Friday, March 13, 2009

Bonnie Terry Learning: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

After attending a workshop last year on the topic of guided reading for lower elementary school levels, I am aware that there are approaches to work on reading, comprehension, fluency. The workshop I attended was aimed at public school teachers. I am a homeschooling parent, and did not have access to the resources the schools have. What was I going to use at home? I had nooooooooooooooooooo idea.

Enter Bonnie Terry, M.Ed., a special education teacher and a Board Certified Educational Therapist in private practice. To use and review at home, our family received products that address reading skills and study skills.

"Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills, A Fast, Fun Approach to Improve Writing and Study Skills," ($37.00) is packed with information and tools for students working in the 3rd-12th grades. It reminds me of the journalism stylebook I learned to use in college. We are not working at a 3rd grade level in some areas, so we have not been able to use the entire book, and I am looking forward to utilizing it. Terry "gets" the fact that adding the visual component between teachers and students is important, and she's created an incredibly useful tool in adding the visual component to studying and writing.

Terry includes a "read this first" information sheet to help the teacher begin, spotlighting which pages to photocopy, offering some tips that I'd define as "quick-start". The book is divided into four parts. In Part I, Terry dedicates a few pages to helping a student get started by discussing how to choose a place, what supplies to have on hand for 3rd-6th graders and for 7th-12th graders, and by providing calendar templates for scheduling your study times. Purchasers have a limited reproduction permission, up to 50 copies per year of any part of the book for use with his or her students only.

In Part II, Terry provides visual "organizational forms that can be used from third grade through high school level. The forms start with basic story organizers and end with essay organizers and business letter writing."

Part III gives readers study and writing tips and Part IV is an easy reference section that students will reach for again and again. The easy reference section includes common spelling patterns in the English language, rules for capitalization and punctuation, parts of speech, helping verbs, how to sections on bibliographies and works cited.

In "Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, A Fast, Fun, Phonic Approach to Improve Reading Skills," Terry provides a student book ($32.00) and a teachers manual ($37.00) that can be purchased individually or together as a package for $60.00. She also included a write and wipe plastic sheet protector and a marking pen to go with the teacher's book. The drills are intended for students 1st grade and up. And again, Terry provides "READ THIS FIRST" set of "quick start" tips that were very useful to me.

I know that shorter lessons are better for my daughter, and still, I have trouble knowing how much is enough, how much is too much, how much is too little. I LOVE resources that are already divided into SHORT lessons that have "enough" defined for me. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE! :)

Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills contains 45 drills. Terry recommends a minimum of two lessons a week, although you may use them daily.

The teacher's book contains all of the "how-to" information, the progress charts, and the drills are numbered here. The student book contains just the drills, and the drills have no numbers along the sides of the pages, and Terry explains in the teacher's book that the "numbering tends to stress" students out.

The program is simple: start at the beginning with the first drill, work for mastery, and move on to the next lesson. The book is arranged so that there is one drill per page, one page per day, and the student reads aloud the words in rows from left to right, with an oral pre-read followed by an oral timed read. (I am not sure how to modify this for non-speaking children.)
3/18/09 UPDATE: I know many families who have non-speaking children on the autism spectrum, and some read my blog, so I contacted Bonnie Terry via e-mail and asked her how to use this product w/ a non-speaking child. She devoted a blog entry to the answer:

As I use this with my daughter (she has an autism diagnosis), I realize what issues challenge her. The drills have been good practice for us as I look for ways to give her experience and practice watching ending consonants. I like the developmental progression that Terry utilizes, working on a single middle vowel sound (same), but changing the consonants around them (different); then she introduces a new middle vowel sound; and the next lesson, she reviews both of those vowel sounds. The student must pay attention to work through the rows of words with accuracy and increasing speed.

We use a piece of paper or a plastic "reader" to block out all but the one line of words that we are reading.

When we get to the end of the page, we are done for the day! "Enough" is very clear for both of us! :)

Extra expenses are minimal, including the legal photocopies you make from either book (calendars, charts, forms) and the cost of a timer if you don't have a stopwatch or timer.

If you're looking for a study tool and reference guide all-in-one, I recommend this one. And for those of you working with struggling readers, consider Terry's products.

A great resource is the Bonnie Terry blog.

My Crewmates' reviews of these and other Bonnie Terry products (including the areas of math, spelling, and a sentence game) are located here.


1 comment:

Wendy Hilton said...

Thank you soooooo much for bringing this post to my attention!! I have read quite a few of your blog entries, but I guess I never did come across this one. I am planning to check on these resources, and I'm glad to see that they aren't incredibly expensive like so many resources I might otherwise be interested in.


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