The one approach I hadn't tried yet was the old fashioned curriculum idea. How about using McGuffey's Eclectic Readers to teach reading? I was excited to see that Eclectic Foundations would be offering their Language Arts Levels A, B, and C to the Homeschool Review Crew. Let me start by telling you how I settled on using Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A with Supergirl.
Because I am a crew leader, I received all three currently available levels. I wasn't sure exactly which level, A or B would be the best fit for Supergirl. Looking at Level A, I was concerned that it would be too easy for her as the focus is learning the alphabet. The McGruffey's Eclectic Primer is not used until nearly the middle of the program. Supergirl already knows the phonemes of the basic 26 phonograms as well as a few more phonograms such as ai, ch, and ck. Level A at first blush looked like it would bore her.
According to the Which Level Should I start With page, a child who knows how to read basic CVC words should be fine to start with Level B but when I looked through my copy of Level B, I wasn't comfortable starting her there because the first lesson includes a word list with the silent e pattern. This is covered towards the end of Level A. Also I didn't believe she was reading fluently enough to feel confident with Level B. The First Reader starts out simply enough with CVC words but does move quickly into longer more difficult words.
I was worried that I would not be able to use either level with her so I sat down and paged through the Teacher Guide of Level A. There is definitely material in the second half of the program that she has not been introduced to. She has not learned the "silent e" rule and this is part of the scope and sequence of Level A.
I decided the *best* plan was to start at the lesson when the McGuffey Primer began: Lesson 65. This was the perfect fit and the perfect place for Supergirl to start
I highly encourage you to read the company's perspective on Why Eclectic Foundations.
In addition to using the Revised Editions of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers, Elizabeth Ratliff based the phonics portion of the program on Word Mastery. She also includes daily Mother Goose rhymes from a 1916 version of the Real Mother Goose.
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts is designed to be used 4 days a week for 36 weeks. There are 144 lessons. The first 26 weeks or 104 lessons teach the alphabet 1 letter per week. They are not taught in alphabetical order but instead in an order to facilitate reading real words as quickly as possible. Blending of two and three letters begins in week 2 and in week 3 reading practice includes reading two CVC words.
The Overview in the Teacher's Guide lays out four sections:
McGuffy's Eclectic Reader ~ Students begin to read the McGuffey's Eclectic Primer starting in Lesson 65. Students will study the picture, read the selection, and color the word cards. The selections typically have a few words for practicing and then a few sentences. Every 5th lesson in the McGuffey's reader is a review passage. These are longer and incorporate the words the student has been reading in previous lessons. Ms. Ratliff suggests reading the selection at least 3 times. Students can and should use the flashcards for more practice.
Phonics ~ For most of Level A the phonics lessons are basically learning the letters, one letter at a time, but this shifts with lesson 105. Beginning with lesson 105 students will have a list of words to practice reading. These words are not related to the McGuffey reading section. There are a variety of activities in Lessons 1-104 to teach phonemic awareness, tracking, and the sounds of the 26 letters of the alphabet. There is no instruction other than to help your student read the words for the lessons for lessons 105- 144.
Handwriting ~ For the lessons through 104 handwriting focuses on learning how to print the letters. A variety of activities are offered each week from building the letter with playdough to writing it in sand to actually practice writing the letter in the student workbook handwriting page. Lesson 105 the handwriting becomes copywork as students practice writing by copying a sentence from the day's McGuffey Reader selection.
Mother Goose ~ For Level A simply read the daily rhyme to your child and enjoy it together. Ms. Ratliff suggests that if your child is artistically inclined she may want to draw a picture to go with the Mother Goose reading.
Grammar ~ While not stated in the Overview there is a fifth component woven though out the program: Grammar. Grammar lessons are gentle introductions of topics that will be studied more in-depth in later years. The flashcards are used, not just for reading practice, but also for a gentle introduction to the parts of speech. As part of the McGuffey Reader part of the lesson, the student will cut out and color the words from the reader. These words are color coded according to their parts of speech. Red for nouns, Green for verbs, etc.
From lessons 65-104 periodic grammar lessons introducing the parts of speech appear during McGuffey Reader review weeks. Starting with lesson 105, grammar is covered daily. These are simple lessons such as learning about capital letters and starting a sentence with a capital or learning about proper and common nouns and other lessons introduce punctuation.
Using the Program with Supergirl
As I stated above we started with Lesson 65. We do not do all of the activities such as forming the letter with playdough. Some lessons take us longer than others depending on whether I introduce a new phonogram from the Reader or we choose to use Can Do Letter blocks to build words instead of the laminated appendix.
We follow the suggestion to read the passage 3 times. I thought Supergirl would balk at reading the same passage 3 times but she doesn't mind and I truly see her reading and confidence build. We do use the word cards if there are any words that she really struggles with. We also use letter tiles and letter cubes to build any words she struggles with.
We do the student workbook pages as assigned for the lesson because Supergirl enjoys them and I think they help her solidify skills such as tracking and discrimination.
Two of my favorite worksheets are the letter matching and the maze. With the letter matching students are instructed to match the mama letters (Uppercase) with the baby letters (lowercase). These letters are written in different styles and fonts. The maze has the student trace the path created by the letter of the week. This teaches tracking and discrimination.
Most Lessons include a game. There are two variations of a "listening game" that develops phonemic awareness, a foundational reading skill. In the first one, Starting ? Game, you listen for the target to sound to identify if the word starts with that sound. In Begin, Middle, End? you listen for the target sound and identify whether it is in the beginning, middle, or end of a word. The target sound corresponds to the letter of the week.
Supergirl and I both love the Word Building Game. This teaches another foundational phonemic awareness skill: segmenting. She calls it spelling because when we break the word down into it's segments we are identifying the phoneme and writing down the correct phonogram.
Things I think would make this program even better:
- I wish that this program included phonogram cards or a cheat sheet of what sounds the letters make.
- I think it would really help if there was something in the Introduction of the Teacher Guide that addressed the concept of "sight words" or rather words that do follow more advanced patterns but are introduced now to make the stories more interesting to read.
- I would love a heads up in the teacher guide about which "sight words" are introduced that day in the McGuffey reader.
- I find it jarring to have Supergirl practice reading CVC words in the phonics but reading CVCC and longer words in the Reader. Something in the Introduction or some notes in the Teacher Guide for each lessons would be great. Something like "today your student will read stand. You may want to introduce this flashcard and practice blending before reading today's McGuffey selection."
Thoughts from Supergirl:
I like it because I love to read. I like the word building game because it is like spelling. I like the reader and I like reading to my mom. It is fun. I am learning to read and write words like frog, cat, Rab, dog, stand, catch, and sit.
I love this program for Supergirl right now. I love how short the lessons are but most of all I love seeing my daughter's fluency improve and her confidence grow. I like how simple it is.
I do want to point out that this would not have been a good fit for Supergirl a year ago and this would not have been a good fit for BooBear when she was first learning to read at age 4/5. However, this would have been near perfect to use with Turtlegirl and Tailorbear who understood phonices much more instinctively and both were ready to read at age 4/5.
When we finish Level A we will move into Level B and if that goes as well as Level A, we'll continue with Level C.
Some crew members reviewed Level A, others Level B and a few reviewed Level C. Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read their reviews!
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