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Interactive 4th Grade Grammar CD-ROM

by Calvert School

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Interactive 4th Grade Grammar CD-ROM for Windows 95 or higher, $20. Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, Pentium, 32 MB RAM, sound card, 40 MB free disk space. Published by Calvert School. Appears to be out of print at this time.

Students may learn or review grammar basics with Calvert School's Interactive 4th Grade Grammar CD-ROM. Using an underwater motif, the program offers 56 lessons and 8 reviews for a total of 64 days of work. Topics include sentences, subjects and predicates, and five parts of speech. An simple introductory video shows a yellow Calvert submarine at the dock and the sub's main hatch.

The main menu screen shows a shut underwater observatory door with various buttons that allow the student to select and go to a lesson, quit, and look at the progress menu, showing "Achievements" and "Unit Scores" options as well as a bar across the bottom of the screen that turns green as lessons are done. In the achievement's section, users may see a list of lessons with a varying number of stars by them when completed. A "badge," a picture of a sea animal awarded for progress, is also shown. Occasionally during the lessons a "clue" to a mystery sea animal is provided and these clues are stored in the achievement area. Students may guess what the animal is at any time, and after it is discovered, a couple of computer drawn pictures of it are available for viewing. The unit scores page shows a bar graph of scores, the high, low, and average scores, and the number of units complete.

The student's work screen looks like an open underwater observatory showing ocean life swimming by when no questions appear. Control buttons that are standard navigation options surround the "window." Two buttons, "continue" and "next screen," are used to move through the material, proving to be a bit confusing at times. The student must read the directions carefully to know what button to push next or how to do the exercise. The program accepts only exact answers so misspelled words, for example, will cause the answer to be wrong on exercises involving run-on sentences. An additional window that looks like a monitor appears to let the student know if he got the answer correct. Positive words are shown for correct answers, while a negative response and the correct answer are seen for incorrect responses.

Lessons begin with a review of previously learned material. A new subject is introduced. Then a manatee holding a placard floats by with the key points to remember. Eight or more fill-in-the-blank type exercises are provided. The student frequently is asked to type in a sentence or to place brackets and parentheses around different sentence elements. Other exercises have the student drag words in bubbles up to a line to unscramble and correctly punctuate a sentence. Lessons frequently end with a "homework" page that assigns the student a grammar rule to memorize.

The review lesson has both written and oral exercises. For example, the student reads sentences and adds punctuation, and then a teacher's voice reads sentences and asks the student to choose whether it is a statement or question.

Recommendation: Interactive 4th Grade Grammar could be an interesting supplement to help a grammar reluctant child or a child needing extra reinforcement. Typing skills are very necessary to use this CD without frustrating the child.

The depth of programming was a bit disappointing to us. My fourth grade daughter guessed the mystery sea animal very early, and despite the correct answer, the program continued to give clues for that same animal and wiped out her answer so it had to be "guessed" again. I found the program less than intuitive as the screens have to be carefully read and one has to pay close attention as to whether to press the "continue" or the "next screen" button. I received the "This program has performed an illegal operation and must be shut down" message several times when moving from one lesson to the next.

Still, even taking into account the issues mentioned above, at $20, Interactive 4th Grade Grammar is a reasonably priced way to generate interest and increase grammar knowledge in your computer-oriented child. resources related to this review:'s Language Arts Resources Section for tons of ideas, links, and more!
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Review of Calvert's Ancient Greece CD-ROM
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