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Looking for a Keyboarding class that isn’t a game? Even more importantly, are you wanting a Christian Keyboarding class? Well, you aren’t going to find many of either. The game programs are fine for some students as a complete curriculum, and fine for even more as a supplemental course, but many times the student concentrates too much on the game aspects. There have been many teachers who have used the game programs and discovered their student loved the program, but wasn’t really learning how to properly keyboard. Hence the search for a more traditional program begins. You can find them, but you won’t find any that are Christian-based. That was the dilemma for one Keyboarding teacher at a Christian school. Like many teachers before her, Leanne Beitel set about writing her own. The result was Keyboarding for the Christian School, a great blend of tradition and scripture.

Using many of the traditional methods of teaching typing, but with scripture as practice exercises, Leanne Beitel created a course that most teachers can be happy with using every day. There are two separate programs depending on the age student: Keyboarding for the Christian School, grades 6-12 and Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary Version. Both versions have simple, but thorough lessons covering the important topics of keyboarding such as the touch typing technique, alphabetic keys, numerals and symbols, number keypad, centering, and enumerated lists. The Elementary version then provides timed writing practicing. The older version continues with topics such as the tab key, the footnotes styles of MLA and APA, cover pages, works cited and bibliography pages, letters, envelopes, and proofreader’s marks before it begins also with timed writing practice exercises. Most of the scriptures used are good life affirming ones from the Psalms. Typing these scriptures for practice will write them on the minds and hearts of your students to be used by the Holy Spirit throughout their lives to guide them and help them to praise the Lord. The other writings used in the older versions will teach your students as they type Biblical truths and better discipleship. The programs are easy to follow regardless of age group. The elementary version is very similar to the older version, but written with a little simpler language and uses colorful charts to guide the student for finger placement and correct key finding. If you start your student in elementary grades with this program, you can use the older version to review the basic skills if needed or skip straight to the additional topics that an older and more advanced student needs. I personally love the way the author included coverage of the number keypad and introduction to the formatting and reference citing styles of MLA and APA. The keypad skills I learned in school are seldom taught now, but those skills have aided me in my personal life from quickly using calculators and adding machines for bills and taxes and even in the grocery store to some degree with ATM and cash register use. As a blind person, it has been as invaluable as the touch typing skills I have acquired. I was able to even apply this skill to some degree in reverse to use a telephone .With report writing, many students might learn a little about giving credit in later years of high school, but never hear the acronyms for the two most accepted formats in the literary and psychological fields. Their knowledge of how to give credit and type it correctly is weak. Then, in college, depending on their class, they are expected to know which format to use having heard of neither. These courses are very well-designed and will prove beneficial to many homeschool and private school settings.

As far as accessibility, the .pdf format is a drawback for blind and deafblind students, but the author left the security open. With additional software, you can convert this to a more usable format for screenreaders or braille displays. Of course, this is never a perfect conversion which makes .pdf formats less than desirable for accessibility purposes. Hearing blind would benefit from an audio version of the programs, but keyboard shortcuts are needed in the step implementation first. However, keyboard shortcuts would be beneficial for all students since it makes many steps quicker and simpler. Many of the keyboard shortcuts are standard for basic word processing steps so this wouldn’t be too difficult to provide. DeafBlind students would need a .txt or rtf version of the program once keyboard shortcuts are added. An audio version would also help students who are LD or auditory learners for use in conjunction with the text. With just a few simple modifications, the programs could have a much broader audience and be even more useful for the students to use.
Keyboarding for Christian Schools is an excellent program for homeschool and private Christian school use. The programs are also quite affordable for homeschool and Christian school use. The homeschool price for e-books of both versions is just $22.00. A Christian School can get an unlimited license version for $159.95. You can find more options and additional products at https://www.christiankeyboarding.com/Home_Page.php. The lifelong benefits of good keyboarding skills and scripture knowledge gained from this program can be so rewarding.

Monopoly and Life are popular games. I recently was sent a game that reminded me of these two games a little in its play, but I never laughed as much playing those as I did Life on the FarmR by We R Fun, Inc. This educational game is a good twist to helping teach money management and life skills, as well as farm life as intended by the Minnesota Farm Family organization that developed the game. I have seen other organizations and authors of children’s book series try to develop games to further their mission or help book sales, but none have turned out as fun to play as Life on the FarmR.

