Category Archives: reading

Progeny Press ~ a Crew review

Progeny Press is a company that brings to the table something I struggle with – deep questions related to a story that force a student to think critically about things. We have been reviewing the The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide. This study guide is aimed at lower elementary ages. It has been a pleasant experience.

Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The - E-Guide

Bears on Hemlock Mountain is an early chapter book by Alice Dagliesh. The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide is produced by Progeny Press to go along with the book, chapter by chapter. My 8 year old (beginning 3rd grade) was able to easily read the book and use the guide. The guide does require quite a bit of writing, which is not her strong point, so we modified some of the longer writing answers for an oral narration. It adapted easily and well.

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide began with a note to instructors who are new to using this style of guide and it followed that with a synopsis of the book. Next is an author biography and a note on the background of the story itself (old folk story). There are a number of “Before-You-Read” activities to help the students become familiar with some of the background and ways of the people and places in the story. There were quite a few of these so we did not do them all. And then you get to the parts that go along with the story chapter by chapter.

Bears materials

For the pre-reading activities, we studied animal prints with a poster we have, along with the different types of animal prints you might encounter in the woods. We also looked at trees, leaves, and bird nests. We discussed a hill vs a mountain and looked at some examples online. We also had a discussion about hospitality: what it meant, how you can show it, why you would, and more. Finally, we looked up several sites where we could listen to bird songs.

The chapter by chapter questions are basically set up in two chapter sets. This made it very readable and if the child struggled to know the answer, there was not a very large area of the book to look to find the answers. Each chapter set covered vocabulary and comprehension questions. The vocabulary was both single words and muti-word phrases that the student may or may not be familiar with. Because it included some phrases, it was not always possible to just look it up in a dictionary. This meant that this was not independent work. That works well for my daughter because she likes company, no matter what she is doing.disctionary work

The questions relating to the chapters varied from comprehension to making inferences to apply Bible verses. An example of a comprehension question is “What does Jonathan do to keep up his courage?” This was a low-level comprehension question because the answer is almost completely stated from the story. A deeper level question was “Uncle James taught Jonathan observation. What is the difference between seeing and observing?” I liked this variation on comprehension questions because often you get either the really deep thinking questions or the low-level question. Progeny Press seems to have included a good variation of both in this study guide.

vocabulary workThe Bible verse questions were all application style questions. They asked you to read a verse, which was provided, and apply it to a particular situation in the story. An example of an application question for a verse had to do with reading a passage from James and then discussing being dependable and telling the truth. The student had to think about being dependable, telling the truth, and why those things may or may not go together. Then the student was asked if you could have one without the other. What a wonderful, deep application question that wasn’t too difficult but required some serious thought.

The final part of the study guide was a page of mystery words. The student had to recall some words from the story and then use them to solve yet another word that was coded.

Overall, this was an age-appropriate and ability appropriate study guide for my daugher. This was the first of its kind for her and while she didn’t love it, it worked pretty well for her. It was easy and followed the book well so she could easily hunt things up if she needed to, except for the last set of chapters. For some reason, it went from two chapters in a group to four in the last group. That made for a  very long set of questions and a pretty big group of chapters to search through when she wasn’t sure of something.

I would also have liked to see some “after you read activities” included in the guide. I felt like this guide is definitely missing a hands-on set of activities, as it doesn’t have any except for the pre-reading activities at the beginning.

review of Progeny Press

Progeny Press is a very good company if you are looking for a company to prepare study guides for your student over quality literature and living books. They have a large catalog for every age level. If you would like to see more of our reviews of Progeny Press, we have reviewed the following also

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Other Crew members reviewed one of these choices:

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Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

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K5 Learning ~ a Crew review

K5 Learning is a supplemental, online program that is designed by educators and intended for anyone needing to strengthen their reading, math, or spelling skills. Both home educated students and public school students alike are the target users for this program.

K5 LearningK5 Learning has three main components – reading, math, and spelling. The reading instruction is intended to help students in phonics, sight words, and reading comprehension. Math is intended to assist students with numbers and operations, geometry, and data, along with beginning algebraic thinking. The spelling portion of the site is a combination of spelling and vocabulary building.

