Tag Archives: middle school

Ancient Achievements Spelling You See Review

I’ve got 5 boys and 1 girl. If there is one thing I have learned after having all of these boys especially, they don’t mind reading by the time they hit third or fourth grade, but they do not like to write, at least through their grade school and middle school years.  As parents we have discussed their reluctance and have wanted to see them improve in their hand-writing  and spelling skills.  The kids say that “writing is not fun”.  But I think it is not fun because spelling and English gramatical rules can be challenging.  I am hoping their desire to write will change as they get older.

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Thankfully there are companies creating fun products that can bridge the gap and inspire kids to write more and feel confident about their writing and spelling skills.  We were asked to review a spelling and writing curriculum called Ancient Achievements (Level F) by Spelling You See.

student workbook

Ancient Acheivements
Level F

Contains 3 soft cover books:
Instructors Manual $14,
and Student Workbook 1 and 2 and colored pencils for $30.

In Ancient Achievements, kids read about ancient events and far away places and build their excitement as they gain new skills with each story.   The stories work as a bridge to get your student from point “A” to point “B” in their learning and helps them go from the Skill Development Stage to the Word Extension stage of spelling.   Kids gain experience reading and writing and improve their basic spelling skills while learning interesting facts.

student workbook 2

This curriculum contains 36 weekly lessons with nonfiction stories.  Students need the colored pencils or highlighters and a regular pencil to complete the workbook assignments.

Historical subjects kids will read about in their workbooks cover a wide range including cave paintings, Viking ships, historical writing systems, the production of silk in China, mountain terraces in the Philippines, Marco Polo, Incan counting systems, archery and the English longbow, and more.

Three central activities are repeated through out this this curriculum and are the basis for the learning method of Spelling You See:
chunking – provides hands-on experience with irregular letter patterns
copywork – requires the brain to pay attention to written details
dictation – gives an opportunity to demonstrate decoding and encoding in a meaningful context.

teacher

The instructors manual is very helpful with an over view of the program, a getting started guide with layout of the lessons, a color coded answer key for each lesson, and more.

How we used this in our home:

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I used Ancient Achievements with my son.  He wasn’t to sure he wanted to do it, but I told him it was a must because his Dad and I want to see his handwriting and spelling improve.  So he reluctantly agreed as long as I would let him work on it sitting on the couch.   Fine by me, whatever works to help him be successful is what I say, and that is the beauty of homeschooling.  Kids have the flexibility to learn the way they enjoy and are comfortable.  I am really glad he was willing to give this a try, even on the couch, because it turns out he likes it and is self motivated to work on it! That is music to my ears!

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This curriculum covers 36 weeks of learning and is to be done 5 days each week.  The student activities for each day of the week Monday – Friday are labeled week 1A, week 1B, week 1C, week 1D, week 1E, in the student workbook and every week follows this same pattern.   The assignments are somewhat repetitive and each lesson builds a new skill onto the last assignment.

Each week for the “A” assignment, he has a passage about ancient events or cultures to read aloud to me (or the instructor) and I help him with any words that are difficult for him to pronounce.

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Letter paterns in the stories are assigned a color code.  Then he is to go through the story and use the color code to “chunk” the patterns.  This helps the student recognize letter patterns.

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Each day of the week he re-reads the passage again and does the copy work assignment again.  For the next 2 days, “B”, “C”, and  he re-reads the passages each day and re-writes (copies) the story onto pre-printed lines on the facing page the best he can in 10 minutes just as he did on the first day. Then he is to mark the chunking patterns again like he did on the first day.

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On day “C” he also completes the Spotlight activity in his workbook.  It introduces him to ryhming words and associates words with similar patterns.  It points out interesting facts about words that he didn’t know before.  Such as not all ryhming words have matching letters, even though they often do.  It also shows him how endings are added to words, and word relationships that can help him with spelling.   The Spotlight helps him pay closer attention.

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On the last two days of the week, day “D” and “E”, he is to write the passage from dictation.  He is allowed to ask for help if needed on day “D”, but must complete day “E” without asking for help.

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He is enjoying writing and learning spelling patterns with this curriculum.  This is a whole new approach for our family and I can see this practice with chunking, cop-work, and dictation is very beneficial in addition to being fun to read the variety of stories.  I would like to use additional levels of Spelling You See with my other children as I think this method of learning spelling patterns would benefit our whole family.

