Tag Archives: reading

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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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

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Memoria Press 6th Grade Literature Set ~ a TOS review

Memoria Press Guides

If you have read much from me, you understand that our family seems to revolve around literature. When we were offered a review from Memoria Press, I felt it was a very good fit for our family. The older two girls are both using the Sixth Grade Literature Guide Set  and I have been pleased with the way it has gone.

We have been blessed to receive Memoria Press materials in the past and have always been pleased with them. The Literature Guide Set has been no different. Memoria Press is a family-run company producing classical Christian education materials for homeschoolers and private schools. They are simple and easy-to-use and focus on logic, Latin, and classical studies. Their literature guides are based on quality literature and engaging with that literature.

The Literature Guides are intended to help students become engaged readers who understand and can reason with the material they are reading. By asking the students to think, compare, contrast, and build vocabulary, they are being pushed to become excellent readers and thinkers.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

We received the Sixth Grade Literature Guide Set. It included a Student Guide and Teacher Manual for each of the following titles:

  • Adam of the Road
  • Robin Hood
  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
  • The Door in the Wall

The set did not include the literature books but if you would like to, you can purchase the books from Memoria Press, as well.

King ArthurThe Door In The Wall

Miss E has been working on The Door in the Wall. Miss L has been reading King Arthur. Both girls have been approaching the study the same way. They read a chapter or section (some days have two chapters) and answer approximately half of the questions on one day. The next day, they finish the questions and complete any enrichment activities. Depending on the length of the reading, this takes them approximately 30 – 45 minutes per day. From taking a look through the other two student guides, I believe that they would work the same way.

working with an atlasThe questions are similar for each lesson. We found that all four of the student books are set up the same way.

  1. A quote to read – King Arthur and Adam of the Road both had quotes from the section read. The Door in the Wall has some questions related to the quote.
  2. Reading Notes – These tended to be people that are encountered in the section/chapter. Some of these were terms, words, or objects that the reader might not be familiar with.
  3. Vocabulary – The vocabulary terms are stated in context from the selection. The student is expected to write a definition for the term.
  4. Comprehension Questions – These are a set of questions of varying difficulty related to the section read. These tend to have right or wrong answers. Some of it is directly out of the book and some of it has got to be reasoned out.
  5. Discussion Questions – This set of questions is a bit more open for understanding and interpretation in the answers given. Much of this is intended to be discussed orally, though I did have the girls write a few of these on days when oral discussion was not easily done.
  6. Enrichment – These are activities to be completed. Many times there are readings that relate to the culture and times of the setting of the book. Some of it includes memorization. One activity I noticed was completing a drawing after reading about castles.

writing definitions

The student book is intended to be written in and utilized by a single student. Each page includes space to write the answers for the vocabulary and comprehension questions, as well as some of the discussion questions. The books we received all have maps, one includes a family tree, and all of them include some additional materials such as poetry related to the study in some way and a glossary organized by book chapter.

The Teacher’s Manual includes all that the Student Guide has and the answers to all of the questions plus quizzes and tests. There is a separate section for the discussion question answers. The glossary and discussion questions are separated by chapter so it is easy to locate what you need.

L workingThe Student Guide and the Teacher’s Manual are not reproducible. However, you may copy the quizzes and tests from the Teacher’s Manual.

I like that these are easy to use and it is clear how to use them. They are easy to break down into a section that works for you and your student. If you need to do some of the questions orally, that is easy. Sometimes the girls would get stumped with a question and so we moved to an oral format. It worked well and allowed the girls to continue with a bit more help. The program is very flexible.

These are a fairly mixed level of books, as far as reading level goes. The Door in the Wall could be used a grade level lower, in my opinion, but there are some fairly tough questions to consider. King Arthur is a long book, which isn’t a challenge for my girls, but if you have a reader who is intimidated by the size of the book, this will be one of those. It is around 400 pages. Robin Hood is a pretty good sized book, as well, while Adam of the Road is similar to A Door In The Wall as far as reading and size goes.