When a student begins with K5, it is best to begin with an assessment. This is designed to help place the student at the lessons that will most benefit the student. It takes about 20 minutes to complete each assessment, a total of about 40 minutes as there are separate assessments for math and reading. We found these assessments to be fairly inaccurate, especially in the phonics department.

After completing the assessment, each time the student logs in, she is taken to a page to choose either math, reading, or spelling for the day. Clicking on the category takes the student to the beginning of their activity for the day. The student is then taken through an online lesson that consists of stating the object, instruction, practice problems, and then an activity. Each page has a button at the bottom that is supposed to allow the student to stop and save their work. This is where they should be returned the next time they log in to this category.

Some of the nice parts of the online program include:

  • easy login for both student and parent

    math worksheet

    a printable worksheet

  • once logged in and the area is selected, the student begins right where they left off the last time (assuming the programming is working correctly – more about that in a minute)
  • the program is rich in visual and auditory material
  • the parent can retrieve reports on the student’s progress and growth
  • bite-sized lessons
  • parents can assign material if additional practice is needed
  • spelling words can easily be added
  • printable worksheets are available to provide an off-line component

While these are all really nice things, we found that K5 did not meet the needs of our family. I will start by talking about the assessments.

Miss L – 10 at the start of the review period; 11 at the end

  • I expected Miss L to assess out of the program in reading, as she reads and comprehends at a very high level and her spelling is excellent. She tested at 2nd grade levels in phonics but those lessons were completely inappropriate for her age and ability. There was no way for me to see what specifically she needed to zero in on, if anything, related to phonics. Her reading placements put her at high 5th grade but even those lessons seemed below her ability. It was not pleasant or helpful for her to complete these lessons.
  • In math, Miss L placed approximately where I expected her to – right on level. I felt like this assessment was probably accurate but the instruction was a very poor fit for her age and ability. She was unable to work with the instruction and program without extreme frustration. We did not make her continue with the program.

Miss J – age 8 during the review period

  • I felt as though her reading assessment was off. While the numbers for placement looked good, the material was almost all review for Miss J. She was working on phonetic material that she had completed easily six months ago and the reading was below her abilities.
  • Miss J’s math assessment also seemed off. It had her working on materials that she completed a while back, while also having her work on things that she did not know anything about yet. It was kind of a mixed bag for her, though technically it was showing her as placing at a low 3rd grade level (a bit higher than she is currently working in her curriculum).
student dashboard

student dashboard showing the three parts of the program and the printable worksheets

 

We encountered several issues, aside from the assessments. One of the biggest? Miss J had to repeat assignments that she passed a number of times. In particular, there was one series on reading comprehension that she had to repeat a total of five times before it moved her forward. I did contact the company and they told me that she had to pass it with better than 65% to move forward. Well, she had. I had sat beside her for 4 of those times and she had gotten everything or almost everything correct. We would log out and log back in, and it still made her repeat it. We were just about to give up on the program completely when it finally let her move forward.

This came up another time, as well. However, this time she only had to repeat the lessons three times before moving on.

reading comprehension page

One of the biggest issues I had with the repetition is not that she had to repeat – after all, relearning material can really help in the long run. The issue was that the repeat was just that – an exact repeat: same lesson, same words, same passages to read, same questions to answer. After the first time through a reading passage, it is no longer a reading comprehension exercise; it is now a memory exercise. This is not helpful if the student is truly struggling with reading comprehension.

Another issue that we saw was in the math instruction. Miss J was working on multiplication. The lesson began with a image of some arrays that was intended to assist her in solving the problem. But after the first reference to the arrays, all other discussion was done without referring back to the image. The image for the problem is never tied to the method of solving it. We saw this same sort of thing occur in many of the math lessons. The picture appears, and then is ignored in the instruction.

