This year we have made it to Phonics Road Level 3. I have such a love/hate relationship with this curriculum. At times I’ve wanted to give up using it but then I see the beauty of the method that it teaches and I see such progress with my kids that I know I just have to continue through all of the levels to see our final destination.
I thought I would share some of my thoughts now that we’ve made it to the 3rd level.
Level 3 begins with a spelling review before new words are taught. The second section is the building codes that reinforce spelling rules. The third section is framing codes which are the grammar rules with examples and practice sentences. The next section is new for this level and it consists of designing codes which teach Latin prefixes and suffixes to help the student learn new words and understand word meanings. The last section is the literature study of two books – Robert Fulton Boy Craftsman and Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin.
This level is meant to be completed in cursive writing. There is a short crash course of cursive at the beginning of the program and then all assignments and pages are to be written in cursive. I love that the program teaches cursive; however, I felt that it was not enough practice before we were thrown into writing completely in cursive. It has been slow going for us! To make it work, I purchased an inexpensive handwriting copybook for Curly to use for additional practice. Her cursive is coming along nicely and her handwriting has greatly improved since she has begun to write in cursive. Overall, I’m glad we’re making the move toward writing more often in cursive.
There is a ton of work in one week of material with this level. The workload increases exponentially from Level 2. To make this work for us, I’ve divided the lessons over 2 weeks so that we are using the program at half-pace but we are not becoming overwhelmed with the amount of material covered and the massive amount of writing that is required for each lesson. On our first week we complete the spelling word log and building codes which review and teach spelling rules. In the second week, we complete the framing codes (grammar) and the literature study. I truly cannot imagine doing all that work and writing in just one week. We would spend more than an hour a day on the program and that is not going to happen at my house – neither Curly nor I would enjoy that at all!
I appreciated that the level begins with extensive review. So far much of the material in the first five lessons has been quite a bit of review with the exception of some new grammar concepts. This has been helpful to review the spelling words and remember all the rule tunes and building codes. The way the building codes help reinforce the spelling has been great for Curly. For a long time she was not applying the rules to her writing, but after all the practice with the Phonics Road, she is now applying spelling rules and spelling words correctly on a consistent basis. While I doubted our success for quite some time, I’m seeing the beauty of the spelling rules and how they come together to help a student remember correct spelling.
The program is meant to be a complete language arts program but I have a difficult time with the way that grammar concepts are taught. As I watch the videos, Mrs. Beers moves very quickly through the framing codes that discuss grammar. I often feel there is not enough explicit instruction for me or for my student in the daily work. I don’t feel that the grammar instruction is sufficient without supplementation through another program. Sometimes the grammar portion feels scattered and inconsistent. I don’t believe there is enough practice to cement the concept of each part of speech. Therefore, I’ve found that using First Language Lessons (which is short yet thorough) has helped us memorize the parts of speech and consistently recognize them in sentences.
The literature study moves slowly. This has been good to allow Curly to read aloud to me every other week when we focus more on the literature study. I have enjoyed giving her time to practice reading aloud in a book that is perfectly on her level. However, it is difficult to read the story so slowly (especially since we only do the literature study every other week) and still try to remember what is happening in the story. We complete the literature worksheets but some of them feel more like busy work. These worksheets have us filling in little details about characters or the process of making ink. Sometimes these don’t feel relevant and require much time to go back through the story and find every detail to include on our pages.
Again, as with all previous levels you must watch every video to know what in the world you are supposed to teach each week. I’ve mentioned it before but I do not enjoy watching the videos. However, so far in this level, the videos move at a much faster pace and I don’t have to watch Mrs. Beers sound out every single letter for every spelling word. I’m hoping as we get to new words I don’t have to go through that again…….But as I mentioned, the videos for the grammar portion (and even the literature portion) move very quickly. I usually have to pause the video multiple times, read through the notes in the manual, study the completed sample page, and then re-watch segments of the explanations to know what I’m doing. I wish the explanation was easier to follow and she spent more time teaching me how to introduce the grammar concepts. Somehow I never feel fully prepared to teach at the start of each week.
I do feel like I’m flipping back and forth between the various sections each week. Not all the framing or building codes are completed in order which makes me more than crazy. While I see why some are left blank to use as review or to be used after another concept is taught, I still wish the program was designed so that each page was completed in order. It can be challenging to get to the correct page of each section during our lesson time. I often feel scattered and disorganized as I have Curly go to one section and complete half a page and then move to a different section in her notebook to work on a page there. I can guarantee that I would have organized the notebook differently if I had put it together.
I’m still waiting to see how this level integrates the prefixes, suffixes, and Latin root words as well as how the new spelling words and spelling rules are taught. With as much as frustrates me about the program, I have not found another program that teaches the spelling rules with as much practice and reinforcement as this program does. The most important thing about the Phonics Road is that I’m seeing huge results with Curly. She was having a difficult time retaining spelling words and applying rules until we began this level. Now all of her previous knowledge has been put to good use and she has become a fabulous speller who can often decode and spell very long and challenging words through the application of the rules and phonograms that she knows. I’m seeing the fruit of our labors as she is blossoming and becoming confident in her spelling abilities. The grammar portion has become a good practice and review for what we learn in the other grammar program and the literature study has given Curly a chance to read aloud and slowly dissect what she reads. Overall, it’s been a good experience once we were able to slow the program down and divide each lesson over two weeks. We will finish this level and probably move to Level 4 which is the last level before the Latin Road. Once there I will have to decide if it is worth our time to continue.