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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.

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Recently, I was sent a game product to review. It is kind of a cross between the old Rubik’s Cube from Mattel and the game Scrabble from Hasbro. I am not a big fan of Scrabble, and I did play with a Rubik’s Cube some as a teen, but I only managed to learn how to get one side to one color. When asked about getting this product, I wasn’t overly excited, but I still will give things a try because my readers, especially my DeafBlind Readers of my DeafBlind Hope blog, might find the product useful. My husband, on the other hand, was excited and wanted me to definitely sign up for it. My husband’s vocabulary is also a lot larger than mine, so this product piqued his interest. Scruble Cube turned out to be more of a success than I thought.

The Scruble Cube rotates in different directions and in different layers to allow you to move individual portions of the cube from one face to another. If you remember a Rubik’s Cube, each peg on each face of the cube had one of six colors. By moving the pegs in various movements, you could line one face with all of the pegs of one color. If you were really good maneuvering, you could make each face a different color. Scruble Cube is different in that the variously colored pegs have capital letters on them along with a number in subscript. The numbers are the number of points the letter will give you if you use the letter in a word up, down, or across a face or even scrolled across two faces similar to Scrabble. Words made in diagonal do not count. I can’t begin here to really explain how this works, but fortunately, I don’t have to do that. The game comes with detailed explanations on the rules of the game variations, cube basics of pattern recognition and initial steps, along with details and diagrams of the various ways to manipulate the pegs to spell words. The steps are easy to follow, so before long you will be racking up points with your great word finds. I admit the game might not be a perfect match for everyone especially if you really hate word games, but again, it could spice up spelling practice alittle for those who might need the twist. For others who really love word games, it can be fun. A little disclaimer: Warning! It can be addictive.

Educationally, the game is great for teaching students of all ages to learn pattern recognition and then build good spelling skills. For the youngest of children, you can create two, three, or four letter words and give the cube to your student to find the word you created. This will help build the skills needed to master the basics of the cube. Over time, Scruble Cube can easily improve spelling skills and build a stronger vocabulary as students try to improve their word scores.

Using Scruble Cube with special needs students is a snap, too, since many varying abilities and issues can benefit from the cube in several ways once the student has letter recognition and the beginning understanding that letters build words. Being able to start with two letter combinations to build three letter words allows even young, beginning readers a chance to play. Scruble Cube can even be played alone with or without the use of the scoring system. Being DeafBlind, I had to find a way to be able to play. I simply made adhesive plastic sheets using 2 braille cells: one for the braille letter and one for the number. I didn’t use the number or letter sign to save space. I simply remember the first cell is the letter and the second cell is the number. If you don’t care to use the scoring system or decide to let someone else add the scores for you, you can simply braille the letter for each cube which does fit better on the peg. There are scoring bonus pegs to for two and three times the letter score. You can braille that as the number and the braille letter “X” to identify those pegs or you can leave those cells as blank if you don’t want to use those cells in play. You would just make sure a blank isn’t in the middle of your word, of course. The instruction sheet detailed how many copies of each letter and number I needed to braille. I got sighted help to place the cells on the appropriate peg. The cell didn’t interfere with rotation, and the rotation can be easily done without damaging the braille cells. With this simple addition, even blind and deafblind can practice their spelling skills and have fun trying to improve their word scores. In my case, we don’t use the provided timer. I take a bit longer to play, of course, but the family is used to games taking a little longer when I play. I also play a lot by myself. It is a lot of fun to challenge myself, or even challenge the family to see if they can find my words on the cube. As I mentioned, I don’t really care for word games, but I do like keeping my hands occupied. The combination of rotation and ability to play with three to five letter words did make it a little addictive even for me. There are a lot of ways to enjoy this word game.

You can purchase Scruble Cube on-line or at many popular stores such as Toys-R-Us® for as little as $24.99. You can find out more at http://www.scrublecube.com or on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/scublecube. Whether you have a student who needs a little enticing to practice spelling or you love word games, this is worth a twist. Remember, though, I warned you. It can be addictive.

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.