In math instruction, we did not feel as though there was actual instruction. Most of the time, multiple problems were walked through, step-by-step. Lack of instruction meant that I had to sit with Miss J for the duration of her work on the program so I could fill in the missing information for her. I realize that this is a supplemental program but, as such, student who are needing additional practice need additional instruction. I expect a supplemental program to provide that piece, especially since K5 is designed with an assessment to help place the student where they were having difficulty.

Additionally, I had to instruct her on how to answer questions. The input of answers was not intuitive for the student and problems were often not lined up logically. Problems did not have the tens and ones places lined up vertically. Some problems had to have commas inserted for the answer to be counted correct; others did not. Adding those commas often misaligned the columns. Just another bit that makes it hard for the student to not get frustrated.

vocabulary lessonTiming was another issue. If a student knows an answer, it is detrimental to their concentration to have them have to wait out all of the talking the program does before they are allowed to answer the question. More than once, frustration built up because our students had to wait to type in an answer. At other times, the answer was timed and if the student took too long to type it in, what they had already worked out was erased and they had to start over. This was especially true in the 5th grade level math. She often had no idea that it was going to be timed until after she had already had an answer erased. Again, this built frustration and did not help in her learning skills that needed practice.

At the late 2nd grade level, a student does not need everything read to them. This is a great option but it should be just that – an option, not an automatic feature. This took up a lot of time and Miss J often lost her concentration while waiting on the voice to stop talking so she could answer a question.

I think that there are probably some very beneficial things about this program. However, after our experience, I wonder if this is not a program that the student needs to begin when they are younger. If they had grown with this program, perhaps we would not have met with all of the frustrations and issues that we did. All in all, this just was not a good fit for our family.

At Home.

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Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes – Middle School Monday

bluebonnets & indian paintbrushes

One is never too old to study legends to go along with the every day. So this week, we are delving a bit into Texas history through bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes. These beautiful flowers flourish in Texas this time of year.

Last Friday, we took a field trip to bluebonnet fields and spent the day relveling in the beauty of large fields of flowers. These flowers are the quintessential picture of Texas for many people and the legends that go along with these flowers are beautiful. They show love for community and acts of self-less-ness.

So, this week, we are going to pull out The Legend of the Bluebonnet and The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. Both of these legends are interesting and beautiful. No only do we learn and revisit these stories but we will learn a bit more about the people who created these legends.

Some of the possible activities we will do:

  • creating art work
  • reading the books
  • writing our own retelling of the story or doing a video of our retelling of the legends
  • illustrate the legends
  • research the flowers
  • science lesson on labeling plants (more for the youngest giggly girl)
  • research the Comanche tribes and Plains tribes
  • define legends
  • create a lapbook on the story
  • create a lapbook with character traits and relate to other characters (perhaps Biblical?)
  • create a doll similar to the one in the legend
  • create paints from berries and other things we can scavenge
  • revisit teepees from previous studies
  • take a look at drought – what it is, what it does to the land
  • study sacrifice
  • geography study – look at Texas, Wyoming, the plains, bordering states, etc. on a map

Yes, these are very generic ideas that will come to fruition as we decide on which activities to explore more deeply and which ones to not include in our learning at all this time around. We revisit ideas as we explore topics and books and stories and subjects that we find interesting or different.

This is one of the lovely things that we sometimes forget about our schooling – we don’t have to cover it all in depth because things will come around again and we will learn more the next time. So, my goal with these books is to give the oldest giggly girl, who is in 7th grade, more freedom to explore her areas of interest with the book on her own and create a presentation for her sisters. The middle giggly girl (5th) will probably do a couple of the simpler topics and join with her younger sister in others. The youngest giggly girl (2nd) will be working with me to delve into some things that she either hasn’t done yet or needs to revisit in a more in depth way, such as the plant labeling.

I challenge you to pull out a legend, or any story really, and find some related activities to do and see if the connections don’t help the information stick.

At Home.

Progeny Press ~ a TOS review

Reviewing The Sword in the Tree E-Guide, which is published by Progeny Press, has given our family mixed reactions. We have reviewed an e-guide from Progeny Press before and it was a pleasant experience. Their guide is still just as good this time around.

