May 9, 2014

Logic of English~Essentials (a curriculum review)

English is one of the subjects that I am very comfortable teaching. We have been using a very good curriculum this year...except for spelling. We hit a point where we just didn't think our spelling was working very well for us. When we also were nearly completed with our Language Arts book, it was time to seek out something new--hopefully something with a strong spelling course that would help us out. I was very excited to be able to review Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set--a complete English curriculum, including a strong spelling course. Perhaps this would be just what we needed.
Logic of English Curriculum Review

What Is Logic of English?

Logic of English was designed to fight illiteracy. One of the ways they decided to do this was to design curriculum to address the biggest problem in learning English...the reasons why words are spelled and read the way they are. They made it their goal to present a common-sense approach to reading and spelling and to incorporate multi-sensory learning activities to recognize that every person learns differently. With the intensive phonetic instruction presented systematically, they've endeavored to take the confusion out of learning English--whether learning as a child, an adult, or an ESL student. By teaching the 74 basic phonograms and 30 spelling rules...together these explain 98% of English words.

Logic of English consists of three curriculum:

*Fundamentals: Complete Language Arts Curriculum for ages 4-7
*Essentials: Spelling, Reading and Grammar for ages 7+
*Handwriting: Cursive and Manuscript Handwriting Instruction

I am reviewing Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set which sells for $243. The following items were included in the set:

*Essentials Teacher's Manual
*Essentials Student Workbook (consumable)
*Spelling Journal (consumable)
*Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
*Spelling Rule Flash Cards
*Grammar Rule Flash Cards
*Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
*Game Book
*Manuscript (or Cursive) Game Cards
*2nd Set of Manuscript (or Cursive) Game Cards Boldface
*Quick Reference Chart

I was able to choose either the manuscript or cursive version of the workbook and game cards. I chose manuscript for our review.

How Did We Use Logic of English?

As soon as I received the materials, I took an afternoon to acquaint myself with the teacher's manual. I read all the pre-lesson information, so that I could have the best understanding on how the program was supposed to work. This was probably the single best thing I did before starting the program. I really learned a lot behind how it was designed and how I could determine the best way to go about teaching it. 
Giddy when I opened this box!
This baby is about 1 1/2" thick!
Chart laying out the scope and sequence for the program

Symbol explanation and materials needed

Loved this section! It had different schedule scenarios based on your student...
Some pages from the "Teaching the Lessons" portion
Explanation of how each lesson is laid out 
I loved this suggestion for "say to spell". Holding up the fingers to match the number of letters making the sound! Brilliant!
Better explanation of the multi-sensory symbol guide
Some of the things that are part of the "Teacher Resources" section
Charts all the phonograms to be taught, their sounds, and sample words
Lays out all the spelling rules
All the spelling lists in the curriculum...
 The next thing I did was buy a box to hold all the cards that were included. You will need something to hold the cards, because there are a lot of them! A photo box is the ideal size and I found a super cute one for just $3. I pulled out some rubberbands and clips and got everything organized.
If it's a phonogram card, grammar flash card or spelling rule for the current lesson it gets separated with the black clip

Getting Started:
The teacher's manual suggested a couple different schedules to use, based on your child's skill level. I decided to try the schedule for the "Struggling Speller Reading at Grade Level" which suggests completing one lesson every one to two days. (see the photo earlier in this post) I used the scripted lesson just as it suggested. It was very easy to follow as all the teacher "talk" is in bold. If there is an exercise from the workbook to be done, there is a little pencil icon noting which exercise is to be complete. Every lesson also contains colored boxes with additional activities, as well as challenges that you can have your student complete. Not all the workbook exercises are part of the main lesson, so you can see if there are any you want your student to complete from the extras. 

Rather than explain in detail everything we did in lesson one or any other lesson, I'm going to explain the parts of each lesson and what is in them, as this has been consistent for every lesson in the book up to the lesson we completed this week (Lesson 12). This will give you the broadest look at what you could expect from this curriculum.

Every teaching lesson is separated into three parts. 
Part One focuses on phonograms, exploring sounds and spelling rules.

Phonograms is the first portion of each lesson. Here the student will learn a particular phonogram or set of phonograms. If it is a set, they typically all share a sound, are all very common easy phonogram pairs, or share the same rules. (ie. ay, ai are taught at the same time as oi, oy because each pair shares the same rules; or oa and oe are taught together because they share a sound). Teaching them follows the same routine each time--review the sounds each phonogram makes. See if there is anything similar between them. Then meet some words using them and learn any rules that might be used for them.