Music is an important part of my life despite being deaf and blind. I was born with some hearing and learned to talk and sing before losing the ability to understand speech by age 8. I became profoundly deaf a few years later. Through it all, music sustained me. I practiced singing, playing piano and guitar over the years. I learned everything I could about music and musicians of every genre. When I no longer could hear it, I felt it. Music is still such a joy as I feel the vibrations of life. Next to experiencing music, I love sharing this love with my students. I encourage them to listen to music and to learn all about its properties, and those who have influenced this audible river of life and culture.
Though I play and sing, I know that I am no great talent which has never been dependent upon my hearing loss. In my teaching of music, I try to share my love of music and steer parents to actual teachers for instrumental, voice, and theory training. I concentrate on the exploration of sound through listening and the exploration of people who have influenced the development of music since the beginning of recorded time. Recently, I was sent a product to review that helps me a good deal. It is a guide to composers, A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers from Bright Ideas Press to be exact.
The authors have done the task of research on composers of classical music and share details about the various periods of history with the influences on classical music of each period. I think they made some excellent choices of which of the many composers to use in this guide along and agree with their reasoning to not use any number of other talented composers. Each period’s lesson is followed by a student reading guide as well as each composer covered in that period with a reading guide. An appendix is provided with a good glossary of terms, answer keys, and resource list for further investigation. You will also so find additional pages filled with various activities to help your students remember this good information. There are coloring pages, flash cards for each composer, a timeline, a geography activity for finding where in the world the composers lived, and resources to make a folder book. A folder book is similar to a lap book that shows all that a student has learned about a subject. Folder books are simpler and quicker, but they seem to be just as interesting.
The authors suggest a weekly schedule of listening to music at least three times a week, and how to schedule the activities and how to experience the music. You are free to choose your own method, but the guideline provided is very helpful to busy teachers.
For our special needs students, it is easy to adapt these lessons and activities to the individual needs. The clear line drawings can easily be tactiled to allow a blind student to enjoy the activity. Autistics often like music, so let them experience it and give them the information on the composers as their level allows. Deaf and DeafBlind can benefit from the feel as well as the information, so make sure you have good speakers to allow them to touch or have some played on an instrument allowing them to feel the instrument as it is played. Share with them the picture of Beethoven playing his piano on the floor without legs in order to better feel the vibrations.
Music and this guide will provide good experiences for your students no matter how far they take their learning. A Young Scholars Guide to Composers http://www.brightideaspress.com is a great tool no matter how you choose to use it in your studies. It is worth its price of $29.95 just in the research they have provided. Take your children for a ride on the river of music.

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.

Recently, a unique idea came across my virtual desktop. Lending and borrowing between friends, family, and neighbors is as old as the concepts of villages, towns, and neighbors, I guess. The arguments and feuds that go along with it are too. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble had numerous hilarious blowouts that usually involved the taking back of all things borrowed as they yelled across the fence at each other. It is funny in the cartoons, but real life is a different story. The creators of Lobster Network might have just the thing for the real-life versions of Fred and Barney.

Lobster Network created by Optimized Consulting, Inc. can be used for many purposes. You might just simply use it as an offsite inventory database for your stuff. If you choose, you can advertise to friends, family, or even public members to lend, trade, or sell. You can also browse for things you want to borrow, trade, or buy. Regardless of your use, you control who sees your items. First off, you can register for a free account. You can list as many items as you wish and even include image files for your items up to 4 MB in size. To share your items, you can set up private or public communities. In private communities, you invite whomever you wish. In public communities, other members of the network can join your group for more items to search and browse. There is also a marketplace you can choose to advertise in that allows even non-members of the general public to browse. As part of privacy and security, the owners of the site only collect your email address and city in which you live. The less information on file about you personally, the less there is for someone to steal. That is a plus right there.

The site is easy to use and navigate for sighted individuals. The format is simple and non-distracting. The steps are easy to follow from registering to listing items to setting up public and private communities. There is also a FAQ page you can check before you register if you have questions. If your question isn’t there, you can easily submit your question for additional help.

For more information, go to http://www.lobsternetwork.com. This is a truly unique idea that even Fred and Barney might like. If you like the site, pass it on. The community will get better and better as more people find out about this networking utility.

I was given free access to the site. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

If you are looking for a one stop, all around help for homeschooling, you can most likely find what you need with Debra Bell’s The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling published by Apologia Press. This update and revised version is probably one of the best homeschool resources available. Debra Bell’s warm and witty style of writing makes it one of the most enjoyable reads available.

If you are looking for help deciding if homeschooling is for you, you have it here. If you are looking for helping finding the right curriculum, you have it here. Debra Bell is an experienced homeschooler and former schoolteacher. She has numerous tips and stories to guide you on your homeschooling journey. With over 500 pages divided into 10 parts and 34 chapters and resource sections, the book is well-organized covering other topics like organizing and planning your homeschool, using computers and choosing computers, homeschooling teens, and evaluating your homeschool and student’s progress. What really makes this book so good in addition to the useful information is the fact that Debra Bell makes it all entertaining. Her humor and her glimpses into her own homeschooling experiences keeps you interested as you learn and gain confidence from her tips and tales.

