Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) | Review

Written for 4th through 6th grade students, Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) is a brand new reading curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries and Debra Bell.

The full Volume 1 set includes an all-in-one full color spiral bound student text/workbook and paperback answer key both with high gloss covers and quality paper.  Sleuth covers three genres of fiction: historical fiction, animal fantasy, and contemporary realistic fiction using the books Sarah, Plain and Tall, Charlotte's Web, and Because of Winn-Dixie. In addition, your student will study their own selection for each genre for a total of six books over the course of the school year.

Topics focus on character development, inferences, context clues, analysis, theme, comparison and contrast, plot development, denotation, connotation, figures of speech, setting, figures of speech, and more.

The Suggested Daily Schedule has had my 4th grade student working 4 days a week this past month.  It contains 14 Modules divided up into 6 Units that are color coded:

(Blue is Unit 1, green is Unit 2, and purple is Unit 3.)

The schedule, as well as the format of the text, reminds me of Apologia Science texts with modules defining the chapters and "On Your Own" (OYO) type questions, with the addition of unit projects, rubrics, and checklists, instead of study guides, experiments, and tests.

Price: $89

Read more, download a 100 page sample and see frequently asked questions to learn more!

To share my experience using Readers in Residence with my 4th grade daughter, Eliana, I'll walk you through the first module.

Module 1

On Day 1, Elli read a welcome letter, information on how to start a book club, and an introduction to the unit.

She will learn about the Traits of Good Character Development in Unit 1 and then create her own character from a historical time period for the Unit Project. A rubric for the project is included, and she is instructed to study it.

On Day 2, she started Unit 1. Today's scheduled assignment had her reading 12 pages and completing 4 tasks. This took her two days to complete.

She started out the module by reading answers to questions, such as:
  • What is an expert reader? (Reading is like being a detective, hence the title of Volume 1 - Sleuth!). 
  • What clues should I gather before I begin to read a book? (I love how they tie reading in with collecting clues and seeing books as mysteries to solve.)
The Sneak Peek box in the right margin tells my daughter that she will learn that expert readers study a book's cover and identify the book's genre before they begin to read.

The work-text walks her through a study of the cover of Charlotte's Web (a book that will be studied later in the course).

The next topic relates to genre: 
  • What are the characteristics of a historical fiction book?

She studies fiction verses non-fiction and narrative verses non-narrative and finds examples of these types of books on our bookshelves at home. 

And then she is whisked away into the world of literary genres by learning about them all and finding examples of her own. 

Day 3

With a more detailed introduction to the genre of Historical Fiction, she digs into Sarah, Plain and Tall to apply what she is learning. Here she is finding clues on the cover of the book. 

She also makes a prediction about what will happen in the book.

Day 4

Today, she makes a book cover for a book she might like to write in the future. Afterwards, she asked family members to answer the same questions that she answered about Sarah, Plain and Tall about her book cover. I love how this aspect of the lesson was not only hands-on, but she is asked to apply what she is learning in a creative and personal way

At the end of the first module is a reflective review, Book Talk prompts to talk about books with family and friends, and a Checklist for Module 1

I went over the Checklist Point System with her; however, I will have her grade herself. I find that my students challenge themselves more when they do the grading. They know more than I how much effort they are putting forth. A Sleuth's Log in the Appendix encourages her to track her points and reach a goal. 

We did a lot of discussing as we went, and she came to me for help a few times, but since she mostly worked on this independently, I went over the module answers with her to compare her answers. 

Module 1 is scheduled out over 4 school days (one week), but she worked at half pace, so it took her two weeks to complete the module (8 school days).

Module 2

Module 2 is scheduled out over 7 school days (4 days the first week, 3 days the 2nd week). It took her about 10 school days to finish this module.

In Module 2, Eliana learned all about characters from main characters to major and minor characters and how to read between the lines (make inferences). In Module 2.5, she finally gets to start reading Sarah, Plain and Tall! That was the answer to the question I heard all through Module 1: when do I get to start reading the book?!

Module 2 questions are centered around helping her draw her own conclusions on the characters in Sarah, Plain and Tall by asking her a series of questions, such as, "What question does Caleb ask Anna all the time?" and "How did Anna feel about Caleb when he was born?" All the questions are asking her to make an inference or draw a conclusion based on the clues in the story. In many ways, the questions are testing her comprehension but also encouraging her to think. 

She is also discovering new words and finding the meaning from clues in the context - the information around a word that helps readers guess its meaning, according to a tip box in the margin of the page. It uses excerpts directly from the book for examples.