My 4th grader is easily working with King Arthur. She enjoys study guides and legends, so King Arthur is a good fit. My 6th grader is a good reader and chose The Door in the Wall, which has some really deep thinking questions and she is having to work hard at them. So, be prepared with this set to have a great variety that is well suited to challenging the reader in several ways.

If your reader is a struggling reader, you might want to look carefully at a grade level lower.

looking up definitionsI have been pleased, yet again, with the materials we received from Memoria Press. Their Sixth Grade Literature Guide Set has been a joy to use. Miss E is almost done with The Door in the Wall and Miss L is working her way through King Arthur. I think we will enjoy using Adam of the Road and Robin Hood, as well, when we finish the ones we are on. If you are interested in other products that we have reviewed from Memoria Press, check out Famous Men of Rome and New American Cursive.

At Home.

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Looking for a different level of literature kits, the Review Crew took a look at everything from PK to 9th grade sets. Click on the banner below to view the listing and read a different review.

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Progeny Press: Sarah, Plain and Tall ~ a TOS review

Progeny Press Review

So many good books and not enough time! That is how we always feel about books, it seems. But when Progeny Press came up for review, we were pretty thrilled. A good book and a unit study workbook to go along with it from a reputable company? Bring on Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Progeny Press Review
We asked the middle giggly girl (age 9) to work on this study guide from Progeny Press and read the book to go along with it. Sarah, Plain and Tall had been on the list of books we wanted her to read this year so this fell in line well. One thing that is always appealing about Progeny Press is the selection of literature. Progeny’s selections seem to be quality literature that most people agree students need to experience. They have a number of exciting selections for all age ranges – from lower elementary through high school.

Last year, we reviewed two fantastic selections: Little House on the Prairie and The Courage of Sarah Noble. You can read those reviews, as well.

So what do you get from Progeny Press? When you purchase, you are purchasing the study guide. (It does not include the actual book, but these titles should all be readily available.) This guide can be either an E-guide (digital download), which is what we used, or a study guide (a physical copy). These guides contain background information on the book, the author, the time period, and the geographic location.

vocabulary

There are various activities and questions in the guide. These include:

  • pre-reading activities to help set the stage (Ours included finding a pen-pal, researching the  time period, and learning about mail-order brides.);
  • vocabulary;
  • questions on characters;
  • evaluation of the actions of the characters;
  • application of Biblical principles to the actions and choices of the characters;
  • application of Biblical principles to the life of the student; and
  • post-reading activities to help synthesize learning (Ours included a crossword, a word search, a study of shells, art work, and creative writing, among others.).

As a parent, I like these study guides. They give some structure to a book unit while allowing some freedom through such a wide variety of activities. It guides the student into deeper thoughts about the story and helps them consider the author’s purpose in writing the book. The activities are fun and varied, pulling in other academic and vocational disciplines.  I have been well pleased, though not all of our girls enjoy working through a book in this manner.

typing answers

As I mentioned before, we reviewed the digital version of the guide. This is pretty neat. It comes as a download and you can save it to your computer. The student opens it from there and types directly into the editable PDF. The student can save or print their work from the PDF. It is simple and a change of pace for many students. As L astutely observed, if a student doesn’t like writing or struggles with writing, this a good alternative.

So in her words, here is what L had to say about the Progeny Press E-guide for Sarah, Plain and Tall:

I like that it had thinking questions rather than just asking what I read. I do like to have some of those types of questions in my schoolwork. Progeny Press did a good job of that. If a kid struggles with writing, it (the editable PDF) would be good. I liked the different kinds of questions and I really liked the different activities (the before and after reading activities).

seashells

Progeny Press is a company I would recommend if it fits into your literature curriculum plans and budget.

At Home.

