Thursday, October 25, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Samson's Classroom


I have been searching for an online supplemental resource that will review previously learned literacy concepts yet also cover reading comprehension skills. I think I have found a solution for our home. Have you heard all the buzz in the blogosphere world about Samson's Classroom? Teachers and homeschooling families alike are chatting about the success their children and students are having with this reading program.

I have been give the opportunity to review a family subscription including up to four users to Samson's Classroom as part of the School Review Crew. Samson's Classroom developed by Knowledge Wand, LLC is an educational web-based reading software program that is suitable for children in grades K-5. Although, I do believe it could be easily used with younger children in the early reading stages. Samson's Classroom targets three literacy areas including sight words, spelling, and reading comprehension. Be sure to click the link above to watch the three minute video describing Samson's Classroom and its features.


The company's primary goal is to create better readers by developing engaging games for children to play while learning literacy concepts. In fact ... the President of Samson's Classroom, Darrin Jahnel, states that "Our entire company is dedicated to making Samson's Classroom the BEST early reader product on the market." I am impressed with the dedication exemplified by this one company." Many skills need to be mastered in order to become a proficient reader. Sight word fluency and reading comprehension strategies are two reading proficiency aspects that I feel are necessary in helping learners become confident, fluent readers. Samson, a cartoon dog character, is the mascot that is present every step of the way encouraging and praising the child's efforts. At times he would hold up an A+ sign. Other times he verbally stated, "Yes, that's correct." I watched him dance for Alyssa cheering and jumping up and down with excitement as she correctly answered questions.

How We Used Samson
Samson was used 3-4 times per week for approximately 20-30 minutes with my daughter, Alyssa, who turns five next month. There were times that she would work independently on Samson for 45 minutes to an hour, but this was not a consistent schedule and occurred mainly when a scheduled day was missed. This program was used as part of her morning routine, along with reading or spelling lessons, during my homeschool plan time, or when I completed my household chores. We alternated the use of this program with another online reading and spelling program to maximize the benefits of both of the online literacy programs we have subscriptions to at this time. Samson's Classroom was also used as supplemental tool for her current spelling program. Samson's Classroom worked on our Mac computer using Safari as our main browser. We were unable to access the new Sight Word with Samson upgrades. I was looking forward to trying the upgrades during this review. She was still able to use the Sight Words with Samson original or classic game for the duration of the review. I had Alyssa complete the word lists and passages in order. I don't think she ever realized that she could complete the sight and spelling word lists out of order. 

The easiest way for me to write this review is to break the body of the review into three main sections based on the reading components taught. I will discuss the possible cons for each component and further explain our experiences with each component. I will also list a few relevant advantages in our pro list for using this program as part of your reading curriculum towards the end of the review. If you are looking for a quick overview simply read the above company introduction, view the video on their website, try the demo games, read my overall opinion and results, and recommendations. If your prefer more details, please take a few minutes to read my review.

Sight Words with Samson
Sight words are also known as high frequency words or Dolch words in the field of education. They can be arranged by grade level or frequency. There is also an organized group containing sight word nouns. Sight words make up approximately 50-75% of the words your child will approach when reading depending on who you ask or what website you research. In my opinion, it is absolutely imperative and essential that these words are taught in the beginning so that readers can focus on the pronunciation and decoding of the more difficult words as they read challenging texts. Click here for a grade level based list of 224 Dolch or Sight Words commonly known in the English language. Teaching sight word recognition increases fluency (speed) and comprehension (meaning). Many educators and theorist believe that knowing sight words speeds up the reading process and I am truly an advocate of this approach in combination with other reading approaches. I feel that children that automatically or rapidly recognize sight words will definitely gain fluency. I integrated a sight word approach to Alyssa's curriculum when she was at the beginning stages of reading. Alyssa learned many sight words at a very young age through printable games. I feel it has built her confidence level and improved her reading skills over the years. Samson's Classroom is one tool that can be used online to aid with sight word recognition ... with consistent and repetitive practice, your child can master the sight words seen often in books. I wholeheartedly believe that it will help your child become an efficient reader in the long run.

