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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grading a Progeny Guide - Basic Grading

Hi Rebecca,
I’m using Progeny Press for the first time with my 8th grader.  I’m wondering how do you assign a grade/evaluation to these guides.  I know each guide is given ¼ credit, but I’m referring to an actual percentage score.  Do you give each chapter section a grade or each subsection within the chapter sections?  How do you assign points for a partial answer?
ALSO, should I require his answers to be in complete sentences?
AND, it was suggested that my child read the book first, then complete the guide.  He said he felt it would have been better for him to read it as he went because he feels he has to reread it to answer the questions.  What are your thoughts on this?

I think some examples would help me know how to grade…
Pg. 15 in The Giver Question 1 says…
1.    Why is Jonas apprehensive about the approach of December?
The answer he gave was….”because he’s becoming a twelve”
I felt this was only a partial answer because he did not say why becoming a twelve was fearful. (because he will receive his assignment) The answer key give quite lengthy answers and explanations so I don’t believe I should expect my child’s answers should be that elaborate.

One more example
Pg. 23 #8
8. At the House of the Old, Larissa tells Jonas about the release of a man named Roberto.  What happens during the celebration of release for the Old?  Was this a happy or sad occasion.
The answer my son gave is “they walk through a door and never come back. It was a very happy occasion. I felt he did not say really what happened DURING the celebration which was a telling of his life, a toast, and an anthem chanted.  speech by the elder and another speech wishing him well.
So how would you score this answer?

Dear Peggy,
When I grade my own student''s answers, they often answer briefly. I usually ask them to explain a little more verbally and take that into account, or I may ask them to write their explanation depending on the question.  Then, you can raise their grade accordingly because they've shown they understand it at a deeper level.

As for pre-reading the book. I still strongly feel it's good to have read the book for the story so that as they work in the guide, they can see the writing techniques the author has employed, and they start to understand some of the issues discussed in the dig deeper at a more in-depth level. Whether he reads the book ahead of time, or the 4-5 chapters at a time as he goes, he still will constantly have to refer to the book. The guides were written in this way for depth, and to make the student think and analyze at a deeper level. If they were able to answer the questions without referring back to the text, then it would simply be too easy to be called critical thinking. I do understand that it takes time and work. Perhaps slowing down a little would be good, or simply encouraging him that he is doing it right and well?

I cannot emphasize enough that a small amount of work done excellently will teach him far more than many guides done in a more partial manner.

Teaching Middle and High school literature using Progeny guides is fairly uncomplicated and easy for the student to manage and the teacher to teach, yet they are considered by many to be the most in-depth and challenging guides available. The guides are designed to be used independently by the student on a daily basis ( or 3x weekly). Most teachers then sit down with each student once per week, where you take time together to discuss the Biblical comprehension, the literary techniques learned, and their answers. This is when I may ask a student to clarify further, or to compliment them on a question well-answered, or an answer exceptionally well written. Each Progeny guide includes a full answer key, so you don't have to guess.

Since our guides are completely answered in essay format, we don't include tests. If they can explain themselves well, answer completely, and begin to build their persuasive writing abilities, then we feel they know the material. They can't answer without knowing! We grade based on the guide work only.

Now to nuts and bolts. I like to grade each question, and then give a full chapter's section-grade based upon that. I recommend encouraging him to work toward writing his answers in complete sentences.

Here is a simple grading system that I've found works well. I generally score my student's work on a regular A-B-C-D scale. If you want a specific formula, you assign 5 points per question. 3 points are for answering correctly and well-written, within acceptable wordings/variance. 1 point is for good grammar and spelling. 1 point if for neatness and handwriting. Divide total points earned by the total points possible to get a percentage score. (90% and up = A, etc.)

If you wish to score more simply, assign each question or section a grade based on how well you feel they answered the question clearly and completely (Use the answer key as your guide), their spelling, grammar, clarity, and handwriting. I usually grade heavily on how well they've explained themselves and the skill of their writing ability. After a few times analyzing their work, you get a good feeling for "A" work, "B" work, etc. When work is below par, a low "C" or below, I usually require the student to redo the section to bring their grade up.

The goal of teaching and homeschooling should be excellence and actually learning, not just giving our students poor grades and putting the work behind us. We are so blessed to be able to take the time to bring their work and understanding up to a good or excellent ability in each subject!

Coming next — how to grade Progeny Press Study Guides using a rubric!


  1. I have used PP guides throughout elementary and middle school. With high school approaching, I had a few questions.
    1. There aren't many writing assignments ("papers") so would I need to incorporate a separate writing program to be able to assign 1 full English credit to my child?
    2. Can the child still read the book, complete the guide, and then sit with me to go over the graded answers...or with the increasing difficulty and analysis, is it necessary to meet to discuss literary elements and analyze the text together before doing the work in the guide? (I guess what I'm asking is if the guides are in-depth enough for high school being that the work is done independently in a homeschool setting without the parent necessarily knowing the text vs. in-depth class discussions in school?)

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      1. In the high school guides, you will see more writing and essay assignments. If you do at least one essay per quarter, you will fullfill a full English credit. Our guides are used around the world in many private schools, and most of them do four guides per year with the quarterly essay for high school English.
      2. In high school, the student can work very independently. I prefer to sit down with my children and my students and go over their answers for the week. We discuss some of the analysis and their answers, and I can ask them to clarify or to flesh out an answer. With the detailed answer key provided, you are able to discuss the answers and questions with them without having read the book yourself.

      Our high school guides are definitely in-depth enough and are considered by many to be the most difficult and best at teaching comprehension, critical analysis and biblical connections.


Have a similar issue or question? Let me know and I will be more than happy to help out!