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Reading/Phonics curriculum

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I am overwhelmed at the choices! I see a lot of negative comments in regards to memorizing sight words and kids trying to guess words. So what is a good program for teaching reading? I know the kids need to learn to sound out words but there are a lot of words that break the rules! I am primarily looking for something for my son who will be in K next year but my daughter will be in 2nd (currently in school) and she is behind in reading so she may need some re-training when we homeschool next year. 

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I'm going to sing the praises of Abeka Phonics. It's simply great. We tried several programs that only ended in frustration. Then I found Phonics Pathways and Progressive Phonics, which  were a good start, but for my kids, they simply needed more reinforcement than any of the other programs were offering. Abeka to the rescue!

It's systematic, it's colorful, it has the teacher instruction I needed, and more than anything it works. You can use the worksheets if you want, or skip them. There are ideas for kinesthetic ideas in the lesson plans. The flash cards are great. The readers are perfectly suited.  I seriously think Abeka is the most well rounded phonics program of any I looked at and I looked at and/or tried a LOT. I puffy heart LOVE Abeka Phonics. Really wish I'd found it sooner. 

 

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Have you read The Well Trained Mind? She/they go into more detail about why memorizing sight words INSTEAD OF phonics is a poor idea-- there are still some sight words that need memorized in a phonics program, but that's not the basis of their learning to read.

WTM has several curriculum suggestions-- we use Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and really like it. It's just an open and go book, very cheap. We pair it with flashcards (my boys love that) and various words games. I can't remember if this is in WTM, but I hear loads of folks like All About Reading. 

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My DD is in Kindergarten now. We use a combination of Blend Phonics (free online) and Phonics Pathways (borrowed from the library). 

I was familiar with Phonics Pathways from friends who used it with all their kids. They are great readers. I like it. It's no nonsense.

Abeka is good but expensive.  I had family who used this one and the kids knew their stuff.

I really wanted to try Logic of English but it to was too pricey. I know my DD would enjoy it because of the games they play. 

I hope ElizabethB sees this she is very knowledgeable about this topic.

It depends on how much money you have or want to spend. Do you want to make it fun with games or are you more no nonsense and don't see the need for games (that's me)? 

My kid bores easy so we bounce around. I put aside PP for awhile and have her read Blend Phonics Lessons and Stories plus readers. We also watch shows like Leap Frog and Alphablocks that teach phonics.

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One thing that you will likely discover whatever program you use is that you will learn some rules you didn't know about, and therefore there are fewer words that must be memorized than you thought. For example, I had no idea that there is a simple rule about when "c" says "k" and when it says "s," but after I learned it, I realized that I had invited it at some point, or possibly been taught it as a small child and forgotten the rule but, of course, remembered how to use it. Whatever program you use, I recommend reading ahead to see if you find any surprises like this yourself.

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12 minutes ago, xahm said:

One thing that you will likely discover whatever program you use is that you will learn some rules you didn't know about, and therefore there are fewer words that must be memorized than you thought. For example, I had no idea that there is a simple rule about when "c" says "k" and when it says "s," but after I learned it, I realized that I had invited it at some point, or possibly been taught it as a small child and forgotten the rule but, of course, remembered how to use it. Whatever program you use, I recommend reading ahead to see if you find any surprises like this yourself.

I agree.  There certainly are some true rule breaking words that kids just have to memorize, but the list is pretty darn short.  Most of the time if a word seems to break the rules, it is just because you haven't learned all the phonetic rules yet.

With my three kids who are now strong readers, I have used a three prong approach.

1 - I overtaught phonetic awareness and simple CVC blending before starting any curriculum.  We spend years playing around with letter sounds, beginning and ending sounds, rhyming words, orally blending first compound words (mail + box), then syllables (bea + ver), then phonograms (f + i + sh).  Once the child is very comfortable orally blending CVC words (so if I say /h/.../a/.../t/  they can say those sounds faster and faster until they blend them into hat) then I start them on homemade CVC books.  I print out pictures of CVC items, and then made mini-books with 4-6 pages with one CVC word written on each page.  I hand the child the book and the 4-6 corresponding pictures and help them "make" the book.  I have dozens of these books, because I want the child to be completely fluent reading all CVC words with no stress or hesitancy before we move on to the next step.

2 - We start the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We skip the first section that teaches letter sounds and jump right into the beginning reading section.  At the same time, I start the kids working mostly independently through the Explode the Code workbooks.  This just provides review, additional independent practice, and a very, very gentle introduction to spelling.  Both of these resources systematically teach the phonics rules.  They do introduce a few sight words, but very sparingly, and they never encourage a child to memorize words that can be sounded out (which is what the Dolce sight word list does).

