Tips: Getting Ready to LitWit

Our all-original LitWits Explorer’s Guides include everything you need to help your kids soak up a great book in experiential, academic ways. Here are a few tips for making the most of them. (If you’re new to LitWits, you might also want to skim our FAQ page.)

Read the book! You may have read it as a child, but you’ll have a completely different perspective as an adult, and a new appreciation for its enduring value – and it helps so much to have the story fresh in your mind! We encourage younger kids or reluctant readers to listen to an audio version or read an abridged edition as a “way in” to reading great books; that may or may not suit your own goals.

Read the Takeaway Topics first. Any great book can become a semester-long (or year-long) unit study, but for each Explorer’s Guide we’ve narrowed our focus to three key points, and centered all our activities around one or more of those. If you know what we’re aiming for up front, you’ll be able to select the activities and handouts that best support your own goals.

Check out our Pinterest board for the book. We’ve collected dozens of images and videos about people, places, things, and events in the book. Choose some you’d like to show to the kids, if audiovisual technology is available. If not, you might want to print and mat a few pictures. We find that these audiovisual aids come in extra handy during discussions.

Take full advantage of the Learning Links collection we provide in each guide. These links will take you to informative, useful websites we discovered in the course of our research. Read up on the subjects you’d like to focus on, for the age and interest levels of your kids.

The LitWits Kit for MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Jean Craighead George - LitWits WorkshopsDecide which props matter most. Don’t be intimidated by the number of props we suggest in each guide!  Gathering an inspiring collection of props is one of our favorite things we do to prepare for a workshop. Sometimes “propping” becomes a scavenger hunt that spans counties and time zones! It’s easy to get carried away.

Your hunt, however, doesn’t have to be expansive. The key is to think creatively and resourcefully, and to not be shy. Businesses, especially specialty shops, are often very generous on behalf of education and children. Do you know someone who collects items from the book’s culture or era – or will your local antiques store loan you a few? Can you schedule your reading experience to coincide with the season featured in the story, when the relevant produce or holiday items abound?

Don’t spend too much time or money on props – really, 3-5 important ones are enough.

Ways to use a LitWits Explorer’s Guides in “bits and pieces”:

  • Pull a projects, activity, or handout as needed to stimulate interest, reinforce a concept, or take a break from reading.
  • Set up a book display in the living room or classroom. If you’re a classroom teacher, invite your students to bring in their own story-related items each day.
  • Use a 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 or at recess, and let the discussion grow from there.
  • Do a project or activity 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.

Please don’t feel you have to do everything we did. Just do what works! It’s all about getting kids to feel the story, identify with the characters, and truly enjoy great books.