I like that the next part of phonograms is review. We always bring in phonograms that have already been learned so that they are regularly heard and used. Phonogram practice consists of the teacher saying the SOUNDS each phonogram makes (all of them!) and the student writes down the phonogram that matches those sounds in their workbook. There are usually 20 phonograms in the review.

Once this review is done, there is typically a game played from The Phonogram and Spelling Game Book. We enjoy this portion, because we just love playing games.

Logic of English incorporates "Exploring Sounds" where you learn about how things are spoken or used to make up words. I like this section as it addresses how things are pronounced. Lesson one kicked off by having us test consonants and vowels on our tongue and lips to feel the difference.

This part of the lesson is where you really dive into the phonetics...which phonograms say the same thing, how do you know when to use which one, finding irregular useage, etc. I find myself doing a lot of whiteboard work in this section.

Learning sounds of long /a/

learning the broad sound of /a/
I really love that in this portion of the lesson they point out if there are a limited number of words that use a particular phonogram sound. For instance in the picture above for learning long /a/, they are taught that there are only eight words where /ea/ says a long /a/ sound. The students are encouraged to write the rare spellings in their Spelling Journal, though it's not part of the lesson assignments. We do it. This is very useful for Little Britches and he has a great memory for this kind of thing. If he can't remember, all he has to do is pull out the journal and look at the lists.

Some examples of rare spellings of long o
By the time this section on exploring sounds is done, the student has a good grasp on which spellings are the most common or rare and when they get used. 

Part Two of each lesson contains spelling dictation and analysis.

There is a spelling list right after the phonics work. I like that they call it a list rather than a test. It is very clear on how to administer it and with just 15 words--some easy, some teaching specific phonograms covered in the lesson--it is quickly completed.

One thing I really appreciate is that before every spelling list (if needed), there is a "tips" portion which reminds the teacher that certain words are spelled different than they sound so to make sure and say them to match the way they are spelled. Words like enjoy, secret, human, draws your attention to them and explains the best way to pronounce them for student spelling success. 

Once the spelling list is done, the teacher then guides the student to analyze each word and mark them as directed on the Spelling List in the teacher manual under "markings". This is when they can correct any mistakes they made and marking the phonograms helps them to remember later. It also where spelling rules are listed (if they work for a word) so you can refresh their memory.
The instructions even include having them mark with tiny numbers corresponding to the sound the phonogram made when it wasn't the dominant sound. For instance when we learned the word bread...we marked the /ea/ by underlining it, but then put a small 2 over it to remind us that /ea/ is making it's second sound. This is very useful to remember that some phonograms have more than one sound.

Part Three of each lesson focuses on things relating to writing: grammar, dictation, composition, and vocabulary.

The grammar portion contains what you would consider grammar--sentence structure, learning about the parts of speech, etc. There are grammar rule cards that are used whenever something new is introduced. These are very very helpful to be able to reference throughout the week. 
These little holders work perfectly for the cards. I like to keep up all the spelling and grammar rules for the lesson for quick access during the week.
One of the first things that is done as part of grammar is to learn about the parts of speech--nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Once the introduction is made and the grammar card is introduced, the student turns back to their spelling list and in the column "parts of speech" they note as directed any nouns, verbs, adj, et they see. Every part of speech taught gets a different color, so nouns are always red, verbs always green, etc when marking. 

The grammar section just continues with oral question/answer and discussion to teach the science of grammar and includes some exercises in the workbook. We had already covered a lot of the parts of speech in the curriculum we used prior to this review, but the review was definitely worthwhile.

Logic of English encourages identifying parts of speech in phrases and sentences, so the teacher will work through some in each section with the student. They will learn to note over each word what part of speech it is. This leads to increased writing fluency later. 

I can assure you that it is very detailed and thorough. We just completed lesson 12 and for the first time in my life I know what a transitive verb and direct object are--and what their purpose is in a sentence. I may have learned this at some point in the past, but if I did, I have no recollection of it! I really am enjoying the detailed grammar studies in this course.

Dictation is the next section. Every lesson contains phrases/sentences for dictation (about 6 of them). These phrases contain words from the spelling lists. There is also something related to what was covered in the grammar--maybe comma usage, or subject-verb agreement, or plurals. Once these are done, the teacher is encouraged to write them on the board so that the student can check (and correct) their work and you can review with them any rules they might have forgotten.

The last two sections of part three in the lesson are vocabulary development and composition. Not every lesson has both of these, but many do. Vocabulary development focuses on things like prefixes, suffixes, compound words, etc. Taking the words they learned in their spelling list and morphing them into something else. For instance, our lesson this week (lesson 12) worked with the suffix -er. We took our verbs from the spelling list and learned how adding -er changed them. 

