Jun 10, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Learning Wrap Ups

Oh, my! Every year that we are on the Review Crew we get a lot of great products, but there is always just that one that blows our minds and that we truly love. This year, that product is Learning Wrap ups. I have seen Wrap Ups in stores for years and been tempted to buy them but always shrugged them off as being too simple to really work. A "too good to be true" kind of thing. How silly of me!

First, let me explain that there is a lot more to this company than just the math fact Wrap Ups that everybody knows about. In this review, we also got to explore their Learning Palettes and their online program LearningPalette.com

We were sent a bunch of products so for the sake of clarity, I'm just going to list them

2nd Grade Math Learning Palette 1 Base Center Kit $71.99
this comes with a palette base and these curriculum packs

2nd Grade Reading 1 Base Center Kit $61.99
this comes with a palette base and these curriculum packs

Learning Wrap up Basic Math Intro Kit without CDs $44.99

Learning Wrap up Vocabulary Intro Kit $35.99

10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo $12.99

10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo $12.99

LearningPalette.Com $59.99 for one year for up to 5 users

(Learning Wrap Ups is currently offering you 20% discount if you use the coupon code HOMESCHOOL. But hurry, because I don't know when this offer expires! )

I'll start with what is probably most familiar to you: the wrap ups. There are five in the math kit. One each for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions. Each wrap up has 10 sturdy, hard plastic "keys" all attached together with a string hanging loose from the back.. The keys spread apart so you can work on one at a time. There is one big number in the middle of the key. This is half of every problem. The other half of the problem is on the left hand side of the key. These numbers are every number from 1 to 12 in random order. The answers to the problems are on the the right hand side, also in random order. So, say the middle number is 3. You start with the top number on the left, which, on the multiplication wrap up is 5. So 5 x 3 = 15. You take your string, hook it in the notch by the 5, pull it across the front of the key and hook it in the notch by the 15. You then pull the string across the back and start again with the next number. When you have completed the entire key, you can self check it by looking on the back side because there are raised lines in the plastic, showing you where your string should go.

The vocabulary match ups work exactly the same way, except, of course, there is no number in the middle. You are just matching words (or definitions) from side to side: synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, and compound words.

In addition, these kits come with little booklets full of game, challenge, and activity ideas for ways to use the wrap ups. They also have reproducible charts for the kids to keep track of their progress.

The palette kits are just as simple for the kids to do, but are slightly more complicated to explain! Each kit comes in a sturdy, clear plastic bag that is perfect for storing all the parts and pieces in one place. In fact, they were roomy enough and strong enough that we dropped our wrap ups in the bag as well! The vocabulary ones in the reading kit and the math ones in the math kit.

First, I just have to say that I love that the boxes are color-coded so the kids can easily tell which ones go with which kit. Also, each card is numbered. This made putting them away a cinch. The next thing I loved was that each palette came with a clear cover that screwed on. No worries about keeping up with the colored disks!

So the palettes work like this: Those boxes contain cards of questions. There are five boxes in each kit and each box has twelve cards with twelve challenges on each card. The boxes have a summary of the concepts covered:

The child chooses a card and puts it on the palette. The palette is a hard plastic circle with trays for the plastic disks. The disks fit securely in each spot. There are pegs to ensure that the card goes on the right way so that the answers line up correctly on the back. If needed, for younger kids, you can screw the white lid back on to make sure the card stays in place, but my kids were old enough to know to leave the card alone. 

As you can see, the "questions" are color coded so the child chooses the correct disk to match to the answer. Here is a picture of what that looks like:

When every disk in place, the child pulls the card off, flips it over and puts it back on. If the disks match, they know they got it right!

And if they don't, then they know they need to try again.

Next are the booklets. These are consumable, paper books of 62 pages each. They start with directions for the Wrap ups, and the two great secrets of math fact mastery. Then there is a chart for the student to keep track of what facts they have learned. The steps are separated by number: multiply by 1, add by three, etc. Each number has tips to help you see the patterns for that number. There are story problems, games, places to record your progress with the Wrap ups, and mainly, lots and lots of practice problems to solve. They are intended to be used along with your wrap ups and it is noted when you need to pull out the wrap up to go with the "Step".

Finally, the online program works much the same way as the physical palettes. It's divided into levels which are all always available to your child. Math has 5 levels and Reading has 3. First, the child picks the level they want and then they pick the topic. Finally, they choose a card.

They read the challenges and drag and drop the disks. The instructions are right there for them to read. If they have trouble with the card, the little magnifying glass on the upper right of the palette will magnify parts of the screen if you click on it and scroll over the page. Although for some reason it cut it off in my screen shot, under the logout button is the "show answers" button and beside it is a "next card" button.

I was able to link each of their accounts to one of mine, which meant I could look at all their progress reports from one place. A screen shot of Kaytie's progress report.

