Friday, October 7, 2011

Reaching my goals with the help of PAL

On Monday, I posted about my goal to teach Lauren to read this year. I'm by no means convinced that all Kindergarteners need to learn to read or are developmentally ready for reading instruction. It does, however, seem like a reasonable goal for Lauren to accomplish this year.

Where she started: At the beginning of the year, Lauren could identify all of the letters (both uppercase and lowercase). She also knew the sounds for a lot of the letters. I remember that she could write her name and the names of a few family members. I think she was writing in all capital letters though.

What we're using: Primary Arts of Language by Institute for Excellence in Writing. I purchased both the Reading (PAL-R) and the Writing (PAL-W) materials.

Where the program began: On the first day, Lauren learned to write c, o, and a. It started with just letter formation; she did not have to space them correctly on the lines until later in the program. Each of the letters was introduced with a short story to help remember its sound. The program continued to introduce approximately three letters per day. We practiced these letters on paper, on her markerboard, in a shallow box filled with salt, and with sidewalk chalk.

During our reading instruction the first day, we played two folder games that reviewed the letter sounds and stories. We also created a folder game to practice color words. The first two color words, green and yellow, were also added to the deck of cards that contain words to practice. Even though these words are introduced as sight words, the materials pointed out that the squeely-e's in green make a long e sound and that ow often makes a long o sound at the end of words like yellow. The stickers we put on the Phonetic Farm display reinforced those two phonics rules.

We also wrote in Lauren's journal, read a poem, and summarized a story ("Goldilocks and the Three Bears" for the first day).

Our favorite part: Lauren loves all of the work and looks in her workboxes every morning to see what she's going to do for the day. She was quite disappointed when I decided to slow down a time or two and didn't put a new handwriting sheet in her assignments.

I especially like the folder games that correspond to the lessons. The folder games are already printed on cardstock and only require a few minutes of my time to glue each one together.

Feeding word cards to the monster
Lauren's favorite game is a memory-style matching game with new words. The PAL version of Memory adds a twist where the cards are placed on top of numbers. When you make a match, you count those numbers as your score. We keep score when we play by adding beads to a necklace.

It took me a little while to grasp the concept of using the games to both teach and review the concepts. I now understand that Lauren learns a bit more every time she plays one of the folder games and that it's okay to continue to help her with them until she completely masters the concept. Some of the curriculum I have used in the past requires mastery before you move on. With PAL, I sometimes move on to the next lesson and trust that she'll learn the words or sounds as we continue to practice the games.

Where she is now: A few weeks ago she received her first reader. Apparently she liked it so much that she took it to bed with her that night.

Every morning, Lauren reads a set of four or five sentences. This morning's sentences included, "No, she cannot go today."
Reading to Col. Opa during a recent visit
We still review the games, and she practices lots of word cards each day. 

Each day also has a work page that includes sentences for the student to glue underneath the corresponding illustration. Tomorrow's page includes sentences such as, "One kitten is black and white." In terms of handwriting, Lauren has been practicing copying words this week. You can see some of her recent work in the picture below.

The PAL-Writing program teaches a child to summarize a story using a story chart. Sometimes we use the chart and sometimes we just discuss the elements.

Where she is going: Obviously the reading lessons will continue to introduce phonics skills. When I flip to the end of the book, I can see that she'll be reading words such as exercise, afternoon, stammered, hundreds, and vegetable.

As we move through the writing program, Lauren will eventually be retelling the stories that we read. Later lessons will introduce composition skills, including the dress-ups used in later IEW programs.

The Spelling portion of this language arts program uses All About Spelling, and Lauren will be starting those lessons shortly.

Anything I don't like: These materials are designed for a child that is already quite familiar with letters and letter sounds, and it may move too quickly for some children. On occasion, I've declared a game day and didn't introduce new concepts.

This program can be a bit time intensive. I normally spend about an hour and a half working with Lauren on these materials, and we should be spending an additional 30 minutes playing games. The activity time spent on games could be done with an older sibling.

The verdict: In many ways, we've found this program to be the perfect Kindergarten curriculum for Lauren. It balances written work with hands-on games, incorporates daily poetry reading, and encourages the student to use their knowledge of phonics skills to decipher new words.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any products or compensation for writing this post. I'm simply sharing because it's a product that's working very well for me and my child.


  1. I am so glad your daughter is liking this program. We love it too, but it was too much too fast for my son.

    We are currently doing Memoria Press' program, then we will pick back up with PAL.

    I am not saying anything negative about it. It is great, just not a beginning reading program, in my opinion.

  2. This is the second post I've read recently about this working well; it sounds like just what you needed. I love the pics of your sweetie doing her schoolwork in her dress up clothes.

  3. Awesome post. :)

    We need to get back to using PAL. We took a break for some other things and just have not gotten back in the swing of things.

  4. That sounds like a great fit for you. Do you like the way it introduces the letters with the letter stories? What does Lauren think of them?

  5. Lauren loves the letter stories. Sometimes when we were matching the letters with the story reminder cards (the ones with the letter drawn to remind the student of the sound story), she'd want to make up a story that would include the characteristics of every letter. She'd start with the a that got her ponytail pulled, include the draggy leg g and the sad cookie that nobody ate, and so on and so on. She could do the whole alphabet if I'd listen to the story last that long. She's a very verbal learner though -- she has to talk her way through everything.

    Hmm... maybe I should make up some stories about the vowel blends that she doesn't always remember.

  6. Thank you for stopping by my blog, and joining in at NOBH. I really enjoyed hearing about you and your daughters week. I'm following you too. =)

  7. Thanks for following and I am following back:) Love the picture of your sleeping daughter with her book. Makes your heart melt when you see that.

  8. It looks like such a great program. I want to try it with my youngest when she's ready.

  9. Oh boy, i think you might be costing money. Shame on you!

  10. Sounds interesting. I am glad that your daughter is enjoying it! My daughter is six and still not reading yet but we haven't tried too much to encourage it yet. This looks like something that might be good for her, though.



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