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}
Progeny Press is a company that has dedicated itself to a mission of helping children access great literature and understand it. As a part of this mission, they encourage the student to rely on scripture for understanding and explaining literature and its application.

Progeny Press has e-guides for all sorts of literature, as well as some printed guides. This is a nice balance because it allows you to purchase what works best for your student. We have used both a printed and an e-guide. Personally, I like the e-guides best but that isn’t always what works best. Specifically, Progeny Press has kept their guides for lower elementary print only. Everything else, 4th-12th, has a choice of either print or interactive, meaning a pdf on CD or access through an emailed link after purchase.

We received The Sword in the Tree E-Guide. This guide is recommended for 4th-6th grade. It is a PDF file that I downloaded and saved to our computer. We access it simply as any other file and it is saved to the folder for Miss E. She would access it from there and save the new answers each time.

The e-guide is filled!

  • Table of Contents (and you can click from here to any of the headings which makes it super easy to get to where you are working within the guide)
  • Summary of the book
  • Information about the author
  • Prereading activities
  • Chapter comprehension and application questions (grouped in groups of about 3 chapters in this guide)
  • Vocabulary (grouped with about 6 chapters in a group in this guide)
  • Overview questions
  • Postreading activities
  • Additional resources

The answer key came in a separate file, which is nice. I saved it to a separate place, not that I was expecting Miss E to try to use it. But it is good to have that in a separate file.

Miss E read The Sword in the Tree straight through. It was really too easy of a book for her, as a 6th grader. I had  purposefully chosen an easier book with the hopes that it would make the answering of the questions more pleasant for her. She struggles to answer the questions other people deem important with a book. So, this choice was done to attempt to help ease that struggle of figuring out how to answer those questions. Well, it didn’t work for her. She struggled through this.

The questions are not the issue for her. The questions are fantastic and very well done. The questions range from simple knowledge questions (Who was ____? What did he do? ) to fairly in-depth analysis questions (Does this count as an apology? Why or why not?). There are also questions that ask the student to look up additional resources, in this case Bible verses, and apply them to different aspects of the story. One such application: looking up some Proverbs and applying them to work and attitudes.

There are also a variety of ways to answer: short answer, drop box for selection options, fill in the blank, and even some that require a discussion with someone.

Each sections includes:

  • Questions (most seem to be knowledge level questions)
  • Think About The Story (questions where you are looking into people and their actions or attitudes)
  • Dig Deeper (applying ideals and perspectives to characters and their actions, as well as your own thoughts and actions)
  • Optional Activities (hands on activities to help you experience or explore)

This particular e-guide also tackled various aspects of a story and writing: setting, fact vs opinion, simile, comparison vs contrast, characterization, foreshadowing, imagery, point of view, theme, and more.

These guides are fantastic. Miss L has used a Progeny Press e-guide before (see our previous reviews for Sarah, Plain and Tall, as well as Little House on the Prairie and The Courage of Sarah Noble) and she adored it. She will probably take a gander at this one next fall. She enjoyed being able to type in her answers and use the computer. She like seeing her progress marked by going page by page through the guide and finally reaching the end of it. So, she’ll take this up in a couple of months and I know she will enjoy it.

My take on it all:
Progeny Press has done a beautiful, thorough job of giving us a study guide to walk students through the depth of a book, learning and exploring all that it has to offer. They encourage the student to look deeper into the purposes of characters and to find all the book has to offer. These are great for students that do well with structure and are able to process the deeper thinking questions that are found throughout the guide.

Progeny Press offers study guides for students of all ages with such a variety of titles that everyone should find something that interests them. Find out more about some of the specific titles that the Review Crew used for the past few weeks by clicking on the Read More banner below.

At Home.

 

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Reading Aloud – Middle School Monday

Do you read aloud to your children or family? Our family absolutely adores read-alouds. We have at least one going at all times and it is not at all unusual for us to have three or four going. I have one of my choice going, At Home Dad has one going most of the time, and we often have one or more going to school purposes. (Right now it is just one: Little Men by Louisa May Alcott but when At Home Dad’s school gets over, he’ll take up either the final Great Brain book or a new Half Magic sequel that he found last week.)