 

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Horizon 1st Grade Phonics & Reading ~ a TOS review

Last year, J enjoying having Alpha Omega Publications Horizons Kindergarten math. She would often ask to complete more than one lesson at a time. Needless to say, we are using their math program again this year. When the opportunity came up to review an additional component of their curriculum, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to review Horizons 1st Grade Phonics & Reading Set. So far, so good with it!

Horizons box

Alpha Omega Publications, or AOP, is a company who has made it their mission to change education for the glory of God, educating and inspiring others. Their range of products is pretty broad and includes print, online, and computer-based products. They have curriculum choices, games, family entertainment, and distance learning programs. They have a lot to offer.

This review is focusing on Horizons 1st Grade Phonics and Reading Set. We have been working with it for several weeks now and J has been enjoying it, for the most part. This set comes with a Teacher’s Guide, two student workbooks, and two student reading books.

whole set

The Teacher’s Guide has the following features:

  • Introduction – helps familiarize the teacher with the format of the program and suggestions for pacing
  • Reading: The First Chapter in Education – an article to help understand the importance of reading
  • Lessons – Each lesson includes an overview, materials & supplies, teaching tips/instructions, and answer keys which are copies of the student pages with answers
  • Resources – alphabet cards and phonics rules cards

working in workbookThe student workbook is a comfortable book to work in but it also has perforated pages if you would like to remove them from the book for working. J prefers to keep the book intact. We work on one lesson a day and do this most days in a week, though summertime was a bit slower than our pace is now that was have gotten back into the swing of things. These lessons, if J works without distraction, take us about 20 minutes. This does not include the reading book. The activities run from copying words, to writing letter combinations and then reading the created words, to marking sounds, to matching words and pictures. The sound ladders early on were a really good review of phonics sounds and uses. There is a test every 10 lessons to check for comprehension of concepts.

The reading books are designed to go along with the lessons. There is one story to read for each lesson. It reinforces the practice or the rule that was introduced in the lesson. J is a fairly good reader and is able to read these almost independently. It is noted in the teacher’s guide, however, that this is not to be expected and that the first 40 or so stories are probably not going to be able to be read independently by the student.

Some Notes:

  • These are comfortably paced and thorough workbooks that have a good combination of color illustrations and activities.
  • The Teacher’s Guide has enough information to help me through things I might not understand well but doesn’t give so much information that it is overwhelming or make me feel incapable.
  • It is easy to break the lesson up into more than one session, which is actually suggested for the longer lessons, if your student needs the break in focus.
  • The reading stories are not very interesting but they do a very good job of reinforcing the concept from the lesson. We did struggle a bit with attention span during the stories which is somewhat uncommon for J.
  • While this is a Christian company, I have not seen anything in this particular set that indicates anything Christian or secular. It is fairly straightforward phonics learning.

workbook

Visit the AOP site for more information, including a scope and sequence and current pricing. The Horizons program has a lot of options for subject and level so be sure to check them all out.

At Home.

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Orphs of the Woodlands – a TOS review

Have you ever wished that your child’s favorite thing could be used to teach them their least favorite things? Well, get a taste of it with Orphs of the Woodlands. This is an online education resource and game that combines reading with experiencing hundreds of tidbits of knowledge.
Star Toaster introduced their first book in the Orphs of the Woodlands series not too long ago. It is titled The Treasure of HighTower and our family was thrilled to get the chance to review it.

TOS review

The Treasure of HighTower did not disappoint. Star Toaster has created a story line about a squirrel, whom your child gets to name, that becomes a spy and helps to rescue orphaned forest creatures. The story is so exciting, so full of adventure, that the girls had a hard time not reading all the way through it in pretty quick succession. They wanted to just keep reading. But, if they did that, they were going to miss an important and exciting part of the program.