The game play is simple and is enhanced by the well designed and well manufactured game board, box, and pieces. The box contains a full color game board, plastic insert tray that holds the 3 kinds of cow cards, farm expense cards, farm income cards, 6 denominations of money, 2 dice, and 6 variously colored pawns. The tray is a simple, but nice addition that many game makers are leaving out these days. Your game components can stay separated and protected. As far as play, each player starts with $10, 000, and you roll a dice and move the rolled number of spaces. You then follow the directions on the space. It could be draw a farm income card which gives you money from the bank for things sold on a farm. It could be a farm expense card which makes you pay the bank for some farm overhead type event. The space could have a detour from the path required or some other unusual event such as a cattle auction where you can buy more cows or a lose your turn because you have to pick corn or even an event where you have to pay a neighbor because your cows got out and damaged property. There are numerous things that can happen as you go through your life as a farmer. When you pass the barn, you can collect your milk money which is like passing the go space in Monopoly. The winner is the one who retires first. Retirement comes when you have a lot of cows and a lot of money. There are various ways to shorten the game by changing the exact retirement amounts or changing the way you start the game. Some of the cards really tickled my students. The one event that drew “ewwww” and giggles was the artificial insemination card. There were more ewwwws when we explained what that actually meant. More important than simple play is playability. As a avid gamer of all kinds of games, the most important thing to know about a game before purchase is how much will you want to play it again and again. Life on the Farm proved with my students to be a hit in that department. I played it with three different groups of my students of all different ages even non-readers. They all wanted to play it again and again. Two girls kept it at home for a few days and played it with the whole family. As a gamer with these certain requirements, Life on the Farm passed on all aspects. Yes, it is educational too.

Many types of students will do well with this game. My nonreaders, young and older, had no problem since the game doesn’t require any secrecy. Other students merely helped them to read their cards out loud. Everyone wants to know what you are getting or even better, what you are have to pay for. If you have students who are uncomfortable letting students read for them, you can ask one student to read everyone’s cards noting it being the role of the banker or some similar role. One of my students who plays role-playing games wanted to be the game master and read the cards for everyone like it was “life as it happens” as he put it. You could also put symbols with the key points on the back of the card to help the nonreaders, too. I, being DeafBlind, had the card tactually signed to me, but we are already in the process of brailling labels for the spaces and cards. Low vision students can quickly learn the color-coded money. My money will be brailled. Overall, this game is good for most learners and can be easily modified for others.
Life on the Farm is available on the http://www.werfun.com site for $25.00 which is a great price for such a high quality and fun game. There is a preschool version, as well, for $20.00. Give it a try, but be prepared for the onslaught of cow puns.
The vendor provided me with a free copy of this game to be reviewed here. The opinion is entirely mine.

Music is the melody of life some say. For me, it is that and more. I was born with normal hearing or possibly a mild hearing loss, but it was progressive. I was wearing aids by school age and unable to understand speech by my teen years. Until I became totally deaf a few years later, music became increasingly the only thing that I could easily make sense of and enjoy sound-wise. I was singing before I talked I was told. I mostly wanted to sing what I called at two as “Jesus music”. I loved the way music made me feel even if I couldn’t understand the words or even hear the all of the intricate chords. I wanted to play an instrument to create that music myself. I tried piano and did ok, but my hands were small while I still had enough hearing to learn easily. Guitar was another attempt, but hearing was deteriorating and difficult to pick up on my own. Teachers were unsure of how to teach me. As a young mother, totally deaf, I found Jean Welles’ Worship Guitar Class, Vol. 1. Though I am sure she never thought of her program as a way to teach a deaf girl to play,  it worked. I could play and feel the music to express my love for my Savior.

Her program now available on DVD is as much visual as it is auditory. Jean uses close-up camera angles and large diagrams to show guitar strings, tabs, finger placement, and picking and strumming patterns. Verbally, she gives full explanation of these aspects in clear and precise manner. I used her diagrams and close-ups of finger placement to learn chords. Then I watched carefully and repeated her actions in the close-ups of the different strumming patterns. Jean then follows up the chord instructions with a song that uses the chords just taught. Jean plays the song through using the techniques she has just gone over with a camera angle that lets you see easily as she puts it all together for you. Each song builds on the chords and strumming techniques used before and more chords are added throughout the first volume giving you a good background of guitar chords and strumming patterns when completed. The next section includes a practice section that gives you exercises for improving technique and exercises for improving chord changes and picking skills. The last part Jean plays the songs taught on the DVD allowing you to play along. Jean Welles’ method of instruction is clear, and her easy-going spirit and love for the Lord shine through it all motivating you to learn this method of worship.

