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|
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.