Friday, October 23, 2015

IEW Resource Set (Schoolhouse Review)

IEW Phonetic Zoo
Institute for Excellence in Writing is best known for their comprehensive writing program (reviewed by the Schoolhouse Crew earlier this year.) They also publish many other innovative products for homeschoolers. We got to try out three of IEW’s resources this month:
Timeline of Classics
Teaching with Games Set
A Word Write Now  
Timeline of Classics: Historical Context for the Good and Great Books ($29.00), by Gail Ledbetter, is an index of books, plays, recordings and movies that correlate with each period of world history from the ancients to the present. These resources are arranged in chart form, giving the year and topic (such as 1500’s, British-Spanish conflict, Armada), Title, Author, and interest level (elementary, middle, and/or high school). This type of resource can be very helpful for putting together one’s own history program, supplementing a traditional textbook curriculum with additional books, such as biographies and historical fiction, or just exploring interests in a particular topic or time period. As much as we love books, I was very happy to see other resources as well, such as Jim Hodges’ recording of G.A. Henty books and documentaries and movies for each time period. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year searching for movies to supplement our history; it will be great to have a resource with suggestions now! I’ve started looking for resources and labeling ones that our library carries in the margins.
One nice touch that the Timeline of Classics has is a quote on each page from a book from that time period.
God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? –Benjamin Franklin
I didn’t always agree with the suggested reading level of the books. I saw many that I would have deemed appropriate for early elementary ages that were classified as Elementary/Middle and elementary/ middle books that were classified as Middle/High. We all have different standards for reading material, though, and I’ve found that even picture books can pack a lot of great information into an easy-to-read format. As always, it’s best to look at a book yourself to decide if it’s a good fit for your family.
Interested in adding some fun to your school day, but don’t know where to start? The Teaching with Games Set is packed with great ideas and even ready-to-use games. The 116 page book ($19) begins by briefly explaining the advantages of using games in the classroom (or homeschool). Did you know that studies show that students retain 5% of material from a lecture, 10% from reading, and as much as 90% from immediate use and application? Those facts certainly make a good argument for hands-on learning!
The bulk of the book explains and teaches different types of learning games in these categories:

    1. No-Prep games
    2. Matching Card Games
    3. Question Games
    4. Math Facts Games
    5. Make as You Teach Games
The author explains the rules and preparation needed for each game, provides blank templates for cards, Bingo, and board games, and includes many ready-to-use games. The pre-made games cover topics like math facts, world geography, planets, ancient Egypt, and geometry. But more importantly, the reader will be empowered to create her own game on any topic.
I particularly like the idea of no-prep games. These include games like hangman, and Wheel of Fortune and Pictionary adaptations. The make-as-you-teach games are even better. As the students create their own game boards for bingo or lotto games, they are learning the material. Then, they can practice the concepts again as they play the games.
Some of the games do require preparation, but still are not difficult to make and just require making flashcards or drawing out a game board.
The corresponding Teaching With Games DVD set ($29) features a conference that the author presented teaching the material in the book and demonstrating the games. It included the same material as the book, but I found it helpful to see the games in action. One disc also includes an e-book form of the Teaching With Games book and some bonus games for alliteration and similes. Some of the games do require larger groups—teams or at least 3-4 people to play. Since our homeschool has only one student, these won’t work for us, so we’re choosing from the ones that will and looking for opportunities to play games in larger groups.
This is a super simple game to practice adding and subtracting integers. Just make a number line from –10 to 10, find a marker and a die, and you are ready to play. The marker is placed on 0 and players take turns moving the number on the die (one player adds, and the other subtracts). The first player to reach “her” the end of her side of the number line wins. I wish I had thought of this game a few years ago when Emily was learning this concept. Every day, I would draw a number line at the top of her math notebook for a visual reference, because she wasn’t “seeing it” in her head. This would have helped!
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We played this Jeopardy-type game with our chemistry lab group. I made question cards in four different categories with content from their chemistry book. Questions were assigned point value depending on their difficulty and students competed for the most points. This was a really fun way to review those tough concepts!

A Word Write Now: A Thesaurus for Stylized Writing ($35), by Loranna Schwacofer,  is a unique reference book. At first glance, it is an easy-to-use thesaurus. Section A includes a double page spread for each of 23 character traits: anger, cheerfulness, envy, gossip, honor, etc. Each page defines the target word and gives a quote or two about the character quality (Hostility—“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Albert Schweitzer). Then a long list of is given (in nice big print) giving synonyms and related words for the character quality in these categories: nouns, nouns (characters), adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. And my favorite feature—excerpts from classical literature on every page. These excerpts demonstrate the featured character traits. For example, the Dishonesty page has quotes from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Although A Word Write Now stands well just as a reference book, we also used it to inspire creative writing assignments. I gave Emily one topic, like “courage,” and had her write a descriptive paragraph using at least 6 words from the list. It was fun to see what she came up with and I could tell that the list sparked her imagination in addition to encouraging her to use more descriptive and more specific words. We’ve done this creative writing assignment for several of the key words and it’s been a fun way to do creative writing.
Section B of the book is similar in format, but includes words in the categories of appearance, color, size, time, temperature, texture, and shape.
The appendix includes ideas for word games, an introduction to literary genres, and definitions and examples of literary devices. This is such a useful book that would be an great supplement to any curriculum.
All three of these resources will be helpful in our homeschool!

IEW Review
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

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