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Monday, October 29, 2012

Samson's Classroom Review

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Samson's Classroom is an online site that helps your children become better readers.  It focuses on 3 areas: Sight Words, Reading, and Spelling.  It is geared toward children in grades K-5th.
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Sight Words with Samson (he's the dog in the track suit) teachers 224 of the most common sight words from the Dolch list.  Words are initially said and spelled for the student and they go through a 5 step process to learn how to spell the words and be able to visually distinguish them and find the correct word to place it in a sentence, as you can see below.
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Reading with Samson focuses mostly on comprehension.  It teaches them how to analyse what they have read, answer questions from it, and draw conclusions.  Questions are asked about the passages they read, and if they get the answers wrong, the area of text where the answer can be found within the passage is automatically highlighted to help them be able to find the correct answer.  Correctly answered questions score them more time in the "arcade" to play games.
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Spelling with Samson covers over 5000 words.  Lists can be customized so your students are working on the words you choose.  You can also submit words should you find that the words you want are not in their database.  Students play games to reinforce their learning.  Below, you can see that if you get an incorrect answer, there is a consequence.  In this case, Samson plunges into the cold water and turns into a Samson Popsicle. 
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Because my 5th grader is a very strong reader, he did not use the program, but Sari, my 2nd grader did. She is a late bloomer, and reads below grader level.  For her at her current reading level, the Sight Words with Samson was really the area we focused on :-). 

The pros:  Samson's Classroom is very easy to use.  The student just logs in, and then chooses which area (reading, spelling, or sight words) they want to work on. In games and activities where words are read aloud by the program, it is done by a real human voice, and not a synthetic "speaker".   The activities have just enough animation to make them interesting, but they are not flashy at all.  Learning is reviewed and reinforced over and over again so that it is retained.  Free resources and printables are available to go with the sight word activities.  Sari liked Samson's Classroom, and we will continue to use it as I have seen an improvement in her sight word reading ability. 

The cons:  While I think the program is fine as it is, my daughter is used to ones with a little more "flash" and animation, and she didn't initially embrace the less visually cluttered approach of Samson's Classroom, but she has adjusted and now likes it.  The only other con might be that adding words to the spelling area can take weeks because they have to be recorded by their reader first.  I think that makes for great quality control, but it also means if you encounter a word on THIS week's list that isn't in their database, you just will have to not have it be part of your children's Samson's Classroom list.  They are currently working on a way to streamline that process.

The bottom line:  I think Samson's Classroom provides solid learning.  The site is interesting enough to draw kids in without be over the top and distracting.  I love that there are printables and worksheets to go with the sight words area, and I think that greatly enhances the learning of those words.  But the best way for you to decide if Samson's Classroom is right for you is to give it a try.  You can watch a short video about the whole program here, and while you are there, you can scroll down and click on "Demo" to give it a try yourself without even having to create an account!

Samson's Classroom can be used at home or in the classroom.  For a single home license, it is $30 a year.  For a license that covers 4 students, it is $50.  Classroom, grade level, and entire school accounts can be purchased as well. 

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say, check out the Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the Crew, I received a family membership for one year for free in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own. 
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