Showing posts with label Spelling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spelling. Show all posts

Monday, April 12, 2010

TOS Crew Review: AAS Reader II: What Am I?

Well, again All About Spelling has published another reader in their All About Reading Series.  This particular one is designed to match the All About Spelling Level 2 guide (Steps 1-14). These are meatier stories, with more print and use of words (which your student should be able to read at this point), dotted with charming illustrations like you find tucked within the first reader.  What Am I?  offers the wonderful-good features of being a hardback, "low-glare" papered book, that I have come to expect from this series.

There are 10 charming stories (note: one is about elves-so if you have any aversion to such things, you most likely will want to skip that chapter) which we are enjoying as we work through this.  I personally am fond of the Matt the Musk Ox story due to its engaging humor and that lovable [albeit stinky] ox.

Look at that face-rather enduring I do believe.

We also loved the Skunk Hotel, which brought to mind the (all too familiar) reminders of that ewwy stench of such critters, and their spray-abilities, which usually reeked (pun intended) havoc upon my poor pooch and our home. But thankfully-it was just a story and not a true situation. It sure reminds the reader that one should never let a skunk move in, especially if you need to utilize the area where they have set up camp. My son and I got a chuckle out of how dense that man was about being so open to allowing such guests.

Uh yes, the ole locate new digs, smell up the joint and take over maneuver.

Overall, we enjoyed this second reader in their series.  I should note here, that my son is still working through this one, as it is much more challenging for him at this point in his reading career.  I was a tad disappointed to see that they did not continue on with the light dots under each sentence, to help assist with left to right reading...especially since there is a lot more text on the pages.  My son was hopping around from line to line and became quite frustrated, to the point we had to put the book away and come back to it later.  Frankly I am a bit perplexed over why this feature was dropped.  My son has not lost his dyslexia from level I to II, and most likely never will.  I truly hope in future editions, that they include that much needed component.  Thankfully, the Broken Robot was illustrated like it was written on paper [IE: lines under the text] because that encouraged my struggling boy.  He could actually follow it through to the end, and not become disoriented.  Obviously for children that do not have such issues, it is but a small change-but for emergent readers like my son who battle this nemesis, it would be a major help.  Maybe even offering 2 choices from with which to choose-one for children with, and another for those without dyslexia/major reading issues, would be a wise idea (if it were an affordable and possible option that is). 

This certainly will be utilized as we work through the Level 2 AAS lessons and for additional practice.  I cannot say enough good things about this company. The reader What Am I?,  being but another fine product from them.  As always, reviewing material from Marie was a pleasure! And be sure to check out my thoughts about the first reader:  Cobweb the Cat, to get a good idea of what this series has to offer your family. If you are an All About Spelling enthusiast, then these are a perfect way to round out your program.

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Oh! If you use workboxes-I have the first two levels of the AAS books broken down into "what to pack into the workbox" for each step. That way you can load and go.  Saves you the time hunting for each individual tile/card sets and makes prepacking a breeze (this is especially helpful if you are like me and do not have permanent space to keep the tiles/info when not in use).  Visit my Scribd pages for the documents, and my What's in the Box? blog, for more info regarding this.

All About Reading Homepage
Reader II $19.95  (book will be up on their site hopefully by mid-April 2010-so please keep checking their page for more info)

AAS homepage

Don't forget to check out what my TOS mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschool products over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***All About Spelling provided me with a free copy of the What Am I? Reader to read and enjoy with my family. I have provided my opinion of this product and did not receive financial compensation for my review.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

TOS Crew Review: The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading-Level I

So why is it exactly that Johnny can't read anyway? That question has been tossed around most often, by those in the education field, for years. I believe one of the biggest reasons is due to the simple, unfortunate fact that the children are not being taught to read (or how to spell for that matter)correctly. It seems there is such a push to get the students on to the next level-as swiftly as possible-without taking the time to truly cover all the areas needed to be successful-really successful at reading and spelling. As a homeschooling parent, I can take the extra time and steps otherwise not afforded to the P.S. teacher, in order to provide the best instruction-but often find myself wondering if I have all the bases covered. I admit to trying and tossing out a few programs throughout the years, and realize that even though no program is perfect-perhaps I didn't teach it like I should have. Mind you, I have two college-aged students who have excelled nicely at their studies, so I can say with confidence that I didn't mess them up too terribly-but still...

