Friday, June 19, 2015

WordBuildOnline {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

After teaching the mechanics of phonics and learning to read, there are many steps you can take to build reading fluency and comprehension in your child.  One way to ensure they have a strong grasp of the English language is to deeply enhance their vocabulary.  Dynamic Literacy offers a variety of programs for vocabulary development, including WordBuildOnline.

WordBuildOnline review

Dynamic Literacy takes a different approach to vocabulary than what I ever did in school.  Instead of taking a list of seemingly random words and defining them, this program focuses on what the child already knows, and builds upon that.  You simply focus on roots, prefixes and suffixes.  By learning a prefix or suffix, and knowing how they apply to a variety of root words, you are increasing your vocabulary exponentially.  This can be a very efficient way to expand your vocabulary quickly.

There are two primary levels to Dynamic Literacy.  Foundations is for students who have learned to read and are transitioning to vocabulary and reading comprehension.  This level helps them learn the most important prefixes and suffixes in the English language, and is appropriate for 2nd-5th graders. It would also be appropriate for older students or ESL students who struggle with comprehension.  Elements is for students who have completed Foundations, or for 6th grade and up.  Students will learn the most frequently used Latin and Greek roots, as well as how to analyze unfamiliar words to decipher their meanings.

 WordBuildOnline is the online and interactive version of the Dynamic Literacy vocabulary program.  For the purpose of this review, I used Foundations Level 1 of WordBuildOnline.  Elliott is a rising 3rd grader, and is right at the target level.  It starts with an introductory video for the student, explaining how we make compound words and comparing that to how they will use prefixes and suffixes to make new words.  Then it jumps right into the program!

Each unit starts with a short video explaining the prefix or suffix that will be used, what it means, and how it will be applied.  Then there are 5 activities that use the prefix/suffix with a variety of root words.  It is designed to last all year, doing one unit per week, and one activity from each unit per day.  We started with the prefix "over" and covered words like overhang, overpaid, overwork, overlook, overdress, etc.  As my 8 year old was giving me examples and definitions, even my 5 year old was chiming in with fairly accurate definitions!

WordBuildOnline Review

There is a timer for every activity, so a student cannot spend more than 15 minutes per activity, as the program will not allow it.  It's not a race to beat the clock, but students who like timing themselves will probably like the feature, because you know exactly how long it takes you to complete it.  Students who don't particularly like language arts activities will be encouraged to know that the lesson will not go on forever.  You can do the activities back to back, but it is not recommended to do more than one per day.

The five activities repeat themselves for each unit.

Affix Square
A 3x3 grid where the prefix/suffix is in the center square and the root words surround it.  The student matches the prefix with a root word, then types a definition for that word.  After they complete the activity, they can choose to review it

Affix Adder
The student combines the affix and root word to make a new word.  Then there are three sentences given, and the student chooses the sentence that uses the new word correctly.

Magic Square
There is a 3x3 grid and each square has a word in it.  On the right of the grid there are nine definitions.  The student matches them up, and if they matched them all correctly, then each row and each column will add up to the same number.

Comprehension Booster
This activity utilizes the more traditional fill-in-the-blank approach to practice using words in "context" instead of just defining them.

Check Up
The unit ends with a short quiz of 5 questions about the unit.  It's only 10 minutes, but it's multiple choice and fairly painless!

WordBuildOnline Review

Final Thoughts
The program is completely customized to your student's ability, and adjusts based on their responses to the activities.  This is a quality feature in my opinion.  The parent account allows you to review progress and reset an activity if absolutely necessary.  There are also parent videos, so if your child needs a little bit more help, there's guidance for you.  The price is only $30 per level, and there is NO expiration date!  You buy the level and have as long as you need to complete it!  We are flexible, relaxed homeschoolers, so being able to take a break from online programs and return when we're ready is very important to me.  I like that this program uses activities instead of traditional vocabulary lists to teach students new words, and through their unique method, teaches them how to decode the meaning of new words based on prefixes and suffixes.  I also love the timed feature.  It means lessons are short and sweet!  This is something I could see us using in a relaxed way throughout the year, because the short "lesson" makes it especially great for busy days.  In fact, I think this would be good for us to use for independent work on mornings before co-ops or appointments when we might not do a full school schedule.  Overall, I think this is a good program, and I would feel comfortable recommending it for vocabulary.

You can find out more about Dynamic Literacy and their products (they have physical versions of this program that were reviewed as well) by checking out their website, Facebook Twitter and Pinterest, and as always, by reading more reviews!

Dynamic Literacy Review

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