Phonics Road Level 1 Thoughts

We will be finishing up Level 1 of the Phonics Road this week.  It’s taken us a long time to get to this point and now that we’re almost done, I’ve been thinking about the progress we’ve made.

I personally enjoy the Phonics Road.  It’s the Orton-Gillingham method of learning phonograms which is what I learned at my private school.  Therefore, it makes sense to me!  I appreciate how the spelling rules are introduced and how grammar concepts are woven into the teaching.  It’s an all-inclusive language arts program.

I plan to continue on to Level 2 sometime in the fall.  But we’re going to take a short detour off the Phonics Road for the spring.  Why?  Let me see if I can outline my thoughts….

I don’t like that the reading component of the program is so intertwined with the spelling and writing components.  Some kids progress at different rates in those areas!  Curly is a strong reader and once she learned her phonograms and a few rules she was off to the races.  The girl can read!  Therefore, the readers included in Level 1 are now below her level after her reading breakthrough.

 Here is a sample of one of the readers.
 The student is supposed to illustrate each page after reading it to demonstrate comprehension.
 Since the readers are too easy, I should use the text in the readers as dictation!  Why did I not think of this sooner????

Curly was also ready to learn handwriting skills but not ready to dive right into spelling words.  We spent quite a bit of time just practicing handwriting and doing copywork to help her improve her handwriting.  She was not ready to learn to spell while also trying to learn letter formation.  So, while I like that everything is included in the program, the pace was not quite right for Curly.

Curly also does her very best to use her worst possible handwriting as we write out the spelling words!

Also, the program starts off at breakneck speed.  You’re learning all the phonograms, all the letter formation, and diving right into spelling within the first few weeks!  We slowed that way down and took our sweet little time with those concepts.

The pace is fast and the spelling words are in a random order.  Or at least they seem random to me.  You don’t learn a rule and then have a spelling list of 25 words that follow that rule.  No, the words use a variety of rules that you’ve already learned.  This is great for practice but it meant that some rules took forever for Curly to start applying.  She just needed more practice on some of them-and she needed that practice and reinforcement on the day I introduced that rule.

And even though we’ve been marking words for months now, Curly still forgets some of the markings.  Practice, practice, practice!

I love the system of marking words.  As Curly marks each word for phonograms, sounds, and rules, they start to sink in and she can visibly see how the rules are applied.  I like the marking system and how it serves as a constant reminder.

I also like the rule tunes.  We have sung them over and over and over again.  But they start to stick with you and Curly has finally started using some of those rules and carrying over spelling concepts into other subjects.

Curly needed more words than the above for practice in order to get this rule down.  There are some words that appear in future spelling lists that follow this rule but it was not enough.  And I am too brain dead to come up with more examples on the fly.  

The building codes are helpful grammar and spelling rules.  Some list words that sound alike but are spelled differently.  One is about compound words, while another is about contractions.  One building code focused on making words plural and another outlined the rules for adding a vowel suffix to words that ended in an “e” (drop the “e” before adding your ending).  Such wonderful and logical rules.

 But there is a lot of information thrown at you in Level 1 and some of it you don’t apply frequently.  Poor Curly went on overload and I sometimes did too.  

But, the workload was often uneven.  Some days you were to complete an entire building code which was lots of writing for Curly.  Sometimes, there were very few words in the following lessons that reinforced the building code rules.  That meant that Curly quickly forgot those rules (and I often did too). 

  Completing this entire page in one day was too much writing.  I need to plan ahead and complete part of a building code each day of the week. 

I like how the program encourages you to use dictation with your student.  Once you are well into Level 1, you should be dictating a few short sentences to your student every week.  I was disappointed that there weren’t sample sentences for dictation.  I hated trying to come up with my own sentences using words previously learned.  Some days my brain just could not do it.  I even dictated the same sentence 2 days in a row-Curly caught that mistake.  I wish it was laid out for me!  I wanted sample sentences so I never had to make up my own!

 I could never think of sentences and Curly complained and complained about the dictation.

The last few lessons of the program introduce composition assignments.  The student is walked through how to write a simple paragraph.  You ask leading questions and help you child phrase their responses in complete sentences.  Curly enjoyed writing her little stories and using capitalization and punctuation to make her story complete.

Her favorite part was illustrating her own story of course.  At least we can write a complete sentence!

The videos are very helpful and you can’t even begin to teach the program without watching each week’s lessons.  However, there are no teacher’s notes or tips in the teacher’s binder.  I wished for a bullet point list of reminders or tips or dictation sentences or additional practice words to reinforce each rule and building code.  This week you will complete building code 8.  This week you will be learning rule tune 17.  I need those type of reminders.  I watched all the videos in fast forward mode and made lots of notes.  But that got really messy.  This program takes quite a bit of planning and prep time.

So, there are my thoughts about Phonics Road.  I love the method and I’ve learned so much in going through it.  It is very rigorous and complete.  However, the pace is hard for us to keep up with right now.  Curly just needs more practice.  I think her brain is on information overload and she needs a short break with a slightly different approach.  The spelling rules are all starting to swirl together in her brain and she’s making really crazy spelling mistakes-totally illogical and phonetically impossible spelling mistakes.  We need a detour!

So, we’re going to take a little additional road trip this spring and try out All About Spelling.  Since both programs use the same method, I think we can make All About Spelling compliment the Phonics Road very well.  It looks like the pace is much, much slower and the progression is more incremental.  I think Curly needs that added practice.  We’ll try Level 1 and then may progress into Level 2 and see if we have improvements.  We might even aim for Level 3 over the summer as preparation for more Phonics Road.  I do plan to head into Phonics Road 2 in the fall, but I think Curly could benefit from the extra practice before we continue on.

3 thoughts on “Phonics Road Level 1 Thoughts

  1. So glad you wrote this! I, too, love the Phonics Road in theory, but in practice… well… I had to switch to All About Spelling with my first grader. The random spelling lists without repetitive use of the rule was not working for us. And… I have serious ADD/ADHD when watching tv, so I was so overwhelmed to end up with a program that had virtually no "bullet point reminders." So, I'm with you here. Torn because I love what Phonics Road incorporates and the vision for what a child will know at the end of four years (and the tie-in to Latin Road), but it just hasn't been easy for us. (However, my fourth grader loves all the building codes and hieroglyphic markings and everything – we are trying to complete 2 to 3 levels this year. So I am still struggling through it and hoping that it will click with me so that I can use it with our first grader again later this year.) Again, thanks for posting this! It's great to know someone else out there is a bit schizophrenic about Phonics Road. 🙂

    Brandy at Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

  2. Yes, I'm really torn too. There are things I love about it and things that drive me nuts. I love where it's going but we're having a hard time following sometimes.

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