Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

We received Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2 Spanish Courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages to review. Middlebury Interactive Languages has four languages available: Spanish, French, Chinese and German. The courses are designed in age groups: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 (with a secondary course in fluency). If you're unsure of what level your child would be in, they have demos available. The first level is available for each grade group and that should always be your starting point if you're just beginning to learn the language you choose. Just a note, the German course is the only course that doesn't offer a K-2 level.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Since I have a preschooler and Kindergartner, we started with the K-2 course. We have worked through the first few lessons with great success! We focus on one lesson per week, and repeat each section daily. We also printed off homemade flash cards of each word and phrase and each lesson is on a color-coded ring. Both kids have worked on each lesson together (my preschooler is basically at a Kindergarten level in every subject) and it helps that they can work on their language studies by practicing together.

We live in an area where Spanish is commonly spoken. Actually, we more accurately live in a melting pot of cultures and languages, which is amazing. On our street alone we have over eight bi-lingual families that speak English and a native language from their home country. On the flip-side, our neighbors, my kids' best friends, have a Puerto Rican father whose mother only speaks Spanish, and his daughters do not understand her because he never taught them his native language. We suggested trying out Middlebury Interactive Languages, but in the meantime I shared our flash cards with them and printed off some worksheets and my kids and I have helped them practice. It has been wonderful working with a bigger group of kids.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Proper pronunciation is harder for Bean, who has struggled with speech in the past. We have created phonogram rocks to help with this. We use rocks instead of flash cards for things like this because Munchkin does so much better with objects. The rocks have the letters painted on and there are multiple rocks depending on the accent marks. Once a week we go through the rocks and work on each sound and pair them together to form words she recognizes. During the rest of the week, they are able to play with them however they want. Playing with the rocks is a wonderful way for them to familiarize themselves with the letters and create words to sound out, even if they aren't real words.

Spanish 1 started with the very basics of Spanish language - Hello, Goodbye, My name is... From there it branched out to incorporate several different areas. We have incorporated our Spanish studies into most of our daily lessons. For math, we use half English and half Spanish word problems (the numbers are Spanish), Bean's spelling words are written in both English and Spanish. She practices to write and read each word. We don't take tests though. We move on when she's ready for a new batch of words. We also have several English/Spanish reading books (top half of page is in English, Spanish translation is at the bottom). We also use workbooks we found at our local bookstore and worksheets we printed out from online. Those we work on together, but my kids primarily use Middlebury Interactive Languages independently on their tablets.

There are 12 units in the K-2 course. Each course has 6 lessons. Each lesson covers different areas, like an introduction to the unit, reviews, exploration, practice, speaking labs, coloring pages, warm-ups, stories, and more. The stories are spoken in Spanish and you listen along and pick up key words from the text that are found in the unit. The units are:

Unit 1: Greetings
Unit 2: Numbers
Unit 3: Family
Unit 4: Colors
Unit 5: School
Unit 6: Review
Unit 7: Body
Unit 8: Animals
Unit 9: Calendar
Unit 10: Food
Unit 11: Descriptions
Unit 12: Review

Each of Middlebury Interactive Languages courses are designed to be completed in one semester (18 weeks/90 days). The joy of online curriculum is that your child can work at their own pace, though the purchase plan limits you to one semester (6 months), with the option to buy an additional semester if needed. There are two purchase plans available, basically with or without a teacher aid. Independent Study costs $119 per semester and with a Teacher costs an additional $175 for a total of $294. If you have multiple students, the price goes up. 

We are enjoying using Middlebury Interactive Languages and as far as online learning goes, the app is really great to use. The kids are able to navigate the site mostly on their own and as the teacher I'm able to keep track of their lessons and grades. The lessons progress at an easy pace for young kids to follow, and each lesson builds on the last. 

Middlebury Interactive Languages is a perfect online program for homeschooling families, especially those trying to teach a foreign language for the first time. Foreign languages can be challenging to teach if you are completely unfamiliar with the language. Workbooks may not be enough to immerse yourself in the language, which is why an online or digital curriculum can compliment your language study. 

To read more lessons from the TOS Crew on Middlebury Interactive Languages, click on the banner below!

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Heroes of History Review

YWAM Publishing Review

We received Meriwether Lewis: Off the Edge of the Map and Unit Study Curriculum Guide Meriwether Lewis from the Heroes of History series created by YWAM Publishing to review. Both are written by Janet and Geoff Benge, who are also the authors of several other biography books in the Heroes of History series. They combine historical facts into an easy to read literary journey for kids of all ages. Although the suggested reading age for a child reading independently is 10+, we used these books with our kids and I read the chapters and created activities tailored to their grade.

