Thursday, June 1, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Heroes of History- Benjamin Franklin: Live Wire from YWAM Publishing

YWAM Publishing
We've thoroughly enjoyed reading our most recent review product called Heroes of History- Benjamin Franklin, written by Janet & Geoff Benge, from YWAM Publishing. This book is from the Heroes of History series. The accompanying Downloadable Unit Study Curriculum Guide was also sent to us in digital format to review.
YWAM Publishing

I adore the Heroes of History series. I honestly wish I owned the entire set of hero biographies. Last year I reviewed the Harriet Tubman book and unit study guide. This year my daughter and I chose the Heroes of History- Benjamin Franklin: Live Wire book which spans across key events that occurred during his life from 1706-1790. He was one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. A physical copy of the 208-page paperback book was sent in the mail.

We chose the Ben Franklin book, because we are currently studying American History. Our focus was on the French and Indian War, Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, George Washington, American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. I felt like this book would reinforce those topics and it did. I wanted my daughter to hear more about our freedom and liberties from the perspective of a well-rounded, intellectual historical figure. Ben Franklin's life was extraordinary. He was an inventor, scientist, printer, politician, leader, writer, statesman, and postmaster.

Shortly after the book was shipped, we received an email with the digital guide. I saved the zip file on my MAC OS X 10.11.6 computer and unzipped the compressed file to view the contents by double clicking on it. We clicked on Start-Here to begin. Don't forget you'll need a computer, a program that can unzip files, and a way to read PDF formatted documents. The next step is to click on Curriculum Unit Study. There are helpful "how to" guides for Small Groups, Homeschool, and the Classroom. Choose the best guide for your circumstances. We chose the Homeschool Overview Guide. I glanced through the contents BEFORE beginning the book and unit study activities.

This hero biography was written as a nonfiction historical chapter book. The book content and length is suitable for children ages 10+. However, younger children might appreciate the book if read aloud, if they are reading larger chapter books independently, or if they have a strong interest in Benjamin Franklin. This historical biography consist of 17 memorable chapters. There is a map with a compass rose showing several of the original 13 colonies at the front of the book. The font is a decent size with an appealing font style. The bibliography contains additional informative reading selections.

The Downloadable Unit Study Curriculum Guide was emailed to me as part of this review. The complete digital study guide was comprehensive in nature. It was available as a PDF formatted document. The first part of the Ben Franklin unit study curriculum guide consists of 83 pages and the second section only contains a 5 pages. The guide is divided into the following core sections:

  • Introduction
  • Key Quotes
  • Display Corner
  • Chapter Questions
  • Student Explorations
  • Community Links
  • Social Studies
  • Related Themes to Explore
  • Culminating Event
  • Books and Resources (Appendix A)
  • Answers to Chapter Questions (Appendix B)
I absolutely love that other subjects are integrated into the unit study guide such as Geography, History, Literature, Reading Comprehension, Public Speaking, Science, Writing (Creative and Essay), Art, and Drama. Let me share with you just a few ways we used our study guide.

How I Used the Book and Unit Study Guide
My nine-year-old daughter used the hero biography and guide as an independent student-directed study with minimal help. The book was usually read in the late afternoon. She is an avid reader working at a 3rd-6th grade level. My daughter silently read the chapters as a supplement or complement to her American History and Geography curricula. Occasionally she would ask me about the meaning of certain words to better understand the text.

She read one chapter a day working 3-4 times a week. She was given up to an hour to read and work on projects each session. First, I read aloud the comprehension questions prior to her reading session so that she could have a purpose for reading and be more attentive. I also really wanted her to enjoy the story. Then, she answered the thought-provoking comprehension questions verbally AFTER reading instead of responding in written format. We ended up rereading the book aloud together towards the end of the review period, because she wanted me to read about the fascinating experiences and details of Benjamin Franklin's life. We took turns reading paragraphs or pages at a time.  
Chapter 13 Comprehension Questions
There were six comprehension questions for each chapter of the book. The first question was based on contextual vocabulary terminology. The book page numbers were referenced making it easier to see how the word was used in the contest of a sentence. The next question was factual and could be easily found in the book. Two questions emphasized comprehension and the student's level of understanding. The last two questions were open-ended (evaluative) which seek opinions or have the child draw conclusions based on the reading. I challenged my daughter to verbally respond to the higher thinking open-ended questions, but these may be more suited for older students based on the difficulty level.