3 - As soon as possible, I start to introduce decodable (or mostly decodable) readers.  I stay far away from the typical leveled readers; even "level 1" books often contain lots of words that the child could not possibly sound out with their current skills.  Instead, they use pictures and repetitive text to strongly encourage guessing - this is a habit that I want to avoid like the plague!!  Instead, I provide my kids with Bob books, Progressive Phonics books, I See Sam books, We Both Read books, All About Reading books, Scholastic phonics book sets, etc. 

Wendy

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4 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

I agree.  There certainly are some true rule breaking words that kids just have to memorize, but the list is pretty darn short.  Most of the time if a word seems to break the rules, it is just because you haven't learned all the phonetic rules yet.

With my three kids who are now strong readers, I have used a three prong approach.

1 - I overtaught phonetic awareness and simple CVC blending before starting any curriculum.  We spend years playing around with letter sounds, beginning and ending sounds, rhyming words, orally blending first compound words (mail + box), then syllables (bea + ver), then phonograms (f + i + sh).  Once the child is very comfortable orally blending CVC words (so if I say /h/.../a/.../t/  they can say those sounds faster and faster until they blend them into hat) then I start them on homemade CVC books.  I print out pictures of CVC items, and then made mini-books with 4-6 pages with one CVC word written on each page.  I hand the child the book and the 4-6 corresponding pictures and help them "make" the book.  I have dozens of these books, because I want the child to be completely fluent reading all CVC words with no stress or hesitancy before we move on to the next step.

2 - We start the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We skip the first section that teaches letter sounds and jump right into the beginning reading section.  At the same time, I start the kids working mostly independently through the Explode the Code workbooks.  This just provides review, additional independent practice, and a very, very gentle introduction to spelling.  Both of these resources systematically teach the phonics rules.  They do introduce a few sight words, but very sparingly, and they never encourage a child to memorize words that can be sounded out (which is what the Dolce sight word list does).

3 - As soon as possible, I start to introduce decodable (or mostly decodable) readers.  I stay far away from the typical leveled readers; even "level 1" books often contain lots of words that the child could not possibly sound out with their current skills.  Instead, they use pictures and repetitive text to strongly encourage guessing - this is a habit that I want to avoid like the plague!!  Instead, I provide my kids with Bob books, Progressive Phonics books, I See Sam books, We Both Read books, All About Reading books, Scholastic phonics book sets, etc. 

Wendy

Yeah, I hate the "leveled readers" for the most part. They are just demoralizing for a long time, then a phonics-learner is all of a sudden past them. Elephant and Piggie and the Fly Guy books are pretty good early readers after the phonics basics are down. Most of the others feel like someone took mediocre books and removed any interesting words from them.

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22 hours ago, omishev said:

I am overwhelmed at the choices! I see a lot of negative comments in regards to memorizing sight words and kids trying to guess words. So what is a good program for teaching reading? I know the kids need to learn to sound out words but there are a lot of words that break the rules! I am primarily looking for something for my son who will be in K next year but my daughter will be in 2nd (currently in school) and she is behind in reading so she may need some re-training when we homeschool next year. 

You're talking about sight reading, which has been proven repeatedly to be a big failure for the largest majority of children. The concept was invented by someone who worked with deaf children, who of course must learn to read by memorizing words, because they cannot hear. And some educators had the bright idea that sight reading would work perfectly fine for hearing children, as well. But no. It is a failure.

You want something that teaches phonics. When children know phonics, they can read almost any word, because very few words are truly "sight" words. "Eye" is one of them; you just have to know that's what it is. 🙂

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1 hour ago, xahm said:

Yeah, I hate the "leveled readers" for the most part. They are just demoralizing for a long time, then a phonics-learner is all of a sudden past them. Elephant and Piggie and the Fly Guy books are pretty good early readers after the phonics basics are down. Most of the others feel like someone took mediocre books and removed any interesting words from them.

All of the decodable readers I listed are much, much easier than Elephant and Piggie or Fly Guy.  But, since they are completely decodable, my kids have always found them motivating rather than frustrating.  They can read Bob books and All About Reading books pretty much as soon as they can sound out CVC words.  And because all of the words are specifically chosen to be sound-out-able with very limited phonics skills, the kids can truly read (without any guessing or frustration) the whole thing themselves.  We normally start easy decodable readers within the first few lessons of the Ordinary Parent's Guide.  No, those early readers are not great works of literature, but my kids normally feel enough success and pride that they can overlook less than stellar stories.  Plus, if they start to object to the very simple readers then we can branch out to some of the books that integrate decodable words for the kids to read within more complex stories that the adult reads (Progressive Phonics and the Scholastic box sets).

