands-on projects such as those for Number the Stars: finger crocheting, paper stars, making overnight oats, and creating a newspaper. Instructions are included.
Studies for middle school through high school have limited writing assignments. For example, in the Number the Stars study, the eighth part has a “Writing and Literary Elements” section that provides brief instruction and options for a writing assignment. These sections are written to incorporate elements of the BraveWriter approach for those familiar with it. Alternate assignments are given for those not familiar with BraveWriter.
Yet another set of activities for each week varies from study to study. These usually include an interactive activity. In the Number the Stars study, each part concludes with a foreign language section where students will learn some basic vocabulary from either the Hebrew or Danish language, both of which relate to the story.
Each Online Book Club concludes with what is called “Party School.” The lesson plan suggests food, decorations, and activities for this culminating party. The party can be great fun, especially if students do much of the planning and execution.
Studies Written for High School Level
Thus far, only The Scarlet Letter Online Book Club is limited to high school students but others will be forthcoming. These studies are very similar in concept to those I’ve described, but there are a few differences.
In these studies, the first week begins with background information. For The Scarlet Letter, this includes a brief biographical video on the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, plus an article about Puritans. These are both accessed online.
High school students do not have copywork. Instead, this section of the lesson plan includes instruction on literary devices and literary terms. Students then continue to concentrate on those devices and terms each week as they read, making notes and recording examples.
The weekly lesson plans add a section on vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. Specific vocabulary words are assigned from each chapter. An online Quizlet helps students check their mastery of the words. For spelling, a Quizlet tests a student’s ability to spell the vocabulary words. In the grammar section, students study specified grammar rules at the GrammarBook site. They will apply what they learn in the “Show What You Know” section at the end of the lesson.
There are fewer rabbit trails in the high school studies. For the first week of The Scarlet Letter Book Club, there are two rabbit trails on Ann Hutchinson and Utopia. There are also fewer magic dust activities with only two for The Scarlet Letter: creating an illuminated letter and creating a fairy garden.
For older students, a month-long writing project is introduced the first week. For The Scarlet Letter, students will write a character analysis essay. A number of activities help them do so, including reading essays from Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays, watching a video that teaches students how to portray characters by drawing stick figures, writing short-essay responses to literary analysis questions, and watching a video “How to Write a Character Analysis.”
“Show What You Know” sections at the end of each week’s lesson plan assess what students have learned by using dictation and editing exercises and having students relate examples of literary terms they found in their reading. Finally, students will complete a vocabulary Quizlet. Estimated time to complete this section is 30 to 40 minutes each week, so this is a substantial assessment.
As you can see, the high school level students are significantly more academically oriented, but they still include the fun elements: rabbit trails, magic dust, and the party. It remains to be seen as more high school level studies are produced whether or not they will be able to serve as core curricula, but it looks like that might be the case.
Parents are on their own to assess how well students complete the various assignments other than the online Quizlets (for older students) which are computer scored. So these studies will work best if a parent has the time and is able to assess student work properly. While a group class can provide motivation along with opportunities to share and discuss, it might or might not be practical for a group class instructor to assess all of each student’s work, especially with older students.
I particularly like the way these Online Book Club studies take advantage of internet resources to enhance the study of novels while also adding activities for family involvement. The inclusion of spelling, grammar, vocabulary, literary analysis, and composition work means that studies can cover a significant part of a student’s language arts coursework for middle school students, although they will need additional instruction in grammar and composition. If you are more narrowly focused on using these studies primarily for coverage of literature, they offer solid content in an interesting format that is very easy to use.