Victorian Unit Study: Great Expectations

You know when something happens and the timing is so good it could only have been God?  Well, this is how I feel about this review of Progeny Press.  This summer we are focusing ten weeks on the children’s writing at the same time as learning about the Victorian Times.  When the Great Expectations E-Guide came up, I practically begged to review it!

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}

I have to admit, I was incredibly excited about this particular product.  Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors, and Great Expectations is meant to be one of his best novels.  Really, what’s not to love?

Once downloaded, I printed off a copy, bought four copies of Great Expectations, grabbed the recommended dictionary and a Bible and began to plan our studies:

Great Expectations 1

I read through the first few pages which included a synopsis of the plot of Great Expectations, a short biography of Charles Dickens and a description of the social and historical back drop before which this story is written.  This was then followed by a selection of pre-reading ideas.  The children spent the first week researching one of the ideas from the list, which they presented to Gary and I at the end of the week.  They made their own display boards pertaining to their chosen subject.  Here is a selection of some of the pictures they used.  Lillie drew the caricature free hand herself, although she did copy it off a picture she found online:

Great Expectations 1

Thomas chose to research and present the penal colony in Australia.  What the reasons were for sending criminals there and what the results were in Australia.  Lillie chose to research and present the Caricatures (eccentric, fascinating characters which provide colour and depth to a story)  She will be researching caricatures of famous people alive in the 19th century and Charlotte chose to research and present her findings on the history of Newgate Prison – the architect, the architectural style, what it was known for and infamous stories surrounding the prison.  Here they are presenting their findings:

Great Expectations 2

I really loved this idea of researching information about the historical events and landmarks which were around the time the book was written and set.  No doubt they helped us to have a greater understanding of the context of the story as well as whetting the children’s appetite for the adventures to come.

We spent the next couple of weeks reading chapters 1 through to 7, which were the chapters the first section of the study guide were on.  We read them aloud, taking turns to read during our morning meeting.  I had purposefully bought us all a copy each so we could read them together and the children could underline anything they didn’t understand and also they could make notes in the margin:

Great Expectations 2

After reaching chapter seven we stopped and focused on the first section of the Progeny Press study guide.  Each section includes the following elements:

  • Vocabulary – The chosen word is given within the context of the actual sentence in which it is found.  The child needs to write the definition and then write their own sentences which include that particular word.
  • General comprehension questions – these questions make sure each student is understanding the story fully.  They are simple questions and require little thinking, just memory and understanding.  We did these verbally together.
  • Analysis – these questions guide the student to analyse Dickens’s intentions as the scenes he masterfully creates come alive in our imaginations.  All types of literary techniques are explored and these questions are very much written to stretch the students’ observations of the nuts and bolts of Dickens’ writing.  We did these questions as a discussion over lunch, verbally first and then the children were required to write out their answers.
  • And finally there were the questions called ‘Dig Deeper’.  These questions are to encourage critical thinking.  There are moral questions which use the Bible as the standard to which all else is compared; these questions are designed to help the student form opinions about that which he has read.  Conversations, motivations and personalities are analysed in-depth.  These were also discussed over lunch and written out in full over the course of the afternoon..

This was so much fun!  Especially the vocabulary, as most of the words the children couldn’t even pronounce!  They loved using these ‘new-to-them’ words in a sentence, and some of their sentences were hilarious!

Our thoughts on the e-study guide for Great Expectations

We LOVED this study guide.  I knew we would.  Right from the start the children were excited and couldn’t wait to start.  This enthusiasm hasn’t abated any.  We complete some work every day and I would say it is one of the children’s favourite times of the day.  It is thorough, easy to use and yet the work stretches the children, even Charlotte!  We also loved that the Bible was brought into an essentially non-biblical literary work.  This is a really good study guide to Great Expectations!

Connect with Progeny Press:


Great Expectations E-Guide is for high schoolers, but Progeny Press also has guides for Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, and Middle School so be sure to read the other reviews to learn the differences between these levels:

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}

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  1. Thanks so much. I love that the guide used the Bible as a resource. My son isn’t in high school yet, but I’d love to see if Progeny has something we can use for what we’re going to be working on in the coming year. 🙂

  2. I’lll confess Great Expectations is the one book I strongly considered burning from my high school literature class, I disliked it that much. Every now and then I’ve thought about giving it another go after reading the Thursday Next series, but then I shiver and realize that would be a bad idea.

    I’m heading over to check on their other lit guides.

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