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*Due to the nature of this product, the fact that it is a full curriculum, and the detailed description of the product, its procedures, and useful modifications for the blind and DeafBlind members of my audience, this is a long post. However, the information is important and aspects of what you do not need can be easily skipped during reading. Please do not let the length deter you.*

"All About Reading Basic and Interactive Kit"

"All About Reading Basic and Interactive Kit"

Everyone seems to have an idea how to teach your child to read no matter what issues your child may have. Some are nothing more than snake oil or copied methods, good or bad, from days gone by. In formal education settings, one might say that the teaching of reading never changed for a century or more. It was a “one size fits all” kind of thing. I have taught many students to read, and usually without a “proper curriculum”. At that time, I really hadn’t found a suitable curriculum, and often, my students didn’t quite fit the “one size fits all” method. I struggled on my own creating my own materials by hand and discovering the strengths and weaknesses of each student teaching to the strengths and working to improve the weaknesses through trial and error. A loving parent or truly caring teacher longing to teach their struggling child to read is a perfect recipe for innovative teaching systems. I have reviewed a few here for you to check out before. One that I bring to you now, I have reviewed in parts before as the author has developed products beginning with spelling, and as she learned more, her system grew into a full reading program. You can read my other reviews on All About Spelling and All About Homophones  and Beehive Readers along with the reader, What am I from the archives. Now let’s see how this program by Marie Rippel which has become All About Reading has grown.

I was sent All About Reading: Level 1, a full curriculum teaching all key reading skills in a multisensory method which is mastery-based and customizable utilizing step-by-step lesson plans. The program comes with a full teacher’s manual including the step-by-step lesson plans and instructions for using all of the course materials, three volumes of short stories developed specifically for learning to read the vocabulary presented in the program at each phase, student packet with thick paper phonogram and word cards, and a student workbook with activities designed to teach and practice the key reading skills. The Deluxe Reading Interactive Kit, sold separately, contains letter tiles, magnets for the letter tiles, Basic Phonograms CD-ROM (playable in a computer only), reading divider cards, reading review box, tote bag, and smiling star stickers. The materials and container are all well-made and sturdy enough to last through many students. You could laminate the phonogram and word cards which are 4.25 inches by 2.75 inches of sturdy card stock to make them more durable, if you wish. The letter tiles and tabbed reading card dividers have already been given a glossy laminated coating. The teacher’s guide and consumable workbook have sturdy bindings with glossy coatings. The workbook has pre-perforated pages to ease removal, and the activities are separated individually and clearly marked by lesson number. The student texts are made with high quality paper and a sturdy binding reminiscent of fine textbooks of days gone by with a glossy coating. These are products designed to be in use for many years.

After your initial preparation of the materials included in the highly recommended and affordable Deluxe Interactive kit which takes about 45 minutes to an hour to separate the cards and tiles and place them in the reading box provided and a zip type bags, you will then have very little preparation to do to successfully carry out the program. Your preparation only needs a couple of minutes to use the provided CD-ROM of the phonograms for the lesson to ensure that you can pronounce them clearly for student understanding, and another five minutes to preview the lesson layout, and a final five minutes to preview the activity and gather the needed materials. Of course, having the basic needs like tape, scissors, stapler, crayons or markers always handy for the student will help cut down on your prep time even more. The final preparation time is very important and should not be left out. It involves deciding and gathering your read-aloud time books. I like the fact that read-aloud time is such an important aspect of this program. Ms. Rippel gives you plenty of help in learning how to prepare and implement read-aloud time successfully from deciding the best time of day to read-aloud to gathering an appropriate variety and types, and how to minimize distractions. She also makes it clear why this time is so valuable by gaining important background knowledge on various subjects, developing a larger vocabulary, and hearing a variety of language patterns while all of this helps give your child a higher reading comprehension when the child begins to read independently. Even the busiest of teachers can fit lesson preparation for this program into their day.

The basic lesson model for most lessons begins with Review. Review the phonogram and word cards from the previous lessons. If the student knows the sound or word well, you can move the card from the review section of the box to the mastered section. You will find the words for the beginning lesson and new words as they are added in the future lessons section which helps to best organize your box and keep only a few in the section you are working with daily. You will then teach new letter sounds by showing the phonogram cards and saying each sound and having the student repeat the sound. Review them and then place the cards in the review section of the reading box for the next lesson. Using a magnetic board or table, you review the same sounds with the letter tiles practicing until they can say the sound accurately. The lesson also builds in exercises with the letter tiles to practice commonly confused letters such as “b” and “d”.  You will also use the letter tiles to build words and show the student how to sound out words by touching the letter and saying the sound followed by sliding your finger underneath each tile as you sound out the word. Other aspects of the lesson such as changing initial letter sounds to make new words, and color-coded letter tiles to help identify vowels and consonants, and board labels to organize consonant teams and different spellings of different sounds followed by activities from the student book teach and develop the key components of reading which are phonological awareness, phonics and decoding, fluency (which is often overlooked especially at this stage), vocabulary, and comprehension. Using sight, sound, and touch, your student is actively engaged as the student learns and applies new learning immediately.

