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Saturday, March 14, 2009

review of products from Bonnie Terry Learning

From http://www.bonnieterrylearning.com/ I received 4 spiral-bound books to review: Making Spelling Sense, Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills, and Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, both student and teacher editions.

It was quite a bit to go over, with such a large package of information (I also received a CD-ROM video of Bonnie Terry herself, reviewing the ways she teaches. I would've really enjoyed watching more of the video but mine must have had a slight glitch in it; the volume of her voice would not increase and so it was hard for me to hear it over the background music).

Allow me to begin with the book we were able to use most, the Making Spelling Sense book. This is a simple approach to teaching children to be able to spell any word by using 8 basic spelling patterns. You learn to spell the 500 words in the book and then are enabled to spell thousands of other words using the same patterns. This book incorporates visual, auditory, and tactile learning and is phonetically and sequentially based. Next year we will try this as our sole spelling curriculum. If it had arrived earlier in the year before we got so engrossed in our current curriculum, we would have used it this year. I really don't like my third grader's text anyway, but am loathe to changing directions so close to the year's end.

I like the fact that I can use it with all my children who are of writing and spelling age. It does start off very easy, as it is sequential. So your first lesson contains words like "if" and "has". By the book's end you're spelling words like "distance" and "usually".

Each day's lessons are so easy to teach and incorporate.
I used a white board to post the list of words that we were going over and also gave each child a copy of the sheet to write on directly. I taught the lesson on the white board, showing them the pattern. For example, the first few lessons use the vowel/consonant pattern. After writing the words on the whiteboard and teaching the pattern, then I allowed to boys to help me work through the lesson, them on their papers, and me on the board. They simply write the words once each and the write them again, labeling the pattern parts the second time. After this they get a handout of little puzzles to do to quiz them over the spelling words. My 8th grader was finished in about 2 minutes and it only took my 3rd grader about 5 minutes to do. They easily learned the patterns and liked the puzzle pages. The tests are done a little bit differently than I am used to. There is a sample test plus reproducible test pages in the book as well.

At the end of the lessons you'll find additional sections on over 300 suffixes, open and closed syllables, and prefixes, also homonyms, antonyms, and synonyms lessons. I didn't make it far enough to try those pages yet, but it looks like there are some fairly simple activities for teaching these concepts.

I hate to write reviews when I didn't have adequate time to really dig into a product. Its just difficult to try to work with new products coming in while still getting regular work finished. I will try to come back and update my Bonnie Terry review in the next school year. I have high hopes that if we start with this curriculum next fall and use it faithfully, I will only have to teach each child spelling once in his lifetime. Then he would retain most knowledge needed to spell most other words. Wouldn't that be amazing?

I can't wait to go see what others are saying about this. I'd love to hear more from moms who were able to really dig into it and give it a deep testing.

Now on to the other books.

These I used a little less. Again, perhaps next year or over the summer I can really dig into them more deeply. I know my 8th grader can definitely benefit from the study skills book. He is really lacking in this area at times. This guide teaches students how to take notes (he severely dislikes note-taking, yet he needs to use it daily in his studies), how to write paragraphs, and how write essays. In part I she teaches students how to get started studying. You know, as parents we assume this all comes naturally to kids; after all, everyone just knows how to study, right? Wrong! Ever see an ADHD child trying to work in a room with a preschooler playing noisily while the tv blares and someone else is talking? It doesn't work. Sometimes we have to start with step one and teach children how to set up a study area with room to work and essential items nearby.

Once children have gathered the listed items for studying and cleared out an area that meets his needs, then a planning calendar is given. It breaks down the afternoon and evening into hour-long increments. There is also a monthly calendar given. Copy them and give them to your students to use. This will help them to become more organized and set a regular study time.

Part II has lots of reproducibles to aid students as they work through their regular workload. There are cause and effect sheets, book reports, outlines, a text book note taker sheet, compare and contrast sheets, and more. Each type of page has a sample page, filled in, and with explanations as to when to give that particular page to your child for use.

For example, at this point my boys are studying colonial America via a unit study. I could give my younger son the book report form to use with one of the many books we're reading on the 13 Colonies. My older son could benefit from using the Text Book Note Taker sheet to sift through the history texts we use as supplements to each unit. The formal outline page looks very helpful for high school essay writing.

Part III has more study tips and note taking tips. It also has tips on test-taking (no more panic!) and writing better paragraphs.

Part IV is a handy-dandy little reference section to look up spelling patterns, capitalization rules, punctation rules, helping/being verbs, clauses, how to write a bibliography (whoa!), and much more. This book is a keeper and I highly recommend it for students who really need to learn to write and study more efficiently, or for students entering middle and high school.

Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills:
I am ashamed to say that I never got to use this one with my 3rd grader, although he probably needs it. I was able to look through it numerous times and am aiming to really give it a go this week. Once I do, I'll post an update.

This book contains short (as in five minute) lessons called "drills". You use these with a student at least twice a week but you can use them daily. These drills begin by having students read aloud a list of words. You'll notice the drill list word characters are spaced further apart than in normal reading; this extra spacing of the letters helps students with visual perception difficulties. After the pre-reading of the list, the child is given a "one-minute timed read". The teacher has forms to use to log how many words were read correctly, plus how many words were read per minute and how many errors were made per minute. The goal is not only to be able to read fastre but to have accuracy. The mastery guide lets teachers know when to move the student on to the next drill. This program can be used for grades 1-adult because you can adjust the words-per-minute mastery level.

Bonnie Terry Learning carries other products such as The Sentence Zone, The Math Zone, Super Spacers, and more. She is a Board Certified Education Therapist who started Bonnie Terry Learning in 1992 as a way to help share her learning support materials with teachers and parents around the world! Ms. Terry says, "Our philosophy is that all students can learn; they just need the tools and the encouragement to find their wings to reach their goals. And we have results to prove that this is true."


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