Saturday, November 8, 2014

Drill Without the Kill with IXL {A Review}

When our family was offered the chance to review IXL Math and
IXL Language Arts by IXL, my curiosity was piqued. 

IXL's slogan "practice that feels like play" speaks of something that is right up my family's alley.  I am a strong believer in the old adage that "practice makes perfect."   Yet, I am also a conscientious rejector of "drill and kill"   I just do not see the point of drilling any skill or bit of knowledge to the point where a child's enthusiasm for learning flags.   

In fact, at this point on our children's lives, maintaining creative, inquiring minds is far more important to my husband and me than forcing automaticity in their skills and learning.  That said, we still appreciate tools that encourage such automaticity without deadening their desire.  So, I was curious how IXL might work into our children's skill building and retention.

What is IXL?

Christmas Book Review

IXL is an online learning site that currently offer PreK-grade 12 students practice in about 4000 skills!

IXL Math offers Prek-12th graders practice with over 3000 skills.  The easiest of these cover counting to three and naming shapes.  More challenging levels, which have recently been added to IXL, center on higher level Geometry, Algebra, Precalculus and more.  So, there is something for every student in a household.

IXL Language Arts currently offers practice with nearly 800 practice skills at grade 2-8 levels.  Basic skills include parts of speech and punctuation.  More advanced ones include Greek and Latin roots, analogies and more.  All provide easy, engaging online practice of key language arts skills.

Both IXL Math and IXL Language Arts also offer parents progress reports which detail which skill challenges children have completed, what their proficiency with these were and which Common Core or state curriculum standards the skills align with.

How We Used IXL and What We Thought

We continue to be in a relaxed learning season of home education here, where the children's interests lead much of their own learning even as Mom and Dad encourage introduction to and work in specific areas.  Thus, when we received our year-long review memberships to IXL Math and IXL Language Arts I decided to introduce it to our children as an option for learning, not a must.

Basically, I set up an account for each child (which was easy!) and, then, opted in the settings to show skills as levels A, B, C, D and so on as opposed to Grades PreK, 1, 2, 3, etc.   I appreciated the option to have skills show without grade levels attached to them since my children's proficiency is all over the map and I prefer for them to look at skills on a continuum where one skills builds upon another as opposed to as set of things that one should know by a certain age or grade level.

Then, I showed each child how to navigate through the online learning site, as well as how to click the "speaker" button to have questions read aloud.  With two developing readers and one at-typical-grade level reader here, we all appreciated this feature that read questions aloud for the children!

Finally, I simply suggested to the children that they might choose to use IXL Math and IXL Language Arts during the brief periods of computer time that they each get as we share our one laptop betwixt us all.  They happily did so, self-selecting skills to work on and, often, helping one another in order to garner "extra time" online.

As my children self-selected which levels and skills to work on, I noticed that they preferred the Math ones over the Language Arts ones, probably because that is where their skills are stronger.

I also noticed that my children preferred to level "down" as opposed to "up", which was A-okay with me.  I have no problem with young children building confidence and solidifying skills by reviewing "easy" things.  In fact, I liked that IXL this way.  For the program, after all, is meant to be a practice and review one, not a teaching one  and my take is that deilling previously learned skills with enthusiasm trumps killing themselves reviewing more newly attained ones in my book any day.  Besides, I am confident that as we continue to use IXL, the children will begin to choose more challenging skill levels, something that will be easy to do since membership allows children access to every skills form PreK-grade 12 for Math and 2-8 for Language Arts, and, thus, to opportunities to "fill in" any learning "holes" they have over time.

One way that IXL helps "fill in", outside of simply offering a full array of skills is by offering an explanation for any challenge children do not succeed at.  I LOVE this about the program.  Children knowing they have gotten something "wrong" doe snot help them.  Children being shown how to get something "right" helps.  IXL Math and IXL Language Arts offer children continual opportunities to understand and succeed!

Apparently, used the way we have used it, IXL also offers choice, fun and success.  In the children's own words: 

  • "I like that there is easy, breezy games that I can do all by myself that I can choose," said Luke.

  • "I like that some of the problems are the same," commented Jack.  He meant that they are similar and, thus, easy for him to understand and succeed at.

  • "You get to geel confident," Nina said.  "It's for all different ages and it's fun!"

As for me, I am impressed with the way  IXL ties a bit of fun into what might otherwise become drill drudgery.  IXL Math and IXL Language Arts offer repetition, motivation and ease through such features as:

  • words of encouragement that pop up such as "Brilliant!" and "You got it!"
  • opportunities to earn virtual rewards (which, at first, annoyed my children in that the rewards are simply pictures on screen but, later, enticed them)
  • reports for Moms and Dads to keep tabs on their children's progress
  • opportunities for children to practice and master skills on a continuum.

I can attest that IXL has been an effective review and learning tool in our home and can see it being just as effective a tool for those practicing a more structured, curriculum-based home or brick-and-mortar education choice for their children. 

Learn More

Click to read Crew Reviews
  • IXL is available as an app for iPads with iOS 7.0 or greater, for Kindle Fires and for Androids that are 7" or larger. 
  • Family memberships to IXL start at just $9.95/month or $79/year for one subject. Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year.
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