With my own students, I followed the program step by step and modified the materials when it was necessary for my learning disabled, low-vision, blind, deaf, and DeafBlind students. The program being based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and the latest research is very beneficial as is for most learning disabled, dyslexic students. Ms. Rippel begins her instructional method based on this approach at the beginning of the reading process (there is a Pre-1 level for preschoolers and Kindergarteners, too) which is seldom done in regular school programs. Many begin using a program suitable for these children after they begin to struggle with the regular program. Starting from the beginning using the researched approaches sounds like the better idea. Now being DeafBlind myself, I scanned the text and teacher’s guides into software such as OpenReader which then translated the OCR’ed text into braille. This let me independently prepare for the lessons and even prepare the readers with braille. With my other students, I modified or created my own tiles using braille for the letter, sound, and key word clues for my blind and DeafBlind students and myself, since I need that to teach the students. The sound cards provided are yellow with black typed .5 inch to .75 inch thick, clear letter fonts without serifs or “tails” which should be readable for most students including low-vision students. Legally blind students may need larger font cards made on white background or other individually-suited backgrounds with print color that provides good contrast. As I have done with another set of readers received from this author, I brailled adhesive plastic for the text of the books in the same reading pattern as used by the author on the pages. The pages of the books are delightfully textured like linen paper and have a smell both of which tickle the senses like books of old. This is great for those students who love sensory stimuli and blind and DeafBlind who rely on the other senses for pleasure and information. Visually, the illustrations are simple, but pleasing using an interesting snapshot and card label layout like it is a picture of a scrapbook page. The illustrations depict scenes that aid comprehension, but they do not go so far as let you read the text just from pictures like some children who can look at the pictures and almost perfectly word the text as if they are truly reading, but aren’t. With these modifications, the program can be beneficial for many types of students and used as independently as possible by most teachers regardless of abilities or disabilities.

The final aspect you may be wondering is whether, even if the materials can be modified for use, the method is actually beneficial for most types of students especially Deaf, blind, and DeafBlind. For those students, the sensory aspect seems to be missing some elements at first glance, but if you understand the way these students learn and think, you will see that multi-sensory is still in operation. The Deaf may not hear and many may not speak, but they speak with their hands; and therefore, it is there you find their voice, and it is naturally kinesthetic. Their eyes allow them to read print, but also in many cases their natural language is often “read” on the hands. Reading print and reading signs stimulates different parts of the brain. The blind and DeafBlind do not see directly, but they do visualize print or braille and the pictures that reading brings in their minds, so with individual words and letters they see that printed or braille letter in their mind, and then in reading the words come alive like movies. Their fingers do the reading rather than the eyes, but it is also naturally kinesthetic as the brain receives the movement of the hands and the texture of the braille dots. Like the Deaf, the reading of braille stimulates another part of the brain for the blind. The hearing blind will also hear the teacher’s voice and the sound of their own as they say the words out loud. The Deaf and DeafBlind do not hear the sound even if they can talk, but the multi-sensory presence is still there, and many will mouth the words or at least some of the sounds as they read in braille or tactually read the sign. Yes, these students can benefit, too, as my students showed, but the teacher does need to understand the differences and make sure that as many communication methods as possible are used along with the tactile uses of the cards and tiles as prescribed by the author. Although there is no study on the use of non-braille specific curriculums for teaching the blind and DeafBlind, my work with my own students seems to indicate that using good quality programs such as All About Reading modified for their needs, can be just as beneficial if not more, since the researched methods of dealing with learning difficulties is built-in to some of these products, especially All About Reading. I certainly cannot guarantee that what I have seen work with my students will work with yours, and the author, of course, didn’t develop her methods with these types of students in my mind, but you might want to check it out for yourself based on your students’ abilities, since braille curriculums are expensive for the parent who has chosen to teach their student at home or even a small Special Needs school.

The All About Reading program can be purchased on-line at the All About Learning web site, http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com. The basic program with the teacher’s guide, student readers, and student workbook can be purchased for $99.95. The Basic Interactive Kit which has the tiles, cards, Phonograms CD-ROM, and magnets can be purchased for $28.95. A Deluxe kit with the basic kit contents plus a tote bag, star stickers for student progress chart, and Reading Review box can be purchased for $48.95. Individual components of both kits can be purchased separately, as needed. Other levels and supplemental resources can be found on their site, as well. All of this high quality and researched materials make All About Reading an excellent program that will be useful for many types of students and last for years. A great reader learns to love learning.