I find I only have to really limit the book selection for the first couple months.  After that they have learned enough phonics that they can tackle many more books.  At that point, if they can decode 95% of the words, then I will just tell them any words they can't sound out (I quickly tell them rather than having them guess, and at the same time I casually mention the phonetic rules of the word they didn't know).  So, a common book series at this point would be We Both Read; they wouldn't yet have the phonics to sound out some of the words like could, but I would just say, "in -ould words the L is silent, so we sound it out as /c/ /ood/".  Then I matter of factly repeat the rule every time they come to would/could/should until eventually they correctly sound them out on their own.  In this way, Ordinary Parent's Guide gets easier and easier as we go because the child has already learned more and more of the rules that are being covered.

Wendy

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5 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

All of the decodable readers I listed are much, much easier than Elephant and Piggie or Fly Guy.  But, since they are completely decodable, my kids have always found them motivating rather than frustrating.  They can read Bob books and All About Reading books pretty much as soon as they can sound out CVC words.  And because all of the words are specifically chosen to be sound-out-able with very limited phonics skills, the kids can truly read (without any guessing or frustration) the whole thing themselves.  We normally start easy decodable readers within the first few lessons of the Ordinary Parent's Guide.  No, those early readers are not great works of literature, but my kids normally feel enough success and pride that they can overlook less than stellar stories.  Plus, if they start to object to the very simple readers then we can branch out to some of the books that integrate decodable words for the kids to read within more complex stories that the adult reads (Progressive Phonics and the Scholastic box sets).

I find I only have to really limit the book selection for the first couple months.  After that they have learned enough phonics that they can tackle many more books.  At that point, if they can decode 95% of the words, then I will just tell them any words they can't sound out (I quickly tell them rather than having them guess, and at the same time I casually mention the phonetic rules of the word they didn't know).  So, a common book series at this point would be We Both Read; they wouldn't yet have the phonics to sound out some of the words like could, but I would just say, "in -ould words the L is silent, so we sound it out as /c/ /ood/".  Then I matter of factly repeat the rule every time they come to would/could/should until eventually they correctly sound them out on their own.  In this way, Ordinary Parent's Guide gets easier and easier as we go because the child has already learned more and more of the rules that are being covered.

Wendy

Sorry, I meant the non-phonics leveled readers are terrible. The ones with titles like "Batman's Amazing Adventures" that don't even tell a good story because they have some weird word-count thing they are going for. I like all the decodable books you mentioned and we use them ourselves, very similarly to how you describe. I should have been clearer.

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I really like All About Reading (AAR). We just started the 1st one (did pre-reading as well) with my eldest but we're enjoying it so far. I got it at a used curriculum sale otherwise I was planning on trying Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading (OPGTR) because I could get it at the library and decide if it was working. I loved the look of Logic of English (LOE) but it was to expensive. AAR is also kind of expensive so no idea if we'll continue or switch to OPGTR. 

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I love AAR. It’s a great program and each lesson is prepared for you so you just open it and go. You can speed up or slow down to match your child. I’m doing at again now with my youngest. Highly recommend. 

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I ordered LoE Foundations for my wiggly 5 YO. He has some hearing loss and i liked how they covered voice/unvoiced words, played with sounds, and started out w/compound words and segmenting.  I was doing AAR Pre-Reading with him but he had this huge jump and needed the next level so i had to decide between AAR 1 and LoE. LoE also won because of all the movement activities. It was a hard choice but I am really liking the LoE for him. (I am glad i didn't have to decide between the new color version of AAR 1 and LoE. That would have made it even harder.) I have heard you can't go wrong with either of them. Also, LoE includes handwriting. We do the handwriting but we don't focus on it. He had some fine motor delays but it has really improved in the last year. 

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On 2/16/2019 at 8:57 PM, Mommyof1 said:

I really wanted to try Logic of English but it to was too pricey. I know my DD would enjoy it because of the games they play. 

 

We are on a very tight budget due to dh being on disability. But we still use Logic of English and it is worth every penny but I've found ways to make it less expensive.

First, I don't buy the bundles. There is no way I could afford to put all that money out at once. I just buy what I need when I need it a la carte.

For example, here is the Foundations A kit which is the most expensive at $160:

What is Included?

  • Foundations A Teacher's Manual - I bought the PDF version which is almost $10 cheaper
  • Foundations A Student Workbook - I bought the PDF version which is $3 cheaper and I can re-print pages for extra practice if necessary 
  • Basic Phonogram Flash Cards - made my own printable flashcards so I could make notes on the back that are relevant to me
  • 1 deck of Bookface Phonogram Game Cards - made my own and honestly we use these as both flashcards and gamecards most of the time
  • 1 deck of either Cursive or Manuscript Phonogram Game Cards - same as above
  • Phonogram Game Tiles, Edition 2 - made my own and magnetized them so we could use them on cookie sheets or dry erase boards
  • Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference - printed out the relevant pages of the teacher book to refer to when I need them.
  • Spelling Analysis Card - same as above
  • Rhythm of Handwriting Tactile Cards - I made some with glue and salt but we honestly don't use them that much, you could do tactile finger tracing so many different ways, even just writing it on the dry erase board and then erasing it with their finger using the same motion
  • Rhythm of Handwriting Quick Reference - didn't buy, didn't feel like I missed it, all the instructions are in the teacher book
  • Student Whiteboard - we had a lined whiteboard already that we use but you can get one at the Dollar Tree, hasn't phased my son in the least that the lines on the white board are a little different than the lines in the workbook. (dotted middle line instead of solid)
  • Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds - bought used on Amazon but honestly we skipped it often. I think it would have been more useful if my son had been 4 or a young 5 when we started instead of almost 6

