Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Learning to Read: Comparing Phonics Programs
We have used Saxon Phonics 1, The Reading Lesson, Explode the Code, and The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I think all are good programs and if your child is ready to read, any of them would likely work.

For my first child, I didn't use any curriculum at all. I really didn't have to teach her to read. When she was almost 4, she decided she wanted to read. I thought it would be an exercise in frustration, but she learned very quickly. We read early readers similar to Dick and Jane, but the characters were Peter and Jane (these were library books that were falling apart, I've never been able to find them since). At first she learned enough that she could say, "I know how to read." She did this by memorizing a lot of sight words, with some sounding out (I think). But, before I knew it she was officially reading. By 7, she was reading silently to herself.

I remember reading Little House books in second grade, to myself. I kind of thought if you read a lot, this is what kids do. Uh, no. Come to find out, there are all sorts of learners out there (well, I knew it, I just didn't know it).

Beside being a different type of learner, I also introduced letters and letter sounds much earlier to Grace. Grace was a chatter box at 18 months and Lillie didn't really start talking much until she was two and a half. Because she wasn't talking, I did not go over letters with her. Now, I think that actually would have been more important to do with her. But, really, I don't know if that would have made a difference or not. In the end, I'm sure it will even out.

My little one, Lillie, is 6. She is not yet reading. I keep thinking there is a switch that just needs to be flipped. But, with Lillie, I think it's a dial. Things are slowly coming together for her (she can read three letter words with short vowel sounds). Now, I realize she is only six. I'm not worried, I'm just ready for her to read. She is getting there.

We have been doing phonics with her regularly for a year and a half. When we officially started, she already knew most of her consonant sounds. I thought, we just need to get the vowel sounds and we'll be on our way. It has not worked that way.

Saxon Phonics
We started out with Saxon Phonics 1. It seemed to go well, at first. But, at a certain point, it seemed like the text made a leap that she wasn't ready to make. We switched to The Reading Lesson.

If we decide to try it again, and she makes it through the book, she would be reading this at the end of the program: School will soon be out. Students will begin to make plans for the many things they hoped to be involved in during these months off. Right now she could read be, to, for, the, in, off.

What I like about Saxon Phonics
The Teacher's Edition is well written and has fun activities. The program is incredibly thorough. The worksheets have nice large type and plenty of space for the child to write. The child reads and writes, so you don't need a separate writing curriculum. It comes with lots of extra books to make and an alphabet strip that's fun.

What I don't like about Saxon Phonics
The Saxon Phonics Teacher's Edition is gi-normous. It is a whopping 890 pages (I don't know if this is fair to categorize as a dislike, because if we'd had success with the program, I wouldn't care). It gets into complicated coding, like accent marks, macrons, breves, and cedillas. This seemed confusing and unnecessary. I didn't do it.

The Reading Lesson
We heard about The Reading Lesson and tried that. It worked beautifully. Sweet pictures, simple explanations. She was reading the simple phrases in the book right away. She was taking her time sounding things out, but reading. But, again, we got to a point in the book where it was beyond her. I kept feeling like we were going two steps forward, one step back. She gets it this lesson, the next she's forgotten half of what I thought she knew. She'd do great, struggle, do well. Slowly she is getting it.

When she is ready to move onto new material and she has made her way through the book, she would be reading at this level: Welcome to our space ship! We will fly to the stars. Get set, it is time to take off. Right now she could read to, we, the, get, set, it, is, off and she'd probably say something close to the other words.

What I like about The Reading Lesson
The illustrations are charming. It is large a workbook that the child can color (after a completed lesson, Lillie would color the picture). The explanations are clear. The print is large. It was inexpensive ($28.00).

What I don't like about The Reading Lesson
I don't dislike anything about it. The only thing I could think to say is there is no writing (However, the price allows you to purchase a second writing curriculum. They offer The Writing Lesson, but we are using Handwriting Without Tears).


Explode the Code
We then got Explode the Code 1 and this is working well in a different way. It has more writing involved. It has different approach. First, they give you a letter and then three choices of pictures to choose from to match the beginning sound. Then, you copy the word they give you and circle one of three words that matches the picture. Then, you have a picture of a three-letter word and you write the word. Then you "spell" three letter words. You have a choice for intial sound, middle sound and end sound. Then you choose between two sentences which matches the picture. It moves incrementally through the vowel sounds.

We like it, but it's not a stand alone program. Well, not for my child. We bought it to supplement The Reading Lesson. We just started back at the beginning of The Reading Lesson and supplemented with Explode the Code.

