Tag Archives: reading

Reading Eggs Workbook Grade 5 ~ a Crew review

a quick and easy, all-in-one reading skills workbook

There are some things that it is just nice to have in a simple, compact, easy-to-use format. Grammar, comprehension, and spelling are all packaged up simply and effectively in the Reading Eggs workbook, 200 Essential Reading Skills for Fifth Grade, that Miss J has been using for the past few weeks. Reading Eggs has set it up to work right alongside their online program, which is Reading Eggspress for this level. The website requires a separate subscription purchase.

Reading Eggs cover

The softback workbook is set up by the week and contains one page for each day. Day 1 and Day 2 are comprehension lessons with excepts from a text that can be read in full on the website library. The comprehension lessons help the student learn to annote (or mark up) a text, noting the important parts and learning reading strategies. There are also two or three questions each day to answer regarding the reading of the text. Some of these are very simple but some require some inference from the reading, which does a great job of stretching understanding.

Reading Eggs workbook comprehension

Day 3 and Day 4 are spelling lessons. These lessons have a different spelling “rule” or pattern each week and the words all correspond to that.  The activities vary quite a lot to help focus interest and memory. The student might sort, work with phonics, count syllables, determine meaning, or have to fill in blanks. The second day is a more challenging day with the words being at a higher level and more complex spelling patterns. This day might also include things like unscrambling words or proofreading for spelling mistakes.

Reading Eggs working hard

Day 5 is a grammar lesson. These lessons each focus on a different grammatical term that helps the student understand the English language usage. The student might work on commas, dashes, clauses, or types of sentences. These are just a few of the terms that might be dealt with and the activities could be marking where they should go or finding mistakes in use, underlining, or completing sentences. Each day has a few different activities to help the student really understand.

Every 9 weeks, there is a comprehensive review. If you are working on a 36 week schedule and want to complete the whole book in that period, this will probably mean you have to double up at the end of week 9 to stay on schedule. For those of us on a more relaxed schedule, one page a day just means the review days are just “another day” and part of the norm.

 

The Reading Eggs workbooks contains everything needed for reading comprehension, spelling, and grammar learning. The table of contents shows you week by week what is going to be learned. If you are a more visual based person and need a calendar look at it, you have that, too. Following the student pages, there is an answer key at the back of the book.

Reading Eggspress website

The Homeschool Review Crew working on this review were offered a four week access to the Reading Eggs website since the workbooks sit alongside the website so nicely. We have had access to the website before and were thrilled to have it again. Reading Eggspress is the branch of the website designed for 7-13 year old students. It includes over 2,000 ebooks and has individualized learning to help all students boost their language and literacy skills.

 

Miss J works in her workbook every day and it takes her maybe 15 minutes. Two or three times a week, she also works on the website. She plays games to strengthen her spelling and vocabulary. She can access the full story that corresponds to the reading passages in the workbook for when she finds the excerpts interesting. She will spend a hour on the website if I let her. For this reason, I often make her do it after her other schoolwork is completed so she can spend as much time on there as she wants to. With rewards and fun activities, it is an exciting way to strengthen language arts skills.

Overall ThoughtsReading Eggs review image

I really like Reading Eggs. When we first started homeschooling, I would not have thought that Reading Eggs was something I would appreciate but I am glad to say I have been wrong! I have wondered what would have happened had we tried it out sooner but, regardless, we have it now and it is really benefiting Miss J. She enjoys the simple activities in the workbooks, even when they are super challenging, and she has a good time when she is working online with Reading Eggspress. We definitely would recommend Reading Eggs.

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Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about the experiences other families have had with Reading Eggs. They have used reading workbooks from K-grade 5 and math workbooks from K-grade 2. Click on the banner below to read more reviews.Reading-Eggs-Math-and-Reading-Reviews

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Lightning Literature & Composition Grade 4 ~ a Crew review

Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Lit 4

While my youngest girl loves stories and being read to, she doesn’t always have the drive to read for herself in a constructive and discerning manner yet. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources has a series of literature and composition curriculum that I have long been interested in. We were actually a part of their grade 3 beta program a few years ago and used it for several books. I liked the way it flowed and so when we were given the opportunity to work with the Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set, I was glad to do so. It came with the Teacher’s Guide and the Student Workbook, both soft cover books.

