Sunday, March 29, 2009

TOS Review: Bonnie Terry Learning

I have bought my fair share of curriculum items that just didn't work out the way I'd hoped. There was, for example, the Rummy Roots game that failed to teach my children Latin or Greek roots words but did manage to make for a really confusing version of Go Fish. There was the Quarter Mile Math drill that lost its luster after three or four rounds.

And there have been more. Many more--because I am completely fallible, yes ... but more because there is no one curricula product that matches every family's learning styles and needs.

This, I suspect, is why Bonnie Terry's The Sentence Zone Game fell flat with us. We just never quite figured out what it was trying to do, how it was supposed to work and why on earth we'd invest that much time in getting from point A to point B.

The game is huge--"massive," Logan says. Over 500 color-coded cards of various parts of speech wait to be arranged into ever-more-complex sentences in a game of multi-level play. The premise is promising. It was disappointing to see the shortcomings.

The first problem for us was that the color coding basically defeated the purpose of sorting out the parts of speech. If you already know that nouns are, for example, red, then what's the point? The next issue was this: children who didn't need the review plunged through, racking up points. The ones who did were stymied by their fear of losing (a very clear probability) and by the sheer magnitude of the charge in front of them. And finally, the game board itself was restrictive. Dictating where each adverb was supposed to be located was anathema to creative minds who already have a decent handle on how to construct a rich sentence.

I am not sure who this game would be a good fit with. Student who need the drill will be overwhelmed; those who are proficient will be bored and frustrated. We found a nice middle ground, however: by ditching the board entirely and shuffling cards, we were able to manufacture a form of card game that we called "Go Fish meets Mad Libs." I could post the rules but really ... you probably wouldn't enjoy it half as much as we did. :-)

Bonnie Terry Learning does have other products that seem worth their salt. The Writer'sEasy Reference Guide is thorough, well thought-out and user-friendly. Designed to be a go-to source on everything writing, this neat sheet lists everything from common prefixes to how to write a bibliography. This kind of simple reference is a huge help to many budding writers who don't want to take the time to stop the writing process and leaf through a thick tome.

Another product, Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills is a crash course for your students on how to absorb information in an efficient process that uses their own natural learning style. High school students concerned with standardized testing might find this useful as they try to make this homeschool-trained mind fit the government school-trained tests.

Bonnie Terry Learning products seem to be pricey for the homeschool market. Because of their speific target, though, they may fall more in line with the pricing common to special education curricula.

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