At the end of Explode the Code, she should be able to read: I can sit and run and beg. I can dig up a rib and tug on a mat. I am a pal and a pet. I am a pup. This is about where her reading is now, just not quickly.

What I like about Explode the Code 1
It is a good, supplemental review of vowel sounds. The explanations are clear. The print is large. It was really inexpensive ($7.00). It has writing practice.

What I don't like about Explode the Code
The illustrations are mediocre (not a real issue, but it's true). Other than that, I don't dislike anything about it. It is what it is - a nice workbook for vowel sounds.


Ordinary Parents
Then, Peace Hill Press came out with The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I love their company, want to support them, and was sure this would be a good program. It is. We recently ordered the whole set. Lillie loves the magnets, loves to listen to the audio CD, and does well with the small, incremental lessons.

When we finish OPGTR, Lillie would be able to read: The extraterrestrial creature wanted to do some interplanetary space travel. Right now she could read the, to, do, and, on a good day (or a good guess), some.

What I like about OPGTR
It has fun activities. It has good instructions and manageable incremental lessons. The cards, CD, and magnet set gives us lots of different ways to practice.

What I don't like about OPGTR
Typing out it's title. The only improvement I could even think of is to have student pages with larger print and perhaps pictures. I'm not sure if the pictures are helpful or not, though. Often with The Reading Lesson, Lillie would be able to guess words based on the picture. This is alright at first, but over time, you want to be reading without clues.


If I had to pick just one of these programs, I would definitely choose The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. If I had a tight budget, I would still choose OPGTR. I would simply make my own cards and skip the magnet set and audio CD. These are nice to have, but not essential to what matters: learning to read.
posted by lochan | link
3 comments and fresh takes

Name: Laura

I have five kids including triplets. I'm too busy to blog, but I do anyway (uh, sometimes).

Learn more about me



My Antonia
by Willa Cather

June

Sarah's Quilt
by Nancy Turner

May

Maus
by Art Spiegelman


Housekeeping
by Marilynne Robinson

April

These Is My Words
by Nancy Turner


The Myth of You and Me
by Leah Stewart

March

Inconceivable
by Ben Elton


Songbook
by Nick Hornby


Follies
by Ann Beattie


Hungry Planet

February

About a Boy
by Nick Hornby


High Fidelity
by Nick Hornby


Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli

January

Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates


Morality for Beautiful Girls
by Alexander McCall Smith


A Long Way Down
by Nick Hornby


How to be Good
by Nick Hornby


Mere Christianity
by C. S. Lewis

December
Click here for a free Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon

Good Faith
The Know-It-All
by A. J. Jacobs

Good Faith
Endurance
by Alfred Lansing

November
Good Faith
The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd

September

Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini


The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck

August

Freedom of Simplicity
by Richard Foster


Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen

July

Celebration of Discipline
by Richard J. Foster

Peace Like A River
Peace Like A River
by Leif Enger

Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe

Gap Creek
Gap Creek
by Robert Morgan

June
Life of Pi
Life of Pi
by Yann Martel

My Name is Asher Lev
My Name is Asher Lev
by Chaim Potok

A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving

All New People
All New People
by Anne Lamott

May
Patrimony
Patrimony: A True Story
by Philip Roth

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
by J. D. Salinger

Good Faith
Good Faith
by Jane Smiley

Cradle and Crucible
Cradle and Crucible History and Faith in the Middle East
by National Geographic Society

April
Saturday
Saturday
by Ian McEwan

Blue Shoe
Blue Shoe
by Anne LaMott

Emma
Emma
by Jane Austen

Operation Shylock
Operation Shylock
by Philip Roth

March
Jane Austen: A Life
Jane Austen: A Life
by Claire Tomalin

To See and See Again
To See and See Again
by Tara Bahrampour

Reading L0l1ta in Tehran
Reading L0l1ta in Tehran
by Azar Nafisi

February
A Thomas Jefferson Education
A Thomas Jefferson Education
by Oliver Van Demille

Still Alive
Still Alive
by Ruth Kluger

The Screwtape Letters
Not The Germans Alone
by Isaac Levendel

Still Alive
World War II: A Photographic History
by David Boyle

The Screwtape Letters
The Screwtape Letters
by C.S. Lewis

Persuasion
Persuasion
by Jane Austen

January
Climbing Parnassus
Climbing Parnassus
by Tracey Lee Simmons

With the Old Breed
With The Old Breed
by E. B. Sledge

All But My Life
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein

We Die Alone
We Die Alone
by David Howarth