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Young Readers' Series: Magical Life Lessons

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Open to: Grades 4-6

Prerequisites: Qualifying verbal score

Course Format: Web-based classroom

Course Length: Session-based: 10 weeks (fall, winter, spring, late summer) or 12 weeks (early summer); Session Dates and Application Deadlines.

Course Code: YRML

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Course Description

Description

In this exciting and humorous series, three children come to realize how magical life lessons can transform their lives while experiencing the joys and pitfalls of acquiring new powers. In Matilda by Roald Dahl, Matilda learns to harness her powers to change her life for the better. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling, the young wizard overcomes his fears and travels through time to right an injustice. In Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Meggie finds out that she has the power to read characters out of books--often a dangerous activity. Visit the Home Page of the Magical Life Lessons classroom.

About the Young Readers' Series for Grades 4 - 6

The Young Readers' Series is designed enhance a student's critical reading, writing, and thinking skills. Developed for enrichment, course assignments meet or surpass the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading. As students participate in written discussion forums, they make inferences, determine motivations, evaluate arguments, and provide textual evidence to support their opinions. Creative writing assignments encourage students to take on different points of view, summarize details, compare authors, and discuss central ideas. Books entice gifted students to go beyond simple comprehension and engage in higher level thinking about issues ranging from the ethics of time travel to the dangers of subliminal advertising.

Designed for children reading at a middle-school level or above, students:

  • Read three thematically connected, age-appropriate books of increasing difficulty
  • Participate in online written discussions with gifted classmates from Boston to Beijing
  • Post writing assignments such as alternate story endings and talk shows with characters as guests
  • Analyze the authors’ writing styles and use of literary devices
  • Learn sophisticated vocabulary words and literary devices with the help of online games and puzzles
  • Receive individualized written feedback from their instructor about each lesson's work

Parents Ask...

  • Students typically read and share written responses every other day (fall, spring, and early summer sessions) or daily (midsummer intensive session).
  • Work is posted in the virtual classrooms at the student’s convenience as long as each lesson's deadlines are met.
  • It does not matter whether a student has already read one or all of the books before the course begins because the emphasis on citing the text requires careful re-reading.
  • Students must already be proficient in Standard Written English. [Instructors discuss grammar only when it affects meaning.]
  • These critical reading courses are designed to be ungraded, enrichment courses; instead of a grade, instructors provide specific feedback about each student's work at the end of each lesson and a detailed final evaluation at the end of the course. Parents or guardians may request a final grade if needed for school credit.

About Course Selection

Parents are encouraged to consider the information contained in Appropriateness, Look inside the books, and Read reviews for the books before deciding on the course that would be most interesting and appropriate for their child.

Appropriateness

Parents should be aware that each course contains books with humor, mystery, adventure, and heroism as well as suspense and sadness. Overall, while our courses contain advanced grade-level material, we strive to select materials appropriate to the ages of the students. Please look inside the books and read reviews to decide whether these books are appropriate for your child. If you are still uncertain whether your child is ready for a course, please email ctyonline@jhu.edu or call 410-735-6144. 

Look inside the books.

Look inside Matilda
Look inside Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 
Look inside Inkheart

Read reviews. Parents are urged to review for appropriate content.

Reviews of Matilda
Reviews of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Reviews of Inkheart

Materials Needed

Detailed Course Information

Course Details

Lesson 1: Matilda

Begin reading Matilda
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board
 

Lesson 2: Matilda

Finish reading Matilda
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board questions.
 

Lesson 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Begin reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board
 

Lesson 4: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Continue reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 5: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Finish reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 6: Inkheart

Begin reading Inkheart
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board
 

Lesson 7: Inkheart

Continue reading Inkheart
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 8: Inkheart

Continue reading Inkheart
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 9: Inkheart

Finish reading Inkheart
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board
Contribute two thoughtful posts to the Summary Discussion Board

Lesson 10: Summary Assignments covering all three books

Vote your opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the Blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum.
Complete the Literary Terms Quest [Quest=More questions than a quiz, but fewer questions than most tests!]
Note: You are provided with a list of “Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words” from each book that you can use to help better understand the book and increase your knowledge of vocabulary words in general.
 