As the story goes along, Spy (what we’ll call the squirrel for the time being) runs into orphans, or orphs, that need help. If Spy doesn’t learn what is put before him in his day to day life, he won’t have the money to provide the help these orphs need. So, Spy must learn and pay attention and do the jobs in order to earn money and rescue the orphs. The more NID (New Information Daily) that is learned, the better Spy does on his jobs and the more money he has to rescue and provide for the orphs.

experiencing lessons

 

Now, don’t misunderstand. These are fun jobs! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in charge of creating the exact color of paint needed for the HighTower Highbrow Museum of Art? Or what about being a number namer for the bank? Letter Linguist? Synonym Specialist? Maybe you want to bake something for the Badger Bakery? Whatever you want to try out, there is a job for you!

How do you get these jobs? Begin reading the book at the beginning. After each chapter is completed, there are new jobs that you can work. Each job completed correctly will pay gold stars, with which you can take care of the orphs. Do a good job and more orphs will come to be taken care of. The girls loved seeing how many orphs appeared at the end of each chapter.

discovering moreI want to share a couple of thoughts about the product. I am impressed with this product. It has done a wonderful job of exposing the girls to about 240 different aspects of learning. (This is how many jobs were completed by E when she had finished the book.) Some of the jobs reappear with a bit more difficult learning tucked in there but I don’t consider the girls to have gotten significant instruction on most of these topics. They were definitely exposed to them and it opened up a world of ideas to the girls, which is fantastic. (We took several “rabbit trails” to explore some of these worlds of ideas based on the information presented.) This does in no way diminish the quality or worth of this program. The more exposure the girls have with more difficult concepts in a familiar context, the easier those concepts are for them to learn.

Reading is the bridge for this program. You definitely need to have a good reader with good comprehension for this program. The range for this program is suggested 4th – 7th grades. I think this is a good range but it could easily stretch younger or older. My 3rd grader was easily able to read it but she loves to read. There are lots of words she didn’t know but there are rollovers embedded in the story that give the part of speech and several synonyms in varying degrees of difficulty for the word. There are also rollovers for quotes and ideas that are shared as part of the story, exposing the reader to thoughts of great thinkers from all walks of life.

quote and vocabulary

Because this is an online program you will need to purchase a subscription for the book and you will need a computer to read and complete the jobs. I hope everyone has easy access to a computer because this was worth the time and effort. The girls learned so much and I have a much better idea about some of the curriculum choices we need to make for them because I saw how much they enjoyed learning that was embedded in reading a story.

As I close this review, I want to share one more thing that we absolutely loved about Orphs. Throughout the book, there are videos. Prof. Forp is the instructor and he is hilarious! He cracks jokes that help them remember information and repeats things in such a way that they are remembered AND make sense. You can see an example of his video on the Star Toaster home page. The girls, E especially, really enjoyed the Professor.  And I loved the jokes. This is one I can wholeheartedly say “Go check out.”

free trial

We are waiting anxiously for the next book to come out in the Orphs of the Woodlands series by Star Toaster. If this sounds interesting to you, they have a free trial that you should check out. (Psst – this would also be a fantastic addition to a summer reading program.)

At Home.

 

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U is for … Umbrella

 

U umbrellaDo your kids love umbrellas? Mine do and I really do not understand it at all! They love to play with them and open and close them. They pretend it is raining and they “use” their umbrellas. They also love to use them as a parasol. (By the way, do you know the difference between an umbrella and a parasol? Is it just whether it is rainy or sunny? I think I need to look that up.)

Recently, a couple of the girls have come home from sleep-overs at grandma’s house with new umbrellas. And they love them. And I have had to get onto them for opening them in the house and spinning in circles with the umbrellas thrown as wide as their little arms will reach. Knocking over anything it touches. But the girls have such big grins on their faces! It makes me smile, even while I am telling them to close it up or take it outside.

In honor of these new toys, because that’s really what they are, I’m making the new reading chart an umbrella. She’ll love it! And, it has more numbers on it because she has started reading 5 or 6 books a day. So I’m raising the ante on her and she needs to read 25 books this next week. I am sure she’ll make it. Click on the link underneath the picture to access the file and print your own copy for free.

 

Umbrella Book Log

 

Umbrella reading chart PDF

At Home.

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