Go check out their  free demo, which includes a sneak peek at all the concepts offered in each level.

So, how did we use all of this, and what did we think?

Initially, the kids enjoyed the online site. It was simple to figure out and they could do it fairly easily on their own. However, the excitement soon paled. It was below level for Kaytie and Nate so I could understand their disinterest but it really surprised me that I had to require Daniel and Abbie to continue using it. I had them work on it daily, but it was a little like pulling teeth. I gave them requirements for how much they had to do and had to keep an eye on them to make sure they did it. I think one of the drawbacks for them was that the instructions are not given audibly so they had to do all the reading themselves. As they are not strong readers, they often made mistakes or just didn't understand what they were supposed to do.

The workbooks were also a struggle to make them do. I chose Abbie for the addition book and Kaytie for the multiplication because they were the ones who needed the most help in that area. I totally blew off the "10 Days" title and assigned them a page a day. They did it, but it was a drudgery for them and I honestly don't think it helped their mastery any at all. I think these books would have gone over better with the boys because their minds work in patterns and practice. The girls prefer fun and emotion in their math.

However, the physical palettes were a hit. Again, they were too easy for Kaytie and Nate, (they are intended for  2nd graders, after all) so after a few days of begging to use them, they moved on and left them for Daniel and Abbie, who played with them every school day and sometimes on non-school days.

I say "played" because they did not at all see them as work. I kept them for the end of the day as an incentive to get their other stuff done. They did them completely independently, choosing their cards and working through them, then checking their own work. Sometimes they needed help clarifying a word or an instruction, but mostly they just did them. They were so much fun that even the Dreaded Jungle Basset wanted a turn!

The bonus of these is that they are completely non-consumable (unless your dog eats them, and then, well...) and that once you have the base, you can just purchase the card sets as you need them. You really only need one base! We had two, but that was simply the generosity of the company.

The wrap ups were by far our favorite part of this review! They are fun and there are so many different ways you can use them! They timed themselves to see how fast they could solve them. They raced against each other. They used the ideas found in the booklets (But I'm not going to tell you what they are! Ha! You'll just have to buy it to get at those little secrets!) They did a certain number of math keys every single day in their needed level: addition for Abbie, subtraction for Daniel, both multiplication and division for the big kids, and Nate even insisted on working on the fractions although he hasn't technically learned fractions yet. The older kids didn't use the vocabulary ones so much because they already know what a synonym, antonym, etc. are, but they did use them for fun on a regular basis. And the little kids learned a lot by using them! We had a few struggles because they thought a word meant one thing when it was really a different word, but this is easily solved by looking on the lines on the back.

Another way that I used the wrap ups was for Kaytie. She has aged out of our library's fun Summer Reading Club, and the teenaged club is just not as rewarding. So I told her that for every math wrap up key she could do in under 30 seconds I would give her a prize. So far it has worked well and her grasp of her math facts is getting better every single day.

These products all work well for kids in grades Kindergarten through 5th, but the wrap ups are awesome for kids of all ages who haven't learned their math facts or who need help with those four vocabulary concepts. I used the math ones myself!

And honestly, we have used countless methods to learn our math facts in the past. From charts, to flashcards, to games, to online drills, to osmosis, to you-name-it. Nothing has worked as simply and easily as the wrap-ups. Kaytie, who has had the most difficulty learning her facts has benefited from the wrap ups the most. 

Kaytie: I kinda liked the palettes because they were self-correcting. They were easy to do on my own. I just wish there were higher levels so they were harder for me. The wraps up I really liked because I could do them over and over again. Also because I liked timing myself to try and break my record. I think the math ones really helped me memorize my facts and the vocabulary ones were good practice at remembering the terminology. The online program was like the physical one but not as fun. I don't really know why. 

Nate: The palettes were pretty interesting. They were too easy, I would have liked them more if the material was harder. Most products don't have enough interaction but this one has a lot of interaction and that is what I like! They weren't quite as "fun" because even though they had the same amount of interaction they weren't as "colorful". But I did learn more from them. Only, that's another reason they weren't as fun. ;) The computer part? Nowhere near as fun as the other stuff because: one, you don't know what you are going to do before you do it. It's not as interactive. It's hard to get what it is saying and the instructions aren't clear. 

Daniel: I liked the palettes because they taught me lots of stuff. I liked them because I could chose my own card. I liked the wrap ups because they were just fun to do. I learned about synonyms. I didn't like the online part because I couldn't do the wrap ups on it and it was hard to read. The wrap ups were my favorite.

Abbie: The palettes were fun! I loved the whole thing. The wrap ups were fun because I mostly got them right. The computer part was hard because I had to read it and I'm not a good reader. 

To sum up, we loved the palettes and loved, loved, LOVED the wrap ups! I only wish I had purchased these years ago! 

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