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While Miss J is often considered 5th grade for this coming school year, I took a good look at the samples for the level on the Hewitt Homeschooling website. It showed me enough to know that since Miss J is a strong reader but is not always able to answer comprehension questions about the reading easily, this might be a really good fit for her. The books are pretty challenging, in my opinion, for a 4th grader who is not a super strong reader with strong comprehension. Take a look at this list.

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There are a total of 12 books on the list. Not included in this picture from the Student Workbook is Tuck Everlasting and The Borrowers. I also felt that the grammar includes so many skills and covers so many concepts that she has not yet dealt with that this would be a very good challenge for her. With a total of 36 weeks of materials, this is easily a full literature, composition, and grammar curriculum.

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I really like the way the Student Notebook is put together. The pages are perforated and set up by week. I can easily take one week’s worth of work out of the book and staple it together. Miss J then only has to deal with those pages and not the whole 400+ pages of the workbook.

Miss J started at the beginning of the workbook and has worked through several of the weeks. She is currently working on the book The One and Only Ivan. She has completed The Earth Dragon Awakes and Morning Girl. Each week is set up with four days. The fifth day is left as an optional day where additional work could be completed on the composition project or maybe completing an optional workbook page. Each week from the Student Workbook has a cover page that indicated the week and the pages of the book that will be read during that time.

Lightning Lit

The second page of the week has a checklist that shows what will be done during the week. It includes the readings, broken up into four parts. There is also the grammar pages to be completed on each of the four days and what they are, such a common and proper nouns. The composition is also included here and broken up into four parts, as well as any extra activities that can be completed if assigned. I did assign the extra worksheet pages, as I felt they were really helpful and Miss J completed them on day 4 of the week.

 

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The readings did a great job of putting the story into smaller chunks for each day. There were daily comprehension questions to go along with the reading. These always asked the student to think deeper than the surface understanding of the story. For example, in The Earth Dragon Awakes, there were questions regarding the understanding one of the characters has of another. In Morning Girl, the student was asked to recognize the emotions of the character and to use examples from the text to support the answer.

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The grammar portion of the work builds slowly upon the work that comes before it. This level started with nouns on the first day. Then it added the recognition of common nouns and proper nouns. The week ended with abstract nouns. Week two dealt with verbs, including linking verbs and helping verbs. Week three added types of sentences and week four added adjectives.

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a simple start to diagramming sentences

Each week, there was also diagramming sentences, beginning in week 3. This is something I have never done formally and so it was a learning experience for both Miss J and myself. The diagramming is handled very well, adding very small chunks each week. It is not overwhelming and the Teacher’s Guide is really helpful for me here.20190613_135255

Speaking of the Teacher’s Guide, let’s take a look at what it offers. It does include the expected – answers for the workbook pages the student completes each day. But there is quite a bit more to it. It is quite a bit more compact that the Student Workbook as it contains only around 250 pages. It begins with the table of contents listing each of the books for the weeks. The information is also listed by week, after the initial “How to Use This Teacher’s Guide” section.

Don’t skip the “How to Use” section. It includes a lot of information about why the curriculum is organized the way it is and why the choices were made to include things. There is information that will help with understanding the best ways to guide your student and suggestions for modifying where needed.

Each of the week’s lessons have additional information for the teacher that will help you be prepared to address concerns with your student or to guide them in discussions. Each section of the student’s workbook pages have a section in the Teacher’s Guide, giving answers or suggestions.

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I do wish that the Teacher’s Guide has a listing of all of the aspects of grammar and composition that are specifically addressed. This information would be really helpful if you are coming to this from a different curriculum or need to go to a different one for next year. (Grade 5 is in progress for Lighting Lit. See their website for the listing of books and outline of what is coming in Grade 5.)