For me, I don’t always recommend a product. I just will give you very specific details about a product and how it might be beneficial with different groups. All About Reading is a program that I can recommend.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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Finding something that really can teach the very basics of reading and not be boring or time consuming can be a problem. Students who are not captivated by learning tend to become slow learners regardless of their intellectual abilities. I have reviewed many reading products in the past. Many of them were great and certainly did prove to be useful and motivating. Most of them were not for the true beginner, though. A parent would have to have started with a good bit of rote learning with flash cards and such. A product I was sent recently might be a little closer. It is simply called “The Reading Game” and is produced by the same author, Kenneth Hodkinson, who created the popular, Wordly Wise series. Learning to read can now be as simple as playing a game.

The game play is simple. It is played in quick rounds in the Memory Game fashion. You lay out cards with colored backs, a printed number 1 to 6, and an animal image on them and the other side is white with a perfectly centered printed word with each black letter clearly printed about 3/8” high. The font used is very similar to actual print handwriting, but properly sized and spaced for modeling of proper manuscript which I think is a plus. After laying the shuffled cards for each game group face down, you and your student each take turns flipping over two. If the cards match, you say the word several times in a clear voice. You keep the cards you matched for later scoring. Obviously, the one with the most matched sets wins. In the beginning, the tutor prompts the student in reading the correctly matched pairs. Use excited voices having a little celebration every time either you or the student makes a match.  A fun, but slightly disappointed voice saying, “oh, no,” or something similar should be used when there isn’t a match to help encourage fun game play.

That is all there is to play, but the learning begins immediately. The cards in the game are divided into card decks of about sixty each with two copies of the thirty words used to make each story book. The book has a matching colored cover and animal image because the story is about that animal. Book 1 is about a skunk. Book 2 is about a snake. Books 3, 4, and 5 are about a bear, a penguin, and a unicorn respectively. Book 6 is about a zebra. The card set for each book is also divided into six groups of five words. The back of each card shows the number of the group it is in. The numbers stand for games dividing the words of the book into smaller chunks to play with at a time making it easier to learn and remember the smaller group of words. When the student has mastered the words in game one, you move to game two words. After mastering the words for games 1 and 2, there are two test sentences using all of the words from the two sets. If the student can read these sentences, he is ready to move to game 3. There are test sentences after game 4 and again after game 6. After mastering the words and test sentences for game 6, the student is ready to read story book 1. You can print the test sentences out on paper individually or in groups, but I think the best way is to use the cards themselves placing them in sentence order. Later, the student can be asked to create the sentences with the cards themselves in preparation for writing. Each book and word sets repeats the same game play and increases in word difficulty. Each round is quick and fun, but the words are already being etched into memory. You can play as many rounds as the student’s attention span allows knowing that every little bit is useful. Follow the student’s leading. As the student learns the five words in a set, they naturally want to play the next set which leads to perfect pace of continued learning.

In addition to fun learning, the educational aspects go beyond word recognition even though that alone is great. By the time all six books have been learned with thirty new words per book, the student has learned a hundred and eighty words. That is a lot of words, but because the words have also been carefully chosen to be predominantly the most common English words (forty-two out of the fifty most common) the ability to recognize more words out of other reading sources increases. The confidence that brings to a beginning reader is very motivating.

The most unusual feature found in this product and perhaps the best almost goes against the convention that modeling of proper grammar is a must. The author has chosen to write his story without the use of capitals and punctuation. However, his chosen technique might do better for the preparation of learning grammar and reading fluency than all the modeling and lessons on larger capital shapes and squiggly lines and dots do in repeated instruction. The story is written without the conventions of grammar and punctuation as just the words they have learned on the cards, but with breaks in the printing where pauses should be teaching the student naturally the proper phrasing of reading and purposes of commas and end punctuation without having those confusing marks to distract from the natural process. After the book has been successfully mastered, tutor and student can explore the concepts of inflections and lead into the learning of the simplest punctuation. The natural pauses they discover in the reading leads naturally to the use and purpose of commas. Students can then be taught how to write in their own capitals to show the beginning of a sentence and place appropriate punctuation in their own books. As would be expected, the use of breaks to show more in-sentence commas is used more and more as the student progresses through the six story books.

