The Post Where Middlest Begins to Read!

I’m starting this post with a disclaimer that, technically, Middlest did some reading last year. But it was strained; it was a struggle. Last year, reading was a cross between guessing and memorizing—with lots of tears in between.

This year, she’s reading—and still all smiles! She’s reading words that she sees during the day on packaging and store signs, not just during school with a required reader.

I know a year makes a lot of difference in development and maturity, so some of our success could be due to that. But a huge part of the success is the Foundations curriculum that we are using. The steps to reading are very incremental, taking nothing for granted. And the games make reading irresistible.

She earns blocks to build a tower by reading words.

Learning to Read

She moves her game piece down her colored board by reading blends and words.

Learning to Read

She races across the room and up the stairs in a reading relay.

Learning to Read

And she makes her own books, cutting and pasting the right picture into the book after reading the page.

Learning to Read

She’s just finished the first level of this program (Foundations A), and we are both ecstatic at the results: not just that she is reading, but that she is smiling, too.

Learning to Read

A Foundation for Fun: a Logic of English review

This review is purely out of love (I love this program!) All the materials in this review were purchased, and I received no compensation for my opinions.

Logic of English Foundations review Logic of English Foundations Phonics

This year, I made a very scary decision. I changed our phonics program to something new. I can’t tell you how many times I re-evaluated that decision and wondered if I were making the right own. We’re only a few weeks in to our new year, but I’d have to say—all my fears have been relieved!

Not only am I impressed with what Middlest is learning and the things I’m discovering about her in the process, but I am thoroughly convinced that the program must have been written with her in mind!

Logic of English Foundations teaches solid phonics and eliminates nearly all the exceptions and sight words. It teaches detailed awareness of sounds and how to make them. It teaches phonemic awareness and how to blend sounds. It teaches consonant blends and reading in a very logical, simple progression. But best of all, it does all of this in a way the child would never suspect because we’re having so much fun.

We explore sounds; we play guessing games (she “guesses” the word I’m sounding out to her, or I “guess” the word she’s sounding out to me) and scavenger hunt (she hunts for the word I’ve sounded out); we play phonogram hopscotch; we march, twirl, dance, shout, jump, and run.

Logic of English Foundations

And in the process, I’m uncovering problem areas before they become problems. For instance, in one lesson (the work page pictured above), Middlest was to stamp the picture that had the initial sound I said. When I said “ch,” she kept thinking the answer was the tree because she says “chree” instead of “tree.” And I’d never noticed before. We were able to correct the sound before it caused her trouble in her reading.

Last year, consonant blends were nearly our undoing, but this year she is learning to blend orally before she ever sees it on paper. It’s a brilliant strategy that keeps learning to read a lot of fun rather than intimidating. Last year, she dreaded phonics time and pouted nearly everyday; this year she asks to do it first. Best of all, she’s sounding out and reading simple words all on her own throughout the day, before we’ve even introduced a single reading book. I’m ecstatic about the difference!

Logic of English Foundations Cursive

Although Logic of English Foundations gives you the option for cursive or manuscript instruction, cursive is recommended; and I must say, this is another aspect of the program that I have been most impressed with.

Just the like the phonics, the writing instruction is simple, methodical, and logical. It engages both fine and gross motor skills, and it’s creative. This is Middlest’s favorite part. Games are a big part of this instruction as well, games that get my child out of her chair and moving. For my little wiggle-worm, this is ideal. We write in the air with our noses, elbows, feet, and fingers. She writes on my glass door and on my whiteboard. She writes on the line size that she is most comfortable with, and then we each draw funny faces over our favorite letter she’s written.

Logic of English

And honestly, there are days when I wouldn’t be able to tell her letters apart from mine; she’s learning it so well! As a matter of fact, I’ve retaught Oldest a few of the letters using the LOE program because he’s had so much trouble writing the letters with our original program. The LOE cursive makes so much sense and actually helps the children to be less confused about letter-formation. It’s a-mazing!

