I purchased a workbook for my 4-year-old child, because it was on sale, and I thought she could use some practice in getting used to classroom routines prior to starting school next year. This is especially true during our stay-at-home homeschooling situation. However, these workbooks would probably be good supplemental resources for students starting Transitional Kindergarten, preschool, or Kindergarten this year virtually, as well.
Big Preschool Workbook by School Zone Review
I was actually impressed. The workbook I bought was very thick, with 318 pages in color. The activities were fun and developmentally appropriate. My kid doesn’t have a lot of grit, so she wanted to do some activities more so than others. I let her choose because I want to her view homework as fun. It worked. She started telling me she wanted to do homework, to the point where I ran out of pages. I purchased a couple more. Here is an honest review of each.
The first workbook I purchased was the Big Preschool workbook by School Zone. It is 318 pages in color, and toots that it includes skill areas of pre-writing, alphabet, colors and shapes, following directions, numbers, early math, and more.
I like that the first few pages focus on fine motor control. There are simple paths for the child to trace. They are colorful and cute. You can supplement the curriculum by verbally describing the pages with your child as well. The paths are large enough to not intimidate a beginning writer, who may not have good control with a pencil, yet.
The following 8 pages have the child trace multiple of the same line or shape over and over. My kid got overwhelmed by the number of times she was tracing the same line and shape and was dissuaded.
The following 12 pages have the child color. I did not feel like getting out a set of crayons, and my kid knows her colors very well. We skipped this section.
The next 18 pages have the kid tracing shapes. Even though these were also repetitive, the workbook frames them as kids drawing the outline of animals or other common objects, so my daughter was into this. Context made a huge difference, surprisingly. I think it lowered her affective filter and increased her engagement.
The next 10 pages had her coloring shapes but have 2 different colors per activity.
Then there are 4 pages of simple pattern recognition. There is a sequence of shapes and colors where the child predicts the next shape and color in the sequence. Then there are mazes where the child follows the path that is showing a consistent pattern. I love these activities, and the next week my daughter was showing me a pattern using Lego bricks and describing them using the word pattern. I wish there were more pattern recognition pages in this section, as this will help her develop in understanding both mathematical and coding components.
The next few pages have her trace upper and lower case letters. I do not feel as this section is scaffolded ideally. It has her spend time tracing upper and lower case letters, but being her first introduction, I would have liked for each letter to get its own page, and for the letters to visually resemble the object that starts with the letter. Unfortunately, with the amount of information per page, and the fine motor requirement that was suddenly expected, my daughter felt overwhelmed and did not want to do these pages. I skipped them, to return to when she is better prepared and more confident.
Following that section, there are 4 pages per letter. Each section starts with a picture you can color that starts with the same letter as the word, then a hidden picture where if you color in the sections that has the letter in it, it reveals another image that begins with that letter, then a colored picture with 5 hidden letters in it that you can find and circle, and finally a maze with a picture related to the letter or a connect the dots where you connect the letters by sequence. My daughter only liked doing the last two activities for each letter, but she loved those activities a lot and begged for more.
Our Critique for this Workbook
One item of critique is the hidden letters activity is sometimes very difficult, as the letters are written in a faint color (for example a dark orange A on a yellow background) and the pages are thin and see-through, so sometimes my daughter thought images from the other side of the page were the hidden letters.
Numbers do not get as much attention as the letters do. They have 2 pages per number. The first activity for each number starts with an image where you circle the pictures with the corresponding number of whatever it is they want you to find. For example, they have the number zero, and they want you to circle all the ladybugs that have zero spots. Then they have you color all the butterflies with zero spots.
They have a few pages of various activities similar to the activities done earlier, such as tracing numbers or doing a maze with the numbers in sequence.
The following section has comparisons of groups such as circle the group with the same number of bunnies, fewer flowers, more triangles, owls that looks the same or different, pictures with missing parts that you find and circle, matching, opposites, and seasons.
While there are a few items that could be improved, overall my 4 year old really enjoyed working on the activities in the Big Preschool Workbook and begged for more homework. She also retained and applied knowledge in items like patterns to other areas. Therefore, I highly recommend this workbook as a good beginner workbook for kids ready to transition to a school setting. It took approximately 3 days, spread out, to work through the content she enjoyed in the book. I will revisit some of the more complex pages when she feels more confident.
Big Alpha Workbook from School Zone Review
After my daughter finished most of the pages in the Big Preschool Workbook from School Zone, I picked up the Big Alphabet Workbook from School Zone. It was also on sale for about $5 and has 320 pages in color. This one focuses on letter recognition, letter-sound association, alphabetical order, manuscript writing, eye-hand coordination and more.
I wish I purchased this at the same time as the Big Preschool Workbook, as some of the alphabet areas are scaffolded more, and there were some easier activities in the beginning of this workbook, which may have helped my daughter transition into the Big Preschool Workbook.
The first 32 pages are similar to the first few pages of the Big Preschool Workbook, but instead of just focusing on fine motor skills, the child makes simple lines connecting objects that have some association. For example, it has a path from an elephant to a peanut he wants to eat. My food allergy child with her peanut allergy did not have any issues understanding that elephants may eat peanuts, even though she cannot.
While the Big Preschool Workbook has a huge focus on identification and sequence, this Big Alphabet Workbook spends a great deal of time just practicing writing capital and lower case versions of letters. Overall, the activities and pictures are less colorful and inventive, and more repetitive and worksheet like. I’m not entirely sure why a color workbook is beneficial for most of these activities. My daughter found a large portion of the workbook boring and repetitive in comparison to the Big Preschool Workbook.
If I were to do this again, I would buy both the Big Preschool Workbook, and Big Alphabet Workbook at the same time, and gut them. Unfortunately, while the Big Alphabet Workbook has some beneficial activities, do to the sequencing, it is hard to do in the order the work is presented. I would sandwich the pages so that my daughter would get a variety of different tasks that require different levels of her focus so she gets more of a mental break. Unfortunately, because of the highly repetitive and academic nature of the Big Alphabet Workbook, my daughter cannot just work on several pages of this workbook at once. She gets mentally drained and needs another task. For parents who may have competing items they need to focus on, it would be hard to use this workbook to maintain a child’s attention with minimal supervision for a 3-5-year-old.
Learn to Read Activity Book Review
The third workbook I purchased on sale was the Learn to Read Activty Book by Hannah Braun, M.ed. This book surprised me, as I saw there were 101 activities, but it is over 200 pages long and significantly thicker than I anticipated.
This is not a workbook. A child will not be able to do these activities independently.
Another interesting item is that the letters of the alphabet are not presented in alphabetical order. There is less of a focus on sequences.
This book is probably best for Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten teachers or for parents who are fully able to homeschool their children. It may also be a good resource for Curriculum Developers, Instructional Designers, or other people creating content for young people learning to read using spiraling in order to instruct their learners.
It would probably be best to set aside a consistent time of day, each day, to work on one lesson. Most lessons begin with the objective, direct instruction involving tracing the letter with a finger, teaching the sound of the letter, and then blending the letter sound. Then there are a few activities where children can color the boxes containing the letter, and circle pictures that start with the letter, similar to the other books.
Starting lesson 10, students transition from identifying letters, and knowing the sound to blend the sounds that they have learned so far in order to read simple two and three-letter words.
For additional thoughts from us on how to help your children during these rough COVID19 times – see our 7 tips to win at being a modern parent.