The grammar and composition pretty well go hand-in-hand throughout the study. What is being worked on in grammar is often part of what they are being assigned to include in the composition. The concepts covered include:

  • nouns
  • verbs – from basic verbs to linking and helping verbs to the different tenses of verbs
  • adjectives
  • pronouns
  • conjunctions
  • articles
  • homophones
  • poetry – terms, types, rhyme, stress
  • punctuation – commas, quotations marks, ellipses, etc.
  • capitalization – sentences, in poetry, in letters, names and titles, etc.
  • figures of speech – onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, personification
  • writing techniques – alliteration, assonance

Through the lessons, the grammar portion circles back to review concepts and ideas that had been previously taught and to take the student a little bit deeper. This is done through intentional reviews or by including the more complex form of the concept, such as specific types of clauses or different tenses of the verbs.

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Yes – this is my handwriting instead of Miss J’s. It was a hard day but she walked me through what to do and I did the writing for her. She learned the diagramming information, regardless of who did the writing.

And almost always, this is tied into the skill of diagramming a sentence. Teach the idea; practice the idea; diagram a sentence with that included. This is the process and I feel like it is a strong model for continued growth and learning.

We chose this for Miss J and I feel like the material covered, and the way in which it is covered, will more than challenge her this coming year as we continue on with this program. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources seems to have an advanced program so definitely take a look at the samples when you are getting ready to order materials.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Click on the banner below to read the reviews of others who were reviewing materials from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. These materials included:

Grade 1 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 2 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set 
My First Report: Solar System, Grades 1-4
Chronicles of __ State History Notebook, Grades 3-8
Joy of Discovery w Learning Objectives Adult/Teacher
Gr 7 Lightning Lit Set  
Gr 8 Lightning Lit Set 
American Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 9-10
American Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 9-12
Speech  Gr 9-12.
British Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Medieval Gr 10-12
Shakespeare Comedies Gr 11-12
Shakespeare Tragedies Gr 11-12
British Christian Gr 11-12
American Christian Gr 11-12  

Lightning-Literature-My-First-Reports-State-History-Notebook-Joy-of-Discovery-Hewitt-Homeschooling-Resources-Reviews-2019

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Tied 2 Teaching: STEM activities ~ a Crew review

Screenshot 2019-03-21 at 11.25.20 PM

STEM activities are often preparation and time intensive, which can be a deterrent to doing them. Tied 2 Teaching has created an series of projects and activities that are easily within reach of the average educator (home or otherwise) and as extensive as you want them to be. STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading is a downloadable product that includes 12 months worth of STEM projects.

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We received a zip file to download that included over 60 different projects. Each project was in its own file once it was unzipped and that made it super easy for the girls to browse through to find what interested them. Each STEM activity has a download that can printed. There are 21 pages to the download but you do not need to print them all, which is really nice. You get:

  • cover pages and introductory information
  • a page that gives the link to the Wonderopolis page where the close reading passage is found (You can alternatively go to the page and then do a search for the title of the reading passage but I found the link to be super easy to use.)Screenshot 2019-03-08 at 1.42.27 PM
  • one page for the reading passage with questions designed to check reading comprehension and understandingthinkiing about the video related to the project
  • A couple of pages later you have a simplified version of the challenge.
  • a page that has some examples of student work on the challenge, in case you need some ideas (because let’s face it – sometimes the adults need it!)
  • a black-and-white page that you can print stating the challenge, the standards the project must meet, and the allowable materials, as well as a couple of questions about the final product
  • four different choices/levels in black-and-white printable pages to help the students plan projects
  • four additional printable options/levels for the students to evaluate and improve upon their projects
  • The final page is a letter to parents telling them about the challenge and encouraging them to recreate it at home.

Love Bug Challenge

So, what are the challenges like? We have done several. Take a look!

 

Love Bug Challenge – To create a love bug of your own design with whatever materials you can find. Two of the girls took on this challenge and loved it. The reading passage had to do with fear of bugs. Then they created their own bugs. They share them in a videos.

Design A Balloon Tower – Create a tower using balloons and masking tape. Miss J did this one on her own, though she enlisted the whole family to blow balloons for her. The reading passage had to do with balloon animals. There was even a video or two to view.

