Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Language Smarts™ Level E from The Critical Thinking Co.™

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

We recently had the opportunity to review a newly released product from The Critical Thinking Co.™ called Language Smarts™ Level E. My daughter and I received a physical copy of this HUGE workbook. As soon as my daughter opened the package in the car, she wanted to work through the pages. I was hoping to add more critical thinking activities to our day and this book has the bonus of being a full Language Arts curriculum. It is one of 4 books in a product series titled, Language Smarts. Levels B through E are available to purchase.  
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

Language Smarts™ Level E is written by Noreen Conte who has over 30 years teaching experience with children in Grades 1-5. A variety of concepts were addressed including but not limited to making predictions, following directions, making inferences, summaries, spelling rules such "i before e except after c, good readers, nonfiction, clauses, types of writing, parts of speech, and so much more. 

This GIGANTIC 392-page consumable paperback workbook is jam-packed with engaging lesson material. However, based on the company website, it has a reproducible license which means you can reproduce each page for use within one home or one classroom. Critical and analytical thinking skills are woven into the lessons. An answer key is found at the back of the book starting on page 364. The solutions are listed under the page number which is in bold print. Very few images or illustrations are found throughout the book which keeps the focus on the lesson material. The book is geared towards children in 4th grade, but will be beneficial to advanced 2nd or 3rd graders with some Grammar and Writing experiences and background knowledge. Skills and concepts which students are expected to know in 4th grade are covered. The book is also suitable for children in 5th grade, because it addresses concepts taught in that grade as well. 

Short yet informative mini-lessons are boxed and outlined in the color pink at the top of the page. These boxed sections are to be read first. The clear and concise explanations are easy-to-understand. Additionally, the modeled examples reinforce learning. Tables or charts are provided for specific topics. The directions are highlighted in yellow. The bright color attracts the eye encouraging and reminding students to read and follow the instructions. I was happy with this feature, because the highlighting feature definitely draws the eye and your attention to the directions. Not to mention, the font size and type were readable and easy on the eyes. 

This complete workbook teaches Reading, Writing, Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, and Vocabulary effectively. Furthermore, analytical and critical thinking skills are addressed within each lesson. The comprehensive workbook also covers 3 main types of Writing including Narrative, Informational, and Opinion. The five steps of the writing process are taught for each type of writing style. A sample of the Editor in Chief and Writing Detective lessons are built-in and scattered throughout the workbook. These are two full-sized products available separately in their online store. These books address grammar, spelling, punctuation, writing, and reading skills as well. 
Editor in Chief
Writing Detective

The workbook is organized into several main topics as seen below. Each topic is further broken down into more specific concepts or skills. For example, Alyssa will review end punctuation and quotation marks when learning about Punctuation. Then, she'll learn about commas, colons, and semi-colons. My daughter will differentiate between types of sentences, learn about rambling sentences, fix run-on sentences, identify clauses, and recognize sentence fragments when the Sentence unit is covered. There is so much content that is actually covered in depth. All eight of the parts of speech are addressed and further broken down to simplify the concept even more. The standards listed below will give you a better idea of a few concepts and skills emphasized. You can also view the Table of Contents sample pages for more detailed scope and sequence information. 

Topics Addressed
  • Syllables
  • Word Parts
  • Word Relationships
  • Spelling
  • Editor in Chief
  • Writing Detective
  • Parts of Speech 
  • Sentences
  • Punctuation
  • Using Words Correctly
  • Reading and Writing
  • Types of Writing and Writing Process
  • Reference Materials (online or print dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia)
  • And More

How We Used Language Smarts Level E
Language Smarts™ Level E is intended to be a full Language Arts curriculum. However, it can easily be used as a supplement to any core Language Arts curriculum. We used it as a supplement to her Reading, Grammar, and Writing curricula. It also served as her core Critical Thinking curriculum. 

I used this workbook with Alyssa (age 8) who works at a 3rd-5th grade level. She has been exposed to basic and advanced Grammar, Reading, Spelling, and Writing concepts for years so her background knowledge is above average. I was confident that the topics would be age-appropriate and meet her needs after glancing at the Table of Contents. I knew that some of the material would be a review and other topics would be unfamiliar. I was hoping the content would be somewhat challenging yet enjoyable which was the case for several concepts. 
Challenging Activity: Accented Syllables
Hardest Activity Yet Still Smiling :)

My daughter completed 2-4 pages a day. We originally intended on starting at the beginning of the book working in order. She worked through the pages 3-5 times per week completing anywhere from 6-20 pages total in a week. I gave her approximately 15-45 minutes to complete the assigned pages. I used blue post-it notes to indicate which pages were assigned for the day. I used a pink post-it note for easier access to the answer key.

