Tuesday, October 29, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity: A TOS Crew Review

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From their website:
"  VocabularySpellingCity :
  • An award-winning game-based learning tool for vocabulary, spelling, writing and language arts
  • A K-12 educational service used worldwide by schools and families
  • 50,000 words and 60,000 sentences read by a real person
  • Access via mobile app for your tablet and smart phone,or online via computer and interactive whiteboard
Buy a Premium Membership to enjoy ALL of our features at a surprisingly low cost (Check out a demo video here) :
  • Vocabulary, writing, spelling, and language arts activities
  • Access to ALL games and interactive Flash Cards
  • Student progress tracking
  • Automated testing and grading
  • Personalized learning with assignments for differentiated instruction
  • Student logins with no commercial ads

COST: $29.99  per year for up to 5 students,   K-12

Bentz Test Laboratory is in despreate, desparate... ummm, I mean SERIOUS need of help with spelling Instruction!  I'm a "sight speller" -either it looks right, or it doesn't.  Some of my testers have been "rule spellers" - just tell them the spelling rule, and they're good.  Other testers - well, not so much.    

Maybe it's due to my own lack of diligence in teaching my testers further down the birth-order ladder (please, moms with more than a handful...tell me I'm not alone!)  But, I have several testers that need some spelling instruction that does NOT include yelling and tears (from either of us).

Ta-da!  VocabularySpellingCity arrived at just the right time.   I was going to be on a 2 week mission trip, and spelling was already a much neglected subject.  I couldn't sign my testers up quick enough.

Our Premium Membership allowed for up to 5 students for an affordable $29.99 per year.    It was very easy to set-up.  I logged on as the Parent, and found some spelling lists to add to our account.  You will be impressed with the lists that are available - K-12 - literature, math, sight words, so many - arranged in an easy to find manner or you can create your own.   I added them to our main page, then added each student.  Smooth, easy and fast.  I love a program that can work with all my ages at the same time.

My testers LOVED this program!  They had many ways to interact with their spelling words - tests, flashcards, and games (their favorite).  A great feature with the Premium Membership is the addition of Vocabulary review and practice as well.  (Yeah for us, that's 2 subjects for the price of 1).  

 photo flashcard_zps3b3e1de7.jpgI was impressed -They could also practice geography- states and capitals, science vocabulary, math words and more.  Sentence writing, paragraphs and analogies are included as well.

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Of course, the games were their favorite.  Playing Letter Fall, Hang Mouse and even doing Word Finds & Crossword Puzzles kept their attention on learning those pesky spelling words in a way that seemed more like fun.  Maybe...spelling isn't that bad after all.

The Premium Membership allows the parent access to information - a great way to keep up with their progress. You can easily customize each child's plan.  Frankly, I was excited that my testers were happy to do spelling - EVERY DAY.  

Another plus - Access via mobile app for your tablet and smart phone. You can take all this fun with you, but don't let on it's really spelling practice... :-)

They offer a Free membership, so go ahead - give it a try, you can't lose. Their website has an entire page of great videos to explain exactly how to use this resource to it's fullest.  The Teaching Resources page is a valuable tool for you too - don't miss it.

I will say, I was glad to have the Premium Membership with all the extra features - it's too affordable to pass up.  

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Barbour Publishing: A TOS Crew Review

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Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton, Published by Barbour Publishing

From their website:
Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton, Published by Barbour PublishingTrue Story! . . . These pages from EJ Payne’s diary will have you ROTFL as you witness her spunky personality and well-meant-but-often-misunderstood antics. You’ll fall in love with this first release in the Diary of a Real Payne series as EJ records her thoughts and feelings about living in little old Spooner, Wisconsin (snooze!), eventually leaving her hometown to do big things when she’s all grown up (oh glorious day!), and having to star in the role of lead angel in the Vine Street Christmas pageant (are you kidding me?). This colossal-fun series is overflowing with humor and memorable life lessons."

Written for ages 8-12 - 192 page softcover

Watch for Book 2 - Church Camp Chaos in March 2014!

Cost: $5.99 - Currently On Sale - $4.49 

The Bentz Test Laboratory loves trying out new books,  especially any that are a part of a series.   My 10 year old tester could not put this book down!

