And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Monday, June 6, 2016

Teach Your Students to Outline in Reverse

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs is the latest item we received for review. We received 1 year access to MaxScholar's MaxGuru educational website for Apple & Speedy. Initially I did not request this for Apple. I think the name "Reading Intervention Program" made me think this wouldn't be useful for a really strong reader, but she really liked the concept so I asked for her to be added. MaxScholar was so gracious and gave her access to the program. I think she utilized and enjoyed it as much as Speedy did during the trial period!

MaxScholar is an easy to access website that presents a number of learning opportunities. Students have options to work in MaxPhonics, MaxReading, MaxWords, MaxMusic, MaxVocab, MaxPlaces, and MaxBios. Within each of the 7 areas, there are various lessons, games, and activities to try. Apple and Speedy both focused on the MaxReading portion for a majority of our review period, but both also took time to explore some of the other areas.

To use MaxScholar, you receive a parent login and password to a parent site and  separate logins and passwords for your students to use on the student page. The parent account has tutorials for the program along with a place to view reports on the progress your student is making. You can look at overall reports and detailed reports for a selected date range for each individual student. The reports can also be printed. I found the reports made it easy to assign a daily grade to each child based on their work for the day.

This is listed as a reading intervention program. I would imagine that MaxPhonics is the intended program for that. Both kids took a pretest for Phonics, but I didn't feel like it fairly placed them. Apple is well beyond the phonics stage. Speedy has been working on phonics with another program so he played around with the phonics portion a bit but felt it was below his level. The MaxReading portion of the website was the "meat" for all of us. In that section, the student selects a passage to read. First, they are given the chance to study selected vocabulary in the passage. They can see the definition or a synonym for each of the words. Then they are to read the passage. After that they are to highlight the topic, main idea, and important words in the passage. The page gives the number of words that should be highlighted for each of those. There are a lot of "important words" to highlight in each passage. After that the student has an opportunity to make an outline from the passage, and then they are given 3 choices for a writing assignment. They can choose to write a summary, answer an open ended question, or answer a general question. Following that they are asked comprehension questions about the passage. Finally, they can play a game.

When the student initially begins the MaxReading portion of the program, they are given a pretest. There was some confusion about the pretest as Speedy (going into 4th) began the pretest at the 9th level and ended up scoring in the 6th level. While he could certainly read the chapters in level 6, he was not ready to complete the highlighting and questions on that level. Thankfully levels 0-6 were unlocked for him, and we played around a little until he found a comfortable place. Level 3 and 4 were good fits for him. Apple's pretest only began in level 6, and that's where it kept her. As we used the program during our review period, I kept expecting it to open up higher levels for her, but so far it has not. The levels run from 0-12, and so far both kids are only unlocked up to the 6th level.

Even if they aren't exactly on the "right" levels, I've seen a HUGE improvement in both of their scores since they began using the program. While I'm sure some of that is just a learning curve for using a new website, I also feel like they are really getting some valuable lessons about finding the topic and main ideas in a passage. I also think this is giving them both some extra reading comprehension study. Basically they've both learned to outline in reverse. I hope that translates into better outlining in forward...err....traditional outlining.

Speedy says:

"I do like how they set up the games and all the different things like MaxMusic. I don't like all the yellow highlighting."

Apple had this to say:

"I really like the way it is set up. I didn't like the pre-test and where it placed me when I only missed 1 question. I'd really like to go to Level 7, but I haven't figured out how yet. I really like getting to do the piano on MaxMusic."

Both kids spent some time on MaxMusic. In that section, the student selects an artist and then a song. They then have 3 choices. They can identify certain parts of speech in the song lyrics, they can fill in missing words from the song lyrics, or they can copy the song by playing the "piano" with their keyboard. The kids liked playing with the MaxMusic choices but they only knew a song or two from the list. We don't listen to much popular music so Kid Cudi and Jay Z are new to them. I'm afraid there isn't much of a solution to that problem.

Our review period on this product has really flown by so we've only dabbled in MaxBios and MaxPlaces a very little. Both of those sections seem very similar to MaxReading but with passages on specific places or people. Those sections will be helpful if the kids are studying a particular person or place.

While this program began with a little frustration over placement tests, both kids have settled into a routine of using it once per school day Monday- Thursday. I've been relaxed and let them pick their area and explore on their own. As I said, there have been huge improvements in their scores. Both started out not passing because they were struggling so much with the highlighting. Now they are regularly pulling As and Bs on MaxScholar. While I wasn't sure how much we'd benefit from a reading prevention program, I've been pleasantly surprised at all it has to offer. I've also been impressed that there have been improvements consistently made since we began using the website. I'm excited to see what the future holds for MaxScholar, and we will continue to use the program on a regular basis especially through the summer weeks.

Check out more reviews of MaxScholar:
MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

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