First Start Reading
Review with Classical Phonics
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By Sarah Shelton
My six year old daughter was really struggling with her reading. She was overwhelmed by worksheets and lots of practice and rote repetition. She is the type to sit at the table and watch the birds eating at the bird feeder instead of doing her schoolwork. She would rush through her work just so she could go out and play, with barely learning a thing. When I opened the box from Memoria Press
, she was immediately drawn to the covers of the books with the nature scenes and pretty animals. She wanted to open it up and immediately start school.
I am amazed at the gentle approach to this curriculum. Sounds are introduced Vowel-consonant, instead of the usual consonant-vowel way. It is a little different if you are used to traditional phonics curricula, but this way just makes sense, and what's better is my reluctant reader really "got it"! There are 4 books in the set. A, B, C and D. Book A has 25 lessons, B has 26 lessons, C has 33 lessons and D has 12 lessons with 96 lessons in all. Each lesson is about 2 pages each with the exception of book D which has 1 or 2 assessment pages after reach lesson. The books start out introducing a letter with pictures that you can color of items that begin with that letter's sound. Next there is drawing/writing page. The top part of the page has a spot to draw whatever you want with that letter. (my daughter's favorite part) then underneath your picture is where you trace and then write the letters. I love the extra handwriting practice built in.
The next lesson will cover blending the vowel to the consonant and by lesson 3 they are already reading words! Move on a few more pages and they are reading short stories. It's that simple and my daughter who can't stand formal schooling was learning and reading immediately. After they get to the story part it is time for dictation. After a group of sounds is learned there are a few pages of dictation exercises to make sure your students know how to spell what they have just read. This one of my favorite parts of the program. Not only is this handwriting, drawing, and reading, with the dictation included, spelling is built right into this curriculum! I am blown away by how much my daughter's spelling has improved since using this curriculum. There are also sight words thrown in throughout each book as well as including them in the stories and dictation.
At the end of each book is a great section of Word Mastery Review and Dictation. It is like a big review test. You sit down with your student and have them read off each word they have learned and give them a star or smiley face when they have read them, same for dictation.
Book D is the only book that does not have dictation because this book is a lot more involved than the first 3. Book D focuses on silent e and long vowel sounds, consonant digraphs, and final consonant blends. There is a lot more reading, the stories are longer, and there are longer lists of assessment words every few pages. There are words that the student has to add the letter e to and then copy the word on their own underneath it in place of dictation. Things are still kept fun and light with the drawing pictures, tracing words to pictures etc. My daughter got scared when she saw the big lists, but as soon as she started reading them her confidence was built because she knew how to read them!
The teacher guide is an amazing resource. It coaches you every step of the way with scripted words to read right to the student, or you can do your own thing. This is such a gentle, classical method of reading, writing and spelling and not only easy on the student but the teacher as well. After each story there are questions in the guide to ask your child about the story they have just read. So they are immediately learning how to narrate right back to you what they just read and are comprehending it too!
Another great part to this program is the book titled Classical Phonics: A Children's Guide to Word Mastery
. This is a great little book that was originally printed in 1913. This book goes through many, many sounds and words all the way up to long vowel sounds, silent e's, vowel teams or vowel digraphs, and sight words. It has suggestions on ear, tongue and eye training as well as teaching them word building. The book is very clean and clearly laid out with simple drawn pictures on each page to keep your child's attention. This is a great supplement to First Start Reading or any phonics program. You can review it over and over again to help with word mastery. It is recommended up to second grade.
This series couldn't have come at a better time and was the absolute perfect fit for my daughter. We have had a thorough hands on experience using this curriculum and it has the been the best thing in our homeschool. My daughter is finally reading and this is her favorite subject. This is a very affordable, fun, encouraging, and well rounded curriculum that I believe any student and teacher would enjoy!