The Heroes of History series is an exciting learning experience that brings kids along on a historical adventure. Each book in the series is based on a real person and true events from their life. In Off the Edge of the Map, readers go on an expedition with Meriwether Lewis across America, alongside William Clark. They were commissioned by President Jefferson to take this journey and left in May of 1804, beginning at the Mississippi River near St. Louis, and ending in September 1806. At the time, no one had completed such a daring exploration of the western states. Their goal was to find a land route the Pacific Ocean. In those days, the United States were divided into groups, including Louisiana (purchased in 1803), Spanish Territory, and what remained of the native regions.

We began reading Off the Edge of the Map near the Merrimack River, a substitute for the Mississippi River, to set the scene. We brought along paper boats (we made them waterproof by folding the paper into a boat, then unfolding it, laminating it, and refolding it - pre-folding it made it so much easier to put back together), small "explorer" figures, a nature journal, map, field guide, and binoculars. We observed nature, tested out the boat on the river, drew berries and flowers in our nature journals then looked them up, marked the map where we started and ended, and went on a walk along the river bank. After our exploration, we sat in a sunny, grassy patch and the kids ate lunch while I began reading. 

Off the Edge of the Map actually starts out by introducing Meriwether's early life and leading up to the journey west. We covered the first few short chapters in one sitting, but after that we read two chapters a day during circle time. After we read we marked spots on the map where they stopped, and we made lists of who they met or what animals and plants they found. I asked them questions about what they learned and found interesting. 

The History Unit Study Curriculum Guide covers Student Explorations, Social Studies, Key Quotes, Community Links, Related Themes to Explore, Bibliography of Related Resources, and Culminating Events. This teacher's guide covers various activities, including: creative writing, drama, movie critiquing, reading comprehension, essay writing, and history and geography concepts. As a teacher or homeschooling parent, you can pick and choose which activities will work best for your child(ren) based on their learning styles. They can also be used individually or as a group. The unit study guide is also designed to be used by children in different grades or abilities. 

We started each reading with a quote, which we wrote on the white board and left up for the day. While we are working on unit studies, we focus on vocabulary words that are commonly used in the passages, such are courage, brave, leadership, etc. These words are used in our daily writing journals (those split notebooks with a drawing portion on top and a written portion below) to inspire a picture and story. Our unit study learning center (or display corner, as it's called in the book) featured a color coded map, where we marked their journey as we read, paper canoes and types of housing (made out of natural materials), Safari Ltd. animal figures (bears, coyotes, beavers, wolves, dogs, eagles, etc), a flower press, plant samples, a compass, timeline, nature journal, field guide, leather and fur (both faux) clothes cut outs that were used to dress up fabric dolls, Lewis and Clark themed flash cards that we found online that featured coins, food, locations, animals, and maps, a picture of the United States flag at the time, printed images of their journals, and books on Lewis and Clark. Most of these were suggested in the unit study guide, and we gathered up what we had available. Our learning center was the main hub for all their hands-on learning needs. They were able to explore together or by themselves, set up small worlds using the figures and natural materials, flip through the flash cards and name what they were, or sit in their reading corner and go through the books. 

We didn't use all of the chapter questions, so we came up with some of our own. Whenever a question asked about the meaning behind a word, they answered what they thought it meant before we looked it up in their student dictionary. We keep a dictionary nearby so they can learn how to look up words. I edited the questions to word them in ways I knew my children would understand. Then I opened the floor for their own questions. Sometimes it would be about Seaman, Lewis' dog, other times it might be "where is the Missouri River?" We then do some research to answer their questions. I allow them to use an iPad so they can ask their questions out loud, instead of having to type them, since they are still working on typing and spelling. There are four comprehensive questions for each chapter. The first covers a vocabulary word from the chapter, the second asks a factual question, the third gauges the students level of comprehension and the fourth is an open-ended question about their opinion or interpretation of the text. 

Our creative writing sessions always include some sort of added art, whether it be a drawing, painting, or craft. If it's a craft, we add it to our exploration table, otherwise it's drawn in their writing journal. We didn't use the essay questions for writing activities, but we did use some of them for oral conversations. Our main focus was the hands-on activities. We created a family crest for Meriwether Lewis' family using a printed blank family crest coloring page and both kids designed them. I showed them examples of family crests (including those for our own family) and explained what different symbols could mean. Bean is really into Knights currently, so this activity was right up her alley. Her crest featured a musket, a canoe and Seaman, Lewis' dog. Munchkin's featured a pine cone and acorn, because he's four and that's what he was more interested in. We created paper canoes that we brought down to our local river and let them sail away (not the laminated ones) while observing them, talking about how the water flow would have determined how fast they moved on the river and how dangerous it would be to paddle around rocky or waterfall areas. We also enjoyed walks through forests, around lakes, and along our local river. 

YWAM Publishing Review
We loved reading Off the Edge of the Map. It was a really interesting way to learn about history and it's perfect for homeschooling families who focus on themes or literature-based learning. We enjoyed researching the places they visited, the people they met, and the animals and plants they found along the way. I would definitely grab the curriculum guide with the book if you plan to use it for a unit study, otherwise I think children who prefer to read and work independently would enjoy reading the book and writing summaries of each chapter. Since there are so many books in the series, it would be really easy to create a history timeline using the books and featuring a historical person for each stop in the timeline of American history. YWAM Publishing offers the books individually, in boxed sets of 5, or the complete collection of 26 books. They also have map books, a Then and Now series, and a biography series for young learners. We will definitely continue using these books for future history lessons! 