OPTIONAL -Not required- Fun and Challenges:

  • Prepare for the Literary Terms Quest by playing the online Literary Terms games and puzzles
  • Share your favorite stories and authors with other students in the Recommended Reading Wiki.
  • Print out and work on the crossword puzzles that have been provided to help reinforce your knowledge of the "mind-expanding" vocabulary words.
  • Use the Vocabulary Words Review Games to help learn the vocabulary words in a fun way.
  • Participate in the Magical Life Lessons Wiki, a group writing activity.

Time Required

This course requires approximately three hours for each of the ten lessons. Students should expect to spend approximately 3 hours per week during the course.

Note: Students do not have to meet in the classroom at the same time. A student's written work can be posted in the virtual classroom at the student's convenience as long as deadlines are met.


About Summer Sessions:

The Young Readers' Series offers a 12-week summer session that allows families to take a week or two of vacation and 10-week sessions. All sessions cover the same course material and assignments.

While the 12-week early summer session courses allow for 2 weeks total vacation, students in the Young Readers’ courses are encouraged to work ahead or make up their work to try to keep up with their classmates whenever possible. Experience has shown that these courses are most fun when all students are working on the same lesson. Students must notify the instructor at the course's start about any planned vacation dates and must meet scheduled due dates when they are not on vacation. [Students who make up their work can finish their early summer course in 10 weeks.]

If you have any questions, please contact us before applying at ctyonline@jhu.edu.

Sample Assignment

Demo

Magical Life Lessons Sample Assignment

To give you an idea of the type of assignments involved, the following is the first of ten lessons:

Instructions for Lesson One

All work is due by the following Sunday at midnight. (That's the end of Sunday, not the beginning!) This means that your assigned reading should be started early and completed by Thursday night--at the latest--to allow you enough time to finish all the assignments (reading, poll, blog, discussion forum, and optional games, crossword puzzles, and wikis) by Sunday night.

1. Begin reading Matilda by Roald Dahl, preferably reading in the following reading chunks:
Pages 7-29 (“The Reader of Books”; “Mr Wormwood, the Great Car Dealer”)
Pages 30-65 (“The Hat and the Superglue”; “The Ghost; Arithmetic”; “The Platinum-Blond Man”) Pages 66-89 (“Miss Honey;” “The Trunchbull”)
Pages 90-116 (“The Parents”; “Throwing the Hammer”)

2. Vote your opinion in the Poll.

3. Post ONE of the following blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum:

a. Using the explanations of 1st Person Point of View found in the terms Narrator and Point of View in the Glossary, pretend you are a character in Matilda, and write a 100-300 word diary account from “your” 1st person point of view describing some event that occurs in the book. You can be any character other than Matilda herself.

b. Matilda made up the following limerick about Miss Honey: The thing we all ask about Jenny Is, “Surely there cannot be many Young girls in the place With so lovely a face? The answer to that is, “Not any!”
Why should Matilda have all the fun? Using the explanation of a Limerick found in the Glossary, write 3 or 4 of your own 5-line limericks describing various characters in Matilda.
 
4. Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board in response to any of the following questions. (Remember! At least one of your two thoughtful posts should be in reply to a discussion post made by another student.)

a. Matilda's reading list. Have you ever heard of any of the books on Matilda's reading list in the first chapter? Which ones? Do you have any books that you would like Matilda to read? Name one or two books and explain why Matilda would like the books and what she could learn from these books that might help her cope with her situation.

b. Compare Matilda's dirty tricks with those of her father. How are the dirty tricks that Matilda plays on her parents similar to those that Mr. Wormwood plays on his customers? How are they different?

c. Does revenge help Matilda? Matilda seems to feel that her "punishments" improve her parents' behavior--at least for a while. How likely do you think it is that such punishments would improve a person's behavior if the person did not know the reason for the punishment? Has Matilda actually helped herself by her acts of revenge against her parents? Explain your opinion.
 
d. Knowing right from wrong. Matilda obviously has never been taught about right and wrong by her parents. So how does she know that her father’s chosen way of making money (selling cars that are “lemons” to trusting people) is wrong? Do you think Matilda’s parents and Michael know that cheating people is wrong? Do they care? Can good people honestly disagree about what is right and what is wrong? (This is not assuming, of course, that Mr. Wormwood should ever be considered a “good” person!)

