Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Cannons and Catapults

We've wrapped up our Renaissance study by completing a Da Vinci lapbook and building a couple of weapons.

We had a kit for a Da Vinci catapult which the girls put together. 



I was very impressed by the range (by adjusting the tension it shot over 4 meters) but my favourite aspect was the secret math activity - changing the shape of your projectile (flat, round, spear etc), calculating the average distance over 5 shots, graphing the results then trying to discover why the shape effected the distance.


We had so much fun with the catapult that we decided to make a cannon as well. After discussing gunpowder and realising that it wasn't something we could use, we settled on an alternative - vinegar and bicarb.


We built the cannon out of an old bottle, a cork, cardboard wheels and a drinking straw base (after our first attempt backfired - the cannon literally flew backwards - the girls added some blue tack wedges under the wheels). This is a front loading cannon, so after loading the cannon with vinegar we would drop a shot of bicarb in (the 'shot' was a tablespoon of bicarb wrapped in a single ply piece of tissue), screw on the lid stuffed with the cork, aim and wait.



This really showed the skill needed to properly aim a cannon - we only hit our target twice :)


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

IXL - TOS Review


IXL are an international company with online practise sites designed to provide a comprehensive review programme for math / language arts topics specific to each countries educational criteria - the girls have all been reviewing the UK IXL Math site (reception to yr 13) and Lilly and Sunflower have used the US IXL Language Arts site (2nd to 8th grade)




Setting up is easy and simple - we first chose an avatar for each child as well as creating individual passwords for them. Once logged in they had access to the whole range of age work but they generally just used the age appropriate sections. Lilly did find some of the language arts easy so was able to select a higher grade which pushed her a bit more and conversely when she struggled with a math topic we were able to go back a year to practise.

Each year/grade has a list of skills broken down into categories. When you click on a category, the child is faced with a questions to work on until they have correctly scored 100 points and they complete that section (the first few questions score 10 points each, the next few 5 and the challenge zone 1 point each) each time you enter an incorrect answer it knocks 5 points off your score so the less mistakes the child makes, the quicker they move through that section. When a wrong answer is given it gives you an explanation of why the answer is wrong and you have to click the 'got it' button to move on.
The younger ages (reception, year 1 and year 2) all have a speaker icon next to the question so that younger readers or non readers can still use the programme. We found the app to be really useful for Rose as the touch screen was much simpler for her than the mouse.

The girls were able to complete some sections in 15 mins but others, where the concepts were tougher for them, took much longer

There are virtual awards (stickers and medals) that the children win after completing a certain number of questions correctly or spending a set amount of time on the programme. They also emailed what my girls called 'congratulations emails' which were really work updates - 'Lilly has mastered x topic', or 'Rose has completed X questions'.


There is a parents page where you can set passwords, view progress reports, see how long a child has spent working, topics covered, correct scores and more. They sent a quick email report weekly to update me. You can even select reports to print. 
My older girls found IXL easy to manoeuvre, and because of this they worked fairly independently. They used this to review and practise topics we had already covered and as such, have used it several times a week.
Tulip and Rose probably enjoyed this the most - they had great fun comparing their virtual stickers and even got into a competition to see who could earn the most stickers. It is defiantly a hit with Rose who wants to 'play math' daily.

I found IXL to be a great reinforcer - they do live up to their motto 'Practice that feels like play'. The topics covered are extensive and I really liked the depth of the detailed explanations when they got the answers wrong. It also had the unexpected benefit of spotting gaps in their knowledge, so for us has worked as a great remedial tool as well.

IXL has apps available for Ipad, Android and Kindle that work seamlessly with your online account.

IXL is available for $9.95 a month or $79 a year for one student for one subject ($129 for two subjects). Each additional child is $2 per month or $20 a year. You can view further pricing options at www.ixl.com/membership/family/pricing.

you can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog



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