Questions & Answers

What's an Explorer's Guide?

Explorer’s Guides are private web pages packed with our unique activity and prop ideas, along with teaching points and academic printables.  Here’s a list of what’s in each one and here’s a preview of an actual guide.

(And for those of you who’ve been with us awhile, yes, we did used to call those private pages “LitWits Kits.” But that was so confusing, because it sounded like a box of stuff.)

What's the best age for LitWitting?

Aw, you’re just the right age, whatever that might be!  Just kidding—we know what you mean. We find that 8-12-year-olds are consistently “ready to LitWit.”  Generally speaking, their reading level is high enough to take on the vocabulary and syntax of literature, and they’ve acquired enough knowledge to grasp new ideas.  Yet they’re still full of wonder, and are highly responsive to the “check this out!” nature of sensory immersion. However, we often have mature kids of 6-7 in our experiential workshops, and sometimes fun-loving kids of 13-14. As a teacher or parent, you know best what your kids are ready for and interested in.

What’s a typical LitWits experience look like?

FUN!  A bunch of kids with wide eyes, a room full of waving arms, voices saying “oh oh oh oh wait what about when she . . . ?!” And a teacher grinning ear to ear because the kids are ENGAGED.

Really, nothing’s typical, but our ideas and materials all come from our three-hour workshops, which follow a loose format. Kids show up having already read the book, sort of like a book club. A workshop usually follows an agenda like this one. (We’ve chosen that order to alternate handouts with hands-on fun, and to end with the messiest project.)

During the entire workshop, through every activity and snack, we’re talking about the related “takeaway topic.”  So everything ties together quite neatly, and the fast-paced fun is packed with learning and the learning is embedded in the fun.

HOWEVER, you certainly don’t have to do the whole thing, ever! In your classroom or home, you might have 30-45 minutes to spend at a time, so you could go through that same agenda over several days.  Of course, you can skip or switch items as needed!  We often do that on the fly.

If you’re short on time (who isn’t?) check out the Takeaway Topics (like these) first, and just do what matters most. Relax—there’s no wrong way to LitWit, as long as you’re having fun!

For more inspiration, here’s our gallery of good times from each of 40 great books.

Can I preview any Explorer's Guide?

Yes, each guide’s product page offers six preview screens. And you can help yourself to a WHOLE guide right here with one click, and no email required, and no obligation!

Aaaagggh, so many ideas! Where do I start?

Each guide centers around three Takeaway Topics (like these), so you can easily see where we’ve focused our creative ideas and academic angles for that book. If you only have time to do one or two activities and handouts, decide which “takeaway”  you most want to emphasize. The related projects and handouts are listed beneath it.

I have just a few minutes and dollars for teaching literature - can I still play?

Yes, of course! Check out the Takeaway Topics first (like these), and decide what matters most.  And get over the need to find all the props we suggest! Ask your kids to help by keeping an eye out, as they read, for strange items in the story that they might have access to. Encourage them to think “close enough!” (Grandma’s old violin? Perfect to bring for Adam of the Road! Mom’s fancy perfume bottle? That’s Amy’s Christmas sacrifice in Little Women –– and so on.) Props surround kids with the story and help them “immerse,” but they’re most valuable as tangible symbols for talking points.

Where do you get your ideas?

The two of us make them up! Explorer’s Guides are the result of all the planning, prep, and presenting we’ve done for our three-hour immersion workshops. After a workshop, we pull all our unique, tried-and-true content together and stash it in an online guide, along with the takeaway topics that tie it all together. So educators can have all the fun and share all the learning we did, but at their own pace – you can do any handout and/or activity any time it suits your teaching goals. And you certainly don’t have to do the whole thing, ever!

Props look like a big deal. Are they?

Props are unusual and/or symbolic items straight out of the story. They’re important because they help kids feel “inside the book,” but they’re most valuable as tangible symbols for talking points, as “ways in” to talking about themes, characterization, and key plot points. Showing is more powerful than just talking, for the same reasons we tell kids “show don’t tell” in writing.  

Having said that, there’s no need to find all the props we suggest! Just one might be enough, depending on the Takeaway Topic you’re emphasizing. And you can ask your kids to be part of the “treasure hunt,” telling them to keep an eye out, as they read, for strange items in the story that they might have access to. Encourage them to think “close enough!” (Grandma’s old violin? Perfect to bring for Adam of the Road! Mom’s fancy perfume bottle? That’s Amy’s Christmas sacrifice in Little Women—and so on.)

Isn't it easier to just talk about the book and do handouts?

Ah—easier, but those lessons are far less memorable than those imparted in hands-on ways. We’ve written about the value of experiencing literature, right here. In a nutshell, when kids get their eyes, ears, teeth, hands, and ears on a story, and do things the characters did, it sticks with them for years (if not forever).  And the immersion will extend beyond school! (Our experience of Follow My Leader, for instance, had dozens of kids wearing blindfolds for weeks. We’re sure that some, like the readers of the 1960s, will grow up to make a difference for the blind.)

I see a project my kids would LOVE! But where do I find that doodad?

