Over the past few weeks, A7 and B5 have had the pleasure of using the Complete Home Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage. A supplementary curriculum for elementary children, Essential Skills Advantage offers over 14,000 online lessons. Each lesson is carefully crafted to build the child’s skill in that area.
The Complete Learning Suite offers lessons in five main areas:
Each area is then broken down into grades, with the freedom to pick whichever grade the child is best suited to. This means a child strong in maths but weaker at reading can be placed in grade 3 for maths and grade 1 for reading:
Reading, Language and Grammar and Maths all have from Kindergarten to Grade 6 levels available. Science has from Kindergarten to Grade 3 whilst Geography has Grade 4 through to Grade 6.
For the purpose of this review, I shall be focusing on the Kindergarten Maths and Grade 1 Language and Grammar (Spelling).
Once your student is logged on, and Kindergarten Maths has been selected, there will be a screen full of all the topics available. In this case the student can choose to work on:
- Data Management
B5 has already completed her Reception Year maths and I had been looking for a fun supplementary maths program which would consolidate all she had already learnt. This fit the bill nicely. She was able to log on herself as there are no tricky passwords to remember, and she was fairly independent the whole time she was doing her maths. She worked concurrently on Numeration, in which there are seven units, each with a varying number of activities to choose from:
and Patterning, which contains six units, again each had a varying number of activities:
This changing around of topics kept the learning fresh and interest level high. Once a unit is chosen the screen moves to the first activity (or if worked on previously, it will automatically return to the last activity):
A voice instructs the child what he or she needs to do. In this case the child needs to pick which pattern is being described. There is an ear button at the bottom right to click on if a repeat of the instructions or question is needed. For each question which is answered correctly a gold star appears at the bottom of the screen. The child is given two attempts to answer correctly. If both attempts are incorrect a red exclamation mark fills the star:
The parent can, at any time, click the star at the top of the page. This gives a visual report of how the student is performing on that particular unit (in this case Shapes):
B5 worked at her maths most days for about ten to fifteen minutes. As this was mainly review for her she moved through the work at a fair pace and enjoyed herself immensely. These are very much activities and not lessons. In fact, within the maths section, there is no teaching at all. Prior knowledge is assumed. For B5 this was not a problem as she had already worked the whole way through this level in her normal maths program. I did not feel she was ready for grade 1 maths yet, so using Essential Skills Advantage to build her Kindergarten maths fluency and speed was perfect.
Grade One Language and Grammar
I was very excited about A7 using this. As she has been late to read, obtaining fluency only just recently, I had not yet attempted to teach her spelling. This was love at first sight/use! She didn’t even need for me to explain to her how to use it. She took one look, grabbed the mouse and away she went! After clicking through to the first grade Language and Grammar, she had the following choices:
She chose Fun with Spelling and began at the beginning:
The beginning spelling was very simple and she literally was doing ten activities each day. Although A7 has not done any spelling before, the activities were very easy for her. Towards the end of fun with spelling there are spelling challenges and learning to spell colours and numbers, so the activities do become progressively harder:
The activities themselves are brightly coloured, simple graphics and are well explained and easy for a child to complete independently:
Once your child has completed Fun with Spelling I they then have the option to move onto Spelling Stumpers 1-5. This includes lots and lots of spelling lists, with many activities included for each list; there is also a chance to work on spelling rules:
The spelling rule is given, followed many activities:
Our Thoughts on Essential Skills Advantage
For the purpose of reviewing B5’s maths and for beginning spelling with A7, ESA has been an amazing resource to have access to. As a computer program it runs well and is so simple for young children to operate completely independently. It is brightly coloured and attractive which encourages the enjoyment of its users, and yet is not so busy that A7’s concentration was troubled. In fact, for me this program is a winner based solely on the fact that my attention struggling seven-year old wanted to do activity after activity. She never got bored and often had to be peeled away from her spelling so we could move on to a different activity. I highly recommend this program.
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