Balloon Tower Challenge

Design a Building Block Tower – After reading about the Eiffel Tower, they create a tower with blocks. This was a fun one to do at a birthday party working in teams. We actually did this one as a race and all the kids loved it. Here is one of the towers. The other fell down at the last minute.

building block challenge

Jelly Bean Tower – Miss J was only allowed to use jelly beans and toothpicks. The reading passage was related to the making of jelly beans. This was a tasty one to have fall down.

Jelly Bean Challenge

Sugar Cube Arch – After reading about how much sugar is too much, Miss J used icing and sugar cubes to create a free-standing arch. It was created a couple weeks ago and is still standing strong!watching video for sugar cube challenge

Sugar Cube Arch

Marshmallow Snowman – Create as tall a snowman as you can. We read about marshmallows in the close reading passage.

Snowman Challenge

She has several more of these that she has already picked out to do.

These projects have been inexpensive. I think we spent two dollars on balloons, a buck on jelly beans, and that is it for these five challenges so far. For most of the others we already have the materials. I love this!

I would love to see some challenges created where there was also an additional link to further their learning, maybe after the challenge. For example, with the arch created from sugar cubes – the close reading passage was about too much sugar. I like that connection. After the project, when the students have evaluated what worked and what didn’t on their project, I would love to see it taken a step further. Connect a link to a video about what makes a strong arch or a similar close reading passage about arches. Then have an option for the students to do a trial number two based on the new information. This would be a wonderful option to add to each of these challenges. We did this exact thing – extended the learning by discovering more about arches and tying it into learning about arches we did a while back – and it was a powerful tool.

Miss J’s thoughts – I LOVED IT! These were so much fun and I loved doing them. We just read a paragraph and then got to do a project. And the projects were so much fun! I want to just do more and more!

So Miss J is recently turned 10 and, in case you can’t tell it, she is a huge fan of these. Tied 2 Teaching has hit the nail on the head for my hands-on, project-loving, energetic, creative-thinking youngest girl. I do believe she has learned a lot from these projects and there are plenty more for her to continue working with. She definitely recommends these! And so do I.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to find out about the experiences other families have had using STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading from Tied 2 Teaching. Click on the banner below.

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Reading Kingdom – online language arts instruction ~ a Crew review

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We were asked to take a look at Reading Kingdom  for this review and when we started, I was unsure about how it would benefit Miss J. She was reading well and could express herself well, though she didn’t care too much for writing. She enjoyed typing though. Giving Reading Kingdom a try brought out some interesting things for us.

Reading Kingdom  teaches Phonics Plus Five. In other words, it teaches all of the six main reading and writing skills needed to communicate in the English language. It is immersion based, meaning the skills are not taught by memorization but rather by continued use in context. The six skills are:

  • sequencing
  • writing
  • phonology
  • semantics
  • syntax
  • comprehension

These skills are really well explained in the PDF that is linked at the bottom of the page titled Why It Works. That page and the PDF will give you a really solid understanding of the program and how it is different from others on the market today.

typing activity

Using Reading Kingdom

The program itself is really quite easy to use, though a couple less clicks to get started would be nice. Once in the session, the child just follows the directions for each of the activities in the lesson. The directions are spoken so the child does not have to read to get going.

Miss J was working in level 4 of 5. I think she placed a bit low because the placement test threw her a couple of curve balls she wasn’t expecting. She did not capitalize her sentences in the placement. And there were several times that she clicked faster than the program registered so it counted some things wrong. All in all, though, she has benefited from her placement, even though it is low for her.

The activities have so many different benefits that it is hard to explain, honestly. Some of the activities have the student recognizing the sequencing placement of the letters of the word. Some are looking a placement in a sentence. Another might have the student spelling the word. Another has the student recognizing it next to a similarly spelled word. Activities might have the student typing or clicking to input. Capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure are all a part of the activities students complete in a reading context, not just an exercise for the one thing.

word identification activity

Each lesson focuses on a particular word. Today’s lesson was rainbow. She has had cold, happen, saw, and small, to name just a few. When a word is focused on, the various ways to use the word are also covered (part of the semantics, syntax, and comprehension). With cold, for example, she also saw colder. With rainbow, she also saw and typed rainbows. With too, she had to identify it in context of a sentence that might have both too and to next to each other; she had to choose the correct one.