The first comprehension question always introduced a new vocabulary word to study. Alyssa looked up the terms in the dictionary and wrote the definition that matched the contextual meaning. Book page numbers were given in parentheses. She made vocabulary cards for each new term and its definition. After several weeks of accumulating vocabulary cards, Alyssa used them to play a concentration game.

We skimmed the activities in the digital study guide and highlighted a handful of age-appropriate projects for her to work on independently throughout the review period. Many projects took several days to complete. I encouraged her to pick and choose activities from each section.  

The first activity I assigned required her to choose a key quote to memorize from the list provided in the unit study. Her task was to memorize one quote during the review period. In the beginning she told me what she thought the quote meant. At the end of the story, we further discussed the meaning of the quote in relation to Ben Franklin's life. It didn't take her long before she had the quote memorized and recited it back. She also presented a one-act play which featured the quote and explained its relevancy to Benjamin's life. We can all agree that Benjamin Franklin's life was useful and that he definitely accomplished his goal. The key quote as stated by Benjamin Franklin is as follows:

I would rather have it said, "He lived usefully," than "He died rich."

As she read through the chapters, Alyssa thought of objects to include at her Display Corner on the floor in our living room. It consisted of books about Benjamin Franklin, maps, relevant documents, soap, candles, a key, a kite, and her unit study projects.

The downloadable unit study curriculum guide is divided into sections. The Student Explorations section was Alyssa's favorite in the guide. It is further broken down into the following sections: Essay Writing, Creative Writing, Hands-On Projects, Audio/Visual Projects, and Arts and Crafts. We attempted to choose projects from each section to become more familiar with the format and style. The Essay Writing section was barely utilized. I strongly believe that the Essay Writing section is geared towards older or more advanced students.

One Creative Writing activity suggested that the student write a series of journal entries as if she were Ben Franklin during his time in France. She was supposed to include who he met and write about any difficulties he experienced in gaining support for the American Revolution. However, I changed the activity a bit and asked my daughter to write a diary entry for EACH chapter from Ben Franklin's perspective summarizing the important events, figures, or places in his life. I love having her write these entries, because I can see how much she comprehends from the story and she can improve her summarization skills. She always seems to understand the individual better in the long run. She notices character traits and qualities of the person. I wasn't as worried about handwriting, punctuation, spelling, or grammar errors for this project. I was looking more the content or her depth of understanding after reading each chapter.      

The flyable kite project was a project found under the section titled, Hands-On Projects. I simplified this project by stating that it did not have to be flyable. First, she created a large 2D kite. Then, she drew and colored seven or more items that were important to Benjamin Franklin's life. She plans on flying this kite on a windy day outside at the culminating event.

The idea for all of my daughter's one-act plays originated from an Audio/Visual Project listed in the study guide. She chose several major events from his life including the repeal of the Stamp Act, the signing of relevant United States documents, kite storm experiment, life as an apprentice, quote relevancy, and more. She jotted down her play notes and practiced her lines before reciting them.
Alyssa was infatuated with the Arts and Crafts section of the digital study guide. My daughter found several projects of interest listed. For example, candle and soap-making research, charcoal drawings, and a collage attracted her attention to the section. Alyssa made a charcoal drawing which depicted Benjamin and William flying a kite in a storm. The book began with the kite, key, and storm experiment with his son William when they were both older. The next chapter started when he was a young boy and progressed into adulthood. My daughter used charcoal and colored oil pastels as her art mediums. The black charcoal would have given it a more mysterious feel, but she insisted on adding color to her art project.

The collage project was surprisingly more fun for Alyssa than I thought it would be. She researched information about Benjamin Franklin and his inventions. She cut clip art out and added it to the page. Her collage represented ideas, inventions, and events from his life. She did add a few pictures that represented items today that were directly influenced by him such as the skateboard, bifocals, xylophones, and bathtubs, etc.  

