This review includes three separate DVDs from the Rock 'N Learn series: Earth
Science--from the Science DVD Collection, Multiplication
Rap--from the Math Rap DVD Collection, and Writing Strategies--from the Test Preparation DVD Collection. Each is appropriate for viewing on your computer or DVD player. Each title includes a single disc in a standard DVD case with an informative catalog brochure tucked inside. On the websites www.markothepencil.com and www.worksheets-for-math.com, you will find worksheets that are specific to various DVD titles from Rock 'N Learn.
The Multiplication Rap DVD is appropriate for ages 8 and up. It covers multiplication facts from 1 to 12 and is 50 minutes in length. The video displays various problems on a white board onscreen and then breaks away to a rap band for songs periodically. Problems are presented in both a vertical and horizontal format. The songs for each set of multiplication problems are sung once normally, and then the second time through the answers are delayed, allowing the listener time to answer correctly. A variety of settings are used as a backdrop for the facts, including driving around in a car, a classroom, and a stage. Characters include a robot, cats, rat, and mice, (Note that the animals have human bodies, even the mice that are presented as background singers. All of the animals are generally presented as rap vocalists, complete with microphones and sunglasses.) For those concerned about competitiveness, one song says, "If you keep on working, you may get as good as me!" Our family really loved the skip counting, which includes two's through twelve's, rather than just the normal two's, five's, and ten's. Our family enjoyed the Multiplication
Rap DVD, although at first I was less than thrilled about the idea of "rap" in general. The video held the attention of our children as they memorized multiplication tables easily.
The Writing Strategies DVD is designed for grades 4 and up and is 70 minutes in length. The program introduces "Marko the Pencil" as the guide, with an animated girl as a student learning to improve her writing skills. Marko has a bit of an accent, although we were uncertain what nationality the creators were going for. This video demonstrates the writing process by walking a student through the various steps. We loved the thunder for "brainstorming" and other creative touches that kept the attention of our children. The video stayed "current" with such references as "I wouldn't write the same way I message my friends." Creative graphics are used to reinforce concepts. For instance, a 9 piece tile-slider game represents the ordering of a story correctly; a hook with bait represents the goal of "drawing in" the reader; crayons represent the colorful words to be used in writing; and a doll serves as a reminder to use personification. We really enjoyed the representation of time as the writer works and the time ticks away, another very visual way for children to understand that time will elapse while writing is worked on. Once the animated writer has completed her paper, Marko runs through the entire writing process again. A lengthy section on Proofreading covers punctuation, spelling, etc. Marko explains a checklist to be used for proofing, and then he and the student work through a proofing activity. Multiple-choice questions are presented as errors are found in the activity, to simulate an actual test. Careful test-taking technique is emphasized. They even demonstrate accidentally marking the wrong answer and then being careful to erase it completely when making a correction. There is no real musical aspect to this particular Rock 'N Learn program, just a friendly pencil character teaching better writing skills. We enjoyed the Writing
Strategies DVD and are excited about using it with our younger children.
The Earth Science DVD is for grades 3-8 and is 61 minutes long. "Marko the Pencil" acts as part tour guide/part teacher as he takes the viewer through his Super Science Station. The information is up-to-date--with a presentation of eight planets and an explanation of "dwarf planets," including Pluto. To teach the names and order of the planets, they use the acronym "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos." Of course, this sentence coordinates with Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The video includes information on the water cycle, hail formation, the cycles of the Solar System, and more. The explanation in the Geology portion is neutral as far as age of the earth--explaining older and younger references without mentioning number of years. It even covers a bit of Mohs Hardness Scale, plate tectonics, and erosion. There is a lot of imagination involved with the Super Science Station, as the lab is filled with water at one point and then later a volcano erupts from beneath the student's chair. Plays on words are used throughout; we really liked the Globe's name, "Terra." The final section of the program is on perpetual resources, alternative energy, and renewable energy. We do wish there was better chapter selection, although the discussions are presented by topic. There were a few things about geology and basic earth science I better understood after viewing this DVD. I wish I'd had the opportunity to watch something like this as a young person; it would have helped me better understand several things at an age when further interest might have been sparked. This video in particular held the interest of even our three-year-old easily. Although the information is for older children, it is enjoyable for younger children as well and certainly could increase their interest in the subject of Earth science. We did not catch any reference to the Creator, although we also did not catch any reference to evolution or the Big Bang. Overall, it seems the designers worked hard to present a very neutral offering for broader educational use.
Our family enjoyed the Rock 'N Learn DVDs, and they are especially handy for families with children from several age groups. The price per DVD may be a bit high at $19.99, but there are discounts when you purchase subject/age group sets. The free printable worksheets at www.markothepencil.com and www.worksheets-for-math.com are helpful; those provided for the Writing
Strategies DVD were especially helpful. The math worksheets are creative and definitely not just another list of problems to finish. Choices for worksheets include mazes, code breaker activities, search and find, connect the dots, and more. The variety is very helpful for general homeschool use, and the worksheets are available regardless of which DVD you have purchased--and even if you haven't purchased anything! Auditory and visual learners will certainly enjoy the videos, as will any homeschool method open to the use of video support for learning or reviewing concepts.
Rock 'N Learn has been a favorite in our home ever since we discovered their upbeat and fun Phonics videos at our local library years ago. And now these new products have quickly become old friends Homeschoolers with children who enjoy video programs, are visually stimulated, or need the repetition easily offered by repeat viewing of material will find great help in Rock 'N Learn DVD programs.