When my daughter got ready to learn how to read, I tried a couple of different methods until I accidentally stumbled upon Orton-Gillingham based workbook, intended primarily for struggling readers. My daughter doesn’t have any reading disabilities, but the multi-sensory approach appealed to her. So, when I got an invitation to test and review MaxScholar Reading Intervention Program, also based on Orton-Gillingham method I jumped at the chance. My daughter is very young, so I wasn’t hoping for reading fluency. My goal was to simply move her to the next level, while preserving her love of reading and eagerness to advance.
What is MaxScholar?
MaxScholar is a computer-based Reading Intervention Program for kids 3-16 years of age. What I loved best about it is that it’s interactive and multisensory. From doing research and from simply observing my kids I know that instruction that engages more than one sense at a time are very effective because they allow kids to learn and make connections in more than one way. It makes perfect sense. If I tell you something, you might forget because I’m engaging only auditory modality. But if I tell you something, then write it down and ask you to trace my letters too, then the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic/tactile modalities are all involved in the process and it increases the likelihood of retaining the information. Orton-Gillingham pioneered this multi-sensory instruction approach.
MaxScholar offers multiple programs. We have a first hand experience with two: MaxPhonics: -The Orton-Gillingham based program that teaches connection between letters and sounds, and MaxReading – designed for teaching effective Reading comprehension. I was offered a one-year license for parent/teacher and two students (my 5-year old and 8-year old).
Let me now demonstrate how MaxPhonics works from a student perspective. You start by logging in on http://maxscholar.com as a student (teacher/parent has a different log in information) and select your program. I will now select MaxPhonics and practice consonant blends. Large letters and clear pictures allow kids to navigate without adult help.
I picked a consonant blend “scr.” Children see the blend on a screen, and hear a pleasant voice explaining what sound it makes.
The sound is linked to a picture of a word that is using that sound “SCR.”
Next there is a short video: an instructor pronounces the sound in a clear voice. Children are given a chance to practice it together with the instructor and then asked a series of questions “What is the name of this picture? What is the sound the blend makes?”
Next children observe the letter blend written in the sky. And in the sand. Then children are asked to practice tracing the sound using a finger or a computer mouse.
Next children are asked to trace letters to complete a word on a screen. [Here we sometimes had an unpleasant few moments when my daughter and I would take turns tracing the letters perfectly, but the program would say it was incorrect and have us do it again and again].
Here comes my daughter’s favorite part where student is asked to choose pictures that begin with the consonant blend studied.
From here student can move on to the next consonant blend or keep practicing.
The thing I liked about MaxReading program is that it starts with a pre-test. Student are asked to read a story. They can click “too hard” to move to an easier level. They can also click a button to have the story read to them. Once they click “done,” they are asked a series of questions to test their reading comprehension.
Each of the Reading lessons follows the same pattern. Reading, highlighting topic, main idea and details, and answering reading comprehension questions. (Highlighting was the favorite part for my kids).
How we used it
Since we received a complimentary license for two students and a teacher I created three account. One account was set up for my 8-year old who doesn’t have any reading disability, but needed to improve his reading speed and reading comprehension. The second account was setup for my 5 year old, who doesn’t have a reading disability either, but responded well to Orton-Gillingham approach in the past. And the third account was setup for my use.
I told my kids that they needed to use the program 3-5 times a week and showed them how to log in. They were left free to choose when they wanted to use the program and where. After they completed their lessons, they checked it off their to do list. If I noticed at the end of the week that they didn’t use the program, I tried to interest them in the program but browsing around and trying to find a specific task or story I thought might catch their interest.
What we thought
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a great program and it has the potential to benefit many kids and families, however, it wasn’t a good fit for my family. It might be that it was simply a particularly unpropitious time for a computer-based program. After a very long wait the warm weather is finally in Chicago and my kids want to spend all day outside. Books and workbooks are easy to spread out in our backyard, but laptop screen has a frustrating glare even in a shade.
We are also very new to computer learning. We recently tried our first two computer-based learning programs and it seems that my kids had enough for now. My son who was a very good candidate, in my opinion, for MaxReading had the hardest time keeping his eyes on the screen. He would say, “can you just print it for me? I will read it, if it’s on a piece of a paper.”
For my daughter, as I realized, reading instruction and practice is a social experience. She craves eye contact and discussion. For her reading is sitting next to each other on a couch looking in the same book or sitting next to each other at a table and working together on a workbook. In any case, reading is about interaction. Since MaxScholar is a computer-based program that required independent work, she didn’t want to do it.
My general philosophy of education can be summarized as Let the Kids be Free to Learn. I try to keep up to date with scientific research and offer my kids quality educational materials. It’s up to them to decide, if a particular program, book, or game offered appeals to them. An important part of instruction is its relative attractiveness for each individual user. Even though this program didn’t appeal to my kids, I do believe that it’s beneficial and effective and if you have a struggling reader or a child that responds well to a multi-sensory approach, it might work for you.
Other Schoolhouse Crew members reviewed this product. You can see what they thought by clicking the image below.
MaxScholar has over 50,000 registered users, to find out more about who they are and what they do, visit their social media links below: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, LinkedIn, and check out their youtube channel.