Monday, October 29, 2012

Samson's Classroom

Youngest is getting into the swing of this learning-to-read proposition, especially with all of the tools that we have been blessed with as part of the TOS Crew. The most recent offering is a membership to Samson's Classroom, an online reading comprehension and spelling program for grades K-5. Samson is a friendly dog who accompanies and cheers on your child as he/she progresses through the levels and games.

There are three different "packages" included with Samson's Classroom. I'm going to focus mostly on the first package (Sight Words) and a little on Spelling, but will have to send you to read other TOS Reviews for "Hands on" information on the Reading Package, as that one was a little too difficult for my 5 year old at this point (Click on the banner at the end of this post for those reviews).

Sight Words~helps new readers to learn and drill the 224 most commonly used words in the English language. There are 4 levels with 7 lists, 8 words in each list. Each list has 5 "Steps" to help your child learn the words. (Note~ I did not notice any phonics involved in teaching these words, some of which could be sounded out and not taught as strictly sight words, but we fairly naturally include phonics in most of our reading activities, so I didn't miss it that much here.)

Step One introduces each word by saying the word (ie: "can,") spelling the word "c-a-n," and then using the word in a sentence "I can do that." 
This is the main"learning" step, and we went back to this step numerous times within each list to review the words that were giving youngest a little trouble. Even when he was playing Spelling Games he would go back to review the words from the list.

Step Two "Build Words" requires the student to click on the correct letters, in the correct order, that are scrambled within the letters across the top of the screen (the letters aren't necessarily listed"in order, and there are sometimes duplicates). A bit of help is included for this step, as the requested word is again spoken and spelled out loud, and spoken one more time for your child. If they have the word down pat, they can click on the letters at any time, but if they need to hear it again, there is a "megaphone" in the lower left that can be clicked to repeat the word.

Step 3 "Identify Words" has all of the words listed. When a word is spoken, the child must click on the correct box, which then is taken away from the grouping on the screen. This step is a nice, slightly more "relaxing" drill, which certainly promoted a feeling of "success"  and a desire to continue.

Step 4 "Spell Words" includes the entire alphabet, as you can see. The word is spoken and used in a sentence, but there are no longer any "hints"~ the child must spell the word themselves. This step was one Youngest was often stuck on, as he wouldn't accept anything less than a perfect score, so the moment he got a letter wrong, he would return to the main menu and start over (and if he had too much trouble, I would guide him back to step 1, to review the words).

Step 5 "Missing Words" has the sentence that has been used all the way through for each word, with that word missing. The correct word must be selected from the four treasure chests. Sometimes there are miss-spellings, so this can be a little bit tricky, but success is a good clue that your child is really getting it! :) 

I should mention here that we engaged Samson's Classrooms on my laptop as well as on my iPad, using the Rover app, which allows flash content from educational sites only. This was "convenient", although I think that the program worked best on the computer. 

Spelling with Samson is the next Package. There are lists loaded that correspond to the sight word lists, and many, many more (5000!) that are included in the pre-loaded "Knowledge Wand" lists for everyone to use. But that's not all~ you are able to create your own lists to use. If your words are already in the Samson's Classroom database, you're good to go, if not then you can request that they be added (however, this may take awhile). So~ on to the spelling games~ 
The first activity shows your list. If a word is clicked, this page opens up with the word (which is spoken), and a sentence to use the word in (which can be read to your child). There is also the option to have the word spelled out loud. 

In the next activity "Missing Letters", Samson is doing a little (?) Kung Fu(?) (at any rate, he is chopping or breaking up blocks. For the screen, the narrator says "big. We have a big back yard" and the child must then click on the missing letters at the bottom. If the answer is correct Samson breaks (or chops with a sword) the block. This game is my favorite. :) 

The third activity "Spelling Scramble" was rather frustrating for us, and neither Youngest nor I were able to get the hang of it, so we tended to just skip it. Samson is supposed to avoid a spider and run around collecting letters, but I just couldn't figure out how to maneuver him on the board. Something that I'm sure will be getting tweaked. 

The fourth activity "Crunch Time" has Samson hopping from iceberg to iceberg. Each word on the list must be spelled correctly before Wally the Walrus crunches the iceberg to bits (if you have a child who thrives on a challenge, this should be good, if they hate being timed... not so much).  We did find this one to be too difficult to play on the iPad, and only recommend using a computer to play this game.

Reading with Samson
Like I said, this package was far beyond my Youngest's needs, so we didn't really utilize it. The first story in Level 1 was 4 paragraphs long, with fairly complex words, so far beyond my 5 year old's scope at this point in time. You can get a feel for this package from this screen shot~ definitely something to aspire to, and I do recommend checking out some other reviews, if you are interested in how the Reading package works out in a real-life situation. 

I have to be honest and say that the first while that we used Samson's Classroom, Youngest was NOT happy with it (I think I've discovered that he shares a perfectionist streak with my Eldest!) because he wasn't able to have a perfect score for every word right away. He was also a little freaked out about the timer, because he's not fond of being timed. However, interestingly enough, once I was able to access it on my iPad, he lost most of his negativity, and was willing to try. I did mention that he would go back some steps over again until it was perfect, didn't I? Now that we've been engaged with the program for awhile, I have noticed that it no longer matters which medium he uses (Laptop or iPad). He's willing and content to go through a Step without requiring extra encouragement from me! :) Hurrah!

"Reports" are available to chart progress. I found them to be a little incomplete, because they only seemed to account for the days that each step was completed. However, since I'm not overly caught up in "Assessment" for Kindergarten, and not using this to track "Attendance," this didn't affect me at all. 

Finally, some extra resources can be found from the parent/administrator page that include downloads for a variety of games (Under "lesson plans"... I kind of expected something different there, but games are good! :D), as well as a number of coordinating worksheets that can be printed and used for extra reinforcement. 

I expect that youngest will attain his "black belt" in sight words at some point this school year, thanks to the dolch lists, learning, and practice on Samson's Classroom.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Samson's Classroom
  • Product: Sight Words, Spelling with Samson, and Reading with Samson learning games (PC and MAC compatible, as the programs are web-based, and not loaded to your computer software).
  • Ages: K-5th grade
  • Price: $30/year for 1 student, $50/year for up to 4 students.
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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