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Pros / cons of Explode the Code


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#1 Garga

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 02:04 PM

For those of you who've used Explode the Code...what do you think?

My ds6 learns everything effortlessly--except reading. It's a big struggle. His comprehension is great, but actually sounding out the words is painful.

Did Explode the Code work for you? What about it worked? What didn't? Did you use it online or the workbooks? Why does it go up to 8th grade? I thought that once you learned to read--you knew how to read. Is the 8th grade stuff more reading comprehension and vocabulary vs teaching you phonics?

I'm so confused. I thought we'd learn to read--it would take a few months and that would be that. It's been 2 years now that we've been working on this and we're spinning our wheels. He can read somewhat, but it's painful.

OR, should I wait another year or so before I expect him to be able to read well? I know that some kids read at 3 and others don't really get it until 8.

How do I know if I should just keep having him read his easy readers for another 2 years until it all clicks, or should I get something like Explode the Code now?

#2 Staci in MO

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 02:42 PM

First of all, the numbers on the books are not meant to be grade levels. Sonlight divides them up over 1st through 3rd grade: Books 1 - 3 in grade 1, books 4 - 6 in grade 2, and books 7 and 8 in grade 3. My dd got through all 8 in first and 2nd grades. My oldest boy took until 3rd grade to get through them, my younger ds is probably going to take that long as well.

I combine Explode the Code with easy readers. I try to keep the readers just a bit easier than what they're working on in ETC. This isn't an exact science, though. If we run across a word in a book and they haven't learned how to sound it out via ETC, I tell them the word and we move on. Right now my 7 yo ds is reading through Sonlight's "I Can Read It" books. I usually move on to "Little Bear" and "Frog and Toad" after the Sonlight books. The Sonlight "I Can Read It" just happens to be what I have on the shelf. You could use Bob Books, Animaniacs (I think that's what they're called), any of the easy readers.

I use the workbooks (didn't even know they were online, to be honest). We do two pages a day.

He's still young, and he's a boy. A lot of boys are not going to learn to read at age six. I think that ETC is an excellent way to teach phonics. My dc all loved the pictures and silly sentences. Just make sure he's making progress, even if it's coming slowly. My dd is the only one who read quickly and easily. Reading really didn't click with my oldest until 3rd grade, and then he was off and running.

#3 KristenS

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 04:36 PM

Pros: It's definitely cheap. :) Do get the teacher guide as it has some additional info sometimes that can be good (we rarely use it ourselves, but there IS a lot in it). It also tells you which 1/2 book pages review the concept if you need more work. (In other words, if you fly through book 1, you skip book 1 1/2. If you need review of some of it, then you do parts of 1 1/2. And so on through the series.) It does go through about third grade reading. We try to do a workbook a semester, and after ETC 3 we alternate in the Beyond the Code readers. But then we started them pretty early, so I still project us finishing up the whole series in third grade. In the regular workbooks we do about 1 page a day unless it's really easy. We've not yet had to use the 1/2 books.

Cons: Hmm. Some people find book 4 and syllabication to be a bit hard and delay it till later. We pushed through, but I can see why some people skip.

Can't really think of many cons. If it doesn't work, at least it was cheap. The teacher guides cover two levels (1-2, 3-4, and so on), and that includes the half books. The Beyond books are for reading comprehension and have no guide that I can find. The stories are totally silly and my son enjoys changing up the work a bit. Like the PP, we also supplement with whatever easy readers we happen to have on hand. Rocket Readers were one of my son's favorites.

#4 KH_

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 04:44 PM

Did Explode the Code work for you? What about it worked? What didn't? Did you use it online or the workbooks? Why does it go up to 8th grade? I thought that once you learned to read--you knew how to read. Is the 8th grade stuff more reading comprehension and vocabulary vs teaching you phonics?


We use(d) it (dd is still using the books), and both I and the kids like them. I didn't know there was anything online, so only used the books. I've been very pleased with how it teaches phonics and reading, and really can't think of any cons, besides the amount of writing in the beginning (when we started the books, ds didn't have that fine motor control, so we just did everything orally and skipped the writing). And he jumped ahead on reading one summer, so was past the next ETC book we were working on that fall, and the phonics didn't sink in as much, so he has some interesting pronounciations. However, with dd, her reading pace kept right along with the books and she sounds out new words much better.

#5 gingersmom

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 06:06 PM

I can't think of anything bad about Explode the Code.

I used up to book 6 (maybe 7) before we stopped. We stopped because my son was getting bored with it. There did not appear to be a lot of variety in the exercises as you went up the levels.

I think your expectations may be too high for a 6 year old. I would not expect him to be reading War & Peace anytime soon.

There is nothing wrong with easy readers. Encourage a love of reading. It is a gift that will last a lifetime.

We started using Plaid Phonics (from Modern Curriculum Press, rainbow resource only sells old versions). It is very similar to Explode the Code.

#6 skaterbabs

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 06:57 AM

Certainly try ETC. It's inexpensive enough that if he hates it you haven't spent a fortune on something that doesn't work for you. We're a little more than halfway through OPG and DD *detests* it. We're going to switch to ETC and start at book 1 and do it as spelling rather than reading instruction. ;)

#7 KarenNC

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 08:05 AM

I'd echo what the others are saying. We loved ETC. We did workbooks as it wasn't available online when we used it (would likely have done the workbooks anyway as I try to keep online things requiring internet access to a minimum as we have only one computer hooked up to the net). My daughter did all 8 levels, completing them at varying rates of speed depending on the material. By about level 4-5 she was reading quite well and we used them primarily as spelling because she enjoyed the books.