So altogether, I spent just under $50 up front for the pdfs of the teacher manual and the workbook, and then no more $20 buying the Doodling Dragons (I want to say it was less than $10 used) and the cardstock and contact paper to make my own cards and tiles. Plus I could spread the cost out so it wasn't such a big hit all at once. I worked out of the PDF of the teacher's manual for a long time just on my phone or on our tablet or sometime I'd just have him come to my computer desk to work so I could see the manual on my screen. This semester, we are in level B now, I printed out the teacher manual 4 pages to one sheet of paper and put it in a binder. I can still read everything but less paper consumed (we have HP Instant Ink which I highly recommend. We don't have to worry about printing, even in full color)

If you don't want to make the game cards, which honestly they were the hardest to make only because I'm a perfectionist and I don't own a laminator so I used contact paper to "laminate" them, you could buy those when you are ready for them to help spread out the cost. You don't need them until I think it was almost half way through level A. Same with the phonogram tiles (which by the way also come as a pdf if you want to print your own).

After the first level, the other levels of foundations are less expensive and they have split them up now so you can by each level as a bundle if you want so it's less expensive. I still just buy the pdfs because I prefer the option to reprint workbook pages as needed and the option to have a digital teacher's manual. Oh and I get the pdf of the readers and print them myself when the readers come separately (they are included with the workbook for level A)

I hope this helps someone who would like to try LOE but is on the fence due to the expense. We love the program and it is my new favorite phonics/spelling program. It is absolutely worth every penny but if you can't stomach spending that many pennies at once, you can do LOE much less expensively.

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On 2/16/2019 at 9:57 PM, Mommyof1 said:

It depends on how much money you have or want to spend. Do you want to make it fun with games or are you more no nonsense and don't see the need for games (that's me)? 

 

Don't want to spend a lot. As a student I was no nonsense and thought the games were an incredible waste of time but DD has a very different learning style and I think she would really enjoy and benefit from that sort of thing.

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On 2/17/2019 at 7:37 PM, wendyroo said:

y from the typical leveled readers; even "level 1" books often contain lots of words that the child could not possibly sound out with their current skills.  Instead, they use pictures and repetitive text to strongly encourage guessing - this is a habit that I want to avoid like the plague!!  Instead, I provide my kids with Bob books, Progressive Phonics books, I See Sam books, We Both Read books, All About Reading books, Scholastic phonics book sets, etc. 

Wendy

Well that explains a lot of the frustration we had last year! Even pre-Level 1 was way too hard for my K-er and too many words on the page.

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Others have said it all well. I taught my kids the letters and sounds and then moved on to Bob books and CVC blending with them. Once they could read those, we usually started a daily reading program. I personally used Rod and Staff reading and phonics just because early on, that is what I had found and liked at a convention. 

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On 2/16/2019 at 9:06 PM, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I'm going to sing the praises of Abeka Phonics. It's simply great. We tried several programs that only ended in frustration. Then I found Phonics Pathways and Progressive Phonics, which  were a good start, but for my kids, they simply needed more reinforcement than any of the other programs were offering. Abeka to the rescue!

It's systematic, it's colorful, it has the teacher instruction I needed, and more than anything it works. You can use the worksheets if you want, or skip them. There are ideas for kinesthetic ideas in the lesson plans. The flash cards are great. The readers are perfectly suited.  I seriously think Abeka is the most well rounded phonics program of any I looked at and I looked at and/or tried a LOT. I puffy heart LOVE Abeka Phonics. Really wish I'd found it sooner. 

 

I agree.  Abeka is great. So far I have two boys that were reading everything half way through 1st grade.  Just don't get bogged down by doing it all, it can be modified quite a bit.  

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Phonics Pathways is very easy to use. All you need is one book so about $20. 

We started Explode the Code workbooks after a good start on cvc words. So they have been great review and another mode of practice. 

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My kids have all started with the yellow HOP book. The younger ones picked up letter sounds easily from the Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD. We have used a number of other resources. My youngest is now using AAR. It is by far my favorite program, because the decodable stories are more interesting and well done than most. The program is expensive, though, especially if you do more than one level per year.

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