Friday, February 4, 2011

Curriculum Review: Critical Thinking Press Workbooks

I was thrilled to have an opportunity to review Critical Thinking Press books offered by Timberdoodle when the opportunity presented itself. I have looked at using these books before, but for one reason or another have never done it. Here is our experience with the Critical Thinking Press workbooks.

The first book I want to mention is Word Roots Beginning for Grades 3-4.  Destini, who is in 4th grade,  has never studied Word Roots and this was an eye opening experience for her. The book starts out with Lesson 1 learning about roots and how they are used in words. As the lessons proceed they focus on learning about prefixes and suffixes and adding them to roots. By Lesson 12, prefixes, roots, and suffixes are mixed together to form words.

Every lesson gives a lot of emphasis on underlining the prefixes, suffixes and circling the root word in every word, which is very beneficial to understanding the formation of words. This was usually followed by a definition which the student filled in with the correct word. Then the student reads a sentence or story and fills in the blank with the right word. Interspersed throughout the book are sections called "Show What You Know", which reviews the previous lessons.

This book proved challenging to Destini, who was unfamiliar with many of these words and it required quite a bit of one-on-one time. I am sure the unfamiliar words are the point of the book, because it requires them to look at the meaning of roots, suffixes, and prefixes. I noticed that once I worked through the definitions of the words with her, she was more confident to do the rest of the lesson by herself.  Though this is labeled for Grades 3-4, I felt it was more advanced. This book would be challenging for even older grades, unless your child has been studying word roots or excels in spelling. Overall, Word Roots Beginning was a wonderful experience in broadening my daughter's word knowledge and will benefit her spelling.

Caleb, who is a 9th grader, started the second book, Building Thinking Skills Level 3 Figural for Grades 7-12+.  I have to admit that I could have used more teaching instructions for this book, but we dived right in and made the best of it. Building Thinking Skills Level 3 Figural works on figural similarities, sequences, classifications, and analogies.  Many of the things that Caleb did in the similarities section was matching figures, combining shapes, recognizing congruent parts, enlarging and reducing similar figures, and much more. Other sections cover paper folding, rotating cubes, describing and matching classes, describing characteristics, and figural analogies. 

Caleb worked on many of these on his own and brought them to me when he was finished. I would check them and then we would discuss the ones that he missed. These were wonderful for Caleb, since they provided a needed reinforcement in his thinking skills. Even though the exercises can be challenging they are presented in a manner that isn't overwhelming and can be fun. I definitely will continue using this book and will look into Levels 1 & 2 when my younger children reach this level.

I want to thank Timberdoodle for providing the opportunity and the books for our family to use and review. If you have never checked out Timberdoodle's wonderful resources, which include not only home school curriculum, but many wonderful games, toys and learning resources. I also recommend their Vodcasts which are short, informative, and humorous video reviews of their products.

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