I did combine ETC with a couple of other things that some on the boards find controversial ;). My daughter had fabulous comprehension and was very frustrated with being stuck on the "Mat sat. Cat sat." kind of books at the beginning. To her that was not "real reading". I picked up a pack of sight word cards (based on the Dolch lists) and we played games with them. I also picked up one of the reissued Dick and Jane Treasuries and we read through those. The combo of these with ETC really opened up worlds of reading for her. She had access to a lot more content and it boosted her fluency rate tremendously. I also wrote simple stories for her using words she knew and involving her name, her pets' names, familiar people, etc, but without illustrations to be sure she was getting the words. If she could read it, she got to illustrate it which was rewarding for her.

Now, I want to be clear that I am not advocating "whole language" techniques wholesale. It was *not* "guess the word from the first letter" or "guess the word from the shape". It was much more in the manner of drilling to automaticity (is that a word?) basic words she wouldn't encounter until later phonetically but that are very high frequency in basic children's literature. Words like mother, father, you, said, the, he, she, the child's name, names of pets and family members, they, etc. Yes, these words can be sounded out phonetically (and we did cover them phonetically), but programs like ETC don't introduce them until much later and they can really affect the content and fluency of reading. It has not hurt her reading or spelling levels at all---she has tested consistently at multiple grades above age level in both. Can't guarantee that will happen with adding these in, but I can say it was actively helpful rather than harmful for us.

Downside---a few of the illustrations were difficult to interpret, but that may be taken care of with the teacher's guide---we didn't have one. They are consumable workbooks, so bear that in mind if you like to reuse materials for younger kids.

The Beyond the Code book numbers aren't correlated to the ETC numbers (I made that mistake;))---don't expect to jump into BTC 1 while doing ETC 1. We didn't use any past BTC 1, so perhaps others can advise when to start if you want to try those.

#8 EKS

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 08:39 AM

Con (for us): My son cried every time I brought out the book.

#9 hsmom

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 09:24 AM

Con (for us): My son cried every time I brought out the book.


Mine too. He hated these! So, we did not stick with them.

#10 KarenNC

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 10:44 AM

Con (for us): My son cried every time I brought out the book.


This was the major con for us for Phonics Pathways and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (well that and they drove me nuts).

For ETC for us, she asked to do extra, to the point that we got through an entire one of the preprimers in an afternoon because of "just one more page, pleeeeeeaaaaase". Takes all kinds;).

#11 mompotter

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 11:23 AM

First of all - Please don't panic about him not reading yet. I had one that was a fast reader (blew through the ETC books and found them boring at age 6) and I have one that just really clicked with reading this year. She just turned 9.

I found etc to really help reinforce the phonics. It also helps with spelling and gives more handwriting practice without being a "handwriting program". My kids have all liked them. One tends to spend more time coloring the drawings but as long as she does the work and learns, it is fine with me. :001_smile:

#12 laf512

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 11:39 AM

We are using ETC 1 as a supplement for my just turned 4yo dd. She really enjoys them although sometimes the writing is a bit much for her since she's so young. Other than that no real cons. Sometimes she needs my help to figure out what the picture is supposed to be the first time she encounters it, but usually she can do them on her own with no problems. I think they have helped with her fluency since she's exposed to some new words rather than just what she's getting out of our main phonics program.

I'd definitely give them a shot since they are so inexpensive.

#13 Jen in PA

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 12:58 PM

They were a big hit here. DD did books 1 - 7, then I dropped them as they had become busywork (she already seemed to know the rules they were covering), and we switched to doing a spelling program. The funny part is that she keeps telling me she misses her phonics books! I love the way that they manage to be highly entertaining (the sentences are very funny) without being about entertainment. There are no bells or whistles, just enough kid-friendly humor that my dd enjoyed working through the sentences.

#14 TKDmom

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 01:45 PM

I just started ETC 1 with my 5yo ds. He is really enjoying it so far. I had looked at the online version, but decided to go with the books b/c ds really needs the handwriting practice, and he already has great mouse-clicking skills. ;)

#15 Kari C in SC

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 08:08 PM

We are another family that really liked ETC. I can't remember all the details of why we liked it. I just know we did all of the books from Get Ready for the Code to ETC 8. My dd did very well with the program. I just picked it up for my 4 year old (soon to be 5) for K this year. I do remember that she did tire of the book by book 8, but I plugged ahead because I thought it was great practice. We used these books along with The Reading Lesson. Once she was actually reading pretty well, we added in Pathway Readers until 3rd grade.

#16 Caroline

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Posted 13 June 2009 - 08:12 PM

We are another family that really liked ETC. I can't remember all the details of why we liked it. I just know we did all of the books from Get Ready for the Code to ETC 8. My dd did very well with the program. I just picked it up for my 4 year old (soon to be 5) for K this year. I do remember that she did tire of the book by book 8, but I plugged ahead because I thought it was great practice. We used these books along with The Reading Lesson. Once she was actually reading pretty well, we added in Pathway Readers until 3rd grade.


I am so glad to read this. My 4 year old and I are working on Get Ready now, and I have The Reading Lesson to use, too.

Thinking of your son in Iraq.


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