With these features leading to a natural priming of the brain for learning to read, you may wonder about phonics. The author has addressed the initial teaching of phonics as well by introducing it after successful completion of game six of each series, you can use cards of the series to show the patterns throughout the series and introduce new words that follow those patterns. For example, three patterns can be found in the book 1 series: (-ay), (-un), and (-o). The words using the (-ay) pattern in book 1 are day, play, and stay. The teacher can use those cards to demonstrate how the first letter changes to create a new word and to help the student create more new words by using other initial letter sounds. The author details all of the books’ patterns in Rules and Teacher’s Guide that comes with the set. This is the simplest method to begin the teaching of phonics, but the best for setting the stage for a true and deep understanding of the mechanics of reading and spelling.

In terms of accessibility, the series is perfect for many special needs populations including those with processing disorders due to the non-distracting, clear, crisp, and contrasting print of the cards and story books where the words are displayed. The illustrations in the books are reminiscent of pencil sketches found in the textbooks of days gone by. Often times, this kind of drawing is great for attracting autistic and learning disabled students due to the unusual contrast it details for the objects drawn. This is normally even good for low vision readers especially when done on regular book paper. The glossy pages which are great for young beginning readers does make the details of some very involved sketches less crisp for students with acuity and perception issues, though. The tutor will need to verbally describe these illustrations to these low vision students. The size and font of the print for both cards and books are larger than many such reading products, so may be fine for those with milder low vision issues. Teachers of some students who need much larger print may need to create larger word cards and magnifiers or a CCTV for the story books. The kinesthetic use of word cards and the game play are useful tools for tactile learners and those who need multisensory techniques. Adding objects with the cards initially can help those who have receptive language disruptions and other processing disorders. The cards were easily brailled for blind and DeafBlind students. For the blind and DeafBlind teacher such as myself, I brailled the cards with not only the word, but also the game number and the book animal to help me keep the cards properly separated for ease of use and to prevent confusion while teaching. I used clear adhesive brailling plastic to place the sentence strips on the storybook for my reading along with the student. I copied the exact phrasing breaks the author used to provide the same natural fluency features. These braille sentences can be used separately for the blind and DeafBlind student, if necessary. The beginning braille reader benefitted the same from this phrasing technique without the braille punctuation and capital cells as the sighted student to my delight. It is wonderful to see a product that is useful as is or so easily modified to benefit the possible varying abilities of many students.

The Reading Game, along with progress sheets and other teaching suggestions, can be found at http://thereadinggame.com for just $24.95 which is a great price for the gift of literacy. The strategies here are simple and easy to implement, but the foundations for reading, spelling, and writing are etched into the brain ready to take your student fully prepared to become a great reader.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Helping students improve their vocabulary for college entrances exams can be difficult when the means is tedious. College Prep Genius, which publishes a fantastic college entrance test preparation program that I love and have reviewed here before, has developed a series of books to really help students read more and learn more advanced vocabulary while they read. The CaféVocab series contains some very interesting stories that intertwine 300 words captivating students while demonstrating the proper use of difficult vocabulary.

The stories are all about the lives and activities of normal teens. There are stories in several different genres to help most teens find one that will grab their attention. The advanced vocabulary is properly used and sprinkled throughout the story. At the bottom of the page, the words used on that page are listed with a pronunciation guide, part of speech used, and a clear definition. A listing of the chapter’s used words is at the end of each chapter to aid in review. There is a glossary at the end with all the words, definitions, part of speech, and pronunciation guide, too.

The vocabulary used is in total for all four books in the series well over three hundred. Each book uses about three hundred, but there is some overlap. The books also use some of the words in different parts of speech and with slightly different content meaning to help the student really see how the words can function and make them a part of their own vocabulary to some extent. The use of the vocabulary in these stories, though, can really help them be better prepared for the advanced vocabulary found on the college entrance exams.

One of the students I gave these books to for reading assignments, Ryan S., was impressed enough with just the first few chapters that he is writing his own review on The $ummer of $aint Nick (dollar signs are intentional and part of the title). I will put an excerpt here, but if Ryan grants permission, I will post his full review when he has finished the book and review:

“I have read 9 chapters so far in my book. I love the book.  The vocabulary words I have not ever heard before like the word  Besmirch that means discolor. The book does show how to say word and meaning. but I will not be using these words in my writing. The book was interesting.  I liked the book because the boy who found $300,000 gave to those who needed money and was not selfish with the money he found. He gave money to people in community who needed help. He gave anonymously because he did not want the attention and praise.”

Even with his honesty of not wishing to actually use the words in his own writing due to their complexities and awkwardness, Ryan admits that he is learning to recognize and understand these new words. Along with his interest in the story leading him to read more, this new knowledge really shows the CaféVocab series is successfully completing its mission.