Logic of English Foundations comes in 6 different levels (A-F) with about 40 lessons each, equivalent of K4-2nd grade. These levels can be used one or more a year, depending on the level and maturity of the child. We opted for two levels this year. Though I probably could have jumped to Level B (a kindergarten equivalent), I really felt that Middlest would benefit from a quick review with the Logic of English approach. We are whizzing through Level A at about a lesson a day, and the lessons are taking roughly 20-30 minutes for both phonics and cursive instruction. We’ll slow down when we get to Level B and take a couple of days per lesson.

I couldn’t be more pleased with Foundations, and highly recommend it over any phonics program I’ve seen or used.

I received the Basic Phonograms cards as a part of an earlier review of the Essentials program. Otherwise, the only other materials I’ve purchased for Middlest are the teacher and student copies of Levels A and B and the Doodling Dragons app on iTunes for $4.99. Teacher copies are $38 each, and student workbooks are $18.

If you are looking for thorough phonics instruction that will totally engage your child, Logic of English Foundations is all that and more.

Logic of English Essentials review

Logic of EnglishI’ve grown up with phonics all my life—learned it, used it, taught it, explored variations of it. And yet, I have absolutely been blown away by the Logic of English phonics.

I received the Essentials Teacher Manual, one Essentials cursive student workbook, and one set of Basic Phonograms flashcards to review with my children. And every time I open the book I have a new epiphany. This program is hands-down amazing.

  Logic of English Essentials curriculum

“The Logic of English Essentials curriculum includes 40 lessons, introducing 74 Basic Phonograms and 30 Spelling Rules. While the spelling list includes 480 of the most frequently used words, students learn thousands of additional words with the lessons as they learn how to write compound words and add prefixes and suffixes to form derivatives.”~ from the website

In other words, this program is very comprehensive and thorough while breaking the concepts down into easy-to-handle lessons. It’s phonics, spelling, and grammar all in one.

Logic of English
The Teacher’s Manual provides detailed scripted lessons that require minimal teacher prep and are easy to teach from. Plus, it’s a beautiful, high quality hard cover book.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.

The lessons are not intended to be completed all in one day. Rather, you can take as much or as little time as your student needs to master the material. Each lesson is divided into three parts: phonics, spelling, and grammar. While the program is intended for older students and adults, there are plenty of helps and suggestions for younger students.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working through the Essentials program in two different ways. Middlest is working on the material through the Intro of the book before Lesson 1. We’ve been working on phonemic awareness activities and phonograms. Oldest has been working through the complete program, taking roughly 10 days to finish a lesson (working 15-20 minutes a day).

Unique features of curriculum:

  • The most obvious is that it really explains and makes sense of the language. The curriculum claims that 98% of all the English “exceptions” can be explained with phonics; and I’m now convinced that’s true. Her approach to phonics is very logical and progresses steadily, eliminating nearly all of the traditional “sight words.”
  • This program has suggested activities that appeal to all modes of learning. A lot of curriculums claim that, but this particular curriculum makes it easy to see and choose the activities that fit your child. Even the layout of this curriculum makes sense! Activities are coded for each learning style.
  • The program blends phonics, spelling, and grammar into each lesson. The phonograms are incorporated into the spelling list, the spelling words are incorporated into the grammar lesson, and the spelling and grammar is solidified with simple dictation and composition activities at the end of the lesson.
  • This program is intended to be user-friendly for any age, young to adult. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities, but the curriculum and the material would not be insulting to an older student or adult. The author has provided sample schedules for dividing the lessons into daily assignments based on the age of your student.

The author Denise Eide, in her video presentations, describes readers as either intuitive or logical. Intuitive readers have a feel for language, and usually do not struggle when presented with an exception or variation on a rule. Logical readers, however, need all the information up front and struggle considerably when a word does not follow a memorized rule.

I am learning this first-hand. My son was definitely an intuitive reader; he could easily read words and phonograms we hadn’t even covered yet. He had a “feel” for language. My daughter, on the other hand, is apparently a logical learner. She struggles with exceptions, and  I long gave up trying to teach her any sight words.

How has this curriculum worked for both of my learners? My son’s spelling frustrations have turned to absolute delight as he explores and understands the language, and my daughter has absolutely flourished.

