Sunday, June 14, 2015

TOS Review: WordBuildOnline by Dynamic Literacy

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I reviewed WordBuildOnline created by Dynamic Literacy which is an interactive, web-based vocabulary development program based on morphology. Morphology is the study of the smallest individual units of meaning. This unique program emphasizes and teaches the commonly used prefixes, suffixes, and roots. I received a module subscription to the ONLINE version of the Foundations, Level 1 course. There really isn't an end date to this subscription. The company allows you to take as long as you need to complete the 25 units. 

I was given two different student accounts and a parent account with separate login credentials. You can't share or reuse accounts for other children. I wanted to explore and experiment with the program on my own, but I didn't want to mess up my daughter's progress or have an impact on the adjustments made to her difficulty level which is why I requested a 2nd student account for myself. 

Dynamic Literacy offers a second online Foundations level and two other levels of their Elements WordBuildOnline program. Each level is equivalent to a full school year of curricula content if only one activity is completed per day. A child can't work on the program for more than 15 minutes. It'll stop the activity and state that their time is up. WordBuildOnline is geared towards children in 2nd through 5th grade or for individuals needing remedial help in 5th-9th grade.     

Lexi, the animated cartoon dog is the mascot guide that introduces each lesson. The screen below is seen when logging in. We clicked on the orange "Let's go!" and the green "Start" button to begin. We listen to an overview of the whole program at the beginning and was directed to a short prefix video to watch. There's a green "Continue" button to click next. We also saw a list of the units that will be covered in this particular level. Once units are completed, there's a REVIEW button which enables the user to view any activity they have completed.    
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My daughter earned a colored paw print reward on the skateboard scoreboard for each activity completed which tracks weekly progress. She could earn 5 paw prints for each weekly lesson. The screen announced the number of awards received, "You've won 2 of 5 daily rewards." Lexi also gave verbalized praises and reinforced Alyssa when she answered correctly by saying "Stupendous - That's Right," "Correct-o-mundo," or "Great Job." Lexi, the host, provided instructional tips and tricks about how to use the program throughout the lesson.    

How We Used It
Alyssa (Age 7 1/2), who is a voracious reader working at a 3rd-5th grade level, used WordBuildOnline 3-5 times per week. I started her at the beginning of this online program, because she's been a good sight reader for years. My daughter is constantly reading chapter books and has mastered most advanced phonics concepts. I wanted a program that would enable her to understand words in the context of reading. The number of unfamiliar words she comes across has increased now that she is reading more advanced books. WordBuildOnline was our next step since phonics was no longer a challenge. This program was beneficial to her, because it taught her how to figure out the meanings of larger unfamiliar words using word parts or units of meaning instead of ignoring the words. Knowing the meaning of words when you read helps you understand what you're reading better.

I tried to have Alyssa complete one activity per day working 5 times a week in order to simplify our schedule. However, frequently she wanted to work on an entire week’s lesson in one sitting or even double up activities. I often gave into her eagerness and willingness to do the educational activities. In order to get a more accurate representation of her progress and abilities, the program recommends spacing out multiple sessions, because performance is measured only after the completion of an activity. The program automatically adjusts the level of content difficulty based on the student's performance which helps with differentiating lessons. I've always been a strong believer of teaching children at their level or above their level. 

My daughter NEVER spent more than 1-5 minutes on each activity. The program required 10-15 minutes a day to work through the activities, but she NEVER needed that much time. She is currently working at a Mastery level. We used this program as our primary vocabulary program as part of her reading curriculum. It also replaced her spelling curricula over the summer since we homeschool year-round. It can supplement any core curricula. It is complete for its purpose especially if all modules are utilized over the years.    

You'll need a computer and an Internet connection. You must be able to hear (audio) and view the animated videos. We used Safari or Chrome as our main browsers on a MAC computer. WordBuildOnline is compatible with both MAC and PC computers. 

There are "How to Videos" for each type of activity and a list of WordBuildOnline prefix and suffix videos for ALL units if you scroll down after logging in. The first four videos explain how to do each activity. We watched all of the "How To" videos before starting the program. Please click on ALL screenshots in this review to enlarge. 

The parent receives a student completion update via email which basically states which lesson was completed. No other measured data is given. You can easily stop these e-mails if desired by removing your email address under the parent account. I immediately deleted the e-mails from my inbox after viewing them each day. I plan on removing my e-mail address.  

