Friday, April 17, 2015

Star Toaster: Orphs of the Woodlands (TOS Review Crew)

I don't know about you, but my older children have enjoyed stories with animal main characters that were fantasy/medieval based. My youngest hasn't yet been introduced to those literary treasures, but we have discovered that he does enjoy that theme in general, thanks to our latest review from Star ToasterOrphs of the Woodlands is on online educational experience that incorporates a number of different learning opportunities and styles, all couched in a medieval fantasy storyline. 

The basic concept is that your child reads an adventure story from the perspective of the journal of the main character (an orphaned squirrel, my son chose to name his “Peanut”). Peanut has been recruited as a spy for the WAK underground. The WAK is trying to find the treasure of HighTower before the night creatures (who are responsible for creating the orphans (Orphs) of the woodlands). 

The story is an interactive text, with underlined vocabulary words and concepts that open up for Peanut to read and learn. He loved learning more about things like gem stones (One of his favorite things, as he loves Treasure)

As Peanut shares his story he rescues as many other Orphs as possible and cares for them at Ivythwaite cottage, dipicted in the center of the graphic below by earning minted (toasted?) stars. The stars are used to purchase new land, various buildings and resources that will help to care for the orphs. The startoaster creates the gold star currency that the main character uses to pay for all of these items. 

In order to earn the stars, the main character must complete a variety of jobs. These jobs are short lessons (training) in language, vocabulary, math, science, art, thinking skills and character skills, followed by a quiz (the actual job). As the jobs are completed successfully, the squirrel’s pay is raised. 


EXAMPLE Training Screen

Example Job Screen (Completed)

My youngest is a couple of years younger than the target age for this program, but his reading is reasonably advanced, so he is able to decipher the majority of the story. I have found that he has been able to remember the vocabulary words fairly well, with a little bit of review (which is incorporated into the vocabulary training/jobs). The other jobs also typically have some sort of "review" to teach the concept

As the chapters are fairly lengthy for a young reader (remember, my guy is close to the target age but not quite there), I sometimes will use the story as a read-aloud. He sits by my side, reading along, and we stop at the various vocabulary words, to make sure he hears the definitions the first time through.

His favorite part of the program is earning the stars and purchasing buildings and goods to take care of the Orphs. This is a great incentive to complete jobs. The job content (whether vocabulary, science or one of the other subjects) correlates to the chapters of the story, and the difficulty of the jobs tends to advance as the chapter numbers climb. 

We found some frustration in that when he fails at a job, there is currently no chance to go back and do it again, to earn those stars, he just has to continue with the next job. I would prefer that there be two or three chances to get it right, especially when attempting new material. To counter-act this, I try to sit with him when he does his jobs, and will tell him to go through the job “training” again if I see he is marking an incorrect answer.

Orphs of the Woodlands could be a great "summer bridge" for elementary/middle-school students, whether they are public, private, or homeschool students as well as a fun tool for any time of year. It is an engaging program that will sharpen their thinking skills and help to build great character skills as well. Be sure to check out the video on their about page to see some of what I've talked about clearly laid out.

My Youngest thinks it's "Terrific!" and loves that he gets to build and care for his own community while engaging with an exciting adventure story.
I think it's "Terrific" too! I appreciate the introduction of excellent vocabulary in a great story that we can share together. It fits a "unit study" approach with all of the topics covered in the jobs that the main character must complete, and touches on all of the learning styles, which is also a win/win situation.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

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