As far as accessibility, the pronunciation guide and definition are good for all students including those with slight reading delays. It would be more beneficial if audio and electronic text versions could be found on-line to help more who are print disabled, blind, or deafblind. Hopefully, this could be something added to the series in the future if the publishers really want to help more students while expanding their market.

There are currently four books in the series: Operation High School, The $ummer of $aint Nick, Planet Exile, and I. M. for Murder. Each book costs $12.95 and can be purchased Maven of Memory Publishing at http://www.vocabcafe.com.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

A love of reading is the second best gift you can give your child. The first best gift a child can receive is the love and salvation of Christ, of course. A love of reading can open a child to God first and life. I was recently sent a print book called Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson to review which highlights the importance of loving to read and how to pass it along.

Ms. Clarkson’s love for reading is obvious and contagious as she lovingly describes her childhood with books. Ms. Clarkson initially shares some of those memories with us showing us how much a childhood of sharing books with your child can impact their lives and future so positively. Then in detail, she shares how the reader can begin that journey as well by giving examples from her parents’ teaching of her and her siblings. The sharing the love of reading comes alive through her examples and it is easy to catch the excitement and passion to pass it along.

In the last section of the book, Sarah Clarkson describes the various genres of literature from a children’s book perspective. She lists and describes excellent examples by author of each genre suggesting proper age groups. When she felt it appropriate, she also listed cautions of which the reader needs to be aware. The lists are not exhaustive, of course, but they are a good starting point for helping you pass along the love of reading.

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson is an excellent reference book for your homeschool library. It can be purchased for $17.00. Let it ignite a passion for reading in you and then pass it along to your children.

To find out more and find out about this and other books available from Apologia’s Whole Heart division, go to www.wholeheart.org.

Though I was provided samples of the product to do this review, I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

SAT ® and ACT® preparation is on anyone’s mind if they plan to go to college. Most of our curriculums will help prepare you for the writing, verbal, and math portions, but one section tends to stump a lot of us, and that is vocabulary. Where do they come up with some of those words? Finding a good resource that is interesting is the key. If you are blind or deafblind, the resources are very limited, as well. VocabAhead may just be the choice for you and your students with its “entertaining and effortless vocabulary building solution”.

VocabAhead’s SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos, and MP3s is a simple, but handy study aid for any trying to bone up on their vocabulary. The main product of this company is a book. I will describe it first for those blind and deafblind with some residual sight for use with a CCTV. Each page covers one word. The page lists the correct spelling of the word and its part of speech. It then lists the definition along with a humorous cartoon illustrating the word’s meaning. The cartoon has two to three different sentences describing the cartoon using the word or using the word appropriately in additional example sentences. The page concludes with a short list of synonyms and antonyms for the word. There are 30 units which group words in loose categories of similarity. At the end of the unit, a review exercise is provided of matching and fill-in-the blank practice of the words in that unit. Answers are included in the back of the book. This is a great way to build visual connections to easily learn and reinforce that learning.

Visual learning is not the only style supported by this little aid. You can download the narrations of each page on MP3 files to your favorite player and listen and learn on-the-go. This is great for blind and auditory learners and those with reading difficulties and dyslexia. There are also videos to download that will allow you to take the book with you in a digital fashion on your IPod, IPhone, and IPad which for some students with special needs is a great plus. The narrations of the videos are not closed captioned, but the deaf will find it useful as the book is if they prefer apps for learning. Some autistics are learning to use the IDevices to spur their learning and reinforce their memory and attention spans. The audio files and the videos are free for download of their website. I also hope the team will add a feature. That is a pronunciation guide for the word. Some students need that visual key to help them with learning to pronounce words. Regardless, this is a perfectly priced study aid for vocabulary improvement.

I must add a caution to parents and to adults who are wary of the content they put into their minds. There are some cartoon and sentence examples that some may consider inappropriate for some readers.  One sentence for anathema describes a girl using voo-doo to put a curse on her boyfriend. A cartoon for the word carnal shows a busty woman. Each parent or adult needs to decide if the material presented is suitable for their student’s use or even their own. This reviewer would never ask you to present material for use that you feel is inappropriate. I make note of these possible things when I can to help you make an informed decision about the product.

