Thursday, June 8, 2017

K5 Learning (online math, reading, and spelling supplement) (A review)

My Youngest has been using another product we received for review, the online program by K5 Learning. The K5 Learning program is a supplementary math, reading, and spelling program for Kindergarten through 5th Grade.

The K5 Learning Crew that accompanies your child through the program
Starting off the student takes an assessment (about 30 minutes in length for each) of their reading and math skills and is placed in the level the program deems appropriate (I am pleased to note that if it turns out the work is either too hard or too easy parents can request the level be changed).  From there the program selects lessons and the child works through them, the computer keeps track of their progress, which you can easily see on the parent side of the program through a number of report screens. This is the general overview of my son's progress.

My son was placed in the early 5th grade level for both math and reading (there is no assessment for spelling), which I thought was pretty appropriate, although going strictly by the "mastery" shown above in math, I could consider changing his level there if I end up feeling it's necessary.

Let me tell you a little bit about each program.

The Math program (for all levels K-5) contain lessons that cover
Numbers and Operations, Measurement, Geometry, Algebra, and Data Analysis. Here is a list of all the concepts covered in the 5th grade material found in the lesson library on the parent side of K5 Learning, in the assign lessons tab (the only place I could find a sort of scope, but no sequence, as the concepts are listed alphabetically for ease of location).

You can see that they include the expected total amount of time spent on each concept as well as the number of lessons for each one. The lessons are split into tutorials, practices, and assessments.

My son was working through the assignments. Some he had no problem with, others... well here's his progress report:

You can see that there are some Red flagged lessons there where he was having some troubles. Now, I will mention that as an almost 10 year old I don't usually feel the need to hover over his shoulder when he is doing his schoolwork on the computer, but I did hear the sounds of frustration. When I investigated there were a couple of things at play here.

The program relies heavily on Common Core math which was not helpful to my son. He knew the answers but was required to fill in many "extra step" blanks before he was able to input the correct answer. This was confusing to him and caused him to take longer than the timer allowed to figure out what he was supposed to be doing beyond getting the answer in, which meant that he "missed" the problem, giving him a lower score than necessary (I would appreciate the ability to turn off the timer). He is also used to the protocol of most online math courses that use the keyboard "enter/return" key to submit their final answer rather than the keyboard "done" button that has to be clicked in this program, which also caused him some frustration.

At any rate, I wasn't happy with his lower than 60% scores, so I am now going back and assigning the lessons that he did poorly on (now that he is more familiar with the idiosyncrasies if the program). If you look in the screen shot above you will see the top lesson shows 100%~ it previously was one of the red flagged lessons, but I assigned it to him and got the result I expected in the first place. I do appreciate the ability to re-assign lessons until they reach a point of mastery.

Youngest isn't quite as polished with his multiplication skills as I would like (but timers only cause him frustration, not an increase in speed, sadly),  so I do appreciate the fact that the program required him to show his carried numbers (which he still sometimes forgets to add without a reminder) before being able to complete the problem. In the real world he often does this sort of problem in his head, but gets caught up when doing the work on paper because he forgets to include those little steps that he kind of skips when doing mental math.

My son had a much more successful time in the reading program. The Lessons cover Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension at the 5th grade level (lower levels also cover Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Lessons.

Although I am aware that K5 Learning does not subscribe to a conservative worldview, I have to say that I was disappointed in what I felt was Common Core propaganda in some of the reading selections (Greenhouse Effect I can handle, pushing Global Warming less so). However, if you have more conservative leanings you can preview each lesson in the lesson library and skip the ones that include conversations you may not want to discuss at this point in time. If Common Core isn't issue for you, you have nothing to worry about.

A little more about assigning lessons (and previewing or reviewing lessons ~ this holds true for both the Math and the Reading):
When in the Lesson Library you click on the title of the concept (green background) you are looking to assign or view~ a window pops up with the list of lessons included in that concept. When you click on the specific lesson another window pops up with all the components of that lesson.

You can click on the play button on the left and the window loads and plays the lesson you want to view (I moved the window over a bit in this screen shot, but it opened in the same window as the Lesson Description seen above). 

The entire lesson will play, and if there are questions that need to be answered on the student side, you need to answer them here as well to continue to the next slide.
One thing I will note that struck me as a little odd for a reading program (vs a strictly comprehension program) is the fact that the text is read to the student unless they specifically choose to read it themselves without the audio. I can understand that feature for beginning readers, but for older, independent readers that just seemed counterproductive from a learning/assessment point of view.

We looked over the spelling program, which offers pre-made lists or the ability to input your own lists. It is pretty basic ~ says the words (in a sometimes less than clear voice), includes a dictionary definition (by which we figured out what the word was that we weren't understanding audibly), and an example sentence. Because my son is a fairly natural speller we didn't continue to make use of this part of the program, but it could be a benefit to those who require extra practice.

There are also printable worksheets for every grade level, and I think every lesson.
You can check out more on their website, see samples, and sign up for their free trial (no credit card required), to see if this program is right for you.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
All things considered, if you are using a particular math or English program and would like to use K5 to reinforce the specific concepts your child is learning I think this could be a very helpful tool. Just keep your eyes on the screen occasionally and ears on the audio to clear up any issues that Common Core might present to your child, if they don't learn that way (for math), or if there are any concepts in the reading comprehension selections that don't jive with your worldview.
  • Company: K5 Learning
  • Product: online program
  • Ages: Kindergarten to 5th grade
  • Price: 
    • 14 day Free Trial
    • Monthly Subscription
      • 1st child $14.95
      • additional children $9.95
    • Yearly Subscription
      • 1st child $119
      • additional children $79
You can visit K5 Learning on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+

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