Our Experiences
This is definitely her favorite program to play. She likes that she can play the games repeatedly at a later time in order to master the sight words. I appreciate that the words are tracked from left-to-right when sentences are read aloud in the "Learn Words" step. Alyssa really enjoys the motivational belt system - more on our adaptation of this system in the description below. I caught her the other day reading to her Samson dog. She was teaching him sight words from a book. She sets a goal as to how many stars she wants to earn that day on the computer. I will often explain that if she does a few more activities she earns a new belt color and that alone encourages her to go beyond her goals. The sight words program was not challenging enough for Alyssa but she truly enjoyed using it and playing the games as a review activity. Her least favorite aspect of the sight word program was the "Learn Words" area. She felt it was boring and too easy. She wasn't motivated to do it at all and probably would have skipped it if I let her. This may be because she was already very familiar with the sight words, but it didn't seem very entertaining and did not captivate her attention. I believe she zipped through many words as quick as she could without paying much attention to the study method applied. 

The sight words in this program are broken down into four different levels each containing seven word lists. Each word list consists of eight words. The parent can differentiate learning for each child in the family based on the leveled sight word lists. The Sight Words with Samson program contains five activities or steps that the child can complete for each word list at their own pace. The scoreboard helps the child and parent track and view the last step completed making it easy to continue where you let off. I always have her do the "next step." There is also a button that allows the child to play the game again if they choose.
  • Learn Words - This is where children can learn the new sight words. The child will choose which level they will work on. The level expands revealing several word lists. The child then chooses a word list to master. Once the word list is chosen, a number line is shown at the bottom of the screen indicating the word the child is currently studying for that particular list. The intention is that the child will look at the word, hear it being said, and then study it. The child must view all words within a list and they must click the NEXT button to hear the next word otherwise the same word is repeated over and over again. The word is stated, spelled letter by letter, and then used in a sentence. A blue line tracks each word being read aloud in a sentence. A yellow arrow indicates the sight word within the context of a sentence. 
  • Build Words - The child is given a screen containing random letters. They will hear a word, it will be spelled, and then repeated verbally. The child must click on the letters to spell the given word when he says "Now you spell the word by clicking on the proper letters." There are small orange boxes in the corners of the vowel letter boxes. The program highlights each blank box yellow so that children can track where they are when spelling the sight word. This proved to be helpful as Alyssa clicked the letters to spell the sight word. The child can start clicking letters early and can click the letters as he spells them so it doesn't really assess whether or not they actually know the words. They are building knowledge as they practice spelling each word. 
  • Identify Words - The child will hear a word, hear it spelled letter by letter, hear it in a sentence, and must then choose the correct word on the screen. A green check mark will appear if your child answers correctly. Positive feedback is given when a child answers correctly such as "That's correct," "That's right," Good job," or "Great job." The child does not have to wait until the word is spelled letter by letter to respond. 
  • Quiz - The lowercase letters are given in alphabetical order on the screen. Samson says the word aloud, uses the word in a sentence, and then repeats the word before directing the child to spell the word. He says, "Now you spell that word by clicking on the proper letters." There is a hear again button for children that need the word repeated. Each blank box is highlighted yellow enabling the child to track the next letter needed to spell a sight word. Incorrect answers receive a sound effect with an "X" marking in the box. Again, the child does not have to wait until the word is spelled or used in a sentence to respond. 
  • Challenge - The child hears a sentence including the missing word. Then, the correct missing word must be clicked on to complete the sentence. Gems are earned at the bottom of the screen for every correct answer. The screenshot below shows a Level 1 challenge activity. On several occasions incorrect spellings are included as word choices. A red circle with a diagonal line indicates an incorrect answer and appears over the gem.          

Sight Words with Samson Black Belt Program
The sight word program has experienced recent upgraded features. One of the upgrades explains a reward system that implements the use of a karate belt level system. I actually think the idea is brilliant! As the child completes sight word list level successfully, stars are earned. One star is earned for each list mastered. Once they have four stars they will earn a particular belt color, the more stars earned the higher the belt color received. I told Alyssa about the upgraded features before checking whether or not they would work on my computer.

