Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Yuck (no, really)

Got an interesting packet in the mail a few weeks ago: Yuck. 

Yuck is an acrylic polymer (that is apparently biodegradable) that just needs water to achieve it's  Which is what you want with Yuck.

I must tell you that I get grossed out by slimey and mushy things. But God has a sense of humor and gave me boys that like slimey and mushy. So, I'm learning to deal.

My oldest, Ben, decided that Sticky Yuck had his name all over it, so that is what we started with. It was sticky. And yucky. And almost made me sick when I touched it.

But I live to tell.

The packets were sent with a science/ observation sheet to encourage science-y type discovery with the material. I thought it was a helpful sheet to encourage more than just tactile engagement with the product. I wish the sheet was downloadable -- we've lost ours and it would be nice to have!

The sample came with a two page suggestion sheet for games you can use with Yuck.  These look really fun for the youth group at church, and I cannot wait to share the Yuck samples with the middle school and high school leaders.  Can you see a group of 14-year-olds on a slip-n-slide filled with a yucky, saucy substance?  Better them, than me.  *smile*

You can order Yuck in one pound packages starting at $20.  It makes a. lot. of. Yuck.

Buckets-O-Fun carries lots of other interesting group dynamic sorts of products to encourage movements, laughing and  general fun:  finger rockets, rubber animals, 8-foot tall beachballs, and this:

I could not ignore these:   

100-inch waist underwear.  This has Youth Group Laughs written all over it.

Head on over to Buckets-O-Fun and imagine all the possibilities!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Read, Write & Type

The program.  Read, Write and Type (RWT) is a researched based system used  to improve reading abilities in their students.   You can click here to read highlights of this program and here for a step-by-step tour.  During our preview for this review, Luke moved into (but did not complete) Step 4, so we really didn't get into much directed typing instruction. 

The product is online.  They do have CDs, but these are not compatible with Windows 7 and Macs. Purchasing the product gives you a 5-year license for 1 user.  If you have more than one child you'd like to use the program, you can purchase additional licenses for them.  A one year license is $35 for 1 child, $55 for two.  Click here for their pricing.

Our Experience.  Luke is an average reader, so I was hoping this program would provide a fun way for him to strengthen his reading skills and help engage him as an  new reader.

The program certainly did provide lots of opportunity for him to strengthen his reading skills;  there were some phonological awareness skills he needed some work on, and the program would not move him past this skill until he had performed at the pre-set criterion of 80%.   He got a little frustrated with the repetition of having to complete the same task over and over (like most of us Luke is not one to enjoy having to work on an area he perceives to be a weakness).

Unfortunately, the particular skill he was working on did not have much direct instruction or modeling, so he would begin to make guesses at the answer instead of figuring out the correct answer. The lack of direct instruction is not a criticism of RWT, rather it is a characteristic of many computer-based educational products.  The programs do not (yet) have the intuitiveness to slow down step-ward progress to create remedial instructional paths customized to the user.

Although the progress chart can give me percentages for each of phonics, reading and spelling, I was unable to know exactly what was giving my son trouble unless I sat there with him to watch what he was working on.  I may be weird, but I like to know error patterns that my kids are making, because I think you can learn much about what a student knows by looking at what a student gets wrong (this comes from years of training and professional experience as a speech-language pathologist).   "Phonics skills" can mean a multitude of things to different people.

During one time when I was watching my Luke, the program was asking him to type the sound that he heard at the end of the word "lock."  Luke kept typing "ck" instead of "k" -- and getting it wrong.

Now, I fully understand that what Luke was asked to type is different from what he answered -- and technically he was wrong. However, we're a phonogram  learning** family, so I'm actually quite happy that he typed "ck" -- it is two letter phonogram that makes the "k" sound.  With the ultimate goal to read and spell accurately, I think Luke's answer demonstrated appropriate skills more so than just typing a "k."  I noticed inconsistent use of long vs. short vowel sounds when typing on the keyboard -- they use the long "ay" sound  when typing the key "A" but the short "i" sound when I typed the "I" key.

My Thoughts.   You might be wondering if I recommend this product.    I should say that I'm sure RWT is an effective program for supplementing your reading program and beginning to familiarize your child with the typing process.   If you are using a phonogram-based program like Orton-Gillingham programs (Spell to Write and Read and All About Spelling are two that I"m familiar with), you may want to sit with your child through the phonological awareness portion to make sure they are specifically typing the sounds of the phonograms and not the spellings of the phonograms.

You can view other reviews here.

**I've got this linked to a web page that explains what a phonogram is. I'm not advocating the particular program that is associated with this website.