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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Developing a Study Guide

By J.P. Miller

Early in my writing career I decided that my purpose for writing was to promote African American history, family, and to augment a child’s learning experience. I am a storyteller who enjoys writing about little known events and people in African American history. In doing so, I try to make the reading experience as informative as possible without weighing the story down with a lot of facts. As a result, I began developing study guides to enhance information from the story.

Who is Your Target?

If you are considering adding a study guide to your manuscript, I suggest that you first ask yourself who you are developing it for. Who is your target? Do you want to target teachers, librarians, home-school parents, students?

Let’s face it. In the busy life of educators (especially now that many are virtual), one might choose books with ready-made activities out of convenience. That being said, there are certainly benefits to targeting educators and homeschoolers. I personally target the student that picks my book up off the library or bookstore shelf when I develop my study guides.

After reading one of my books, I want the student to WOW their teacher with book reports, discussion topics, and activities they gained only from working through my study guide. This is the type of learning experience that reaches beyond the classroom allowing the student to learn independently and share what they have learned with their teacher/class. In other words, augment the child’s learning experience.

What is Your Content?

After determining your target audience, the next step is to determine what you would like to include in your study guide. You can never go wrong with vocabulary words from your story. This can be tricky. Make sure your vocabulary words are within the target age/grade of your story. I use Children’s Writer’s Word Book 2nd Edition. I swear, this book makes me look so smart. It lists words grouped by grade and has a thesaurus of the listed words. Now, I must admit, I do not list my vocabulary words, the pronunciation; give the definition . . . yada, yada, yada. Boring!  I like using my vocabulary words in fun stuff like crossword puzzles, scrambles, word searches, etc.

Next, I like to ask 3-4 Book Report Questions. These are always developed from something that I touched on in the story but did not elaborate on. For example, in a story about an Olympic gold medalist, the Book Report Question might look something like this:

(One sentence recap of story) What are the Olympic Games? Write a brief history of the Olympic Games.

The same holds true for my next category. I like to ask 3-4 Social Questions. These are something that the main character does or was involved in. Using the same example of the Olympic gold medalist, the Social Question might look something like this:

(One sentence recap of story) Are you a part of an athletic team, club, or organization? What do you enjoy most about being on your team or club?

Last, I like to end my study guide with an activity. The activity can range from being active to something more sedentary. Again, using the example of the Olympic gold medalist, the activity might look something like this:

(One sentence recap of story) Plan a sports event or family outing. What, when, and where will your event be? What food and/or supplies will you need?

There are many ways to develop study guides. Play around with your content to see what works best for you.

Work-For-Hire

Work-for-Hire (WFH) is an area in writing I never considered. Well, it’s not that I didn’t consider WFH; I simply didn’t know it existed until my mentor recommended me for a project. Can I just tell you how grateful I am for my self- imposed study guide requirement? The publisher’s guidelines required a timeline, glossary, index terms, text dependent questions and an extension activity. Ding! Ding! Ding! Study Guide! So, if you’re thinking of WFH as an option in your writing career, by all means start developing study guides now. I promise you; the skill will come in handy throughout your writing career.

Educational Standards and Resources

Bravo to those who already develop study guides to accompany your manuscript/book . Keep up the good work. But to those who feel that developing a study guide is a lot like diving headfirst into the deep end. . . Not to worry. There are online sources out there to help you meet school standards. A couple I find useful are:

Common Core State Standards Initiative - http://www.corestandards.org/

Education World: - https://www.educationworld.com/

Edhelper- https://www.edhelper.com/

Enjoy the process of developing a study guide. Know that you are playing a key role in educating our youth of today!

Activity: Let’s Build a Vocabulary List

Go through your manuscript and choose 8-10 words that you think will increase the vocabulary of your reader. In doing so, you may want to select a couple below and a couple above your recommended reading level to challenge readers at all levels. Some choices to consider are words with suffixes or prefixes, compound words, and/or hyphenated words. Now shuffle your words and follow the directions below. This is one of many ways to present vocabulary words in a study guide. Enjoy!

                                                 VOCABULARY

In this exercise match the shuffled vocabulary word from Column A with the correct vocabulary word in Column B.

          Column A

 

Column B

eepp

 

peep

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Though I’ve been writing many years; 2020 was my breakthrough year. I signed my first contracts (Work-for-Hire) in 2019 and completed 16 books. All but 6 were released in 2020, including  my 6-book Leaders Like Us picture book series with Rourke Educational Media. The series was very successful and garnered reviews from Booklist Review and the Library School Journal.