To my great surprise, I found on their website that an IPhone/IPod app is available for this study aid. Being Deaf and Blind, I was happy to see a lite or free version available for testing. That means this review will also go on my DeafBlind Hope blog to help DeafBlind people know what can help them. To add to my excitement, I found they did a great job making the app accessible to braille output for the most part. Everything in the “Study Words” section works fine with braille. The flash cards work well too except for the tap to hint section which can be selected on a braille display, but because the hint is only an image, the braille display goes blank. This would definitely confuse a person needing the braille. They might not know what to do next or think the program closed or locked up. I suggest that they add a text hint here such as a synonym or a sentence using the word or a text description of the image that would help with the word. In the quiz section, the main page is accessible. The buttons work and even the dial a word section which is more of a graphic is accessible. You can scroll through the list to see which words will be on the list and change the list from the “don’t know yet” list and the “mastered” list for continued practice on all the words. Once you click the start quiz button and change to the first word on the test, the app loses it on accessibility. The home and back button work fine. You also can see which word you are being quizzed on next, but the multiple check boxes of possible definition answers only shows on the braille display as “btn” which means button.  You cannot read what the choice is at all. You can check with the select button on the display, but you don’t get any response as to right or wrong as you should. You only get the text “dmd btn” which is demand button. I also couldn’t figure out how to move forward in the quiz by braille display either. You do a one finger flick on the touch screen. That isn’t always easily understood by people who are totally deaf and blind, so a next button should be added. These are easy fixes for the app developers, though. I am hopeful that this will be updated soon because I am sure the developers would like to make their app fully accessible. I am going to email them with my suggestions as their app boldly asks for which is a positive point for the developers. They obviously want to get suggestions for improvement. When it is, I can tell you that the app will be worth buying even at $9.99 if you are blind or deafblind because it covers 1000 words. It is already a great app for other users including some special needs students.

 

Between the book, the audio files, the video files, and the IPhone/IPod app, VocabAhead SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos, and MP3s should have everyone covered. To find out more, go to http://vocabahead.com. This neat study aid can also be purchased easily at Amazon.com for $12.95 in book form. A DVD version is also available for $24.99. This could be a fun way to a higher SAT® or ACT® score or just to get a little smarter.

 

I was provided a free product to write this review. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Many students have reading difficulties that are caused in part by tracking issues. The eyes have trouble following the line of words, move from line to line accurately. Good readers learn to read words by “focusing on manageable chunks of information in each line of text”. See-n-Read reading tools provide simple devices designed to help a student track and smoothly move between lines.

See-N-Read provides three reading guides made of polypropylene that are transparent grey with a clear strip about a quarter the way down the guide to clearly show the text of the current line that a student is reading. The rest of the guide is transparent enough to help the student move smoothly from one line to the next. This clears the mind to focus on the more manageable amount of text that is shown through the clear strip aiding comprehension. Another strip is provided that is the same length but one and half times longer to accommodate larger books and textbooks. The third guide is the same length and width as the smaller guide, but has the clear strip cut out to allow for highlighting of text without losing their place on the page.

There is also an electronic version of these reading guides that can be used for reading on a computer. The computer version also allows for modifying size, shape, and color of the guides used for computer sources. It can also be use with a PC-driven projector or interactive whiteboard. I was unable to use that part of the product due to my vision loss and the vision loss of many of my students, so I can’t properly review it, but one should be aware of its availability.

Learning disabled students often do find the use of reading guides beneficial. Our understanding of the needs have come a long way since the days of a folded piece of notebook paper. Many students find the reading guides of such a design as the See-N-Read tools as a great way to learn to control the movements of their eyes and move from line to line. However, studies have shown as well as my personal teaching experiences that certain students need different shades of color to help them see the words clearly and focus. The electronic version may provide these variations. Variations in the physical reading guides may be needed, though, as well. Other products reviewed on this site have addressed these variations. The parent needs to evaluate the products and make the final decisions based on a child’s needs.

The qualities of the See-N-Read products are high and quite durable making them worthy of this evaluation at inexpensive prices of $2.99 each for the book size and $3.49 each for the document size. There are various packages available, as well. The electronic version is available for $29.99. To find out more and view the research on reading guides, visit http://www.see-n-read.com.

 

Though I was provided samples of the product to do this review, I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Game playing is a wonderful way to bring a family together. It is even better during the tough economic times. As a family, we are always looking for new games, but that can be difficult in my family due to special needs issues. Recently, I was sent a product called Wits and Wagers Family from North Star Games. My husband was excited. He had played the game with the same name, but not a family version, years ago from another company that no longer exists. He was very happy someone had decided to publish it again. As per our tradition, I got the game out after Thanksgiving Dinner. We would just see how it went.

