May 8, 2018

Reading Kingdom: Online Reading Program Teaching Phonics-PLUS! {Product Review}

I have discovered that using online reading programs have helped boost my younger son's reading skills. We've used several different programs before, and have been using one we LOVE for almost a year now. When we were given the opportunity to review another reading program--one which is supposed to be more unique and better in its reading and writing instruction, I was eager to try Reading Kingdom and see what it was like. Would we like it even more than the beloved one we use now?

About Reading Kingdom

Reading Kingdom is an online K-3 grade reading program which uses the new Phonics-PLUS system, making it different from any other reading program out there! The art of reading consists of six skills: sequencing, writing, sounds, meaning, and comprehension. Teaching phonics in reading teaches just ONE of these skills. Most programs teach via phonics, but Reading Kingdom teaches with all six skills! Reading Kingdom also adapts to every child to provide individualized instruction. A child is able to work on the program by themselves--and because of its design, will think they are playing a game--when they are really picking up reading skills!

Reading Kingdom works as a stand alone curriculum or as a supplement. It is compatible with any device that has an internet connection including Windows, Mac, iPad, Android, Chromebooks, etc.

Here is a video that should give you an idea on what to expect with Reading Kingdom:

When you sign your child up for Reading Kingdom, the first thing they will take is a placement exam to get an idea of where they should start within the Reading Kingdom levels, by assessing his or her skills in reading and writing. Based on the results, your child will be placed within whatever level matches their skills. This helps to prevent boredom from doing things they already know, and frustration doing things beyond their skill set. 

Reading Kingdom offers a 30 Day Trial unless you sign up for immediate billing. There is a monthly ($19.99) and annual ($199.99--20% off) membership available, but if you sign up for immediate billing that will only be $14.99/month and $149.99/year. Each additional student is $9.99/month or $99.99/year unless you pay at the time of signup which lowers the price to $7.49 and $74.99. 

We were given an annual subscription to Reading Kingdom, which I used with my 7 yearold who is finishing up 2nd grade.

Our Thoughts About Reading Kingdom

I followed the email log in directions and was able to quickly get set up and add my son to the program. The first step is for your child to take a placement test. This test IS a long and lengthy one, but they really want to make sure every child is where they should be. So make sure you have the time to do it. I think it took 30 minutes!
One thing that I noticed about the placement test is that it included typing. Fortunately, my son had typing for a previous review, so he wasn't totally bereft, but because he wasn't fast enough it made him FAIL in writing because he couldn't get the words in fast enough, and didn't understand what they wanted.

The program advises parents NOT to help their child--so it was frustrating to know that he just needed a teensy reminder. I'm sure that with that reminder he probably would have done even better on the test. Most of the test was simply asking questions and having them click on things--like they would say a word, and he had to click the word they said. Or spelling. or punctuation. Or "type an f and j". But there WAS a time restriction, so your child can't hunt and peck very long.
Once the test is over (About 30 minutes), they are then placed in a level. My son got level 4--I am thinking mostly because of this typing errors which made him have writing errors. His report that I found stated that he had failed Writing Level 1 (not surprised because of his confusion with directions), but had passed everything else to put him in the level 4.
Because the program has the goal of having them be at a third grade level when they finish, it's not too far off in my opinion to have him in level 4 as he's finishing up 2nd grade now. I just wonder if had he done better with the writing part (as in knowing what they were asking) if he'd gotten even higher. 

The lessons themselves are either a series of 15 or 21 screens in our level. They always begin with introducing a word. On the 21 screen lessons, they begin by saying a sentence out loud, and then saying a word from the sentence. They then ask the child to write that word. If the child gets the word correct, the program skips ahead four slides. If they get it wrong, they then TEACH them how to spell the word correctly. From here there is a just a series of exercises that are the same for every single word they learn. They will be asked to click on the word within a paragraph. They will be asked to type the word--and they will have to look at the spot they are typing to know if they need to capitalize the word or not. (this isn't taught. It's supposed to be learned as they go). They then will be shown four words with blanks and asked which one works for the word they are learning--then will be asked to fill in the missing letters. They will be typing in words they've already learned as well as the current word. They may also be learning different endings to go with that word. Maybe the plural of the word, or adding -ed or -ing. Basically through immersion, they will learn the word and use it over and over and over. 

If a mistake is made, they will be guided through fixing it. If they take too long to type, a keyboard example comes down showing the letter needed. The program gives them about 15 seconds before doing this. If you need to, you are able to lengthen OR shorten the time for reading in the lesson and reading the books. I lengthened the lesson time for my son because he isn't super confident on the keyboard yet for finding the letters. 

