April 14, 2015

First Start Reading: Phonics, Reading and Printing {Curriculum Review}

Baby Britches loves school. He's just 4 1/2, but I've been doing active schooling with him this year. He's already learned all his letters, can write almost all of them (upper and lower case), and knows most of the their sounds. I have been wondering how close he was to kicking off into reading and was wondering how to go about getting started on it. Imagine my delight, when Memoria Press offered their First Start Reading curriculum as a review product to the Schoolhouse Review Crew--Could this be just what we needed to open the world of books to him?

Product Summary

Memoria Press has designed First Start Reading, a phonics, reading and printing curriculum for Kindergarten. Though there are already a ton of phonics based programs on the market, First Start Reading is different because it is not only a very age appropriate and balanced approach to phonics and reading, but it also puts an emphasis on proper pencil grip and letter formation right from the beginning.  Unlike most of the traditional phonics, instead of a consonant-vowel blending ladder approach, First Start Reading goes with a more traditional vowel-consonant method matched up with word families. 

First Start Reading consists of four student books and thirty-one phonetic stories; however, there is just one teachers guide for the whole curriculum to make it easiest for teachers.
The program retails for $42.95 (teachers guide and student books) and is geared towards Kindergarten. You can see samples of Book A, Book B, Book C and Book D as well as the Table of Contents.

We were given the First Start Reading program to review with Baby Britches (Age 4 1/2).

How Did We Use the Product?

We were very excited when our books arrived for this curriculum. Baby Britches kept saying "For me? These are mine? Not Bubby's?" He knows he usually isn't the one receiving the books so he was tickled they were for him. And the fact they had farm scenes on the front...well, that just made them even better.

I spent the first day reading through the Teacher's Guide to get a feel for how the curriculum worked. Here were a few things that I noticed:

1. The Table of Contents is very easy to navigate
The introduction shows an explanation about how the program works, the emphasis of the curriculum as well as guidelines for teaching the program. 
There are instructions for using it as a group, or in a homeschool setting
I like that since this program includes penmanship, there is a portion discussing pencil grips. I think this is very important when starting printing at this age.
In the appendix (as it notes) you can find reproducible (or just tear them out and use) posters to use with this curriculum. These would be great to tear out and laminate (which I will soon).
2. You can view all the lesson plans for all four of the student books
The lessons are clearly labeled and identify what skill is being taught. It shows you if there is a new letter/sound, the common words included in the lesson, what reading skills (if any), the sentences being taught, and then what page number it's on. This is invaluable for getting an idea on the scope of the program. Every book is listed in this manner. This is a good reference for when you notice there is a lack of comprehension on a certain sound. I can quickly flip through this chart to see what lesson needs to be repeated.

3. The lesson plan is very open for use with a group or individual student.
This is a page from the very first lesson. It is easy to see the dialogue they suggest for using it. I also see that every page of the student book is here in my teacher book. The instruction is written for a "group" but can easily be used for just an individual student. It's very simple and logical and shows how to introduce whatever the concept is. Including guidelines of what to do, or not to do.
Love that they include ear training at the beginning of each lesson
Each lesson comes with printing right away and emphasizes proper strokes for forming the letters, including "air letters". 
Letter Formation Review Includes Great Interaction from the Child before they ever put pencil to paper
4. The lesson is definitely open and go, without set lesson guidelines on how much or how little to do
I looked throughout the book and there wasn't anywhere they said that you should do X amount each day. It really is just a go-your-own-pace program. I think that this very good for the age group as you will never know from one lesson to another, or even one day to another how much they will be willing to do or can remember.

This is also open and go. Nothing extra is needed besides crayons, pencil and a whiteboard or chalkboard of some kind for the teacher to use. I used our big white board if we were in the classroom or our lap white boards if we were not.

So we got started...
Baby Britches was eager to get started on his new book. For the first lessons, I stuck to the "script" just to get the flow of how it was supposed to work. I learned that it was very easy to do, and easy to tweak according to the needs of your child. 

The first day, we did Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 which were all about the letter M and A. It was good practice to review the sounds and letter formation. He already know sounds and how to write, but it was a great review on HOW to write them. 

The routine of the program is like this:
*Introduce the letter and sound it makes
*Show the pictures and have the children name them
*Talk about the sound it makes and have the children repeat the sound
*Have them listen for the sound as you say other words beginning and ending with the sound.
*Print the letter (capital and lowercase) on the board and talk about how many times you pick your pencil up. Repeat this process. Then mimic it in the air. Have children mimic in the air counting their strokes and lifts.
*Have child trace letters while you watch pencil grip. Mark their best efforts.
*Have child write using the bubble starter. Watch pencil grip and mark their best efforts.
*Now allow them to color the objects beginning with the letter/sound. 
*Finally, have them draw something in the given space (if it's there) that also starts with the sound they are learning.

One of the things that the teacher's guide suggests is that after advising them to start printing according to the lesson, that the teacher mark the BEST printing with a special pen. This was HUGE for Baby Britches. I pulled out a pen that wrote in red sparkles and he would write his letters and then tell me "Time for stars! Time for stars!" At which time I would go through and talk about his letter formation and mark the letters I thought were his best. 
He liked to offer up suggestions. I played around a bit too and said things like "whoops! He wanted to be super tall! He needs to remember he has to stay under the line." or "Yikes! What a tail he has! Is he trying to be a lion instead of an a?" If I kept it playful, he was more than willing to keep doing it.
Very dedicated to his printing
Our second day brought a review of the sounds of M and A, and then we dove into Lesson 3 which was our first word and first sentence. The program is very heavy on phonics and blending (yay!). It guides the teacher on how to teach the blending for each lesson and is very open dialogue with the student on how it's done. 

