Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crew Review: Critical Thinking's World History Detectives

Critical Thinking Company Review


This post is a review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Our family has been using products from The Critical Thinking Co. for close to ten years. We appreciate their emphasis on critical thinking skills and logic. We have always found their products to be high quality and we love their family-friendly copyright. So of course, I expected no less from the World History Detective Book 1 when we received it for a Schoolhouse Crew review. I wasn't disappointed at all!

Critical Thinking Co. World History Detective

World History Detective, Book One

World History Detective Book One covers ancient and medieval civilizations and is designed for grades 6 - 12. It is a softcover book, with 78 short lessons included in it. In order to finish it in a school year, you would need to cover 2-3 lessons per week.

Each lesson includes 1-2 pages of text with maps and illustrations. The lesson is divided into paragraphs that are labeled by letter, and each sentence is given a number. (You'll see why in a minute.) After the text, there are about 3 pages of activities related to the lesson. Each lesson has questions that not only test the student's recall of the lesson, but also asks them which sentence supports their answer. The numbered sentences allow them to record their answer with a number instead of re-writing the whole sentence. Next, there is a written response question and a concept map (which you can see in the picture above).

The book is 362 pages long. It begins with a three page Teacher Overview that helps you understand how to use the book. There is also a link at the end of the Table of Contents that takes you to bonus review materials, which are set up similarly to the book. The answer key for the activities (except the written responses) are included at the end of the book.

How We Used It:

Since The Critical Thinking Co. allows a family to make photocopies within their own family, I was able to use the same book with both my 5th grade and 8th grade sons. I photocopied the activity sheets so each boy had a copy of their own. At first, I encouraged the boys to read the assignment on their own and assured them I would help them figure out the activities. That didn't work. I finally had to sit down with them and read it aloud. After we had read it, we went through the questions together, and filled in the concept map.

Initially, there was a learning curve for my boys on understanding how to find the answers to the questions. Because I was reading it to them (not the preferred method, but they're reluctant learners at times) it took them longer to find the answers to the questions. I often helped them out by pointing out which paragraph to look in. Labeling the paragraphs with letters would be entirely necessary but it was very helpful at this point. After they found the correct answer, we had to discuss which sentence BEST supported the answer. Sometimes more than one sentence applied, but there was one that gave more detailed information that supported it better. This whole process grew easier for them with each chapter. We sometimes skipped the written answers, but we always did the first nine questions and the concept map.

Even though my younger son is a grade beneath the intended target, I was able to use it with him. He's very bright, and had no issues with the reading or the analytical thinking ... other than his reluctance to actually sit down and do the reading! I'm not sure he could have managed it completely on his own, but he was able to work with me.

ElCloud Thoughts:

There are several things that I liked about the World History Detectives Book One, and there was one thing I didn't like. I really like that the lessons are short, and seem less overwhelming to those who are younger or dislike reading. I also like the focus on analytical thinking and supporting your answers. This is very helpful experience for them as they move into writing research papers. The three different types of activities at the end of each lesson help them absorb and process the  information they had just covered.

The one thing I didn't like as much was that the reading is very factual and a little dry. We've always tried to use more engaging books, so this was an adjustment for us. That's mainly why I ended up having to read it to them. I know that it needs to be that way for the type of logical questions and analyzing they want the kids to do, but it didn't make it very appealing to my 11 and 14 year old boys. I am sure there are some students who would much rather just have the facts laid out for them like this, though.

I do want to note that World History Detectives Book One does not come from a strictly Christian viewpoint. It takes a secular, non-religious approach to discussing history. It isn't anti-Christian, it just tries not to align with any one faith. Since Book One deals with early civilizations, it introduces the faiths of many different countries, including Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam. This doesn't bother us, as we have studied them in history already. We feel it's important for our children to know a little about other faiths.

World History Detectives Book One also takes an Old World view of history, mentioning the evolution of man in some early lessons. It would be possible to avoid that particular topic by skipping lessons two through four. We did choose to read lesson one, because I liked the explanation of different types of scientists and historians, but then we skipped lessons two through four. I debated going ahead and doing them, since my boys are aware of evolutionary viewpoints already, but I just decided it wasn't necessary for them.

Overall, I was very impressed with World History Detectives Book One. I'm curious what Book Two will cover and am eager to take a look at US History Detectives sometime. If you don't mind separating your world history into multiple years, it's a straightforward, logic-building secular history that would work well in many families.

World History Detectives Book One provides a unique approach to world history. It can be used as a stand-alone textbook, a supplemental resource, or a review for older students. There is a link to take a peek inside the book at the website .  Book one retails for $34.99. The copyright allows the original purchaser to make up to 35 copies per year for use in one home or one classroom. This makes it completely re-usable for a family and the last student gets to write in the book! That is always a plus in my book!

You can follow The Critical Thinking Co.  via social media:  facebookgoogle+twitter, or pinterest. You can also read more reviews of World History Detectives Book One and other products at The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

April E.

Critical Thinking Company Review

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1 comment:

  1. I'm curious to know if you used any testing with World History Detective. I have been grouping lessons and creating my own review and tests, but this is really time-consuming!

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