I can’t promise anyone that this is the best program for them, but I know that the method allowed me to learn when I could hear almost no sound. Now that I am blind and deaf, vibrations are felt more intensely. Having learned how to make my own music, I can still enjoy worshipping my Savior through music which gives me such joy. With a tactual interpreter helping me to know the flow of the music and my sense of feeling vibrations, I often sing praises along with my hearing/sighted friends. I continue to play guitar in my worship time and with my family. My only true audience though is my Lord, Jesus Christ. Will every deaf person want to learn music? No, but music instruction for children has been shown to raise intelligence scores and musical experience in general gives acquisition to many skills and concepts that are applicable to the world of math and real life concepts. Music instruction for anyone can provide benefits even if the continued love of playing is never developed. I introduce my deafblind students to music as a way to explore the world around them. To me, it is worth the effort.

Jean Welles’ Guitar Worship Class DVDs are available at http://www.worshipguitarclass.com/. Each volume is available for $29.95 for each volume or $99.80 for the four volumes. Each set comes with a lesson book with much of the music information and the songs for additional practice.

I received Jean Welles’ Worship Guitar Class Volume 1 DVD and lesson book to test for this review. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Tortoises and hares and pretzel vendors and contrabassoons and cellos are all playing together in one place? Just what could this mean? It is a delightful story adaptation brought to life with the sounds of an orchestra. This story brought back wonderful memories of the old cartoons like Bugs Bunny with the orchestra sound effects. The developers of Stories in Music™, Bonnie Ward Simon and Stephen Simon, take that idea to its fullest benefits with dramatized narration and full orchestral sound affects to enhance the story and encourage better listening skills and appreciation of music.

Each audio cd begins with the story narrated with the orchestral sound effects. The story is followed by narration telling about the story, its history, type of literary story such as a fable, and the purposes of the story type. The cd also includes the original song played separately to allow children to learn the song for singing and performance. The music is included with words once to help teach the song and another instrumental version is at the end of the cd to allow for student performance. It is a great way to get the students involved with the story and experiencing music. Another important feature of the cd is a narration explaining how the composer used music to help tell the story. Music samples of various instruments are played such as a contrabassoon with its low, droning sound and how its sound was used to create a particular sound effect or represent a character such as the tortoise with its slow movements. The story is played again after this narration encouraging the students to listen carefully for the sound effects explained. This is a delightful way to explore how music affects us and can be used in so many ways such as story narration. It also encourages active listening skills to recognize these instruments and how they are played to add to the story.

Each audio cd set has a booklet with full color pictures of orchestra instruments, information about music and music reading, and information related to the story theme. In Tortoise and the Hare, there is information and pictures explaining the difference between turtles and tortoises, and rabbits and hares. There are crossword puzzles and word jumbles and other fun things to do that reinforce the information taught in the booklet and on the cd. There is also words and music to a fun original song written and included as part of the story.

The accessibility for various special needs students here could be limited, but learning disabled, autistic spectrum disorder, and hearing blind students will certainly benefit. The little booklet is short enough to read to a hearing blind or even be brailled. Hard of Hearing, Deaf, and DeafBlind students may also benefit with a little modification and role play. Tell the story in print and ASL using a speaker large enough for the student to feel some of the subtle vibrations of the music. Role play the sound effect use such as running and walking in the Tortoise and the Hare. Simulate other effects such as crowd noise and other story action. Experience with actual orchestra instruments would be excellent allowing the student to place his hand on the instrument or near the sound hole to feel the vibrations. Allow the students to create their own sound effects with available instruments or handmade ones, too. Drums or pots could be used to beat out a running or walking pattern. These activities can reinforce the connection between story elements and music for these students.

The web site, http://www.maestroclassics.com, has additional learning activities that can be used for many students to reinforce the concepts and skills presented with these wonderful stories. Each cd set is $16.98 or 3 for $45.00 with a code. You can purchase many stories, such as Casey at Bat and The Story of Swan Lake, with more in production. Explore music with your child with these delightful stories. The blessings will last a lifetime.

Stories in Music™ authors provided a cd and booklet set to be tested for this review. The opinion expressed in this review is my own.

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