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Posts Tagged ‘grade reading level’

TOS Crew Review — Reading Kingdom

March 7th, 2011

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Let me introduce you to a new friend of ours. My son named him Nate. This friendly owl is helping teach my kids to read and write, and doing a pretty good job of it, I might add.

Through Reading Kingdom, my 5, 7, and 9 year olds are interacting with letters and sounds in a brand new way. This program tackles more than just learning to read. It identifies six skills required for successful reading. The six skills are: sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension. So, it doesn’t start with sounds, it starts with learning sequences. Kids also learn to type in the process since it is a computer based program and they must be able to type to interact with it.

After some time in the introductory levels, my son made it out of Letter Land. He was thrilled when he made it to the soccer field today:
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Reading Kingdom focuses on whole word recognition and alternating between clicking correct words and then typing them out to reinforce the word. This is a great integration of learning styles and keeps the kids as active participants in the learning process. Great for active learners and for kids who might also struggle with reversals. The word-focus is clear and builds one step at a time.

Product: Reading Kingdom

Details: An online program that helps 4-10 year olds learn to read through a third grade level.

Price: $19.99 per month or $199.99 for a year. Additional children are $9.99 each per month

What we loved . . .

  • Game based, but solidly educational. While Reading Kingdom involves games and game type graphics, it is all about learning the skills needed to read. Children interact with helpful cartoon characters to begin building their reading vocabulary.
  • Rechecks learning. The program naturally includes quite a bit of review and retesting. This helps them to confirm mastery of the topics and skills. It is brief, so I did not find it boring to my kids, but it did make sure that they were ready to move on.
  • Teaches the little words. One of the foundational principles for Reading Kingdom is that much of our language is made up of those little words that hold the sentences together, but early readers often miss. So, they focus on them and drill them, and repeat them, and make sure that the kids notice them, read them, and understand them. I think this is a great component of the program.
  • Short sessions. Because reading does involve some tedious exercises, they break it down into very small lessons. If the kids are having fun and want to continue they can easily do more. But, they are not pressed to continue for 45 minutes or more on repetitive lessons that are helpful, but sometimes not very exciting. My son would do one lesson in a sitting, my daughter would sit for three or four. It was nice to have that flexibility and not feel like they were leaving in the middle of something.
  • Excellent program for kids that rush or struggle with letter order. My 9 year old has a tendency to rush. Although she can read, she likes to skip things, filling in the mental gaps as she goes. This program won’t allow that. She has to click what they tell her to. She has to type the letters they ask for. She has to spend the time to slowly make the progress and show what she knows. In order to do well she needs to make sure that she gets letters in the right order and at the right time to move on successfully.

Some considerations . . .

  • Program can be touchy at times. This is my biggest beef with a program that we really liked overall. My 7 year old daughter was getting really frustrated and bored stuck in the training part of the program (Letter Land and Sequences) and she is already a good beginner reader, so I figure I would help her out. **Ahem** I know, I should let them learn and not step in, but I knew she knew this stuff, she just kept making little mistakes in the way she entered the letters. So, I stepped in to save the day. Well, after a few minutes, I realized she was better off without me. 😉 On one screen I would type too fast and it would not register my typing. Another page I would try typing instead of clicking the letters and would get it wrong. I was taking her backwards instead of forwards. After a session of failure I did start to have it figured out and began to improve. A few more sessions and I got her out of Letter Land. She is now much more happily and successfully living in the land of Reading and Writing Level 1. And, we both learned a bit in the process.
  • Sometimes I didn’t know where they were going. They have some interesting exercises. They show a sequence of letters and then kids need to pick it out of a longer sequence of letters. They teach apostrophes and quotation marks.  And, while I’m sure they have a purpose, sometimes they just seemed cumbersome to the kids. I understand why the sequences are important, but they just seem to need an awful lot of repetition to get their point across.
  • NOT phonics based. In fact, the author is quite clearly against phonics instruction. She makes some claims that I disagree with regarding phonics, but I guess she is entitled to her professional opinion. I can see the benefit to combing whole language and phonics, but I have worked with too many kids to discredit phonics based programs entirely. I do agree that there are bad phonics programs out there, and many of her criticisms would hold true in those, but there are also great phonics programs that her criticism would not hold up against. To hear all of the differences between this and other reading programs, check out this document.
  • Would be nice if it repeated words at times. This is just a personal preference I suppose. But, there were times when my child would be celebrating a right answer and miss the instructions for the next screen, or would not hear the word they were supposed to type. There was no way to go back and hear it again and so they were left to guess what they were supposed to do.

