Friday, January 21, 2011

Speekee; a TOS Crew Review

Sometimes, we are assigned review items randomly, and sometimes, we get an opportunity to sign up for a chance to review a particular item.

When Crewmates were given the opportunity to show interest in this item, I asked Li'l Bit if she is interested in learning Spanish. She gave me an excited, "YES!" in return. Fortunately, for us, we were chosen to review Speekee, an online program that teaches Spanish to young learners in fun video song segments that feature children, puppets, and a few adults (mostly children and puppets). The music is upbeat; there is a lot of repetition (variations on a theme - love it!), and the 10 song/video lessons are 10-15 minutes long. The videos are captioned with the option to turn off the captioning.

Along the right-hand "sidebar" of each video, Speekee offers suggestions and links to worksheets that accompany and support concepts taught in each lesson.

Using Speekee with my homeschooler with special learning needs taught me a lot about her. The captioning can be an obstacle to comprehension for her; I am glad we have the option to turn it off. She tries to memorize the Spanish words as sight words instead of relating them to something she already knows, and this is an area where she and I need some practice. Right off the bat, understanding "Mira!" ("look!") and "El parque" ("the park"), relating them to familiar English words, gave her problems, I think, because she was reading the text (the captioning is in both Spanish and English; the actors and puppets in the DVDs speak only Spanish) and not hearing the sounds, and she needs to be able to do both, simultaneously. Ah. Multiple channel processing - here's an opportunity to work on that.

We did figure out how to watch Speekee through the Wii with no captioning; I never figured out how to turn on the captions using the Wii.

Some visuals (and an occasional song or sound) are aversive to my daughter. Some are easy to figure out; some, I have no idea why she doesn't like them. Something on Speekee gave my girl the need to be cautious - maybe when the fruit came out to name colors and fruit (she hates bananas and doesn't like to look at them or smell them), and watching the videos made her extremely anxious. Those of you with kids who have these odd-to-the-rest-of-us rules will understand.

So, we spent our Speekee time two different ways. Sometimes we watched the videos together (she would not watch them without me); sometimes she sat across the room and drew while I watched the video and she simply listened. Quite honestly, I preferred her drawing and listening; she learned more in that setting, than trying to process the visual and auditory simultaneously. I stopped the video quite a few times, repeated the word being demonstrated, and asked my girl to guess what it meant. "Hir-ah-fay" - yep, she knew it was a giraffe. Watching the video after listening to it facilitated the learning experience at my house. If you have a child with special learning needs, know that you can use Speekee as an auditory program, too, even though it is in video format.

Here's a sample:

One late afternoon, I was grabbing my coat to leave for the grocery, and was absentmindedly singing a line from Speekee's videos, "Donde vamos..." (warning: the songs are catchy and you'll probably get them stuck in your head! *smile*), and I heard my girl translate, "Where are we going?" I didn't realize that she was listening (I didn't realize I was singing, either).

I like the Speekee approach, especially the option to listen or the option to watch without captions. This is the way we learn our native language; listening, using it, speaking it, interacting with it. Symbols (letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, etc) are added to what we know after we have a lot of experience using the language to communcate. (In contrast, here's a blog post about how I was taught Spanish in college.) Speekee is a really fun introduction to Spanish via full immersion with simple, common words, phrases, sentences, concepts, presented in context. I like that.

Speekee is designed to be attractive to small children; it's simplicity makes learning easy, even for a mom. The 10 different videos are settings that are common to our routines and include the park, the home, a party, the cafe, the zoo, the market, the garden, the bus staton.

Speekee offers you the opportunity to use the online product for two weeks in a free trial. Click here for details. The cost to subscribe is $7.50 per month.

Read about my Crewmates' experiences with Speekee here.

I was given two months of Speekee at no charge for review purposes. I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.


Jim said...

Thank you for this review Penny. It is very interesting to read about how an autistic child can learn with Speekee. Best wishes from Spain - Jim, the one in Speekee

Penny said...

Hola, Jim!!!!!!! Thanks for stopping by! I enjoyed Speekee and loved seeing my girl learn Spanish word even by ignoring the visuals and insted by mostly listening to the audio on the videos!

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