Thursday, September 12, 2013

Logic of English {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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Earlier this week Lauren and I were waiting to see one of her doctors. She was making a sign for her  Minecraft world on the iPad and asked me, "How do you spell stairs?" It was a proud teacher moment for me. I remembered our lesson about the long /a/ sound and asked her if she remembered the most common way to spell /a/ in the middle of the word. After she typed "stair," I reminded her that she had also learned how to form plural nouns.

The Logic of English teaches 74 basic phonograms and 30 spelling rules. With that body of knowledge, students should be able to understand 98% of English words. For the past two months, Lauren and I have been using the Essentials program, and we're both learning a lot about the English Language.

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The Logic of English's Essentials program is intended for ages eight through adult, but it includes teaching suggestion for younger students. The regular lessons require that the student has developed phonemic awareness (can break words down into sounds), has learned all of the sounds for the A-Z phonograms, and can write all the letters. Review materials for these prerequisites can be found in introduction of the teacher's manual.

I think a big requirement for using these materials is that the child needs to be ready to move away from cutesy learn-to-read materials and towards more straight-forward instruction. The materials in the student workbook are simply black-and-white text-based activities and not colorfully illustrated like some other beginning reading programs.

The Logic of English Essentials contains 40 lessons. The recommendation for seven-year-old students is to spend 30-60 minutes per day and to cover one lesson per week. The lessons include phonograms, exploring sounds, spelling rules, spelling dictation and analysis, grammar, dictation, composition, and vocabulary. With this much material in each lesson, I no longer need separate reading, grammar, and writing programs. I also dropped our handwriting practice and just insist on neat work during this time. (There is a detailed outline of the lesson structure on the Logic of English Essentials curriculum webpage so I won't share all of the details here.)

I appreciate the way that the teacher's manual divides the lesson materials into daily chunks, but I sometimes found it better to tailor our lessons to Lauren's attention span. Sometimes that meant that we did more than the suggested amount but often it meant that we didn't. Every fifth lesson is a review lesson and assessment. Lauren and I are stretching that material over two weeks so that she can complete more of the reinforcement exercises and play some of the optional games.

The Logic of English materials have suggested scripts for the teacher to use in introducing concepts, but at the same time, it allows the teacher to tailor the curriculum to meet the student's needs. The lessons have four or five places where the teacher is offered optional practice activities. Some of these activities are further explained in The Phonogram and Spelling Game Book. I appreciate knowing which reinforcement activities are appropriate for the lessons, and I particularly like the way the practice activities are designed to reach all types of learners (kinesthetic, auditory, and visual). Since these activities are optional, we can spend extra time on some areas and skip ahead in others.

Lauren (our second grader) says the spelling tests are her favorite part of the lessons. I like the way Logic of English first teaches the phonograms and the spelling rules. Then those new concepts are applied to correctly writing the words on the spelling list. The teacher's manual helps me as we work through the words by providing practice sentences, spelling hints, corresponding vocabulary words, and more. I also like the way that the new spelling words form the basis for the rest of the activities in the lesson. For instance, after learning nouns and verbs, Lauren went back through the spelling list to mark the corresponding parts of speech for each word. Later, she added in the plural forms of all the nouns.

During many of our lessons, we use the phonogram flash cards or game cards to practice the sounds. The Logic of English also offers an iPad app ($2.99) to provide phonogram practice. It works a lot like doing a flash card drill, but working on the iPad is often more fun than having mom hold flashcards. I like the way that some of the phonograms include part of their rules so it adds an extra reinforcement. For instance, the "ay" phonogram always clarifies that it is the two letter /a/ sound that may be used at the end of English words.

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I've always had a way of spelling words by just making sure they looked right. Although the approach means that I did well in school myself, it wasn't helping me teach Lauren how to correctly spell words. The Logic of English program is teaching both of us to understand that English spelling isn't as random as I once thought. With the rules that we're learning in the Essentials lessons, we'll both be confident in our spelling ability. While she works on those spelling skills, Lauren is also mastering English grammar, broadening her vocabulary, and practicing her composition skills.

As I work through the spelling rules with Lauren, I've realized that Brennan (our seventh grader) could benefit from this approach as well. His spelling skills are a bit more advanced than the spelling words in the teacher's manual, but I recently found advanced spelling lists on The Logic of English website. My hope is that I can teach him the rules that govern English spelling and help him become a better speller.

For EssentialsThe Logic of English recommends having the hardcover Teacher's manual ($95), a student workbook ($25), and the basic phonogram flash cards ($18). We have also been using Spelling Rules Flash Cards ($15), The Phonogram and Spelling Game Book ($25) and two sets of the phonogram game cards ($10 each).


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