O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Victus Study Skills- Schoolhouse Review

Victus Study Skills Review
Learning how to learn effectively is an essential skill. Most people feel that knowing how to take tests is the epitome of proper study skills. Recently I was offered the chance to review the Student Workbook and Teacher Edition from Victus Study Skills System with Tiger. Tiger has been working very hard to master his time so he can maximize his learning time and leisure time. I must say that I am really proud of him in his efforts.
Victus Study Skills Review
The Victus Study Skills System is comprised of a Teacher’s edition and a Student workbook. It is intended for grades 5-12. The teacher’s manual costs $40 and each consumable student manual costs $20.  Victus Study Skills offers other products to assist in teaching their study skills system as well.
Victus is Latin for way of life. The program is designed to help students not only learn to take tests or take notes or read a book, but to do it in context of a personal purpose in life. Victus believes in four main concepts. 1. Zeal without knowledge is not good, but zeal with knowledge bears fruit, 2. Results come from the process, 3. Any System with all of its components must have an aim, or purpose, and 4. A unique and effective system of study has the greatest likelihood of aiding in success. Additionally, there are three cornerstones which each skill is set upon. These cornerstones are the questions of “Where am I now, Where do I want to be, and How do I get there?” The 10 lessons cover an introduction, learning strengths evaluation, mission and goal setting, time management technique, organizing a work environment, active reading, active listening, shorthand note taking, test taking, and review.
The Teacher’s Edition is set up as a guide to assist the teacher or parent in teaching the 10 lessons to the student over the course of 5 days. It is intended that each skill will take approximately 30 minutes to teach. I found that some took much less time than that. The teacher manual consists of an introductory section to teach the teacher about the system followed by the lessons and finally an an appendix with student views of the student appendix as well as a form for the teacher to create his or her own mission statement. The various skills should be integrated into the daily life and classroom of the student so that he or she can begin practicing the skills and making them part of his or her life.
The Student Manual consists of all the worksheets to be used with the teacher’s edition. It is not intended to stand alone, and without the teacher’s edition, it will not work. There is a self-study student manual available through Victus, but that is different than the one I am reviewing. The appendix includes additional resources for study skills which are not expressly taught in the teacher’s manual.

There are many aspects of Victus Study Skills that I really like. The biggest and most important is that Victus Study Skills attempts to teach vital skills in context and with purpose. The goal of Victus Study Skills is not to teach how to take a test, how to read a textbook, and how to take notes. Those are important skills that are taught, but the goal is to teach a lifestyle- one that will propel the student to be better. Furthermore, I really liked that in the   the teacher is encouraged to go through and do some of the same activities as the students including writing their own mission statement, working on their own time management, and practicing their own note taking. Teachers who do the work of a student are better mentors to their students.  Our favorite part was the first couple of lessons which taught about time management, mission, and how to live in accordance with one’s values. The reason this was our favorite part is because it was the most applicable to Tiger’s life at this time. I also like the lesson on note taking because explaining the value of shorthand to a student and giving some tips on how to write in a shortened form was very well done.

I felt a little ill-equipped to teach directly from the manual though. As I attempted to follow the lesson plan, I kept feeling like there was something missing. The introduction encourages the teacher to have an activity or something to assist in the lessons and sometimes those were provided, but sometimes they were not. Some of the activities provided would have worked much better in a group setting, either co-op or a classroom. Also, I didn’t feel like every lesson gave enough detail about what was being taught to be taught effectively by me. I just finished teaching a 4 week time management class to middle and high schoolers at our co-op and I found myself pulling a lot from all the research and work I did on that class to teach the first couple of lessons. If I had not had that experience, I would have really struggled with the first couple of lessons.

Additionally, right now, Tiger doesn’t take tests or read textbooks and while he does need to work on note taking, he has been doing pretty well in this regard. Yes, he can do some of the skills of reading for comprehension in a classic work or biography, but some of those steps need to be modified. I would have liked to have seen a little more information on practical application for the reading model outside of textbooks. The other thing I didn’t really like were the fill in the blank worksheets. The way the teacher’s manual was set up, there weren’t any guiding questions to help the student figure out the answers. Short of reading the sentences and inserting the answers I wasn’t sure what to do. Since I am anti-busywork worksheets, I wasn’t too thrilled with this approach. I would have found it more helpful to have a little more information on guiding a discussion in the lessons. The irony is that the teacher’s manual was very wide open with minimal explanations and yet the at times the instructions to discovery were too confining for Tiger. For example the learning strengths activity wanted him to rank things as equal, all, or nothing. He had some that were slightly more than others and he wanted to adjust the scoring. I couldn’t see a reason for the instructions to be so confining so I changed the instructions for him.  The next issue was once he discovered his primary learning strength, I didn’t really understand how he was to apply that knowledge to the subsequent lessons. Was it just personal knowledge? I felt like we were hanging on a branch waiting to see somewhere to jump to. The last thing that Tiger and I found cumbersome was sometimes in a lesson I would ask him to turn to a page, skipping several pages, and then turn back several pages to do the previous worksheet. I think having the pages in order would have been more effective and less confusing. Several times Tiger asked me why I was making him back up. It felt disorderly to us.

Ultimately, I think this course has huge potential, but the whole time I was using it, I felt that something was missing. I think it would be a better fit for someone who was used to a more traditional fill  in the blank type schooling method or a family where testing was more common in the middle school years. I think it could have been a better fit for my family if I had had more assistance with understanding the vision for each individual lesson. While I don’t often follow scripts of scripted lessons, they do help me to understand the progression of teaching. While Victus recommends this for grades 5+, I think I would recommend this for 7th grade and up. Click to read Crew Reviews

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