She is asked to read the sentence, guess what the underlined word means from the context, and then look up the definition in the dictionary in the back of the book. The convention of capitalization is also taught. The end of Module 2 includes a Sowing Seeds prompt where she is encouraged to explore topics through discussion and relevant Scripture verses.

She is currently working in Module 3, but I'll peek at what she is working on and look ahead to Module 4 to share more of what to expect this first unit.

In Module 3, we go into more detail on character development and learn about physical traits and character traits, changes and challenges characters face, and how they respond. We also get to read chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6, and all that she is learning will be applied as she goes. Conventions in this module ask what is a sentence and what is a paragraph.

Module 4 continues on with character development, and Eliana will read chapters 7, 8, and 9 and learn about differences in characters. She will also make a Character Map for her Unit 1 Project where she will create her own character.

A Book Club assignment for Sarah, Plain and Tall ends Unit 1. She will be encouraged to go all out and create invitations, plan a theme, make refreshments, have food and festivities and of course have a book discussion! I love that she will be encouraged to make it memorable by doing a special activity. This all sounds like a lot of fun (but a bit of work, too).

In Unit 2, she will apply all that she learned in Unit 1 and analyze characters from her OYO historical fiction book - a book of her choice. (Suggestions are given). Unit 2 has only one module, but it will walk my student through her book with a series of questions, charts, and graphs to fill out or draw in, including a main character bio sheet. It's all very interactive, interesting, and engaging! 

The 6 units in Readers in Residence follow this pattern - a unit to cover the fiction genre followed by a unit for the student to apply what they learned with a fiction book of their choice.

My Thoughts

My overall feeling about Readers in Residence is a positive one. My daughter likes it, and although the speed of the Schedule was too fast for her, she was able to slow down and work at her own pace. She communicates really well with me, so I know she is staying on a track that works for her. I plan to have her finish the first unit, take a summer break, and then start Unit 2 in the fall.

So, yes, we will continue using this program! I think 4th through 6th grade is a good recommendation for this program, or once a student is ready to move past the stage of decoding and is ready to analyze and enjoy literature.

  • open and go program - minimal preparation is required
  • written to the student, so it is not teacher intensive
  • aside from book discussion, this program can be completed independently by the student
  • lessons are colorful, engaging, and interactive
  • takes your student through the process of analyzing literature step by step
  • at 562 pages, this is a meaty book, but the pages are also visually interesting with charts, graphs, illustrations, and plenty of room to write in
  • it's easy to use 
  • my daughter likes it! 

Things to Consider:
  • I know price is subjective, but $80 for a consumable text (the price of just the student book) is more than I can afford. However, the ease of use of this program with it being a work-text works really well. It would be harder to flip from a textbook to a student notebook, but we are already doing that with Apologia science, so I wonder if that would have been a more affordable option for families with lots of children. It would be so much easier on families to only have to buy a second or third student notebook. I would have bought another student notebook to have my 6th grader do this program if that were an option, but I was not willing to spend $80 to have him do this course with Eliana because I have already purchased a non-consumable program designed to be used from K-12th grade. This program cost a little more, but it is high quality and can be used throughout our entire homeschool career. This seems like a better investment, but it requires more work on the part of the teacher. Sometimes a homeschool parent needs to be freed up for a subject or two, so if that is the case, this thorough program is a great investment. 
  • The work schedule is rigorous for a 4th grader. I'm really hoping that as Eliana gets used to the work, that she will be able to move through it more quickly. I would not want to spread this out over two school years, but I don't think she would have liked it as much if I had pushed her to follow the schedule as is. I may let her earn her an ice cream cone at the park for each week of the schedule completed (an incentive I offer for doing summer school). But even without the ice cream, I think once she gets used to it, she will rise to the occasion and be able to complete this by the end of her 5th grade year. 

Readers in Residence is teaching my daughter to be a clue finding reading sleuth! Now that she has graduated from learning how to read, Readers in Residence is a great next step to learning how to comprehend what she is reading and I highly recommend it! 

If you think this might be something you'd like to use in your homeschool, please read more reviews of this brand new homeschool reading curriculum by Apologia Educational Ministries by clicking below!

Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}

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  1. Popping in from the Homeschool Review Crew to read your blog. I love your review and all the pics. I'm excited to read... I also have a 4th grader named Eliana.

  2. Thank you for popping in! That's neat you have an Eliana, too, and one in the 4th grade that loves elephants too! ♥

  3. I hadn't heard of this yet. Although on the $$ Spendy side, it does look well put together.

  4. It really is well put together! I think it will be a great introduction to analyzing literature for Eliana. Thanks for stopping by! :)