The set up of each lesson is game like, without actually being a game. It is brightly colored and has sound effects (annoying to me but right up Miss J’s alley). In the upper right corner of the screen the student can see how many more parts the lesson has. There is also a way to pause the lesson or you can close it out before completely finishing it. The next time you log in, you come back to where you were.

controls, points, and parts of lesson

What Reading Kingdom  Recommends

Reading Kingdom recommends the student complete one lesson a day at least four days per week. If you need to move along a bit faster, they say it is okay to do two lesson a day but recommend not doing any more than that. We have stuck with the one lesson per day, though we have honestly struggled to do four days per week. I think we are showing an average of 3.3 days per week. Yep – that is how detailed you can get with the information available from Reading Kingdom. And there are more reports available.

Reports

I can download and save or print a report that shows me the progress of my class/student. For Miss J, it shows me which day she completed which lesson and her rating for it. The beginning of the report shows me how she did on each part of the assessment and how long it took her. If you have to track time on task, that is in the report as well.

report example

Another way you can see the progress is on the start page. There is a progress bar that is visible to show how much of the level is complete. There is another to show how much of the program is complete. Below that is a table with markers showing similar material.

screenshot of login progress bars

How We Like The Program

Overall, I think Reading Kingdom  is a program that has a lot of benefits to it. I like the integrated approach to the multiple skills and I like that it is not taxing or difficult for Miss J. It is a program she can be independent with, which, as a 9 year old, is a big deal. I do believe that in the long run, we will see that having worked through the levels of the program that it placed her in has been of benefit. But it isn’t as visible as some other programs may be. We may not be able to point to a particular thing and say “That is what Reading Kingdom did for her.” I do believe she is benefiting, though.

Miss J does not beg to do the lessons but she doesn’t complain about them, either. There are a couple of things she would change. The program repeats a lot and much of the work are things she knows. She thus feels she is doing things below her level or having to repeat things. What I am seeing, though, is her working well at words presented in context and being able to spell them easily at the end of the session. She is having to pay attention to what she is doing and her typing skills are definitely improving.

Another complaint that she has had is the speed of the program as it moves through a sentence reading or having her type. But guess what? Tonight I saw that there is a way to speed up the movement from word to word within a sentence. So I am changing that. (I saw it when I was taking a screenshot for this review. That is one of the issues with her being independent – it never donned on me that I could change that. She’ll be happy tomorrow!)

Would I recommend the program? I don’t know. Not because it isn’t good but because I am not sure it is for everyone. My oldest two did fantastic with sight words and moved into independent reading quickly and easily. They would not have done well with this program because it moves carefully through each word. They have never struggled with reading, spelling, context, or any of those skills. This would not have worked with them.

Miss J on the other hand has grown into her own reading enjoyment a bit more slowly and needs a bit more work on her spelling and writing. This is working with her on those skills. She gets context easily and understand much about grammar. But those are helping her with the other parts of this program. So it works for her.

If your student is at the beginning of their reading journey, this would be a fantastic program. If they are farther along and can already read some but are struggling, this might be good for them. I have not found an assessment of any type that you can take prior to signing up with the company but reach out to them if you have questions. I am sure they would be happy to help you make your decision.

Blessings,
At Home.

There were a number of families with students at different levels and needs, including some with ASD, who were reviewing Reading Kingdom . See what some of the other families had to say about Reading Kingdom and ASD Reading by clicking on the banner below.

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The Magic Stories ~ A Crew Review

The Magic Stories review

Many of you are probably familiar with our vendor for this review: Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series. We have been using a supplemental product titled The Magic Stories.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

The Magic Stories is a supplemental reading program designed for 2nd and 3rd grade students but appropriate for any student who needs to work on reading comprehension. While this was designed to follow The Reading Game, it is not a prerequesite; this program stands on its own. (We have not used the other program.)

Each story is fairly short; my 3rd grader could easily read the stories in a single sitting, with no need to break a story up over two or more days. The stories each have a magical element and conclude with a moral. The tales are fun, imaginative, and varied.

