Sunday, October 28, 2012

Samson's Classroom

We've been homeschooling for 2 years now, but everyone needs a little variety now and then, right? I decided a few weeks ago to send Jake to another classroom to practice his reading skills. The teacher's pretty cool. I mean, it's not every day a talking dog is the one helping you read!

Samson's Classroom is an online educational program for K-5th grade. It's designed to help students excel in language arts and uses games to reinforce sight words, spelling, and reading comprehension.

Jake (6 yr) was very excited to be practicing with Samson. I have said many times that he does not like reading. He does it when he needs to and is very good at it, but it is definitely not something he does for enjoyment. That's why I'm always looking for new ways to spark his interest. Samson has done just that! He actually asks me if he can play. I set up an account for Alyssa (4 yr) as well, but it is a bit too difficult for her. That doesn't stop her from watching her big brother though. They both love the silly little cartoons throughout the games. Watching Samson blow up the words, pop them with darts, or pull them off screen with a big cane always produces some laughs.

Sight Words with Samson is perfect for beginning readers. It helps them master the 224 most-commonly used words in the English language, giving them a good foundation to become successful readers. This area is broken into 5 sections for each list: learn words where they are visible on the screen and audibly spoken and spelled, build words where various letters are on the screen and the student has to choose the correct ones to spell the words as the letters are audibly spoken, identify words where the student has to pick which word is being spoken from the list of words on screen, spell words where the student has to choose on his own which letters the word comprises, and missing words where multiple words are on screen and the student chooses which one is being said.  

Once the student has completed each section for the list, he gets a star. After 4 stars, he earns a colored karate belt. Who ever would have guessed that a virtual karate belt would be the factor that got my boy to want to learn his sight words? Apparently the creators of Samson's Classroom because he has been working so hard. When he initially started the program, he started at level 1. I looked at the list and realized that it was too simple for him. I looked all around the website to see how I could do a placement test or choose which level I wanted to place him. When I couldn't find anything to help, I emailed the company. A got a response back very quickly, letting me know that they unlocked all the levels so I could start him where I saw fit. I was very impressed. As it turns out though, since Jake is very intent on earning that black belt, he has gone back to finish the earlier lessons, too. I think it's safe to say that the sight words section is doing its job - helping my son to learn his words. That he is starting to enjoy it is just a bonus.

Spelling with Samson is the most comprehensive spelling product on the market. You can choose one of the pre-made lists or input your own. With over 5,000 words in the data base, it's pretty thorough. There are 4 sections to mastering a spelling list: study zone is where the student learns all about the word - sound, spelling, in a sentence; missing letters is a fun game where the student chooses which letter(s) the word is missing and watches Samson karate chop or slice through them; spelling scramble is a game where you control Samson to run around collecting letters as you try to avoid getting tied up by the giant spider, then you unscramble the letters to make the words; and crunch time is a game where you have to help Samson cross the water by typing the words to make him jump across the icebergs, go too slow and the ice gets eat by a walrus, making Samson fall in the ice cold water.

Jake really liked playing these games. His favorite was definitely spelling scramble because of his obsession with spiders. When played in order, the games progress to help the student learn the words in a fun way.

Reading with Samson is geared more toward the older students. It helps students analyze reading material, learn how to draw conclusions based on it, and answer questions about it. The program uses a patented user feedback system. When a student answers incorrectly, that portion of the story is highlighted and the student has another chance to answer. I tried this section on my own. It is definitely too advanced for my little ones to play. I found it to be a good brain exercise for myself though. Hey, my dad has always taught me that if you challenge your brain through mind puzzles, you'll stay younger and healthier. Apparently Samson's Classroom is good for all ages!

You can also find many worksheets, lesson plans, flashcards, certificates, and other resources on the website. They offer many options for purchase: 1 user $30/year, 4 users $50/year, and other options for classrooms and schools. You can even try a demo and watch a 3 minute demo video.

Samson's Classroom has worked well in our home. I'm happy to see Jake excited about reading, even if it is just a few sight words. Who knows, maybe I can purchase real karate belts to get him wanting to read whole books. You never know. But one thing's for sure, I'm not letting giant spiders run around my house, excited about reading or not!  

You can read more reviews of Samson's Classroom on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

* Disclaimer - I received this subscription in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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