Next, was my 4-Book Black Stories Matter Series published by Hachette Children’s Group-United Kingdom. This picture book series is filled with over 50 biographies of people of African Diaspora from around the world. It was purchased stateside by Crabtree Publishing, release date TBA. Careers in the U.S. Military, a 6-book series, and  Leaders Like Us (8-book series) will be released in 2021.

Visit my website at: www.authorjpmiller2020.com

 

ABOUT THE PRIZE

J. P. will give away a paperback set of Leaders Like Us.

 

70 comments:

  1. As a former teacher I appreciate the Study Guide idea! Thanks for the information on how to develop them.

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  2. This is so helpful and I have a manuscript about an Olympic hero. So, thanks! Great ideas for extra learning for your readers.

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  3. Thanks for the information on how to develop study guides.

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  4. I have not thought about this aspect of study guides. Thanks for the creative suggestions!

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  5. I love the way you think about different types of questions. Do you typically submit the teacher guide with your manuscript? I usually see these on authors' websites, though I could see a version of the study guide being included as back matter, too.

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  6. This is fascinating and timely. And congratulations, by the way! I've been researching work-for-hire and our local SCBWI chapter has been discussing having a webinar or speakers series on the topic. Thank-you!!

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    1. I've done a lot of work-for-hire so feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

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  7. Thank you for your useful post on developing study guides and for links to educational standards and resources. I wondered about including study guides as part of the back matter, too. I've seen teacher guides on author websites, but I can see that it would be beneficial to include them in the back matter, saving teachers and students the step of looking for them on an author's website. Maybe it's a good idea to include teacher guides in both places! :)

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  8. I'm familiar with work for hire but I like the idea of brainstorming these same features for my other work earlier in the process to help with the focus of the project. Thanks for your post!

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  9. As a retired teacher I love this information! Thank you!

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  10. This isn't something I've done before but would be interested in trying. Thank you, J.P. for this handy reference information. (I also appreciate the yada yada reference.)

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  11. Thanks for this timely post. It's a reminder I need to get moving on a lesson plan for teachers for an upcoming book. I like your kid-centered puzzles, scrambles... Wow, congrats on 16 books last year! That's fantastic!

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  12. My roles as teacher and writer are colliding--study guide, here I come! Thanks, JP.

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  13. As a teacher, I can attest to how great it is to have a study guide accompany a text. Years ago I was privileged to write study guides for Dian Curtis Regan's fiction picture books. It was fun as well as fulfilling. I have cross-curricular lesson plans for every text I use.

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  14. AS a retired teacher, I love, love, love your ideas. Thank you so much!

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  15. This is incredibly helpful for creating back matter!

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  16. This was a wonderful post! So much great information, thank you for sharing! :)

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  17. Incredibly helpful! Love the specifics.

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  18. J. P., thank you for sharing your thoughts and process for developing study guides to accompany picture books.

    Suzy Leopold

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  19. When I published through an educational press, their marketing team developed the study guides. Now that I'm inching my way through traditional pub doors, I should prepare these guides myself. Thanks for the nudge.

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  20. Thank you for talking about doing a study guide. I think it would be helpful me.

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  21. I am so proud of you J.P.! You have found purpose through your writing. Brava! I paid to have a study guide created for my biography of Virginia Hamilton, but in the future, I will give it a go on my own. Your resources will be helpful in this endeavor.

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  22. Thank you for this wonderful post! Some great resources and information here. :)

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  23. J.P., Congrats on your incredible successes. This is a very helpful post and has given me some great ideas. Thanks!

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  24. Such an informative and useful post! It behooves children's authors to think about producing study guides for their work, but unless they've worked in education first, it's not always obvious where to begin. Thanks so much for this!

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  25. To those of you who've seen me on other blogs know that I'm forever bragging about and giving thanks to my crit partners. Well here you go, you've just met one of them, JP Miller! She's this good on our weekly Zoom crit meetings too. Am I the lucky one or what? And, you'll be the lucky one if you win this collection of books! Thanks for being here JP.

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  26. JP, thank you for your study guide advice and tips, and for the resources you shared. Congratulations on your publishing success!

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  27. I have done a study guide before, but not as thoroughly as this. Many thanks for the specifics and congratulations on your WFH success! I look forward to readin them.

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  28. I've been wanting to do study guides with my books. I like how you break it down for what could be included. Thanks for sharing, J.P.

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  29. Congratulations J.P.! Thank you for your insight into study guides. Your tips, list of web sights, and explanations are appreciated!

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  30. Ten books in one year out for publication?? That is awesome J.P. Congratulations! I never even thought of creating a study guide, but it makes a lot of sense for the educational market. So thank you for sharing your insights!

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  31. Good tips, and something I should pay more attention to: developing "beyond the book" activities.