With overfull bellies, we got the game out to play rather than sleep the afternoon away. My children and a girlfriend who are grown and just out of college or in college groaned when their Dad said he had played it years ago. The idea of playing something he liked long ago didn’t sound very promising to them. With that, we opened the box and as promised, explained the game play in just a couple of minutes. My husband explained it to me by fingerspelling the steps as I needed to do something. First, a question is chosen and read aloud. My husband fingerspelled it to me. We each had little dry erase boards to write our answer on to and place face down when done. Our first question was how many different colors of Froot Loops are there? Everyone tried to imagine their morning cereals from breakfasts past and wrote down a number and placed their card face down. When everyone was finished, the cards were turned face up and placed in numerical order. We each then got to decide if we wanted to stick with our answer or try to help our chances by backing another’s answer. You each have two little meeples or wooden people shapes. One is larger than the other at about ¾ of an inch high and each set of meeples is a different color than matches an answer board. The large meeple is worth two points and the smaller one is worth one point. You place your meeples on any of the answers you think might be correct. You can place them all on your answer board if you are really certain you are correct, or you can place them on one or two others to help your chances of gaining points. The answer to our question was six. I had written 4 as a guess, but I knew there had to be more. Other answers given were 5, 6, and 8. I decided to put a large meeple on 5 and the small one on 8. If your card answer is right, you get one point. If your meeples are on a correct answer, you get one or two points for a possible high of 4 points if all of your meeples are on the right answer. I totally missed that one. My younger son’s girlfriend, Rachel, got that one right as I had watched her count imaginary Froot Loops. The only question I got right for the game was how many feet are in a mile. My two sons missed that one. I guess I didn’t teach that fact very well, did I? Rachel won despite not getting too many questions right as did none of us. That is the beauty of the game. Even those of us who have gotten foggy in our brains have a chance to win by mooching off the right answers of others. We all laughed at our silly and far-fetched answers and even enjoyed our temporary status of victors with appropriate trash talk. The game proved to be a hit.

Well-made and durable, the quick play of about twenty minutes is also perfect for most families regardless of ages involved. North Star Games states that it is best suited for those 8 and over and with three to ten players. As most of us know in homeschooling families, you often have younger children around. “The questions are varied and range from easy to hard making the game fun and easy for young and old people”, Rachel said. If you need a few easier questions though for a much younger child, you can let all of the family help you write up a few more to mix in. Brendan felt that “some of the questions could become outdated”, but you could also add a few more timely questions to replace them if you want. Brian thought it was really fun and “worked well for all ages” to play despite differences in abilities, but he agreed with his brother about some of the questions becoming outdated. Most though will stand the test of time and popularity. My husband really liked that it was the game he played and enjoyed so long ago, but also had a good playing and scoring format for families that might not feel the connection to wagering was a good example.

I liked the game setup and durability of the materials. The questions can be redone in braille, large print, or signed for family members with sensory impairments quite easily because the questions are short and simply stated. Scoring is simple even for the youngest members. North Star games can easily add additional question packets to be purchased separately to address issues of outdated questions or for providing special play topics, too. The game is easily modified for any family and their specific needs and a perfect fit at $19.99. There is the more adult party version available, too, if your family needs more of a challenge.

Check http://www.northstargames.com for more information about Wits and Wagers Family or any of their other games.

I was provided a free product to write this review. I was not compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

When my sons were toddlers, I had this wonderful little board book. I can’t remember the name, but it was basically a little high chair devotional book to help you get your child started on a life-long love of personal Bible study. I later gave that book away to another mom. I really enjoyed that book and using it with my two children. I could never find it again or anything like it until now. Good Morning, God by Davis Carman is a delightful little book that can be used for toddlers to children about 8 years old to help parents instill that love of spending time with God every day.

Good Morning, God is filled with beautiful illustrations that could be taken from any child’s life. Each filled with subtle color that begs to fill you with joy and peace or contrasting black and white sketches to emphasize a personalized and simple prayer. The simple but truthful words that flow almost like music are based on daily activities of a child and filled with the truth that parents are teachers of God’s wisdom and love. The message of salvation is subtle yet bold within these pages. The simple repetition of phrases helps to build a life-long message of for guidance and the need for daily talks with God. God’s own message shared in such beautiful ways to a child as God intended it through the love of parents.

Any child can learn from this simple endearing book. Special needs students will also grasp its lessons due to simple and repeated phrases, detailed but clear illustrations, and concepts that are easy to relate to for a young child. Parents can use the many activities and questions provided at the end to further enrich their children’s understanding choosing based on developmental level and abilities. Most are easily modified if needed. The book’s text is short with room on each page to place brailled labels for an alternate method of reading. The text is also easy to translate to ASL or other sign system, if needed. The author also provides some ideas for how to use the book in different ways and at different times as the child grows. This is a book truly for all kinds of students.

Good Morning, God can be purchased at Apologia Press, http://www.apologia.com for $14.00, and there is a coloring book available also for $4.00. This is such a small price for well-made hard-back book that is sure to become a family treasure.

Though I received a free copy of this product in order to review, I have not been compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed in this review is entirely my own.