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Digital Science Online Review

We are enjoying our subscription to Digital Science Online by Visual Learning Systems.

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Digital Science Online

We received a one year subscription to Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) .  Each edition retails for $99 a year, and can be used by up to 8 students in the same home.  It can be accessed 24/7.  These programs can also be licensed for classroom use (price determined by classroom size), see the web site for more information.

Digital Science

Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5)

We chose to focus on the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) for the purpose of this review. My children really enjoyed learning a variety of science topics with this program.  The Elementary Edition includes two levels of learning: Primary K-2 (Physical Science, Earth Science, Life Science, Health) and Elementary 3-5 (Physical Science, Earth Science, Life Science).  Units / Topics covered in each level are listed below.

Digital Science Online is divided into 5 easy to use parts in each edition: Video, Animations, Images, Student Content (Printable Activities,Worksheets), Teachers Content (Lesson Plans, Video Script, Materials Needed for experiments and hands on investigations, Quiz /Worksheet/Test Answer Keys, Teachers Tips).

areas

Basically this is an easy to use guided classroom all wrapped up in one convenient online package. All you need is a computer and printer to use, and gather the supplies recommended for the hands on activities. Though older students may be able to work independently, younger students will need the parent / teacher’s help.

How We Used Digital Science Online:

We chose a few unit/topics from the Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) that we wanted to cover during the review (see list below).  You can go through the subject however best fits your needs, but we went through each topic with this plan for our lessons:

  1. Pre-video Quiz given by me (the parent/teacher) to learn what the kids already know about a science topic,

  2. Then they watched a video or video clips that reinforced the topic.

  3. Next they answered Video Review questions during the video or video clip as they are discussed.

  4. Then they took a Post-video Quiz,

  5. Next my kids completed several optional activities to explore the topic in a hands on way (observations (some observations were done outside), experiments, review the online animations and images quick guides, and complete several printable worksheets that reinforce the topic),

  6. Finally my kids took a Topic Assessment Test.

what are plants

The videos and video clips of the various topics are observed online.  You can choose the topic you want to study and watch the entire video, or select a few short video clips to watch and stop to discuss or write down answers as you come to them.

Learning about 3 types of worms from the Simple Animals unit.

Learning about 3 types of worms from the Simple Animals unit.

Some of the topics have a hands on experiments and activities to do, and some topics only have worksheets as the hands on component.  Sometimes we substituted some of the materials for an activity based on what we had on hand.  All of the worksheets are cross-curricular and promote skills in science, but also language arts, English, math, public speaking if done in groups, etc.  All of the quizzes, tests, and worksheets are downloadable printables for the student to complete.

hole punched worksheet

I printed off the worksheets, quizzes, and tests for each unit/topic we were learning about.  I used a three hole punch to put holes in the printables, and made a folder for each of my kids to put their completed worksheets in.

How to Measure Length Unit.

How to Measure Length Unit.

There is a huge list of approximately 136+ science units/topics available in both English and Spanish in the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5), and another 125+ science units/topics in the Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12), so this program can last your classroom through out their school years.   It can be used as the curriculum, or used as a supplement for other curriculum.  I have only listed the unit/topics from the Elementary Edition below.  You can choose to do them in any order you choose.  We loved the freedom of being able to move around and choose the topics we wanted to learn about.

Topics in Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5)

      • Units of study: Grades K-2 collection
        activities of plants, adaptations, animal behavior, biodiversity, blood and circulation, cells, changes on earth, changing climate, chemical changes, classifying living things, complex animals, cycles in living things, day and night, describing matter, describing matter and its properties, describing problems, designing solutions, earth and you, earth’s nearest neighbors, earth’s rotation and revolution, ecology, fundamentals, electrical circuits, electricity, environmental problems and solutions, everyday simple machines, exploring desert biomes, exploring earth, sun, and moon, exploring energy, exploring energy and heat, exploring forest biomes, exploring fossils, exploring freshwater biomes, exploring grassland biomes, exploring landforms, environmental problems and solutions, everyday simple machines, explorando el sonido (exploring sound), explorando la energía y el calor (exploring energy and heat), explorando sólidos, líquidos y gases (exploring solids, liquids, and gases), exploring desert biomes, exploring earth, sun, and moon, exploring energy, exploring energy and heat, exploring forest biomes, exploring fossils, exploring freshwater biomes, exploring grassland biomes, exploring landforms, exploring marine biomes, exploring solids, liquids, and gases, exploring sound,
        exploring the building blocks of matter, fall, fascinating fossils, food and digestion, food chains, forces in fluids, forming bonds, fósiles fascinantes (fascinating fossils), gravedad (gravity), gravity, grouping living things
        hábitos saludables (healthy habits ), healthy habits, heat and energy
        helping us work, how to measure length, how to measure volume,
Using a ruler to measure worksheet.