Unfortunately, we could not access the new sight word features on Safari, so I decided that I would give her colored pipe cleaner "belts" and golden star stickers on a printable chart with Alyssa using the same concept to motivate her efforts. She started with a white belt color and needed to earn 8 stars before obtaining the first yellow belt. From that point on she earned the four stars to progress up and get a new belt color on the belt ladder. She only has two more belt colors to earn, then she'll have her black belt and all sight words in this program will be mastered! In our home, Samson is an old stuffed doll that she was sleeping with at night but now he temporarily resides in the classroom. His name has been change thankfully because we already had several stuffed animals named Dorothy. Here is a picture of Samson in the beginning wearing only three belts that she earned. We decided that instead of exchanging the belt colors, Samson would wear all the belts earned simultaneously (not exactly what happens in real karate classes). The following link shows and describes the belt color program best.

Our Samson Mascot and Chart
Sight Word Scoreboard - She'll have a black belt in not time at all! You can also print the scoreboard for your homeschool records or assessments binder.  
Possible Cons and Improvements
  • I was disappointed that I couldn't access the Sight Word with Samson upgraded features hence the reason why I created a similar reward system. I was only able to access the classic or original game on my Mac computer using Safari as a browser. I did try several other browsers. Adobe Flash Player 11.4 is required in order to use the upgraded features. I may try to download it again at a later time. I hope that the company figures out a way for Safari browsers to use the upgraded features soon.
  • I wish that there was a back button to delete letters accidentally pressed too quickly during the Step 4 Quiz game. Alyssa mistakenly clicked on the wrong letters when spelling words. She knew that she clicked the incorrect letter by accident, however, she had no way to delete it and click the correct one before it was counted against her score.
  • I would suggest creating an EXIT button for the "Learn Words" activity eliminating the need for the words to repeat over and over again as it seemed to annoy us both at times. The child can always redo the activity or press "play again" if necessary.  
Spelling with Samson
The parent has the ability to use pre-loaded spelling lists with access to over 5,000 words which are organized by grade levels, thematic words, sight words, and a handful of word families. Each list varies in the number of words to be learned. I saw several pre-made word lists with as few as eight words and up to 18 words, but there was no time for me to view all of the pre-made lists. This aspect of the program also allows the parent to easily customize and add personal spelling lists for each child. This is a great way to differentiate learning based on the abilities and needs of the child. Each personal word list created can contain up to 30 words. Immediate feedback or encouragement is given as the child works such as "That's Right!" or the computer program politely states, "Sorry that's incorrect." This program doesn't currently teach spelling rules to children so be sure to add them to your curricula if you desire to teach them to your children. I tend to use this program after her spelling rules and words have been taught or reviewed so that she can apply the skills learned when practicing her spelling words. This word recognition program is based more on memorization and repetitive use of words in an interactive and kid-friendly manner. The user profile or scoreboard shows which steps have been completed. There is a legend at the bottom of the screen: a green circle means the child has obtained a perfect score, a red circle indicates more work is needed (not quite), and the gray circle indicates that the child has not yet done that step. The top five scores for each list are seen on the instruction screen for each game. Your child's best and latest scores with dates completed can also be viewed on that screen.  

Our Experiences
I created several personal word lists without complications using previously learned level one words from her spelling program. I thought this educational program would be great way to review level one words in preparation for the next spelling level. I definitely plan to add word lists for the second level as soon as we begin the lessons. Her time spent on this component will increase and be used as a supplemental way to practice the new leveled words. She really liked the "Missing Letters" game the most. She wasn't too fond of being timed for each game. I noticed she watched the clock and it distracted her at times from concentrating on the task at hand. She stood when playing Crunch Time she said it helped her type faster. If only that was true!

Children can participate in four different activities or games to learn their new spelling words.
  • Study Zone - The child studies each word by clicking on it individually. Your child will hear the word, hear it used in a sentence, and then hear it spelled letter by letter. As the sentence is read aloud the child can see the sentence, however, the spelling word is missing and indicated by a blank line. Then your child will need to click on the "Back to List" arrow to go to the next word on the list. The lists are accessible by clicking on the PDF file which takes the learner to a printable list. 
  • Missing Letters - The child is given part of a word with missing letters and three answer choices at the bottom of the screen. They must choose and karate chop the correct missing letter(s) that will spell the correct word.
  • Spelling Scramble - There are boxes on the bottom right side of the screen where the letters are collected. Keep an eye out for Terrence the Tarantula as you collect the letters! Each horizontal row is a scrambled word the child must figure out. After collecting all the necessary letters a new screen will open. The child is given the scrambled letters and must click on the letters in order to spell the word correctly.
  • Chunk Time - Make sure your child remembers to click in the box before trying to type the word and to press enter when they have finishing typing it. Wally the Walrus will chomp on the ice if you don't type your spelling words fast enough. If you spell the word incorrectly or if he chomps before you are finished typing then Samson falls in the freezing cold water. 

