Wednesday, September 5, 2012

All About Reading -- how we use it

I've read a number of helpful reviews on different blogs introducing All About Reading, so I won't bother giving that kind of review here. Instead I'd like to share some of the things we're learning about how to use it. Since my son (I'll call him EK here) is just 4 I'm sure our way of using the program reflects that and is different than someone with an older child.
So here's the set (minus three wonderful, hardback readers which I forgot to add in the shot!) I'll start by saying that the month or two before he turned four we were watching the Leap Frog DVD "Letter Factory" every day and that's how he learned all the letter sounds. This program jumps right in with four new letters a day, so it was important that he already knew them. 

Teacher Manual: It lays out what to do each day. We usually take a few days to finish one lesson. The manual is good, but after the first day I skipped most of the explanations because there are many paragraphs repeated from day to day. A more succinct layout would have been better.

Yellow phonogram cards: Each day we start with a flashcard style introduction and review of new sounds and words. The flashcards in themselves don't do as much as I expected to drill things. I probably just expect too much, but I'm learning! They are helpful in pinpointing the letters he struggles with. I can then look for other ways to strengthen them. The toughies right now: b, d, p, and y (...It would be so much easier if it were called "yiy", or "yee"!)  

Green word cards: I finally fell upon a great secret with the word cards: "Rule Breakers!" These are the sight words we learn, like "the", "a", and "of", and with a little sheriff holding up a flag they're pretty exciting ;-) I hide them throughout our stack of words for the day and that generates plenty of motivation to get us through the stack. The glee he expresses when one pops up makes learning to read very fun :)

Letter Tiles: The magnetic letter tiles are great. At first I would change the letters to make new words, but it finally dawned on me (a month of two into it!) that if he does the moving it is SO much more engaging. (That's so obvious, I'm ashamed to admit it took that long!)

Activity Sheets:
     -Word/picture matching sheets: he doesn't color them in, but we do tape and re-tape the words to do the sheets multiple times.
     -Letter Bingo: We do blackout with goldfish crackers, and it's very popular :)
     -Fluency sheets: These are hard. He gets an M&M at the end of each row which gets us through at least 3 or 4 rows, but then he's had enough. We only do them a couple times a week.

Overall we're having a great time with this program. We both look forward to the 30 minutes or so that we do it each morning while little brother takes a nap. He's still not reading the stories in his wonderful readers, but I'm realizing that the scope and sequence of a given program aren't always a perfect fit. He's getting better and better at decoding the words, so we keep moving on with the lessons. I'm sure it will click one day and we'll have lots of great stories to go back and read through.

One more thing--the free games at have been a great supplement! At the end of each lesson he gets to do 5-10 minutes. The games he does are under part two "Learn to Read". They have a combination, like "ig" and then he picks one of four letters to match the picture--pig, dig, big, pig. He loves it, and that particular one has been helping a lot with the b/d/p letters.