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 (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/
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!
In this exercise match the shuffled vocabulary word from Column A with the correct vocabulary word in Column B.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.