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  32. I had never heard of Work-for-Hire (WFH) but I am now fascinated to learn more about it. Especially if it will help bring more Arab American history into classrooms. Thank you for the WFH links, I know what I"m going to be researching this weekend!

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  33. Fantastic post! Teachers everywhere (including me) are applauding supplied Study Guides and activities. Congratulations, too, on your publishing success! I'm looking forward to finding your "Black Stories Matter" book when it's released. So important for students to discover histories of people beyond a textbook.

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  34. Interesting approach to explore the many ways of creating study guides and great links too. Thanks.

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  35. Very informative and fun post! Study guides are something that I hadn't tried before but now I really want to. Thank you so much!

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  36. J.P., I love your suggestion for making study guides for manuscripts. I've done it for a few - though it's been a while and think after this post, I'm have fun and makes some more. Thank you for the encouragement!

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  37. I'd never thought of study guides before. Thank you.

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  38. I have made a study guide for a friend's book in the past, and it was a joy to do. I hope I get to do the same for my own book one day. Thank you for these excellent guidelines and suggestions!

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  39. Thank you for the solid advice on study guides. I do have a glossary at the end of my non-fiction manuscript but adding a study guide is a terrific idea. Focusing on the content is a great tip. Congratulations on completing 16 books - that's incredible!

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  40. Thanks for the study guide tips & congrats on your books, J.P.!

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  41. Thank you! This is something I can do adding a little more to what I consider back matter. Congratulations on your many books.

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  42. Thank you for sharing this information! I have done a few activity pages for hire and found it very interesting.

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  43. Thanks for an interesting and informative post!

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  44. Thank you J.P.Miller for your terrific information and great ideas for having it already prepared in advance of the request! So perfect! Look forward to reading and sharing your books with my grands. Congrants on all your hard work and the big breakthrough!

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  45. Great information, J.P. Thanks so much for sharing and for your inspiration on this crazy journey!

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  46. Huge congratulations on all your recent books JP! And many thanks for this post! I’ve had study guides on my mind. Maybe I’ll have the confidence to try.

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  47. Thanks JP, this is great information.

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  48. Teachers are so appreciative of study guides. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas, J.P.

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  49. You've made creating a study guide sound like so much fun! I love that I can expand past my text and even back matter slightly to extend the learning.

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  50. Thank you for your insights and suggestions. (Just shopped on Amazon for the word book.) I will try to create a guide while rewriting my story. Maybe this process will help weed out all the information that clogs up the pace but the details will generate some before-, during-, or after-reading activities. Congrats on your breakthrough writing successes!

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  51. Congratulations on all of your 2020 successes and those forthcoming.

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  52. Wow! This is just what I need right now, as I'm faced with removing all URLs from my back matter, and the editor suggested I put them on my website in an educators guide, where it's easier to keep them up to date. Thank you!! Oh, and you are an incredibly fast writer!!! Congrats on finishing all those books in such a short time!

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  53. Thanks J.P.! Great post - very helpful especially the examples and the resource links.

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  54. I really connected with this article. I already make study guides for each title in my historical fiction chapter book series, HISTORY'S MYSTERIES, which includes word searches, additional fun facts, questions, and more. I also give whoever reads my books a link to my website where educators and homeschoolers, as well as students, can find tons of more FREE links directly connected to each main topic in each new book in the series.

    Great post!

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  55. Thank you for this very informative post! I love the idea of study guides and the fun approach to a vocabulary list. Great resources, too - thank you!

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  56. J.P.as a teacher, I adore books with study guides. As a writer, I find your post so informative. Thank you!

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  57. So great to read your fascinating Study Guide post and get to meet you and see your work. Thank you!

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  58. J.P., it sounds like you really care about the 'user experience' of the student learning about topics, making engaging and fun further exploration of what they just read. Thank you for including the links. And CONGRATULATIONS on your books!

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  59. Really great ideas, here. And congratulations for having such an incredible 2020 while the world was falling apart!

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  60. Love that you not only were thinking about words/vocabulary as you write and then vocabulary as a part of the study guide.

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  61. I've only delved a little bit into study guides so I really appreciate this post and the guidance given!

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  62. Study guides are so helpful.
    Thanks for this informative post.

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  63. Great ideas for creating a study guide. Thanks for sharing!

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  64. Thanks for these helpful ideas and many congratulations on ALL your upcoming books!!!

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  65. The author of this post stated something about writing about little known events and people, well, that got my attention, because most of what I have been preparing to write about is of little known people and/or events. Thanks for the help in understanding the process of developing a study guide, should I take that journey with some of my future writings.

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  66. J.p.,
    I am not a teacher so I appreciate your ideas on a study guide and i love the vocabulary puzzles.

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