Tuesday, February 23, 2016

HelpTeaching.com (Schoolhouse Review)

HelpTeaching.com is a content-packed website that offers tests, activities, lessons, and games for grades PreK to 12. Although the site seems to be designed for classroom teachers, the content is equally helpful for homeschooling families. Some of the content at HelpTeaching.com is totally free (so be sure to check it out)! Other content is limited to those with a Pro Plan membership, at $25.95 a year.
While the content at HelpTeaching.com would not comprise a complete curriculum, I found a nice variety of content to supplement an existing curriculum. My use focused on the high school materials, since I’m not currently teaching any younger children. First, I looked through the “Tests and Worksheets” section, which features printables in many subject areas. Printables can be viewed by choosing grade level or by choosing a content area, such as social studies or life skills.
Here is a screenshot of some of the options for 10th grade.
For this review period, I focused primarily on the English Language Arts category. I realized that the “Text Analysis” content area could be very helpful for Emily. I know that is a skill covered in the SAT and ACT, and one that she hadn’t done much. I printed out several of these activities. There was a range of topics available for text analysis, including analyzing fiction, speeches, poetry, and scientific texts. Each included a short (less than one page) passage, followed by both multiple choice and short answer questions. Each of the questions requires higher level thinking from the student. One passage, a eulogy given by Michelle Obama for Maya Angelou, asks, “Why does Michelle Obama include a quote from the Bible at the beginning of the speech,” “What was the focus of the speech?” and “What technique does Michelle Obama use at the beginning of the speech?” (with multiple choice answers to choose from). Answers are available on the site, of course.
Here are some of the worksheet/test options for text analysis:
Emily found some of these activities difficult, which confirmed my decision that she needs more practice in this area. We plan to complete all of them over the next month or so.
Any of these tests/worksheets can be printed or can be scheduled for the student to take online. I found it quite easy to email Emily a link to the test for her to take online. When she does so, the computer grades the multiple choice questions, leaving the short answer questions for the teacher to grade. I can then choose whether to let Emily see her graded test online or not.
While the English materials were quite helpful for me,  some of the history materials were not quite as useable. The selection was smaller, and many of the history printables were actually tests that would be given after a student had studied the topic, since the material is not explained on the worksheet. I did find a map activity on the French and Indian War that corresponded with her history studies and printed off a few other sheets that we’ll be able to use in the near future. I have browsed through the chemistry and math sections as well for topics to reinforce Emily’s textbook work in these subjects.

imageOne very nice feature of HelpTeaching.com is the Test Maker. This section contains hundreds of ready-made questions, allowing the teacher to very quickly produce a test on any topic. I chose to make a test on the colonial period of American history. I was able to filter questions both by topic and by grade level. At the high school level, I had far more multiple choice and short answer questions to choose from than I could use. I just chose the questions I wanted and assigned them to a test and it was ready to print. Such a time saver! Because some questions are produced by the staff of HelpTeaching.com and others are submitted by users, there was some duplication. Also, some questions seemed too easy for high school work and I doubted the accuracy of a few others. It was easy, however, to choose only the questions that met my needs. It was so much fun and easy to make the tests, that I made a few more—one for the American Revolution, and one for chemistry.

Another section of HelpTeaching.com includes Lessons. The lessons generally include links to videos found on other sites, such as Khan Academy or YouTube, accompanied by worksheets to reinforce the concept. Again, a lesson can be scheduled in seconds by sending a link to your student. Emily completed a lesson on Charles Law (perfect to reinforce the chapter she’s on in her chemistry book), a lesson on euphemisms, and a lesson on SAT vocabulary.

The Game Maker option allows the teacher to create word searches and bingo games for any topic area. We haven’t tried this yet, but I may create a bingo game for our chemistry lab class to play.
What I liked: HelpTeaching.com provides a huge amount of material in every subject and grade level that can be used for online testing or for printed work. It will be convenient to pull out a topic here and there when I feel that I need to supplement our existing curriculum.
What I didn’t like: Because the content is submitted by different people, I had to be careful to check what I used for accuracy or accurate grade level. We encountered one activity that wasn’t really useable. It was a “themes in literature” page that had excerpts from longer works. After assigning it to Emily, I realized that many of the questions could not be answered from reading the few paragraphs provided; she would have had to read the entire short story or book, or at least a larger portion of it for the questions to even make sense. We generally didn’t have that problem, but now I know to be cautious!
If you are looking for some supplementary activities or need some help putting together tests, HelpTeaching.com might be very helpful for you.

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

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