Possible Cons and Improvements
  • The spelling scramble game frustrated my daughter in the beginning bringing her to tears. At first, neither of us understood how to move Samson to catch the letters before being captured. This was after reading the instructions carefully many times - we realized and knew that it was based on Samson's perspective, but we still had difficulties moving him around the screen. Alyssa informed me that it was her least favorite game. She disliked it so much that she wouldn't play it at all for the longest time. I asked her to play and insisted that she practiced using it for awhile before giving up on the activity. She did so with little moaning and groaning. Now, it is one of her favorite games even though she still can't move him correctly using the arrow keys. I think it would be very beneficial to change this aspect of the program - it is NEVER a good thing to frustrate a child when learning. I suggest making the directions and game easier for the younger learners to independently play by having the arrows move Samson in the direction intended and to not have his legs in constant motion. 
  • The child must be very familiar with the keyboard and have pretty good typing skills when playing the Walrus game otherwise he will freeze when Wally chomps the ice away. This may lead to frustration for some children or it may be a fun challenge for others. The timer can possibly discourage children making them feel rushed which often leads to unnecessary mistakes.
  • The Study Zone can be easily skipped by any child disinterested or unwilling to do that step. If skipped it still counts as being completed even though a child can simply open and close the activity screen. Alyssa was able to listen to one word in the study zone, however it was not necessary to hear all words before receiving credit. I assumed she was learning about each word in the study zone and found out that she was skipping many of them. She said, "The words were too easy and it was boring." This can be a great feature for children that know all the words or it an be a disadvantage for parents expecting children to study the words first before playing the games. The study zone is simply a study area and the activity isn't very entertaining for children. The company could create a feature that doesn't allow the learner to move on until after all words have been studied at least once.
  • Chunk Time - Before you begin typing the child is required to click in the box, it may help younger learners if they could start typing immediately without having to click the box. There were several times that Alyssa forgot to click the box in time. Wally the Walrus chomped the ice and she was frozen even though she could actually spell the word.
  • I did not have any problems adding new word lists to the program, but I know that several crew members were not able to immediately add words to their lists without approval. I am not sure how long it takes for the words to be approved as this hasn't been a problem for us yet. I hope that they allow parents to add words to their new lists without approval in the future which will save time for both the staff and parents.
  • Another suggestion would be to create a separate program like the sight word component based on the most common word families or rimes. If that idea does not correspond with company yearly goals, please consider adding more common word family lists to the Spelling with Samson program.
Reading with Samson
I love that reading comprehension is addressed and targeted. This section is definitely more appropriate for children that can already read at least at an advanced first or second grade level with a strong background in phonics. You can easily adapt the activity for younger children by reading aloud the passages and questions verbally to your child if needed. There are four reading comprehension levels consisting of passages varying in length and difficulty. Children will read a passage and answer 2-10 comprehension questions about each passage. The types of questions asked cover skills that relate to the main idea, sequencing, drawing conclusions, cause and effect, context, and other comprehension skills. Each passage can be attempted once. As the questions are answered, if a child gets stuck they can scroll up or down the passage for help and reread that particular part before responding. The results are shown question by question. If the child responds incorrectly, then the part of the passage that contains the answer is underlined or highlighted red enabling and encouraging the child to reread that particular part of the passage to locate the answer to the question. This was one of my favorite features! I always encourage my daughter to reread the question and the highlighted part before answering the second time. The child is given a second chance to respond correctly. If they are incorrect, then the answer will be provided. I often witnessed several children guessing the answers to questions without putting forth an effort to reread passages or questions when I taught second grade. They were only disappointed and discouraged to find out the answer was still incorrect in most cases. This program provides the child the guidance needed to be successful readers. As the child answers the questions, it tells the user how they are doing based on the legend. At the bottom of each passage there are gray circles containing dashed lines. This indicates the number of questions to be answered for that particular passage. A dash in a gray circle can also indicate that the question was skipped or not answered after beginning the questioning process. The red "X" means that the question was answered incorrectly. The circle marked half green and half red indicates that a hint was given before a correct response was recorded. A green check mark means that she answered correctly.