So, when I was asked to try out The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading-Level I, I was hopeful that this would be a perfect fit for my youngest who is just beginning to learn to read. The package which arrived was a rather large box that elicited a few excited responses from the kids, as well as myself. I found several different components there within that cardboard capsule; and quickly realized that this was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill reading/spelling program. There was a Foreman's Construction Guide (for me), an Apprentice Building Manual (for the boy), a package with additional flashcards, a Handy-Dandy Clipboard, package with some pencils/2 wet-erase Vis-a-Vis markers, and lastly-a Sample DVD which is issued, free of charge, to those who request it.

The Foreman Guide contains all the Plot Plan (DVDs and a few notes as well), Blueprints (forms), Building Codes (charts covering spelling rules), and Tool Drill Cards (contains all the sounds and vowel/consonant teams flashcards needed for the study). The DVDs contain the instructions for all the lessons, as well as an introductory session to get you started. The Apprentice Manual holds all the Building Codes (blank version of the Foreman's-to be filled in as the lesson is covered), Composition section(again, blank forms to be filled in with their sentences), and 23 Readers to be "built" by the student (as they learn the words, they will be able to read the appropriate reader, then illustrate it to create their own books) along with the fore mentioned pencil/marker pack and clipboard. I want to point out that the clipboard has become my favorite component. It is excellent for this learning application (and many more) with the clear sheet that is placed over the appropriate paper to practice on first. By doing so, the student will be able to produce their best work (no wasting of paper) before writing it down on their Codes/Composition papers, which are then placed into their Manual for future reference.

When I think of this program, I think of that old lady who screamed, "Where's the beef?" in the Wendy's commercial of yester-year. I wouldn't be screaming "Where is", like she did-but rather, "Here's the beef!" This is a massive, and somewhat intimidating collection of lessons. I had to actually put this aside for a time to just collect my strength to give it a try. I watched several lessons on the DVD, and was still confused. I poured through the Guide and waded through the material like a good soldier. I still had to set it aside for a time. I wondered if I was just not cut out for this particular approach (based on the Orton Method) to teaching reading/spelling. When I saw my son's eyes glaze over, and his face twist in pain as I tried to go through the first few lessons (since he has a good grasp on the letters and their sounds, we were able to skip the first 2 weeks)-I really doubted we would make it through many more.

On the other hand-I am like a dog with a bone-I just won't let it go without a fight. I want to make this work, as I can understand the concept and idea behind it. I know that a child who has gone through this program will be better equipped to succeed. So, we decided to give it another try. Now, all though we are moving like slugs with no where in particular to go, we have managed to work through a few more lessons. I do have to point out, my son (along with 2 of his siblings) is somewhat dyslexic (not severe but enough to cause issues), so things take a bit longer to cement in his brain. I guess what I am saying, is that I just do not feel comfy giving this a rating regarding how much we like it, until we have several more lessons under our belts.

I can tell you that if I had this with my first child-she would have breezed through it rather quickly (I think if your child has a sequential, math-geared brain, they would do great with it) as she is hard-wired differently than her brothers and sister. I suspect that once we break through this wall, and that light switch flips on for him-we will move at (perhaps) a millipede's pace to see this to completion. I anxiously await for the day when he will be able to read those readers, draw the pictures; and then proudly show them to anyone who is willing to see them. If I have learned anything in these last 15 years of homeschooling-it is to not give up when something seems hard at first (like this) but rather to push through barriers, because it does get better (and I do so hope I can say that about this program for our family)~eventually.

We have decided to put this on hold right now, but I am seeing that it is son is simply just not ready for it at this point. Everyone learns differently, and in a manner which does not always agree with a curriculum's timeline. So I will bring this out after I feel he will better grasp this program's concepts. I am comfortable enough to give it a rating I have reviewed enough to see it is a good, thorough program. What I do recommend is that if you are interested in this, find someone who has or is using it and see if you can borrow it for a couple weeks. Don't forget too, you can request a free DVD which provides plenty more information.