This was an interesting program, definitely different than other reading program that we have used in the past. Some things we loved, some things that left me sour. You can see for yourself if this program is a great fit for your kids with their free trial. It would definitely be worth giving it a try, and if you have a struggling reader in your home, this could be the key that unlocks the world of reading for them. I would definitely encourage a melding of this with a phonics program, but it can give kids a confidence boost to get them on their way.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Reading Kingdom as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

TOS Crew Review — I See Sam

February 27th, 2011

My early readers are always hungry for books at their level. Books that they can enjoy and not stumble through. Books a fitting length so they don’t get bored half way through. Books made for their little hands and big imaginations.

We had the wonderful opportunity to review a set of books made just for kids getting started on the reading trail and my kids devoured them.

Brooke and Nathan are in first grade and kindergarten and both are enjoying learning to read. Their progress has continued to soar this school year and I was excited to bring them some more books appropriate for their levels. In the few months we have had this, they actually both read through the entire four levels that we received, some with me and some independently. They both agreed that these were fun books to read.

Deluxe Read to Succeed Gift Set

Product:I See Sam by Academic Success for All Learners

Details: We received the little reader books for sets 1-4 (91 books total), flashcards to go along with the sets, a placement and assessment manual, an instructor guide, and some charts and certificates for tracking and rewarding progress.

Price: $160 for the four sets of books. They also sell for $30 each set. The flashcards are $15 for the set.

What we loved . . .

  • Starts from the beginning. The first book of the first level starts with introducing four sounds and creating a story from there. After 26 little readers the child should have reached roughly the beginning of a first grade reading level. This is definitely designed to use with kids first starting to learn to read. As my kids have mastered this early level, we flew through the first set.
  • Clear teacher guidance without being scripted. With an instructors’ guide book and lots of tips throughout the readers, parents can easily teach these books without a lot of prep work and without the dryness of a scripted reading program.
  • Praise based. Throughout the program there are adorable little smiley faces to remind you to praise your child. I know, we all want to praise them and brag on them, but sometimes we are rushing through a lesson or trying to get things done and we forget. I love that these little reminders were there to keep me showering my kids with the praise they deserved for the excellent job they did as we read through the books.
  • Steady progression. The books and stories within each book have a logical progression of sounds, and students easily flow from one to the other as their knowledge of reading grows with each turn of the page. Set one has one story per book with 20-100 words. In sets two and three the stories get a bit longer until in set four the students have two stories in each book and they are 200-400 words. But, by that point the kids are ready for it and reading roughly 60 words per minute. This is where the fluency criteria first appears. In the first sets they do not require speed, just mastery of the words.
  • Reasonable expectations of mastery. For a child to progress they must have mastery. The program gives clear criteria for mastery of each level and help you know when a child is really ready for the next step. They give accuracy and fluency standards. This was great because even though my kindergartner could read without errors, he was a little slower than their standard at one point. So, we took a little break, and reread a few books while his fluency caught up with his phonemic awareness.  Before long he was back on track, and as I mentioned he did finish all the books through level four landing him at roughly a late first or early second grade reading level.

Some considerations . . .

  • Lots of pieces. Of course, since the books are so appropriately sized, there are lots of them. This program does have a lot of pieces to keep together. I would definitely recommend a basket or bin to keep the items together. This is the kind of product I love to use, but will not be able to find all the books a year from now unless they have a handy home.
  • Might need supplementation for the kinesthetic learner. Both my early readers are pretty easy to teach, but I have had others that were not that way. If you have a child that needs to wiggle more you might need to add some activities that keep them up and moving now and then to focus when they need to.

As my kids are both enjoying reading it did not require any leg pulling to get them to pick these books up and read. This program is well thought out and formulated for reading success. With pre-reading, post-reading, and periodic assessments, I see this being a great fit for most kids learning to read. It teaches various reading tips in a natural way within the context of stories, not meaningless exercises. Keeping kids reading, it definitely did that in our house.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Academic Success for All Learners as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.