Our Experiences
I introduced this program to Alyssa at a much slower pace than I had anticipated. She is currently working through the Level 1 passages independently and is doing well. I think she was a little intimidated at first with the format since she hasn't been exposed to any other online reading programs developed in a similar manner. At first, she completed only one passage during each visit. Recently, she completed up three passages in one sitting and got all the questions correct. I don't want her to do too many passages in one sitting so if she asks to continue using Samson's Reading after completing three or four passages, then I tell her she need to first review sight words or work on a spelling list. I do allow her to return later in the day if she desires to do so. I asked her what she likes about this program and she said, "That you get to read a passage and you have to pay attention while listening closely to answer questions." I asked that she reads each longer passage twice before attempting to answer the questions. She was concerned with the timing aspect until I told her that the timing helps me see how fluent she reads (how fast) when comprehending the meaning of a passage and not to worry about the timer. Some children can read really fast having great fluency but may not comprehend the meaning of a passage. I am using this part of the program to work on reading strategies and to note whether or not she is comprehending the passage. I will focus on fluency activities during other reading activities in the day.

My daughter's reading efforts are rewarded with "Hammer Time" swings. Here's a little detour or side note about this feature. I have to say every single time I saw the words hammer time, I started singing "Stop ... Hammer Time ... " and wished I had my old puffed baggy pants to dance in ... I still did a little dance. I bet this tells you how old I am ... who was that MC Hammer??? Alyssa thought I was a nut case. She watches the red strength bar and tries to swing before it approaches the end of the bar. Hammer points are earned based on how she performs this task and the highest player scores are posted. The number of hammer points given vary.


Possible Cons and Improvements
  • I have always taught children the strategy of reading the comprehension questions before attending to the passage. This program does not allow the child to read the questions ahead of time. Once you begin the passage you must answer all the questions before exiting or else the questions will be counted wrong. This could be a good thing depending on your purpose for using reading comprehension passages. Many parents expect the child to be attentive the first time while reading the passage. I feel that is necessary when doing narrations or a retelling of a story, however, I want Alyssa to learn how to answer comprehension questions based on passages using successful strategies that will assist her in the future. I prefer that she has the ability to preview the questions beforehand. 
  • I do feel that there should be a minimum of ten comprehension questions for every passage. This will set children up for success. Children that understand what percentages mean may be disappointed and feel as if they are a failure when incorrectly answering questions especially when there are few in the first place. For example, if there are only four questions and a child misses only one question they receive a 75% even though they did quite well. Alyssa is one of those children that understands that the closer a number is to 100% the better she did on that passage. We don't expect her to make 100's on everything, but I will say that she was disappointed with herself when she saw the score was low even though I told her she did extremely well. There was a short passage with only two questions. I do understand that with more questions, the student must also be able to attend for longer periods. This component of the program seems more appropriate for older children and usually (not always) their attention spans are longer than a younger child's attention span. My daughter has an unusually long attention span for her age. You could even give the parent the option of choosing the number of questions per child when setting up the user's profile. On the other hand, limiting the number of questions to be answered can be a modification for some children so it really depends on the child's abilities and age. 
  • Please consider adding passages without percentage scores for children in grades K-1. I know several children, with the ability to read before kindergarten, that could benefit from age appropriate reading passages and comprehension passages. The current passages seemed appropriate for second grade and above. The passages will work for advanced children. I know many parents that would utilize this resource (the entire subscription) with their children if they could use it to the fullest potential including all components.
  • The children earn hammer points as they swing - is it possible to create an additional reward system based on the number of hammer points earned? 
  • Is there a way to make the reading passages available as printables? This enables the parent to give the child a second chance later in the year or they can use the passages to teach reading comprehension strategies offline. As a former classroom teacher, I used to count the number of paragraphs in a passage with the children. We also labeled the answers found within a passage with the question number and the children highlighted the answers. This is just a few ways that I used reading comprehension printables. There are many creative things you can do with the printable passages to help develop good literacy and grammar skills.
Teacher Resources
This was an unexpected and impressive helpful addition to the homeschool day requiring very few materials and supplies. This section contains lesson plans, certificates, worksheets, entertaining literacy games, literacy articles, gradebook pages, and more. They even have printables in the Toolbox that allow users to print the sight words or the sight words with sentences. I printed out the list that contained all the sight words for each level and placed it in Alyssa's reading binder. The printable with the words and sentences could be used for verbal spelling test or games. I also found this insightful article on Sight Words to be encouraging and informative. It may even be mind-boggling to those of you new to the sight word approach. They also have amazing professional development tutorials that help you learn how to utilize the program to its greatest advantage.

