Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Wordy Qwerty

This is going to be my last TOS Homeschool Crew review for awhile, as the crew year is winding down.  How sad!  There are a few more products being reviewed next week, but I'm not on any of them.

So I get to go out with a bang, talking about a product I really like.  Talking Fingers, the creators of Read, Write and Type and Wordy Qwerty, is a company I first learned about a few years ago.  Connor worked through Wordy Qwerty, and both William and Thomas worked through Read, Write and Type.

The Crew reviewed Read, Write and Type last fall, but I wasn't a part of that one.  That program teaches kids to read by teaching them to type.  The idea is that if you can type (and write) it, you can read it.  Cute program.

Wordy Qwerty is intended for after a child has gotten fairly proficient with basic reading, and is targeted towards 2nd-4th graders.  I know my kids aren't exactly normal when it comes to reading and spelling, but I think 2nd grade is a little young for this.  And I love it with my older kids.  In fact, William (6th) was the primary person to use Wordy Qwerty during our review of the online subscription.

Essentially, as I see it, the point of Wordy Qwerty is that if you can spell something you can read it.  So it is focusing mostly on the spelling aspect, but in each of the twenty lessons, you are working with a few different things:
  • a spelling rule.  This includes a great little song too.  Rules cover a lot of ground, such as learning when to use the various /k/, /j/, /x/ spellings, or how to form plurals.  I really like this section.
  • word families.  This involves working with words with the same sound but different spellings -- ate/ait, eed/ead, ite/ight, ore/oar are examples.  This is the section my kids have all found to be the most difficult.  
  • outlaw words.  This involves being given a sentence (such as "They would like some.") and the various words show up on the screen on balloons.  In this example, you might see They, The, Them, Thy.  The student pops the correct balloon to recreate the sentence, and more words start appearing.  The words only stay up a short time (so they have to pay attention!) and if the student doesn't get "They" before it disappears, it does come up again.  My kids enjoy playing this and seeing how many times they can form the sentence.  I love this section, as differentiating between similar looking little words is something my kids have all needed extra work with.
  • type and spell.  A two-part sentence is put on the screen and read.  The second part of the sentence is taken away, and the student is to retype it.  This is great for my older kids, but anytime I've had a 2nd to young 3rd grader doing it, they have found this part quite frustrating.  The program does give a lot of help though.  And I like that it is here.  It's just the part that keeps me from thinking this is appropriate for 2nd graders.
  • fill in the blanks.  This final section has a story for them to read, with some drop down boxes for them to choose the most appropriate word.  The kids actually like this section too, maybe because it seems so easy.

One thing I do not like... in the parental login section where you set up the kids' accounts, there is an option to set up a "pass level" in 10% increments (from 0% to 100%).  It defaulted to 70%, which works for me.  However, what I assumed that meant isn't what it actually means.

If a student works through a section and scores, oh, say 10% on it (ummm, yes, this happened) the computer will make them redo that lesson.  Okay, that is what I expected.  However, if the student again scores 10% on the lesson, it doesn't matter.  The student moves on to the next lesson.

William thought he was getting things basically correct because it wasn't doing enough to tell him he was wrong.  He didn't find anything that was showing him how we was scoring.  I had been watching over his shoulder and saw he was making progress through the lessons, so I assumed he was getting over 70%.  It turns out, when I go look at the reporting data, that he isn't.  So I have to go back through and make him do the lessons again.

If this aspect were changed, I would be much happier with the program.  What I would love to be able to do for my struggling students is to set the pass rate at something like 40%, and that way they could go all the way through the program learning the various little songs and rules.  And then I would want to be able to up that pass rate to something more like 70% so they could sail through the ones they understood, but they would be forced to spend a bit more time on the ones where they struggled.

So, even though this program is a bit more mom-intensive than I would prefer, I do really love it.  The songs are catchy, the games are definitely educational, and it does cover a lot of spelling.  You can check out the scope and sequence here.

The program is available as software or through an online subscription.  Subscriptions are for FIVE years, and vary from $25 for a single student to $71.25 for five students.  If you go here to download lesson 1, and you sign up for their newsletter, you can save 20%

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about Wordy Qwerty at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive one year Wordy Qwerty subscriptions for some of my kids in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

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