Using a ruler to measure worksheet.

      • Units of study: Grades 3-5 collection
        ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS:
        impacto en la tierra (impacts on earth), impacts on earth, interacciones de los seres vivos (interactions of living things), interactions of living things, investigando la herencia (investigating heredity), investigating chemical reactions, investigating earth’s natural resources, investigating heredity, investigating mixtures, solutions, elements, and compounds,  investigating water, investigations and data, invierno (winter), keeping earth healthy, landforms, language in science, life cycles, light, listening and speaking in science, los ciclos de los seres vivos (cycles in living things), magnets and electromagnetism, making observations, measuring, microscopic life, migración e hibernación (migration and hibernation), migration and hibernation, minerals,  moving muscles and bones, moving things, natural resources, needs of living things, nuestra preciosa tierra (our precious earth), nutrition,  objetos en movimiento (moving things), observando el clima (observing weather), observing weather, otoño (fall), our distant neighbors, our precious earth, particles and matter, physical changes, planetas (planets), planets, plant life cycles, plant parts, plantas (plants), plants, plants with flowers, plate tectonics in action, primavera (spring), reading in science,  reading maps, recursos naturales (natural resources), rocks, scientific method, seguridad climática (weather safety), simple animals, soil and rocks, solutions at work, spring, stars and galaxies, starting with questions, suelo y rocas (soil and rocks), summer, sun and stars, the air around us, the changing phases of matter, the nature of waves, the rock cycle, the water cycle, things in motion, traits and heredity, trees, tu cuerpo ( your body ), tu dieta ( your diet ), usando la electricidad (using electricity), using electricity, using the scientific method, using tools in science, uso del método científico ( using the scientific method), verano (summer), vibrations and waves, water, water, everywhere, weather around us, weather on the move, weather safety, weathering and erosion, weighing things, what are magnets?, what are plants?, what do living things need?, what is a bird?, what is a fish?, what is a mammal?, what is a reptile?, what is an amphibian?, what is an insect?, what is light?, what is science?, what is sound?, what is the water cycle?,  why do we measure?, winter, working with data, writing in science, your body, your diet, ¿qué es el ciclo del agua? (what is the water cycle?), ¿qué es la luz? (what is light?), ¿qué es un anfibio? (what is an amphibian?),  ¿qué es un ave? (what is a bird?), ¿qué es un insecto? (what is an insect?), ¿qué es un mamífero? (what is a mammal?), ¿qué es un pez? (what is a fish?), ¿qué es un reptil? (what is a reptile?), ¿qué necesitan los seres vivos? (what do living things need?), ¿qué son los imanes? (what are magnets?),
Build a pulley system for Simple Machine's unit.

Build a pulley system for Simple Machine’s unit.

So as you can see there are several years worth of fun learning units/topics to do, and you can do them in any order you chose.  My advice would be to put a “short list” together of the units/topics you want to cover for a school year, or semester, or even for just a month at a time, and then spend a week +/- on each topic.  Some students may want to go faster or slower, but you have the freedom to go at any pace that fits your family 24/7.

about worms

A science curriculum program like this is a real asset to families.  Whether you are a homeschool family or not, if you want to teach science to your kids or if you are looking for an after school science program to help boost your child’s knowledge, give Digital Science Online a try.

You can download a FREE sample lesson to try before you buy. Just click on each square for the sample video, animation, student content and teacher content separately.  You can also watch a tutorial for how to use the Digital Science Online resource program. This is a great way to see if you and your student will like using this program.  You can also sign up for a FREE 10 Day Trial subscription.

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