You can find The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell for $20.00 and find even more tips at http://www.apologia.com.

I received a free copy of this product in order to write this review, but the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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.

Two things I hate more than anything are math and exercise. No, I am not 500 lbs. I just don’t like exercise that is boring. I prefer to backpack and rock climb. Yes, I am a teacher, and I teach math and do a very good job at it. I have always struggled with math because I am dyslexic and learning disabled. I taught myself how to do math, and now God uses me to help children who need it. I don’t have to like math or exercise to know it is good for me. Being honest with my students helps them to learn that, too. I am also honest when I say that I groaned when I found out that the product I received free to review for the TOS Crew was an exercise DVD that incorporated math. And no, the vendor doesn’t control what I say about their product. However, I am fair, as well as, honest. This isn’t about me, but about helping my parents find products suitable for their students. If you read my blog regularly, you will know that once again I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.

The DVD, Gymathtics, created by Carrie Scheiner and her family through Suncheine World, LLC. Is well-produced and developed. Ms. Scheiner uses the premise that learning is enhanced by making as many connections in the brain as possible. Information from even seemingly different topics can be joined together and taught through activities to increase the connections leading to even stronger learning connections. In this case, math concepts are connected with physical exercise movements. Many students will find this odd, but this odd difference lends to its interest and fun. The program provides a warm-up section that has your body making lines, circles, and polygons that stretch your muscles preparing them for the more strenuous exercises to come. Your student will practice various ways to count as they do aerobic exercises, and then the intensity increases with pattern power as your student will do various pattern movement activities that strengthen the muscles and heart. On the screen there are diagrams with math information about polygons, circles, different kinds of visual patterns, and skip counting methods. Most are self-explanatory. During her exercise instruction, Ms. Scheiner also gives more math information verbally. The DVD finishes with the “Well-being Wind Down” section where she leads in relaxing stretches cooling down the body from the aerobic activity while explaining healthy lifestyle choices. These choices are placed on the screen as text at the end of the exercise program. The multisensory concept of math and exercise together is unique, but many students will find it delightful.

Being multisensory, many special needs students will be able to access it and benefit from its information such as those with autism, learning disabilities, dyslexia, attention deficit and attention deficit with hyperactivity, especially. Deaf students will be able to get a lot of detail from the math concepts as well as being able to follow the exercise steps pretty well visually. Ms. Scheiner often demonstrates the moves before the exercise begins. She could do this every time to be more beneficial. A Deaf student might benefit more from the math concepts if more of what Ms. Scheiner relates verbally is added to the diagrams on the screen or more diagrams were used during the exercise segments. Blind students will be able to access the music and dialogue of the DVD. Ms. Scheiner, trying not to overdo the verbal content for probably time purposes and interest of the student, may at times not give enough instruction of the movement of the exercise for a totally blind or mostly blind student to easily do the exercise. A little more specific instruction could probably be done to allow for more accessibility by a blind student. Math concepts could really use more verbal information added to allow for more benefit of the blind student, as well. Ms. Scheiner does a good job without probably even trying to provide accessibility. I am pretty certain that she could do an excellent job when aware that her DVD’s could be used by an even wider audience with just a little more thought and planning of verbal script and diagramming. You may think that there is no hope for the DeafBlind student. Well, I participated right along with my student helpers for this review. I, of course, could not get any information directly being DeafBlind. My students tactually explained to me the moves and the math concepts. I didn’t always do them perfectly, but it allowed us to giggle a lot. My readers know that I like lots of giggling during my lessons. Giggling equals fun, and fun equals better learning and longer remembering.

Gymathtics is a unique, but great way to get your students moving and possibly learning some math. They may not even realize they are” doing math”. This is their first DVD, $24.99,  but more are available and others being developed. Their website at http://www.exploramania.com has these DVD’s and other products like exercise mats and balls using math.  Check them out, and you may soon be giggling over doing polygons and parallelograms.

We recently talked about World History, so now let’s jump right into American History with the American Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty CD. As publishing companies and secular historians try to rewrite our country’s history to fit their own agenda, it is a breath of fresh air to see this curriculum hit the field.