The worksheets were used at times when Alyssa wanted something to do while I completed chores. I had her choose a few worksheets to complete while I cooked dinner, did laundry, worked on reviews, blogged, planned or prepped school activities, or when I did other chores. I tried to use worksheets that complemented her studies and other review products we were using at the time. I also added in a worksheet or two during her Agenda and Activity Time (independent work). There were several pages that I placed in sheet protector pages or glued in file folders to create simple independent activities. I hope to see even more creative worksheets added to their collection possibly including graphing activities, word searches, sight word readers, or cut and paste sentence worksheets. Many parents could also benefit from a resource that allows them to create their own worksheets for a particular spelling lists. Could the company create a worksheet maker that customizes activities for parents and teachers?
  • Capital Clues - The child can practice writing lowercase, capital letters, or both formations. 
  • Letter Lasso - Child circles either all of the vowels or consonants shown based on the instructions.
  • Trace Them All - Child traces the letters within the context of sight words learned within each leveled list. 
  • Word Builder - The child must figure out what the missing letter is for each word using a letter bank.
  • Safari Scramble - Children match scrambled words to the unscrambled words.
  • Fill In - Children choose a word from a word bank and write the correct word missing in each sentence. 
Fill In Worksheet (Level 3)
Letter Lasso (Circle all lowercase vowels)
Safari Scramble (Level 3)
Printable Sight Word Games
We loved adding the games to our language arts curricula. We used the provided printables to create several file folder and Ziplock bagged games. We placed them all in a storage tub in addition to other reading games to be played during Alyssa's Agenda or Activity Time. I would love to see more sight word games added to this section possibly a sight word battleship game or a sight word connect four game. You can never have too many games that reinforce learning and literacy concepts. Alyssa's favorite games were Sight Word Bingo, Sight Word Baseball, and Sight Word Kaboom. Games can be easily adapted to use with fewer children. We adapted the Kaboom game and played it in a similar fashion to a couple games we played in the past called "Bang," "Pop," or "Pig." The game called "Pig" is played by laying all the sight word flash cards face down. A child guesses or predicts how many words he or she will read correctly before flipping over a "Pig" or "Kaboom" card in this case. You can even pull them out of a special container. The players turn ends when they incorrectly read a word, they reach their prediction, or they flip over a Kaboom card. We extended the game by keeping score and adding the number of cards we read aloud each time. The game ends after a certain number of rounds or when a player reaches a determined winning amount.
  • Printable Sight Word Flash Cards (4, 6, or 8 cards per page)
  • Sight Word Bingo
  • Sight Words Memory Match
  • Sight Word Knockout
  • Sight Word Kaboom
  • Sight Word Baseball
  • Sight Word Recall
  • Sight Word Countdown
Sight Word Bingo with Halloween Eraser Markers
Overall Opinion and Results
We really like this program! It was a pleasure reviewing it. I can happily say that Alyssa was working on meaningful activities while practicing an assortment of literacy and computer skills. We have seen huge jumps in her progress and have seen how beneficial this program is to her education. Alyssa is learning how to be more attentive when reading passages. She is learning effective reading comprehension strategies such as learning how to reread passages for content and to correct her mistakes while improving her fluency. My daughter already knew how to read many sight words before implementing the use of this program, but now she has the ability to practice spelling them in a game format. I absolutely love the fact that I can add my own spelling words to the program which makes the program even more useful throughout our homeschool day. I know for sure that if I were teaching at a school today, then I would have the children use this program in my classroom even if I personally funded the cost for my classroom which was usually the case where I worked. I do intend on using the program this year with my daughter. I will consider using the program next year depending on how far Alyssa gets with it. It will also depend on any future upgraded features. At this point, only the reading passages and possibly the spelling program would be used after she masters their sight word program. I look forward to seeing this program grow and can't wait to see future upgrades. I hope the upgrades will also work with the Safari browser. 