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The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading Home Page
Complete Package: $199.00
Additional Student Book: $69.00

See what my TOS crew mates have to say about this product and others at our
TOS Home Page

**Schola Publications provided me with the free copy of The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading, Level 1 Student/Teacher Package, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

TOS Crew Review: SpellQuizzer

Can you spell "nowthatisawesome"? I know, I know, it isn't a word but four smashed together...but it is what comes to mind when I think of this program called, SpellQuizzer. This was a totally new product concept to me, and I had no idea of what to expect from it either.

After a simple download from the site, I saw the program was up and running; and just waiting for us to give it a whirl. The screen that popped up was rather easy to navigate and use. I simply hit the button for creating a spelling list, typed in the student's name, then added the week's spelling words. It is that simple.

The beauty of this program is that it is compatible with any (and I do mean any) spelling program I have! I simply typed in the list, then dictated the words using a microphone I provided. If I like what I heard, I would click the "add to list" button, and went on to the next one. Another great feature is that I can type a sentence or phrase in there as well (in case I didn't have a microphone) or (this is juicy) I can type out the definition of a vocabulary word the kids may be working on too! Think of it this way-I will spend about 15 or so minutes adding the information for the week's spelling words, or history/science vocabulary-then the kids can come to the computer, hit the "quiz me" button, and take it from there. The program will automatically have them retake the words they miss. If they earn a perfect score-they get a cheery applaud at the end. I can also remove or rename the words, add/delete them, or use the spelling list SpellQuizzer has available within the program.

It did take me some time to get used to hearing my voice talking back to me; so a couple of the first word tries ended up sounding-well, stupid. So I just re-recorded until I was satisfied with it, but I did have to run through it a few times, beforehand to get to the point were I was no longer self-conscience about what I was doing. I learned that it was best to write down the words and the sentence I wanted to use to illustrate it, before dictating; that way I do not spend so much time re-recording. I also asked dad to help out, and he enjoyed the challenge of it as well. We were laughing so hard at his sentences, it was hard to not cry. Since my husband travels several weeks per month, this is an excellent way to include him in our daily schooling. I could even have an older child do the lists for the youngers, making it a family affair!

My youngest is just enamoured with this, even though he struggles with where the keys are (good way to learn their where-abouts fast), but that has not stopped his enthusiasm. I really think this would be a great program for most of you out there, as it frees up your precious time, all the while your students are learning without you necessarily needing to be right there alongside them. Intrigued? Head over to get your free month's worth of SpellQuizzer and see if it fits your family as well.

as you should be the one inputting info
and helping the youngers find the keys
and for the big kids:

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**Don't forget-you will need a computer compatible microphone in order to use the program as designed. One other potential problem could be the sound, which SpellQuizzer offers many tutorials to fix the issue. If it is a problem for you, be sure to read through the handy Welcome to SpellQuizzer Tutorial to fix it.

SpellQuizzer Homepage
$29.95 for software
plus, for another $7.95 you can get it in a CD ROM as well, or free with 2 or more downloads (on different computers)

Don't forget to stop by the Crew Homepage to see what my crew mates have to say about this and many other fine products!

**SpellQuizzer provided me with a free subcription of the SpellQuizzer online spelling program, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TOS Crew Review: All About Spelling Level 1-4

I have tried various spelling workbooks and programs over the years, but have always been left feeling discouraged by the children's inability to recall words (we had just worked on all week long) only minutes after the spelling test on Friday. I wondered why I was wasting my time (and theirs) trying to stuff the list of words into their brains to only come up short every week. Surely, there had to be something better. I didn't seem to come across one after many, many purchases, and so like most, I became frustrated and "gave up" on providing the typical spelling programs. Instead, I used good reading material and dictation/copy work for their spelling (which is very Charlotte Mason in nature) through out the years. My oldest children are pretty good spellers, so we must of done something right, but I think back and wonder if I could have offered up something more detailed that covered those things I forgot, or had difficulty with myself; something that would have cut the burden down for all of us. Every spring, as I start my curricular planning for the next school year, I fret over the spelling. I usually drop it off my list, because I just cannot find a quality product that teaches to my kids the way that they learn. I also recognize that without some sort of plan or curricula, that we miss areas that are vital to know. Unfortunately too, I also find it too easy for me to "let spelling lessons go by the wayside".

My lamenting has finally ended. I could not believe what I found when I started going through the All About Spelling books. I almost cried (happy, relieved kind of cry)-after all, this is a program that teaches to all learning types (auditory, kinesthetic and visual). I wished this was available several years back, when I was desperately searching for a good program. I have to say, I am so all about the All About Spelling curricula!

Currently, there are four levels. I found the directions to be clear and concise, so once the initial prep work is complete, this program is very easy to teach. You start the lesson with asking your student to review their phonogram cards, sound cards (may or may not have these depending on the level), key cards and word cards. You then move into the new lesson material, do dictation of words/phrases and any other necessary instruction. No tests at week's end, no long and laborious workbooks to fill in, just short lessons that allow all senses to be used and within a short time frame (usually only 15-20 minutes, which again-is very CM). There are also plenty of helpful hints and ideas scattered throughout the program. Top that with the Enews you will receive weekly, you will have a very well rounded program for your spelling needs.

The packages include the teacher's guide, and the student's material packet. They suggest one student packet per child, so if you have two or more using that level, you'll need one for each. The beauty of this program is that with each lesson, the child is using not only their sight, but their touch and hearing to incorporate the lessons into their heads. If you have a child who learns more easily using one of the mentioned styles, then this will surely cement it for them.

I also want to mention their Phonogram File Folder Games, and Bingo you can purchase through them. I was tickled we were able to receive these, and have already put them to good use. The beauty of these is that you are not limited to using them just for spelling. You can easily make up cards for it that utilize math questions, foreign language words, science terms and so forth. This is a great bargain for $7.95 each. The games one is my favorite with colorful images and game board. You simply copy off your game of choice, glue it down to a file folder, make your cards, add the game pieces or make your own and off you go. I highly recommend laminating them for longer use.

Overall, this program has been one of my favorites to use and review. I just cannot recommend AAS enough!

A Helpful Hint

You will need some additional items to help ease the assembly and to aid in the actual lessons. First off, invest in a very good cutter, or borrow one from a friend-you will need it to cut out the letter tiles, and the flash cards ["Good news, good news!" as Rosco P. Coltrain often said, the AAS company will soon be offering perforated flashcards to save some cutting time!]. You can use your scissors, but the cutter will shave off a lot of extra time. You will need the scissors to clip a few items here and there, so keep them handy. Also, you need storage containers for all of these pieces. I found some little baskets at the dollar store which work perfectly. Or a few 99 cent plastic boxes will work wonders. FYI Tip: I discovered that the Gerber containers for Stage 3 foods are excellent for keeping the letter tiles separated. They are the little plastic containers for easy travel, they have a nice, snap on lid too. If you have a baby/toddler or know someone who does ask them to save them for you!

For the lessons, they suggest (assuming you are using the magnets on the back of the tiles) a nice, larger sized metal board for the student to move and spell upon. I had a 2'x3' one laying around, and it works fine-all though it can be a bit small with some of the larger spelling sessions. You could use your fridge, or purchase a nice one (I hear tell that WalMart has a good one for under $10).
I also keep a spiral notebook (especially handy for those of you teaching more than one child) to keep track of the date, the lesson(s) covered, what words or new topics the student needs more work on, lists of the unfinished lesson sections, or anything else of importance. Buy yourself some stickers too (for the tracking chart: bees for level 1, Cowboys/horses/Old West for 2, Detective/Magnifying glasses for 3 and Pirates for 4).
If you have a laminating machine or access to one, that would be a great help to keep the cards and additional teaching aids in better condition (especially if you will be using this for several children), not required by all means, but it will provide much longer use of them.
If you are purchasing the Bingo or File Folder games: you will need chips for the Bingo and dice for the games...which can be found at most dollar stores

To begin with, in order to get your supplies and cutting done-it earns this afterward, it earns this

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All About Spelling

Each level has different components and prices, so visit AAS product's page for more information. Level one/two sets: $29.95, Level three/four $39.95 each, but you may need additional components to truly make the program complete. The File Folder Games and Phonogram Bingo set are $7.95 each.

Check out what my Crew Mates have to say about this and other great products.

**All About Spelling provided me with the free copy each of the All About Spelling Book Kits [supplies and TG] for Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4; the AAS Phonics CD, and the File Folder Games and Phonogram Bingo downloads, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.