At any given time, you can print off a report to see all the words your child has worked on, as well as their progress through their level. (it's a excel download).
You can see that this also gives you what their current Lexile score is based on the work they've completed. You can also see their work on the dashboard.
 This graphic shows his progress through level 4 and his overall progress. It says that he is in Book 20 and is 67% done with Reading Kingdom. 
This graphic shows that he placed out of levels 1-3 and that he's in the middle of level 4 doing excellent work. 

Here are some more images of what kind of activities are on Reading Kingdom Level 4:
Practice writing by clicking on the correct words to make your sentence

Forget how to spell the word? The program shows you where the letters are on the keyboard!

Lots of practice identifying the order the letters of a word come...
So, after this many weeks, what do I think?
Well my son happily does it every day. I think he likes it mostly because it's repetitive. He knows exactly what to expect and what to do. He also already knows all the words that have been presented to him. But the program allows for good spelling practice. He has no complaints about it.
I am glad he enjoys it, however, I don't think he's LEARNING as much as I thought he would. Maybe he's actually past what this website offers, because am not seeing any changes in anything since he started. Again, he has already known all the words presented and there hasn't been a single activity he's struggled on in any way shape or form. It's not challenging to him. 

I honestly was expecting a program that did more teaching. Not just word practice. I feel like it is pushing sight words when there should be equal lessons (actual lessons) on some of the spelling words to help kids have sounding out options. The regular repetition simply says--"look at this word. It's WHEN. okay, now click it. Click it again. Spell it. " but it doesn't teach any sounds for it! If I am using a reading program, I'm expecting all aspects of reading. I want lessons. I want using those lessons in reading. I want questions about the lessons. I want more teaching. I think the main thing that was unexpected was that this is kind of an immersion way to teach reading. It's sort of teaching reading and words the way someone best learns a foreign language. You don't have to know it to learn what it means and how to use it. I'm honestly not a big fan of this approach. I also am not seeing the six skills for reading being taught at this level--perhaps it is done on earlier levels. Also, there isn't any comprehension being taught besides--"which picture shows animals?"

The program states it adapts to your child to keep them interested. Well, while it does let him skip forward if he gets a word spelled correctly, that's been all we've seen in regards to "adaptive". It would be nice if after a certain number of correct answers on the program, it just skips to the end and congratulates the child for knowing the word. LOL. 😁THAT would be adaptive. Part of me wants to just skip him ahead to level 5. I can do it as an option. I just feel like that had he understood what was required of him for that placement test he would maybe have even placed out of the program! Who knows? He IS learning how to capitalize when you type and how to put an apostrophe or a period mark. That is about all of the "new" skills that he's been working on.

To really get a handle on what the Reading Kingdom is all about, I would urge you to visit their website and really check out the way the program is designed to work. It doesn't quite seem to work the way it is promoted--or maybe that is apparent more in younger levels--or maybe I don't truly understand that all of the skills it is teaching is really happening and I can't see it. (also a possibility! LOL)

If you think your child would learn best through repetition (like more sight words) and immersion of sorts, than this program may be exactly what your child needs! I feel like if you are looking for readers, questions, grammar lessons, and phonics, you may want to look somewhere else.

Since posting this, I went ahead and jumped my son forward. I had him take the Level 4 progress test, and because he easily passed it, he was moved into Level 5. As of right now, Level 5 is EXACTLY like Level 4 and he's speeding through it. Thus I am still of the belief that had he understood the original placement test and hadn't made silly mistakes do to typing, he probably would have tested OUT of the this program. But I am letting him continue through level 5 because he WANTS to and if nothing else it will reinforce our spelling lessons.

Want to Know More About Reading Kingdom?

Over the last several weeks, we have been reviewing Reading Kingdom, an online reading and writing program. You have learned our thoughts about the program--but I encourage you to check out others of my team for what the lower levels look like--and what the ASD Reading program looks like for children on the autism spectrum.
Learn to Read with Reading Kingdom OR ASD Reading {Reviews}

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So in summary, this is a good program and my son did well with it, but I don't feel like it gave him as much instruction as our other much loved program does. I feel like this one emphasized sight reading, which isn't terrible, but there really NEEDED to be instruction about phonics or digraphs SOMEWHERE. I also felt it was just way too repetitive. I don't see any evidence that he actually learned anything. But then, he WAS coming into it with three years of spelling under his belt, AND as an advanced reader. This program just wasn't all that I thought it was going to be, even though it still was an excellent program.

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