Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ABeCeDarian Interactive Workbooks (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

One of the worst things about having a son with special needs is that Garrett tends to be a bit delayed on certain skills. Reading is one of those things.  While Garrett makes leaps and bounds in his reading skills, he's still not at the level I would like him to be at (although, granted, far higher than where they originally told me he would be).  Lately, Garrett and I have been working with the online version of the Interactive A Workbook from ABeCeDarian Company in order to help improve his phonic awareness and word building.

The Level A Interactive Student Workbook is the digital version of their original
A1 and A2 workbooks combined together.  There is nothing to download as it is completely browser based and can be accessed with both Mac and Windows computers as well as most tablets and smartphones.  The program combines a series of world puzzles, spelling and reading chains as well as handwriting and spelling practice.  A Teacher's Manual in PDF format is available for free download or can be purchased if a physical copy is preferred.

The Workbook itself is a fully contained browser based application that does not require any downloading to your computer or tablet.  However, because it is not a download, this means that each time the application is accessed, it does take a bit of time for it to load up.  There is no indication during this load time that the application is loading and you are instead presented with a completely blacked out screen.  With our high speed internet connection, it took well over 2 minutes of staring at a black screen before the actual loading screen popped up and then another minute for that to finish loading and the workbook opens up.  This long black streen can be a bit discouraging to users who might think that the application is not loading up properly.

After 2 minutes of black screen you will see this loading  screen

One the workbook has been loaded, users are instructed to click the top corners of the screen to maneuver forward and backward between the pages.  We were using the Google Chrome browser with the workbook and we had no issues with any of the functions of the workbook. Garrett (who was the primary user of the workbook) was quickly able to figure out how to maneuver between the pages.

The workbook consists of 48 individual lessons. The application does not keep previous answers from past work and each time the workbook is loaded it gives a completely fresh copy of the workbook. However, a Table of Contents at the beginning of the application allows you to quickly return to any of the 48 lessons so that students do not have to re-visit the prior lessons in order to continue.

Designed for kindergarten and first grade students who are not reading or are just beginning to read, lesson consists of slides that consist multiple activities that help to build the students reading skill and phonic awareness.  These activities are interactive and students are required to move letters around to spell words, read words and sentences, or trace and write words on the screen. The lessons start very simple with words like MOP in lesson 1 and then progress with each lesson. Lessons take roughly 20-30 minutes to complete and target 6 common words in each as well as teaching students the valuable skill of "decoding", which is translating the print that they see to speech which leads to mastery in reading.

How We Used It and What We Thought

One of our Blooper Shots - Kenny Wanted to Play during Schooltime
Garrett was the primary user of the Interactive Workbook for the course of this review.  Garrett is slightly out of the grade level and reading level targeted by this application but we still found it very valuable for him.  He would use each day and would be able to finish a lesson twice a week (ABeCeDarian states that younger students in the targeted levels will usually complete a lesson in 7 days).

We were really fortunate that my laptop is a touch screen as it made things MUCH easier on the activities that required tracing/writing letters than trying to use the mouse.  This gave Garrett much more control over the letter and led to much more legible writing.

One thing I have to say is that this workbook seems to use the same format as another "Teach your Child to Read" format that we are currently using, which was a very big plus for us.  Again, while Garrett's reading level is slightly higher than Kindergarten/1st Grade, the reading portion gave him a very good refresher and provided easier passages for him to read to build his confidence.

This isn't a program that students can use independently and does require parental participation.  The Teacher's Manual provides multiple suggestions on how to use each activity slide to full capacity and can easily become a curriculum in itself for a younger student.

My only real criticism for this application is to maybe put some sort of loading screen in place of the black screen so that both student and parents know that the application is loading properly.  Nothing is more frustrating than to sit and wonder "is it or isn't it" and then stare at a black screen for 5 minutes only to realize that "it isn't".  Outside of that, this is a great program and I would suggest it for younger students, new readers and those who are struggling to read.

For more information about the ABeCeDarian Company and their products including the Interactive Workbooks, visit their website for find them on Facebook.

40 members of the Review Crew were given the opportunity to review the Digital Version of the Level A Interactive Student Workbook.  To read their reviews, click the banner below.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

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