Home School Years

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Swiss Family Robinson

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Series: Authors, Books, Stories

Forms of Writing

This unit study is designed to explore different elements using children’s classic stories.

Swiss Family RobinsonBackground:

We used Stepping Stone Classics Chapter Book Series’ adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson. It tells the classic adventure tale by Johann Wyss about a shipwrecked family who adapt to the natural environment of a deserted tropical island in order to survive. This children’s chapter book is designed for grades 1-4 level. There are over 30 titles in this series, including: The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Knights of the Round Table, Treasure Island, Phantom of the Opera and Tarzan.

Target Vocabulary: abundant, adapt, adventure, author, bay, character, classic, clue, colony, conflict, cove, creative, danger, deserted, diligence, disaster, discovery, environment, explore, faith, fiction, genre, illustrator, interview, island, journal, journey, narrator, natural, non-fiction, perseverance, plot, point of view, problem, publisher, rescue, review, setting, settlement, shipwreck, skills, solution, survival, tale, theme, title, treasure, trip, wildlife

Book Review/Report:

Book Review form my son completed for Swiss Family Robinson.

Book Review form my son completed for Swiss Family Robinson.

My son and I are avid readers. We enjoy our reading time, whether it be during school lessons or as a way to spend time together. Over the years I’ve seen how my son’s language and reading skills have improved, and I credit a lot of that on our reading material. We enjoy taking turns reading and discussing the stories and characters we come across. I get a lot of joy from seeing him really get into a particular story. Swiss Family Robinson is one of those stories he couldn’t put down. He really loved it! So I thought this would be a great book to introduce the concept of book review. Book reviews are a great way for kids to better their reading and writing skills, and develop critical thinking. It also helps them to form and communication their own opinions.

We discussed these specific points during our lesson:

  • Title, Author, Illustrator
  • Genre: Fiction and Non-Fiction
  • Theme, Setting, Plot, Characters
  • Problem or Conflict and Solution
  • Narrated By (Who is talking to the reader?)
  • First Person (is part of the story). Uses the clue words (pronouns): I, Me, My, Myself, We, Us, Our, Ourselves
  • Second Person (is talking to the reader). Uses the clue words (pronouns): You or Your
  • Third Person (not actually involved in the story). Uses the clue words (pronouns): He, Him, His, Himself, She, Her, Herself, They, Them, Their, Themselves

In addition, I prompted my son to share his favorite part of the story and asked if he would recommend this book to others. We used this great book report form I found at blessedbeyondadoubt.com, which is perfect for grades 1-3 level. To expand the lesson, you can also present a biography on the author using this biography worksheet.

Character Study/Interview:

My son's completed character interview form.

My son’s completed character interview form.

Swiss Family Robinson introduces the reader to the six Robinson family members: Father Robinson, Mother Robinson and their four sons (Fritz, Ernest, Jack and Franz). As the story unfolds, we learn about these characters by what they say and do, allowing us to become familiar with each one. This is a good opportunity to discuss character traits related to the story. I chose to focus on diligence and perseverance. My son was tasked with looking up the definition of each word using a dictionary. We also discussed synonyms and examples of each trait. I expanded this lesson by incorporating an interview activity through role-playing. I asked my son to pick a family member to interview. I then gave him an interview organizer template form to complete (from The Organized Teacher’s Guide to Building Character by Steve Springer). This exercise gave my son an opportunity to put himself in the character’s mind in order to answer the questions from their point of view. It also gave him experience with interviews by playing both the interviewer and interviewee roles.

Creative Writing:

Prompts are a great way to encourage creative writing, in oral or written activities. I asked my son to come up with his own shipwreck oral story using this prompt:  My family and I were vacationing on a beach when I found a treasure map. We decided to explore the area and that’s when we saw the remains of a shipwreck on a nearby bay. I ran over to take a closer look. When I got there, I saw…

This is what he came up with:

…gold coins, a football, a beagle and a bag of Skittles. I gave the dog a name – Biscuit. He came over and licked me on the cheek. I ate the bag of Skittles and started playing football with him. I went back to the ship to look at the coins again. They had ancient Egypt writing on them. I studied the hieroglyphs and put a few coins in my pocket. I showed the coins to my family and we are going to take them to a museum when we get back home.

This unit study was so effective, I plan to use it again to explore other children’s classic stories in the series.

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