Monday, April 23, 2012

TOS Crew Review: The Critical Thinking Co.

Photobucket I have to admit, I wasn't sure how well this product would work for us. It's essentially a workbook and we're not really a  workbook-kind-a-family. But, while I can't  being to express how thankful I am that most of the time we get to choose what we review, and review items that mesh well with our family (as evidenced by the fact that most of our curriculum choices for next year are items we've reviewed and want to keep using!), there is a certain kind of "fun" in being stretched abit by reviewing something that we don't expect to be a perfect fit. This was one of those times, that turned out wonderfully! Inference Jones: Beginnings is a workbook, geared toward 3rd and 4th grade, to teach children about inferring information. Each lesson begins with a short story, then asks questions about the story. Some questions require the reader to consider what is explicitly stated, and answer the question with true, false, or unknown. So even though something is STRONGLY implied, if it's not explicitly stated, the answer is "unknown". Other questions ask the reader to infer information and give a reason why they inferred that. For example, one question stated that the story took place on a Saturday and the student would circle "PF" for probably false, and then write as a reason, that the story says the children were walking to school, and people usually don't go to school on Saturday.

We started out doing these together orally, partially so I could make sure the girls understood, partially because it's alot more fun to sit together reading and discussing something than for everyone to go to their own corners and work alone LOL. The girls "got it" right away, and rarely needed prompting to come to the correct answers (note that, when doing it orally they couldn't refer back to the story, so it was actually HARDER this way). Once I confirmed that they knew how to do it, we've mixed things up, sometimes still doing them together, other times with them each working on one independently. They seem to do fine either way.

Inference Jones: Beginnings, is available as a paperback workbook for $11.99. It is designed for 3rd and 4th grade level, with the suggestion that it could be used for remedial work for 5th to 8th graders. I'm pretty useless at judging how something compares to a specific grade level since we just move along in each subject at our own pace and don't pay much attention to grade level. I will say that, my children (just turned 9) are enjoying this book, but not finding it especially challenging. So for THEM, much older/more advanced, and I suspect they would find it boring. But if I had to guess at a reading comprehension grade level for them I'd guess 4th-5th grade, so that seems in line with the stated grade level for this book.

While we've enjoyed this, and made it work well for us, overall, I think this would be a better fit for families who use workbooks, workboxes, etc. I think the fact that my children did pick up on this so quickly "proves" that our unschool approach to English and thinking skills is serving them well and they have learned these thinking skills, without realizing it, from other activities we've done.  So, I'd recommend this as a fun way to learning inference for those looking for a workbook to teach this skill. Also if you have a child who seems to be struggling with these skills, this might give the added boost they need in a fun, short-lesson, way.

One thing I liked about this was the complete lack of teacher preparation required, this would be great in a workbox, just toss the book in and tell them to do the next lesson, or put the relevant pages in their workbox :)

In addition to the book we reviewed, The Critical Thinking Co. offers a second volume of Inference Jones, geared toward 5th and 6th graders, and a whole plethera of other products, go check them out!

My fellow crew mates, reviewed a variety of products from The Critical Thinking Co., be sure to visit the Crew Blog to see what they thought of these products.


Disclaimer: I received a .pdf download of the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

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