Logic of English Essentials curriculum

Here’s a break-down of a daily lesson in Essentials.

Phonics

The phonograms lessons are a mix of drill and experiencing the sounds. In other words, the student is allowed to really understand what the sound is doing and why. Vowels are the sounds we can sing or sustain, the sounds that can be made louder and softer. For instance, I asked my daughter if she would be able to yell /b/ or /m/ from across the yard and have me hear her inside the house. No, of course not. But if she yelled /a/, I would definitely hear her (and often do, I might add).

This experiencing the sounds has been phenomenal with both of the kids. We talk about what part of our mouth is actually making the sound (tip of the tongue, back of the tongue, teeth, or lips) and whether the sound is voiced or unvoiced (s and z; b and p, for instance). We’ve even gotten a mirror and looked to see what our mouths are doing. It has really helped her with some of the tough-to-tell-apart sounds like e and i.

There is also a terrific emphasis on phonemic awareness, a concept I really knew very little about before we began this program. I always thought that phonemic awareness had to do with “reading readiness” and whether your child was interested in reading. But these exercises really help a child to understand how to break a word into its individual sounds and how to “glue” those sounds back together. Game ideas include variations on “I Spy” and “Charades” and more.

Doing these exercises has solved a lot of the reading issues I was having with Middlest, like random guessing at words rather than sounding them out. What I thought was a personality conflict between the two of us was actually a gap in her learning! And she has loved our time together with these game and activity ideas.

Logic of English

In addition to drilling the flashcards (or we often used their Phonics with Phonograms app), the student is given several suggested kinesthetic and auditory activities to reinforce those sounds.

Phonograms Bingo
Phonograms Bingo is a favorite that we play often.

Spelling

Here’s where I could park for a long time. The method for teaching spelling is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I love it!

The spelling words provided, about 15 for each lesson, follow both the phonograms and the spelling rules introduced within the lesson. In other words, not only are the phonograms taught to help the student read the sounds, but spelling rules are also taught in the same lesson to help the child know when to use those sounds in writing and spelling.

The student is taught how to think through the sounds in a word before he attempts to spell it. “How many syllables?” “Let’s sound out each syllable.” You then coach your student through the phonograms and the letters that make those sounds, having him mark the word as he spells it.

The student book provides a place for the words to be written, a page that is similar to his own dictionary page. The student writes the word by syllables on the blanks provided. Then, throughout the lessons, he refers back to this page to add more information: the part of speech, the plural spelling, and the past tense spelling of the word.

There are also suggested activities for making spelling cards on 3×5 cards that can be used in the grammar lesson. We did both of these activities on different days during the week. As my son becomes more comfortable with the process, I could easily assign him to do his spelling cards independently after we have done the list together.

As in the phonics approach, the spelling rules are both drilled and explored. In other words, there is a flashcard for the rule that you will review and require the student to learn. However, the exercises are geared toward exploring the rule and learning how and why it works. For instance, several similar words will be shown, and as the student studies the words, you help him to see the similarities in those words. (Deck, duck, stick, lick—”CK is used only after a single vowel which says its short sound.”) Then, several suggested games and activities allow him to think of his own words that follow the rule.

One area where my son has really struggled this year is understanding when and how to add suffixes. A terrific feature of this program is that in addition to learned rules, there is also a flowchart that allows a student to ask questions and logically follow a process for deciding how the word should change.

The rules are very thorough and can, in some instances, tend to be complicated. But the combination of both memorizing and exploring the rules through a variety of activities helps to make even the more complicated ideas memorable.

There are both spelling rule and grammar rule flashcards available for purchase. However, we made our own to fit our 3×5 card system.

The spelling words are further taught within the grammar lesson, so I will continue explaining that process below.

Grammar

Within each lesson, one or more grammar concepts are introduced. For instance, in Lesson 1 the concept of both nouns and singular/plural were introduced. Again, I loved how the spelling words were the foundation for this lesson.

