For the past month or so Boo has been using the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning to help her learn to read.
What it is:
The Ultimate Phonics Reading Program is downloadable software that can be used by everyone in our household. It is designed to teach or strengthen reading skills for everyone from beginning readers to struggling readers of all ages, as well as those with dyslexia and anyone learning English as a second language. It is specifically created with a simple, straightforward design so that it won’t feel little kid-ish if an older child or adult is using the program. It includes 262 lessons that proceed from basic to advanced. For beginning readers, the program is intended to be started once a child knows her letters and some letter sounds. By the end of the final lesson, that child should have the skills necessary to read at an advanced level.
How we use it:
Boo, who just started first grade, has been using the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program as another tool in her belt to help her learn to read. My plan was to use it to supplement another program that she’s been enjoying, but we ended up just taking a few weeks off from that and focusing on this so she could start from the beginning and work her way through. They do have a “find” option that we can use to reinforce skills she’s working on in another program, though. For example, she has been working on letter blends with her other program, and I could look up the sets of letter blends she’s focusing on and have her work on words with that letter blend in the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program.
She’s supposed to review the words in each lesson herself using the app and then read them out loud to me. Lesson 1 reviewed the letters and their sounds and introduced the sight words a and the. Lesson 2 moved on to a set of 24 words for her to sound out and read in sentences by the end of the lesson. This was simply too much for her. She was nowhere near ready to sound out so many words, even right after seeing each of them broken down into individual letters and sounded out. According to the overview from Spencer Learning, the lessons isn’t successfully completed until she can read out loud all the words in the lesson. However, repeating the lesson over and over until such a time (if ever – kidding…I think. Maybe?) that she could actually read the words felt like it would be overly frustrating and discouraging for her, and as far as me fighting her about doing that, well, I just can’t even. So she went ahead and continued working through the program, hopefully gaining some benefit from working through more and more words, even if she can’t read them herself yet.
What we think:
All in all, this program isn’t really a good fit for Boo right now. She says she enjoys the “stories” (sentences) at the end of the lessons. I was pleasantly surprised that she didn’t object to the fact that it was purely direct instruction without any cute graphics or stars to earn or anything, though I think she might have enjoyed it more had there been. I think this program would be a better fit for older kids who would appreciate the fact that it didn’t feel like a young child’s reading program. It also seemed to move too quickly for Boo. I think she might have been able to remember how to sound out the words she was working on if they were presented a couple at a time, rather than so many in one lesson (but then again, maybe not). I think this might be a great resource for kids who have already basically learned to read but are struggling to read well, or for a child who is really ready to read and is thus able to pick it up much more quickly than Boo. Boo also seems to benefit from having activities as part of her reading lessons, such as finding all the pictures that begin with the letter blends she’s working on. As the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program doesn’t include any activities, I think Boo and I might be happier if I start truly using it as a supplement, taking advantage of the “find” option to add additional practice to what she’s working on elsewhere.
Be sure to check out what other reviewers are saying over at the Homeschool Review Crew link-up!