A few months ago I bought my five year old son the JumpStart Kindergarten and Jumpstart 1st Grade software. He will be starting kindergarten in the fall and I wanted to give him a head start on the academics. A good friend of mine said that her 5 year old grandson learned to read by playing the grade level JumpStart programs so I had hopes of something similar happening with my son.
Recommend this product?
We started with the JumpStart Kindergarten program and after a couple of hours, it was clear that it was too easy for him in most areas. He asked if he could move to Jumpstart 1st Grade and though I was a bit concerned that he would get too frustrated, I agreed to let him give it a try. What followed was my son's complete and lasting infatuation with this educational software.
First, a note about the JumpStart line…
The JumpStart Grade-Based Learning System
The JumpStart software programs are designed to be age- and/or grade-level appropriate. The learning system includes at least 10 levels of comprehensive programs as well as some specific subject-based programs for various grade-levels. The comprehensive programs start with JumpStart Baby for infants and goes up through JumpStart 5th grade. They focus on the critical skills and concepts for that age or grade. In addition, these programs include a Parent's Progress Report to keep track of your child's performance in the various skill areas. Finally, these programs adapt to your child's performance to ensure that the material remains challenging while minimizing the frustration from overly difficult tasks.
Now, on to the specifics for JumpStart 1st Grade…
Overview of JumpStart 1st Grade
This program is simple to load and get started. With the Macintosh, all you need to do is install the CD and click on the icon. You can also copy the folder over to the hard drive and start it from there which is preferred since it enables the program to track your child's progress. The program opens with a catchy song and encourages your child to type their name in or select their name from the list if they've been there before.
The program starts with a picture of a school with a smiling dachshund named Frankie who beckons you into the building. Clicking on the door brings you inside to a classroom with a teacher at her desk, some kids sitting on the floor, and some classroom materials including rows of books, a radio (which replays the JumpStart song), pens, computer, etc.
Clicking on the red classroom door takes you out into a hallway. The two remaining doors take you into the lunch room (blue door) or outside onto the playground or school bus (green door). A variety of activities can be found in each of these locations. With all of the activities in this program, you can choose the difficulty level you want, from easy, moderate, to hard. Navigating around is simple - just click on the large blue arrow on the top right corner of the screen.
Skills Covered in JumpStart 1st Grade
According to the CD information, this program is designed for 5 to 7 year-olds and covers the following skills areas at the first grade level:
o early math
o reading & sentences
o art & creativity
o sequencing and ordering
o phonics and letter sounds
Within the area of early math, skills like solving equations, adding double digit sums, counting money, and working with measurement and basic fractions are included. Not sure where the telling time skill is included but it's in here, too.
Some of the Games and Activities in JumpStart 1st Grade
~~Reading books: In the main classroom, you can click on the books and go to a list of titles you can choose from. Within each book are several chapters which you can choose to have read to you. Supposedly there are reading comprehension questions that follow these readings but my son never stayed with this activity long enough to answer any questions. So much for learning how to read…
~~Vending machine: In the lunch room, you can click on the vending machine where you have to select the correct amount of change to purchase specific items. This is a good activity of working on money recognition and values.
~~Cash register: Clicking on the cash register starts an exercise where you have to total the cost of the items on a student's lunch tray. The values are put into a vertical equation, the same that students will see with most addition problems they encounter in school. They use the cash register keys to enter the value for the ones column and tens column. Even at the hardest level, the addition problems do not appear to require carrying.
~~Lunchroom line: This activity allows you to be the lunch room server and try to serve as many students as possible in a one minute period. The student arrives with an empty tray (either circular or rectangular) and then request one to three food items in fractions (e.g. "I want 1/2 chicken, 1/4 peas, and 1/4 cookies"). You have to quickly select these items and put them in the correct section of the tray. I think my son's record in this activity is five students served in a minute. Not bad considering the student has to eat all the served food before the next student can be served!