The student is asked to find the words in his list that are nouns, label them on his spelling list, and/or draw a red box around them on the spelling cards. Another suggested activity was to allow the student to illustrate the nouns in his list. Then, an exercise in the student workbook had him spell both the singular and plural form of the spelling words using the grammar rule that had been given.

To me this was priceless. The student is not simply memorizing a list of words but actively using those words in their different variations.

Other activities include creating phrases by combining words from the spelling list, either by dictation or by copying phrases made with the spelling cards, providing opportunity for both copywork and dictation depending on the your child’s level of ability.

Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a "composition" activity.
Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a “composition” activity.

The grammar rules introduced in the next lessons not only apply to the current list for that lesson but also refer back to previous lessons. For example, in Lesson Two, adjectives are introduced. The student labels adjectives in both List 2 and List 1. Everything in this program builds logically and smoothly.

Assessments

The program does not come with tests and quizzes per se, but assessments are worked into the curriculum every fifth lesson. Even this, however, really reflected the teacher’s heart that the author has. Her assessments require the student to show not just that he can repeat a drilled list of words but that he can use those words in various forms; and built within the assessments are lots of additional activities to reinforce trouble spots.

You are not simply drilling and testing. You are teaching and assessing and teaching some more.

On the Logic of English blog, Denise has also provided alternate lessons, either to add more challenging words or to help a student who might need a little more practice with a particular rule. Again, to me this really reflects her heart for those using her material. She has a passion for helping students understand the language.

Summary

Logic of English Essentials curriculum makes sense, in every way! From the phonograms and rules to the layout and teaching methods. Your child will never again complain that English is a language that doesn’t follow the rules.

Is there anything I didn’t like? Not really, but there are a few points that might be an issue for some.

Cons:

  • There is not an easy way to go back to lesson material for reference. There is no index, and the table of contents provides only the lesson number. When trying to find information, I instead went to the website to the teacher training video which provided page numbers for the teacher manual.
  • There are no readers that accompany the Essentials curriculum. This would be one reason why I would hesitate to recommend this for younger beginning readers; reading practice is limited. For those first-time readers and pre-readers, I would recommend investigating the Foundations curriculum that Logic of English is currently working on.
  • This is a curriculum that will require teacher involvement, particularly with younger students. That said, the lessons are well scripted for the teacher; and as the teacher and student become familiar with the process, there are opportunities for the student to work independently. The lessons also allow the teacher to customize how long the lesson will last each day and over how many days the lesson will continue.

Bottom line, I love this program. I was impressed by the website and videos and have been equally impressed by the curriculum. I have learned a ton, and I’ve been surrounded by phonics my whole life!

In fact, I love this program so much that I am discontinuing our current program (phonics, language, and spelling) with Oldest and switching him to this next fall. And I’m seriously considering switching Middlest to the Foundations curriculum, geared for the younger students, when it prints. (That’s saying a lot, folks, since I have a very long-standing relationship with our current program.)

Want to see more? The Logic of English website provides great samples of both the teacher manual and the student workbook (available in cursive or manuscript) as well as a video tour of the lessons. Also, the teacher training videos available for free on her website give you a very comprehensive look at the program’s approach to both phonics and spelling.

Whether you are looking for a spelling/language program for your young reader, a remedial program for your older reader, or a literacy program for adults, Essentials is a fantastic solution. And if you are needing a curriculum for your beginning or emerging reader, be sure to investigate the Logic of English’s new Foundations program.

Disclaimer: I received these materials for free for the purpose of review. I was not paid or compensated for a positive review, and all the opinions in this post are my own.

Notebooking Suffixes

I scoured the internet looking for notebooking pages to help Oldest with adding suffixes to root words. In the end, it probably would have been faster to just make my own, especially since that’s what I ended up having to do anyway.

We’ve been learning how to add suffixes to root words, which has not come easily for Oldest. And though this helped to enforce his lesson, we’re far from finished learning this.

Click on the image to download the printable.
Click on the image to download the printable.

After cutting out our mini-books to go on our notebooking page, I worked with him to make new words from the word bank that followed the rules on his mini-books. He added those example words to the inside of the mini-books. Then, he had fun glueing his mini-books to the page.

It was nice to get away from the work sheets for a little while and review this a little differently.