The final section of the lesson (besides any extras that might be included for additional practice) is composition. Composition always has the student using their spelling words to make phrases or sentences following any grammar rules that have been covered. For instance in lesson 8, the composition asked that the student write short phrases using "a and an + adjective + noun using the sample words provided in the the workbook". This takes the principles they learned and lets them put them to work in short sentence form.  Again, this is building a great foundation for writing fluency.

Throughout the lesson you will find boxes with optional additional work...I like to check out what they are and sometimes I will include them--especially if it's just more practice on something I know Little Britches needs to spend more time on. 
You can see here that I highlighted one of the activities in the optional box at the top. I knew he'd enjoy it playing charades, so we did it.
After we attempted to use the suggested schedule of 1 lesson every one to two days (as part of the schedule for a struggling speller), we discovered it was just too much. We weren't used to spending that much time on English and it got overwhelming. This is especially true once we got past the stuff we already knew. Now I break the lesson down over 4 days so it looks something like this:

Day 1: Part 1 and Part 2 (spelling list)
Day 2: Review spelling list; Part 3 Grammar
Day 3: Part 3 Vocabulary and Dictation
Day 4: Part 3 Composition and Challenge (if they have it)

By breaking it up like this, we have really pared it down to what Little Britches can handle. Doing it this way fills up 30-60 minutes a day depending on how much is in each section. This is much more manageable then the 60-90 minutes every day we were doing before.

But wait...what about assessments?
As I mentioned at the top, this program includes an assessment chapter every 5th lesson.
I love the way that the program does the assessment and review. It is very non-test. It includes the student in the process of determining what THEY think they need to work on. Before the first assessment in Lesson 5, it recommends you remind your student of these things:

I love it. These really opened up discussion on why learning how to spell properly is important to Little Britches future...he had a LOT to say on that third question. LOL!

Each of the assessments consist of a spelling assessment and then a spelling word review.  

I really like the next part of the assessment where the student can see all the words they've covered in their spelling lists and THEY can mark the ones they think they need more help with. There is a matching list in the teacher manual where the teacher can note their own observations too.
In the spelling word review, the student is asked to write down the words they want more practice on or that they regularly miss onto 3x5 cards...underlining the part of the word they tend to miss. Now with these cards, the student can choose from a variety of practice activities to work on these words. Little Britches favorite is "Blind Spelling."
In Blind Spelling I read the 3 x 5 cards to him one at a time and he closes his eyes and writes the word on the whiteboard. Then he checks to see if it matches the card. A similar version of this is to take the stack of cards and look at each card, then flip it over and write the word down on a piece of paper. If you get it right, you put it in a different stack. If you get it wrong, it stays in your words to practice pile. He likes to hand me the ones he "knows really good now."

At the end of the assessment lesson, the next pages consist of games and activities you can do to review any of the spelling or grammar rules that have been taught. These are great for pinpointing areas needing improvement.

What Are Our Thoughts About Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set?

Little Britches thoughts:
"I don't like that there is a lot of stuff in one activity, but I do like the games that are in it. Those are fun. And how you can practice the words you miss with Blind Spelling. And that there are only 15 words to know each lesson and that some of them are really easy each time. The rules do help me remember how to spell things...but I can't always remember them and that makes me frustrated."

My thoughts:
*All inclusive systematic complete English program
*Spelling Rules/Grammar Rules on Flashcards for quick reference
*Games to practice what is learned throughout the book and in every lesson
*Open-and-go material
*Would work for more than one grade level
*Notations on ways to include multi-sensory learning for your student
*Lots of extras to add in if desired or to substitute exercises
*Easy for Teacher--clear instructions and scripted lessons 
*Assessments every 5th lesson
*Teaches the WHY'S of English/Spelling
*Can be paced according to your child
*Includes schedule ideas based on the level of your child
*Includes copywork, dictation and composition to assist with writing fluency
*Workbooks for cursive and manuscript available
*Spelling journal to record unusual phonogram usage for quick reference later
*Price--so much is included in the complete set for a great price

*Very systematic and "classic textbook" in the approach
*Teacher led, not much independent work
*Minimal writing or reading outside of basic exercises
*Price--it could be prohibitive to those on a tight budget, regardless how much you want it

In summary, I love that Logic of English is a complete systematic approach to understanding English. I love learning the rules for the spelling and rules for the grammar and I love having them for Little Britches to reference. I like the multi-sensory learning notations throughout the book, allowing me to find extra exercises that will connect with my sons auditory learning style. I love that the teachers manual has clear instructions and scripted lessons---though I sometimes deviate in order to make things more clear...but the lesson is basic enough to allow for that. I like that I can break the lesson down to fit the pace of my child--allowing us to move quickly through things we already know, in order to spend time on the things we need to learn.

