Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Learning Wrap-ups (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Learning Palette Online Program Review from Adventures with Jude

The Crew recently was given the opportunity to review several products from Learning Wrap-ups.  Learning Wrap-ups is a mathematics program developed by a teacher looking for a way to help her students.  Some of her students were not succeeding with memorizing multiplication facts with "traditional" flash cards, so she developed a different way that would work.  The product line has grown from the initial multiplications facts manipulatives kit to encompass other areas of mathematics and other subjects, such as language (English and Spanish), science, and even music theory.  It also has expanded into the Learning Palette program; instead of string and sticks, a round "artist's palette" style base is set with interchangeable cards and colored disks are used to indicate answers.  This program has also been independently expanded into the Learning Palette Online language arts and math program for students in K through 5th grade.  Our family received a full online family subscription from  Subscription costs are $25 per year for a single user, or $60 per year for up to five students in one family. Two students in our family,  Jude (1st/2nd grade) and Damien (PK) have been trying it out, with mixed success.  (Note: They are currently offering a 20% discount if you use the coupon code HOMESCHOOL.)

From an academic angle, I think this is a very good program.  The online series contains two sections - Language Arts and Math, and each subject is divided into different levels. The divisions are pretty logical (generally by expectations for that grade), and you can move around within the level/activities.

I also like that you can do different levels within the program.  For example, Jude easily completed the Level 1 math activities, and then started in on Level 2.  However, because his language skills are far behind his math abilities, so it was good to be able to start in the Basic level cards for those.

 The some of the Basic level skills for language arts corresponded with some of the things we have on our "Speech Therapy" activities summer/home program list - matching pictures with sounds, rhyming, etc.

 I foresee us using the language side of the program more as a "speech therapy" activity, rather than an actual "school" activity.

Damien started with Basic levels, and did OK with a few activities.  He didn't get much beyond "Match the Letters" in language arts or matching colors & shapes for math.  I'm ok with that, given he's only almost 4, however, unless you have a really advanced kid, I wouldn't start this earlier than the "manufacturer's suggested age" of Kindergarten.  Schools have been using the Learning Palette program for a long time for independent learning centers, and I agree with this practice. It's really more of a review/drill game, and less of a learning activity -- if the child doesn't know that the word jam starts with a /j/ sound, which is written as the letter j, it's not going to be an independent program.  I think if the boys were just reviewing and able to work on their own, this would have been easier.  Damien even struggled with understanding the "split card" idea - where the colored rings made the top matches and the colored disks matched the bottom. I think because their skills are so limited, it was frustrating because they didn't have a lot of variety to work with, and both needed help figuring out even just how to get from card to card.  For example, Jude eventually figured it out by where/what buttons he clicked on in the past, not by decoding that that shape he clicked said "Next Card."

We had an opportunity to review the physical product but I decided to request only the online program.  Given we spend a lot of time working away from home, I thought that the online version would suit us better because it was a lot less pieces to worry about losing in our travels. works on the HTML5 platform, so it can be used on a computer or tablet, or even an iPhone! (The last one is little small, but it will come up.)  Having used it on both a MacBook and iPad/iPad Mini, I am reconsidering the "it's a lot of pieces" stance.  The trade off for having it online is having to drag the "chips" into place.  On the computer, if Jude resized the window mid-card (usually making it bigger so he could see the farthest top and bottom edges), he had to re-place the tokens.

Regular screen
Resized to full screen

On the iPad, we struggled with moving tiles around.  Sometimes, Jude lifted his finger too soon, an a chip would drop into the wrong space.  Once it was there, we couldn't move it.  (This did not happen on the laptop.)  He got very frustrated, because he knew the answer was wrong, but he couldn't fix it.  Damien struggled moving chips around - his fine motor skills aren't there yet, even using a touch screen.  I think the physical product, with the truly hands-on manipulation would have been better suited to them.  (Plus, it would have been a fantastic fine-motor development exercise.)

Jude also needs a lot of sensory input to maintain focus.  One day, we tried working draped over a Bosu ball.

It was really awkward using the computer, and I think having the physical program would have helped with being able to position himself and the item, plus given him a broader range of movement (picking up chips and moving them to another space/into the palette) rather than having only a 4" x 3" trackpad to move only his finger.

Overall, I liked the concept of the Learning Palette but the online version ultimately didn't suit our needs as well as I would have hoped.  Since the boys will be in the age range for quite some time (math skills are covered through fifth grade, language arts to third), not counting therapeutic use, once our subscription runs out I may consider investing in the physical product.  I'm definitely going to check out the reviews that other crew members did of the physical product Learning Wrap-ups activities - click the button below to join me!

Click to read Crew Reviews

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1 comment:

  1. We have some of the physical learning palettes from way back when I sold Usborne Books, and I have liked them. They definitely are for kids who already know the skill and are practicing. But you're right that being able to physically move the tiles is good, and I think it would be difficult online.


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