What other fun ideas do you have for teaching this concept?

 

Letter Tiles Printable

I’ve been working a lot with Middlest on “glueing” and un-glueing” the sounds in her words to help her with her reading. As a part of that process, I made up these little letter tiles that I thought I would share with you as a free printable.

Click on the image to download.
Click on the image to download.

 

letter tiles

The tiles two of each of the consonants as well as three sets of vowels. Right now, I have marked the vowels in each set to help us with long, short, and silent vowels. For instance, one set of vowels, I marked as short vowels; one set I marked as long vowels; and the last set I marked with a slash to show silent letters.

Really, I’m currently using only the short vowels and the long vowels with silent e. If we are struggling with a word in her reader, I’ll let her build the word by selecting the correct vowel from our sets. She’ll then sound out and read what she has built. I’ve also had fun using the tiles with the “Read-Build-Write” sheets from Homeschool Creations.

I laminated my tiles and am currently using them just like that; however, it would be easy enough to add a piece of adhesive magnet tape to have magnetic tiles or a piece of adhesive felt to use with a small felt board.

It’s been a fun, hands-on/visual activity to reinforce sounding out, spelling, and reading words.

Phonics with Phonograms App

Logic of EnglishI stumbled upon a new favorite phonics app the other day that I absolutely had to share. Phonics with Phonograms app is produced by the Logic of English, which is a curriculum that I was totally impressed with as I researched the website and watched the informational videos. The website and the curriculum explains nearly all of the supposed “exceptions” of our English language with rules that are as simple and easy to learn as the phonograms themselves. (Intrigued? Watch this video for a short summary and this video for an in depth look.) I was absolutely astounded by what I was learning, and I have been surrounded by phonics all my life!

So of course, I downloaded the Phonics with Phonograms app to give it a try with my kids. Brilliant! That’s the best word I can find to describe this super-affordable app. The Phonics of Phonograms app, available for iphone/ipod or ipad, allows you to set up multiple children with their own saved settings and lists. You can even customize your own playlist of phonograms for each child.

The phonograms can be reviewed, by level or all at once, in two different formats. One format is to allow the child to touch each card and the sounds will be given. The second option is to have all of the sounds spoken as each card is shown.

Logic of English
During the game, a phonogram sound is given. The child must select the correct phonogram card from the four shown.

Then, the child plays a game, listening to the phonogram given and choosing the correct one from a grouping of four different phonograms. Once the matching game is complete, the stats are saved for you to inspect. You’ll know exactly what the child missed and how many times he got it right.

Correct answers are shown on the left; incorrect answers are shown on the right, both what the answer should have been (in red) and what the student chose (in black).
Correct answers are shown on the left; incorrect answers are shown on the right, both what the answer should have been (in red) and what the student chose (in black).

Also, old phonograms are reviewed and new ones are added at each level. There are 10 levels covering 74 phonograms.

I began with Middlest first, allowing her to work through the levels as they were given. She loved it! And it immediately picked up on the letter sounds and phonograms that she has been having trouble with, reviewing them until she began to get them right.

Logic of English

Oldest, naturally, couldn’t wait for his turn. I set up a customized list because I knew that many of the phonograms were ones he knew. I went through the list and selected ones that were unfamiliar to him (and some that were new to me, too!) Once again, he loved the game, and we both had learned a lot by the time he finished up.

Logic of English

This app is not only ideal for improving reading skills but also for additional spelling help. Many of the phonograms include spelling tips, suggestions for when and where those sounds appear in words. Oldest is a strong reader but was helped immensely by these spelling tips.

It’s definitely an app that I have added to our daily routine. I highly recommend checking out the videos and the Phonics with Phonograms app, which is available through iTunes for $2.99.

Need a little more help with your beginning reader? Watch literally hours of free teacher training videos on their website, a wealth of information even if you think you know all there is to know about phonics!

These opinions are totally my own. I purchased this app for my children and chose to review it simply because I was impressed.

I will be receiving more of their Essentials Curriculum for free for the purposes of reviewing, so stay-tuned for more from the Logic of English!