What We Liked  
  • The interface is user-friendly for both the child and the parent. I appreciate that the games are educational, safe, and effective. My daughter has fun while learning or playing interactive games. 
  • The program really is cost effective as a supplemental tool considering the comprehensive reading approach implemented.
  • I love that I can view instant reports and monitor progress for all users including the results of the most recent sittings through my parent account.
  • The child receives immediate feedback as they work through the games - they automatically know which answers are correct and incorrect. Efforts are praised consistently throughout the program. The program also provides and scaffolds support as the child works. 
  • Parents have the opportunity to individualize spelling and reading for each child in the family with customizable spelling lists and leveled passages. This would be a wonderful online reading resource for families with multiple children working within the K-5 age range. 
  • This is an online software that doesn't require you to install upgrades constantly. Updates are automatic since this is an online program and not a CD-ROM installed on your computer.
  • The teacher resource section is an added bonus and I hope to see even more high quality resources available in the near future. 
  • A "hear again" button was included in every game except for the reading passages since they are independently read by the child. This helps when children are distracted when playing a game and miss hearing a word for some reason. 
  • Certificates are available to print in black-and-white or in color for sight word achievements. This helps save on ink costs yet allows the parent to reward the child's accomplishments in a simple way.
Certificate in Color

What We Didn't Like
There was just one item that didn't fit under the above categories that I feel must be mentioned.
  • The password can be changed in the child's account by simply clicking on "change password." Granted this may only change the child's password, but I feel it is necessary to have all profile and password information accessible only through the parent log in account. There is always a possibility that a child will know the password and may change it without the parent's consent. This may not be an issue to other users.
I know you are thinking this program must cost a small fortune. On the contrary, a family subscription for four users only costs $50 per year. If you only have one child then you can purchase the exact same program and features with a yearly subscription for only $30. I consider those prices reasonable for the comprehensiveness of this supplemental online tool. You can find more information about other subscription plans and pricing here. Does this sound exactly like what you need? Click on the following link today to play several demo games and find out if this online resource will work for your family.

I definitely recommend this reading online program to any homeschool families, preschool teachers, Title teachers or  reading specialists, ESL or ELL instructors, and elementary grade teachers. This resource can be a great tool for teachers to utilize if they assign reading and spelling homework. This would also be a good option for individuals that run an after school care programs. Computer-based learners within the age range may find this program of interest. Sight Words and Spelling with Samson tend to be more age appropriate for children in second grade or below. However, there are grade level and sight words meant for older children to explore. The reading passages are geared more for second to third grade children.

If you have any questions about Samson's Classroom, please contact the company here. They can also be reached at 518-356-0039. If interested, you can follow Samson's Classroom on Facebook or Twitter. If you would like to subscribe to their e-newsletter to find out more about upgrades and features click here

Thank you Samson's Classroom and Schoolhouse Crew Leaders for the opportunity to try this magnificent program!

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog here to read other reviews for Samson's Classroom.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received an annual family subscription to Samson's Classroom for four users, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest and professional review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are my mine and were not influenced in any way by the product or company.


  1. Tracey,
    Thank you for this very thorough review! Hopefully you have already discovered this, but I just wanted to make sure you knew that the upgraded version of the Sight Words game now works on Safari web browser! Adobe Flash Player 11.4 or higher is still required, but that is necessary in any web browser.

    Also, we have changed the way Samson is directed in the spider game. We heard the same suggestion from many reviewers and put the change in place as quickly as we could! Thanks for speaking up about it… we think it is a fantastic improvement and are slightly embarrassed that we didn't think of it ourselves :p That’s why we listen to our customers!! You guys are pretty smart :)

    Thanks again!
    Jessie :)

  2. Hey! Samson's Classroom sounds great! Another terrific way to boost reading skills for kids like these is with this incredibly fun, interesting way to get kids to learn about animals! Check it out here: