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Mindplay Virtual Reading Coach Review by Jacquelin Caffey

MindPlay, Inc.
1-800-221-7911 (option 3)
4400 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 400
Tucson, AZ 85711
http://mindplay.com

Do you have a struggling reader? Or a reader who just needs a little bit of extra help decoding the English language? If so, keep reading as I tell you about a fun online reading coach that has helped my children become stronger readers in just a few short weeks.

Mindplay is a research-based educational software program that is designed to teach reading instruction. Founded in 1981 by Judith Bliss she strived to develop a program to help children and adults overcome the challenges of learning how to read. To help your reader navigate the 44 sounds found in the English language your child will learn phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and English grammar. Without a strong foundation children, even those who can read, tend to struggle with reading comprehension and fluency. 

To get started, begin with the MindPlay Universal Screener and within minutes you will get a fully computerized, comprehensive assessment of the student reader. This test pinpoints basic reading skills and weak areas and then creates an individualized learning plan for you. Once you have your learning plan you are set to start the Virtual Reading Coach lessons. 

The Virtual Reading Coach is a mastery-based program that requires just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. While it is ideal for the five days of usage be consecutive, it is possible to spread the days out over the week to fit your schedule as long as the five days are complete within your week. You will find instruction in the following areas:

Phonemic Awareness: This portion of the program requires 100 percent mastery and includes up to 14 levels of instruction. Sound production, recognition, blending, counting, sound substitution, segmenting, articulation, and rhyming are covered for beginning readers. Specific lessons are tailored for remedial instruction for those beyond entry level.

Phonics: students will learn and practice letter recognition, letter positions on the QWERTY keyboard, spelling patterns, spelling rules and syllabication, multi-syllable decoding and irregular word recognition.

Vocabulary: Learn new word and expand knowledge of existing words. This portion of the program includes 20,000+ words and works through synonyms, memory, definitions, and high-value unfamiliar words.

Grammar for Meaning: A total of 62 self-paced cumulative lessons that build systemically and teach students sentence structure, parts of speech, capitalization and punctuation. Students will also practice reading and organizing sentences and paragraphs.

Comprehension: Over 1000 authentic, high-interest literature stories are provided for K-12 reading comprehension. Both narrative and expository stories are presented and the program is able to give a Lexile measure so you can help guide your child to free reading in their Lexile measurement zone. Many types of comprehension questions are tested including fact and opinion, recalling information, main ideas and more.

Fluency: This portion of the program helps students develop efficient left-to-right eye tracking skills while simultaneously improving silent reading skills. In turn, fluency increases and many students are able to read in excess of 300 words per minute after completing this portion of the program.

There are a few computer requirements you should know about to make sure the program works optimally for you.

PC’s:

Windows XP or newer

1GB RAM (512 MB RAM for XP

Internet Explorer 11+, Firefox 28+, Chrome 33+

Chromebooks

Mac’s:

OX X 10.6 “Leopard” or newer

1 GHz processor

1 GB RAM

Safari 5.1.7+, Firefox 20+, Chrome 33+

Android Tablets:

Optimally the screen size should be 9” or larger and should have the latest firmware installed with a purchase date of no earlier than 2011. Google Chrome supported browser.

iPad:

Safari supported browser with the latest iOS installed on an iPad 2 or later.

When you have multiple users at the same time you need to have the recommended bandwidth for optimal performance. 10 concurrent logins: 4 Mbps download with 1.5 Mbps upload; 30 concurrent logins need 10 Mbps download with 1.5 Mbps upload speeds.

I have been using the MindPlay program with three of my school-aged daughters who are in 8th, 4th, and 1st grades. My first grader eagerly looks forward to her MindPlay time! We have seen great improvement in her reading and subsequently have come to learn that she was having issues with her hearing. The program recommends using over the ear headphones and one day I found her with the volume turned up so loud that I could hear them clearly myself. She complained that she could not hear the speaker. After checking to make sure that the headphones did indeed work, we have since been to the Pediatrician and Audiologist about her hearing loss. All those times I just thought she was having selective hearing…and she was not. Before starting this program, my first grader would read like a robot and she had trouble with letter sounds, especially diagraphs. We have been using this program since mid-December and she now reads smoothly and is able to sound out hard words on her own during free reading. She also asks more questions about words and enjoys writing letters and stories, something she did not enjoy before using MindPlay.

My fourth grader showed great progress as well. She is an avid reader, yet at times struggled with comprehension. Turns out she was just reading too quickly to retain the information. At times she did not enjoy logging into the program to complete her daily lessons, but did so without too much of a fuss. Once she got started she enjoyed the time on the computer. My eighth grader is not one to read for pleasure and she has struggled with reading comprehension for a while. This program was a Godsend for her! The material is not presented in a babyish manner and she enjoyed using her own laptop and completing her 30 minutes each day. Normally, she would complete her lessons during the afternoon when she was on break from training at the gymnastics gym. Even when our weeks were busy with travel she was able to log into her account and get her lessons done.

Basically this program is like having our very own personal reading tutor right in our home! My only complaint is that I wish there was a built in timer within the actual program. Several times we would set our timer for 30 minutes only to find that 26-28 minutes had been counted as time spent working. I am not sure how this was happening as we started the timer after beginning the lesson. It’s not a huge deal and doesn’t take away from the quality of the program as a whole, my children just didn’t like it saying that they hadn’t done their time, when in fact they had. 

Overall, we have seen so much improvement in schoolwork as a whole it’s actually quite amazing! I love that the work does not seem like work to my girls. In fact I have told many of my friends about this program. Our subscription ends in June and I am already putting away a portion of homeschool budget for the upcoming school year to renew our subscription to finish out the academic year.

- Product review by Jacquelin Caffey, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2017

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