A brief synopsis of how the lesson works:
*Remind student of the sounds of the individual letters
*Show them the blend marking.
*Write it on the board exactly as on their paper.
*Say and trace the blend. Repeat this process saying it faster and faster until you are saying the word.
*Have them trace the blend and repeat the process using their finger on their own page.
*Student now traces the letters/words. Teacher checks for pencil grip and marks best efforts.

This continues according to the lesson. Most of the blend lessons end with a sentence of some sort. Usually just 2-3 words. It gets traced and then said and then written (sometimes).

By the end of Lesson 3, Baby Britches was reading his first two word sentence! It's simple, but it brought a lot of excitement. (I have a video...but I need to figure out how to get it off my Kindle to upload it here because it's super cute.)

From here on out, we always started our day with review over the precious day's work and then added in 1-2 pages depending on what was being covered. It was easy to see that the routine described above was to be consistently used as new material was added.

We typically worked on this three days a week as that was usually all that I could get Baby Britches to willingly do. I really went by whether he was willing to work or not, because forcing it was pointless. If he said "I don't remember." or "I don't know." more than once or twice, I just stopped the lesson. 

We were able to complete 16 lessons over the course of our review.

Because I didn't get into the next three books (Book B, C and D), I took some photos of what is covered in them to give you an idea of the progression of the program.
Lesson 25, Book A
Book B

Book B
Lesson 21, Book B
Each book has a list of all the words learned
From Book C

Lesson 26, Book C

Book C

If you look at the right side of the lesson it guides you through what is expected for each line

Every book has a series of assessments based on the words learned
Book D

Book D

Lesson 12, Book D

Final Lesson, Book D
As you can see, when the program is completed, the student will definitely have a fantastic reading level and capability as well as plenty of practice with printing.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

Baby Britches: 
I like reading I am Sam! And the fat rat. And I like to 'tolor' (color).

I was excited about this product because I believed that Baby Britches was on the brink of reading. He is 4 1/2 and knows all his letters and all their "normal" sounds. I thought that this program might be able to get everything all lined up for him to kick off his reading.

I like the way that the program is open for you to do as much or as little as you want with your child. This was IDEAL for us since he's still IS just four. He's not ready for a lot and I had to really choose what we did based on his mood for the day. There were some days he wanted to do everything I wanted, and others he didn't even want to touch it. But the good news is that this program let you do that!

I liked the way the routine of the program went. It had a cycle that worked well for us. He knew what to expect and that worked. I found he liked the writing more than anything else and enjoyed practicing his "air" letters. He did well with listening for the new sounds as I said them. 

When it came time for actually learning the words, blending was a bit difficult at first. But the more we did it, the more he got a hang of it and it became easier for him with each new blend. 

We really didn't get very far. But that is because we needed to review a LOT and that was okay. I didn't feel like the program was insufficient. I liked the way that it worked. There was PLENTY of things to review and when he started getting mixed up with his blends, we simply reviewed those pages. 

After using it for these first 16 lessons, I can tell that he doesn't quite have the skills needed for reading yet...but we've definitely made some initial progress and he can read a few words!

Something that I would like to see would be a review page put in after a certain number of lessons. I think this would help for the kids who need the CONSTANT review. As it was, I just had to keep flipping back to earlier lessons to do our reviews. 

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes! I really enjoyed it and think it is an excellent program, especially if you are teaching more than one child at a time. It is definitely geared towards learning by phonics and blending, not pushing for sight words which is so common in today's early reading education. 

If you are seeking a curriculum that will combine phonics with reading with the added bonus of printing, this is definitely for you. I would definitely put it at a Kindergarten level, though if you have an advanced 4 year old that already can write and identify letters, it should work well too. It is scripted, and yet you can do as much or as little as you want. So it works for several different styles of teaching. We used a phonics heavy program for Kindergarten with Little Britches and it was actually very similar to this...but I think this one goes even further. I looked ahead to the last book and it will be quite awesome what Baby Britches will be able to do by the time we finish the curriculum.

Will we continue to use this program?
Yes. I don't know if I will keep using it right now though. But if I don't continue at this time, I will be pulling it back out when we "officially" start Kindergarten. I really liked the way it progressed and look forward into incorporating it.

Want to Know More About This Product?

We reviewed First Start Reading by Memoria Press. You know what our thoughts are on the product, but what did other families think about it? And what about the New American Curvive program? Make sure you check out the rest of our crew's reviews for more information!
Memoria Press Review

Want to stay in touch with what Memoria Press has to offer? You can find them throughout the social media network!
It is fun to try out Kindergarten things with Baby Britches with him only being 4 1/2. Some things he gets easily and other things you can tell he's just not ready for. This was one that crossed over where we had good days and bad days! I definitely think this will be the program for us to use continuing on as we "officially" start Kindergarten this fall. And it really wet my whistle for Memoria Press products.
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1 comment:

GS said...

Did you ever cone back to this and use it like you planned? Did it work well through the end our is there another phonics reading program you would recommend? Gina Springer asking. :)