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

We received an Individual Membership from Super Teacher Worksheets to review. This is a teacher resource that can be used by public or private school teachers and homeschoolers. It's even an awesome resource for parents and caregivers as well, since there are so many worksheets, activities and games covered on this website. We have been using it for a couple weeks now and I wish I had known about it sooner!

The price of an individual, unlimited access membership is $19.95 per year. Considering how often we use the worksheets and taking into account how much we have already paid for individual worksheets from other websites, this is a more affordable option for us. There are over 10,000 printable worksheets, activities and games available for school teachers and homeschoolers. The worksheets are recommended for elementary aged students (K-5), but there are worksheets available for preschoolers and some older students as well. They add new worksheets every week and they are working on adding more for grades 6-8.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Homeschoolers and teachers will be able to find nearly every subject they teach covered by Super Teacher Worksheets. The subjects include: Math, Reading and Writing, Phonics, Grammar, Social Studies, Science and Spelling. There is also a seasonal section that includes worksheets for tons of different holidays, including Halloween and Christmas, and even less known holidays like Dr Seuss Day and Pi Day. So if you are fond of themed mini units about holidays, you are sure to find plenty of worksheets and activities to fill your needs!

The type of worksheets that can be found go beyond traditional worksheets. There are card games, phonics mini-books (a personal favorite of ours), math mystery pictures, dice games, cut-and-glue activities, research projects, memory match games, word wheels, reading comprehension stories and question sheets, book report templates, maps, and more. You can even make your own worksheets for math, spelling, calendars, flash cards, quizzes, and word puzzles using their worksheet generators. Being a member, you can save those worksheets and use them for future activities too!

While Super Teacher Worksheets does not have a huge selection of foreign language worksheets, there are some available for basic French and Spanish. And since we are currently learning Spanish using an online program, it has been so helpful to have these worksheets on hand for writing and reading lessons. There are flash cards, vocabulary worksheets and reading passages available as well. To switch from English to Spanish or French, select the "Lang" option under the description of the worksheet, but keep in mind that it's not available for every worksheet.

Bean working on her "Letter B" worksheets. There are so many worksheets that appeal to her. She loves whenever a worksheet allows her to color as an answer, but she also loves writing in answers! 

But her absolute favorite are the cut and paste spelling worksheets. We love activities that work on fine motor skills, especially when they are fun and educational!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review
One of our favorite printable worksheets is the alphabet mini-book series! We printed off the first 7 for the first month (Bean was already using the first book when I took the pictures). It covers all the vowels (including short and long vowels), as well as all the consonants. I used my rotary cutter to speed up the mini-book-making process and it seriously only took a couple minutes to put them all together. 

Then we stapled them and ta-da! They look awesome! Bean really enjoys using them to practice reading and we are currently considering coloring them in. But for now we are working on mastering them before moving on to the next batch of 7 mini-books!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Another favorite type of worksheet are the math ones! Bean prefers worksheets, while Munchkin prefers hands-on math lessons. We were able to finally have him complete a couple math worksheets when I introduced him to the basic addition coloring sheets! It's like paint-by-number with math problems and it's a really fun way to combine math and art!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Bean has been obsessed with learning to tell time ever since she was given a wooden toy clock. When I showed her Super Teacher Worksheets collection of "telling time" worksheets, she was over the moon. We have been finding fun ways to combine telling time with storytelling and reading comprehension problems. Like, for instance, if we are working on quarters, I might ask: "Luke went to the bakery at 10:00 am to pick up a loaf of bread. He was having brunch at 11:00 am. He sat in traffic for 45 minutes. How early was he?" And then she would draw the hour and minute hands on a laminated clock or write in the time. There are a bunch of worksheets that already feature a specific time as the answer, so we try to use those and just create stories to go along with them. She loves the problem solving aspect of it!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

We have only started to use the reading comprehension worksheets, but already they are enjoying them. Typically we use them for oral lessons or I write in their answer, since we aren't up to writing complete sentences yet.

The science section has a ton of great worksheets that we use for mini unit-studies. They cover animals, anatomy, life cycles, electricity, matter, simple machines, space, weather and more! You can print out a weather chart to track the weather outside. You can go on a solar system scavenger hunt. You can even create and play a simple machines board game.

There are just so many worksheets available to choose from. I doubt we will ever get to them all (because there are over 10,000 worksheets!), but I love having that many options! We highly recommend Super Teacher Worksheets to teachers and homeschoolers, because not only is it affordable, but it is a seriously wonderful resource to have on hand!

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To read more reviews on Super Teacher Worksheets from the TOS Crew, click the banner below!

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

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