A more detailed activity summary is displayed and can be viewed under the parent account. I was able to manage Alyssa's student account. I could see her assigned level, a list of assignments, list of prefixes or suffixes learned, the date and time needed to complete activities, ratings, and more. The performance rating is based on a numerical key. A rating of "4" indicates that she completed all answers correctly in less time than she was allotted. Correct answers are green and incorrect are noted in red. You have the option of resetting the activity so that your child can redo it. The company asks you to restrain from doing so, because the program adjusts the difficulty level based on the child's performance. I clicked on the red word "Review" to view Alyssa's work on specific activities. 

Test Review
Alyssa also used the REVIEW function on her dashboard to see her progress with correct answers. We discussed any errors made so that she can learn from them.  

Our Experiences
The lessons are organized into 5 manageable daily activities. Each weekly lesson began with a brief video which introduced my daughter to a new prefix or suffix. 

A Weekly Glance at Daily Activities
Day 1: Affix Square (Prefix Power)
The prefix is found at the center of a 3x3 grid and its meaning was given in Lexi's speech bubble. Alyssa clicked on the center prefix square and then on one of the surrounding word squares to build new words. After creating each new word, she thought about and typed a definition in her own words. The program instantly adds the new words to a list with their definitions after you click on the "Go" button. Eight new words are created. The activity ended with a "That's all for now" remark.
Prefix Video: "Over"

Note: Don't click on the "I'm finished" button because your activity session will end. 

Day 2: Affix Adder (Prefix Addition) 
The prefix was defined. Alyssa clicked on the orange prefix box and then the blue blank space in order to create a new word. 

Next, she defined each word and typed their meanings in the long, orange box. The green "Go" button was clicked when done. 

Then, she selected the sentence that best described and used the new word properly. Her reasoning skills helped her figure out which one made sense. Three sentence choices were given after clicking the green "Go" button. She must complete this series of activities for ONLY 3 words. This was the toughest activity for Alyssa.  

Day 3: Magic Square
My daughter identified the correct definition for each boxed word. The orange boxes were labeled A through I and the definitions were numbered 1-9. You can complete them in ANY order. She clicked on the definitions first and then the box. When she did this, a number representing the definition was shown in the box. The numbers going across and down should add up to the magic number which will be revealed with flashing stars if her answers are correct. If the magic number isn't shown, then the program continues because something isn't quite right and changes are needed. 
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Day 4: Comprehension Booster
Alyssa was given 10 fill-in the blank sentences (one at a time) with 10 word choices at the bottom of the screen. She read the sentence and chose which word correctly filled in the blank. She clicked on the orange word box and then on the empty blue box or space to select a word. If it is correct, the word is crossed off the list. We really appreciate this feature! It helps track which words have and haven't been used. If incorrect, a sound is made and the word box is seen in red. 

I love that she can skip a problem at anytime if she's struggling with it. The program automatically adds the question to the end for her to try again when fewer word choices are available which makes the question easier to attempt. She must answer all questions. It does NOT count against her score which eliminates any frustrations she might have especially since she's being timed.   
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Day 5: Quiz or Test
The child is given 5 multiple choice questions to complete in 10 minutes. Three answer choices are offered. 

A "You Rock" score summary is shown after each activity is completed telling Alyssa how many out of the total number of problems attempted that she got right. It also tells her how long it took her to complete the activity right down to the minutes and seconds. The same group of activities are provided for each unit. The 15-minute timer is shown on-screen counting down the minutes in the top-right hand corner. Lexi explains that the timer isn't there to beat nor is the lesson meant to be a race. 

What I Liked
  • No Word Lists to Memorize
  • Exponential and Contextual Learning
  • Quick Lessons Lasting No More Than 15 Minutes
  • Assessment Built Into the Program
  • Clear Directions
  • Adjustable Pace
  • Verbal Praise
  • Vocabulary Improvements
  • Shows How Word Parts Work Together (Prefix + Root + Suffix = Word)
  • Access to All Videos to Watch for Review Purposes
  • No Teaching Required - The Video Content Teaches
  • Delivered Entirely Online
  • Brief Videos

