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Monday, June 9, 2014

Learning Wrap Ups...A TOS Crew Review...

Learning Wrap Ups were one of those things I always coveted as a homeschool Momma.  You know--they always looked like so much FUN--and I'm not a superstar when it comes to adding fun to our homeschool days very often.

So when we had the chance to review not just the Learning Wrap Ups, but a number of other products from the same company, I jumped at the opportunity!

What Did We Receive?

as well as:

a One Year Family Subscription to LearningPalette.com ($59.99 for up to five users--currently you can use the coupon code HOMESCHOOL for a 20% discount).

All of these products are geared for children in Kindergarten - Fifth Grade.

Now, that's a ton of products--let me tell you a little about each one...

Math Wrap-Ups:  If you've never seen or used Wrap-Ups, the premise of them is that they come in a set of plastic "keys" bound together and with a string attached.  Each key is a math concept, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions.  The Wrap-Ups also come with a teacher's guide, which includes activity ideas, award certificates, and learning charts.

The ones we used most often in our home were addition (with my Bug) and multiplication (with my Firefly).  When we would work on the Wrap-Ups, my child would hold onto one of the keys--for example, in the addition set, it might be "+2".  Starting at the first number on the left, Bug would wrap the string to the matching number on the right.  On the "+2" key, the first number on the left might be 4, so he would then wrap to the 6 on the right.  Around and around he would solve the problem and wrap, until he reached the end of the key and could tuck the string away.  Then, he could turn the key over and check himself--there are raised lines on the back of each key that show how the string should look when wrapped correctly!

These Wrap-Ups were a big hit in our home--or rather, when we left our home.  They were a favorite in the car, where my kiddos could have heated races in the backseat and try for the best time in completing a key (and practice math as well, but I didn't point that out to them!)  My kiddos tend to be very competitive, both with each other and with themselves, and they really chomp at the bit at the idea of "beating their time"!  

The keys were beautifully portable, and easy to just throw into a bag and go.  There was definitely a bit of a learning curve, especially for Bug, when it came to the fine motor skills necessary to hold the key with one hand and wrap the string with the other, and it took a good day and a half for him to be able to do it without frustration.  But once that skill was mastered, he was a very eager participant in timed math races!

Learning Wrap-Ups Review

Vocabulary Wrap-Ups:  This set of Wrap-Ups is a set of four concept keys: Synonyms, Antonyms, Homonyms, and Compound Words.  The idea of the Vocabulary Wrap-Ups is the same as for the Math Wrap-Ups, in that you hold the key you are working on with one hand, the string with the other, wrap the string by connecting the word on the left to the correct partner on the right, finish the key, and check the answers by checking the string pattern on the back of the key.  We didn't use the Vocabulary Wrap-Ups as much as we did the Math ones (which we used daily), but they were definitely also a hit in our home, especially the Compound Word one.  I liked that the keys were appropriate for more than one age level, but they did seem more difficult for my younger son, which is why they were used less often.

Learning Wrap-Ups Review

10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap-Up and Book Combo:  This is a 62-page consumable workbook that works to help children learn and master their multiplication facts.  Pairing it with the Multiplication Wrap-Up turns the boring drilling part of learning those facts into a much more fun activity.  My Firefly had already learned her multiplication facts before this review (which took us much longer than ten days, lol!), but we used this combination as a wonderful refresher for her.  

The workbook begins with a chart of all of the multiplication facts, with instructions for coloring in the facts as they learn them. Each day's work then focuses on a set of facts, and contains story problems, timed wrap-up drills, and  other activities that are used to help teach and review the facts.  The Multiplication Wrap-Up is used throughout the workbook, and the student is encouraged to practice to make faster times.

Firefly really enjoyed the way that this was presented.  The workbook pages were simple and easy to figure out, and I've already mentioned what a hit the Wrap-Ups were.  Now, since this was review for her, we were able to do it at the 10 Day pace.  I have a feeling if this was new to her, we would really have had to slow it down.

10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap-Up and Book Combo:  This is another consumable workbook that teaches addition facts using the commutative property (for example, that 1+2 is the same as 2+1).  Each step teaches a set of addition facts, like +1, and has several pages that help the child to drill and practice that set of facts.  There is also plenty of encouragement to use the corresponding Wrap-Up and keep track of their completion time, and there are both number problems and story problems to help drive the idea home for the child.  Again, there is a chart in the beginning of the workbook that the child can color in as they demonstrate mastery of the facts they are learning.

I used this consistently with my Bug, who is strong in math, but who still likes to add by counting on his fingers and not so much by memorizing facts.  We would complete almost one page / day,  and then complete the Wrap-Up for the lesson we were on several times each day.  Using this written and hands-on approach consistently helped me to really see results with him.  Although we did not yet complete the book during the review period, we will continue to use it as summer learning, and I am confident that he will have his addition facts nailed down when our new school year begins!

Learning Wrap-Ups Review
Learning Wrap-Ups ReviewLearning Palette Base Center Kits:  The Learning Palette is a very interesting, hands-on way for kids to learn skills, practice them, and self-correct.  We received a Kit for First Grade Reading, and one for Fifth Grade Math, and they both worked the same way.  

