Lexia produces research-based software to help teachers teach basic skills. I believe they have definitely accomplished their goal. Let me tell you about Cross-Trainer, Early Reading, and Primary Reading.
Lexia Cross-Trainer, for ages seven through adult, "is designed to change the way students understand and learn by improving thinking strategies and conceptual skills." That's a tall order, but I do believe they have accomplished their goal.
Cross-Trainer is divided into two segments (sold separately): visual-spatial and logical reasoning. Together, they address abstract thinking, planning skills, analysis, accuracy, flexibility and speed of thinking, efficient problem solving, and systematic thinking. The visual-spatial component covers 22 specific skills such as abstract matching, discrimination, memory, spatial relations, and tracking. Logical reasoning addresses 13 skills including classification, deductive reasoning, and patterning.
Lexia Learning suggests using Cross-Trainer 20-40 minutes three to five times a week. In a study conducted by Lexia, after about 50 hours of use, students showed a marked improvement in their visual and thinking skills.
Cross-Trainer costs about $300 if you buy both components together. What do you get for all that money? You get a wonderfully complex computer program that modifies itself to match your student's abilities. Not all the described games below will be able to played at first. Some of them will not show up until your child reaches the appropriate level.
For each component of Cross-Trainer there are 5 different activities with 25 levels each and every level is comprised of 20 micro levels. Once the student completes all the micro levels, he then moves on to the next level of the activity. One other neat thing about Cross-Trainer is the enclosed Playstation controller used to play the activities. I think this is a stroke of genius on their part. Kids love video game controllers and using one to do the activities in Cross-Trainer engages the children right away.
In the Visual-Thinking component, there are five different activities: Waterworld, Tangrams, Spatial Delivery, Flips, and Cubes. In Waterworld, the student must make the grid of balls on the right match the grid on the left. Eventually the game progresses to line patterns and rotated patterns. In Tangrams, players use tangram shapes to build a figure shown in the upper left corner of the screen. Eventually the player will have to build it from memory. During Spatial Delivery, students use a map to make their way through a maze to deliver a package. To play Flips, students match block patterns shown on the screen, and then match them from memory. Once they have these skills down cold, they move on to assemble the figures to their original configuration after it has been rotated or flipped.
Cubes teach the student to envision how something would look a different angle. At first students choose the same cube in a 3-D design that is shown on a 2-D card. Eventually students will actually construct the 3-D design shown on the card.
Logical thinking activities are Satellite, Stepping Stones, World Cup, Fishing Derby, and Bridge Builder. In Satellite, the player repairs satellites' computer codes by completing logical statements. The first three levels introduce the activity, and then it gets increasingly complex. Students place stepping-stones to complete a pattern and cross a river in Stepping Stones. The patterns get increasingly more complex as students progress through the levels.
World Cup is a Venn diagram activity that helps improve the player's thinking by building classification skills and by teaching them to carefully plan to solve challenges. To complete the activity, students must figure out what the rule is for pieces inside the circle. The rules get more and more complex each level. Fishing Derby is a lot like the game of Set if you are familiar with that popular card game. The player must catch three fish that have the same attribute or completely different attributes. This builds classification skills while improving thinking speed. In Bridge Builder, students must select the appropriate piece to complete a bridge. By analyzing the attributes of all pieces, they must figure out which pieces can fit based on similarities or differences. There is more than one solution to each activity.
Lexia has two other programs available for home use that focus on reading skills. Early Reading is for ages four through six and focuses on helping children develop phonemic awareness, rhyme patterns awareness and syllable awareness. It also teaches all the letter sounds plus the consonant digraphs sh, th, ch, and wh. Primary Reading, for ages five through eight reinforces beginning and ending sounds, syllables, segmenting, sight words, listening and decoding skills, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.
Early Reading has two levels. Level one focuses on building awareness of different patterns in reading through three different activities. In Rhyme Time, the player must choose two pictures that rhyme. The computer says the name of each picture aloud so that there is no confusion on what word the picture represents.