My tester identified with the 10 year old Emma Jean Payne, aka EJ (main character).  My tester even could relate to growing up in a small Wisconsin town (although, my tester was from MN - close enough).  She is a confident and independent young girl. My daughter said - "This girl is just like me, she likes Little House in the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables and all the stories I like to read!"  Also, she liked that this girl was a contemporary character, not someone out of "old history" - when did my tester stop liking history!? 

This book was a fun read for her.  Best of all, it is written from a Christian worldview and incorporates Christian values.  It isn't a "preachy" sort of book,  just a fun, entertaining read.  I appreciated that it didn't need careful parental screening first, it can be very hard to find suitable reading material for this age group.  Something that grabs and holds their attention, but meets the high standard we strive for.  

My tester liked the format of diary entries alternating with the context of the story.  It was a book quickly read, devoured actually!

 My tester was eagerly sharing tidbits from the book with her friends, who are all wanting to read it too.

My daughters final analysis - "Two thumbs up!  When does the next one come out?  Put it on my birthday list!"

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Algebra: A Complete Course by VideoText Interactive: A TOS Crew Review

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Algebra: A Complete Course by VideoText Interactive

From their website:
"Algebra: A Complete Course by VideoText Interactive - An alternative approach to Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, or Algebra 2! There are 176 video lessons contained in 10 unit directories. The program covers Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II, and is a firm foundation for students advancing to VideoText’s Geometry: A Complete Course, covering Geometry and Trigonometry."   Designed for the student ready for Pre-Algebra (my tester was in 8th grade.) 

Cost: ONLINE ALGEBRA Modules A-F: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2 - . $299  (Classic Print Version – $529.00)  

The Bentz Test Laboratory has several "math kids" and several "not so math kids".  Being a "not so math mom" - I was relieved that my oldest (a "math kid") allowed me to "abandon him" (yes, that's what HE says!) to self-teach math around fourth grade.

But, now - Tester number 2 - my first "not so math kid",  is ready for Algebra...  I however, am still not ready!  I need an Algebra teacher...FAST!

We were grateful for the opportunity to take a look at a new approach to Algebra - Algebra: A Complete Course .  Instead of the repetition of Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 - all Algebra is taught in logical, sequential order - focusing on the concepts and working toward mastery.

My tester has already trudged his way through Pre-Algebra, and was on the brink of starting Algebra when this God-send showed up.  You can set your own pace for the course - covering it in 1-3 years, depending on your student.

We used the Online Algebra (Modules A-F) - you get unlimited access for 3 years.  Great value if you have multiple children using it (the next couple of "not math kids" are coming soon...)  I downloaded the materials - Student Lessons w/Exercises, Quizzes, Course Notes and Instructor Guide (with the answers...YES, I NEED them!)

My tester logged in to watch a short, interactive video presentation for each lesson's concept.  He then completed a short quiz from the previous lesson's material, and worked the Exercise for the new concept. The Notes are readily available to use after he was logged out.  It was a great way for him to "refresh" the concept taught, as he worked the student exercise, if needed.

As I corrected his work, with the handy Instructor Guide,  I began to notice a new phenomenon occuring at Bentz Test Laboratory... he was getting the answers correct!  First try, without my "help"...  My tester diligently worked on a lesson a day (you could easily slow to 2 days per lesson - which we will be doing soon).  His quizzes were even better than his exercises.  I think I found our new Algebra teacher!

So, now for his comments:

  • "I liked watching the video, but - the videos could use an update.  He's hard to hear, and his analogies don't make sense."
  •  "The lessons were short.  They taught the concepts in a new way that I hadn't seen before.  That can be both good and bad."
  • "I like that it teaches a concept straight through, and does it quicker than other math programs."

Here are a couple of my thoughts:
  • The online program is worth the investment, especially for someone else to teach Algebra! 
  • The materials were easy to use, easy to download. Very mom-friendly! 
  • I do think the entire program - videos and PDF's could use a little "modernizing", they do seem a little "outdated".
  • I liked the 2 versions of the Quiz for each lesson.  You can use them to go back for more review, if needed. 
  • I'd recommend this program - one of the best approaches to Algebra I've seen.
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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