It may seem crazy to some people to be reading out loud to children who are completely capable of reading for themselves. It isn’t. The research is more than compelling about the benefits of read out loud. But, more than that, it is great family bonding time. It brings us together, gives us a lot more to discuss, brings new words and ideas into our language and thoughts, and so much more.

Reading Aloud

I am currently reading The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It is not the first time I have read it but it just as fascinating this time through as it was the last time. Mr. Trelease goes through a bundle of research on the benefits of reading aloud. He also gives a large amount of anecdotal research and background. These are a joy to read as they encourage and support our choices and understanding in this area.

The second half of the book is a treasury of titles and short summaries of books that are good read alouds. I plan to go through these and mark the ones we have done, as well as the ones we want to do. I have looked through this book before, but it was a loaner from the library so I could not mark in it. This time around, I bought my own copy so I can mark it up as I wish to. It was not too expensive at a big-box book store and I am so glad that I have my own copy. This is one I think is a “must-have” for homeschoolers and parents who want to do the right things by their children. I am actually considering making it a baby-shower present.

I encourage you to read it and to take up reading aloud to your children. Everyone will benefit.

At Home.

Greek Myths from Memoria Press ~ a TOS review

myths set
Miss L has been fascinated with Greek mythology and the D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths book for probably two years now. When we got a chance to review Memoria Press and their D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths set, I jumped at it knowing just how excited Miss L would be. I have not been wrong. She has truly enjoyed it.

myths work

If you are looking for a company creating classical based Christian educational homeschooling materials, Memoria Press is your company. Their materials are truly easy to use and implement. The instructions are clear and the workbooks are uncluttered.myths workbook page

The D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths set comes with a Teacher’s Guide, a Student Guide, the D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, and a set of flashcards. With a Teacher’s Guide and a Student Guide that work side-by-side, it could not be easier. The Teacher’s Guide has the exact same pages as the student guide, except that the answers for the questions are printed there. In addition, the Teacher’s Guide includes tests and answer keys. There is a test after every 5 lessons, plus a final exam.

Each lesson follows the same plan. The Student Guide shows the lesson and the reading assignment for the lesson at the top left of the page. The student reads the assigned pages and then completes the lesson in the Student Guide. The flashcards can be used to help assist the student in memorizing the names of the gods and places from the lesson, though not all of the flashcards match up exactly with the definitions in the Student Guide and not every item in the Facts to Know has a corresponding flashcard. (I took the flashcards, removed them from the perforated sheets they came in, and punched holes in them. I put the rings on them to help keep them together and to make them a bit easier to use. The cards are 2″ x 3 1/2″.)myths flashcards

We have planned one lesson per week, though Miss L could easily complete more than that. I gave her the guideline of working on reading and Facts to Know one day, the Vocabulary and Comprehension Questions another day, and then the Activities on a third day. She has chosen instead to do all of it in a single sitting each week because she couldn’t stand to break up the lesson. This has worked really well for her. I take the time to quiz her over the memorization of Facts to Know. She is pretty proud to show off what she has learned.

Each lesson has these same components so there is a simple consistency to the lessons. The Teacher’s Guide is set up exactly the same way with the answers typed into the blanks. It makes it so easy to check the student’s answers and to make sure they know the answers they need. We have found through other Memoria Press items we have reviewed that items such as vocabulary and comprehension question answers need to be learned as the guide has it printed since that is how the exams and tests word the questions.

myths being read

I think Miss L has really enjoyed this because it is a curriculum choice that I don’t have to ask if she has completed. She enjoys it so much that she does it first off each week, with a smile on her face. Here is her review:

The [D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths] book was fascinating. I was intrigued the first time I read it. The second time, too; I just knew what was gong to happen next. I like to look at the picture of them sitting on the 12 thrones of Olympus and try to figure out who is who. The [Memoria Press] workbook was very organized; I like to have things organized. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the [D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths] book but it is a very good study program. I think other kids my age might enjoy it if they like Greek myths.