e. Should all children's books contain humor? Matilda tells Miss Honey at the end of the chapter titled "Miss Honey" that all children's books should contain "funny bits" because children are not so serious as grown-ups and they love to laugh. Do you agree that all books read by children should contain humor? Have you read any good books that did not contain humor?

f. Miss Trunchbull's rule. At the end of the chapter titled "Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress tells Miss Honey that she has a rule that all children must remain in their own age groups regardless of ability. Can you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of enforcing such a rule in a school?
all children's books should contain "funny bits" because children are not so serious as grown-ups and they love to laugh. Do you agree that all books read by children should contain humor? Have you read any good books that did not contain humor?

g. Miss Trunchbull's rule. At the end of the chapter titled "Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress tells Miss Honey that she has a rule that all children must remain in their own age groups regardless of ability. Can you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of enforcing such a rule in a school?
Note: You are provided with a list of “50 Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words from Matilda” that you can use to help better understand the book and increase your knowledge of vocabulary words in general.

OPTIONAL-Not Required- fun activities are also provided:

  • Share your favorite stories and authors with other students in the Recommended Reading Wiki.
  • Print out and work on the crossword puzzles that have been provided to help reinforce your knowledge of the "mind-expanding" vocabulary words.
  • Participate in the Magical Life Lessons Adventure Wiki, a group writing activity.
  • Play some literary terms review games.

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.

This course requires that the student use a web browser with the Adobe Flash plugin. Note that many tablets and handhelds (particularly the iPad) do not support Flash and cannot view the lessons.

 

Reviews

"It is refreshing and motivating for my daughter to read the instructor's specific remarks (She is accustomed to receiving "good" as the sole comment on her efforts!)."

"The instructor was extremely attentive and very encouraging. We thoroughly enjoyed working with her this summer.  She was able to direct my son in such a positive way and leave him empowered to dig deeper into his thinking and writing based on what he read. He was always left more inspired to read more and write more after he read her constructive and encouraging words each week. My husband and I were extremely impressed by the caliber of this course (our very first CTY Online Programs ever!)."

"I really liked how my instructor gave me detailed feedback, which helped me improve further each week. She was very approachable (albeit via email).  I can tell she enjoys teaching and is very kind. I've learned to analyze books in more depth and write thoughtful discussions."

"The instructor’s feedback and instruction have increased my daughter's confidence with regard to her writing skills. My daughter is expressing a strong desire to become an author and wants to continue learning more about writing. She has always excelled in writing at school; however, after taking this course, her middle school teachers have commented on how much more advanced she is than others in her honors courses because of her style of writing."

"The feedback on the writing assignments was incredibly thorough and comprehensive. My son started the course and submitted disorganized work. The instructor's detailed commentary helped him to improve his work dramatically."

"The instructor provides positive feedback, individualized attention and tips that do not overwhelm the children. She motivated my child and gave her the confidence to express herself."

"My instructor's feedback was very helpful - always taking my thinking to a new level. She was thorough and asked good questions. She also was good at sending reminders regarding the work that was due. She made me a better writer and critical thinker. She taught me to ask more questions."

"The instructor’s feedback explained the strong and weak points in my work.  She did this by first mentioning the things she liked, but she wasn't completely fussy, saying my work was amazing just to make me happy. Then, she would point out things I could improve. She does this not by yelling and screaming (you know what I mean), but pointing it out politely, but in a way that I could understand what to do.  She was nice, but also challenges us.  She was also particular not only about the contents of my writing, but about the spelling and grammar.  Even though she challenged us, she also wasn't too hard. People do not learn when things are too easy. When things are too hard, their brains get confused and they don't learn either. My instructor wasn't too hard, but she wasn't too soft.  She really was an outstanding teacher."

"Before I started my young readers’ course, I both disliked writing, and was bad at it. Whenever possible I avoided it. When I started my course with my instructor, I realized a talent for writing I never had before.  As the course went on I realized I was actually getting impatient, waiting for the next lesson so I could write more.  Before I thought of writing as a chore, the way most people think of school (not me!). Now I like to write and do it like it's something fun, which it is. My instructor taught me not only how to write, but also how to like to write."

"The instructor's ability to give thorough constructive criticism through an email, while keeping the tone of the suggestions unfailingly positive was amazing. My daughter learned much about writing in this course. While she reads at a high school level, her writing is much closer to her age (9). Constant positive encouragement and insightful comments enabled her to expand on her thoughts each week."