~~Pizza orders: In this activity (also timed), you have to select the pizza from a group that matches the specific requested ingredients, including pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, worms, and flies. Yum!
~~Recipes: This is one of the harder activities. You are presented with a short recipe, a bunch of ingredients, a variety of measuring devices, and a mixer/oven. You have to measure the correct amount of each item (e.g. 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 cups flour, 1 Tbsp. Vanilla, etc.) and add it to the mixer. If you do it correctly, the item comes out of the oven. If you make a mistake, a brown "glop" monster comes out, guaranteeing giggles from the kids. Although this is considered a reading activity, no actual reading is required since the recipe can be read to you.
~~Math marbles: On to the playground, now. This was the first activity my son attempted and is definitely one of his favorites. You are presented with a horizontal math equation printed on marbles. On the right side of the equal sign are two or more numbered marbles and on the left side are other numbered marbles. You have to figure which marble or marbles on the left side needs to be removed to make the equation equal. You then shoot a marble at it and the wrong marble is knocked out of the way. I was very surprised to see such a challenging type of problem on a first grade program but even more surprised to see how quickly my son mastered this activity.
~~Sandbox: This is probably my son's least favorite activity because it moves so slowly and is so unforgiving. You have to use a metal detector to search for hidden items in the sand. The clues typically have to do with matching the same beginning sounds in words. The concept is cute but the process is laborious and one mistake in a series requires that you start all over.
So What's the Motivational System?
Responding correctly on the various activities earns points in one of four general skill areas (reading, math, time, and nature). Once you reach 100 points in that area, you earn a milk cap and can select it from a collection of 30 different ones. Any time you can click on a picture of a mouse in the corner and get an update on how many points are needed for the next milk cap in each of the four areas. Once you have some caps, you can play a game on the playground with them.
Now if you were to ask me several months ago if this is a motivating reinforcement system, I would have had my doubts. After all, 100 points are a lot for a little kid to have to work for to earn a single cap. Furthermore, how motivating can it be to collect computerized images of milk caps? Well, to my great surprise, it can be VERY motivating!
My son worked for hours on this game, checking and rechecking his progress towards his caps (generally in math) and then running out to announce to us when he earned a new one. I've never seen him work this hard and persistently for ANYTHING - even sweets and treats which he adores. Within a week, he had earned all 30 math caps, 10 reading caps, 2 time caps, and 8 nature caps. I was worried that he would loss interest in the math area since he earned all the caps but he continued undaunted and started on his second collection!
My Impression of JumpStart 1st Grade
I can't stop patting myself on the back for having the wisdom (or dumb luck) to buy this educational software for my son. Actually, I do have to stop so I can pat HIM on the back. His progress on this program has thrilled and impressed me. I knew he had some talents in the math area but I had no idea what he could really do. I don't think he did, either. It's very clear that his learning has accelerated since he started playing JumpStart 1st Grade. In addition, his self-confidence has also improved.
Not only has my son mastered most of the math-related skills on this program, he has also made modest progress in reading. No, he's not a reader yet, but he is definitely acquiring the pre-skills necessary to make that big step. The hardest area for him has been telling time, mostly because we only have digital clocks in our house and we've never worked on this skill with him. Rather than be discouraged, though, which has been his modus operandi in the past, he has actually asked for some help in learning how to tell time better so that he can earn more time caps.
I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am with this program. Although we got it for a steal for 12.95 at Software.com, I think it is easily worth the regular price of $29.99.
No program is perfect and this one is no exception to that rule. We've run across a bug in the Recipe activity but it has only resulted in a little frustration (and a few undeserved visits from the "glop" monster). I'm also not thrilled with the Sandbox activity because it is so tedious and somewhat unclear in the clues given. Finally, my husband has complained that there aren't enough geography questions (his specialty area). Hey, it's only first grade! What do you expect? None of these minor complaints should in any way detract from my strong endorsement of this software program. It's a winner!
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