I have been impressed with all of the Memoria Press products we have reviewed (6th Grade Literature set, Famous Men of Rome, and New American Cursive). This product is no different. The D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths set has been a delight.

At Home.

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The Review Crew has reviewed not only the Greek Myths book this time but also Traditional Logic I Complete Set  and  Book of Astronomy Set. Click below to read those reviews, as well as addition reviews of the Greek Myths set.

 

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Talking Fingers Inc. ~ a TOS review

Never in my wildest dreams did I think little Miss J would go ga-ga over Talking Fingers Inc. This has been an amazing review for us to be a part of and Read, Write & Type has been a wonderful learning opportunity.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Talking Fingers Inc. is a company that desires to help children excel in reading, writing, and thinking. The idea that they can use these skills to change the world around them, earn a living, and contribute to bettering the world is central to the mission of the company. Based on the simple concept that writing is talking, the company created a program to teach children to connect sounds to letters and using those letters to “talk” with a pencil and paper or keyboard.

 

With this program, you get more than just typing instruction. Yes, the student will learn to type and be continuously encouraged to do so with correct posture and position. But, the student is also learning so much more. Phonics, letters, consonant blends, sentences, grammar, spelling, and more are seamlessly woven into Read, Write & Type so that without even knowing it, the student is learning multiple concepts, stretching the brain more and more. The program has also proven to be very effective for second language learners. So versatile! What a fantastic program!

2016-03-15 14.04.45

I’ll tell you a secret – I almost didn’t even ask Miss J if she wanted to try this. I didn’t think she would like it and I didn’t think it would be a good fit. I almost just said “no thanks.” I am so glad that I didn’t listen to myself! We signed up for the free trial and Miss J loved it. I figured that learning to type now would be a good thing so we’d take a chance with it. I had no idea just how much benefit would come from this program and just a few minutes a day. This program is so much more than typing.

We started out with the program as soon as we received the email with the login information. Since this is an online subscription, you will want to have a computer for typing (not a tablet) and an internet connection. It is not a download, though they do have CDs available for older computer systems.

2016-04-14 17.39.29

Once we logged in, Miss J did not want to stop. At all! She became completely involved in the learning situation that was set before her. In a nutshell, there are storytellers who are waiting to tell their stories. They live in two houses, which are the two halves of the keyboard. Just as they are ready to tell their stories, a mean ‘ol computer virus named Vexor steals the letters and you have to retrieve them, saving the storytellers from Vexor one at a time. To give you some assistance, there are two Helping Hands: Lefty and Rightway. These two help guide the student through the games and activities, building sounds and sentences and stories as they work to save each of the 40 letter and sound combos.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review At the end of each successful level (a set of 4 letters or letter combos saved), the student receives a certificate. This is brightly colored, personalized, and so much fun for the student to receive. We printed these in black-and-white (I cannot seem to remember to go get colored ink!) and Miss J is so proud of each one of them. She has completed 7 levels at this point with only 3 more to go.

Certificate example

Why is this program so successful? I am certain there is a lot of brain research that would tell you the scientific parts of it. From my perspective, the program is successful because it engages the brain with visual, verbal, tactile, and oral uses. The student sees the sounds, words, or sentences. The student hears them being read to them. The student repeats it and then types it. All these go together to engage the student fully in the learning. Add to it fun colors, exciting stories, and funny characters and you get something that just fits.

She is having such fun with this program. She has made tremendous jumps in her reading and writing and spelling abilities since we started this program. I am sure that some of it is to be attributed to Read, Write & Type. Not all, since she was due for a big learning jump, but I know for a fact that Talking Fingers Inc. has helped her a lot. If allowed, she would sit at this program all day long. It is a hit!

At Home.

Find Talking Fingers Inc. on social media:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TalkingFingers/
YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/user/talkingfingersvideo
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ReadWriteType/with_replies @readwritetype

Read additional reviews on how others have used this program at the Review Crew by clicking below.

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