It isn’t very often that I discover a phonics program that I deem worthy of using in my first grade classroom. Although I am a public school teacher, I like to think of myself as a “wannabe” homeschooling parent. Let me clarify. With my own two children fully grown and on their own, it is much too late to homeschool them, so I try to bring the same love, caring, and dedication that homeschooling provides into my classroom. This would include engaging and exciting lessons and materials. I strive to make learning fun, especially reading. I am a firm believer in phonics instruction. These are just some of the wonderful attributes I have found in the American Language Series program for kindergarten by Lighthouse Publishing.
This phonics program consists of two components. They are Phonics and Reading, and Spelling Writing, and Vocabulary. Most teachers know that reading and writing go hand in hand. When teaching a new letter, all aspects of that letter should be taught. This includes the sound of the letter how to write the letter, and where we might see it in words. I also like the fact that the Spelling, Writing and Vocabulary workbook teaches quite a bit of new vocabulary and oral language. This is an excellent resource for English Language Learners (ELL). There is also a lot of grammar and sentence writing included in the workbooks. As an ELL teacher, I am required to teach grammar, vocabulary, and oral language in my 2 hour reading block, but these wonderful workbooks and the skills they teach are a great tool for all children. I also was impressed by the fact that there are reminders of the phonics rules highlighted in yellow at the bottom of the pages. The Phonics and Reading workbook focuses on letter sounds and reading. Both workbooks are used for each lesson, but the lesson in the Phonics & Reading workbook is done first. Then the lesson in the Spelling, Writing, & Vocabulary book is taught. There are lots of engaging and colorful pictures in both workbooks. This is also wonderful for ELL and visual learners.
The program consists of two sets of workbooks, two for Phonics and Reading, and two for Spelling, Writing, and Vocabulary. The workbooks for each subject are labeled books one and two. The workbook pages correspond with a lesson and a reader. There are six readers with the program. The readers are written to teach the important skills in a scope and sequence that will help your child become a successful reader. They are labeled K One through K Six. The first reader, Fun in the Sun, focuses on short vowel sounds and consists of many consonant, vowel, consonant words (cvc) words. All of the subsequent readers focus on a phonics skill that the reader will thoroughly incorporate. For example, reader K Two, Scamp and Tramp, focuses on consonant clusters, which follows a normal progression from the first reader, which teaches short vowel sounds. The subsequent readers teach consonant clusters, silent e, controlled vowels, vowel digraphs, and diphthongs. Each skill is labeled at the top of the book and correlates with the lessons in the Phonics & Reading and the Spelling, Writing, & Vocabulary workbooks. These books are designed to be read in order. I love the fact that the phonics workbook incorporates a lot of phonemic awareness, an essential skill for children learning to read. For example, rhyming. This is one of the most important skills for children to attain in order to become a fluent reader.
The workbooks are colorful and engaging, with each lesson written in the top right hand corner of the page. I am sure children will love these beautiful workbooks and the accompanying readers. They will quickly take ownership of them! I also like the fact that the workbook pages are easy to tear out. As a classroom teacher, this is especially useful for me. If I make copies for each child in my class, this would make it much easier. I can easily use the readers in my classroom by showing the content under my document camera. Homeschoolers will adore having their own books.
This program is for kindergarten children, but I can easily see some of my first graders using it. I say this because many of them come to my classroom with very low skills in reading proficiency. Many children are at different levels and this program is a great tool for differentiation, something that I consider myself a master at implementing.
The American Language Series also includes a thumb drive that holds the Phonics & Reading Teacher Handbook, as well as a handbook for teaching Spelling, Writing, and Vocabulary. Each handbook tells you how to prepare for the lessons and a guide which tell you when to start reading the readers and what pages to read each day. What I really loved about the teacher handbooks was the fact that there are songs, poems, games, and printouts included! As a teacher, this was especially exciting to me! It is so important to differentiate when teaching so we can encompass all learning styles such as kinesthetic, visual, verbal, and auditory! I was also excited to see a list of seasonal activities that included cooking ideas such as churning butter in baby food jars in November for Thanksgiving, making Cherry Cake or building log cabins using popsicle sticks in February for Presidents’ Day, or planting seeds in April. I also love the idea of doing leaf rubbings in October. This is something I used to do with my own children. All these activities are such important experiences to give children and teach them an absolute love of reading and learning! What more could a teacher or homeschooling parent ask for!
Also included in the thumb drive is an helpful guide that gives the names of what the pictures are on each page in the Phonics & Reading workbooks. This may sound silly, but as a teacher, I want to be prepared to teach my lessons. This includes knowing and reviewing the lessons ahead of time. Some of the pictures could be several things, and I don’t want to waste any instructional time trying to figure it out. The guide also tells you when to start the readers and what pages you should be using for each lesson. This guide would be useful to print out and use with lesson planning or tucked into my planning book. The teacher’s handbooks also give parents and teachers content knowledge and a structure to follow. The format is easy to follow and will make even the most inexperienced teacher confident to teach each lesson effectively. The handbooks are long, so having them on a thumb drive is extremely useful.
The American Language Series is a wonderful resource for teachers and homeschooling parents. I plan to use it in my classroom this year with my students as an enrichment tool, during whole group reading, and even for afterschool tutoring. The workbooks, activities, and readers are delightful. There are so many great ways to use this program. Any reading program that incorporates music, poems, games, and other activities is a definitely a winner.