Suggested Vendor Improvements
  1. Emailed progress reports don't contain useful or helpful information. It states that a lesson was completed but that's it. It doesn't tell how well a child performed based on the number of correct or incorrect answers. 
  2. Magic Square - I wish that this activity had a feature that would cross off or checkmark words used. A checkmark would still allow the child to see the word in case they used the wrong one and needed to choose a different one. A red checkmark can indicate a wrong choice and a green checkmark can indicate correct responses. My daughter couldn't remember which words she had used and which ones she didn't use so it was frustrating at times. It would have been easier for her to see them marked off. 
  3. I would like to see more fun activities offered and possibly a feature that allows the parent to use the default set of routined activities or have the option of choosing from a menu of activity choices to create a more customizable lesson based on the learning interests of the child.
  4. Acceptable Definitions - Most of the definitions my daughter created and typed were considered acceptable. Some were downright goofy or sounded silly. I was surprised that they counted them correct. It seemed like the program accepted most, if not all, of her answers. Although, it did help build her confidence level as defining an unknown word can be intimidating task. It encouraged her to use the information learned to figure out the words. 
  5. "I'm Finished" exits you out of the program. I made the mistake of clicking on the button and it booted me out therefore my scores weren't representative of my abilities so I reset the activity. I thought it meant I'm finished with the program. This should be placed at the top of the screen so that it is less likely that the student . . . or parent (in my case) would click on it unless it was time to exit. Another option would be to rename the button changing it to "Exit Program"
  6. Can your child read? - The child must be able to read in order to utilize this program independently. If the child isn't a strong reader then a parent will need to assist. I think if you added a read aloud feature, more younger children will be able to utilize the program.
  7. Reward System - The theme was a great choice, because my daughter LOVES dogs. However, I think that the reward system didn't really encourage her to use the program more. It simply indicated that an activity was completed. The program has the potential to develop a more motivating reward system that would possibly lead to increased usage.  
  8. I would like the option of having printable word and definition lists created by the child for her vocabulary folder. 
  9. Can a "Pause the Timer Button" be added?
Overall Thoughts
Alyssa thought that the program was enjoyable! The game-like format of the activities and the colorful interface caught her attention. We both could easily navigate the website. No other resources were needed to implement this program into our day. It was highly effective, simple to use, and an efficient way to develop vocabulary and encourage independent learning.  

My daughter is learning new prefixes and suffixes which helps with her reading comprehension. I've overheard her "thinking aloud" when she came across an unknown word during independent reading time. I am pleased with the results. She used the prefixes and suffixes to "mean out" bigger, unfamiliar words. She even gave me a mini lesson when I read a word aloud that contains a previously taught prefix. 

Our absolute favorite activity is the Magic Square. We are both math lovers and it is a fun way to self-check her answers. Alyssa really liked the Comprehension Booster activity. She enjoyed choosing words to complete sentences. The word bank was very a helpful tool. She did say that she wished there were more test questions at the end covering all the words she learned.  

We'll continue using WordBuildOnline Foundations Level 1 over the summer in hopes to further expand Alyssa’s vocabulary and to help her figure out the meanings of more difficult words when reading independently. We may need to purchase Level 2 soon especially if she continues the pace of doubling up on activities. I would LOVE to try the Elements Level 1 program as a supplement to her Latin curriculum.

The cost per level or module is only $30. My blog readers can use the code journey to receive a 10% discount off wordbuildonline or 25% off the books at Don't forget to sign-up for your FREE 30-Day Trial for WordBuildOnline. 
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I highly recommend WordBuildOnline for homeschool families, parents, and for classroom settings if you are looking for a neat way to help improve your child's vocabulary or knowledge base of prefixes and suffixes. This module is perfect for individuals reading for meaning. Auditory learners may gain a great deal from using this ONLINE course. Vocabulary development is an effective way to improve reading comprehension. The content learned will carry over into other subjects and lead towards improvements in spelling, grammar, writing, and public speaking. Children who learn best from computer-based learning will benefit from using this program.

In a classroom or co-op setting, the educator can quickly rotate children through the program using computer stations. The daily lesson can be implemented easily into the day, because it requires a limited amount of time to complete.

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Dynamic Literacy offered three products for crew members to review including WordBuildOnline, WordBuild Foundations - Level 1, and WordBuild Elements - Level 1. Go check them out by visiting The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. Read about their experiences and choose the product that will work best for your family.

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