The student clicks on the picture that begins or ends with the dictated sound in Sound Match. A picture is shown in Word Ship and the computer dictates the word. The player must drag one ball for each syllable in the word. As the ball is dragged, that syllable is dictated. For Sound Slide, a word is dictated with a pause between each syllable or sound. The student clicks on the picture that shows the word.
Level two activities target sound letter correspondence. All five games on this level have the same activities; they just concentrate on a set of letters or phonograms. For each game, the student hears the letter names and sounds. The computer then associates it with a keyword picture and the student completes a puzzle of the keyword picture. The software shows the student how the letter is formed or completes a letter search. Finally, the student identifies pictures that begin or end with the targeted sound.
Lexia Primary Reading is for ages five through eight and reinforces beginning and ending sounds, syllables, segmenting, sight words, listening and decoding skills, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. There are five levels in this program.
Level One activities are Sounds to Letters, Consonant Castle, Sight-Word Search, Sort B, D, P and Short Vowel Match. The computer dictates a word, and then the player will drag letters down to spell the word in Sounds to Letters. The student chooses the correct consonant to complete the dictated word in Consonant Castle. In Sight-Word Search, the student looks for a word hidden in a picture, and then unscrambles letters to spell it. Finally the computer displays and dictates a phrase and the student must choose the correct word to complete it. Sort B, D, P addresses the common problem of confusion among these letters. Each vowel sound is matched to words or pictures while playing Short Vowel Match.
Level Two has a few activities that are similar to Level One. Sounds to Letters and Sight Word Search are the same, and Consonant Blast is similar to Consonant Castle, but adds speed to the activity. In Short Vowel Bridge, the player chooses the correct vowel to complete the spelling of a dictated word. Picture Word Match is just what its name implies - the student matches words or phrases to a picture and answers yes/no questions about words learned.
Level Three beings with Sound Change where students must change the dictated word into a new specified word by clicking on the appropriate letters in the list. Sight Word Search III is a word-search style activity for sight words. The player categorizes short vowel and silent-e words, then clicks on the word that is dictated in Silent-E Switch. Fast Find has the player matching words with corresponding pictures, eventually being timed to promote speed. In Silent-E Score, the student chooses the correct vowel to complete the spelling of a word.
Level Four games include Word Hunt, Sight Word Search IV, Word Stairs, Pirate Ship and Group It I. In Word Hunt the student chooses the correct word to complete a sentence. In yet another sight word game, Sight Word IV, the player types a word that is dictated and displayed. Eventually the student must fill in missing letters from memory. Word Stairs has students spelling vowel-r words and completing sentences by finding the missing word. Pirate Ship is similar, except that it stresses vowel combinations and instead of completing sentences, students click on the dictated word. Students sort words into different categories and by relationship in Group It I.
Level Five is the final level in Primary Reading. In Super Change students must spell a dictated word by changing the word on the screen. Words are sorted by suffix in Add It. Then the words are dictated, the student identifies it from a list, and completes sentences by choosing the correct word. Sight Word Search V and Group It II are played the same as in Level Four. Elevator consists of forming two-syllable words by combining one-syllable words, then completing sentences by choosing the missing words.
All three programs are easy to install and come with thorough and explicit manuals to help you. One excellent feature of all three programs is the reports that can be generated and even printed from the administration view. These reports help you keep track of where your child is in the program and are so very easy to access and view. Another wonderful feature is that all programs will branch out and provide extra practice in a concept if necessary.
In my opinion, I believe that Lexia's Cross-Trainer is the best of the three programs I've reviewed. With its many levels of play and progressive difficulty it has the potential to vastly improve your child's thinking skills, all without your direct supervision. In fact, it is probably better for you not to help your child, but let him figure out how to solve the puzzles all by himself. My children like playing this and actually I do too. I've lost a couple hours at a time playing it, but I don't feel guilty because it's helping me recover my brain from having 7 children!
Lexia Cross-Trainer is well worth the investment. If you have a child that needs help with his thinking skills, I serious advise you get this program and no other. Although I like Lexia's phonics programs, I believe they are better for supplementing another thorough phonics program rather than being the sole source of your phonics instruction.