Castles, knights, dragons, chivalry, and all the elements of a fantasy attract children of all ages. Many of these elements are harmless entertainment, but there are some elements which many parents wish to keep from their children. Young readers are attracted to the good examples of the genre, but some are lured to the few that might be attempts to lead them into things much worse. The few Christian books in the genre have not always been on the mark of good reading. In attempting to eliminate the negative, they often ruined the positives of action and the thrill of being part of something bigger than yourself. Author Ed Dunlop has created a world that brings all the positives to life in a very real way and includes no magic or witchcraft. Through this world though, Mr. Dunlop weaves biblical truths and life lessons that can affect a young person’s heart, soul, and mind in an enriching way seldom found elsewhere.

Terrestria is a place filled with evil battling to control its citizens and lure them away from King Emmanuel. Two books from the series Tales from Terrestria came my way recently for me to write this review. The first was called The Quest for Thunder Mountain. This story reminds me a little of Pilgrim’s Progress in the sense that the character embarks on a journey and learns a lot about himself, life, and God along the way. This is a fresh story though with the quest being to find King Emanuel’s will for the character’s life. The struggle along the way is to find out if he really wants to know and if he will believe King Emanuel’s Word against all others that it will be the greatest joy to know and do the King’s will.

The Tales of the second book I read, fourth in the series though the books are more of a stand-alone tale where order doesn’t matter, The Tale of the Dragons ventures into other life lessons such as respecting your parents and staying away from temptations. The young character is this story is lured to an island not far from home by the need to fit in and have friends, but the friends are not true friends and only wish him harm. The young man learns to heed his father’s words too late and finds himself a slave in a foreign land far from the safety of home. His father sells everything precious to him and risks his life more than once to find the wayward son and bring him home.

These lessons are brought to life so vividly and the stories were so captivating that it was hard to put down. Several children and I went through these two together. I think the lessons made an impact on us all including me. Ed Dunlop’s heart is truly seen when he states that, “If just one young person reads this book and realizes the wisdom of bonding with his or her parents and avoiding the deadly dragons of our treacherous society, it will have been worth every hour I spent in the writing of this book”. I wish I had found this kind of book when I was young. I think at least some of the bad I got into might have been avoided.

Mr. Dunlop has not made any versions of his books accessible for special needs except possibly a few groups by the use of e-books for a select number of his free works. That would allow some learning disabled students and hearing blind to use the Adobe Reader text to speech option. However, I hope to encourage him here to consider using http://www.bookshare.org and/or the National Braille Press to offer his wonderful books to various special needs populations. Either or both of these organizations will respect his rights as author, but allow special needs students including deaf, blind, and deafblind as well as learning disabled and other special needs populations to benefit from his skills of bringing faith lessons to all.

To learn more about this series and the companion series, Terrestria Chronicles, go to http://www.talesofcastles.com. Each of the books is available for $7.99 which is a great price for a quality paperback book. Ed Dunlop also has some free e-books he wrote available for download on the web site.

I received two books free in order to write this review, but I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Level 2, Volume 1 of the All About Reading series arrived in my mailbox. I was looking forward to it because the newly brailled copy of The Beehive Reader, Level 1, I had done for one of my DeafBlind students had already been read and re-read many times. The student loved the book, and the mom was pleased to have some well-written stories that use words built in increments of simple to more difficult.

Of course, Mom had done lots of ground work in this case, since the child is profoundly deaf, and no one knows for sure exactly what or how much he hears. Mom teaches using all communication modes including voice and sound. Mom has also introduced phonics, but we don’t know how much of the phonics he truly hears or understands. The child does place his hands on the mother’s throat and lips to feel the vibrations of voice. The child has spoken a couple of words before, so the mother and I feel that continuing the process could be beneficial.

The All About Reading series is providing a needed resource in being able to control the types of vocabulary that the child will be introduced. Level 2, Volume 1 continues this progressive build of phonics-driven vocabulary while continuing the development of entertaining and lesson-filled stories. This edition also adds fun, quirky poems to the mix of stories and a clever “guess what I am” game in rhyming verses. The book continues to use the delightful and detailed black and white pencil sketch illustrations that are even good for low vision students, since the information is specific to the task of showing the story without a lot of color which can be distracting. Varying colors can produce contrast, but also introduces additional focal points which can be distracting. In addition, the durable binding that helps give years of life to a much used book is still being used. Quality seems to be important to the writers and publishers which is a very good thing.

The All About Reading series continues its commitment to quality stories with decodable vocabulary in a building progression toward teaching students to read and read well. What Am I? Is a delightful mix of stories and poems that should interest most young readers and get the on the path of reading for life. Go to http://www.all-about-reading.com to find out more about this program and the other products they provide.

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