A Reading Adventure Online
Math, science, language, vocabulary, thinking skills, character, life skills, and arts. And one site to weave them all together: Star Toaster. New company, Star Toaster, presents Orphs of the Woodlands, an online reading adventure for 4th to 7th graders.
What We Received
What to Expect
Orphs of the Woodlands is a multi curricular learning adventure delivered in 3 sections:
- Reading adventure
- Academic treasure
- Rewarding game
Throughout the adventure, the child is to read 15 chapters about an Orph, personalized with his choice of name and other character traits. He is to save fellow orphs from creatures who are terrorizing the land.
The book is highly interactive, the actual reading pages, that is. Vocabulary words appear in brown typeface. Mousing over a brown word reveals its definition. There are also relevant audio clips, and chalkboard icons that display tidbits about plants and animals, and occasionally a recipe. Interwoven in the story are lessons from other disciplines like science, writing, logic, math, and Latin. Professor Forp, was, I believe, the best of all. He presents mostly math and science topics, in a funny voice with cool video effects and graphics that really drive the point home.
After each chapter, the child is to work on some jobs. He earns the gold stars only if he does the job right. The gold supports the orphs and orphanages. Naturally, the orphs need resources to live, such as clothing, food, shelter, etc. The good news is that the more jobs completed in a particular subject, the higher the pay. The jobs require knowledge in different topics such as vocabulary, math and science.
Star Toaster also sends constant emails with the child’s progress reports, what’s coming, and other tips or info. Here’s one of the earliest emails I received:
How We Used Orphs of the Woodlands
Super Hero started out quite enthusiastic about Orphs of the Woodlands, and so did I. After our first impressions watching the introductory videos, Super Hero predicted –”I think it’ll be fun!” He eagerly jumped into the Woodlands quite independently on the days ahead. As he progressed, though, I noticed a tingling of resistance. Star Toaster’s emails, however, continued with glowing progress reports. Puzzled, I decided to sit with him and follow along. I did, and discovered Super Hero flying over the chapter’s pages. Yep! He was totally skimming, not reading them. Surprised, I asked why. –”Because the chapters are way too long!” he answered. “Each chapter’s 30, even 40 pages long!”
I tried to reason with him. “What if you just read less pages at a time, but read them, not skim them? Delve into the story, never mind how long it takes!” –”But then I won’t ever get to earn the gold stars. And the more orphs I have, the more jobs I must do. I kinda get impatient with that!” Shoot! Now, I’m slow in finding a valid counteroffer. I still think he can get a lot from the program, even if he doesn’t get to earn the gold stars all that quickly. But, of course, just like any child, he wants to get to the promised goodies as soon as possible.
So, What’s Our Opinion?
Don’t get me wrong, Super Hero reads just fine. He may not be the most voracious reader out there, but he reads fine. Shorter chapters would have succeeded in keeping his interest level up high.
Despite the long readings, I still think Orphs of the Woodlands is a top-notch program. The way the material is presented is outstanding. I appreciate the technological enhancements, such as the vocabulary words, and the opportune audio clips or pop-ups. The games, the funny Professor Forp’s videos. The multiple subjects woven together into a coherent unit. It’s clear Star Toaster put a lot of thought and skill into blending all those elements into this reading adventure. It initially succeeded in grabbing Super Hero’s interest. I really wish it had succeeded in maintaining his enthusiasm up high, too.
Perhaps Star Toaster can consider making the chapters shorter (for those kids that need a bit more of a nudge.) Or not requiring too many jobs at a time as the child progresses (for those kids that may feel overwhelmed.) Hopefully, these modifications can be done with just some minor tweaks.
In a Nutshell
If You’re Interested
How about having your child experience Orphs of the Woodlands for him or herself? You can take advantage of Star Toaster’s free trial. The folks at Star Toaster sent me this email (see screenshot below) just a few days ago. They suggest Summer as the perfect time to try the program out. I agree. Why not give this excellent program a try? It’s free to do so for the first 100 pages. Even if your child considers the chapters “too long”, she will have read and practiced so many skills in the process during the pages she does get to read. Thank you StarToaster for your thoughtful email. I liked you on Facebook already! And no, I’m not Star Toaster’s affiliate, in case you were wondering 🙂
Otherwise, subscriptions are $19.99 for two months for up to three children. An additional month for up to three children is $6.99.
What to Learn More?
If you’re like me and gotta hunt the entire Internet for more reviews before you commit, you got it easy. Read all the reviews you may be craving from my fellow Crew members. Or visit StarToaster’s website or social media accounts. One can glean much from the social sites, right?