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Genre Journeys 1 Review by Kris Price and Heidi Strawser

W5527 State Road 106
P.O. Box 800
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0800

Genre Journeys 1 is an "independent reading program exploring fantasy, realistic fiction, biography and sports fiction" for middle school children (grades 6-8). The well-written teacher's manual contains all a teacher needs to successfully introduce her students to the various genres of books. I have a child who will read nothing but fantasy most of the time and another child who reads only under threat of death (well, not really, but he isn't a big reader!). By working through the program, they will be introduced to many good books in the manual's recommended reading lists.

Each genre study contains three lists of books to choose from based on the reading level of the child. This is a good thing because it is very likely the child will be able to find something interesting to read. The manual comes with 35 passports and stickers to place in them once the journey through the genre is completed. After the child reads his chosen book, there are lots of reproducible activities in the manual for him to complete. He earns "miles" for completing various activities-making vocabulary lists, making flash cards, doing crossword puzzles, answering comprehension questions, writing essays and reports, giving a class presentation, etc. The teacher sets the mileage goal, and it is then up to the student to complete enough activities to reach the destination! The student uses spaces in his passport to record his mileage.

Although written for public schools, the program could easily be adapted for use in homeschools or co-op settings. The manual contains many suggestions for using the program with any number of children and for various amounts of time. It is suggested that each genre be studied a minimum of a month. I'm going to cover only two genres a semester so that I can complete the program with my children during one school year without having to race through it. The manual includes four standard rubrics for assessing the student's work. There is also a rubric for the child to use to assess his own work. I like this idea because the child can read the requirements for each assessment level BEFORE beginning his work and know what is expected of him.

The program, which includes the manual with reproducible activities, 35 passports, and passport stickers, retails for $59.95. I would probably consider this program an "extra" for most homeschoolers. However, it has instructions for organizing Book Circles, or reading clubs, something I think would be a great activity for many homeschooled children. Within these Book Circles, students must choose people for various leadership roles. Then they meet to discuss literary elements or connections to their world in the books they are reading. Complete directions are given for what to cover in each meeting, which is to last about 30 minutes. I believe that this would be a great class for a co-op!

Product review by Kris Price, Assistant to the Publishers, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2006

Genre Journeys 1


W5527 State Road 106
PO Box 800
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0800

"Genre Journeys is an independent reading program for middle school students that develops language arts and other curricula skills and an understanding of literary genre." Included in the Genre Journeys kit is the Teacher's Guide (which includes a purpose and overview of the curriculum, instructions for preparation and set-up, a basic lesson plan, bookmarks, rubrics, and many reproducible masters), 35 Passports (plenty for a large family or co-op class), and passport stickers (enough for all of the Passports). It does not include the actual reading books. This curriculum covers four specific areas (or "genres") of literature--Fantasy, Realistic Fiction, Biography, and Sports Fiction. Each genre has a recommended book list that is divided into three reading levels. These books are all easily accessible; you may choose books from the lists and/or supplement with your own.

The course is geared for students in sixth through eighth grades. However, the recommended book lists include books ranging from third through tenth grade reading levels, so I would think it could be adapted for a wider age range. This program is not specifically marketed for homeschoolers, nor is it modified for homeschool use. It is, however, very much a work-at-your-own-pace reading program, which makes it ideal for homeschoolers' use.

At the beginning of the course, the student receives a "passport" (very realistic looking); throughout the course, the passport will be filled with stamps (depicting genres instead of countries). The next step is to select the genre you are going to study and the book the student will read. Next is the "Travel Itinerary"--this is a form that the student fills out with information about the book they have chosen and the various activities they plan to do. The teacher and student work together to decide which activities the student will work on. The "Activity Cards" are divided into categories (vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and challenge) and are labeled with the number of travel miles to be rewarded for each card (ranging from 50 to 200 miles per card). All activity cards and worksheets are reproducible.

This program seems to be a great fit in our homeschool. I like it because it's not your typical dry and boring reading program. My 12-year-old daughter likes it because she gets to select books that interest her. The activities are fun enough that they don't seem like hard work to her, but the results show me that she is learning. Also, the reward system seems like a great benefit to visual and hands-on learners.

This product seems a little pricey ($58). However, when I consider the ease of use and the fact that it can be used year after year, for multiple students, with nothing more to buy, it seems worth it to me. I would recommend this product to anyone looking for a break from traditional reading programs.

Product review by Heidi Strawser, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2006