10/27/12

Crew Review: Samson’s Classroom

Learning how to read and how to spell can be hard work, but just because it is hard work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  Samson’s Classroom targets students in grades K-5th using a fun game style format to teach reading skills.  Technically comprised of 3 separate programs students learn sight words, spelling words, and practice reading comprehension.

Sight Words with Samson teaches the 224 most commonly used words in the English Language.  These commonly used words are divided into 4 levels with 7 lists each for a total of 28 lists.  Samson motivates students using a “black belt system.”   For each list of words that a student masters, she earns a star.  When she has earned 4 stars she gains another belt color level.  When she has mastered all 28 lists she’ll have earned the black belt of sight words.

Each step is a different “game”.  The first step introduces the list.  The word is said, spelled and used in a sentence.  The second and fourth steps are similar and remind me of ways to practice spelling words.   In step two, ‘build a word,’  only a few letters are presented.  The program instructs students to choose the letters that form the correct word.  Samson says the word, uses it in a sentence and spells the word.  In step four, ‘spell words’ the student must remember the spelling of the word.  Steps 3 and 5 are similar.  Step three is “identify the word.”  All the words for that list are laid out in a grid.  Samson says a word, uses it in a sentence, and the student clicks the correct word.  My favorite in the Sight Word section (and I think Supergirl’s favorite) is step five.   The student must choose the correct word after hearing the word spoken and used in a sentence.

Sight Word Step 4 Screen Shot

Spelling with Samson teaches more than 5,000 words and is organized by grade level as well as word grouping such as “commonly misspelled,” “clothes,” and “days of the week”.  Comprising three lists each, the grade level list spans 1st grade to 5th grade.  Spelling lists also include word family lists and sight words lists that correspond to the Samson Sight Word program.  The spelling program contains four “games”:  “Study Zone” which provides a printable option for the spelling list, “Missing Letters” where students select the missing letters and are rewarded with Samson breaking a wooden plank, “Spelling Scramble” in which students collect letters and then unscramble spelling words, and “Crunch Time” where students must correctly type each spelling word to safely advance Samson from iceberg to iceberg.

In “Spelling Scramble” the student must avoid the spider while collecting the letters needed.  This part proves difficult because it requires hand/eye coordination that Supergirl does not have.  She is unable to avoid the spider; however she still loves this game.  She lets the spider “get her” and then she works on collecting the letters.  My hand/eye coordination is not so great either but I am learning how to control Samson, though I too have yet to elude the spider.

Reading with Samson is the comprehension aspect of the program.  There are four levels.  As you progress through each level the number of passages decreases while the passages themselves increase in length and complexity.  Reading with Samson is beyond Supergirl’s current reading capabilities so I tried it myself (and asked my 13 year old to try it.)   There is a passage to read and questions to answer about the passage.  If a student answers incorrectly, it will highlight the sentence/paragraph where the student can find the answer.

Answering questions correctly earns you “swings” for the Hammer Time game. I think Supergirl would enjoy that.  I know Tailorbear did and so did I.  You “swing the hammer” to earn points.  The idea is to gain a high score.  We liked competing against ourselves rather than against the list of “high scores.”

Favorite Features:

  • Quick Launch ~ the teacher/parent can set up a code that all the students can use instead of using the tradition log in method.  Once the student types in the code, the student is instructed to pick the  first letter of her last name and then she picks her name.  This makes logging in so much easier, especially for younger students.
  • Hear Again ~ with a noisy house and speakers that aren’t the best, I really appreciate that Supergirl can click the Hear Again button to hear the word again.  Fortunately, she doesn’t need this feature as much as I do.
  • Dashboard ~ From the teacher/parent dashboard, I can access the games myself to try them, set up customized spelling lists, add students and check the scores/progress of each of my students.

A couple of things to mention:

  • I think it just might be me but when Samson uses the sword to break the wooden plank in Samson Spelling’s “Missing Letters” the sound hurts.  It’s very irritating and I cringe when Supergirl plays this game.
  • Because Samson bangs his head when the wrong letter is chosen, it is tempting for students like Supergirl to purposely choose wrong just to see Samson’s reaction.
  • The “Crunch Time” game requires some knowledge of the keyboard or some form of typing skills.  Supergirl did better at this than I thought she would but if the student types too slowly, Samson will end up as a block of ice.

How we used it: I used Samson’s Classroom as a supplement for Supergirl.  She functions around age 6/1st grade with some skills at a late K level and some in a 2nd grade level.  She could use most of the spelling and sight word games but she is not yet at the level necessary for the reading comprehension games. She used Samson an average of 3 times per week often focusing on either sight words or spelling for that day.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 13): “<Note> this program was below my level, however, my Mother asked me if I could do this for her. <end of note> “I thought the program overall to be extremely good. There were some things I thought unsuitable for the age range. Like on one of the spelling games, the one with the spider, the controls were really difficult. I don’t think a child would be able to control Samson (the dog not the program) . I really feel the reading part of the program is the best part!! I mean reading short stories for ‘fun’ and then answering questions about them. Being a book person I really loved it!! Had we had this program when I was younger, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the Sight Words, or the Spelling part, but I would have loved the reading part!”

Thoughts from Supergirl (Developmentally functioning around 1st grade):  “I like Samson because it’s fun and I like the spider because it gets me and Samson jumps up and down to get free.  I also like the game where he has to stay out of the cold water because he’s trying not to get cold. I like typing the letters because that makes Samson jump to the next iceberg.  I like getting the stars because I try not to get the words wrong. [mom note: this previous statement refers to the Sight Word games]  I keep getting it wrong and he bangs his head. I like getting those words wrong so he will bang his head.[mom note: the previous statement refers to the second game in the spelling section.]

I’ve included a few screen shots but you check out more on the screenshot tab.  You can also try out the product for yourself without setting up an account.  I used this simply as a supplement to our full curriculum but check out the resource tab for lesson plan ideas, printable worksheets and more.

The Review Crew received the Family Plan which includes accounts for up to 4 students for $50 per year.  Samson’s Classroom offers several other pricing plans ranging from $30 for 1 student account up to a large classroom plan.

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about Samson’s Classroom.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a Family Plan subscription free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this great review!! I just wanted to pop in and let you know that we recently changed the way Samson is controlled in the spider game. Thank you for your honest feed back about our program. Your suggestions have helped us to continue to develop our early reader program to better meet the needs of our young students!

    Jessie
    Samson's Classroom

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