The main things that I don't like is that there is minimal reading or writing included in the program. There are no pieces of literature or reading booklets included in this set to practice what is being learned. In my exploration of the Logic of English website, I did discover something called The Essentials Reader (digital) which corresponds with Essentials lessons. This is a reading book, but it is not included in the complete Essentials curriculum. I would really like to have something like that included in the set as the reading aspect is lacking. I feel the same way about the writing. There is a portion of each lesson spent for composition, but it is nothing more than just using words that the student has learned to make sentences. The writing skills are taught, but not really put into practice. There are notations in the teachers manual of places to encourage free writing, but it is part of the "extras" not part of the actual assignments. Essentials: Logic of English is light on writing; however, if you look at the description of the curriculum it does not say it's a complete Language Arts curriculum (like their Foundations curriculum), but rather a complete reading and spelling course. Writing would be the one thing I would add--as I can incorporate reading/literature on my own.

Why did I rave about the systematic approach to the program, yet put it in the cons? Because for a lot of homeschoolers, having a "textbook" or "classical" approach to English isn't going to be their style. This is very old school textbook in some ways, but the addition of the exercises for multi-sensory learning and the games scattered throughout the lessons break that up enough for me to really enjoy it. Because of this systematic approach it is very teacher led--there isn't much independent work beyond the exercises. Which is why having the games included and "extra" options is so important.

Price. I always like to include my thoughts on the price. For what you are getting with this complete curriculum, the price of $243 is outstanding. It really is an amazingly and thorough program for teaching the ins and outs---the science--of English. Once you buy the complete set, you will only need to purchase the spelling journal and workbook for future students. Everything else is non-consumable. But I also put price as a con because for some (many!) families paying over $200 for just one subject is not within their budget, regardless of how amazing it is--especially if they have multi-grade levels to buy for. If I had not had a chance to review this program, I don't know that I would ever have even considered it because of the cost...that is nearly half my annual homeschooling budget. I typically buy according to price when it comes to curriculum...especially if I don't know anything about it. 

I hope that by me sharing with you how awesome this program is, you will consider it even with the higher cost!

In regards to how it worked for our worked. It worked fabulously. This kind of a program is just what my son needed--even if he doesn't "love" it. He always asked me "why? Why?" with our other spelling program, because it never gave reasons for words being spelled the way they were. Now he has the rules and reasons and he knows that these will always work and he'll be able to use them from here on out. It was a lot more work--each lesson is really best spaced over the course of 4 days and we still spend 45-60 minutes a day on it. But the results I see are definitely worth it. Did I mention that I'VE learned a ton? I discovered that I never knew half of these rules--I just did them because they told to me. I didn't know about non-count plurals, transitive verbs, or direct objects--much less the actual rules like English words never ending in an A, I, U or V! I love that I am learning right along with Little Britches. We will definitely be continuing to use this program.

Would I Recommend Essentials: Logic of English?

This is a program ideal for those who like the classical teaching approach to English, and those who have children demanding the "why" behind spellings/grammar. It's also great if you have a child struggling with phonetics and their usage in English words. It's also great for those who want a scripted lesson plan for teaching English as well something that becomes multi-sensory and paced to match the child. If you are an "open and go" teacher--preferring to have it all laid out for you, this program will be perfect. If you feel you are weak in the area of English and need something to do the "hard work" for you, this is DEFINITELY the curriculum for you.

If however, you are looking for a literature based English program, one that spends little time in a workbook, or one with a lot of independent work, than Logic of English might not be for you. If you are looking for a program with a good writing focus (not just writing basics) this is not going to work for you.

For More Information about Logic of English...

If you want to learn more about the Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set, please visit the Logic of English website! You will be able to see the scope of the program in a video, see what a lesson looks like, check out the teacher's manual, view the student workbook and check out some sample pages!

You can find Logic of English on the full range of social media sites including:

I have shared our experience with the Logic of English Essentials program...there are 2 other programs (and some apps!) that were reviewed by our team! Why not head on over and check them out--especially if you have a child in the 4-9 age range!

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Thank you for checking out another one of my reviews! Don't forget that you can find the full list of the curriculum and product I review on my Curriculum & Product Reviews page.
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