Benjamin's father was a candle and soap maker. Ben worked in his father's shop at a very young age which was an interesting fact my daughter learned about him. One day she researched basic candle and soap-making techniques from the past online. She really wanted to make soap as gifts so we decided to buy a soap making kit at a local craft store using a coupon rather than buying all of the individual items separately. This project will hopefully be completed later this week.  

To view the contents on the study, I clicked on the words START-HERE. Then, I clicked on the Curriculum Unit Study tab. Under this tab, there was a Unit Study - Part 2 tab where I found the printable fact sheet. We also printed maps and a timeline printable from the same Unit Study - Part 2 section. Alyssa researched information about Benjamin Franklin in picture books, non-fiction books, encyclopedias, and online in order to complete the Fact Sheet. The Social Studies section of the unit study guide offers map work assignment details to help the student dig deeper into the topic. 

My daughter learned more about the geographical features of Pennsylvania during this study. Ben Franklin spent a lot of time in Philadelphia and he was always trying to improve it. Alyssa's map work consisted of labeling geographical regions, bordering states, major cities, and rivers. I highlighted the items in the study guide that needed to be labeled on the map. She studied maps of Pennsylvania online to help complete the map work assignment.

She also created a timeline which served as a visual reminder of the major events that occurred during the time period. Alyssa diligently searched for dates online and placed the events on the timeline accordingly. As she researched these dates, she enriched her study of Benjamin Franklin and her knowledge about him grew abundantly. 

The culminating party event is on hold until later, because we are still learning more about Benjamin Franklin and his connection to the American Revolution throughout the summer. This activity will end the entire unit and be in honor of Benjamin Franklin's accomplishments. My daughter and I look forward to implementing ideas from the study such as creating lightening and kite invitations for our neighbors and homeschooling friends. We think it would be fun to research foods served in Pennsylvania, play an armonica CD in the background, present her unit study projects at the display corner, and wear clothing or costumes from that particular time period.  

What We Love About The Book and Study Guide
  • Twaddle-Free Literature Selection Addressing Relevant Content
  • Brings History to Life with Engaging Text
  • Exemplary Character Qualities Portrayed
  • Narrative Fictional Format and Use of Descriptive Language
  • Hands-On Study Guide Activities
  • Vocabulary Enrichment
  • Leveled Comprehension Questions
  • Addresses All Learning Styles
  • Integration of Subjects
  • Usage Flexibility 
Alyssa learned a lot about Benjamin Franklin while reading this informative book. Before reading this interesting book, she didn't know that Franklin was the only man to sign five important U.S. documents, but after reading the book she had the document names memorize and recited them to others. Do you know the five documents he signed? The foundational documents Ben Franklin signed were the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with England (Treaty of Paris), and the Constitution. He was also an important historical figure during several wars such as the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. My daughter retained the information she read in this book far beyond what I ever imagined especially considering the complicating events occurring during this historical time period.
Alyssa gives the book a thumb's up!  
Possible Vendor Suggestions
1.) Include Possible Answers for ALL of the questions to aid the parent/teacher who skims the book or doesn't read it but wants to discuss it with their child.
We HIGHLY recommend this book and any book from the Heroes of History series for all traditional and private school classrooms. Homeschooling families who have History buffs will adore these books. The well-written book and invaluable study guide can easily be used in a small group setting and would provide excellent discussion points in a literature group. This book might encourage your child to live a useful life after reading about Benjamin Franklin's life accomplishments.

Here is a Chronological list of Heroes of History book titles for you to explore.

Book currently priced at $7.50 (Retails for $9.99)
Unit Study Curriculum Guide $5.49 (Retails for $9.99)

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice.

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Read many other reviews about YWAM Publishing products by visiting the Homeschool Review Crew blog. You can also read my review about the Harriet Tubman book and Unit Study Curriculum Guide on my blog.
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1 comment:

  1. What an amazing review! It looks like she learned a lot and had a great time.