Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Logic of English {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Logic of English Review

I've often seen comments about how hard it is to learn to read English or to spell English words correctly. Many people argue that English is illogical. Logic of English refutes that argument. They maintain that the problem isn't an illogical English language, rather the problem is that we don't know all the rules that govern the way English words are written. According to their research, there are 74 basic phonograms (letters or letter combinations that represent a sound) and 31 spelling rules that will explain how to spell 98% of all English words.

Logic of English has recently updated their materials for students ages 7 and up, and we were fortunate to try out the Essentials, 2nd Edition package. The Essentials program is an all-in-one language arts program covering Reading, Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary. The 2nd Edition allows the teacher to pick the most appropriate difficulty level for their students, and it's possible to even teach multiple levels at the same time.

Several years ago, Lauren and I used the first edition of these materials. I loved the systematic, logical approach to teaching phonics then, and I love it even more now. (Disclaimer: after writing that review, we continued using that program for a while. Lauren's reading skills seemed to be progressing, and I prematurely switched away from direct reading instruction.)

The Essentials Teacher's Guide gives day-by-day scripted lessons for students at three different instructional levels. Although not explicitly stated this way, I'd classify them as Beginning Reader (needs to learn all the phonograms and rules), Struggling Reader (needs a thorough review of all the phonograms and rules), and Advanced Readers (could benefit from a brief review and then would enjoy advanced discussions of word parts and meanings).

After spending a few days familiarizing myself with the program, I could open up the Teacher's Guide each day and immediately start teaching. Each lesson introduces new phonograms, spelling rules, a new set of spelling words (different for each level), grammar concepts and vocabulary. All of the instruction is broken up into daily lessons that take approximately 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

Lauren appreciated that each day looked a little different. Perhaps I can best illustrate how it worked by stepping through a week in the program.

Day 1: She learned four new phonograms and reviewed all the ones we previously learned. We then had a discussion of short and long vowel sounds. Lauren struggled a bit with this part of the lesson because I was writing things on the marker board and doing most of the talking. She might have done better if she had been following along with examples in her workbook instead of just listening. After the discussion, she did have a page in her workbook and a written activity in her notebook to reinforce the concept. I then introduced a new spelling rule and showed several examples on the marker board. (We use sticky tack to keep the rule cards on the wall for reference in later lessons.)

Day 2: We reviewed phonograms by playing Bingo. We applied the new spelling rule and recorded several words in Lauren's Spelling Journal. (She says this is one of her favorite parts of the program.) This day also introduces the spelling list. A spelling list in Logic of English isn't the same as the spelling lists I remember from grade school. Instead of memorizing the way the words are spelled, the student and the teacher work through the words together to analyze the reason that they are spelled the way they are. There's a ten-step Spelling Analysis process to go through for every word. (Thankfully the steps are on a Quick Reference card so that I can keep them straight.)

Day 3: After reviewing the phonograms, we moved into a grammar discussion. We discussed the new grammar concept (adjectives) and then looked back at the spelling list to identify words that were adjectives. For further practice, we labeled the parts of speech for words in various phrases.

Day 4: We spent most of our time learning vocabulary concepts and terminology such as root (base word), prefix, suffix, and compound words. Lauren also practiced some of the words on this week's spelling list by writing down short phrases that I dictated to her.

Day 5: The last day is a review of everything covered in this lesson (and in previous lessons) -- phonograms, spelling rules, grammar rules, etc. It looks a bit like a test day, but it's not presented as a high-pressure test environment. In addition to writing down phonograms, there were ten short phrases for Lauren to write down in her workbook.

Each week looks very similar as the student progresses through the book. At first, I was a bit worried about the length of the lessons. It's a bit of a stretch to keep Lauren's attention, especially when I'm presenting a new concept. In the end, though, the lesson length seems to be doing okay. I also have to remind myself that this program covers reading (phonics), spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and even some composition. It makes sense that it takes longer than a lesson for only one of those subjects would take.

I really like the logical approach to learning English rules, and I'm now realizing that I need to stick with this program until Lauren learns all the rules. With the clear lesson plan outlines for me and fun activities for Lauren, this program works for both of us.

In addition to the Essentials package, I also received a pdf copy of their new The Essential Reader with Student book, Student Activity book, and Teacher's Guide. The first few lessons in the Reader were a bit on the easy side for Lauren, but I'm looking forward to the assignments as we get a little further into the program. Since the reader selections correspond to the phonics and spelling lessons in our Essentials, 2nd Edition studies, I haven't let her skip ahead to later passages. I am particularly excited to that Logic of English systematically addresses reading comprehension with this product. The Post-Reading questions in the Teacher's Guide are more advanced than just simple fact-based recall questions. The student is asked to retell the passage, apply what they have learned, make inferences, and more.

Essentials, 2nd Edition and The Essential Reader combine to make a strong language arts program that should help Lauren make some real progress in both reading and spelling.

The complete set of materials for Essentials, 2nd Edition includes the Teacher's Guide, the Student Workbook, the Spelling Journal, Morpheme Cards, Basic Phonogram Flash Cards, Spelling Rule Flash Cards, Grammar Flash Cards, Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards, Phonogram Game Cards (bookface and either manuscript or cursive), Phonogram Game Tilies, Spelling Analysis Card, and the Phonogram/Spelling Rule Quick Reference folder. It normally costs $220 and currently is discounted to $198. The set of The Essential Reader pdfs (The Essentials Reader, Teacher's Guide, and Student Activity Book costs $43.20.

The Essentials package is intended for ages seven and up, regardless of how little reading instruction they've previously received. Logic of English makes a separate Foundations series for younger readers.

Logic of English Review

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