If you need something besides standard teachers’ supplies, we’ve linked you to its online resource. We link to Amazon a lot, because you can find almost anything and everything there. Other resources we link to are big chains with  brick-and-mortar stores (like Dollar Tree or Hobby Lobby), so you can shop in person if you prefer. We like to give local shops our business, but our priority is to help teachers nationwide find what they need.

My kids and I LOVED using our Explorer's Guide - where can we leave a review?

We would LOVE to get your review! You can do that on the kit’s product page, either through your account or in our store. Just scroll down to the tab that says Reviews…  If your kids see the pleasure in the story, and want to read more because of their LitWitty experience, oh my goodness that would make our day. That’s our goal – to get kids to WANT to read more, for fun.

Because of course the learning HAPPENS when they’re reading for fun! And it’s easier and more fun to teach happy readers, too, as you know.

My kids aren’t used to reading old-fashioned books. Which ones do you think they’d like?

Here’s a sorted list of our LitWitted books, sorted by subjects of interest, genre, setting, themes, and typical ages of readers. But don’t let age dictate what you choose! We’ve found that kids of all ages will challenge themselves to read about something that interests them, And if you read a tough book out loud to them, they’ll learn new vocabulary as you paraphrase. (We’ve got more tips for making big words fun, and lots of ideas for making reading time experiential.)

These look fantastic for homeschoolers, but how can I use an Explorer's Guide in my traditional classroom?

Use a guide to add some hands-on joy to your in-class reading or assignments! Check out our Takeaway Topics (example here) to see what supports your plan and makes your lessons more memorable. You might want to pull a single project, use selected handouts, or use our prompts. And your students can add to the sensory prop collection that will grow as you read the book together—they love keeping an eye out for odd things in the story that a grandparent might have, for instance.

Do Explorer's Guides work for homeschooling?

Yes yes yes! In fact, our guides come from ten years of holding workshops for homeschooled kids. Their parents love our workshops for the array of subjects that are covered in such fun, hands-on ways!  We’ve taught kids from 7 to 17, and they all love to LitWit. Still, you’ll want to consider the ages and interests of your kids, adjust the length of certain activities, follow your own agenda, decide which handouts to use, and add breaks where your kids (or you!) need them.  Each book generates a unique experience — and of course, each child and family are unique.  Use what you like, in the way it works best for you. Here are some tips:

  • Pull projects, activities, and handouts as needed to stimulate interest, reinforce a concept, or take a break from reading.
  • Use a suggested prop to trigger a conversation. Ask your kids if they know what the item is, and why it’s significant in the story. You might discover a theme together!
  • Casually bring up a question from a handout over dinner, and let the discussion grow from there. Take advantage of tangential learning opportunities!
  • Do projects and activities as the book is being read, or after as a reward.
  • Use one or more prop ideas to support specific learning goals, such as spelling or social studies.
  • Have your kids research a particular prop in more depth – learn its history and usage, and write a report.
  • Enjoy the arts and crafts projects as a family, or in a homeschool group.
  • Set up the book display in the living room, and invite your kids to contribute their own story-related items each day.

Will LitWitting help me hit Common Core State Standards?

Oh boy will it! Every Explorer’s Guide aligns, at the bare minimum, with these Common Core State Standards:

THIRD GRADE Common Core Alignment
FOURTH GRADE Common Core Alignment
FIFTH GRADE Common Core Alignment
SIXTH GRADE Common Core Alignment

Because each workshop is unique, each guide addresses many other standards as well. But you can count on those listed above in every guide! Whew!

I'm not a teacher, but I love this idea! Can I LitWit with my book club or grandkids?

Sure! As long as you’re not calling your fun time a “LitWits” event or charging a fee, you can use our kits to do lots of wonderful things!

Can I make copies of the downloadables?

Sure you can, for your noncommercial use in your family or classroom.  Just please don’t forward your LitWits Explorer’s Guide or make copies for people who haven’t paid for it, of course, out of courtesy and per our official Terms.

There's so much free stuff on the Internet - can't I just pull this together myself?

Absolutely!  But it can take hours to surf for just the right thing that’s consistent with your style and approach, and more hours to make sure what you find “goes together” well. Why surf and patch all night?  We’ve already done that for you! We’ve spent at least 80 hours coming up with the materials in an Explorer’s Guide, making sure everything “works” in every way, and integrates well.

Let us save you those hours of pondering, searching, choosing, collecting, organizing, and shopping—seriously, the price of a guide is worth even one hour of your time. Get a guide and go out with your friends, for Pete’s sake! You deserve it.

Why are LitWits Explorer's Guides virtual instead of PDFs or booklets?

They’re web pages so we can include helpful links, update them regularly, and let you use our materials on a screen.  We’re trying to save time (yours and ours) and trees! However, we do include a PDF version of each kit so you can print a nice clean copy if you want,

Because a guide is virtual, you can access it on a hand-held device you refer to as you teach, or you might want to show parts of it on a bigger screen for the kids. All our Explorer’s Guides contain downloadable, printable PDFs of templates, prompts, and academic handouts; if you have access to a big screen, you might not have to print a copy for each student (depending on what it is, of course).  And again, we do include a PDF version of the whole thing, if you prefer that.  It’s not as pretty as the web page, but it works.