First of all, both came with a large yellow disc--the base.  When you are ready to use the Learning Palette, you unlock the cover of the base and find a learning card to use.  The First Grade Reading Kit comes with five different packs of learning cards covering: Blends & Diagraphs, Reading Comprehension, Nouns, Verbs & Adjectives, Vocabulary, and Phonics.  Each pack of cards has twelve cards that have twelve questions on them.

The Fifth Grade Math Kit comes with six packs of learning cards.  It covers skills such as: Advanced Whole Numbers, Advanced Fractions, Advanced Decimals & Percents, Algebra Concepts, Geometry & Measurement, and Probability & Statistics.  These cards also have twelve questions each on them.

Once you have chosen the learning card you are going to work on, you pop it into the base.  There is a peg on the Palette that makes sure you put the card in correctly.  Then, you simply pick the problem you want to start with.  Each question is in the inside part of the learning card and is paired with a colored symbol.  When you have read the question and determined the answer, you use the colored symbol to decide which colored disc to place on the outside of the Palette closest to the answer.  There are twelve discs, twelve questions, and twelve answers.

When all of the questions have been answered and all of the spots are filled with colored discs, you take the learning card out and simply turn it over.  The color-coding continues on the back of the learning card, which helps the child to easily and immediately see if their answers are correct.

Now, these were not as big a hit in our home as the Wrap-Ups were.  I think they just felt a bit more like work!  My Bug was more eager to use them than my Firefly was, and I know that it is because the math was much more challenging for her than the reading was for him.  

There are samples of each level's learning cards on the website, so that you can take a look at what the questions are like in each pack, which can help you decide the proper level for your child.  I felt like the fifth-grade math may have been a bit above what I considered fifth-grade math.

However, I really liked many things about the Learning Palettes.  First of all, they can be done independently, once the child has learned the basic idea of how to use them.  They are definitely hands-on, which works well for my movement-based kiddos!  I could give them the instruction of "do two cards in xxxx pack", and make sure that they are getting practice in very specific areas that I wanted to target.  The discs are brightly colored and very sturdy, and they fit nicely into the Palette base when you are finished with them, and the lid then locks into place.

Plus, the discs are stackable, which may actually have been Bug's favorite part of the whole Learning Palette system!

Learning Wrap-Ups Review
LearningPalette.com:  LearningPalette.com is the online version of the Learning Palettes that I've just described.  It works in much the same way as the physical products, but is entirely online.  When you log into the program, you have access to all of the levels: Basic through Level 5 for Math, and Basic through Level 3 for Reading.  In each level, there are five to six concepts, and each concept is then broken down into 12 cards, which look very much like the cards you get with the physical program.  

Once you've chosen a card, you simply drag the colored discs to the appropriate spot that fills in the correct answer to the question you are working on.  When you have used all the discs and answered all of the questions, you can have the program check your answers.

One advantage to the online program is that you can access progress reports for your child which include information like amount of time spent / card, how many cards have been completed, how many correct answers were given / card, and which cards and concepts were worked on.  Also, you have access to all of the levels in both Reading and Math, which would be expensive if you were to buy them all in the physical form. 

There is a demo of the online program if you would like to check it out for your child.  My children were not big fans of LearningPalette.com, especially once they began using the physical Palettes.  I think the problem was that there seemed to be some bugs in the program.  Occasionally, a card would be completed but they weren't able to get their score.  Other times, the completed card wouldn't show up as completed.  And, as I mentioned before, there was overlap between the questions on the online cards and the physical cards.  Since they were already regularly using the physical cards, they were a little frustrated doing the questions again.

I think the program would work well for those families who would have more than one child working on the program, and who didn't want to purchase the physical product.  If your child prefers working on the computer, this would be a better fit as well.

What Did My Kiddos Think?

"I liked the Wrap-Ups a lot, and I liked how they would time you by different amount of seconds.  My favorite thing about the Wrap-Ups was trying to beat my scores in seconds.  I liked the workbook a little bit, but some of it was a little hard, with the 2+.  It was like 15 + 2.  I don't like the Palette that much, but sometimes it's a little fun.  I don't like having to keep looking for the sentences that have the color, and the word in the sentences and having to put the ring there.  I did like that I could play different games with it, like Ring Toss.  (Momma note here:  Ring Toss is not actually a part of the program.  My Bug enjoyed playing with the discs a bit more than answering the questions...) I really didn't like the computer one, because it was frustrating about how it timed you and how you had to hold down the mouse to drag the rings.  The Wrap-Ups were really my favorite!"  (Bug, age 7)

"I liked the Wrap-Ups because they were a great challenge, especially because you could try to beat your time.  The Learning Palettes were alright.  I liked trying to match up the answers to the problems, but they were pretty stressful as well because I had trouble with the answers.  The computer one was way better than the Palette, because it helped me understand the answers more without having to keep asking my mom for help."  (Firefly, age 11)

What Did I Think?

All in all, I have been very impressed with Learning Wrap-Ups!  The Wrap-Ups were a wonderful product that we will use over and over again for many years in our home.  The Addition and Multiplication Mastery workbooks met a huge need for us, and were a great fit.  The physical Learning Palettes, while very well thought out and put together, weren't seen as as much "fun", and so will probably be relegated to things that Momma has the kiddos do to reinforce skills and work independently, maybe on Fridays when we are trying not to do so much "book work".  LearningPalette.com is probably not a program that we will continue with, but it definitely has value for the right family.  

Find Out More About Learning Wrap-Ups:


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