Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Goal Achievement Pack Helps Keep Students on Track

This summer I have tried my best as a parent not to let my children succumb to the summer slide. I think some of it is inevitable, but I have kept them to a schedule that includes some academic time, even if sometimes that academic time is disguised in the form of museum visits and other such fun outings. Getting them to read has not been a problem at all, but providing some incentives to get them to do writing, math practice, and other subjects has been very difficult.

When ETA hand2mind (previously ETA/Cuisenaire) contacted me about doing a review and giveaway of a summer home learning pack, I thought it was perfect! And when it arrived, I was even more excited. What I received was the Home Team AdvantageTM SUMMER Grade 2 Goal Achievement Pack. I had gone online to see what they were sending me, but I was still amazed at how many things were in that packet. I just kept upacking and unpacking. There were so many tools to use with my son (who will be entering third grade this fall). And even better for me was that my son had his nose in the box and was even more excited to see all the materials than I was. But who can blame him? I mean, look at all the fun materials! And it even comes in a handy storage bag!

The first thing that drew his attention were the Reading Rods in the Simple Sentences Kit. I think he liked them because there were so many of them, and they connect together like Legos. He is a HUGE fan of Legos. He started asking what he was supposed to do with them, and I showed him the two flip books that have activity after activity with kid-friendly directions. He must have spent an hour just seeing if he could follow the directions and find the words in the activities.

His next favorite item was the Versatiles. He was not familiar with them, and neither was I. Essentially they are a hands-on way for students to answer multiple choice answers and self-check. Since I had never used them before, I was pleased to find step-by-step instructions on the back of the "Note to Family." My son got the hang of them really fast and discovered the science book that goes with the Versatiles. He started working his way through. There are three books that come in the pack to be used with the Versatiles... Science Process Skills I (that my son fell in love with), Let's Add and Subtract with Regrouping (proved to be an excellent refresher for my son), and Read for Meaning.

My favorite part of the pack as a parent is the Summer Fun Calendar that provides six weeks of activities using the materials in the pack. The directions are easy to follow and everything you need is provided. The calendar even comes in a Spanish version. It is beautifully organized with checkboxes to fill in and date to note that an activity has been completed. You don't have to be a teacher to use this pack to help children practice their skills. But looking at the pack from a teacher's perspective, it continues to hold up. The pack focuses on cross-curricular activities and encourages family participation in learning, which is what every teacher hopes for. The activities are all standards based, even though the standards are not stated (because a parent wouldn't really care about that). If a parent were to go through the complete six weeks with their child, that child would be so prepared to come back to school!

Also in the pack are five high-interest reading stories... three nonfiction and two fiction. I happen to love that nonfiction stories are included since the standards are putting more emphasis on nonfiction reading and students tend to have a harder time with the comprehension of this type of reading. For all five books, there are discussion questions and activities either at the back of the book itself or on the Summer Fun Calendar. Again, love that it is reading with a purpose, and all a parent has to do is follow the directions!

For writing, ETA has included a writing journal that is open-ended with nothing but lined pages and space for illustrations. Again, there are suggested activities in the Summer Fun Calendar. Those activity suggestions are based on or are responses to the reading books, and some use the Reading Rods to help build sentences. But there is no reason, you couldn't also use it for other types of writing.

Finally, the last item in the pack is a pack of Figuro Triangle Fact Cards. These are a more interesting alternative to old-school flash cards that are in a triangle shape and focus on all addition and subtraction facts through 12. And I also like that they work off of fact families. Great practice and compact enough to fit in a backpack for summer travels.

The pack I reviewed was for second grade, but ETA hand2mind has the packs available from PreK to eighth grade. Each pack varies in its specific content, but they are all priced the same and contain the same type of materials: a parent letter, a Summer Fun Calendar with motivating games and activities, books and a writing journal, Versatiles and books to accompany them, and other grade level manipulatives. I would definitely say for the amount of materials you receive, the completeness of the program, and the clarity of the directions, they are well worth the money. In fact, I was trying hard to think of one constructive suggestion I would make for the product. Given that they are intended for use by parents, I really can't think of any.

Even though they are meant for families and students to be used over the summer at home, there is no reason they couldn't be used throughout the year as reinforcement or review, as part of a homeschooling program, or in a classroom with one-on-one or small group instruction or in centers. I am sure you can think of a myriad of uses for such a high-quality product!

Thanks to ETA hand2mind, I am able to offer a Home Team AdvantageTM SUMMER Grade 2 Goal Achievement Pack for one lucky Sub Hub reader. Just fill out and submit the form below by 5 p.m. CST on August 9, 2012 to be entered to win.

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