The titles of the six stories are:

  1. The Magic Hole
  2. The Magic Ax
  3. The Magic Joke
  4. The Magic Hotdog
  5. The Magic Book
  6. The Magic Box

Each tale includes a list of the Naughty 40 – a set of 40 words that are often difficult, misread, or misunderstood. Many of these words have synonyms. This list is included with the book PDF but is also a part of the series of worksheets that are included in the purchase of The Magic Stories.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}The worksheets are a printable file that comes with the complete set purchase. Each tale has a maze, comprehension questions/finish the sentences, real or imaginary/imagine questions, finish the story options, a running record, and a Naughty 40 word assessment sheet.reading from the Kindle

Each tale in The Magic Stories is accompanied by some worksheets, the first of which is a maze. The student reads a statement and then answers it true or false. If the student gets it wrong, they have to check a box at the top and go back the other direction. If they miss too many, it is a good indication that their reading comprehension needs work or they read too fast and so they are instructed to go back to the story and read it again. This was my daughter’s favorite sheet. She always followed the reading with it right away.

Each tale is also accompanied by some worksheets that reinforce reading comprehension through varied questions. There are about two pages of questions that range from obvious answers to ones that really make the students think. The students have lines to write their answers on. One suggestion here would be to include age-appropriate lines, rather than just a single blank for writing. My daughter really struggles with her writing when she is writing on a single line.

The real or imaginary/imagine questions are different from the reading comprehension questions. On the real or imaginary pages, the student is differentiating between real and imaginary and creatively thinking about some various opportunities and how real or imaginary would affect those. On the imagine pages, the student is asked to imagine a setting or situation related to the story somehow and to think creatively about a solution or idea related to that.

creative writing

There is also a worksheet that encourages creative writing. Each story has at least two options to choose from. There are suggestions for writing alternate endings, evaluating a character and talking about his choice, writing a new story for a character, or creating something completely different. Miss J did her creative writing on a word processing program on the computer and really enjoyed this portion of it.

There are two other sheets included in the purchase of the whole set: one is a running record and the other is a test sheet for the Naughty 40 words. The running record is simply a 100 word reading test to check fluency and correct reading. The other is a sheet for checking the Naughty 40 words. I used this to check before her reading of the book and then at the end of all the work with that particular story. This was one place where I was a bit frustrated with these sheets – the Naughty 40 did not match the list in the PDF that followed the story. It was easy enough to add them to the list and find the ones she didn’t read if she read from the PDF. But, it did mean that often, she was reading 50 words or so. It seems that these really should align. Like I said, though, it was easy enough to work with. **UPDATE – the lists have been aligned now and this is no longer an issue.**

There is also a download of the Naughty 40 words as flashcards. We did not use these because Miss J seldom missed a Naughty 40 word. This is a printable file, a separate one for each story, that has the word printed in bold and then a sample sentence for the use of that word. It would be a great resource if you needed to drill any of the words with your student.maze

We have worked through 4 of the six stories so far and Miss J has truly enjoyed them. Our schedule:

  • Day 1 – Naughty 40 pre-read list; read story and complete maze
  • Day 2 – answer comprehension questions and real or imaginary/imagine questions
  • Day 3 – creative writing
  • Day 4 – running record and final test on Naughty 40 (if she missed any the first time)

This was a simple addition to our school day and was something that Miss J seems to enjoy. The quality of the story is really quite good and I was pleased. Too often stories for reading comprehension feel contrived and are not pleasant to read. These are enjoyable, fun, and brought good thoughts and ideas, as well as creative writing, to our days.

If you are looking for a supplemental program to check or improve reading comprehension, sight words, and creative writing, check out The Magic Stories from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. The publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series have created a product that is a pleasure to work with.

From The Magic Stories: We would like to offer your readers a 25% discount should they choose to order The Magic Stories.  To receive the discount, enter “raisingreaders” in the coupon box upon checkout.

At Home.

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about how other families have used The Magic Stories and what they thought about them.

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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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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.

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K5 Learning {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

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