The American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc. makes the social studies/civic K-12 lesson plan resource CD available to free to educators. The foundation’s mission is dedicated to the understanding and teaching of our nation’s factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and freedom, unity, progress, and responsibility among our students and citizens. This resource planner implements that mission in a wonderful and beneficial way. The lessons are well written and hold a child’s attention. The activities provided stimulate continued interest and encourage interesting discussions. The program has three levels on elementary, middle school, and high school level. The elementary level is also provided in Spanish. The file format is Adobe Reader .pdf, and they provide a version of Acrobat Reader for installation if you do not have it on your computer. The Acrobat Reader is free and current versions can be downloaded from the Adobe Acrobat Reader web site for future use as updates become available. The material, itself, is written clearly and simple enough that the same basic lesson information is the same across the levels with the activities being a little more involved and covering more in-depth analysis in the higher levels. This makes it ideal for a classroom setting with students having various ability levels and learning needs and for a homeschool setting where there may be several students, but in different grade levels. Instruction can be simultaneous in either setting with modifications made when necessary and activities tailored for ability and grade levels. More importantly, the information is historically accurate and places the emphasis on the key facts that this country was founded by Christian men who planned the government to allow for freedom of religion, but acknowledging that there is a sovereign God who must be our guide in government matters. All of these factors make this a great choice for your lesson plan resource.

As far as accessibility which is very important to most of my readers, the .pdf format is as discussed here before not very accessible for some of my readers who are DeafBlind as I am. Adobe has removed their features that allowed braille access and locked their program down to use only their built-in text-to-speech program which doesn’t allow for braille access. The authors do have all security measures allowed including copying for accessibility which allows you to copy the text to Word which allows for some braille text access. The majority of the document is text in this case, so that is a great help for DeafBlind users. You will be able to get use of the product with a little bit of manipulation of the text. I appreciate the authors allowing that copy ability. The lack of alternate text tags for the images will present a small problem for all blind and deafblind users. The authors didn’t set up the file for accessibility at all within the Adobe format, so this can present problems even for the built-in reader. It is a simple problem to correct by labeling alternate text tags for the images and specifying language for all the text along with a few other simple corrections. I certainly hope they will do so to make it easier for text-to-speech reading to be correct and ease the transition to Word for braille use. Overall, the authors are commended for making the effort toward some accessibility.

The American Heritage Education Foundation also provides additional resources to further enhance their An Adventure in Liberty program on their website at http://www.americanheritage.org . Check them out for information on how to order the CD resource, as well. Wynfield Christian Academy will definitely be adding it to their curriculum resources for American History and Civics instruction. I don’t think anyone can go wrong with trying this program for instilling a God-based and historically accurate foundation for our American Heritage into our children. Our next generation really needs this kind of background to help keep America on a straight path as a God-fearing nation.

Regardless of your style of teaching, you often need just the right worksheet or activity. Often, your brain just can be taxed anymore. That is when you need a really good place to go for fresh ideas, or ready-made worksheet to save you some time. The site, http://www.abcteach.com, may be just what you need.

 

For $40.00 a year or $70.00 for two years, you can have access to over 35,000 printable worksheets on various subjects and grade levels. You have access to clip art for any type of classroom project or decoration. You also can find activities and templates for projects like book report forms, research note card forms, etc. You won’t find any annoying advertising either. There is also customer service available to answer your questions and give tips. Whether you need a learning center, or research project, or just a practice worksheet, you can find it on this site, and it is growing every day with more and more resources being added.

 

As part of the TOS Crew, I received free access to the site for about a month. For myself, I was unable to access most of the site, since I am almost totally DeafBlind. I was disappointed because I was looking forward to browsing the site. I had to get sighted help to get any help at all from the site. Accessibility is great for sighted users, but those who need screen readers will be unable to make sense of the page for the most part. I know the main page has 104 links that are recognizable to the screen reader, but I can’t seem to get to them or know what they are. It reads “Your online resource for children’s Education and thousands of free printable worksheets and activities plus over 35,000 pages of worksheets… Then it skips to a series of links in the highlighted Directories under “Sandy’s Picks.” Many of the links are icon links made of graphics, and there is a table with a graphic that contains the links. A screen reader just can’t access that at all. I hope the owners will work on the accessibility of their site. I have many parents of hearing/sighted children who are blind and deafblind themselves. They like to work with their children just like other parents do. These parents need resources, too. If you can access the resources with sighted help, you will find the .pdf format files are open to the accessibility options allowed by Adobe. Of course, that is only suitable for hearing blind because Adobe forces you to use their text to speech program. This program doesn’t allow access to a screen reader that allows braille access. Therefore, I can’t recommend this site for my blind and deafblind parents. Sighted parents will find it quite user-friendly, though.

 

If you need worksheets or activity ideas, this site will certainly give you a lot of help. Check out the ABCTeach site at http://www.abcteach.com for more information.

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