I didn't want her to get bored learning about the same topic over several days so we started to jump around to different topics in the book. We focused on reviewing previously learned concepts or tied the pages into her current studies. We also skipped around to get a feel for the depth and topic coverage which was an excellent idea, because it gave me an idea about the content coverage of the entire book and provided even more lesson variety. A conglomeration of activities were offered for each topic such as fill-in-the-blank, hidden riddles, jumbles or scrambles, word searches, crossword puzzles, sentence completion and rewrites, matching, and multiple choice. 
Jumbled Prefixes and Riddle

Each subtopic lesson was about 1-4 pages long with Reading Comprehension and Writing Detective activities being the longest and requiring the most time to complete. Plenty of writing space was provided for written responses. I included a photo of the Reading Comprehension passage below so you can see the level.
Reading Comprehension Passage

The book thoroughly covered the following topics that we studied: Syllabication, prefixes, suffixes, roots, synonyms, and antonyms. Analogies were a fairly new concept for Alyssa, but the material was presented in a simple manner with the use of helpful word banks or choice boxes. She also learned about Anagrams for the first time. The concept was addressed by giving a silly sentence that didn't make sense. Two words were incorrect. She had to first identify the incorrect words and then rearrange the letters to form a new word. As she completed the book pages, I identified a few concepts she struggled with such as accented syllables and compound syllabication with prefixes and suffixes added on.

Alyssa usually completed the work independently. For the first two lessons, I read aloud the lesson boxes to model expectations. Then, she read the lesson information and viewed the examples on her own. I offered help when she needed to clarify any misunderstandings. I did not give her any answers, I facilitated the learning process by asking questions and enabling her figure it out on her own. Then, I checked her work and we discussed any errors. If a brand new topic was scheduled, then I did read aloud the lesson information or teaching points. Several example problems were also completed together. 

One of Alyssa's favorite lessons was about Palindromes. She learned for the first time what the formal term was for a word that reads the same forward and backward. This lesson was also her favorite, because it included a Crossword Puzzle. Word searches and cross word puzzles are a big hit with my little girl! Furthermore, her second favorite activity was the Tagalong Word Search when learning about Antonyms. The first word was completed as an example. The opposite of "easy" was difficult. The word "difficult" was circled in red in the word search puzzle. The last letter of that word was the first letter of the next word which is the antonym for "loose." The antonym and next word was "tight." I've never seen a word search set up in this manner and we both wished more  tagalong puzzles were included in the book. If the child doesn't read the highlighted directions, then they would most likely get several wrong. 
Antonym Tag Along Word Search
What We Liked
  • Highlighted Directions
  • Colorful, Non-Distracting Workbook Pages
  • Comprehensiveness and Coverage
  • NO Lesson Preparation or Planning
  • Variety of Activities
  • Language Arts Subjects Integrated in the Book
  • Writing Process Gradually Taught with Graphic Organizers 
  • Inclusion of Reading Comprehension Passages and Thought-Provoking Questions
  • Challenging Age-Appropriate Content
  • Consistent Concept Repetition and Plenty of Practice Opportunities
  • Tag Along Word Searches, Crossword Puzzles, and  Palindromes
Suffix Word Search
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Separate Parent Answer Key from Student's Book
  2. Word Bank or Hints for Scrambled Words
  3. Limit the Number of Questions on Each Page 
I recommend Language Smarts™ Level E for families who implement a traditional or workbook approach in their homeschool. This full color workbook would be suitable for advanced second and third graders or as intended for 4th grade students. Fifth graders can use the book to get a head start too. I was pleased and impressed with the content coverage and skill depth in the book. If your child likes completing workbook pages, then I would definitely look into this product. Visual learners may appreciate the charts, graphs, tables, and puzzles.

I believe this book is helping Alyssa improve her reading, writing, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and critical thinking skills. We will continue using Language Smarts Level E at a slower pace completing fewer pages each day. She will work on only 1-3 per day starting next week. I want my daughter to work at her own individualized pace. If 2 pages are completed per day, then she'll complete the book in a school year, but if needed we'll use it longer. I will choose topics related to Alyssa's studies or give her the choice as to which pages to complete. 

The cost of this high-quality workbook is $42.99. Visit the online store for more information. You can also view the 3-page Table of Contents and sample pages on the website during your visit. The colorful workbook is available in two formats as a physical book copy or in eBook format. 

Note: Prices subject to change without notice. 

If you have younger preschool children, then you may want to look into The Critical Thinking Co.™ software download options for their Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program. These are downloadable products available for Windows. Keep in mind only ONE child can use the program at a time. Checkout The Importance of Preschool AcademicsReading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program for more information. 

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The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed various products from The Critical Thinking Co.™. Visit the link to learn more about each product we reviewed.
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
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1 comment:

  1. My 8 year old enjoys this workbook, too. Accenting the syllables was a hard activity for her!